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New York Times, Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Author: Jason Flinn
Editor: Will Shortz
Jason Flinn
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1310/9/20136/20/20170
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0112504
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1.54030

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 16 Words: 75, Blocks: 38 Missing: {FQVZ} Spans: 4 This is puzzle # 13 for Mr. Flinn. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Jason Flinn notes: Some people like to solve crossword puzzles on trains; I enjoy solving them on airplanes (I fly quite a bit for my job, with Delta being my ... more
Jason Flinn notes:

Some people like to solve crossword puzzles on trains; I enjoy solving them on airplanes (I fly quite a bit for my job, with Delta being my airline of choice). It would be nice to say that this habit was the inspiration for today's theme, but no such luck. Instead, the idea came from realizing that repeated mergers have reduced the number of major airlines in the U.S. to four. Aha — four is an excellent number for a crossword theme!

I like challenges. My first attempt was to place five 16-letter entries in the grid (the theme entries you see here, the revealer, plus an ...AMERICAN theme entry). Unfortunately, the theme density caused too many weaknesses in the resulting puzzle, and I compromised with a shorter ...AMERICAN entry in my first submission. Will and Joel encouraged me to go even farther; I dropped a theme answer to liven up the fill, which resulted in a stronger puzzle overall.

Sometimes puzzles don't come out exactly the way you originally intended (I wound up with only three airlines and four grid-spanners), but the process is always fun.

Jeff Chen notes: Airlines played upon today, with MANCHESTER UNITED, MISSISSIPPI DELTA, SOUTH BY SOUTHWEST. The revealer didn't feel apt at first — I ... more
Jeff Chen notes:

Airlines played upon today, with MANCHESTER UNITED, MISSISSIPPI DELTA, SOUTH BY SOUTHWEST. The revealer didn't feel apt at first — I wondered why AIRPORT TERMINALS described these airlines? But TERMINAL meaning "ending" started to make more sense, hinting at the names of the airlines coming at the ends of the phrases.

Then I wondered, wouldn't AIRLINE TERMINALS be more descriptive of the theme? But that wouldn't work, as that's not a real phrase.

Sometimes I think about things way too much.

Jason has pushed the envelope on wide-open construction, having made puzzles as tough as quad-stack themelesses. He injects some of that experience today, stacking INSISTS UPON at the top, and PRIDE AND JOY at the bottom. Along with KICKS BUTT and HIGH WINDS, that makes for a lot of strong bonus material.

Usually, constructors would put a black square at the middle S of INSISTS UPON and the N of PRIDE AND JOY, making the grid much easier to fill. While I often like Jason's experimentation, I'm not sure it was a good thing today.

The top was pretty darn clean, with just an OPE as crossword glue. But INSISTS UPON is neutral filler material to me, not valuable.

And the bottom … a minor TRA is no problemo. SYS, same deal. Add in EDA, though. And AJA and TEMAS pushed it well over the edge for me. As much as I love PRIDE AND JOY, I didn't think the trade-off was worth it.

Maybe if this had been a more complicated theme, nudging the puzzle toward later-week status, it would have been more acceptable? But early-week puzzles ought to be accessible for novices, and that lower right corner didn't have that elegant, smooth feeling.

Toss in TWPS (townships?), AKEY, and CUESTA, and it was way over my threshold for crossword glue. Not a polished solve.

But overall, a nice concept, a good attempt at using two meanings of TERMINAL. And although I didn't agree with the trade-offs made in the name of more bonus fill, I do like discussions sparked by constructors pushing limits.

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© 2017, The New York TimesNo. 0620 ( 24,696 )
Across Down
1. Important consideration for investors : RISK
5. Attire that may leave the chest bare : SARONG
11. Barely lit : DIM
14. Demands : INSISTSUPON
16. Concluding musical section : CODA
17. One of the premier clubs in the Premier League : MANCHESTERUNITED
19. Native New Zealander : KIWI
20. A wee hour : ONEAM
21. Southern region where blues developed : MISSISSIPPIDELTA
28. Swift steeds : ARABS
29. Words said while running out the door, maybe : IMLATE
30. Comics villain ___ Luthor : LEX
31. Applesauce : HOKUM
32. Die : PERISH
34. "Law & Order: SVU" actor : ICET
35. Diamonds are weighed in them : CARATS
37. Item swiped by Indiana Jones at the start of "Raiders of the Lost Ark" : IDOL
41. Conversed : TALKED
43. Gerontologist's subject : AGING
44. Crank (up) : AMP
47. Hill that's steep on one side and gentle on the other : CUESTA
49. Bush - or an anagram of BUSH plus one letter : SHRUB
50. Annual Austin festival : SOUTHBYSOUTHWEST
53. Halved : INTWO
54. Actress Mazar of "Entourage" : DEBI
55. Arrival and departure locales hinted at by 17-, 21- and 50-Across : AIRPORTTERMINALS
63. CBS show with a "New Orleans" spinoff : NCIS
64. Treasured possession : PRIDEANDJOY
65. Pitiful : SAD
66. Indigenous people of Singapore : MALAYS
67. Mill devices : SAWS
1. Volcano feature : RIM
2. ___ moment (shortly) : INA
3. Phishing target: Abbr. : SSN
4. Does awesomely : KICKSBUTT
5. Goulashes, e.g. : STEWS
6. Pilgrimage site in central Italy : ASSISI
7. Wheel groove : RUT
8. Unfold, poetically : OPE
9. Negative linking word : NOR
10. Roamer of the Serengeti : GNU
11. "Pray continue ..." : DOTELL
12. Conceptualize : IDEATE
13. 1979 breakout role for Mel Gibson : MADMAX
15. Dominant faith of Iran : SHIISM
16. French filmdom : CINE
18. Places where lines meet : NODES
21. When repeated, Hawaiian menu item : MAHI
22. Classic Camaro : IROC
23. Sashimi go-with : SAKE
24. Wow : IMPRESS
25. Accept, as a lesser charge : PLEADTO
26. Component : PART
27. "How sweet ___!" : ITIS
33. Cause of tree damage and downed telephone wires : HIGHWINDS
35. Sandwich usually served with toothpicks : CLUB
36. Answer to the riddle "What force or strength cannot get through / I, with gentle touch, can do" : AKEY
38. Dreadful, as circumstances : DIRE
39. Cross to bear : ONUS
40. Like the group you're in if you're out, for short : LGBT
42. Sneeze sound : ACHOO
43. Waste container : ASHBIN
44. Dwellers east of the Urals : ASIANS
45. One of the friends on "Friends" : MONICA
46. Foul-smelling : PUTRID
48. Actress Hepburn : AUDREY
51. County divs. : TWPS
52. Melodic subjects in music : TEMAS
56. Meas. of engine speed : RPM
57. ___-la : TRA
58. Up to, informally : TIL
59. Author LeShan : EDA
60. 1977 Steely Dan album : AJA
61. Stove setting for simmering : LOW
62. ___ admin (IT pro) : SYS

Answer summary: 8 unique to this puzzle.

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