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New York Times, Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Author:
Andrew Zhou
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
1611/11/20109/23/20180
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3021532
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.64241
Andrew Zhou

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 74, Blocks: 40 Missing: {FJQVXY} Spans: 1 This is puzzle # 15 for Mr. Zhou. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Andrew Zhou notes:
Did Will Shortz and co. decide to put this deliberately on the vernal equinox? Clever bunch! I think the favorite part of this puzzle ... read more

Did Will Shortz and co. decide to put this deliberately on the vernal equinox? Clever bunch! I think the favorite part of this puzzle for me is the progressively weirder look of the "season openers" as you go down the grid. Beyond that, I wonder if the unrelated span that is 7-down bothers anyone. I can attest that that made for the best fill, and it's kind of cool that it goes through all the themers. Plus, it's visually kind of like a binder, perhaps. But I won't push that reading too much...

Happy equinox, all!

Jeff Chen notes:
So many crosswords have been built around the four seasons. A pleasant surprise to see an execution I've never encountered! I had fun ... read more

So many crosswords have been built around the four seasons. A pleasant surprise to see an execution I've never encountered! I had fun trying to guess the theme during my solve, giving up before I allowed myself to read the revealer.

Then I had more fun, trying to guess what the revealer meant.

SPRINKER sort of sounds like "spring"? I can buy that. SOMER- = "summer," sure.

(OTTOM-) = "autumn"? Maybe if you cock your head and wince a bit.

(WIND TUR-) = "winter." (squinting, squinting, wincing)

So, a mixed bag. Still, an interesting concept that made me think.

I mostly liked Andrew's execution – super tough to work with five themers, the middle being an uncooperative 13 letters, the others also making trouble at the awkward lengths of 12 or 13. Check out how the themers ALL force black square placements on the edges of the grid. So unpleasant for constructors, taking away so much flexibility.

Interesting choice to run a 15-letter piece of fill down the center. I like THREE RING BINDER. I did wonder why it was thematic, though. (It isn't.) I'd have preferred placing a black square at the E of BIDE and first I of IBIS, which I think would have allow some cleanup on aisle ONEA STE SIG. But I can respect the decision.

The real sticking point for me was the ORU / TORII crossing. I learned ORU (Oral Roberts University) from crosswords. My wife, who is much, much, MUCH MUUUUUUUCH smarter than me (and better at crosswords, among many things), once asked me what the hell a TORII was. (I was surprised, since I've been to Japan a lot for work and seen many a TORII, but I think her reaction is probably more common than mine.)

An early-week crossword needs to be conquerable, to set up the solver to ultimately beat the puzzle. I think this type of crossing is ripe for feelings of defeat. That's a bad thing.

Overall though, I enjoyed the novelty of the concept as well as the execution – especially given the level of difficulty — albeit with a couple of reservations.

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© 2018, The New York TimesNo. 0320 ( 24,969 )
Across
1. Put a cork in : CLOSE
6. "___ pass" : ITLL
10. Girl-watch or boy-watch : OGLE
14. Leveled : RAZED
15. Queens stadium that was 14-Across in 2008-09 : SHEA
16. Recess in a room : NOOK
17. Prized taste in ramen : UMAMI
18. Rocks whose names often end in "-ite" : ORES
19. Feeling sad : BLUE
20. Part of a fire safety system : SPRINKLERHEAD
23. Critical cluck : TSK
24. Wait awhile : BIDE
25. Dance place that might have a revolving ball overhead : DISCO
28. Flipped : SOMERSAULTED
31. Peter the Great, for one : TSAR
33. Addams Family cousin : ITT
34. "All bets ___ off" : ARE
35. Constantinople was its capital : OTTOMANEMPIRE
40. Tulsa sch. : ORU
41. ___ Ep (college frat) : SIG
42. Op-ed writer Douthat : ROSS
43. Instruments of renewable energy : WINDTURBINES
48. Some Miller beers : LITES
49. Egyptian sacred bird : IBIS
50. 1, along the East Coast: Abbr. : RTE
53. Much-anticipated sporting events ... or, when spoken, what 20-, 28-, 35- and 43-Across have? : SEASONOPENERS
57. Chicago mayor Emanuel : RAHM
59. Reverse : UNDO
60. Pitch-perfect? : NOHIT
61. Edible succulent : ALOE
62. Easily pushed around : MEEK
63. Orange container : CRATE
64. "Good ___ almighty!" : GAWD
65. Rowers may have a row of them : OARS
66. Old flame? : EMBER
Down
1. Leftover pizza part : CRUST
2. Places for genies : LAMPS
3. Southern Missouri's ___ Mountains : OZARK
4. Game before the final : SEMI
5. Pennsylvania university that's home to the Fighting Scots : EDINBORO
6. Tristan's love, in legend : ISOLDE
7. Loose-leaf sheet holder : THREERINGBINDER
8. Creepy look : LEER
9. Unit of corporal punishment : LASH
10. How a suspect might be released : ONBAIL
11. Elementary school honors : GOLDSTARS
12. Reed with a guitar : LOU
13. Barely get (by) : EKE
21. Most common Korean surname (22%) : KIM
22. Alternative to .com : EDU
26. Largest object in the asteroid belt : CERES
27. Work of Horace : ODE
28. Perched (on) : SAT
29. ___-Foy, Que. : STE
30. Deposit site, for short : ATM
31. Traditional Japanese gate : TORII
32. "Don't try this at home" spectacle : STUNTSHOW
36. Spartans of the Big Ten Conf. : MSU
37. Precious supply on a spaceship : AIR
38. ___ of mind : PRESENCE
39. What 46-Down runs on : IOS
40. Symbol of wisdom : OWL
44. Judged : DEEMED
45. 3-1-1 liquids rule enforcer, for short : TSA
46. Apple reading app : IBOOKS
47. Light bite : NIP
50. Help for an addict : REHAB
51. Like the expressions "a dime a dozen" and "a penny for your thoughts" : TRITE
52. Ending with poly- : ESTER
54. Sport conducted in a dohyo : SUMO
55. Prime draft category : ONEA
56. Standard : NORM
57. Car wash aid : RAG
58. Pie ___ mode : ALA

Answer summary: 7 unique to this puzzle, 1 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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