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New York Times, Friday, May 11, 2018

Author: Sam Ezersky and David Steinberg
Editor: Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
267/28/20127/15/20189
SunMonTueWedThuFriSatVariety
21131495
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.72200
Sam Ezersky
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
856/16/20118/3/201816
SunMonTueWedThuFriSatVariety
66681128182
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.645163
David Steinberg

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 68, Blocks: 30 Missing: {QXZ} This is puzzle # 24 for Mr. Ezersky. This is puzzle # 80 for Mr. Steinberg. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Constructor notes: DAVID: Sam and I often joke about how my themelesses are always Fridays while his are always Saturdays. Since this puzzle ended up ... more
Constructor notes:

DAVID: Sam and I often joke about how my themelesses are always Fridays while his are always Saturdays. Since this puzzle ended up on a Friday, my style *clearly* dominated! Just kidding—as with most of our collaborations, the effort was very much 50/50. I don't remember much about the construction process, but I think we started with Sam's zippy SPIN A WEB/SMALL OJ/PTA MEETINGS corner. Once we had the upper left in place, we knew we were onto something. Overall, I'm happy with the balance between smoothness and lively fill in this one. Hope you enjoy!

SAM: Always an honor to work with one of the #GOATs of the cross-world. David is now a full-time puzzle editor while still swamped with schoolwork at Stanford ... I really don't know how he does it. And, of course, let's not forget that every last puzzle he makes is top-notch!

This puzzle collected a bit of dust, as David and I both have enough on file individually that this needed to be staggered out. I believe we made it around the same time as our LIFE OF PABLO themeless, which ran the weekend of the 2017 A.C.P.T.! David is correct that I anchored the grid with SPIN A WEB ... but that was only after he gave my original NW corner a beautiful makeover to what you see now. You can tell that the SE corner is his as well, since it's silky smooth and still quite lively.

Lately, I've grown to realize how much a good clue can elevate an otherwise normal answer. Take David's clues for ROADWAY and STIFFED; just like that, those answers now feel like highlights in a grid. I think our clue for I HEAR YA (one of my personal favorites ever, might I add) makes that whole corner feel zippier. Even the "Jarhead" reference in the GULF WAR clue provides nice variety without seeming too arcane, as not everything needs to be wordplay-dependent. Would love to hear solvers' ideas on this.

As David said, enjoy our latest published collab! Hope none of you fell for JELLY BEAN with that ????Y BEA? pattern ...

Jeff Chen notes: This is a good example of why themelesses featuring seven-letter entries can be so tough to construct. It might seem like it should ... more
Jeff Chen notes:

This is a good example of why themelesses featuring seven-letter entries can be so tough to construct. It might seem like it should be just as easy to make a seven-letter entry sing, as compared to even an eight-letter one. But wow is it tough!

Not only are there fewer letters to work with, producing fewer word / phrase combinations, but crosswords in general use seven-letter filler more often than longer stuff. That means that we regular solvers tend to see the same seven-letter entries relatively often, making them feel not as fresh as they once were. I HEAR YA is fun. But now that it's been used a bunch of times in the NYT, it's not as interesting to me.

Compare to GUMMY BEAR (debut) or IVORY SOAP (only one previous usage). Although IVORY SOAP isn't as fun as GUMMY BEAR to me, they're both neat entries that I don't see often.

All that said, I did like a lot of the seven-letter fill. BIG TIME, SMALL OJ, TOP TIER, even SOUPS UP are great phrases. And even a couple of strong single-worders in LACONIC, PAISANO and the devilish-sounding BILIOUS.

Such a fantastic clue in [It's found between the shoulders]. Yes, a HIGHWAY is between two shoulders! Wait. It's ROADWAY? What's a ROADWAY, you ask?

It's a road?

Humph.

I liked David and Sam's efforts to spice up the grid by using a few headlining long entries. GUMMY BEAR was great, reminding me of my childhood and that annoyingly catching theme song from the GUMMY BEARs TV show (do yourself a favor and don't YouTube it).

SNIPER RIFLE had the opposite effect for me, given what's going on with school shootings. I know it's not exactly related, and the clue was great – "far-sighted" indeed! – but kind of a downer of an entry.

Solid work, if not a standout for me.

JimH notes: Counting Variety puzzles, this is crossword #24 for Sam, and he won't be 23 years old until later this month. David is only 21 and this is his puzzle #80.
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© 2018, The New York TimesNo. 0511 ( 25,021 )
Across Down
1. Adds horsepower to : SOUPSUP
8. Sparta's foe in "300" : PERSIA
14. Elite : TOPTIER
15. Major : BIGTIME
16. Jolly "Roger"? : IHEARYA
17. 1950s heavyweight Johansson : INGEMAR
18. Zippo output : FLAME
19. Digs in the snow : IGLOO
21. Mariana Islands neighbor, for short : IWO
22. Rideshare app datum : FARE
23. Hearts, e.g. : SUIT
24. Hunk of meat : SLAB
25. Groundbreaking 1990s sitcom : ELLEN
27. Dashboard Confessional's genre : EMO
28. Take in : SNARE
29. Midwest city that was home to the Wright brothers : DAYTON
31. Things that help you go off the beaten path? : MUDTIRES
33. Product whose original slogan was "It floats" : IVORYSOAP
35. Try to catch someone, metaphorically : SPINAWEB
38. Bishop, for one : CLERIC
42. Dog woe : MANGE
43. One who might meet with a venture capitalist, for short : CEO
45. Currency unit equal to 100 53-Down : KRONA
46. Some are audiovisual : AIDS
47. Sound from a sock : WHAM
48. Vessel that rhymes with a nautical direction : RAFT
49. Where Shaquille O'Neal played college ball : LSU
50. ___ Khan, antagonist in "The Jungle Book" : SHERE
51. Move crabwise : SIDLE
52. To the point : LACONIC
54. Subject of the 2003 memoir "Jarhead" : GULFWAR
56. Proceeding as planned : ONTRACK
57. Timely question? : AMILATE
58. Figure in a Nativity scene : JOSEPH
59. Blue in the face? : SADEYED
1. Left without leaving anything : STIFFED
2. "How marvelous!" : OOHLALA
3. Like roosters : UPEARLY
4. They're usually held on school nights : PTAMEETINGS
5. Beget : SIRE
6. Quick turnaround? : UEY
7. Tough love rarity : PRAISE
8. ___ gris : PINOT
9. Breakfast brand : EGGO
10. "1" preceder: Abbr. : RTE
11. Close : SIMILAR
12. "You don't have to tell me that" : IMAWARE
13. Oxygen consumers : AEROBES
15. Peevishly ill-natured : BILIOUS
20. Chewy, fruity candy : GUMMYBEAR
24. What's far-sighted? : SNIPERRIFLE
26. Pop stars? : NOVAE
28. Much of a cattail : STALK
30. Right away : NOW
32. Microsoft Word creation, briefly : DOC
34. Look over again : RECHECK
35. Kid's IHOP order, perhaps : SMALLOJ
36. Compadre : PAISANO
37. Initiates : INDUCTS
39. It's found between the shoulders : ROADWAY
40. Blow up : INFLATE
41. Like some fancy parties : CATERED
44. Horseshoe lookalikes : OMEGAS
47. "This one or that one?" : WHICH
50. "Oh, you got me!" : SNAP
51. Got home safely, in a way : SLID
53. 45-Across divisions : ORE
55. Actress Thurman : UMA

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

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