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New York Times, Thursday, April 6, 2017

Author:
Damon Gulczynski
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
3811/8/20047/1/20190
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
15608810
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.65330
Damon J. Gulczynski

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 78, Blocks: 42 Missing: {JKQZ} This is puzzle # 22 for Mr. Gulczynski. Jeff Chen's Puzzle of the Week pick. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Damon J. Gulczynski notes:
X is a strange letter. It starts the fewest number of English words by a significant margin, but we make up for this by *overusing* it ... read more

X is a strange letter. It starts the fewest number of English words by a significant margin, but we make up for this by *overusing* it in other areas. In mathematics (my college major), we are first introduced to x in elementary school as the multiplication symbol. Then as we take algebra in middle school that usage completely goes away, and x is used instead to represent an unknown number in an equation. As if that isn't enough, when we next move on to functions, x is typically used to represent the independent variable in functional notation. Why? Why do we abuse x like this when we have dozens of other symbols we can use? I mean, given how many kids struggle with math literacy, you would think we could make it a bit easier on them, no?

Anyway… for this puzzle it was helpful that x can be used in so many different ways. I haven't been making many rebus puzzles of late (lest they become as overused as x), but I thought this idea — making the rebus symbols mean something different each time they're used — was new enough to warrant a puzzle.

I hope it isn't lost on the solver that the letters X and O do not appear in this grid at all outside the theme. This put a pretty substantial limitation on my fill options (as it turns out, O is a very useful letter in crossword puzzle constructing), so the grid isn't quite as clean as I would like (see TWEE crossing ENE), but I think it mostly came out alright — eventually. The first two iterations of this puzzle were sent back with a "not quite" note. Well, you know what they say: Third x the charm!

Jeff Chen notes:
I love it when a crossword surprises me! I got to XS AND OS pretty quickly and having already figured out that X MY GRITS was (KISS) ... read more

I love it when a crossword surprises me! I got to XS AND OS pretty quickly and having already figured out that X MY GRITS was (KISS) MY GRITS (I watched WAY too much "Alice" as a kid), I shrugged. X representing KISS, O for HUG, got it. Been done before.

Then I stared at THREE X ___ for the longest time, wondering what song could start with THREE KISS. Great, great, great a-ha moment to realize that the Xs all represented different things: THREE (TIMES) A LADY, (KISS) MY GRITS, and (TEN) SPEED. Same with the Os! TURNED FULL HUG made no sense but TURNED FULL (CIRCLE), (ZERO) SUM GAME, BEAR(HUG)S did.

Very cool that Damon found so many different things that X and O commonly represent.

Did you notice that all the Xs are confined to the left side of the grid? And the Os on the right? Elegant touch. And it wasn't lost on me that Damon avoided extraneous Os. That may not seem very difficult, but O is such a common letter that it's hard to avoid. These two elegant touches helped elevate this puzzle in my eyes even further.

Normally when a theme tickles me this much, I don't bother talking about the fill. But Damon does so well to spread around his crossword glue, keeping it to just minor ENE UNE ESTD ATL shorties.

All O (around), a superb puzzle.

1
E
2
S
3
T
4
D
5
X
6
M
7
A
8
N
9
L
10
I
11
V
12
E
13
A
C
H
E
14
M
E
G
A
15
A
R
I
L
16
T
E
R
A
17
B
Y
T
E
S
18
B
T
E
A
M
19
U
N
E
20
I
G
A
21
A
22
G
E
E
23
P
E
E
24
L
E
R
25
P
A
T
26
T
27
I
28
E
29
X
E
N
I
30
A
31
M
A
R
A
U
D
S
32
P
33
S
A
T
34
T
W
35
E
E
36
O
G
R
E
S
37
A
T
L
38
X
S
A
N
D
39
O
S
40
N
A
E
41
R
E
A
42
R
S
43
S
E
A
S
44
G
E
L
S
45
I
N
D
E
P
46
T
H
47
L
U
48
R
I
D
49
S
T
Y
L
E
S
50
M
U
F
F
51
E
52
D
53
Y
E
A
54
S
55
U
G
G
56
U
V
A
57
V
58
I
59
V
I
D
60
T
61
U
N
A
S
62
A
L
A
D
63
I
R
A
N
64
A
M
P
M
65
A
L
D
A
66
P
A
N
G
67
R
A
C
E
68
H
O
E
S
© 2017, The New York TimesNo. 0406 ( 24,621 )
Across
1
Abbr. before a date : ESTD
5
Comics figure with extraordinary powers : XMAN
9
Word in the corner of some news broadcasts : LIVE
13
Charley horse sensation : ACHE
14
Prefix with vitamin : MEGA
15
Edible part of a litchi : ARIL
16
Quantity of disk drive capacity : TERABYTES
18
Benchwarmers : BTEAM
19
François Hollande's one : UNE
20
Supermarket chain : IGA
21
1969 World Series hero Tommie : AGEE
23
Kitchen gizmo : PEELER
25
___ Boyd, first wife of both George Harrison and Eric Clapton : PATTIE
29
City near Dayton : XENIA
31
Freeboots : MARAUDS
32
Exam for jrs. : PSAT
34
___ pop (music genre featuring simple, catchy melodies) : TWEE
36
Giants of folklore : OGRES
37
The Hawks, on scoreboards : ATL
38
Playbook symbols ... or letters treated symbolically in this puzzle's Down answers : XSANDOS
40
Scot's negative : NAE
41
Raises : REARS
43
Vast amounts : SEAS
44
They may make your hair stand on end : GELS
45
Thoroughly : INDEPTH
47
Like Quentin Tarantino films : LURID
49
Options on a barbershop wall : STYLES
50
Blew : MUFFED
53
Passing comments? : YEAS
55
Fleecy boot brand : UGG
56
Sch. that's home to the N.C.A.A.'s Wahoos : UVA
57
Very strong : VIVID
60
Deli scoopful : TUNASALAD
63
It's south of the Caspian : IRAN
64
Alarm clock toggle : AMPM
65
Actor whose four-letter first name shares three letters with his last : ALDA
66
Twinge : PANG
67
Hurry : RACE
68
Uncovers dirt, in a way : HOES
Down
1
Really enjoy : EATUP
2
Last word of many an improv skit : SCENE
3
1978 #1 hit for the Commodores : THREETIMESALADY
4
Government org. in "Breaking Bad" : DEA
5
Sitcom catchphrase of the '70s and '80s : KISSMYGRITS
6
Like the "Scream" films : META
7
___-appropriate : AGE
8
Org. that hires many engineers : NASA
9
It results in a runner being called safe : LATETAG
10
Hot blood : IRE
11
Through : VIA
12
Word with Dutch or American : ELM
17
"Très ___!" : BIEN
18
Big, tight embraces : BEARHUGS
22
3.0, e.g. : GPA
24
Umpire's cry : LET
26
Went back to where it all began : TURNEDFULLCIRCLE
27
Model : IDEAL
28
50% less? : ESSES
30
Inundated : AWASH
31
Olympics success : MEDAL
32
World capital whose motto is "Fluctuat nec mergitur" (Latin for "It is tossed but does not sink") : PARIS
33
Vessel opener : STENT
35
Suffix with ethyl : ENE
38
Certain bicycle : TENSPEED
39
Situation in which, on the whole, nothing can be gained or lost : ZEROSUMGAME
42
Falling back (on) : RELYING
44
Many an embedded animation : GIF
46
LAX patrollers : TSA
48
Persians, e.g. : RUGS
51
Sidestep : EVADE
52
Pops : DADAS
54
Symbol at the center of a Scrabble board : STAR
55
Potentially insulting : UNPC
57
One behind a velvet rope, say : VIP
58
Radio host Glass : IRA
59
Moving object? : VAN
61
Thurman of "Pulp Fiction" : UMA
62
"That feels so-o-o-o good!" : AAH

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

Found bugs or have suggestions?