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New York Times, Friday, April 17, 2015

Author: Mary Lou Guizzo
Editor: Will Shortz
Mary Lou Guizzo
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
194/17/20149/30/20179
SunMonTueWedThuFriSatVariety
21131641
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.61120

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 72, Blocks: 30 Missing: {JQV} Spans: 6 This is puzzle # 5 for Ms. Guizzo. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Mary Lou Guizzo notes: After a few of my themed puzzles were accepted by the NYT, I decided to try my hand at a themeless grid. Will Shortz has noted ... more
Mary Lou Guizzo notes:

After a few of my themed puzzles were accepted by the NYT, I decided to try my hand at a themeless grid. Will Shortz has noted that only 1-2% of his themeless submissions are from female constructors. I want to improve on that number.

Ride 'em, cowboy!

Peter Collins' grid with six spanners seemed like a good place to start. (Eventually, I needed to move a few black squares around to get clean fill.) I keep a running list of vocabulary words to enter in my crossword database. Fifteen letter entries get special note — I was glad to include ELIZABETH WARREN in the grid. I enjoyed reading her latest book and following her career in recent years. I thought HOSTESS TWINKIES was a fun entry too. SNOWDEN would also have been a debut entry for the NYT at the time of my submission but Brendan Emmett Quigley beat me out.

I'm trying to improve my cluing. My submissions for TARZAN, SNOWDEN and ELIZABETH WARREN — "A swinging guy", "A revealing guy" and "Wall Street concern" didn't make the cut. They were a little vague, even for a Friday. A clue like "Lover of Jane Porter", gives you the information you need yet can also misdirect by giving the last name which you don't usually hear and may never have known. I missed the opportunity to link SAINT and BEDE, but Will and Joel did not. I appreciate their editing expertise.

I am pleased to have my first solo themeless published in the NYT and hope you have enjoyed your solving experience.

Jeff Chen notes: ML's first solo themeless! Unusual layout, featuring six grid-spanners, laid out in a criss-cross style. This type of arrangement is ... more
Jeff Chen notes:

ML's first solo themeless! Unusual layout, featuring six grid-spanners, laid out in a criss-cross style. This type of arrangement is tough to execute on cleanly, as every region around two crossing grid-spanners becomes highly constrained. And given that there are eight such intersections, which means that the entire puzzle faces tough constraints all over.

WAHOO! ML does quite well in smoothing out the short stuff holding the puzzle together. There's been some Facebook chatter about STRO, but I think it's a reasonable enough answer, especially for those fans in Houston. I imagine people not in Seattle would think I'm crazy for clueing THEMS as [Seattle's MLB team] = THE M'S, but it's super common here.

The "Venerable Bede" (sigh, all the great nicknames are already taken)

Really the only place I found tough was the south. I liked learning a tidbit about SAINT BEDE — the cross-reference works well because the answers are so close to each other — but not being familiar with BARI as an Italian port made the B a guess for me. There's an argument to be made that as an educated solver, I really ought to have known one of them. Grumble grumble, fine!

Ah, there was the KRIS KROS crisscross. KRIS felt much more like a real name of course, but END ON felt much more apt than END IN for [Finish with]. Darn my gullibility when it comes to B-list celebs!

Finally, A STROKE OF GENIUS regarding A STROKE OF GENIUS. Themelesses featuring grid-spanners rely on the long entries to be stellar, since there usually isn't much else of note besides them. Not only is A STROKE OF GENIUS fantastic in itself, but it's a devious trap. All the first letters were clued so easily that I quickly had ASTRO- as a start. So of course, [Something that's brilliant] had to be some sort of ASTRONOMICAL phenomenon, right? Just loved this trap, set up and sprung so fiendishly for a unique a-ha moment.

Hoping to see more of ML's byline on themelesses, and more diversity within themeless constructors in general. It would have never occurred to me to feature ELIZABETH WARREN or KROS — aaugh, KRIS! Kardashian — for example, so I like getting into the mind of someone who thinks very differently from me.

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© 2015, The New York TimesNo. 0417 ( 23,901 )
Across Down
1. Plague, with "at" : GNAW
5. Handmade sign at a stadium : HIMOM
10. Warrant, e.g.: Abbr. : CERT
14. Gift on el día de los enamorados : ROSA
15. Eyelike designs : OCULI
16. Tennis's Nastase : ILIE
17. Similar : OFTHESAMESTRIPE
20. Charge leader? : SUR
21. Unspecified degrees : NTHS
22. Lover of Jane Porter : TARZAN
23. Man who went into self-imposed exile in 2013 : SNOWDEN
25. Opera ___ : SERIA
26. Mother of Kourtney, Kim and Khloé : KRIS
27. Houston player, for short : STRO
28. Snare : BAG
31. Rout : CLEANSWEEP
34. Ashcroft's predecessor in the cabinet : RENO
35. Basket : HOOP
36. One making you do your duty? : TAXER
37. World Heritage Site since 2013 : ETNA
38. Boobs : OAFS
39. Direction seeker's query : WHERESTHAT
41. "u can't b serious!" : OMG
42. Stories of a lifetime? : BIOS
43. Side with a dog : SLAW
44. Budget, in adspeak : ECONO
46. Draw : TIEGAME
49. Title Inuit of film : NANOOK
51. See 60-Across : BEDE
52. Univ. aides : RAS
53. Very close : ONINTIMATETERMS
56. Ladies' man : STUD
57. Zac of "The Lorax" : EFRON
58. Repeatedly reposted item : MEME
59. Brand operated by Imperial : ESSO
60. With 51-Across, early adopter of the A.D. dating method : SAINT
61. Black ring material : ONYX
1. Box-office figure : GROSS
2. Like a buzzkill : NOFUN
3. Something that's brilliant : ASTROKEOFGENIUS
4. Sound heard a lot by new parents : WAH
5. Longtime food product with a mascot in a cowboy hat : HOSTESSTWINKIES
6. New York's ___ Stadium (track-and-field venue) : ICAHN
7. Fall bloomers : MUMS
8. Stadium cry : OLE
9. Cry at a White House press conference : MISTERPRESIDENT
10. Atmospheric features of Mars : CIRRI
11. Senator who wrote "A Fighting Chance," 2014 : ELIZABETHWARREN
12. Last name in morning TV : RIPA
13. Follower of four or six, but not five : TEEN
18. Finish with : ENDIN
19. Its edible root is called an eddo : TARO
24. Finishes : WRAPS
25. Rounded-up figure? : STEER
27. Embellishes, with "up" : SEXES
29. Russian ruler after Peter II : ANNA
30. Zodiac symbol : GOAT
31. Shoe designer Jimmy : CHOO
32. Composition of some bricks : LOAM
33. "Yay, we did it!" : WAHOO
34. Change in a clothing store, in a way : RETAG
40. Unwelcome forecast : SLEET
42. Eject : BOOT
45. House alternative : CONDO
46. Sitting Bull, e.g. : TETON
47. Scarlett O'Hara's housemaid : MAMMY
48. Super Six maker of the 1920s : ESSEX
49. Torpedo part : NOSE
50. Threat in "The Naked Jungle," 1954 : ANTS
51. Port of Italy : BARI
54. Design deg. : MFA
55. Like some hairstyles with long bangs : EMO

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

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