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NOT IN SO MANY WORDS

New York Times, Sunday, June 16, 2019

Author:
Joel Fagliano
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
6510/22/20096/16/20196
SunMonTueWedThuFriSatVariety
16911910325
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.64351
Joel Fagliano

This puzzle:

Rows: 21, Columns: 21 Words: 124, Blocks: 56 Missing: {QZ} This is puzzle # 65 for Mr. Fagliano. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Will Shortz notes:
Joel Fagliano, 26, is the digital crossword editor of The New York Times and creator of the paper's daily Mini. Born and raised in Philadelphia, he often sneaks references to the city into ... read more

Joel Fagliano, 26, is the digital crossword editor of The New York Times and creator of the paper's daily Mini. Born and raised in Philadelphia, he often sneaks references to the city into his puzzles, such as 83-Down here.

This puzzle is unthemed, which means, without preset answers that constrain the fill, it has a more open pattern of fresher, livelier vocabulary — all clued with wit and a fitting level of challenge. According to our records, it ties for the fewest number of answers (124) ever to appear in a Sunday Times crossword.

Jeff Chen notes:
I'm not as much a fan of themeless Sundays as Jim. I do like innovation and something different every once in a while. Going with a themeless seems like a cop-out, though. I'd much rather ... read more

I'm not as much a fan of themeless Sundays as Jim. I do like innovation and something different every once in a while. Going with a themeless seems like a cop-out, though. I'd much rather see more effort put into soliciting theme seeds, working with constructors to develop them into great concepts. Without a theme holding a 21x21 grid together, I tend to lose interest over the solve.

I did enjoy many of the entries Joel featured. HEART EMOJI is fantastic. LIGHT SABER / SHORT LINE / THE SLOTS, that's so juicy. OEDIPUS REX / FIRE ENGINE / FLY SWATTER, too. Well done in that regard.

And what an a-ha moment when I finally conquered the clue, [It might require a quick check]. I was fixated on a business lunch or a microdate when the babysitter can't stay very long. But that's check, as in the king getting checked, in SPEED CHESS. Brilliant!

If you're going to slot in a couple of Sunday themelesses, I'd much prefer to avoid low word-count ones. Yes, this one is much smoother than the previous record holder. As a constructor, I'm impressed by the difficulty of the feat — a challenge I'm not brave enough to try.

As a solver, though, I don't care about puzzle records, especially when it means that my solving experience gets compromised. The prosecution introduces:

Exhibit A: lots of short-word-tacked-on phrases. RATTLE OFF. PEELED OFF. ONE UP. LOG ONTO.

Exhibit B: pitchy words formed by -ER, -ED. HOAXER. DARER. TRESSED. ASHED.

Exhibit C: misc. oddballs. ELLIPTIC without the -AL. APPOSE. ANIONIC. AEC. ONE C.

Exhibit D: Tough crossings. TISCH / PLISSE.

Exhibit E: ADIT. EUGENE MALESKA CAN'T HANDLE THE TRUTH!

Upon second glance, there were many solid entries to enjoy. FACE VEIL. DRAMA SERIES. CHEESE SLICER. YEAR OF THE PIG, appropriate for 2019. Kicking off the puzzle with FATHERS DAY, on said day. I had unfortunately forgotten about these — a shame that these got overshadowed by the hiccups. I'm glad I forced myself to give it further thought.

Joel is one of the few people I'd trust for such a daunting constructing challenge. I don't agree with the overall editorial direction, though, this low-word-count feat feeling more aimed at constructors and heavy wonks than general solvers.

Maybe it's okay to run a themeless every once in a while. But here's a suggestion to improve Sundays: hire Andy Kravis, who's already part of the proofing team, to work with constructors in brainstorming and developing Sunday themes. He's a brilliant, creative guy. I'm sure he'd be able to help constructors bring 10 or more fantastic themes to life every year. Considering how important the Sunday puzzle is to the NYT crossword's franchise, it'd be worth every penny.

Jim Horne notes:
I like this trend of having an occasional themeless Sunday puzzle. Patrick Berry started it last year. That fewest answers in a Sunday record Will Shortz mentions was set over 57 years ... read more

I like this trend of having an occasional themeless Sunday puzzle. Patrick Berry started it last year.

That fewest answers in a Sunday record Will Shortz mentions was set over 57 years ago in a grid constructed by Brice Metcalfe and edited by Magaret Farrar, NYT's first crossword editor. Even with 76 black squares, it's still very clunky.

Joel Fagliano created today's much smoother puzzle while using 20 fewer black squares. The art of crossword construction has advanced a great deal since those days. Software helps, of course, but like any art form, practitioners bring their own creativity and build on the foundations of their predecessors.

Crosswords will thrive for years to come, and it's anyone's guess what innovations the next generation will bring.

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© 2019, The New York TimesNo. 0616 ( 25,422 )
Across
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It was first officially designated in a 1966 Lyndon Johnson proclamation : FATHERSDAY
11
Holders of tiny mirrors : COMPACTS
19
Apple Store purchase : IPHONECASE
20
What studies show that men do more than women, conversationally : INTERRUPT
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It might require a quick check : SPEEDCHESS
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Star treatment : VENERATION
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Male swan : COB
26
Static, as an exercise : ISOMETRIC
28
Access with a password : LOGONTO
29
"Lord, show me ___" : ASIGN
31
World's largest cosmetics company : LOREAL
32
Post office? : NEWSROOM
33
Oscar winner Jared : LETO
34
Kitchen cabinet : PANTRY
35
Major academic achievements : PHDS
36
"Yeah, whatever" : SURE
37
Having locks : TRESSED
39
Cocktail of tequila and grapefruit soda : PALOMA
41
Load : TON
42
Specious arguer : SOPHIST
45
Risk taker : DARER
47
One taking the bait : FISH
49
Like Earth's orbit : ELLIPTIC
51
2019, zodiacally : YEAROFTHEPIG
56
Mine entrance : ADIT
57
Calle ___, landmark street in Miami's Little Havana : OCHO
59
Arcade game based on a film of the same name : TRON
60
"You listening?" : HEARME
61
N.Y.U.'s ___ School of the Arts : TISCH
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Got by : SUBSISTED
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Traces left by burning candles : DRIPS
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Complete fool : ASSHAT
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Call of the wild : ROAR
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Catch a break? : SURF
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Promote : TOUT
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Deli machine : CHEESESLICER
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Auditorium section beneath the balcony : PARTERRE
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Word before web or chocolate : DARK
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Bundle : SHEAF
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Heather has two, in a children's book title : MOMMIES
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Onetime U.S. soccer prodigy Freddy : ADU
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Dates not found on the calendar : TRYSTS
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Hot sauce : TABASCO
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Bank takeback : REPO
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Great work : OPUS
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Without profit : ATCOST
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Kid around : JOSH
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Owing : INTHERED
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Greek goddess of the moon : SELENE
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Police, slangily : FIVEO
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Negatively charged : ANIONIC
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Oppositely : VICEVERSA
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Internet ___ : ERA
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Weapon with a distinctive hum : LIGHTSABER
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Classic play with a Delphic oracle : OEDIPUSREX
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It's seen near Pennsylvania Avenue : SHORTLINE
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Bright shade of red : FIREENGINE
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Casino attraction : THESLOTS
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Buzzer beater? : FLYSWATTER
Down
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Kind of conservative : FISCAL
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Put side by side : APPOSE
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Something to champ at : THEBIT
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It makes the earth turn : HOE
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Finish with : ENDIN
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Parts of a college app : RECS
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Thomas Aquinas and others, philosophically : SCHOLASTICS
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Inferior deities : DAEMONS
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Put forward : ASSERTED
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Number one on Rolling Stone's "100 Greatest Pop Songs" list : YESTERDAY
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Polite : CIVIL
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What "accommodate" is often inaccurately spelled with : ONEC
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___ Dew (stylized brand name) : MTN
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Stripped : PEELEDOFF
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Sinclair Lewis novel for which he received (but declined) the Pulitzer Prize : ARROWSMITH
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Parts of bluffs : CRAGS
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Coaches : TUTORS
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Nascar mishap : SPINOUT
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"My Neighbor ___," acclaimed animated film from Hayao Miyazaki : TOTORO
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The "Tullius" of Marcus Tullius Cicero : NOMEN
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Sci-fi weapon : RAY
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Tied the knot : GOTHITCHED
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Org. for the Vegas Golden Knights : NHL
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Sauce traditionally prepared in a mortar : PESTO
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Repeats mindlessly : PARROTS
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Embarrassing sound when bending over : RIP
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Fruits baked in wine : PEARS
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Tapped, as a cigarette : ASHED
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Delta Air Lines hub : SEATAC
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Getting up there : OLDISH
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Puckered fabric : PLISSE
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Many a local volunteer : RETIREE
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Ticker symbol? : HEARTEMOJI
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Meanspirited person : CHURL
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Best : ONEUP
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A ___ (based on logic) : PRIORI
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Sinful : IMPURE
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Brave deeds celebrated in verse : GESTES
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They're found among the reeds : OBOISTS
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Attacks vigorously : HASAT
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Goldman ___ : SACHS
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An Emmy is awarded for the best one : DRAMASERIES
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Many action movie villains : TERRORISTS
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White coat : FROST
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Face-to-face interaction? : SKYPECALL
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Recite from memory : RATTLEOFF
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Cable inits. for cinephiles : TMC
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Muslim niqab, e.g. : FACEVEIL
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Standard Windows typeface : ARIAL
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Co-owner of Paddy's Pub on "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" : DENNIS
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Not loose : UPTIGHT
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Afrique du ___ : SUD
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Desiccated : BONEDRY
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"Pick me! Pick me!" : OHOHOH
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Agcy. created after the Manhattan Project : AEC
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No longer interested : OVERIT
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Placid : SERENE
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Scam artist : HOAXER
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Between: Fr. : ENTRE
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Begets : SIRES
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The birds and the bees, e.g. : FAUNA
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Clothes dryer attachment : VENT
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Gush : SPEW
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Part of a Twitter page : BIO
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Private instructor: Abbr. : SGT

Answer summary: 12 unique to this puzzle, 2 debuted here and reused later, 7 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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