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New York Times, Thursday, May 26, 2016

Author:
Andrew Zhou
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
1711/11/20101/5/20190
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
3021533
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.62241
Andrew Zhou

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 76, Blocks: 34 Missing: {Y} This is puzzle # 7 for Mr. Zhou. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Andrew Zhou notes:
I think all parties were enthused about the finds in this quirky theme and about the number of theme entries that were able to be ... read more

I think all parties were enthused about the finds in this quirky theme and about the number of theme entries that were able to be incorporated. The tricky thing here, though, was the issue of double cluing—how could I clue the long and short forms without making the puzzle too easy? Joel and Will's solution is elegant. To me, it seems to make the theme fall into the (unexpected) category of "wordplay on a base phrase," in which the base phrase is assumed to be a common expression that the clue doesn't actually refer to. (So, you'll have to accept that GUEST SPOT is a "thing," since only G-SPOT is referenced in the clue).

Being a musician, I'm happy to see the reference to Brian Eno and Peter Schmidt's "Oblique Strategies" retained (I've known many a composer to use these lateral thinking cards for stimulus), and for the NY Times, the omnipresent producer gets a novel clue. Estonian conductor PAAVO Jarvi breaks up the cluing monopoly hitherto held by the Flying Finn Mr. Nurmi. The TAJ Boston reference is also new; I distinctly remember the Christmas parties I attended there years ago (as a plus one when I lived with my more "adult" roommate who worked for a company that would hold holiday parties at such establishments).

Looking back, the inspiration for this theme must have come from some (ironic) attempt at doing "teenspeak," wherein everything that could possibly be shortened does. Totes.

Jeff Chen notes:
Fun idea, playing on phrases starting with a single letter. VITAL SIGNS is clued as if it were a long form of V SIGNS (winning ... read more

Fun idea, playing on phrases starting with a single letter. VITAL SIGNS is clued as if it were a long form of V SIGNS (winning symbols). ONION RING shortened to O-RING, GUEST SPOT to G-SPOT, etc. I don't remember seeing this exact concept, so it was fun to get something innovative and new. Very rare for me.

Not a box office hit, but I enjoyed it

I did wonder what the "shortening" really meant, or how accurate it was. This would have been a mind-blowing puzzle if O really was short for ONION, for example. And I also wondered why Andrew chose TAPAS BARS for T-BARS rather than TIKI BARS, TACO BARS, TOOL BARS, TOFFEE BARS (besides having to fulfill crossword symmetry, of course).

But it's pretty hard to find so many examples of this kind of "shortening." There aren't a lot of phrases that are an expansion of O-RING besides ONION RING; same goes for V-SIGNS and VITAL SIGNS, etc. So overall, an interesting idea.

The grid is really, really well filled. Andrew has seven (!) mid-length themers — hard to cram all of them in, period. Nice crossing of QUICK TIPS / ONION RING and GUEST SPOT / TAPAS BARS to create good spacing, and excellent overlapping of VITAL SIGNS / GUEST SPOT and ONION RING / BLINDSIDES. Impressive layout of the grid's skeleton.

Given so much interlock / overlap, I would have expected 1.) not a lot of bonus fill and 2.) a bunch of gluey bits strewn about. Incredibly impressive to work in SPIKE LEE (a "Mississippi MASALA" tie-in would have been awesome!), SPAMBOT, and even BONZO, OPTIMAL are nice. All that with just a LAIRD, and even that I don't have much a problem with since it's a real-world word. Perhaps too much reliance on Greek letters — TAU, RHO, SIGMA, even ETAS — but overall it's a real feat of elegant construction.

Love seeing something new and different on a Thursday.

Jim Horne notes:

Impressive puzzle. I love this innovative theme.

1
S
2
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V
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F
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G
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J
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© 2016, The New York TimesNo. 0526 ( 24,306 )
Across
1
Foe of the Ottomans : SLAVS
6
Info for some limo drivers : ETAS
10
Nursery bagful : LOAM
14
A white one is said to symbolize "I'm sorry" : TULIP
15
Shop window sign : SALE
16
Like dumb blonde jokes : UNPC
17
Brother Antonio or Girolamo in music history : AMATI
18
When shortened, ear swabs : QUICKTIPS
20
2016's "Ghostbusters" and "Ben-Hur" : REMAKES
22
Film chimp : BONZO
23
Hot : STOLEN
24
"Be that way!" : FINE
25
Warriors' league, for short : NBA
28
Feature of many an action film, paradoxically : SLOMO
30
Refuse : DEBRIS
32
Rolling Stones #1 hit with the line "You're beautiful, but ain't it time we said goodbye?" : ANGIE
35
y, for one : AXIS
37
Music box music : LILT
38
Compact material : ROUGE
39
Second letter before 7-Down : RHO
40
Lightly burn : SINGE
41
Place where things may be burned : OVEN
42
Put away : STOW
43
It's a deadly sin : ANGER
44
Make a mistake : MESSUP
46
Scottish estate owner : LAIRD
48
___-country (music genre) : ALT
49
Open wide : GAPE
51
Chicken tikka ___ : MASALA
55
Letter before 7-Down : SIGMA
57
Best : OPTIMAL
58
When shortened, ski lifts : TAPASBARS
61
Pindar, for one : ODIST
62
Small matter? : ATOM
63
London cricket ground, with "the" : OVAL
64
Painter's preparation : GESSO
65
One might ask for them to be cooled : JETS
66
Ordering option : TOGO
67
Grateful? : ASHES
Down
1
Hollywood Boulevard sights : STARS
2
"Network" director : LUMET
3
1836 battle site : ALAMO
4
When shortened, winning symbols : VITALSIGNS
5
"Chi-Raq" director, 2015 : SPIKELEE
6
Titles of lawsuits?: Abbr. : ESQS
7
Greek letter : TAU
8
Out : ALIBI
9
Another plate : SECONDS
10
Skating maneuver : LUTZ
11
When shortened, rocket seal : ONIONRING
12
Words With Friends, e.g. : APP
13
Oscars V.I.P.s : MCS
19
___-length : KNEE
21
Composer who co-created "Oblique Strategies" : ENO
24
When shortened, violin feature : FOXHOLE
26
Hogwash : BILGE
27
Butterfly attractor : ASTER
29
Mini-___ : MART
31
When shortened, lesser-played songs : BLINDSIDES
32
Sommelier's concern : AROMA
33
Untried : NOVEL
34
When shortened, topic in sexology : GUESTSPOT
36
Its eastern and western borders are formed entirely by rivers : IOWA
40
1777 battle site : SARATOGA
42
Modern-day harvester : SPAMBOT
45
Popular boots that originated from surf culture : UGGS
47
Puck, for one : IMP
50
Conductor Järvi : PAAVO
52
Simple-living folk : AMISH
53
Hallström who directed "The Cider House Rules" : LASSE
54
Some flutes : ALTOS
56
Alternative to Beneful : IAMS
57
1993 and 1995's ___ Accords : OSLO
58
___ Boston (luxury hotel) : TAJ
59
Took 9-Down, say : ATE
60
Remover of dirt ... or spreader of dirt? : RAG

Answer summary: 4 unique to this puzzle.

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