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New York Times, Thursday, March 8, 2018

Author: Jim Quinlan
Editor: Will Shortz
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25/27/20153/8/20180
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1.59000
Jim Quinlan

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 74, Blocks: 37 Missing: {JQZ} This is puzzle # 2 for Mr. Quinlan. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Jim Quinlan notes: I can't help but anagram and make wordplay with stop signs when I'm driving. It's annoying. Those big white letters just ask to be ... more
Jim Quinlan notes:

I can't help but anagram and make wordplay with stop signs when I'm driving. It's annoying. Those big white letters just ask to be messed with. POTS, TOPS, SPOT, OPTS. Am I alone in this? I hope so. Anyway, "Stop Sign" sounds an awful lot like "Stop Sighin'!" ["Quit feeling sorry for yourself!"] " which is where this idea sprouted. Alas, the only other theme-type answer that I found which would work with it was "Finish Lyin'!" ["Quit speaking falsehoods!"]. Nonetheless, the idea kept eating at me.

It doesn't help that I drive a lot.

Rather than pursue the original idea, I decided to try a variation on it by thinking of other words I could elide to create homophones. I eventually found a set in which the vowel sound changed: LYIN' (for "line"), MOOIN' (for "moon"), PLAYIN' (for "plain"), and BEIN' (for "bean").

I am seriously bothered by the fact that I can't find a way to use "Stop Sighin!" as a theme answer. It's like an itch that can't be scratched. Any help?

As a side note, I couldn't care less about yield sign wordplay.

Delighted to have a second puzzle in the New York Times.

Jeff Chen notes: I like it when I have to think about a theme! 'Line dancers' become LYIN' DANCERS through the insertion of an 'in' sound. Or a long ... more
Jeff Chen notes:

I like it when I have to think about a theme! "Line dancers" become LYIN' DANCERS through the insertion of an "in" sound. Or a long I? Something in between? Hard to explain, but whatever it is, it's consistent. Line -> LYIN', moon -> MOOIN', plain -> PLAYIN', bean -> BEIN'.

Well, I debated that last one. All the others are clued as verbs, and it's a fine thing to drop the g off an -ING for folksy effect. But BEING was clued as a human BEING, noun ... since when do we folksify nouns?

I also debated whether this was Thursday material or not. On the one hand, it's a sound change (addition? replacement?) theme, standard fare for mid-week puzzles. But given how much difficulty I had explaining it – and I still don't think I have it quite right – perhaps it's okay for a Thursday. Sure made me think.

I'd still greatly prefer trickier concepts for Thursdays, stuff that blows the mind by doing something unique. It's an important facet of how the NYT crossword distinguishes itself – not just offering fun, easy puzzles, or tough themelesses, but advancing avant-garde, envelope-pushing material.

It's those uber-clever Thursdays that first drew me into the NYT crossword. Same for many of my friends.

This is a very tough ask. But I think the NYT team is up for the challenge. If I were Will, I'd up the fee for Thursday puzzles. Maybe even hire a set of regulars specifically for this task. Lock them in a room until they've delivered 100 great concepts! A million cruciverbalists, on a million keyboards ...

Big fan of Jim's grid execution. Delightful stuff in CUPCAKES with EARL GREY, APPLE PIE. Puts me in LA LA LAND! I would have preferred the grid not to choke down at two points in the middle – it would have been great to get rid of the two black squares after ACES — but that would have resulted in some tough compromises. The less than optimal grid flow was worth the price of all those goodies, plus a smooth solving experience.

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© 2018, The New York TimesNo. 0308 ( 24,957 )
Across Down
1. Reach a breaking point : SNAP
5. Photo ___ : OPS
8. Game with a 90-foot x 13.1-foot court : BOCCE
13. Donor gift, perhaps : TOTE
14. To be remembered for a very long time : EPIC
15. One down in the mouth? : UVULA
16. Routing abbr. : ATTN
17. Mrazek or Nedved of the N.H.L. : PETR
18. Skip about : CAPER
19. Deceitful ballerinas? : LYINDANCERS
22. Golden Bears' school, familiarly : CAL
23. Subject of reunification talks : KOREA
24. Teddy, by another name : THEO
25. Sucker for vampire stories? : FANG
26. Bit of lawyerly advice : SUE
27. Cow as it strolls around the pasture? : MOOINWALKER
30. Part of the eye : LENS
31. Birds that cronk : GEESE
32. Fine wool source : ALPACA
37. Sitting next to a fireplace, say : TOASTY
38. You might take them to do a good job : PAINS
39. Super-duper : ACES
42. Band members? : PLAYINFOLKS
45. Corner key : ESC
48. Singer ___ Del Rey : LANA
49. Classic railroad name : ERIE
50. Look from Lookout Point : VISTA
52. Old ___ (Yale nickname) : ELI
53. Census bureau employee? : BEINCOUNTER
55. Ronzoni offering : PASTA
57. Actress Blanchett : CATE
58. Edit out : DELE
59. Enemy plans, e.g. : INTEL
60. Like fine wines : AGED
61. Sushi bar stock : EELS
62. Bomb developed in the 1950s : EDSEL
63. ESP : Spain :: ___ : Netherlands : NED
64. Holiday shortening : XMAS
1. Follows closely : STALKS
2. "I meant somebody else" : NOTYOU
3. Wear : ATTIRE
4. Trattoria bowlful : PENNE
5. Like Birkenstocks : OPENTOE
6. Do one's part : PITCHIN
7. Some basketball tactics : SCREENS
8. Tampa team, informally : BUCS
9. Eggs in a lab : OVA
10. Bakery trayful : CUPCAKES
11. Most upright : CLEANEST
12. Tea choice : EARLGREY
14. Org. whose mission involves emissions : EPA
20. Stop the flow of : DAM
21. Do crew : ROW
25. ___ collar : FLEA
28. Greeting in Rio : OLA
29. Past : AGO
32. McDonald's offering since 1968 : APPLEPIE
33. Dreamy state : LALALAND
34. Ragtime entertainers, e.g. : PIANISTS
35. Actress Taylor-Joy of 2015's "The Witch" : ANYA
36. Some detectives' work, for short : CSI
37. Shaming sound : TSK
39. Like the earliest humans : AFRICAN
40. Word that no one has ever said before : COINAGE
41. Chose : ELECTED
43. Marriage announcement word : NEE
44. "Law & Order" spinoff, colloquially : SVU
45. Revere : ESTEEM
46. Adler with a noted acting studio : STELLA
47. Nice touch : CARESS
51. Search simplifier : INDEX
53. Event for Cinderella : BALL
54. Voluminous ref. : OED
56. It can give drivers a lift : TEE

Answer summary: 5 unique to this puzzle, 2 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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