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New York Times, Saturday, April 22, 2017

Author: Adam Fromm
Editor: Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
46/18/20084/22/20170
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2001001
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.77001
Adam Fromm

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 68, Blocks: 29 Missing: none – this is a pangram. Spans: 4 Scrabble average: 1.91 This is puzzle # 4 for Mr. Fromm. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Adam Fromm notes: That corner is going to be the death of me. The first themeless I ever submitted seven or so years ago contained a variant of the ... more
Adam Fromm notes:

That corner is going to be the death of me. The first themeless I ever submitted seven or so years ago contained a variant of the HEBRIDES/AQUILINE/JUICEBOX/JACKASS stack seen here. That puzzle was declined, but I felt like I could do something more with all that Scrabbly goodness, which resulted in hours of grown-up whimpering and hair-pulling. (Lesson learned: symmetry means that for every cool wide-open section you pull off, you have to do it again on the other side.) By my count, this is the fourth time Will has seen that corner, which doesn't include the ten or so attempts I didn't waste a stamp on.

The right half is where most of the unique entries ended up, but I find the left half much more satisfying (though I'm perversely proud of BITEME). You can probably guess the stuff that makes me wince, like SAYA/ANNAS, which I'm calling the sticker price on finishing the mirror-image corner that lost me seven years of sleep. SLIVERING was once SLIVOVITZ, which I couldn't quite make work, not for lack of trying. And the HWY/AWS crossing was the least of several evils—I could have gone with AWL, changing MAZES to MAZEL, but I'd rather have an awkward three than a boring fill-in-the-blank five ("_______ tov"). Grit teeth, smile, carry on.

All in all, I'm pleased with how it finally turned out. This is my first published crossword in five years (and my first themeless ever), having quasi-retired out of frustration at not being able to build the puzzles I wanted to create. In the end, that expletive-deleted corner's potential was the ghost that brought me back into the game, and so for that I'll embrace my albatross warmly.

Jeff Chen notes: A themeless built around intersecting 15-letter entries typically needs a lot of crossword glue to hold it all together — ... more
Jeff Chen notes:

A themeless built around intersecting 15-letter entries typically needs a lot of crossword glue to hold it all together — filling around each intersection gets to be tricky. When I saw the blank grid, I was sure that there would be a ton of ugly short entries in the upper left. Not only do two 15-letter entries intersect inside it, but that big section is essentially an 8x4 chunk, which is hard enough to fill, even without that added constraint!

Great surprise to get excellent work in that corner. JUICE BOX and SEX TAPE provide some zazz, and HEBRIDES and AQUILINE are pretty good. HAJJI feels rickety, as I'm used to seeing it HADJI, but either is fine. So with ILEA (plural of ileum) as the only price to pay, it's a big thumbs-up from me.

As Adam mentioned though, the opposite corner didn't turn out quite as well. MINICAR feels odd. I love ATALANTA in Greek myth, but she does tend to get overused in crosswords due to her friendly consonant / vowel alternation. And ANNAS / SAY A ... still, RED DRESS was fun given that I had already uncovered ROXANNE, which has a RED DRESS featured in the lyrics. Wish they had been linked through their clues!

Some bumps here and there: ECCLES is an odd-looking abbr., HWY is minor, and there's a reliance on some old-feeling entries: SAYER, REO, and (dare I say it?) RICK SPRINGFIELD? He's fallen out of my consciousness, unfortunately.

I would have liked more sparkle out of those 15-letter entries — they're all fine, but none of them made me want to go tell friends about this crossword. Hard to believe that JACKASS THE MOVIE is 15 years old now.

But overall, for the difficulty level of the grid design, it's pretty good execution.

1
H
2
E
3
B
4
R
5
I
6
D
7
E
8
S
9
M
10
E
11
S
12
S
13
E
14
S
15
A
Q
U
I
L
I
N
E
16
A
X
I
L
L
A
17
J
U
I
C
E
B
O
X
18
Z
A
N
I
L
Y
19
J
A
C
K
A
S
S
T
20
H
E
M
O
V
I
E
21
I
L
K
S
22
A
W
S
23
J
E
E
R
24
P
25
R
26
E
27
P
P
Y
28
M
A
R
29
C
30
H
31
E
R
O
K
E
E
32
P
A
P
I
33
E
34
R
35
B
A
D
I
D
E
A
36
R
O
X
A
N
N
E
37
S
H
I
N
E
D
38
M
A
K
I
N
G
D
O
39
E
G
O
40
B
I
T
E
M
E
41
C
42
U
F
F
43
T
A
N
44
S
45
A
46
Y
47
A
48
A
R
A
I
49
S
I
N
I
50
N
51
T
52
H
E
S
U
N
53
P
I
L
E
U
P
54
C
A
R
E
W
O
R
N
55
E
C
C
L
E
S
56
A
T
A
L
A
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A
57
S
H
O
D
D
Y
58
R
E
D
D
R
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S
S
© 2017, The New York TimesNo. 0422 ( 24,637 )
Across Down
1. Skye, the Small Isles, etc. : HEBRIDES
9. Fiddles (with) : MESSES
15. Eaglelike : AQUILINE
16. Armpit, to a doctor : AXILLA
17. Brown-bag lunch item : JUICEBOX
18. With wacky irreverence : ZANILY
19. 2002 "documentary" with "Don't try this at home" contents : JACKASSTHEMOVIE
21. Varieties : ILKS
22. Sounds of pity : AWS
23. Fan sound : JEER
24. Like an ascot, perhaps : PREPPY
28. Put a dent in, say : MAR
29. Jeep model : CHEROKEE
32. Le Monde material : PAPIER
35. "No, you don't want to do that" : BADIDEA
36. First hit for the Police : ROXANNE
37. Performed beautifully : SHINED
38. Managing : MAKINGDO
39. Psychological mediator : EGO
40. "Drop dead, loser" : BITEME
41. Strike sharply : CUFF
43. Change one's tone? : TAN
44. "Don't ___ thing" : SAYA
48. Hit 1959 Broadway play starring Sidney Poitier : ARAISININTHESUN
53. Jam producer : PILEUP
54. Bowed with adversity : CAREWORN
55. Book after Proverbs: Abbr. : ECCLES
56. Only woman aboard the Argo, it's said : ATALANTA
57. Third-rate : SHODDY
58. "Jezebel" costume : REDDRESS
1. Faithful pilgrim : HAJJI
2. Congruent : EQUAL
3. Riviera, e.g. : BUICK
4. Singer with a recurring role on "General Hospital" : RICKSPRINGFIELD
5. Guts, in part : ILEA
6. "Mine!" : DIBS
7. Slaughter of the Cardinals : ENOS
8. Record of affairs? : SEXTAPE
9. Achievements in large-scale topiary : MAZES
10. Bar ___ : EXAM
11. Historic conflict in and around the Yellow Sea : SINOJAPANESEWAR
12. Reducing to splinters : SLIVERING
13. ___ Kemper, star of TV's "Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt" : ELLIE
14. Leo with the 1977 #1 hit "When I Need You" : SAYER
20. Any I, e.g.: Abbr. : HWY
25. What may involve the calf muscles? : RODEO
26. Managed, with "out" : EKED
27. Shade of green : PEA
28. Saw : MAXIM
29. Its logo is based on a Pennsylvania Dutch hex sign : CBS
30. Derisive reply : HAH
31. "The Sopranos" actress : EDIEFALCO
32. Slow sort, informally : POKE
33. Patootie : END
34. ___ Motors, old Lansing manufacturer : REO
36. Tattle : RAT
38. Subcompact : MINICAR
40. International treaty subject : BAN
41. Coastline features : CAPES
42. Robert of "Spenser: For Hire" : URICH
43. A little tight : TIPSY
45. Simultaneously : ASONE
46. Round abodes : YURTS
47. Dancer Pavlova and others : ANNAS
49. Went after, in a way : SUED
50. ___ the Great of children's literature : NATE
51. Like many folk songs: Abbr. : TRAD
52. Stood fast : HELD

Answer summary: 5 unique to this puzzle, 1 debuted here and reused later, 3 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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