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New York Times, Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Author:
Alex Bajcz
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
45/6/20148/29/20180
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1011100
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.58000
Alex Bajcz

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 74, Blocks: 35 Missing: {FJQX} This is the debut puzzle for Mr. Bajcz. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Alex Bajcz notes:
Debut puzzle, woo! This is my fifth published puzzle, but my first in the Times — I'm very excited! It only took me the better ... read more

Debut puzzle, woo! This is my fifth published puzzle, but my first in the Times — I'm very excited! It only took me the better part of 5 years, I think! I wrote this puzzle a couple of summers ago, well before I purchased Crossfire. As such, I was still writing puzzles like this one "by hand" in an Excel spreadsheet, using only XWord Info and maybe Onelook as helpers. My filling skills have no doubt improved considerably since then, but I'm still pretty happy with this product.

I guess what fascinated me about this theme idea was just how few things PICK UP can precede; without a THE, PICK UP STEAM/SPEED is the only other one I can think of right now.

I'll admit, TRIVIA GAME was not my first choice for that spot. Even by my novice reckoning, I identified at least two dozen acceptable choices to satisfy ??????GAME. However, 36- and 41-Down just would not play nice with most of them, if I remember correctly. I probably could have rearranged the grid to fix that issue, but I think I had filled most of the rest of the puzzle by that point and was pretty reluctant to do that much ripping.

Will really improved many of my clues (and corrected some blatantly inaccurate ones). Incidentally, pad see ew is my favorite THAI dish, so I was especially happy with that clue. But I was sad to see my original clue for SWIZZLE STICKS go: "Manhattan or Long Island features." Too obtuse for a Tuesday, I guess! Anyhow, I'm very honored to join this most select of groups. Hopefully, this will be the first of many!

Jeff Chen notes:
Congrats on the NYT debut, Alex! I've had the pleasure corresponding with Alex before and working on some things together (one 21x ... read more

Congrats on the NYT debut, Alex! I've had the pleasure corresponding with Alex before and working on some things together (one 21x co-construction in the Crosswords Club). Fun to work with him. Today's theme is a "word that can precede or follow" type, which Will doesn't run very frequently these days. It is nice that Alex picked a word, PICKUP, which forms some great base phrases: PICKUP TRUCK, PICKUP LINE (at a bar), PICKUP GAME (on a basketball court), and PICKUP STICKS. Swizzly stuff.

Some really nice entries today, ICE CREAM TRUCK brings back so many happy memories of when I would chase after the Good Humor van, waving my money overhead. (That may or may not have been yesterday.) CUTS IN LINE is another great one, and SWIZZLE STICKS is my favorite. Nice stuff.

TRIVIA GAME, as Alex mentioned, is a bit wonky. Jeopardy is more a GAME SHOW to me, but perhaps this could have been saved with a clue like referencing TRIVIAL PURSUIT. Of course, the clue can't have the word TRIVIAL or GAME in it though. Maybe [Competition in which players earn pie pieces]? Yikes, tortured. Okay, something like ENDER'S GAME or HOCKEY GAME might have been better.

It is awfully nice that Alex worked in IT IS SAID and AVOWING and BIKINI in that location though. It's so tempting where you're constructing to hold onto a piece of great fill (or in this case, theme piece) in order to preserve a couple entries. Always the trade-offs.

One aspect I admired about Alex while co-constructing with him was that he was always searching for new entries. It's great to fill your puzzle with fresh stuff, PRECALC and PICAYUNE are awfully nice. There are some trade-offs in fill to get said answers though, NEDS and ESS sticks out a bit, as does MGR and YAH. Same goes with the trade of BALLPIT and CAME EASY with the random CLV and ILE (and STYES to a lesser extent) as prices to pay. I admire the stretch to make it a 74-word puzzle — it does come with some minor costs in glue-y entries but does allow for a lot of snappy fill.

Surprisingly, I had the hardest time with TENTHS place, as it just looked crazy. Totally me though, as a quick check made me realize it is indeed called the TENTHS place. Dunno what I was thinking, but the TENS place certainly is not the one to the right of the decimal point.

I liked the revealer as it allowed for some nice themers, but the placement threw me off a bit. I realize it's a subjective opinion, but I find it odd when theme revealers are at a random place in the grid. I've done it myself before, but these days if it's not in the center of the grid, or in a corner at an extreme across or down spot, it feels inelegant. Could just be me.

Anyway, congrats again Alex!

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© 2014, The New York TimesNo. 0506 ( 23,555 )
Across
1
Wii ancestor, briefly : NES
4
Barely bite, as heels : NIPAT
9
Stratagem : PLOY
13
"Hooray!," to José : OLE
14
First rapper to win an Oscar for Best Original Song : EMINEM
16
Investment firm T. ___ Price : ROWE
17
Up to, informally : TIL
18
Having the trajectory of a pop-up hit : ARCING
19
Time on end : EONS
20
Player of a summer lilt : ICECREAMTRUCK
23
- : MINUS
24
"Uh-huh" : YAH
25
Place to get a blowout : SALON
28
And others: Abbr. : ETAL
29
Shows rudeness at checkout : CUTSINLINE
31
Hearty steak : TBONE
33
Went without : LACKED
34
Tire meas. : PSI
37
Fury : IRE
38
Roman 155 : CLV
39
Twisty road curve : ESS
40
Absorption : UPTAKE
42
___ breath (flower) : BABYS
44
Jeopardy! or Facts in Five : TRIVIAGAME
46
Samoan capital : APIA
50
Big name in chicken : TYSON
51
___-de-France : ILE
52
Opponents of "shirts" : SKINS
53
Cocktail stirrers : SWIZZLESTICKS
56
Pad see ew cuisine : THAI
58
Chevrolet model beginning in 1958 : IMPALA
59
Holder of first-aid supplies : KIT
60
Score before deuce, maybe : ADIN
61
Staple of Agatha Christie mysteries : POISON
62
German connector : UND
63
Edifice: Abbr. : BLDG
64
Eye problems : STYES
65
BlackBerry, e.g., for short : PDA
Down
1
"Gotta fly, sorry!" : NOTIME
2
Bring out : ELICIT
3
Pop star portrayed by J.Lo : SELENA
4
Approaches : NEARS
5
Hungarian patriot Nagy : IMRE
6
Paltry : PICAYUNE
7
Bring to life : ANIMATE
8
Kind of a place to the right of a decimal : TENTHS
9
Advanced algebra class, informally : PRECALC
10
Resemble : LOOKLIKE
11
Not lease, say : OWN
12
"You bet!" : YES
15
Sched. maker : MGR
21
Kind of movie : CULT
22
Org. with the song "Anchors Aweigh" : USNAVY
26
Kind of a place to the left of a decimal : ONES
27
Oscar nominee Beatty and others : NEDS
29
Chick of jazz : COREA
30
"You don't say!" : ILLBE
32
Pageant wear, at times : BIKINI
34
Tap in, perhaps : PUTT
35
Full of life for one's age : SPRY
36
"So the story goes ..." : ITISSAID
38
Was a snap : CAMEEASY
41
Promising : AVOWING
42
Colorful play area for kids : BALLPIT
43
H. H. Munro pseudonym : SAKI
45
Thingies : GIZMOS
47
Learn ... or a word that can precede the ends of 20-, 29-, 44- and 53-Across : PICKUP
48
How some nonmonetary payments are made : INKIND
49
Helper in preparing the govt.'s legal case : ASSTDA
52
"South Park" kid and others : STANS
54
Pep : ZIP
55
___ gin fizz : SLOE
56
Web browser feature : TAB
57
Cholesterol abbr. : HDL

Answer summary: 4 unique to this puzzle, 1 debuted here and reused later, 1 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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