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New York Times, Saturday, April 29, 2017

Author: Martin Ashwood-Smith
Editor: Will Shortz
Martin Ashwood-Smith
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
856/5/19914/29/201710
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000246316
ScrabRebusCirclePangrampre-WS
1.520017

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 68, Blocks: 30 Missing: {JQZ} This is puzzle # 85 for Mr. Ashwood-Smith. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Martin Ashwood-Smith notes: I've always liked crosswords with wide open centers. To my eyes, they often look like printers' errors, because of the ... more
Martin Ashwood-Smith notes:

I've always liked crosswords with wide open centers. To my eyes, they often look like printers' errors, because of the dearth of black squares in the middle... and I admire a good "dearth", on occasions.

However, one problem with open-center grids is that they can be very segmented, meaning that the central open area could almost be a separate mini-puzzle (I'm hardly innocent in this regard, incidentally). I hope today's puzzle is a bit more solver-friendly than some of my previous efforts, because of the long intersecting across and down entries that run through the center of the grid.

Also, I tried to make those six long entries as interesting as possible. But I only succeeded with five: CAPITALISTIC won't exactly set the crossword world afire. Maybe GEORGE SMILEY and MARILYN MONROE will provide a bit more zing!

There's one word in the grid that may be an eyebrow-raiser: 18-Across: NATANT. If you're unfamiliar with NATANT, it means "swimming" or "floating" (you'll find it in a regular college dictionary). I had considered removing it, but I thought it an interesting word for a Saturday puzzle. However, if you don't like NATANT, I hope the accompanying photograph by Jazmin Miranda will make up for it.

Jeff Chen notes: Great to see some variety from MAS! He usually locks onto full-width triple-stacks (and quadruple-stacks as well). As interesting as ... more
Jeff Chen notes:

Great to see some variety from MAS! He usually locks onto full-width triple-stacks (and quadruple-stacks as well). As interesting as those sometimes can be, I do get tired of the same thing over and over again. While there's something to be said for focusing only one's strengths, I like to see people push their personal boundaries. Makes for better puzzles overall.

Beautiful work in the impressively wide-open center. That's such a challenge to fill, especially given that six very long entries must stack atop / intersect each other. I'd usually expect a few short crossing clunkers or some mystifying / esoteric long entries, but this turned out well. DILLY DALLIES is fun, as are SOUNDING BOARD, MARILYN MONROE, DEAD GIVEAWAY. Four snazzy answers out of six is an incredible hit rate for an area this tough.

CAPITALISTIC feels more workmanlike to me, especially without a playful clue. And GEORGE SMILEY … I can't agree with MAS on this one. I think he's fair game, given that he's the main character in the series including "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy." But even having watched that movie, I needed most every crossing.

And such little crossword glue in that center! I'm not sure why EKING got the dreaded "old-style" modifier in its clue, since "EKING out a living" is a fine phrase. Well, there's LOESS. It's a word in the dictionary, but it is a bit out there.

There were a couple of prices to pay as MAS expanded from the center. In the NW corner, the fantastic pair of THE ATEAM over MEA CULPA did force BELG, but if that's it, I'm sold. (I don't mind EHS, as I tend to say EH a lot.)

Also, LATEXES is odd in the plural. Not sure many solvers use the word NATANT. Not sure if I love ABATTOIR or hate it. Constructors tend to lean on ODESSA (or EDESSA) as a crutch, given its common letters.

Overall though, strong work. I think if MAS had put a black square at the E of MATTE, allowing him to work in two sizzling answers at 10- and 11-Down, it would have been a POW! for me.

1
A
2
S
3
H
4
B
5
B
6
C
7
S
8
C
9
R
10
A
11
W
12
L
13
T
H
E
14
A
T
E
A
15
M
16
A
R
A
B
I
A
17
M
E
A
C
U
L
P
A
18
N
A
T
A
N
T
19
F
E
R
N
20
G
I
R
21
D
22
M
A
T
T
E
23
E
S
T
E
24
E
25
T
I
E
26
U
P
27
T
E
X
28
E
H
S
29
K
30
O
A
L
A
S
31
C
O
R
E
32
D
I
L
L
Y
D
A
33
L
L
I
E
S
34
S
35
O
U
N
D
I
N
G
B
O
A
R
D
36
G
E
O
R
G
E
S
M
I
L
E
Y
37
I
T
S
A
38
S
T
O
V
E
S
39
G
40
E
41
E
42
G
A
P
43
S
T
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N
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44
S
45
T
E
A
M
46
A
S
O
47
N
E
48
C
R
A
49
B
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O
N
T
O
51
T
I
R
A
N
52
A
53
O
W
L
54
S
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E
S
T
55
O
D
E
S
S
A
56
E
A
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D
E
V
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57
N
E
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Y
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59
A
N
D
© 2017, The New York TimesNo. 0429 ( 24,644 )
Across Down
1. Result of a firing : ASH
4. English channel : BBC
7. It's poorly written : SCRAWL
13. Hannibal's men : THEATEAM
16. 1962 Best Picture setting : ARABIA
17. Fault line? : MEACULPA
18. Swimming : NATANT
19. Shade of green : FERN
20. Bind with a belt : GIRD
22. Certain finish : MATTE
23. Chanel No. 5 competitor : ESTEE
25. Gridlock consequence : TIEUP
27. Many a Dallas cowboy : TEX
28. Comments that lead people to repeat themselves : EHS
29. Ones carrying babies on their backs : KOALAS
31. Middle Earth? : CORE
32. Dawdles : DILLYDALLIES
34. Source of feedback : SOUNDINGBOARD
36. Fictional spy who first appeared in "Call for the Dead" : GEORGESMILEY
37. "___ joke" : ITSA
38. Ranges : STOVES
39. Go the right way? : GEE
42. Mystery in the fossil record : GAP
43. Writer with the given names Robert Lawrence : STINE
44. Tick off : STEAM
46. Jointly : ASONE
48. Whine lover? : CRAB
50. Undeceived by : ONTO
51. Capital for King Zog : TIRANA
53. Hooter's location : OWLSNEST
55. Setting for Sergei Eisenstein's "Battleship Potemkin" : ODESSA
56. Clear brandy : EAUDEVIE
57. Brisk competitor : NESTEA
58. Fist pumper's cry : YES
59. Besides : AND
1. PIN money? : ATMFEE
2. "Jeez Louise!" : SHEESH
3. Trick-taking card game : HEARTS
4. About 252 cals. : BTU
5. Like M. Poirot : BELG
6. Competitive, in a way : CAPITALISTIC
7. Title of politeness : SAN
8. Swimmer's woe : CRAMP
9. Pro ___ : RATA
10. Slaughterhouse : ABATTOIR
11. Spent a season in the sun? : WINTERED
12. Rubbery compounds : LATEXES
14. Certain eruption : ACNE
15. Famed Pop Art subject : MARILYNMONROE
21. It's pretty obvious : DEADGIVEAWAY
24. Augmenting, old-style : EKING
26. Functional : USABLE
30. Guinness adjective : OLDEST
31. Modeling medium : CLAY
32. Long-lasting, in commercial names : DURA
33. Good earth : LOESS
34. Table : SETASIDE
35. Some fertilized eggs : OOSPORES
36. Unit of explosive capacity : GIGATON
39. Palace of Nations locale : GENEVA
40. Has a home-cooked meal : EATSIN
41. Made a big scene? : EMOTED
43. Import : SENSE
45. Step on a scale : TONE
47. Illustrator Thomas : NAST
49. Down : BLUE
52. Strong, as a bond : AAA
54. New Left org. : SDS

Answer summary: 6 unique to this puzzle, 1 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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