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New York Times, Friday, May 18, 2018

Author:
Ryan McCarty
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
96/17/20172/9/20191
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
0000117
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.58000
Ryan McCarty

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 64, Blocks: 32 Missing: {FQ} This is puzzle # 4 for Mr. McCarty. Jeff Chen's Puzzle of the Week pick. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Ryan McCarty notes:
This puzzle is somewhat of a tribute to Patrick Berry's Friday puzzle from January 10, 2014. I fell in love with his puzzle's wide ... read more

This puzzle is somewhat of a tribute to Patrick Berry's Friday puzzle from January 10, 2014. I fell in love with his puzzle's wide open grid, and it was after doing this puzzle that I decided to try making themeless puzzles myself. My version, now several years, later has a similar layout to his, with a "gaping maw" (as I affectionately like to call it) in the middle.

It took a lot of trial and error, as you might imagine, to fill the center. My goal was to make each of the longer entries in both the 5 stacked Across answers and the 4 interlocking Down answers interesting, as well as stay away from proper names, as I had had a habit of overusing them. Overall I'm very satisfied with the result here.

My effort to also keep the corners wide open came with some sacrifices. The NW feels a bit like Jenga with all of those interlocking shorter words, and the SE has the unfortunate plural HYSONS, which I only personally accepted because I had actually had hyson tea before. It allowed me to keep RARE JEWELS though, so looking back I still think it's justified. Even so, it may have been worth adding an extra black square to these corners to give some more wiggle room...

I enjoy making lower word count themeless puzzles, so I'll probably stick with these types for a while. Hope you enjoy!

Jeff Chen notes:
Loved, loved, loved this one. I'm a sucker for giant middle swaths of white like this one. Lots of themeless constructors 'stair ... read more

Loved, loved, loved this one. I'm a sucker for giant middle swaths of white like this one. Lots of themeless constructors "stair stack" three long answers in this manner, but how many even attempt five? To pull it off with great answers – PRIDE PARADE and SOUND MIXERS are fantastic – and run four more snazzy answers through them?

CORPSE POSE was always my favorite part of yoga, basically lying on the ground and falling asleep. Along with WATER TAXIS, WINEMAKING, RARE JEWELS, this middle section is a rare jewel.

Some strong work in the NW / SE corners, too. NOT ONE IOTA / STARTER SET / AIR POPS is pretty darn nice. SAY WHEN, NAME CALLER too?

JEEZ, there's so much goodness packed in!

Yikes, even the remaining corners – which often end up dull in these stair stack themelesses – had some ORIONIDS (think of ORION), BANSHEE, OH STOP, TWO PAIR.

And it was all SOLVABLE, without running into much of any crossword glue! I squint a bit at TABU, but even that seems reasonable.

Okay, HYSONS in the plural felt odd. HYSON in the singular too!

Regular readers will be able to guess the main nit I had: the segmentation. The NW and SE were nearly cut off from the middle, potentially stranding solvers in one of the puzzle's subsections. But there are two entries connecting each corner to the middle, so it's passable.

Grid construction is much easier when using this type of segmentation since you can (sort of) independently work on each subsection. But when it allows such amazing results, I'm okay looking the other way.

Would have been the POW! for most weeks this year so far. It's just that darn good.

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© 2018, The New York TimesNo. 0518 ( 25,028 )
Across
1
Declaration of Sgt. Joe Friday : IMACOP
7
It's not damaged by being broken : LAW
10
University of New Mexico symbol : LOBO
14
Zippo : NOTONEIOTA
16
Modern land in the ancient Sasanian Empire : IRAN
17
Collection consisting of four plates, four saucers, four bowls, etc. : STARTERSET
18
Hog's squeal? : MINE
19
Cooks, in a way, as corn kernels : AIRPOPS
20
Wife, to Juan : ESPOSA
22
Pointless : NOUSE
23
Golf course rental : CART
25
Senators' grp. : NHL
26
Queen ___ style : ANNE
27
Things traded by veterans : WARSTORIES
30
Outmarch? : PRIDEPARADE
32
Some film postproduction pros : SOUNDMIXERS
33
Scraps : TOSSESASIDE
34
Insects named after a small bird : OWLETMOTHS
35
"Holy moly!" : JEEZ
39
With 40-Across, car pooler's perk : HOV
40
See 39-Across : LANE
41
___ Park, home of Facebook : MENLO
42
"The River" star Sissy : SPACEK
44
Pourer's request : SAYWHEN
46
___ by Dana (perfume) : TABU
47
Braid : INTERWEAVE
50
Perfume ingredients : OILS
51
Verbal bully : NAMECALLER
52
___ school : PREP
53
Canyon producer : GMC
54
Some Chinese teas : HYSONS
Down
1
Longtime CNBC commentator Ron : INSANA
2
"I call the question," e.g. : MOTION
3
Sprinting : ATARUN
4
Lying flat on one's back, in yoga : CORPSEPOSE
5
Like a ballerina performing bourrée : ONTOE
6
Small protest : PEEP
7
___ Padres National Forest : LOS
8
Bolted down : ATE
9
Interisland transports : WATERTAXIS
10
Not go off without a hitch? : LIMP
11
Annual meteor shower in October : ORIONIDS
12
Gaelic spirit : BANSHEE
13
"The Real ___," former ABC sitcom : ONEALS
15
FICA contribution collector : IRS
21
In the cloud, say : STORED
23
Ready for inurnment : CREMATE
24
Venomously biting : ASPISH
27
Industry filled with press releases : WINEMAKING
28
Appends : ADDSON
29
Sparklers in a treasure chest : RAREJEWELS
31
Move like autumn leaves in the wind : RUSTLE
32
Like this puzzle, we hope : SOLVABLE
33
Almost a full house : TWOPAIR
34
"Quit your joshin'!" : OHSTOP
36
Surround with an aura : ENHALO
37
Brunch time, maybe : ELEVEN
38
City planners : ZONERS
41
Classic song that begins "And now the end is near" : MYWAY
43
Inflection point : CUSP
44
Match : SEE
45
Mischievous : ARCH
48
'60s service site : NAM
49
Starz alternative : TMC

Answer summary: 10 unique to this puzzle, 2 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

Found bugs or have suggestions?