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New York Times, Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Author:
Joe Deeney
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
610/9/201711/30/20190
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
0210003
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.58000
Joe Deeney

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 76, Blocks: 40 Missing: {FJZ} Spans: 1 This is puzzle # 2 for Mr. Deeney. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Joe Deeney notes:
Thanks for solving! It's very exciting to have a puzzle run in the New York Times again. In the original submission, the wording of ... read more

Thanks for solving! It's very exciting to have a puzzle run in the New York Times again.

In the original submission, the wording of each theme clue was "Spot's spot," and BENCH PRESS appeared in place of TEA SERVICE. In Will and team's reply, they suggested "It has spots" would be a better clue and asked for a replacement for BENCH PRESS since that wouldn't quite fit. I brainstormed a few ideas, and they liked TEA SERVICE the best. After some back-and-forth on the grid, this was accepted in September. Their only request I couldn't make work was removing DOLMA from the grid; all the alternatives I came up with had bigger problems. Hopefully not too many folks will be concerned to see that pop up on a Tuesday, they're so tasty after all.

Jeff Chen notes:
I enjoy the lateral thinking required to dream up these types of themes. SPOTs can be found in PARKING LOTs, on LEOPARD PRINT, during ... read more

I enjoy the lateral thinking required to dream up these types of themes. SPOTs can be found in PARKING LOTs, on LEOPARD PRINT, during a COMMERCIAL BREAK, and at a DOGGY DAY CARE. Four different types of spots demonstrate the wide range of meanings one word can exhibit.

I originally hitched at DOGGY DAY CARE, since Spot (the stereotypical dog name) required capitalization, but the entry itself is so sparkly that I decided I didn't care.

The only one that bothered me was TEASER VICE. (Think: one of those commercials that advertise "What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.") Much too similar to COMMERCIAL BREAK, and a TEASER isn't exactly a "spot."

(I'm kidding, of course. Mostly.)

When I finally realized that it was TEA SERVICE – future crossword theme alert; fun parsing change! – I still wasn't a fan. Proper people do say "a spot of tea," but a TEA SERVICE having "spots" felt different; more of a stretch than the others. You can point while in a PARKING LOT and say "there's a spot." Same with the others. Not so much with TEA SERVICE.

I preferred Joe's original BENCH PRESS (where the bench presser is given a (safety) spot by a person behind). I brainstormed more and came up with CASH DRAWER and PAIR OF DICE. The former doesn't work any better than TEA SERVICE though since no one calls a ten-spot a "spot," and the latter is maybe too similar to LEOPARD PRINT. None of them is ideal, but BENCH PRESS works the best out of these options. I'm with Joe!

It is true that DOLMA is a toughie, especially for an early-week puzzle — doubly so when crossed with LOAM. There will often be prices to pay when a puzzle is theme-dense, but I think this could have been smoothed over by putting a black square at the L of TOILET and shifting black squares down within that column. I love DOLMAs, but its presence might make for a less satisfying newbie solve.

Besides that one blip though, solid gridwork. TEMP AGENCY, I BELIEVE SO, LET IT BE = solid bonuses.

Too bad about TEA SERVICE. The fifth themer makes gridwork much harder than four, and it detracted from the solving experience for me. I'd have given it the POW! if Joe had figured out a way to just use the four strong themers, which would have allowed him to jazz up the fill even more.

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© 2019, The New York TimesNo. 0305 ( 25,319 )

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Across
1
Allow in : ADMIT
6
Cause for cake and candles, in brief : BDAY
10
Figs. that average 100 : IQS
13
Sam played one in "Casablanca" : PIANO
14
Skye of "Say Anything ..." : IONE
15
Border : ABUT
16
It has spots : PARKINGLOT
18
"___ #1!" : WERE
19
Like a fox : SLY
20
Fertile soil : LOAM
21
Jackson of country music : ALAN
22
It has spots : LEOPARDPRINT
26
Title song on the Beatles' final studio album : LETITBE
29
Mob : HORDE
30
Vicinity : AREA
31
Potential new job requirement, informally : RELO
32
Nov. 11 honoree : VET
35
It has spots : COMMERCIALBREAK
40
Lengua de Mex. : ESP
41
Juiceless, as a battery : DEAD
42
What ":" means in an analogy : ISTO
43
Congressional hirees : AIDES
45
Totally stumped : ATALOSS
48
It has Spots : DOGGYDAYCARE
51
Jump with a turn on ice : AXEL
52
Jazz's James : ETTA
53
"Forget ___" (advice after a breakup) : HIM
56
Where Johnny Cash shot a man, in song : RENO
57
It has spots : TEASERVICE
60
Onetime maker of Matchbox cars : TYCO
61
Ingredient in gumbo : OKRA
62
Throbbed : ACHED
63
"Listen here!" : HEY
64
Products from Parker and Cross : PENS
65
Scampers : TROTS
Down
1
Google Play purchases : APPS
2
Rotary phone feature : DIAL
3
"Quite contrary" girl of rhyme : MARY
4
Squid's defense : INK
5
Privy : TOILET
6
Lummox : BIGAPE
7
Stuffed grape leaves : DOLMA
8
Enero a diciembre : ANO
9
Still : YET
10
"To the best of my knowledge" : IBELIEVESO
11
Book of Islam : QURAN
12
Tube used in heart surgery : STENT
15
Employee of the Month, e.g. : AWARD
17
Inexperienced gamer, in slang : NOOB
22
Writer O'Flaherty : LIAM
23
Cousin of an emu : RHEA
24
Honeycakes : DOLL
25
Small complication? : PROB
26
Wedding dress material : LACE
27
Greek god with a bow : EROS
28
Source of day workers for an office : TEMPAGENCY
31
Unburden (of) : RID
33
Takes the cake? : EATS
34
Some calls from boxing refs : TKOS
36
Small vortex : EDDY
37
Clarinet insert : REED
38
Word repeated in "Mi ___ es su ___" : CASA
39
Tick off : RILE
44
Home with a dome (in Nome?) : IGLOO
45
Substitutes for : ACTSAS
46
Art museum with many Constables and Sargents : TATE
47
High point in the Old Testament? : ARARAT
48
Sith title in "Star Wars" : DARTH
49
Yellow-and-white meadow flower : OXEYE
50
Pine (for) : YEARN
53
Cheerful greeting : HIHO
54
Rapper whose name sounds like a drink : ICET
55
Pharmaceuticals, briefly : MEDS
57
Blouse, e.g. : TOP
58
Barely make, with "out" : EKE
59
Old TV hookup : VCR

Answer summary: 2 unique to this puzzle.

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