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New York Times, Thursday, June 29, 2017

Author:
Rich Proulx
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
26/29/20178/14/20170
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0100100
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.72000
Rich Proulx

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 16 Words: 77, Blocks: 32 Missing: {Q} Spans: 2 This is the debut puzzle for Mr. Proulx. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Rich Proulx notes:
It is a humbling honor to make my debut today. For the past 15 years, I've been regularly traveling to Long Island to visit my in-laws. The ... read more

It is a humbling honor to make my debut today. For the past 15 years, I've been regularly traveling to Long Island to visit my in-laws. The mornings always begin with delicious bagels and a copy of the NYT puzzle for everyone. It's not a competitive affair . . . but let's just say you don't want to be the last person to complete the puzzle. I came home after Thanksgiving a couple of years ago and decided to give constructing a try. My mother-in-law remains one of my indispensable test solvers of new puzzles.

The inspiration for this puzzle came from a playdate my son was having. I overheard, "Jamaica me crazy!" which got me wondering. I printed out a list of countries and capitals, and put on my pun hat. I came up with more than could fit in this puzzle, such as "DO A ONE HAITI," "ACOUSTIC QATAR," and "Suggestion for a Mexican who can't stand the heat? - NORWAY JOSE." I still have the list of countries, and pull it out on long drives to quiz my kids on international geography. I'm sure by now I've completely squelched any desire they may have had to see the world.

One area I need to work on is gauging puzzle difficulty. I was surprised to see this puzzle pegged for a Thursday. When it was, I was expecting my clues to be made more difficult. Instead, they were made clearer/easier. For example, specific geographic hints were added to the themed clues. (e.g. The original clue was "Request for clean up in the Gulf.") Obscure allusions to the actual name of the "Theme from Rocky" and Henny Youngman's trademark one-liner were replaced with universally-understood references. Clearly, I owe flowers and a note of apology to my mother-in-law.

Jeff Chen notes:
I'm terrible judging how good puns are since to be good, they sometimes must be bad. It's confusing. I liked GHANA FLY NOW as an amusing ... read more

I'm terrible judging how good puns are since to be good, they sometimes must be bad. It's confusing. I liked GHANA FLY NOW as an amusing marketing slogan for a Ghanaian airline, but BAHRAIN WASH didn't make as much sense to me. But then again, are puns supposed to make sense?

It's no wonder that I've never gotten a pun theme accepted by any major crossword outlet.

Anyhoo, I like Rich's attempt to add in some good bonus fill in case the puns didn't tickle solvers' funny bones, or caused HEADSHAKES. A GLASS EYE, one of my favorite card games in EUCHRE, a TRANSITION, BY GOLLY! These all helped hold my attention.

And lil' ol' STAPLED usually would be a neutral element of the grid to me. But what a great clue, misdirecting to a "corner piece" of a brownie tray. Great fun.

Not fun was the crossword glue. I don't mind a few minor dings like ITE, EER, AGA. It's when they all pile up, with ESSE, MOL, ANGE, IRR, etc. ... nothing is terrible, but as a whole, it's over my threshold for elegance.

Since this was a straightforward theme type, tried and true, I would have preferred it to run on a Tues/Wed, and for the grid to be smoothed out at the cost of some of the nice long bonuses.

Still, I'm hoping that Air Ghana takes notice — Rich, trademark that gem already!

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© 2017, The New York TimesNo. 0629 ( 24,705 )
Across
1. Children's ball game : JACKS
6. "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go" band : WHAM
10. Prefix with -logical : ASTRO
15. Plants cultivated for their sap : ALOES
16. "Hey there" : HIYA
17. Shown, as teeth : BARED
18. Request for aid in East Africa? : KENYAGIVEMEAHAND
21. Suit : EXEC
22. Resident's suffix : ITE
23. Ones with X-Genes, in comics : MUTANTS
24. Figure on the top of Paris's Notre-Dame : ANGE
26. Hoosier hoopsters : PACERS
27. Call for cleanup in the Persian Gulf? : BAHRAINWASH
31. Uses cross hairs : AIMS
34. "Traffic Crossing ___ Bridge" (pioneering 1888 moving picture) : LEEDS
35. Always, to Shakespeare : EER
36. Berate : RANTAT
38. Turkish title : AGA
39. Cut down : ABRIDGED
42. Sale tag abbr. : IRR
43. Word before school or class : MIDDLE
45. Chem. unit : MOL
46. Virus carried by fruit bats : EBOLA
48. To be, to Augustus : ESSE
49. Slogan for a West African airline? : GHANAFLYNOW
52. Shaman, e.g. : HEALER
54. Smelting residue : SLAG
55. Having a corner piece? : STAPLED
57. Southwest sch. with an enrollment of over 70,000 : ASU
58. "The ___ of Horace" : ODES
62. Entreaty for a spouse's emigration to Central America? : TAKEMYWIFEBELIZE
65. Bowl : ARENA
66. "Perhaps" : IMAY
67. No-frills : PLAIN
68. Domineering : BOSSY
69. "An Inconvenient Truth" narrator : GORE
70. Church council : SYNOD
Down
1. Hunky-dory : JAKE
2. Three-time N.H.L. M.V.P. Ovechkin : ALEX
3. Roadwork indicator : CONE
4. Door opener : KEYCARD
5. It has its benefits: Abbr. : SSA
6. Toothpaste ingredient : WHITENER
7. Queen's residence : HIVE
8. Yes, on board : AYE
9. Who shouldn't "let your babies grow up to be cowboys," in a 1978 #1 country song : MAMMAS
10. Let up : ABATE
11. Arid : SAHARAN
12. Segue : TRANSITION
13. Let : RENT
14. One in a million, e.g. : ODDS
19. Supermodel Hadid : GIGI
20. Game played with 24 cards : EUCHRE
25. Kind of spray : NASAL
26. "My fault" : PARDON
27. Subject of finger-pointing : BLAME
28. Shield of Athena : AEGIS
29. Wordless denials : HEADSHAKES
30. ___ Republic, state toppled in 1933 : WEIMAR
32. ___ Thomas, entertainer with a Presidential Medal of Freedom : MARLO
33. Tatami material : STRAW
37. Writer ___ Rogers St. Johns : ADELA
40. "St. Elsewhere" actor Ed ___ Jr. : BEGLEY
41. Peter Falk feature : GLASSEYE
44. Intensifies : DEEPENS
47. "Great Scott!" : BYGOLLY
50. Harry Potter's owl : HEDWIG
51. Mess up : FLUB
53. Cosmetics brand owned by Revlon : ALMAY
55. Attempt : STAB
56. Poi source : TARO
57. Light-years away : AFAR
59. Anthropologist Fossey : DIAN
60. Opera singer Pinza : EZIO
61. Email button : SEND
63. "I think," in texts : IMO
64. Short albums, for short : EPS

Answer summary: 8 unique to this puzzle.

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