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New York Times, Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Author:
Ned White
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
231/16/20104/6/20191
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1105259
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.58010
Ned White

This puzzle:

Rows: 16, Columns: 15 Words: 81, Blocks: 44 Missing: {FJQXYZ} This is puzzle # 19 for Mr. White. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Ned White notes:
The main idea behind this puzzle was to create something kinetic — a continuous flow of sports action proceeding from top to ... read more

The main idea behind this puzzle was to create something kinetic — a continuous flow of sports action proceeding from top to bottom the way most solvers approach a puzzle of midweek difficulty. A single rally in a game of badminton seemed ideal to me because of the various kinds of 4-letter birdies that could be arranged on either side of the net, all six of them easily clued "off-theme." (I wanted very much to get architect Christopher WREN in, but couldn't make him fit.) A player SERVES, and the birdie zigzags across the net till IT'S OUT.

The 12-letter BADMINTON NET forced 16 rows for symmetry, which gave me just a little extra wiggle room for optimizing theme placement. Birdies kept moving around from one slot to another until they seemed to make the best fit. But the big job was the non-theme staggered fill in the center of the grid — from ION BEAMS to POLITICO — which pretty much defined (and confined) how good my short "glue" would be. Mixed results: OSE, ONA, ENC, IDI and PES are words I'd like to ban from my future efforts.

I loved making this puzzle and would like to try more where things can "move around" through some sort of landscape.

Jeff Chen notes:
Fun and creative concept, players hitting a shuttlecock back and forth over a BADMINTON NET. Or is that a BIRDIE? I dug that repeating ... read more

Fun and creative concept, players hitting a shuttlecock back and forth over a BADMINTON NET. Or is that a BIRDIE? I dug that repeating pattern of four-letter birds ping-ponging from one side to the other. And getting the finale of ITS OUT was a fun ending. Amusing to visualize the BIRDIE finally landing out of bounds (if you think of the sideline as AREAMAN / ALIENS).

Some good bonus entries, too. As a die-hard sci-fi guy, I love me some ION BEAMS. POLITICO and Kim BASINGER were nice as well. SENSE ORGAN felt a bit too dictionary-definitionish for my taste (pun intended), but it is valid. And although UNACCENTED is a bit dull as an entry on its own, getting a misdirecting clue in [Not stressed], as in "laid back," made for fun wordplay.

Puzzles featuring a whole bunch of short themers can be tough to fill cleanly. Ned did a pretty good job of separating all his themers with black squares, and some of the places I thought would suffer turned out quite well. For example, it's usually tough to fill a corner bounded on its top and bottom, like with the upper left bounded by RACKET / DUCK. RISD (Rhode Island School of Design) will be tough for some, but the acronym is in use. And working in one of my favorite baseball players of all-time, ICHIRO = much appreciated.

But there were many places that suffered. It started off with an OSS / ONA — not too bad, considering having to work around not just RACKET, DUCK, and LOON, but BADMINTON NET. But ... thankfully Ned pointed most of them out.

None of these is a "puzzle-killer" to me (Will's term for an entry that automatically forces a rejection), although PES is close. But so many of them in a single puzzle = no bueno; makes a grid feel wonky. Just four BIRDIEs would have accomplished the same effect for me and would have made for a smoother puzzle.

Overall though, a clever idea with a smile-inducing set of revealers.

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© 2017, The New York TimesNo. 0510 ( 24,655 )
Across
1
Something needed to play the game depicted in this puzzle : RACKET
7
Starts the game depicted in this puzzle : SERVES
13
Suzuki with his first name on his jersey : ICHIRO
14
Publisher of People : TIMEINC
15
Supporters of broken arms : SLINGS
16
Kim of "L.A. Confidential" : BASINGER
17
Avoid a beanball, maybe : DUCK
18
Dishwasher need : SOAP
20
Tram load : ORE
21
Went off, as an alarm : SOUNDED
24
Boast : CROW
25
Foot, in anatomy : PES
28
Meat in a classic Monty Python skit : SPAM
29
Under the weather : ILL
31
Post-triathlon woes : ACHES
33
Output from futuristic weaponry : IONBEAMS
38
Wacko : LOON
39
Antenna, e.g. : SENSEORGAN
41
Not stressed : UNACCENTED
43
Toy on a string : KITE
44
Beltway insider : POLITICO
45
Ed with seven Emmys : ASNER
46
Rapper with a line of Fila sneakers : NAS
47
Unless, in law : NISI
50
Grokked : GOT
51
Slow-witted sort : DODO
54
President who was imprisoned for 27 years : MANDELA
57
Sch. founded by Thomas Jefferson : UVA
58
"Star Wars" princess : LEIA
59
Ice cream bar brand : DOVE
63
More skilled in : BETTERAT
67
One atop the standings : LEADER
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Facetious subject of many articles in The Onion : AREAMAN
70
Xenophobes' fear : ALIENS
71
Call after the 72-Across crosses the 16-Down seven times and lands here : ITSOUT
72
Something needed to play the game depicted in this puzzle ... or a hint to the six shaded answers : BIRDIE
Down
1
Providence art inst. : RISD
2
Free speech defender, for short : ACLU
3
In vogue : CHIC
4
"Lola" band, with "the" : KINKS
5
Joule fraction : ERG
6
Even odds : TOSSUP
7
Sibling nickname : SIS
8
Defunct U.K. label : EMI
9
"Footloose" hero ___ McCormack : REN
10
Partner of vim : VIGOR
11
Start of el año : ENERO
12
Prison guard, slangily : SCREW
14
Ankle wrap for an athlete : TAPE
16
Divider in this puzzle's game : BADMINTONNET
19
Lead-in to lark or dare : ONA
22
1940s spy org. : OSS
23
Ate in high style : DINED
24
Supreme Court aides : CLERKS
25
Get chummy (with) : PALUP
26
Low-budget: Prefix : ECONO
27
Maritime hazard : SHOAL
30
Certain Wall St. takeover : LBO
32
San Fernando Valley community : ENCINO
34
Suffix for sugars : OSE
35
Gerontology subject : AGING
36
San ___ (Bay Area city) : MATEO
37
Hägar the Horrible's dog : SNERT
39
Tsunami cause : SEISM
40
Cover letter abbr. : ENC
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'L' train overseer : CTA
45
Be under the weather : AIL
48
Uganda's Amin : IDI
49
1960s underwater habitat : SEALAB
51
Home of the Burj Khalifa : DUBAI
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For all to see : OVERT
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Sees regularly : DATES
55
Shepard in space : ALAN
56
Legendary firefighter Red : ADAIR
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Took too much, briefly : ODED
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I came: Lat. : VENI
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Gaelic tongue : ERSE
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Eastern "way" : TAO
65
Avian source of red meat : EMU
66
One violating omertà : RAT
68
Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas or Sonia Sotomayor, schoolwise : ELI

Answer summary: 3 unique to this puzzle, 1 debuted here and reused later, 2 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

Found bugs or have suggestions?