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New York Times, Friday, May 11, 2018

Author:
Sam Ezersky and David Steinberg
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
347/28/20125/31/20199
SunMonTueWedThuFriSatVariety
311335117
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.71210
Sam Ezersky
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
936/16/20113/23/201917
SunMonTueWedThuFriSatVariety
66681131232
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 on ... read more

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 be ... read more

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.

Jim Horne 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
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
Down
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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