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New York Times, Thursday, May 4, 2017

Author: Loren Muse Smith and Tracy Gray
Editor: Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
311/28/20135/4/20173
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0100200
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.68000
Loren Muse Smith
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
249/8/20106/12/20185
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
6245610
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.60431
Tracy Gray

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 16 Words: 83, Blocks: 38 Missing: {QXZ} This is puzzle # 3 for Ms. Smith. This is puzzle # 21 for Ms. Gray. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Constructor notes: LOREN: A while back, Tracy and I connected on Facebook about the ACPT. When the conversation turned to the inevitable 'You working on any ... more
Constructor notes:

LOREN: A while back, Tracy and I connected on Facebook about the ACPT. When the conversation turned to the inevitable "You working on any puzzles right now?" we discovered that both of us had been kicking around the idea for an ICE rebus. I was thrilled when she suggested we combine our efforts because I don't have the construction chops to design a rebus grid on my own.

Any grid, actually. My MO is to think of a theme, decide on my theme entries, and head straight to Crossword Compiler. If Compiler doesn't offer any ready-made grids that work, I ditch the whole idea and go take a nap.

So Tracy and I came up with possible themers, and then she flat went to work. And work. And work. No telling how many grids she came up with. At one point I think "we" just decided it'd be too hard. Then a few months later boom – she emailed with this grid, and I was so impressed, I immediately got up from a nap to help with the tweaking and cluing.

I like the idea for this theme because a word "written" in a black square is unexpected and hard to see, just like that patch of BLACK ICE we've all wiped out on.

It was a pleasure to work with Tracy, a talented, inventive, resolute constructor.

TRACY: Many thanks to Loren for coming up with the concept and spot-on revealer for this puzzle! I loved the idea so much that I couldn't wait to get started on a grid (Nov. 2015)…

The problems started with the revealer BLACK ICE being 8 letters and not working in the center row of a 15x grid. It also didn't work on row 13 in the lower SE corner due to its symmetrical theme entry containing a black ice square on row 3 in the upper NW corner. So, I decided to put BLACK smack dab in the middle of the puzzle with ICE directly below it. This led to the B and the K of BLACK as unchecked letters, but I thought Will might allow it. However, as much as I liked the looks of this quirky grid, I just couldn't get good fill with 4 pairs of crossing hidden ICE theme entries, so we decided to give it a rest for awhile.

Fast forward to Nov. 2016…a year after our initial conversation and 8 grids later, I found that a simple change to a 16 x 15 grid appeared to solve all of our problems. I woke Loren up from her long nap with a surprise "COMPLETED BLACK ICE PUZZLE!" email so that she could work her Linguistics Major magic on the tweaking of fill words and cluing.

Thanks again, Loren – it was fun working with you!

Jeff Chen notes: BLACK ICE played upon today, with ICE quasi-rebused inside four black squares. (See the grid below for a visual.) At first I thought it would ... more
Jeff Chen notes:

BLACK ICE played upon today, with ICE quasi-rebused inside four black squares. (See the grid below for a visual.) At first I thought it would have been better to make the BLACK ICE squares stand out somehow — perhaps having them be the only isolated black squares in the grid? — but then I remembered that the entire concept of BLACK ICE is that you can't actually see it coming. Fair enough!

Did you notice that Loren and Tracy picked theme phrases such that they didn't need to use a giveaway "[no clue]" indicator anywhere? For example, ADV(ICE) COLUMN has COLUMN show up as a normal word — plus, they clued it so it disguises the meaning (newspaper COLUMN vs. building COLUMN). I was wondering why VAN had gotten such a tough clue (VAN Cliburn, the pianist), but it all made sense when I realized that it was obfuscating the VAN in POL(ICE) VAN. Nice.

Some sizzling themers, too. MR N(ICE) GUY was my favorite, but ADV(ICE) COLUMN, SERV(ICE) DOG, POL(ICE) VAN were all big thumbs-ups in my eyes. All of them worked well, although I did have to convince myself that OFFICE TEMP was a real thing. (It is. Mostly.)

Pretty clean grid, especially considering working with four theme pairs plus a revealer ain't no joke. True, NO D(ICE) and (ICE) AGE are shorties, but still, any time you have to fill around crossing themers, it can get hairy really quick. Strong results, with just some minor ESSA and the oddly arbitrary Y SHAPE in that tough opening corner.

TEMP did give me pause, given its [Time's partner, informally] clue and its ENNIO crossing. I was iffy on Morricone's first name (so thank goodness I do a lot of crosswords!) — ANNIO / TAMP seemed plausible too. TIME and TEMP? I'm still not sure "time and temperature" flows off the tongue, but Google seems to disagree with me on this as well. Harrumph.

Nice to get a few bonuses in the fill, especially MONGOOSE, and an appropriate TEAMWORK for this pair of constructors. Well executed overall … although after much thought, my brain wanted to take the BLACK ICE concept to its extreme, with completely random spots of BLACK ICE, so that you couldn't predict where they'd show up.

Stupid brain.

1
Y
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A
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H
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J
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H
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© 2017, The New York TimesNo. 0504 ( 24,649 )
Across Down
1. Harsh cries : YAWPS
6. Biblical verb : HATH
10. Doorway components : JAMBS
15. Meddlesome sort : SNOOP
16. Playhouse locale, perhaps : TREE
17. "___ Mio" : OSOLE
18. Shouted casual greeting : HOLLA
19. Bellyache : MOAN
20. Actor who won comedy and drama Emmys for the same role : ASNER
21. "Miss Manners," for one : ADVICECOLUMN
22. Pillar : COLUMN
24. Beersheba's region : NEGEV
25. Ticked off : PEEVED
27. Make shipshape, as a ship : SWAB
29. "Ain't gonna happen!" : NODICE
30. She, in Salerno : ESSA
31. Jell-O pudding flavor : OREO
33. "Curiously strong" mint : ALTOID
36. ___ a soul : NARY
38. Like albinism : RARE
40. ___-Caps (Nestlé brand) : SNO
41. White-haired : OLD
44. Winter driving hazard ... or a literal hint to four squares in this puzzle : BLACKICE
46. Béarnaise ingredient : EGG
47. Cone producer : FIR
48. Russian river to the Arctic Ocean : LENA
49. Close, in a guessing game : WARM
51. Spreads outward : FLARES
53. Wardrobe malfunction : TEAR
55. Incur cellphone charges, maybe : ROAM
59. Hit 2002 animated film : ICEAGE
60. Headliner : STAR
62. Arctic plain : TUNDRA
64. Very low-risk investment, familiarly : TBILL
66. 11/11 : ARMISTICEDAY
68. "Que Sera Sera" singer, 1956 : DAY
69. Film composer Morricone : ENNIO
70. Accountant's stamp : PAID
71. Ancient Greek market : AGORA
73. One collecting money on the sidewalk? : METER
74. Something to clear up? : ACNE
75. Spicy cuisine style : HUNAN
76. Novel writing : PROSE
77. A snifter has a short one : STEM
78. Lots of disputin' from Rasputin? : NYETS
1. What a dowsing rod or a slingshot has : YSHAPE
2. Jumper cable connection points : ANODES
3. They might come in packs : WOLVES
4. Patrol wagon : POLICEVAN
5. It's out of this world : SPACE
6. WWW programming code : HTML
7. Waken : AROUSE
8. Group effort : TEAMWORK
9. Salon shade : HENNA
10. "Mad Men" femme fatale : JOAN
11. "Aye," e.g. : ASSENT
12. Cobra fighter : MONGOOSE
13. Extorting from : BLEEDING
14. Helping hound : SERVICEDOG
23. Like natural gas and carbon monoxide : ODORLESS
26. Pianist Cliburn : VAN
28. They're pushed on planes : BARCARTS
32. Seacrest of "American Top 40" : RYAN
34. It might precede a pickup line : LEER
35. Frankfurter : DOG
37. Up to the task : ABLE
39. Audio equipment brand : AIWA
41. Crunch time helper, maybe : OFFICETEMP
42. Comics character who was perpetually 19 : LILABNER
43. Involve unwillingly : DRAGINTO
45. Waterfall : CATARACT
50. Generous, affable sort : MRNICEGUY
52. Counts (on) : RELIES
54. Weasel word? : ERMINE
56. Quirky sort : ODDONE
57. Dormant volcano near the Turkish/Iranian border : ARARAT
58. Ancient pyramid builders : MAYANS
61. Snacks served with cerveza : TAPAS
63. Many a Mormon : UTAHN
64. Time's partner, informally : TEMP
65. It's passed on : LORE
67. Footnote word : IDEM
72. Wise ___ : GUY

Answer summary: 4 unique to this puzzle, 3 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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