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New York Times, Thursday, May 18, 2017

Author: Jacob Stulberg
Editor: Will Shortz
Jacob Stulberg
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2212/25/20136/25/20170
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2237530
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.61660

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 78, Blocks: 38 Missing: {JQZ} This is puzzle # 20 for Mr. Stulberg. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Jacob Stulberg notes: The initial idea for today's puzzle involved intersecting theme answers: chickens for the acrosses, roads for the downs. That ... more
Jacob Stulberg notes:

The initial idea for today's puzzle involved intersecting theme answers: chickens for the acrosses, roads for the downs. That might have worked if I'd been able to find examples of well-known fictional chickens beyond FOGHORNLEGHORN and CHANTICLEER, or well-known breeds beyond RHODEISLANDRED and CORNISHGAMEHEN. A pity, since there are plenty of colorful and evocative breed names that deserve to be better known. (AUSTRALORP, anyone?)

Favorite clues: [Polish target] and [Stable stuff]. Clue I was saddest to see not make the cut: [It's hit by horse enthusiasts] for both 2- and 3-Down.

Jeff Chen notes: Given my education and work as a mechanical engineer, I place a high value on efficiency. One implication is that I write incredibly ... more
Jeff Chen notes:

Given my education and work as a mechanical engineer, I place a high value on efficiency. One implication is that I write incredibly small, so as to save on paper and ink. People make fun of me for that, but WHO'S LAUGHNG NOW THAT I'M ONE OF THE FEW PEOPLE WHO CAN EASILY SQUISH BOTH CHICKEN AND ROAD INTO A SINGLE CROSSWORD SQUARE BWA HA HA!

Ahem. Jacob gives us a fun rebus twist, the CHICKEN "crossing" a ROAD in four rebus squares. Some strong theme phrases, CHICKEN OF THE SEA, NO SPRING CHICKEN, and ROAD RUNNER my favorites (jet-propelled pogo stick, anyone?). I also enjoyed the succinct revealer — WHY? — in the middle of the puzzle, leaving the solver to piece together the gist of the theme.

As with most all Stulberg grids, some great bonuses: POLO BALL, BAR EXAM, TRIFECTA, PEN PALS. And as with most all Stulberg grids, nice and smooth. When the only detectable crossword glue is MSGS — and that's a common enough abbreviation — you've produced a top-shelf product. (For me, EST and ESL are so minor as to be ignorable.)

How does he accomplish this? One big reason is that Jacob wisely sticks to a 78-word grid. When you have this much theme packed in — four pairs of crossing answers plus a short revealer — making the grid low-word-count and wide-open is just begging for trouble.

A little bit of magic is that the grid doesn't seem like a 78-word puzzle. Normally, 78-worders feel heavy with three- and four-letter entries, and they feature few long bonuses. But Jacob gave us so many slots of 7+ letters that I got a lift everywhere I looked — a little BAR EXAM here, some MANNERS there, PEN PALS at the bottom, etc. Great work.

I'm still not a fan of rebuses that require so much to be crammed in a single box — four or five letters is my preferred max, otherwise most (normal) people can't fill in the answers properly. But I liked the idea behind this one, along with the Stulbergian execution.

1
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B
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A
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M
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G
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H
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B
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© 2017, The New York TimesNo. 0518 ( 24,663 )
Across Down
1. Decides one way or the other : OPTS
5. Assemble in a field, say : BALE
9. Like know-it-alls : SMUG
13. "Look out!" : FORE
14. x, y or z follower : AXIS
15. Tuned in : AWARE
16. Turn over : FLIP
17. Studio figure : RENT
18. TBS show starting in 2010 : CONAN
19. StarKist competitor : CHICKENOFTHESEA
21. Mean something : COUNT
22. Lover boys : BEAUX
23. Polish target : TOENAIL
25. Egg ___ : SAC
26. Keeping elbows off the table, e.g. : MANNERS
29. Was idle : LAY
30. Utah ski town : ALTA
32. "The Simpsons" character who wears a bow tie at work : MOE
33. It's often rough: Abbr. : EST
35. Risk mutual destruction, say : PLAYCHICKEN
37. Question raised by four squares in this puzzle? : WHY
39. Coop material : CHICKENWIRE
43. Depression-___ : ERA
45. Part of a workout routine : REP
47. "Madness in great ___ must not unwatch'd go": "Hamlet" : ONES
48. Be out for a bit? : NAP
51. A bit sharp, maybe : UNTUNED
54. Show with a record 200+ Emmy noms : SNL
55. Chattahoochee River city : ATLANTA
57. Astronomers' sightings : NOVAE
59. Fabric store purchase : SKEIN
60. Person getting up there in years : NOSPRINGCHICKEN
64. Move furtively, in a way : SIDLE
65. Facts and figures : DATA
66. Stack of sheets : REAM
67. Tick off : ANGER
68. Series curtailer: Abbr. : ETAL
69. Letters on a stamp : USDA
70. ___ car : USED
71. What blinks on a telephone may signify: Abbr. : MSGS
72. Choreographer's concern : STEP
1. Where all-terrain vehicles go : OFFROAD
2. It's hit with a mallet : POLOBALL
3. First, second and third, exactly : TRIFECTA
4. BART : San Francisco :: ___ : Philadelphia : SEPTA
5. Legal hurdle? : BAREXAM
6. Scraps : AXES
7. "y = 2x," e.g. : LINE
8. Subject of Chekhov's "The Cherry Orchard" : ESTATE
9. Faint : SWOON
10. Guide : MANUAL
11. Muse invoked in "Paradise Lost" : URANIA
12. How the boat goes down the stream, in a children's song : GENTLY
15. Highway adjacent to a throughway : ACCESSROAD
20. Run smoothly : HUM
24. Galena, for one : ORE
25. Deplete (of) : SAP
27. Common cue : NOW
28. ___ jacket : NEHRU
31. A raised hand might indicate it : AYE
34. Derek Jeter, for the Yankees : TWO
36. Noted Warner Bros. toon : ROADRUNNER
38. Aching : YEN
40. Most nuts : INSANEST
41. Deserter of a cause : RENEGADE
42. Subj. for a diplomat, maybe : ESL
44. Aesop character : ANT
46. Some foreign correspondents : PENPALS
48. Island capital named for a European royal house : NASSAU
49. ___ diet : ATKINS
50. Word : PLEDGE
52. What two people may ride in : TANDEM
53. "Le Coq ___" : DOR
56. Had a 58-Down, e.g. : AILED
58. Bug : VIRUS
61. Stable stuff : OATS
62. ___ party : STAG
63. Plan for achieving a long-term goal : ROADMAP

Answer summary: 4 unique to this puzzle.

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