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New York Times, Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Author: Jeffrey Wechsler
Editor: Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
187/17/19699/12/20180
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0145710
ScrabRebusCirclePangramPre‑WS
1.581101
Jeffrey Wechsler

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 16 Words: 79, Blocks: 38 Missing: {FJQXZ} Spans: 1 This is puzzle # 14 for Mr. Wechsler. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Jeffrey Wechsler notes: This puzzle has a relatively simple theme concept that I think turned out nicely (YMMV). Either the word TRICYCLE or PENTAGON occurred ... more
Jeffrey Wechsler notes:

This puzzle has a relatively simple theme concept that I think turned out nicely (YMMV). Either the word TRICYCLE or PENTAGON occurred to me initially (I don't recall which) as a basis for repeating the latter part of the word as many times as its numerical prefix suggested — thus creating a "literal" variation of the word. Despite the standard 15-square width of a grid, it was immediately apparent that a "quad" prefix would force a 16-square width, with the latter part of the "quad" word comprising four letters. The word QUADRANT was chosen.

It's unusual to have only three theme entries, especially in the New York Times, where some puzzles seem to strive to fill the thematic level to near bursting. That can be dangerous! Such ventures are occasionally called out for substandard fill by the ever-vigilant squad of bloggers and commenters. But the "tri" prefix could provide a 15-letter entry, as could the "penta" entry. With one 16 and two 15's, that was that. "Hexa" couldn't work, and a six-letter ending for a "bi" word would yield a 16-letter entry, which wouldn't allow standard symmetry among the theme entries, following the logical progression of bi, tri, quad, and penta. So, three was the limit.

On the whole, I thought this concept might produce a reasonable "aha moment", and since it was accepted by Will, I suppose it did so.

Jeff Chen notes: Three phrases literalized, TRICYCLE (tri CYCLE) presented as CYCLECYCLECYCLE, QUADRANT = RANTRANTRANTRANT, PENTAGON = GONGONGONGONGON. I've ... more
Jeff Chen notes:

Three phrases literalized, TRICYCLE (tri CYCLE) presented as CYCLECYCLECYCLE, QUADRANT = RANTRANTRANTRANT, PENTAGON = GONGONGONGONGON. I've seen a ton of repeated word themes, i.e. JEOPARDYJEOPARDY = double jeopardy, but this is an interesting twist on the theme trope. I particularly liked GONGONGONGONGON, since GON is such an odd-looking chunk of letters by itself.

Would have been nice to get a progression from UNI to PENTA, but at least TRI, QUAD, PENTA gives a logical sequence. And Jeffrey brings up a good point about crossword symmetry. He would have had to go up to five themers, with the first being UNI+15 letters. Not many options for that, and something like (uni) FORMITARIANISTS would have been pretty dull.

It's okay with me to get just three themers instead of the usual four (or more, these days) if 1.) they're all snazzy and 2.) the grid features a ton of bonus entries. I liked some entries — ARE YOU IN, ANACONDA (always makes me think of the "Baby Got Back" lyrics), and even EVOLVE, KENKEN. Not nearly as much as I'd hope for given only three themers, though.

And RED CHINA … I know it's a historical term, but having heard this used as a SLUR for Asian folks, left me uncomfortable. (I've also heard it used against Korean and Vietnamese friends, which makes me laugh. Sort of.)

A couple of blips in APACE (odd word), MSEC (millisecond never written this way in real life), ANO, but not bad at all. I did struggle with CUTCO and ODETS, but thankfully the clue [Big brand of kitchen knives] made the CUT part of CUTCO gettable, once I did a *headdesk*.

PASTAS sure got an odd clue in [Nonmeat choices at a deli counter]? I fought mightily with that corner, as I thought it had to be TEMPEH or SOY or something with meat-like consistency. Feels like this clue could have been just as "accurate" if the answer had been WATER or COOKIES.

It's a reasonable puzzle, although I would have liked more themers or more bonus fill, especially given that Jeffrey is a seasoned constructor.

1
B
2
R
3
A
4
C
5
E
6
C
7
L
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A
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W
10
M
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I
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N
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R
15
R
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M
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P
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34
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A
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N
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A
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K
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W
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P
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K
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© 2017, The New York TimesNo. 0322 ( 24,606 )
Across Down
1. "___ yourself!" : BRACE
6. Crayfish feature : CLAW
10. Figure of the underground economy? : MINER
15. Fresh air's opposite? : RERUN
16. Well positioned (for) : RIPE
17. Barrel part : STAVE
18. "Waiting for Lefty" playwright : ODETS
19. Many a toy train track : OVAL
20. Variable estimated by pollsters : ERROR
21. Kid's transport, literally : CYCLECYCLECYCLE
24. Drove off : SHOOED
25. Night class subj. : ESL
26. Cells for new generations : OVA
27. Sch. with campuses in Brooklyn and Brookville : LIU
28. ___ steak (British term for a sirloin cut) : RUMP
31. Unrenewed, as a subscription : LAPSED
34. Les États-___ : UNIS
36. Present location, when visiting the boondocks : OUTHERE
39. Graph section, literally : RANTRANTRANTRANT
45. Secret application, perhaps : AEROSOL
46. "False face must hide what the false heart doth ___": Macbeth : KNOW
47. Nonmeat choices at a deli counter : PASTAS
50. With 55-Across, preservative for fine wood furniture : TEAK
53. Laila of the ring : ALI
54. Many meses in México : ANO
55. See 50-Across : OIL
58. Mass figure : DEACON
60. Military headquarters, literally : GONGONGONGONGON
65. Hacking target : EMAIL
66. State firmly : AVER
67. Biblical book duo : KINGS
69. Salon procedure : RINSE
70. Designer Wang : VERA
71. Descriptor of many statesmen : ELDER
72. Brawl : SETTO
73. Stream disturbance : EDDY
74. Edges up to : NEARS
1. "Dude!" : BRO
2. Cold War threat : REDCHINA
3. Dealer's query : AREYOUIN
4. Big brand of kitchen knives : CUTCO
5. Eve who wrote "The Vagina Monologues" : ENSLER
6. Swamp critter : CROC
7. Early historian of ancient Rome : LIVY
8. Quickly : APACE
9. "The Shape of Things to Come" author : WELLS
10. Brief period in nuclear physics: Abbr. : MSEC
11. Modest response to a compliment : ITRY
12. D.E.A. agents, informally : NARCOS
13. Change through time : EVOLVE
14. Like favorite literary passages : REREAD
22. Part of the URL for 27-Across : EDU
23. Popular afternoon talk show : ELLEN
24. "You lowdown, no-good bum," e.g. : SLUR
29. One-track : MONO
30. Sets (down) : PUTS
32. "The supreme ___ of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting": Sun Tzu : ART
33. Corner office, maybe : PERK
35. R.B.I., for one : STAT
37. Accelerated pace : TROT
38. In the pink : HALE
40. Actor Stephen : REA
41. Basis of some insurance fraud : ARSON
42. Amazon menace : ANACONDA
43. What "ex-" means : NOLONGER
44. Duplicate : TWIN
47. Obsolescent communications devices : PAGERS
48. Severe malaise : ANOMIE
49. Like "n" and "r," in phonetics : SONANT
51. Kerfuffle : ADO
52. Popular puzzle invented in Japan : KENKEN
56. Words on some blood drive stickers : IGAVE
57. Enjoyed immensely : LOVED
59. Like "Dancing With the Stars" dancers : AGILE
61. Basic concept : GIST
62. Nondairy substitute : OLEO
63. Jerry Lewis's "Nutty Professor" was an early example of one : NERD
64. Overcast : GRAY
68. Most AARP members: Abbr. : SRS

Answer summary: 4 unique to this puzzle, 1 debuted here and reused later, 1 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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