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New York Times, Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Author:
Laura Taylor Kinnel
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
312/22/20193/25/20200
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
2001000
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.58100
Laura Taylor Kinnel

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 16 Words: 79, Blocks: 44 Missing: {QWXZ} This is puzzle # 3 for Ms. Kinnel. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Laura Taylor Kinnel notes:
'S.H.I.E.L.D. is about sacrifice, not for you or me, but for the greater good.' — 35-ACROSS I suppose we might all consider ourselves ... read more

"S.H.I.E.L.D. is about sacrifice, not for you or me, but for the greater good." — 35-ACROSS

I suppose we might all consider ourselves part of the Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division right now. A crazed 28-ACROSS screaming, "All right, people are dying. It is your job to save their lives" would sort of fit right in. I'm deeply grateful for all the medical professionals and first responders who don't need 28-ACROSS to tell them this. It might help the rest of us to realize that her message is at least as much for us: If you're not doing something that people need to subsist, just stay home. That's our job. That and whatever other job we're trying to do from home (assuming we're lucky enough to have such a job).

I'll never be nearly as put-together as 45-ACROSS, but I'll do my best to look presentable when, coincidentally, I connect with my students by video for the first time on the day this puzzle is published. (Shout out to all the students, teachers, and school administrators who are learning so much so quickly about how to teach and learn in unfamiliar circumstances.)

And, finally, a bit of advice for our times from 17-ACROSS: "Have regular hours for work and play; make each day both useful and pleasant, and prove that you understand the worth of time by employing it well."

I am always grateful for spring.

Jeff Chen notes:
The Jim and Jeff shelter-in-place conversations continue! Jim: I didn't get the 'pun' aspect of SPRING ROLL. Did you? Jeff: ROLL sounds ... read more

The Jim and Jeff shelter-in-place conversations continue!

Jim: I didn't get the "pun" aspect of SPRING ROLL. Did you?

Jeff: ROLL sounds like ROLE. Role, as in a part to play!

Jim: That's not how puns work. They'd have included "homophonic" or "phonetic" in the clue.

Jeff: Puns. Have. No. Rules!

Jim: Maybe not in the vast lawlessness of the American Colonies. In Canada, every schoolboy is dutifully required to study and memorize "The Primer for Prim Punditry."

Jeff: Ha ha ha! Wait. You're kidding, right?

Jim: Rule #1 of Punditry: Thou Shalt Not Phoneticate. Rule #2: Honor Thy Groans. Truly, the punniness today comes in the form of "roll" used in the "roll call" sense.

Jeff: Whoa. Who are you, who are so wise in the ways of science?

Brilliant theme concept, SPRING ROLL hinting at calling the roll of SPRING-related roles. One of the March women in Little Women, April something, someone named MAY from a show that was so terrible even this superhero fanboy averted his eyes, and JUNE CLEAVER, my secret boyhood crush.

Both Jim and I had a tough time with this solve, both of us having serious gaps in our knowledge of fictional characters. I was relieved to hear that Jim couldn't recall MARMEE MARCH. I'm not the only uncivilized boor — take that, Canadia!

And get this. Jim only barely recognized JUNE CLEAVER. Score one for the American educational system!

Point is, the theme concept was WITTy (Wish I Thought of That). It's fraught with danger, though, since name-heavy puzzles are alienating enough when you're using celebs. Going one level deeper into fictional characters ... some solvers will squee over them, and some will be haters because WTF CROSSWORD, I HAVE TO KNOW GREY'S ANATOMY CHARACTERS? Perilous territory.

A quick fix that could have helped a ton: replace MELINDA MAY with AUNT MAY from the Spider-man movies. Solvers are forced to come up with one less potentially arbitrary-seeming name, and even better, the gridwork becomes about four times easier. A central 7 is so easy to build around that it'd be easy to reduce the count of ABAT AGA AME MGR PEI plural EMMAS.

Better yet (but more invasive) would be to break up SPRING / ROLL, placing them in a corner, intersecting at the R. Maybe even change it to ROLE, for better comedic effect! (Quiet, you Canadians.)

Point is, I loved the theme concept, and would have jumped at a chance to take this one to the next level. If Laura could have found more accessible names and pulled off a smoother grid, it would have been an easy POW! choice.

1
R
2
A
3
C
4
E
5
C
6
A
7
P
8
O
9
B
10
R
11
A
12
G
13
P
L
U
M
14
R
O
M
A
N
15
S
16
R
E
D
O
17
M
A
R
M
18
E
E
M
A
R
C
H
19
I
M
H
O
20
L
A
R
V
A
21
T
A
U
22
T
E
N
E
D
23
T
24
E
S
S
A
25
F
I
L
C
H
26
A
R
P
27
I
C
U
28
A
29
P
R
I
L
K
E
30
P
N
E
R
31
C
O
P
32
A
33
P
L
E
A
34
T
A
T
S
35
M
E
L
I
N
36
D
37
A
38
M
A
Y
39
L
40
E
I
A
41
I
M
I
S
S
42
Y
43
O
44
U
45
J
U
N
E
C
46
L
47
E
48
A
V
E
R
49
U
P
S
50
I
N
T
51
H
O
R
S
E
52
M
53
A
L
I
A
54
C
A
R
55
R
Y
O
U
T
56
E
57
A
G
L
E
58
A
B
A
T
59
S
P
R
60
I
N
G
R
O
L
61
L
62
S
63
M
A
N
E
64
E
T
A
L
I
A
65
N
O
E
L
66
A
R
T
S
67
S
L
E
D
68
E
G
G
Y
© 2020, The New York TimesNo. 0325 ( 25,705 )
Across
1
Tour de France, e.g. : RACE
5
Sonny Corleone, for one : CAPO
9
Crow : BRAG
13
Professor in a library, perhaps : PLUM
14
New Testament epistle : ROMANS
16
Second attempt, informally : REDO
17
Laura Dern, in "Little Women" : MARMEEMARCH
19
Prelude to a perspective : IMHO
20
Creepy-crawly, maybe : LARVA
21
Made tight : TAUTENED
23
Actress Thompson of "Selma" : TESSA
25
Swipe : FILCH
26
Big name in Dadaism : ARP
27
Where R.N.s are always needed : ICU
28
Sarah Drew, on "Grey's Anatomy" : APRILKEPNER
31
Shorten the sentence, maybe? : COPAPLEA
34
Hip designs? : TATS
35
Ming-Na Wen, on "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." : MELINDAMAY
39
Princess Organa : LEIA
41
Avowal to a long-distance lover : IMISSYOU
45
Barbara Billingsley, on "Leave It to Beaver" : JUNECLEAVER
49
Santa's helper? : UPS
50
QB blunder: Abbr. : INT
51
Half of a centaur : HORSE
52
One of the Obamas : MALIA
54
To-go : CARRYOUT
56
Golf coup : EAGLE
58
Blind as ___ : ABAT
59
Chinese appetizers ... or a punny description of 17-, 28-, 35- and 45-Across : SPRINGROLLS
63
Hair on the back of the neck : MANE
64
Academic's "and others" : ETALIA
65
Christmas season : NOEL
66
Crafts' companion : ARTS
67
Go downhill fast : SLED
68
Like quiche : EGGY
Down
1
Engine stat : RPM
2
In the style of : ALA
3
Gets cozy : CURLSUP
4
Watson, Willard and Woodhouse : EMMAS
5
Unconscious condition : COMA
6
Dr.'s org. : AMA
7
Sequel title ender : PARTII
8
Prepared to respond : ONCALL
9
Camembert cousin : BRIE
10
Leftover bit : REMNANT
11
Sticks (to) : ADHERES
12
Positive media coverage : GOODPR
14
Title for M.L.K. Jr. : REV
15
Prepare, as oysters or corn : SHUCK
18
Elizabethan, for one : ERA
22
Trigonometry symbols for angles : THETAS
23
Nervous habit : TIC
24
Prefix with system : ECO
25
Actress Drescher of "The Nanny" : FRAN
28
___ ears : ALL
29
Canada's smallest prov. : PEI
30
Compensates : PAYS
32
Friend for Françoise : AMIE
33
Swell : PEACHY
36
Go in headfirst : DIVE
37
Mother Bethel ___ Church (Philadelphia congregation since 1794) : AME
38
Soviet space station : MIR
39
Energy snack marketed to women : LUNABAR
40
Contest hopeful : ENTRANT
42
What might give you that nice warm Christmas feeling? : YULELOG
43
Big name in nail polish : OPI
44
International powerhouse in women's soccer : USA
45
Mexican root vegetable popular in salads : JICAMA
46
Relaxed : LOOSE
47
Bursts forth : ERUPTS
48
Related to the stars : ASTRAL
52
Team head: Abbr. : MGR
53
Single-handedly : ALONE
55
Waze ways: Abbr. : RTES
56
Arthurian heroine : ENID
57
___ Khan : AGA
60
Bit of land in the Seine : ILE
61
Component of a relay : LEG
62
Crafty : SLY

Answer summary: 6 unique to this puzzle, 1 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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