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New York Times, Thursday, March 26, 2015

Author: Byron Walden
Editor: Will Shortz
Byron Walden
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1.58321

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 72, Blocks: 38 Missing: {JQWZ} This is puzzle # 74 for Mr. Walden. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Byron Walden notes: I'd normally be grumbling about the god of symmetry forcing me to use the insipid central theme entry (plus all those ... more
Byron Walden notes:

I'd normally be grumbling about the god of symmetry forcing me to use the insipid central theme entry (plus all those not-technically-cheaters but rather-cheaterish black squares). I'd have preferred the zippier SUSPENSE-RIDDEN or at least the more common TAKEN SERIOUSLY. But then the theme isn't that awesome without the placement. The shading may make the puzzle less Thursdayish, but given all the extra black and the plethora of 3-letter entries it necessitated, I wouldn't want anyone to miss the design.

Even then, you work so hard to get the best makeup and costume and lighting for your star and some supporting starlet, meaning the southwest corner, jumps out and steals the show. I'm guessing it's the only part that will get much attention. I can live with that.

Jeff Chen notes: Another beautiful construction from Byron. I like how strictly he executed the theme, RINSE CYCLE meaning the letters in RINSE shift ... more
Jeff Chen notes:

Another beautiful construction from Byron. I like how strictly he executed the theme, RINSE CYCLE meaning the letters in RINSE shift over exactly one slot with each step. Perfect to have them all centered and symmetrical.

The Slytherin crest (boo, hiss!)

There's not much of a trick element to the theme, which is unfortunate for a Thursday. Nevertheless, I really enjoyed the solve. Not only did Byron pick vivid theme answers — SLYTHERINS! and (Michael Chang's wicked) SPIN SERVE — but he put together a layout ready-made for great fill. A tough challenge to incorporate corners with triple-stacked 8s, but given Byron's skill level, it didn't surprise me at all to see them packed with MALE NUDE, PHONE SEX, SANTA HAT, ABU DHABI, NINE IRON. I'd usually expect some price to pay for all that goodness, but Byron does it seamlessly.

I usually have a tough time figuring out if the constructor or Will had more to do with clever cluing, but I've come to notice a preponderance of great ones in many/most of Byron's puzzles. Here are my favorites:

  • [Shot in the crease?] takes a hockey term and repurposes it for BOTOX shot into wrinkles.
  • [Fish hook?] is another great repurposing, a TALON reaching down to grab a poor fish.
  • Who knew LAYLA was inspired by a 12-century Persian poem? Lively trivia.
  • I'm not a big golf fan, but the "bump-and-run" term is so colorful I can't help but like it. (It refers to the type of shot a nine-iron is often used to make.)
  • PHONE SEX will be on the risqué side for some solvers, but I sure liked the clue: [Activity on a hotline?]. Hot indeed!

I would have loved not so many black squares on the sides of the puzzles, but I couldn't figure out a way around them. Finding a 15-letter themer to replace INTENSE RIVALS would accomplish that, but for me it proved impossible — I don't know that I would have been able to even find INTENSE RIVALS, for that matter.

All in all, a delightful solving experience.

1
A
2
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4
H
5
A
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B
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D
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© 2015, The New York TimesNo. 0326 ( 23,879 )
Across Down
1. Leaders of the pack : ALPHAS
7. Mideast capital : ABUDHABI
15. Rear : PARENT
16. Bump-and-run club : NINEIRON
17. Answer with a salute : AYEAYE
18. Personal grooming : TOILETTE
19. Draco Malfoy's housemates in the Harry Potter books : SLYTHERINS
21. Early Pierre Cardin employer : DIOR
22. Carrier with the EuroBonus frequent flier program : SAS
23. "Why should I ___ thy melancholy eyes?": Keats, "Hyperion" : OPE
24. "Stupid me!" : DOH
26. Directory abbr. : EXT
27. Some punk accessories : NOSERINGS
30. White House chief of staff on "The West Wing" : LEO
32. "___: The War Years" (1979 Robert Duvall miniseries) : IKE
33. G : THOU
36. Red Sox and Yankees, e.g. : INTENSERIVALS
40. Ending with multi- : PLEX
41. "___ Justes" (Albert Camus play) : LES
42. Making out on the subway, e.g., for short : PDA
43. Tricky way to put a ball in play : SPINSERVE
47. With 1-Down, wasn't held accountable, say : GOT
50. Art rock's Plastic ___ Band : ONO
51. Agcy. whose future is up in the air? : FAA
52. Brief time, briefly : SEC
55. Apple offering : IMAC
57. Part of washing ... or what's exhibited by the shaded letters from top to bottom : RINSECYCLE
60. "David" or "The Thinker" : MALENUDE
62. Big name in western literature : LAMOUR
63. Activity on a hotline? : PHONESEX
64. How some diplomats communicate : INCODE
65. Yuletide topper : SANTAHAT
66. Part of 35-Down : STATES
1. See 47-Across : APASS
2. 1971 rock classic inspired by a 12th-century Persian poem : LAYLA
3. Victimizes, with "on" : PREYS
4. Early race : HEAT
5. "Moving right along ..." : ANYHOO
6. Thoroughly imbues with : STEEPSIN
7. Not pro : ANTI
8. Swimmer Matt who won eight Olympic gold medals : BIONDI
9. A choir may sing in it : UNISON
10. ___ Norte County, Cal. : DEL
11. Got a move on, old-style : HIED
12. ___ Ziff, "The Simpsons" character voiced by Jon Lovitz : ARTIE
13. Shot in the crease? : BOTOX
14. Like propellants in pesticides : INERT
20. Stinks : REEKS
25. "Property Brothers" network : HGTV
27. A to G : NOTES
28. Film archive : REELS
29. The animal of an animal cracker, e.g. : SHAPE
30. Sass : LIP
31. Photo lab abbr. : ENL
34. Onetime : OLD
35. "R.O.C.K. in the ___" (John Cougar Mellencamp hit) : USA
37. Fair : EXPO
38. Navigational hazards : REEFS
39. Haaretz readers : ISRAELIS
44. Entry by a crowd, say : INRUSH
45. "???" : NOIDEA
46. Not in use : VACANT
47. Hobbling gaits : GIMPS
48. Home of Warren Buffett : OMAHA
49. Fish hook? : TALON
52. "Move your butt" : SCOOT
53. Give the slip : ELUDE
54. Dwarf planet orbited by NASA's Dawn in 2015 : CERES
56. Euro division : CENT
58. Start of many a TV teaser : NEXT
59. Where "you can hang out with all the boys," in song : YMCA
61. Teachers' org. : NEA

Answer summary: 7 unique to this puzzle, 1 debuted here and reused later, 1 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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