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New York Times, Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Author:
Finn Vigeland
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
1810/20/20109/1/20194
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
9123012
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.64230
Finn Vigeland

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 76, Blocks: 36 Missing: {BJQXZ} This is puzzle # 9 for Mr. Vigeland. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Finn Vigeland notes:
The seed for this puzzle came when I was filling a different puzzle and two -GATE words ended up crossing in a corner. I thought that ... read more

The seed for this puzzle came when I was filling a different puzzle and two -GATE words ended up crossing in a corner. I thought that inelegant and decided to take out NAVIGATE. But I jokingly thought to myself, "I wonder if I could clue that as ["Avatar" scandal?]." And thus a theme was born. As the former managing editor of my college newspaper, I like to imagine two copy editors squabbling over whether or not to strike out a word. I can totally picture us Speccies dubbing that "The Great Dele-gate of 2016" or something.

I had targeted this puzzle for a Wednesday, so Will and Joel toned down the difficulty of the clues ever so slightly. Some clues left on the cutting room floor include ["The price we pay for love," per Queen Elizabeth II] for GRIEF and [Animal form of Harry Potter's Patronus] for STAG. My original adjacent clues for AWAKE and TIRED were, I think, too cute by half: [Pre-coffee, technically] and [Pre-coffee, alas]. But really, I'm just pleased they kept my original clue for MUSICAL: ["Hamilton," e.g.].

Jeff Chen notes:
Really fun idea, ___GATE words interpreted as various Watergate or Irangate-like scandals. I especially liked the ones where the ... read more

Really fun idea, ___GATE words interpreted as various Watergate or Irangate-like scandals. I especially liked the ones where the meaning of the first part was changed completely. ELON GATE as a scandal related to Elon Musk = clever! NAVI GATE as a scandal related to the "Avatar" race is also humorous, although I'm not sure how many solvers will know who the NA'VI are. DELE GATE is a great insider's nod to the crossworld, as DELE is a niche term for editors … and crossword solvers.

J'accuse, NA'VI!

FLOODGATE, TAILGATE, and APPLEGATE weren't as fun for me, as those terms naturally look like FLOOD GATE TAIL GATE, and APPLE GATE. I did a quick search to see if Finn had other options, but I couldn't turn up any others. Ah well.

Finn is so good about jazzing up his grids with bonus material. I love that FRENEMY / STAGE MOM pairing — it's tough to pull off parallel downs from a construction perspective, and to get answers that feel related is really fun. Same goes for LOST LOVE and CHAGRIN. That there is poetic.

The grid is already constrained by having six theme answers, but Finn manages to work in even more long bonus fill with AIR COVER and CROSSFIT. Incorporating long across answers like this is not easy to do, because you create biggish white spaces that are hard to fill. Really nice that Finn took his usual care to make sure the results were really smooth.

I also liked the clue for SEAN [Actor Bean, whose first name looks like it rhymes with his last, but doesn't], REPO [Pickup that gets picked up, perhaps], and TSA [Decidedly not-lax grp. at LAX]. All had a really jovial style to them, and that made me smile because it makes me think of Finn's natural effervescence.

Do people still say WORD UP without drawing eye rolls?

A very strong grid to bolster up a nice theme. The ___GATE pattern did get repetitive for me after two or three instances, but the bonus material and the silky-smooth product helped make up for that.

Jim Horne notes:

This is my favorite puzzle of the week.

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© 2016, The New York TimesNo. 0426 ( 24,276 )

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Across
1
Medieval drudges : SERFS
6
Word before shot or season : FLU
9
Imbecile : DOLT
13
Gives a heads-up : ALERTS
15
Protection provided by military planes : AIRCOVER
17
Watch in astonishment : GAPEAT
18
Scandal surrounding copy editors' proofreading marks? : DELEGATE
19
Scandal involving Tesla C.E.O. Musk? : ELONGATE
21
Completely fine : ALLOK
22
Some hosp. tests : EEGS
23
Facilitate : EASE
25
Storyteller Wilhelm or Jakob : GRIMM
28
Scandal affecting iPhone owners? : APPLEGATE
33
___ Canyon Park (running spot in the Hollywood Hills) : RUNYON
35
Restaurant dip for bread : OIL
36
Do the breaststroke, say : SWIM
37
N.Y.C. subway inits. : IRT
38
"Hamilton," e.g. : MUSICAL
41
Sleeve filler : ARM
42
Title on "Downton Abbey" : EARL
44
TV-watching room : DEN
45
Rink game : HOCKEY
47
Scandal in the aftermath of a tsunami? : FLOODGATE
50
Removes, as a layer : SHEDS
51
Small, brown songbird : WREN
52
"Toodles!" : TATA
54
Words of sympathy : ICARE
57
Scandal that implicates a detective? : TAILGATE
61
Scandal depicted in "Avatar"? : NAVIGATE
64
"Amen to that!" : WORDUP
65
Popular strength-training program : CROSSFIT
66
Be a pilot : AVIATE
67
Warmonger : HAWK
68
Shirt for a workout : TEE
69
Come after : ENSUE
Down
1
Wise one : SAGE
2
Its inaugural flight was in 1948 : ELAL
3
Pickup that gets picked up, perhaps : REPO
4
Ally who's not completely an ally : FRENEMY
5
Aggressive manager for a child star : STAGEMOM
6
Lose vibrancy : FADE
7
Bit of fiction : LIE
8
Address you can't enter into a GPS : URL
9
Angled golf holes : DOGLEGS
10
Shape of the president's office : OVAL
11
Jared of "Dallas Buyers Club" : LETO
12
Long hike : TREK
14
Doe's mate : STAG
16
Desist : CEASE
20
Decidedly not-lax grp. at LAX : TSA
23
Filmdom's "The Bible," e.g. : EPIC
24
Deity to 1.5+ billion : ALLAH
25
"Good ___!" : GRIEF
26
Nonurban : RURAL
27
Course that might be labeled "101" : INTRO
29
North, south, east or west : POINT
30
Up from bed : AWAKE
31
Ready for bed : TIRED
32
TV's "Oscars" : EMMYS
34
Wink accompanier : NUDGE
39
Actor Bean, whose first name looks like it rhymes with his last, but doesn't : SEAN
40
Frequent theme for Adele : LOSTLOVE
43
Not having much chance of failure : LOWRISK
46
"Much to my ___ ..." : CHAGRIN
48
Bottom-of-the-barrel stuff : DREGS
49
Hellenic "H" : ETA
53
Former Sanyo competitor : AIWA
54
Ruler division : INCH
55
___ mia (Italian term of endearment) : CARA
56
Declare assuredly : AVOW
57
Head of the French department? : TETE
58
Ones helping a public prosecutor, for short : ADAS
59
Ballerina's wear : TUTU
60
Olympics sword : EPEE
62
Back on board : AFT
63
Suit accessory : TIE

Answer summary: 3 unique to this puzzle, 1 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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