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New York Times, Thursday, June 22, 2017

Author: Ruth B. Margolin
Editor: Will Shortz
Ruth B. Margolin
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
82/26/20146/10/20180
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3013100
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.48100

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 72, Blocks: 34 Missing: {JQX} This is puzzle # 6 for Ms. Margolin. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Ruth B. Margolin notes: One of the things I am enjoying as I gain experience in the world of crossword construction is learning more about the ... more
Ruth B. Margolin notes:

One of the things I am enjoying as I gain experience in the world of crossword construction is learning more about the technical details of the process. I discover a lot by trial and error, but I learn that others analyze the process, and they have interesting and helpful wisdom to share.

For example, this puzzle initially had EYESEEEYE in the middle. Including a fifth theme answer seemed like a good idea, but I did have way too many 3-letter words in my puzzle. I couldn't seem to reduce the number, and I didn't think to blame that on my innocent-seeming fifth theme answer. What I learned from Joel is that a middle 9-letter answer (which has to have 3 black squares — "blocks" — on either side of it) tends to force a lot of 3-letter words because the perimeter columns must either be side-by-side sets of 7-letter words or side-by-side sets of 3-block-3, which makes for a lot of 3-letter words. It seems so obvious, now that I've had it pointed out to me! So now that Joel and I SEE EYE to EYE, you don't see EYESEEEYE.

I also continue to be amazed at how crucial each fill word is. Nearing the end of the revision process, I had a solid draft of this puzzle, with some fun long fill. Alas, it included SANDH (as in Green Stamps, or Shipping and Handling), which Will called "a puzzle-killer," so that draft was officially dead. As solvers, we all know that unappealing words creep into puzzles with some regularity. But it isn't for lack of trying on the part of the constructor or lack of attention on the part of the editors!

While most solvers and I are unlikely to FACEMEETFACE, I do hope that this puzzle made some of you EARSMILEEAR!

Jeff Chen notes: I have to admit; I didn't completely grok the theme until well after I finished. EARSMILEEAR is a literal representation of 'smile ... more
Jeff Chen notes:

I have to admit; I didn't completely grok the theme until well after I finished. EARSMILEEAR is a literal representation of "smile from ear to ear." But I hitched on TOESTANDTOE, not quite seeing the connection to "stand toe to toe," or how FACEMEETFACE meant "meet face to face." Don't these more imply "stand from toe to toe" and "meet from face to face"?

And HANDPASSHAND ... I think that's "pass from hand to hand," which does seem like good wordplay. But the base phrase didn't immediately jump to mind. I'd happily put SMILE FROM EAR TO EAR in a themeless crossword, but PASS FROM HAND TO HAND would make me hesitate, wondering if that was strong enough.

I like that Ruth pushed her word count down to 72, helping to make the puzzle feel more like a tough, late-week puzzle. The middle O of OUTDOORSY would usually be a black square, for example, and opening that up lets Ruth work in both OUTDOORSY and GOOD IDEA, strong additions. The price of EDDA (tough bit of trivia) was well worth it for me.

It also gave her a lot of seven-letter slots to work with, and Ruth used most of them well. As a huge Harry Potter fan, AZKABAN delighted me (and Ruth made sure every crossing was fair, for you poor muggles). I like Juliette BINOCHE too, and OBADIAH is an interesting Biblical name. Some might argue that crossing these two propers is unfair, but I think all educated solvers ought to at least heard of one or the other.

I paused at IN SPACE. The clue, referring to the show "Lost in Space," made it feel like a long partial, a huge violation of the specs most editors hold to. Can IN SPACE stand on its own? Tough call. At best, I didn't feel like it added much to the puzzle.

I like it when Thursday puzzles have tricksy elements to them. This one made a good attempt, but it didn't resonate with me. Instead of a fantastic a-ha moment, it was more of a slow process of trying to understand the concept. Still, a generally smooth and well-executed grid with some nice bonuses.

1
S
2
H
3
O
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G
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I
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A
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S
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H
9
E
10
G
11
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A
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15
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O
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20
H
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A
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22
H
A
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24
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A
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T
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N
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K
30
O
31
B
A
D
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A
H
32
C
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E
A
34
R
35
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M
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36
O
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B
U
Y
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39
A
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M
E
40
T
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S
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O
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E
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K
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C
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48
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P
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F
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59
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60
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62
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Y
© 2017, The New York TimesNo. 0622 ( 24,698 )
Across Down
1. Japanese chess : SHOGI
6. Name attached to a North Carolina "-ville" : ASHE
10. 1, 2, 3 or R : GEAR
14. Hawkeye : IOWAN
15. Enjoy Wilde or Wilder, say : READ
16. +/- : ORSO
17. Hollows : GLENS
18. Fond of hiking, camping, etc. : OUTDOORSY
20. Transfer, as in a bucket brigade : HANDPASSHAND
22. Initiates badly? : HAZES
23. Israeli resort city : EILAT
27. One flying during the holiday season, informally : STNICK
30. Book of the Bible after Amos : OBADIAH
32. ___-Town : CHI
33. Grin broadly : EARSMILEEAR
36. Menace with four-inch teeth : ORCA
38. Poker tournament fee : BUYIN
39. "Je t'___" : AIME
40. Confront one another head-on : TOESTANDTOE
43. Typical Scottish Brexit vote : NAE
44. Going south : TANKING
45. Joins hands? : CLASPS
47. Place : STEAD
48. Honeydew producer : APHID
50. Rendezvous : FACEMEETFACE
56. "That's the way the cookie crumbles" : CESTLAVIE
59. Olympic skater Slutskaya : IRINA
60. Protected, at 58-Down : ALEE
61. Symbol of silence : REST
62. Palindromic tennis champ : SELES
63. Pre-Red head : TSAR
64. "Frozen" princess : ELSA
65. Irascible : TESTY
1. Heaved "ho"? : SIGH
2. Spanish welcome : HOLA
3. John Irving's "A Prayer for ___ Meany" : OWEN
4. Who said "The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others" : GANDHI
5. Where the Robinsons were lost on 1960s TV : INSPACE
6. Stopped lying : AROSE
7. Doctor of letters? : SEUSS
8. Possesses, once : HATH
9. Ancient Norse work : EDDA
10. "I like the way you think!" : GOODIDEA
11. Jump the gun, e.g. : ERR
12. Balaam's talking beast : ASS
13. Mr. Rogers : ROY
19. Either co-star of "Paper Moon" : ONEAL
21. Prison guarded by Dementors : AZKABAN
24. Some 1960s protests : LIEINS
25. TripTik, e.g. : AAAMAP
26. N.B.A. long shots : THREES
27. "Feed your lawn" brand : SCOTTS
28. Place for a frog : THROAT
29. Christians' ___ Creed : NICENE
30. Cut : OMIT
31. Juliette of "Chocolat" : BINOCHE
34. What'll give you a leg up? : RUNG
35. Children's author Hoff : SYD
37. Inquire about : ASKAFTER
41. Like some colossal bores : TIDAL
42. Snob : ELITIST
46. Like Consumer Reports : ADFREE
48. Out of order : AMISS
49. Katniss's partner in "The Hunger Games" : PEETA
51. Nursing, say : CARE
52. Daredevil Knievel : EVEL
53. Troubles : AILS
54. Popular tech review site : CNET
55. "Whoa, slow down there, partner!" : EASY
56. Hipster : CAT
57. Loop loopers : ELS
58. See 60-Across : SEA

Answer summary: 6 unique to this puzzle.

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