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New York Times, Thursday, March 23, 2017

Author:
Sandy Ganzell
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutCollabs
13/23/20170
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
0000100
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.54000
Sandy Ganzell

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 74, Blocks: 34 Missing: {QWZ} This is the debut puzzle for Mr. Ganzell. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Notepad: In the print version of this puzzle, the columns consisting of 14-/42-Down, 16-/49-Down and 22-Down are not as wide as all the other columns.
Sandy Ganzell notes:
This is my first published puzzle. I'm pretty excited about my debut, but I think my dad is more excited. I remember him and my mom ... read more

This is my first published puzzle. I'm pretty excited about my debut, but I think my dad is more excited. I remember him and my mom working on the Sunday Times puzzle when I was young, but I never had much interest in crosswords myself. It wasn't until I was about thirty that I started solving these things (with some help from my sister). Five years later I started constructing amusing (or at least mildly inappropriate) puzzles for my friends, usually to celebrate New Year's. We also play crossword puzzle charades, where we take turns pantomiming the clues and then putting the answers into an empty solution grid.

This puzzle bears little resemblance to my original submission. In fact, with the exception of three short theme answers, there's nothing left of the original. Even the grid size is different. If you're interested, take a look at the original 15x16 puzzle.

I started with the idea of squeezing extra words into a grid where they didn't fit. The entire theme would consist of unclued answers that had to be thin enough (literally) to squeeze in. I thought of (skinny) JEANS, (narrow) BRIDGE, (narrow) MARGIN, (lean) BEEF, (thin) line, (thin) ICE, (thin) AIR and (slim) CHANCE. Once I settled on 5 symmetric theme answers I had to go 16 wide with JEANS in the middle.

But Will thought the grid would look best if entire columns were thin instead of just individual answers. So…basically a complete rewrite. I'm still not sure which I like better, but Will and Joel were very helpful with the overhaul. I hope you like how it turned out.

Jeff Chen notes:
Sandy uses slimmed-down columns for theme answers that have an implied 'thin' qualifier. (See grid below). 14-Down isn't MINTS, for ... read more

Sandy uses slimmed-down columns for theme answers that have an implied "thin" qualifier. (See grid below). 14-Down isn't MINTS, for example, but (THIN) MINTS. Same with (SLIM) CHANCE, (LEAN) CUISINE, (NARROW) ESCAPE, and (SKINNY) JEANS.

I particularly liked the ones where the answer in the grid made no sense until grokking the theme idea — CUISINE isn't a brand, but (LEAN CUISINE) is.

CHANCE and JEANS didn't work as well, as both could fit with their respective clues without the implied qualifier — a long shot does have a CHANCE, and some JEANS are form-fitting.

Some nice gridwork for a debut. It's tough to work with short theme answers, because that means you'll need a bunch of long fill elsewhere (due to the maximum word count limit of 78). That bottom left corner shines, with OMNISCIENT running through a RAINOUT, and some PINE TAR giving a baseball mini-theme. EXECUTE even gives us a bonus — a rare X. All that for the price of an OST = great craftsmanship, especially considering how hard it is to work with all that white space.

The upper left corner didn't come out as well in my eyes. TOOK HEART is good, as is ALA MODE and THINKER, but IDLER has a made-up feel, and PEER INTO is more neutral than positive (I have a hard time getting excited about phrases with a tacked-on preposition). And CARIOLE … it's a real word, but it wasn't satisfying for me to uncover, after working so hard to piece together every letter.

There were also a few HRS, PEU, COSM blips (that last one seems more major to me than the others), but some nice fill to help balance out those liabilities — PUT TO A VOTE, SHINDIG, TOURISTS stood out in my eyes.

I liked the creativity of using these thin columns, but the trick might have played better on a Tues or Wed since it came pretty easily and could even be (mostly) overlooked while still finishing. Still, always fun to see something kooky going on, deviating from neat little square boxes.

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© 2017, The New York TimesNo. 0323 ( 24,607 )

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Across
1
Cable channel owned by Time Warner : TBS
4
Lead-in to toe or top : TIP
7
Countdown abbr. : HRS
10
"Un ___" (answer to "Parlez-vous français?") : PEU
13
Fashionable : ALAMODE
15
Distinctive filmmakers : AUTEURS
17
One-horse carriage : CARIOLE
18
Alley seen on TV : KIRSTIE
19
One may be deep : THINKER
20
Passed : ENACTED
21
Again ... and again : THRICE
23
___ Ming, 2016 Hall of Fame inductee : YAO
24
Thereabouts : CLOSE
27
Unfeeling : NUMB
29
Line at a barbershop : PART
32
Pickup line? : RAM
33
Broadway opening : ACTI
35
Perhaps not at all : IFEVER
37
Keats ode subject : URN
38
2017 symbol in the Chinese zodiac : ROOSTER
40
Accented approval : OLE
41
Boots : EVICTS
43
Actress Skye : IONE
44
Can : TIN
45
Eye protector : LASH
46
Writing on many a chalkboard : MENU
48
Tape recorder button : EJECT
50
Certain varietal, for short : CAB
52
Provide with oxygen : AERATE
54
Game day disappointment : RAINOUT
57
Singer of the anthem "Hatikvah" ("The Hope") : ISRAELI
61
Carry out : EXECUTE
62
Big to-do : SHINDIG
63
Sticky stuff : PINETAR
64
Some playfulness : TEASING
65
German direction : OST
66
Short : SHY
67
Show filmed at Rockefeller Center, for short : SNL
68
Play (with) : TOY
Down
1
"It is ___ that is golden, not silence": Samuel Butler : TACT
2
When tripled, et cetera : BLAH
3
Article of apparel that often leaves one arm bare : SARI
4
Was encouraged : TOOKHEART
5
Layabout : IDLER
6
Look at searchingly : PEERINTO
7
Olajuwon of the N.B.A. : HAKEEM
8
Wreckage : RUIN
9
Good candidate for adoption : STRAY
10
Settle by calling the question : PUTTOAVOTE
11
Lake connected with lake-effect snow : ERIE
12
Exhausted : USED
14
Girl Scout cookie offering : THINMINTS
16
Barely successful avoidance of calamity : NARROWESCAPE
22
Brand for weight-watchers : LEANCUISINE
24
Barbarous : CRUEL
25
Caterpillar stage : LARVA
26
Godlike, in a way : OMNISCIENT
28
French well : BIEN
30
Museum piece : RELIC
31
River through Nottingham, England : TRENT
34
Ending with micro- : COSM
36
Incentive for buying a new product, maybe : FREETRIAL
39
Buyers of guidebooks : TOURISTS
42
What a long shot has : SLIMCHANCE
47
Lunch spot : EATERY
49
Form-fitting casual wear : SKINNYJEANS
51
Matches : BOUTS
53
Wan : ASHEN
54
Auctioned car, perhaps : REPO
55
x or y : AXIS
56
Pac-12 team : UTAH
58
Make some changes to : EDIT
59
Old typesetting machine, informally : LINO
60
Pop of rock : IGGY

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

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