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New York Times, Thursday, March 8, 2018

Author:
Jim Quinlan
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
25/27/20153/8/20180
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
0001100
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
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 ... read more

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 I? ... read more

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.

1
S
2
N
3
A
4
P
5
O
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P
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S
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B
9
O
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C
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C
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E
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T
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U
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A
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A
T
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P
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C
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P
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L
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D
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K
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T
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F
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G
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S
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E
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M
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A
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K
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G
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A
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L
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P
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T
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Y
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P
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A
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C
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E
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P
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N
F
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K
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S
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C
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L
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V
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B
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D
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A
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N
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X
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S
© 2018, The New York TimesNo. 0308 ( 24,957 )
Across
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
Down
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.

Found bugs or have suggestions?