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New York Times, Saturday, April 29, 2017

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

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 dearth of black ... read more

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 ... read more

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
I
N
E
44
S
45
T
E
A
M
46
A
S
O
47
N
E
48
C
R
A
49
B
50
O
N
T
O
51
T
I
R
A
N
52
A
53
O
W
L
54
S
N
E
S
T
55
O
D
E
S
S
A
56
E
A
U
D
E
V
I
E
57
N
E
S
T
E
A
58
Y
E
S
59
A
N
D
© 2017, The New York TimesNo. 0429 ( 24,644 )

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Students & seniors
Across
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
Down
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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