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New York Times, Monday, May 19, 2014

Author:
Michael Hawkins
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
141/23/20142/8/20195
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
1214141
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.64100
Michael Hawkins

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 78, Blocks: 38 Missing: {JQX} Spans: 1 This is puzzle # 2 for Mr. Hawkins. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Michael Hawkins notes:
On a good day my commute to and from work is two hours, and if the traffic gods are conspiring against me I can be stuck in the car ... read more

On a good day my commute to and from work is two hours, and if the traffic gods are conspiring against me I can be stuck in the car even longer. To maintain my sanity I listen to a lot of podcasts. During one of these long car rides, the fresh fill alarm went off in my head after one of the guests on "Doug Loves Movies" used the phrase "phone it in". I made a mental note to check it against the databases when I got the chance. Then, realizing that my mental note would likely fail by the time I got to work, I told Siri to make a note.

Over my lunch break, I found no previous uses of the phrase. It dawned on me that it would be a perfect revealer for a puzzle of "phone" phrases. After working my way through duller theme answer possibilities like ROTARYCLUB, I landed on the livelier ones you see in the final version. My favorite is the exasperated WHATISTHEHANGUP.

Not wanting to phone it in myself, I worked six 9-letter long non-thematic entries into the puzzle. I am proudest of the debut words CHINASHOP (and its clue) and ICEBRIDGE.

Jeff Chen notes:
Fun theme, five colloquial phrases loosely related to phones. DIAL IT DOWN, OFF THE HOOK, and PHONE IT IN, those are some snappy ... read more

Fun theme, five colloquial phrases loosely related to phones. DIAL IT DOWN, OFF THE HOOK, and PHONE IT IN, those are some snappy entries. Excellent material.

Michael gives us quite an ambitious grid, especially for a Monday puzzle. Not only does he give us five themers, all relatively long, but integrates SIX long downs, two pairs which are both adjacent to each other. I was really impressed by each of the six, ICE BRIDGE and SYMBIOSIS being really nice, and TATER TOTS easily my favorite. I don't see them around nearly as much these days, but TATER TOTS were a staple of my school lunches way back when. Nice to have good feelings evoked by a crossword.

This type of parallel down structure has its drawbacks, though. Let's take a look at ICE BRIDGE and COLOSSEUM. As with any sort of stack (as typical in themelesses), the crossings inevitably become difficult because of all the constraints. Here, RING A BELL and WHAT IS THE HANG UP already constrain this pair of long downs, so choice is restricted. And once you settle into a pair you like, there are often trouble spots with the crossing answers. Specifically, the ?RS? pattern has very few "good" entries to fit, OR SO or URSA being the only ones I'd personally be happy with. It's tough to avoid these types of issues with any stack of longer answers.

I would say that ORSK and KYL are a bit iffy in themselves. And when taken together, and in a Monday puzzle, are not my ideal. Nice to learn a thing or two from a crossword, but this little area felt a bit too much like work, for my taste. I'll note that my philosophy is shifting, in that I don't think Mon NYT puzzles should be accessible to ALL people. I do think that there's a balance though, and having ORSK and KYL in one little section could be a real turn-off for someone considering tackling the NYT crossword.

I did appreciate that Michael took care throughout the rest of the puzzle though. The opposite corner for example, is amazingly smooth for all the constraints. It's a small miracle anytime you can pull off a double-stack as good as CHINA SHOP and TATER TOTS with only a very minor price of UNES.

I liked the innovation in the theme. It's not often that we see a crossword that can't easily be classified into a theme type. I like the ones that stretch our ability to categorize. I think I would have loved it if the five themers cohered a little bit better, i.e. they all ended with parts of a phone or something, and if WHAT IS THE HANG UP had felt not as wonky. I wanted WHATS THE HOLD UP, especially given the clue, and I'm mixed on whether WHAT IS THE HANG UP is "in the language."

Overall, nice to see the boundaries for a Monday puzzle pushed. A little strained at points, but worth it to me.

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© 2014, The New York TimesNo. 0519 ( 23,568 )

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Students & seniors
Across
1
"___ all she wrote" : THATS
6
Poe bird that quoth "Nevermore" : RAVEN
11
"Disgusting!" : ICK
14
Opulent : RITZY
15
Without company : ALONE
16
Playfully shy : COY
17
"To recap ..." : INSUM
18
Sound familiar : RINGABELL
20
Suffix with orange or lemon : ADE
21
"See ya!" : BYE
23
Timber wolf : LOBO
24
"Stop being such a pompous jerk!" : DIALITDOWN
29
Russian city on the Ural : ORSK
31
Grassy cover : SOD
32
Aye's opposite : NAY
33
Get out of bed : RISE
34
Represent : ACTAS
37
"Zoinks!" : EGAD
39
Actress Sandra of "A Summer Place" : DEE
40
"Will you please hurry?" : WHATISTHEHANGUP
44
Physically strong : FIT
45
Multigenerational story : SAGA
46
Sonnets and haikus : POEMS
47
Some: Fr. : UNES
49
Gunderson on "The Simpsons" : GIL
50
One whose work is taxing, for short? : CPA
51
Meadow bird : LARK
52
Extremely cool, in slang : OFFTHEHOOK
57
Begin to come out of sleep : STIR
59
Play it by ___ : EAR
60
Hurry : HIE
61
Do a job with minimal effort : PHONEITIN
65
Daybreaks : DAWNS
67
Hooey : ROT
68
Dodge : EVADE
69
Came out of sleep : AWOKE
70
Special ___ : OPS
71
Train station : DEPOT
72
Full of the latest : NEWSY
Down
1
Group of three : TRIAD
2
Language of Delhi : HINDI
3
Adrift, say : ATSEA
4
Lao-___ : TZU
5
Relationship between barnacles and whales, e.g. : SYMBIOSIS
6
Stood on hind legs, with "up" : RARED
7
Boxer known as "The Greatest" : ALI
8
___ Trapp family of "The Sound of Music" : VON
9
The "E" of E.S.L.: Abbr. : ENG
10
Best Actress Oscar winner Patricia : NEAL
11
Frozen structure that facilitates animal migration : ICEBRIDGE
12
World's largest amphitheater : COLOSSEUM
13
Former Senate minority whip Jon : KYL
19
Lout : BOOR
22
Since Jan. 1 : YTD
25
Aspiring atty.'s exam : LSAT
26
50% : ONEHALF
27
Hourly compensation : WAGE
28
When repeated, a child's taunt : NYAH
30
Play for ___ : KEEPS
34
Horrible : AWFUL
35
What may have a "no bull" policy? : CHINASHOP
36
Cylindrical alternative to French fries : TATERTOTS
38
Sharply dressed guy : DAPPERDAN
41
Kind of palm : SAGO
42
End-of-week cry : TGIF
43
2014 biblical title role for Russell Crowe : NOAH
48
"Canvas" for tattoos : SKIN
50
"___-ching!" : CHA
53
Basic belief : TENET
54
"That's amazing!" : OHWOW
55
Pig sounds : OINKS
56
Ken who wrote "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" : KESEY
58
___ instrument : REED
61
Expert : PRO
62
"Nobody Knows the Trouble ___ Seen" : IVE
63
Faucet : TAP
64
Words of commitment : IDO
66
Amazement : AWE

Answer summary: 4 unique to this puzzle, 1 debuted here and reused later.

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