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New York Times, Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Author:
Peter A. Collins
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
1105/2/200610/16/201912
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
612253714106
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.565313
Peter A. Collins

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 76, Blocks: 34 Missing: {FJQ} This is puzzle # 99 for Mr. Collins. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Peter A. Collins notes:
ROLODEXES. Does anyone use them anymore? Or have they been relegated to US HISTORY (which lies adjacent to it in the grid — ... read more

ROLODEXES. Does anyone use them anymore? Or have they been relegated to US HISTORY (which lies adjacent to it in the grid — please don't ask me why CHEAP DATE lies adjacent to BORDELLOS)?

And is ROLODEXES the correct plural? Should it be "Rolodices," like vertex/vertices? As for me, I still use a Rolodex. In fact, I have one on my desktop — right next to a couple of boxes of Kleenices.

The theme for this puzzle, as thin as it is, came when I heard the phrase GRAB A CAB somewhere. I liked the sound of it, so I began hunting for other phrases with the same pattern. My intention was for this to be a Monday puzzle, but perhaps some of the non-themed vocabulary forced a push to a little later in the week.

My original version included the boxing ploy known as ROPE A DOPE, but the editor thought it was a little inconsistent since it doesn't follow the "verb-A-noun" form as the others do. Once again, one man's striving for variety runs up against another man's longing for uniformity.

Speaking of CHEAP DATE, when I submitted this, CHEAP DATE had never appeared in a Times puzzle before. I thought it would be a nice little debut. But in the time this puzzle spent sitting in the holding cell, CHEAP DATE has popped up — twice. Both times were by David Steinberg.

Jeff Chen notes:
Themers following the 'X A Y' pattern, where X and Y rhyme. Some nice finds, Pete utilizing all common, everyday(ish) phrases. SNEAK A ... read more

Themers following the "X A Y" pattern, where X and Y rhyme. Some nice finds, Pete utilizing all common, everyday(ish) phrases. SNEAK A PEEK is a perfect one, and BAKE A CAKE … who doesn't love CAKE? I did want SEAL A DEAL to be SEAL THE DEAL, but what can you do.

With six themers, I wouldn't have expected too many bonuses in the fill. What a nice surprise to get six(!) long slots, filled with juicy material like US HISTORY, ROLODEXES (obsolete, but they were culturally important), CHEAP DATE.

BORDELLOS … what would the Gray Lady say? I think I like this entry, although part of me wants the NYT crossword to stay away from certain unsavory references. No doubt, BORDELLOS is a colorful answer.

Some trade-offs to make this all happen, though. So much is going on in the lower left corner, for example — GRAB A CAB, BAKE A CAKE, BORDELLOS, and WELL BORN all have to be filled around — that there's inevitably some NONOs. Any five-letter entry ending in STAR is a constructing crutch, as that first letter can be so many things (each one of them arbitrary to most solvers), and there's enough tough material packed down there that I fear it might turn off newer solvers.

I do think all of BWANA, KLINK, AEROS, EWERS, ARIL, KNOTT are fair(ish), but whoo, that concentration might not be satisfying for an early-week solver.

My philosophy is that short fill does its job when it goes mostly unnoticed. There are occasionally awesome bits of short fill that help a puzzle stand out, but I don't think any of these fit that bill.

Along with some other toughies — I was in National Honor Society, but I struggled to piece together NHS — I would have liked more smoothness in exchange for fewer snazzy long answers.

Some neat rhyming finds, though. People ask me about rhyming themes all the time, and generally, they're way too overdone to be viable. But adding a layer like this "X A Y" pattern can work.

1
T
2
A
3
C
4
T
5
O
6
C
7
A
8
L
9
A
10
R
11
A
12
M
13
P
14
E
C
H
O
15
M
O
R
E
L
16
O
D
I
E
17
S
N
E
A
18
K
A
P
E
E
K
19
L
E
A
D
20
H
E
A
D
O
N
21
T
R
A
22
V
O
L
T
A
23
P
S
A
24
S
E
A
L
A
D
E
A
L
25
O
26
D
D
27
L
28
O
P
29
T
I
N
E
30
G
R
A
31
B
A
C
A
32
B
33
E
X
34
U
35
L
36
T
37
L
E
T
O
38
T
R
A
39
D
40
E
41
E
S
A
U
42
E
W
E
R
43
S
44
G
O
T
45
A
S
H
O
T
46
D
A
47
S
48
H
49
Z
A
P
50
I
S
U
51
B
52
A
53
K
E
A
C
A
54
K
E
55
N
56
H
S
57
W
E
L
L
B
O
R
N
58
K
E
A
T
59
O
60
N
61
A
R
I
L
62
W
R
O
63
T
E
A
N
O
T
E
64
N
O
N
O
65
L
I
T
E
R
66
G
R
O
W
67
A
S
K
S
68
S
S
T
A
R
69
S
Y
S
T
© 2017, The New York TimesNo. 0509 ( 24,654 )

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Across
1
Social adroitness : TACT
5
City between Gainesville and Orlando : OCALA
10
Skateboarder's incline : RAMP
14
Radar response : ECHO
15
Mushroom variety : MOREL
16
Garfield's foil in the comics : ODIE
17
View furtively : SNEAKAPEEK
19
Main role : LEAD
20
Direct, as a collision : HEADON
21
John of "Saturday Night Fever" : TRAVOLTA
23
Amber Alert, e.g., for short : PSA
24
Complete the negotiations : SEALADEAL
25
Like the number of games in a "best of" series : ODD
27
Cut (off) : LOP
29
Pitchfork point : TINE
30
Secure some urban transportation : GRABACAB
33
Rejoice : EXULT
37
Oscar winner Jared of "Dallas Buyers Club" : LETO
38
Buy and sell, as stocks : TRADE
41
Jacob's biblical twin : ESAU
42
Decorative pitchers : EWERS
44
Was vaccinated : GOTASHOT
46
Pinch in the kitchen : DASH
49
Hit with a Taser : ZAP
50
Terre Haute sch. : ISU
51
Prepare for someone's birthday, perhaps : BAKEACAKE
55
Org. for top-notch H.S. students : NHS
57
Blue-blooded : WELLBORN
58
Hollywood's Diane, Buster or Michael : KEATON
61
Seed cover : ARIL
62
Briefly put pen to paper, say : WROTEANOTE
64
"Don't touch that, honey!" : NONO
65
Engine capacity unit : LITER
66
Increase : GROW
67
Poses a poser : ASKS
68
Relatively cool red giant : SSTAR
69
The second "S" of MS-DOS: Abbr. : SYST
Down
1
Radio host John : TESH
2
Teenage skin malady : ACNE
3
Takeout food together with a Netflix movie, maybe : CHEAPDATE
4
Garden amphibians : TOADS
5
Tip of the Arabian Peninsula : OMAN
6
"Brooklyn Nine-Nine" figure : COP
7
Rocky glacial ridge : ARETE
8
Look upon with lust : LEERAT
9
High-pH substance : ALKALI
10
Obsolescent desktop accessories : ROLODEXES
11
"Hello" singer, 2015 : ADELE
12
Sporty Mazda : MIATA
13
Organ part : PEDAL
18
Qantas Airways symbol : KOALA
22
Barn topper : VANE
24
Practice boxing : SPAR
25
Look upon with lust : OGLE
26
Was the clue giver in Pictionary : DREW
28
Start of the fourth qtr. : OCT
31
Brothels : BORDELLOS
32
Give up on, in slang : BAG
34
Class that covers Reconstruction and Prohibition : USHISTORY
35
Neighbor of Vietnam : LAOS
36
"Swan Lake" article of attire : TUTU
39
Nod off : DOZE
40
Letter between zeta and theta : ETA
43
Swedish aircraft giant : SAAB
45
Breathing problem : APNEA
47
Frowny looks : SCOWLS
48
___ tweed : HARRIS
51
Swahili master : BWANA
52
Nestlé bars filled with tiny bubbles : AEROS
53
"Hogan's Heroes" colonel : KLINK
54
Noted berry farm founder Walter : KNOTT
56
Puts up, as a painting : HANGS
58
Deborah of "The King and I" : KERR
59
Plains tribe members : OTOS
60
Politico Gingrich : NEWT
63
Drink with crumpets : TEA

Answer summary: 5 unique to this puzzle, 1 debuted here and reused later, 1 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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