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New York Times, Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Author:
John Guzzetta
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
2210/9/20128/9/20195
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
1322473
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.62100
John Guzzetta

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 74, Blocks: 40 Missing: {JQXZ} This is puzzle # 14 for Mr. Guzzetta. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
John Guzzetta notes:
I wish I had a great story about how I came up with this theme while coming up to bat at home plate, gritting my teeth and staring ... read more

I wish I had a great story about how I came up with this theme while coming up to bat at home plate, gritting my teeth and staring down the pitcher, but I was never very good at baseball. Scared of the ball, really! Ultimate and soccer are my team sports of choice.

No, the "go down swinging" idea just popped into my mind while sitting in the car in a grocery store parking lot. I came up with some synonyms for "strike" and fleshed out the list of theme phrases using XWord Info on my phone. I think the "go down swinging" revealer is the nifty part since it summarizes the theme two ways--by referring to the three strikes and you're out, and how the answers visually "go down" the puzzle. Perhaps solvers will have a pleasant a-ha moment at the end.

When I got home and laid out the puzzle, I paid special attention to getting good entries in the six long slots (four down, two across). Jeff's word list makes this work so much more interesting, but I still get lucky once in a while and come up with something that's not found there (PRE-ALGEBRA).

One final note of interest is that my original 55-Across/Down was BARF/BRA. My playful "gag me with a spoon" clue was not enough to allow this entry to pass the breakfast test.

Jeff Chen notes:
Easy-breezy hidden synonym theme, WHIFF, FAN, STRIKE all relating to striking out. I did check-swing on this theme concept at first, ... read more

Easy-breezy hidden synonym theme, WHIFF, FAN, STRIKE all relating to striking out. I did check-swing on this theme concept at first, given that WHIFF and STRIKE are a single swing and miss, while FAN is a strikeout.

Then I realized that there are three synonyms … and in total, they're more or less three strikes, which equals GO DOWN SWINGING! Clever. (The puzzle, that is, not me, given how long it took me to figure that out. Probably ought to pull me for a reliever.)

John threw some heat in his bonus material, HALFLIFE, UNDERWORLD, ROSE GOLD, and PREALGEBRA good to great. With four themers — even if they're longish — it's almost always possible to work in four long bonus downs in staggered positions. Easy formula: spread out your four themers, spread out your four long downs, test liberally to make sure every section is fillable, and you're done!

It's not that easy of course, but it's a tried and true formula.

I also liked the changeup, John using a couple of long bonuses in the across direction. AD SLOGAN and LARGESSE are great entries. Most constructors don't do this type of thing because it can put a ton of strain on a grid, resulting in suboptimal short fill.

On that note, check out the east section. Constructors might typically put a black square at the O of CARDIO, helping to give that east region much more flexibility — with ADSLOGAN and PREALGEBRA fixed into place, there's not much wiggle room. AMICI is an odd word for an early-week puzzle, but as long as the crossings are fair, allowing most solvers a clean finish, I can give it a pass.

But AMICI crossing ESAI crossing FEIN … hmm, no bueno. I got those right because I do a ton of crosswords, but this isn't a good way to encourage newer solvers. I would have asked for a redo in that section alone and asked to smooth out WORF / WBA as well — even this Trekkie thinks it's not fair to expect people to know WORF.

Nice, novel concept, but I would have liked the grid tuned more toward early-week smoothness.

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© 2017, The New York TimesNo. 0627 ( 24,703 )

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Across
1
Exiled leader of 1979 : SHAH
5
Sing smoothly : CROON
10
I.R.S. experts : CPAS
14
Spotted rodent of South America : PACA
15
Zoo resident that needs a big tank : HIPPO
16
River of Florence : ARNO
17
And others, for short : ETAL
18
Following : AFTER
19
Word exclaimed with "Get" or "Too" : REAL
20
Slight sense that something is seriously shady : WHIFFOFSCANDAL
23
Minus : LESS
24
"Texas tea" : OIL
25
Courtroom wear ... or concern : SUIT
27
"Just do it" or "I'm lovin' it" : ADSLOGAN
32
One who really brings out the crowds : FANFAVORITE
35
Broody rock genre : EMO
36
"Ye" follower on shoppe signs : OLDE
37
Gene, the singing cowboy : AUTRY
38
Hitters' stats : RBIS
39
Take advantage of : USE
40
Military unit assembled for sudden attack : STRIKEFORCE
42
Generous giving : LARGESSE
44
Morales of "Criminal Minds" : ESAI
45
Jokester : WAG
46
Depression-era migrant : OKIE
48
Fight to the bitter end ... or a hint to the starts of 20-, 32- and 40-Across : GODOWNSWINGING
55
"Star Trek: T.N.G." character : WORF
56
Stay home for supper : EATIN
57
"Fine by me" : OKAY
58
Unwelcome bit of mail : BILL
59
Paddle : SPANK
60
Shakespearean king : LEAR
61
Artist Warhol : ANDY
62
Citrusy, e.g. : TANGY
63
Hamlet, for one : DANE
Down
1
Eject, as angry words : SPEW
2
"Thirty days ___ September ..." : HATH
3
Antioxidant-rich berry : ACAI
4
24,110 years, for plutonium 239 : HALFLIFE
5
Bad state to be in : CHAOS
6
Guitar phrases : RIFFS
7
Chooses : OPTS
8
Intl. group with two South American members and none in North America : OPEC
9
"When Harry Met Sally ..." writer Ephron : NORA
10
Exercise on an elliptical machine, informally : CARDIO
11
Middle school math class : PREALGEBRA
12
Annoyingly focused : ANAL
13
What astronomers call a day on Mars : SOL
21
Greek salad topper : FETA
22
Florida State athlete, slangily : NOLE
25
Tortilla chip dip : SALSA
26
What the River Styx forms the boundary of : UNDERWORLD
27
Bandleader Shaw : ARTIE
28
Quaint dagger : DIRK
29
Eye woe : STYE
30
___ curiae (friends of the court) : AMICI
31
Part of the body associated with sneezing, sniffling and snoring : NOSE
32
Awful-smelling : FOUL
33
Big mixing containers : VATS
34
"___ is not to reason why" : OURS
38
Copper alloy used in jewelry : ROSEGOLD
40
State flower of Utah : SEGO
41
Ireland's Sinn ___ : FEIN
43
Annoying critic : GADFLY
46
In the red : OWING
47
Broadway's "___ Boots" : KINKY
48
Enter : GOIN
49
Rapper Kanye : WEST
50
California's ___ Valley : NAPA
51
Superhero creator Lee : STAN
52
Company that was the first in the U.S. to air a TV ad with a gay couple (1994) : IKEA
53
Indian flatbread : NAAN
54
Circular or spiral motion : GYRE
55
Org. for which Mike Tyson twice held the heavyweight title : WBA

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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