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New York Times, Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Author: David J. Kahn
Editor: Will Shortz
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1793/15/19946/3/20185
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4451222571326
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.5514190
David J. Kahn

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 76, Blocks: 38 Missing: {BFJQXZ} This is puzzle # 158 for Mr. Kahn. NYT links: Across Lite PDF

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Jeff Chen notes: A sort of tribute puzzle today. Really fun to read up on the MERCURY / SEVEN which was an unfamiliar term to me. Sounds like it was ... more
Jeff Chen notes: A sort of tribute puzzle today. Really fun to read up on the MERCURY / SEVEN which was an unfamiliar term to me. Sounds like it was quite the big deal back in 1959, seven men chosen as the "Original Seven." I particularly enjoyed learning about the tests that they were forced to undergo, including dosages of castor oil and (ahem) enemas. I get a picture of scientists sitting around a room, rubbing their hands together with glee as they brainstormed what would be funny things to do to these poor souls.

It's unfortunate that the MERCURY SEVEN don't split well into crossword symmetry. With last names of 7, 7, 7, 7, 5, 9, and 6, it's almost perfect! Almost. Such a pity that Gordon COOPER's last name wasn't 9 or 5 letters. So David is forced to add extra entries into the mix, SPACE RACE and ROCKET. It's a huge amount of theme material (I highlighted it all below to make it easier to pick out) but overall it was disorienting to uncover themage in odd locations, especially MERCURY and SEVEN being so distantly cross-referenced. Kind of like being on a tilt table after taking heavy doses of castor oil.

Don't get any ideas, you.

Even with such high theme density, David does well to add in the very nice DOODLER and SUPER C. Even having played trombone for 20 years, I wasn't familiar with SUPER C, but what a nice term. And some Googling shows that it's a real term, one I probably should have known.

One problem I had was the SETS / THEREON crossing. SETS up felt reasonable, and the Dickinson quote felt like it could be really anything. Perhaps a sewing-related clue for SEWS would have been better, as I doubt I'll be the only solver to have trouble at that square (although I should have known that SET and SETS would not have been in the same puzzle).

Another issue that nagged at me was the fill in the NE and SW corners. With the heavy, heavy constraints demanded by the themers, it's amazing that David was able to fill those areas at all. However, THE DIE feels like a partial to me, SASK isn't great, and ACETALS is a term I only know because of three years of chemistry. I've recently gained an appreciation of ADELAIDE'S LAMENT (written by LOESSER) from Jim, but LOESSER still feels like a missed opportunity for a nicer piece of fill. Tough trade-off. Kind of neat to cram in so much theme material, but some compromises along the way.

Finally, a great clue, really fun to see in a Wed puzzle. [Caller on a cell phone?] is hilarious for CON (what other kind of phone is a CONvict in a cell block going to make?). For me, a single great clue can redeem a lot of crunchiness in a grid. Nice to see that extra effort, much appreciated.

JimH notes: Cf. this puzzle from 1998.
1
S
2
C
3
H
4
I
5
R
6
R
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A
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G
9
R
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M
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G
16
N
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P
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V
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A
C
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E
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S
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A
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K
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C
A
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N
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S
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D
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M
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C
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N
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K
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A
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C
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C
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L
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W
H
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M
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72
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© 2014, The New York TimesNo. 0423 ( 23,542 )
Across Down
1. WALLY : SCHIRRA
8. GUS : GRISSOM
15. Whittling away : ERODING
16. Like some email addresses : NOREPLY
17. Blow the joint : VAMOOSE
18. Volatile solvents : ACETALS
19. 50-50 : EVEN
20. Regina's locale: Abbr. : SASK
22. Burmese, for one : CAT
23. Sites for kites : NESTS
25. What is cast, in a saying : THEDIE
28. River of Hesse : EDER
31. Not just hot : TORRID
34. Bub : MAC
37. Improper : NOTOK
39. Animal with stripes : OKAPI
40. In the style of : ALA
41. ALAN : SHEPARD
43. Place for a baseball insignia : CAP
44. Many a classical sculpture : TORSO
46. Sandbank : SHOAL
47. Copy desk workers, e.g.: Abbr. : EDS
48. Very high trumpet note : SUPERC
50. "Splendor in the Grass" screenwriter : INGE
51. Gloomy donkey of fiction : EEYORE
53. Mark up or down, say : RETAG
58. Caller on a cell phone? : CON
60. Library refs. : OEDS
62. Keyboardist Saunders : MERL
63. Stab : ATTEMPT
66. International agreement : ENTENTE
69. "Luck Be a Lady" composer/lyricist : LOESSER
70. "I envy Seas, ___ He rides": Emily Dickinson : WHEREON
71. With 1-Down, first American astronauts : MERCURY
72. DEKE : SLAYTON
1. See 71-Across : SEVEN
2. Ardently want : CRAVE
3. They're mobile in a trailer park : HOMES
4. "___ believe it!" : IDONT
5. 2016 Olympics city : RIO
6. E.R. personnel : RNS
7. A really long time : AGES
8. Grind : GNASH
9. NASA vehicle : ROCKET
10. Fury : IRE
11. Firmed up : SET
12. Old U.S./Soviet rivalry : SPACERACE
13. It's a crock : OLLA
14. Best-selling PC game of the 1990s : MYST
21. Weakened due to inactivity : ATROPHIED
24. Kind of perception : SENSORY
26. School desk drawer? : DOODLER
27. Nettle : IRK
29. Play-___ : DOH
30. Verb with "vous" : ETES
32. ___ Mini : IPAD
33. Some market fluctuations : DIPS
34. Gym surfaces : MATS
35. Baseball family name : ALOU
36. SCOTT : CARPENTER
38. Unstable subatomic particle : KAON
42. Tease : RAG
45. Envision : SEE
49. GORDON : COOPER
52. Hear again in court : RETRY
54. File material : EMERY
55. Guiding belief : TENET
56. "Star Wars" droid : ARTOO
57. JOHN : GLENN
58. Unruffled : CALM
59. Plains tribe : OTOE
61. Ends, with "up" : SEWS
64. PC key : ESC
65. Where Magic Johnson played college ball, for short : MSU
67. Org. with Sharks and Predators : NHL
68. It may be herbal : TEA

Answer summary: 1 unique to this puzzle, 2 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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