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New York Times, Monday, March 25, 2019

Author:
Kevin Christian and Andrea Carla Michaels
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
105/22/20133/25/20194
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
0522010
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.64011
Kevin Christian
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
666/12/20009/23/201937
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
74692200
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.63217
Andrea Carla Michaels

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 78, Blocks: 42 Missing: {JQ} Spans: 2 This is puzzle # 10 for Mr. Christian. This is puzzle # 65 for Ms. Michaels. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Constructor notes:
ACME: Every now and then, Kevin sends me a ton of creative ideas to see if anything strikes me. We have radically different styles, ... read more

ACME: Every now and then, Kevin sends me a ton of creative ideas to see if anything strikes me. We have radically different styles, though complementary, so we like to collaborate. He is a grid master with out-of-the-box ideas (see his Mullet puzzle!). We've made lots of puzzles, but this is only our second one for the NYT.

Two word phrases that start with the same two letters is fairly straightforward, so we were able to generate a long list of possible theme answers. After arguing whether or not LILYPAD is one or two words, or how well-known LUKE PERRY is (who knew how timely!) we put together a set ... neither made the final cut!

What makes this unusual is Kevin managed to get SEVEN theme entries (plus a three letter reveal) into a Monday puzzle! My job was to make the fill as smooth as I could.

(There is a bonus theme answer if you parse 23D, perhaps clued as "Hollywood dog star?")

KEVIN: I like collaborating with Andrea for many reasons. She's easy to get along with and has a great sense of humor. When I bring her an idea, she always does something to it that makes it better. Most importantly, she's a fantastic judge of what is and is not clean fill.

We had a ton of LP expressions to pick from for this puzzle. Some of my favorites that didn't make the cut are LUNG POWER, LINKIN PARK (we miss you Chester Bennington), LATERAL PASS, LITMUS PAPER, LANDING PARTY, LIBRARY PASTE, LOTUS POSITION, LACROSSE PLAYER, and LEARNERS PERMIT.

I'm glad we were able to get seven theme answers into the puzzle and to make two of them downs that crossed some of the across theme answers. That was not a gimme. There was no guarantee that was going to work, but we were able to get it to work, which was great.

For the record, I still don't know if LILY PAD is one word or two without googling it. It's two, right?

Thanks for solving!

Jeff Chen notes:
The colorful LEOPARD PRINT makes its second appearance this month! I'm sorely tempted to expand my wardrobe, much to my wife's ... read more

The colorful LEOPARD PRINT makes its second appearance this month! I'm sorely tempted to expand my wardrobe, much to my wife's chagrin.

Mathematics has an entire subcategory of study called "packing problems." It's not just theoretical, either – there are important applied problems related to shipping, molecular structure, and of course, packing one's bags for a trip. And let's not forget crossword construction!

Packing four theme entries into a 15x15 puzzle is boring. There are so many ways it can be done; way too much flexibility. But when you up that to five or six or even seven themers, that's when constructors crack their knuckles in anticipation of a Herculean challenge.

When a puzzle packs in a ridiculous number of theme answers in an elegant way, it's something you want to study. Delight at. Clap for. It's like the feeling you get upon finally solving a "fit these pieces into a frame" brainteaser. Check out the elegance of the packing puzzle on the right, for example.

When the ultra-high density is enabled by blunt force, though …

I don't mind when constructors take on personal challenges, if the resulting grid sings for solvers. And sometimes a high-density packing can have a wow effect – I heard some praise for Bruce Haight's SS puzzle, for instance.

But when there's so much to turn off newer solvers – AGA TSE NEAP ERE UNI etc. – the degraded solving experience makes IT SO not worth it.

Now, I did like some things — YOWZA was fun, as was MOOCH (huge "Mutts" fan here). I also appreciated that Kevin and Acme made an attempt to elevate the overdone "initialisms" genre. If there had been a reason to include seven LPS, perhaps some band named LP7 or whatever, I'd have said it was justified.

But the ultra-high density approach, replete with such a high amount of crossword glue, doesn't make for a good gateway puzzle for newer solvers.

ADDED NOTE: reader Jeff Doyle-Horney points out that there's an eighth themer — a young dog from SoCal at 23 Down. Ha!

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© 2019, The New York TimesNo. 0325 ( 25,339 )
Across
1
After-bath powder : TALC
5
Mexican "dollar" : PESO
9
"Holy moly!" : YOWZA
14
"Young Frankenstein" assistant : IGOR
15
___ and crafts : ARTS
16
Corporate giant in a 2001 bankruptcy : ENRON
17
Tito Puente's specialty : LATINPERCUSSION
20
China's Mao ___-tung : TSE
21
Fleming who created James Bond : IAN
22
"Wishing won't make ___" : ITSO
23
Material that's spotted at a fashion show? : LEOPARDPRINT
28
Matterhorn or Mont Blanc : ALP
29
Golfer's goal : PAR
30
Slippery fishes : EELS
33
"___ favor, señor" : POR
34
Mothers, informally : MAMMAS
38
___ Lingus (carrier to Dublin) : AER
40
Big name in newswires : UPI
41
Area of a basketball court near the basket : LOWPOST
42
Lead-in to "la-la" : TRA
43
Candy that's not in-dispensable? : PEZ
44
Like the hooves of wild horses : UNSHOD
45
Kind of tide : EBB
46
What children should be (but not heard), they say : SEEN
48
Dove's sound : COO
50
12 on a grandfather clock : XII
51
Rocket's takeoff point : LAUNCHINGPAD
56
"Right away!" : ASAP
59
So-so : MEH
60
Sound from a goat : MAA
61
Court case, e.g. : LEGALPROCEEDING
67
Get a grip on : GRASP
68
What you might use to get a grip on something : VISE
69
Prime draft category : ONEA
70
"Hair" dos : AFROS
71
Composer Satie : ERIK
72
Corvette Stingray feature : TTOP
Down
1
"Shop ___ You Drop" (old game show) : TIL
2
Turkish title : AGA
3
Mega Millions jackpot : LOTTOPRIZE
4
Invigorating, as autumn air : CRISP
5
Mushy baby food : PAP
6
Before, in poetry : ERE
7
Take it all off : STRIP
8
Felix's partner on "The Odd Couple" : OSCAR
9
"Affirmative" : YES
10
Kind of inspection : ONSITE
11
Habeas corpus, e.g. : WRIT
12
Arboretums : trees :: ___ : animals : ZOOS
13
The "A" in A.D. : ANNO
18
Kind of tide : NEAP
19
Prefix with cycle : UNI
23
Drink, like a cat or dog : LAPUP
24
Gets hitched in haste : ELOPES
25
San ___ (San Francisco suburb) : RAMON
26
Sketches : DRAWS
27
Bird's home : NEST
31
Wall covering that's washable with soap and water : LATEXPAINT
32
Neighbor of Croatia : SERBIA
35
Speed abbr. : MPH
36
Person who sponges : MOOCH
37
"Same here" : ASDOI
39
Like a dangerous raccoon : RABID
41
Roman moon goddess : LUNA
47
Texas city on the Rio Grande : ELPASO
49
"I guess the joke's ___" : ONME
52
Diamond head? : UMP
53
Chutzpah : NERVE
54
Group singing hymns : CHOIR
55
Gal of "Wonder Woman" : GADOT
56
Bit of pond growth : ALGA
57
Medieval drudge : SERF
58
Food thickener : AGAR
62
Old records ... or a hint for this puzzle's seven longest answers : LPS
63
Long-running CBS forensic series : CSI
64
Hair-raising cry : EEK
65
Prefix with conservative : NEO
66
Dental problem that braces can fix : GAP

Answer summary: 5 unique to this puzzle, 1 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

Found bugs or have suggestions?