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New York Times, Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Author:
Ned White
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
221/16/20106/27/20181
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1105258
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1.59010
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 )

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Students & seniors
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
69. 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
42. '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
52. For all to see : OVERT
53. Sees regularly : DATES
55. Shepard in space : ALAN
56. Legendary firefighter Red : ADAIR
60. Took too much, briefly : ODED
61. I came: Lat. : VENI
62. Gaelic tongue : ERSE
64. 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.

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