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New York Times, Thursday, May 18, 2017

Author:
Jacob Stulberg
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
3012/25/20131/2/20190
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3449640
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.597100
Jacob Stulberg

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 might ... read more

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 ... read more

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
O
2
P
3
T
4
S
5
B
6
A
7
L
8
E
9
S
10
M
11
U
12
G
13
F
O
R
E
14
A
X
I
S
15
A
W
A
R
E
16
F
L
I
P
17
R
E
N
T
18
C
O
N
A
N
19
CR
O
F
T
20
H
E
S
E
A
21
C
O
U
N
T
22
B
E
A
U
X
23
T
24
O
E
N
A
I
L
25
S
A
C
26
M
A
27
N
28
N
E
R
S
29
L
A
Y
30
A
L
T
31
A
32
M
O
E
33
E
S
34
T
35
P
L
A
Y
36
CR
37
W
H
38
Y
39
CR
W
40
I
41
R
42
E
43
E
R
44
A
45
R
E
46
P
47
O
N
E
S
48
N
49
A
50
P
51
U
N
52
T
U
N
E
53
D
54
S
N
L
55
A
T
L
56
A
N
T
A
57
N
O
58
V
A
E
59
S
K
E
I
N
60
N
61
O
62
S
P
R
I
N
G
63
CR
64
S
I
D
L
E
65
D
A
T
A
66
R
E
A
M
67
A
N
G
E
R
68
E
T
A
L
69
U
S
D
A
70
U
S
E
D
71
M
S
G
S
72
S
T
E
P
© 2017, The New York TimesNo. 0518 ( 24,663 )
Across
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
Down
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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