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New York Times, Saturday, February 8, 2020

Author:
Hemant Mehta
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutCollabs
12/8/20200
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0000001
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.62000
Hemant Mehta

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 68, Blocks: 34 Missing: {QVXZ} Spans: 2 This is the debut puzzle for Mr. Mehta. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Hemant Mehta notes:
Hello! After years of obsessive solving, and a handful of polite rejections, it's exciting to actually have a puzzle published! And on ... read more

Hello! After years of obsessive solving, and a handful of polite rejections, it's exciting to actually have a puzzle published! And on Saturday, no less. Let's go streak(break)ing!

I'm a politics/religion blogger from Naperville, IL. The NYT crossword has always been a pleasant distraction, and it was both enjoyable and wildly frustrating to try and create my own grid. Mad respect for those constructors who manage to churn these things out on a regular basis. I don't know Zhouqin Burnikel or Patrick Berry, but they are my patron saints.

This puzzle started with the CHILDISH GAMBINO seed. After that, I was tried to stack up as many longer entries as I could around it. I used to like Chris ODOWD until he created a logjam in the grid.

The team's edits make a ton of sense, and they made a suggestion that improved the northwest part of the grid (curse you again, ODOWD). Some of my swapped-out clues include "You don't want to be on a tight one" for LEASH and "Reds state" for OHIO... but I'm glad they kept the gist of my clue for 34-down!

Apologies for the gluey answers. I'm cringing as I look at a bunch of those 3- and 4-letter entries (special ugh to JCTS, OTOS, and YEOW). Next time, I'll just do a 15x15 stack with no black boxes anywhere. Should be a breeze.

Jeff Chen notes:
The good cop from 'Lethal Weapon' goes by 'Danny,' and is now known as the CHILDISH GAMBINO? Huh! I suppose I could have pieced that ... read more

The good cop from "Lethal Weapon" goes by "Danny," and is now known as the CHILDISH GAMBINO? Huh! I suppose I could have pieced that together, given that "childish" could be an ironic moniker for an old guy, and "Gambino" is an infamous name in crime — another ironic name for a guy who played a cop!

While madly reading up on Donald Glover so I wouldn't seem as idiotic as usual (Danny vs. Donald is my failed attempt at using humor to cover up my ignorance), I came across an interesting piece of trivia: CHILDISH GAMBINO came from a Wu-tang Clan name generator. Out of curiosity, I tried it, the site giving me the name MIGHTY GENIUS. Seems (ironically) appropriate.

I enjoyed the craziness of the grid layout, a 68-worder chock full of entertaining long entries. SLIP OF THE TONGUE, WEIRDED OUT, PR PERSON, JOKE WRITER — great stuff.

Usually, editors prize multi-word phrases since they're more colorful than one-word entries, but I love SACRILEGE and OBSCENELY. The latter risks negative connotations, so I'm glad it was clued in the meaning of "an obscene amount of money."

I did get a bit weirded out by STRIKES OUT and WEIRDED OUT at consecutive down positions. I don't mind a lot of small-word duplications, but this stuck out. I also bugged out at ___ SORRY, knowing that it was likely some hip slang like SORRY NOT SORRY. ISN'T SORRY looks fine now that I study it, but during my solve, I couldn't imagine what it might be.

Similarly, I don't mind more minor glue like TSP, but JCTS, SOG, and co. = hmm.

Overall, not as polished as I like for a 68-word puzzle. An admirable debut effort, though, dipping a toe into the depths of the 68-word deep white sea.

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© 2020, The New York TimesNo. 0208 ( 25,659 )
Across
1
Modest qualifier, online : IMHO
5
Sling : TOSS
9
Where it's at : SITE
13
Easy kill in Fortnite, say : NOOB
14
___ days : SALAD
16
Nabe : HOOD
17
Problems with pay or paper : CUTS
18
Information in a shopping guide : PRICERANGE
20
End of some business names : ANDCO
22
Media pro : PRPERSON
23
Rides into battle : STEEDS
25
Grease : OILUP
26
Bratty kid : SNOT
27
Bomb : FLOP
28
U.N. agcy. headquartered in Geneva : WHO
31
Many a staffer for a late-night show : JOKEWRITER
34
"Keen!" : NEAT
35
Musical alter ego of Donald Glover : CHILDISHGAMBINO
37
Minute : TINY
38
Relatives of water skis : KNEEBOARDS
39
Go soft, in a way : SOG
40
Rocker Joan : JETT
41
Lights or darks, e.g. : LOAD
42
One way to take stock? : LASSO
43
Gardeners' tools : EDGERS
46
Beer with an astronomical name : BLUEMOON
49
What Brits call a "saloon" : SEDAN
50
Cookout option for a vegetarian : BOCABURGER
53
Last option on a survey : NONE
54
Corvine : crows :: strigine : ___ : OWLS
55
Word said with a handshake : TRUCE
56
Lip, in slang : TUDE
57
When doubled, "I heard you the first time" : YEAH
58
Cartoonish wail : YEOW
59
Hullabaloo : STIR
Down
1
Worshipers of the rain god Illapa : INCAS
2
Knight's need : MOUNT
3
Office-sharing system, in modern lingo : HOTDESKING
4
To an excessive degree : OBSCENELY
5
One-sixth of a fl. oz. : TSP
6
One might make a splash : OAR
7
Possible insight for a psychologist : SLIPOFTHETONGUE
8
Irreverence : SACRILEGE
9
Exactly : SHARP
10
Sci-fi beam makeup : IONS
11
Packed with plasticware, perhaps : TOGO
12
The plot of Genesis? : EDEN
15
Deserving of condemnation : DEPLORABLE
19
Extend, as an employment contract : REUP
21
"Bridesmaids" co-star Chris : ODOWD
24
Tries and fails : STRIKESOUT
28
Getting a strange vibe : WEIRDEDOUT
29
Helper : HAND
30
Plains people : OTOS
31
Hwy. crossings : JCTS
32
North/South divide, with "the" : OHIO
33
Feels no remorse : ISNTSORRY
34
They get big bucks from big Bucks : NBAAGENTS
36
Climates : MOODS
40
Part of a frame job? : JAMB
42
Pet peeve? : LEASH
44
Businesswoman Zuckerberg, sister of Mark : RANDI
45
Not look so good? : SNEER
46
Break-dancer, in slang : BBOY
47
Home-improvement chain eponym : LOWE
48
Where Kareem Abdul-Jabbar played college ball : UCLA
51
Prefix with system : ECO
52
Counterpart of FF : REW

Answer summary: 10 unique to this puzzle, 1 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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