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New York Times, Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Author:
Stu Ockman
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
132/2/20125/8/20190
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
0004603
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.56220
Stu Ockman

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 74, Blocks: 42 Missing: {JQZ} Grid has mirror symmetry. This is puzzle # 13 for Mr. Ockman. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Stu Ockman notes:
The toughest challenge for any constructor is to come up with a theme that is going to excite Mr. Shortz. Three years ago, when I ... read more

The toughest challenge for any constructor is to come up with a theme that is going to excite Mr. Shortz. Three years ago, when I started on this grid, I thought to myself, "Aha! I know this theme will excite Will. Can I pull it off?" Today, my question is finally answered: "Yes!!!"

When I began this journey, I was amazed to find that TABLETENNIS is bisected by the T in NET (a serendipitous discovery indeed). I was equally amazed to find that BOUNCING BALL is bisected by the N in NET (not quite as serendipitous as you will soon see). Hence, my first of fourteen versions of this grid:

Will and Company responded apace, "Cute, and we really liked how NET crossed TABLETENNIS in the middle, but the SPACE rebus felt too much like a crutch (and the LOS rebus too random)." A year later, I received this response to my third submittal: "We thought the visual worked really well, tho the BLANK felt like too big of a curveball to throw at solvers. We're not sure how you'd fix this, tho, so we figured it was best to say no". Such is the life of a crossword constructor.

Exactly an hour and a half later, I get the following directly from Will in response to a question on a completely different grid: "I still like your PING-PONG 15x, which I hope you can make work." Well, we made it work after only eleven more tries. I hope it got you excited, too!

Jeff Chen notes:
Pretty image of a TABLE TENNIS table and its NET! Neat way to employ shaded squares in a crossword. I get a lot of people ... read more

Pretty image of a TABLE TENNIS table and its NET! Neat way to employ shaded squares in a crossword.

I get a lot of people asking me about their TABLE TENNIS theme. It's almost as if they knew Will Shortz was nuts about the sport.

There was another TABLE TENNIS theme from a long time back that I loved. Similar to today's, such a great use of circles to create the sensation of a ball actually bouncing.

Why a BACKSPIN SERVE in particular, though? It mostly works (my ridiculous physics-based qualm: wouldn't a backspin serve result in an asymmetrical path?). But I'd have liked something more generalized — THE BOUNCING BALL was so perfect in that previous puzzle. I wouldn't have minded the same thing today, using THE BOUNCING BALL roughly where Stu has BACKSPIN SERVE.

Not much theme today. BACKSPIN SERVE does take up a lot of real estate, what with it bouncing all over the place. But 13 letters + 13 in TABLE TENNIS / NET + 8 in PING / PONG is only 34 total theme letters. Thin, thin, thin. It'd have been great to work in a few more entries like PADDLES and RACKETS, or better yet, something related to BALL..

Impressive work up top, what with so many constraints imposed by BACKSPIN SERVE. Great use of black squares to not only trace the ball's path but to facilitate best fill. No one likes NEER or EEE, but the presence of NEWSCAST and IMPINGE and MEMOREX – along with no other crossword glue! – makes it a smash hit.

Wish I could say the same about the bottom. What with PING and PONG the only constraints, it should have been much smoother. EDS ULAN ESTER SRTA NSW? Oh (bus)man, that's rough. Granted, it's a little tricky what with the biggish regions to fill. But if it's so tricky that you have to end up with so much glue, do something different. Perhaps take out the black square between PLUS ONE and ANATOLE, and put two new ones where the Ns are in those two entries. Use more cheater squares. Don't call it good when it's not.

Thankfully, a lot of excellent clues to help keep up my interest. As a bridge fanatic and a former mechanical engineer, I loved the misdirect of the [Bridge experts] clue.

1
U
2
L
3
N
4
A
5
M
6
A
7
M
8
E
9
T
10
R
11
A
12
M
13
S
14
N
E
E
R
15
A
T
A
R
I
16
I
C
E
T
17
H
A
W
K
18
R
O
X
I
E
19
O
H
M
Y
20
I
V
S
21
I
M
P
I
N
G
22
E
23
I
O
N
24
P
E
C
25
A
N
S
26
S
E
27
V
E
R
E
28
B
A
R
K
29
O
30
N
31
A
32
E
A
V
E
33
E
S
C
34
A
D
E
L
35
E
36
R
E
X
37
T
A
38
B
L
E
T
E
N
39
N
I
S
40
D
O
I
41
G
O
A
42
S
43
O
44
B
E
R
E
45
R
46
F
I
E
N
47
N
48
E
49
S
50
P
L
U
S
O
N
E
51
A
N
A
T
O
L
E
52
E
D
S
53
N
A
P
54
S
T
E
R
55
N
S
W
56
D
E
M
57
I
58
T
O
R
T
E
59
N
O
T
I
60
U
L
A
N
61
E
S
T
E
R
62
I
N
O
N
63
P
I
N
G
64
D
E
A
R
S
65
P
O
N
G
© 2019, The New York TimesNo. 0508 ( 25,383 )
Across
1
Arm twister? : ULNA
5
"Glengarry Glen Ross" playwright : MAMET
10
Butts : RAMS
14
Start to do well? : NEER
15
Its version of 37-Across was popular in the 1970s-'80s : ATARI
16
Rapper/actor on "Law & Order: SVU" : ICET
17
Pro-war sort : HAWK
18
Hart of "Chicago" : ROXIE
19
"Goodness!" : OHMY
20
I.C.U. hookups : IVS
21
Encroach (on) : IMPINGE
23
Particle created by dissolving table salt : ION
24
They're nuts for dessert : PECANS
26
Intense : SEVERE
28
Fir coat? : BARK
29
"___ lighter note ..." : ONA
32
Christmas light locale : EAVE
33
Full-screen mode exit key : ESC
34
Rosalinde's maid in Strauss's "Die Fledermaus" : ADELE
36
Latin "king" : REX
37
Olympic sport since 1988 : TABLETENNIS
40
"___ ever!" : DOI
41
India's smallest state : GOA
42
Less drunk : SOBERER
46
Ralph who played Voldemort in the Harry Potter films : FIENNES
50
Unidentified date : PLUSONE
51
French novelist ___ France : ANATOLE
52
Ones making writers write right?: Abbr. : EDS
53
MP3-sharing service of the early 2000s : NAPSTER
55
Sydney's state: Abbr. : NSW
56
___-sec (wine designation) : DEMI
58
Sweet cake : TORTE
59
"Me? Are you kidding?!" : NOTI
60
___ Bator : ULAN
61
Perfume compound : ESTER
62
Knowledgeable of : INON
63
With 65-Across, another name for 37-Across : PING
64
Sweeties : DEARS
65
See 63-Across : PONG
Down
1
Behind the times : UNHIP
2
Not touch : LEAVEBE
3
It may include sports and weather : NEWSCAST
4
Neighbor of La. : ARK
5
Some schoolteachers, quaintly : MARMS
6
Resting on : ATOP
7
Calf coverer : MAXI
8
Popular Irish girl's name : ERIN
9
Supermodel Cheryl : TIEGS
10
Carnival host : RIO
11
Reaches, as great heights : ACHIEVES
12
"Is it live or is it ...?" sloganeer : MEMOREX
13
Jule who wrote the music for "Funny Girl" : STYNE
21
It might be a blot on your record : INK
22
Superwide shoe spec : EEE
25
Skee-Ball locales : ARCADES
27
An ay for an aye, e.g.? : VARIANT
29
Verse from an admirer : ODE
30
[Item depicted here] : NET
31
Drink sold by the yard : ALE
34
Turned off : ALIENATED
35
Bridge experts : ENGINEERS
38
Element before carbon on the periodic table : BORON
39
Musical insensitivity : NOEAR
42
Hastened : SPEDUP
43
Nickname for Yale : OLDELI
44
Otto on "The Simpsons," e.g. : BUSMAN
45
Lie : REPOSE
46
More rewarding, as a paycheck : FATTER
47
"Stop! You're doing it all wrong!" : NONONO
48
___ Howard, first African-American player on the Yankees (1955) : ELSTON
49
Tailor's skill : SEWING
54
Mlle., across the Pyrenees : SRTA
57
Like Mozart's Symphonies Nos. 15, 27 and 32 : ING
59
Bit of a bite : NIP

Answer summary:

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