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New York Times, Thursday, June 30, 2016

Author:
Jonathan M. Kaye
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
56/30/20167/24/20181
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
0010400
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.76100
Jonathan M. Kaye

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 78, Blocks: 35 Missing: {JQX} Spans: 4 This is the debut puzzle for Mr. Kaye. Jeff Chen's Puzzle of the Week pick. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Jonathan M. Kaye notes:
What a thrill to have today's New York Times crossword run under my byline, and to have my debut on a Thursday! Will and Joel ... read more

What a thrill to have today's New York Times crossword run under my byline, and to have my debut on a Thursday!

Will and Joel reacted to my submission with a "wow" on May 4, accepted my final grid on May 9, and apparently bumped the finished puzzle up in the queue. I'm grateful to them for their willingness to work with a novice constructor, their suggestion that I revise the grid with cleaner fill, and their expert edits to the clues. I hope solvers enjoy this puzzle and its unusual theme.

In developing the "TOP OFF" effect, I found only seven letters that could be "hidden" in a way that looked natural to me: D, I, J, L, O, U, V. I used these to make a list of about 20 words that might be good candidates, and settled on DUD, IDOL, OVOID, and VIVID after finding that each had a simple definition that could span the grid. (In retrospect, I realize that I overlooked some nice J words in making my list, and could have used the clue J0B8 B8J8 (or B8J8 by itself) with the answer MARTIAL ARTS SITE.)

In cognitive psychology, there's a concept called "functional fixedness" that may explain the difficulty in "seeing" the four words hidden in plain sight: we have a mental bias for associating a tool only with its most common function. We tend to see letters and numbers only as representations of sounds and amounts. Their shapes are arbitrary and used only for recognition, and not as possible hiding places for other information.

A bit about me: I live in the AU Park neighborhood of Washington, D.C., with my wife, son, and dog. For the last 11 years I've been privileged to serve as a Senior Counsel (in house attorney) for the American Red Cross.

Jeff Chen notes:
Debut, and what a brilliant idea! The mysterious clues kept me in the dark for the longest time, even after I had uncovered TOP / OFF. ... read more

Debut, and what a brilliant idea! The mysterious clues kept me in the dark for the longest time, even after I had uncovered TOP / OFF. And it continued even after I pieced together DEFECTIVE BULLET — how could "B0B" possibly describe that? What a fantastic a-ha moment, realizing that you have to lop off the top of "B0B," getting DUD as a result. Here are the others, with a helpful graphic from Jonathan:

  • TB8L gives IDOL
  • 8V8TB forms OVOID
  • My favorite, VMB making VIVID. Cutting off the top of M results in an I V I — so cool!

I'm typically not a fan of "definitional" puzzles, where the grid answers sound like they're taken from Merriam Webster. But it worked so well today, since I really needed those definitions in order to finally get my moment of clarity. SUPERSTAR would have been a fine, in-the-language answer for IDOL (and EGG SHAPED for OVOID), but I kind of like how SHAPED LIKE AN EGG feels like it's prodding me to keep on thinking. I needed that nudge!

There's a bit of APER AMOR ATALE crossword glue in the grid, but it's pretty minor stuff, especially considering all four themers are very long. It's not easy to pull off a perfectly clean grid using four grid-spanners, but Jonathan did well. Check out the west and east sections, which are usually the hardest (since you have to work with the beginnings or ends of two long themers) — the east is the roughest spot with TARDE (tough foreign word), ATALE (partial), RETAG (sort of arbitrary RE- word), but the west is so nice. Not a dab of crossword glue in there.

I might have liked a little more bonus fill, but that's a minor complaint when the theme idea is this good. SILLY ME is awfully nice, anyway, and I do like me some Harry Potter referenced in SEEKERS.

All in all, a fantastic debut. So, so, so enjoyable; a very memorable theme.

1
C
2
A
3
R
4
S
5
T
6
E
7
M
8
P
9
E
10
T
11
H
12
E
13
R
14
E
P
E
E
15
A
M
O
R
16
M
A
U
V
E
17
D
E
F
E
18
C
T
I
V
E
19
B
U
L
L
E
T
20
E
R
I
K
A
21
R
E
N
O
22
L
A
R
D
23
E
M
24
I
25
S
U
R
26
G
E
27
A
28
D
29
O
R
E
D
30
S
U
P
E
R
S
31
T
32
A
33
R
34
T
I
P
S
35
N
A
P
36
A
T
A
L
E
37
O
N
E
38
T
O
P
39
O
40
F
F
41
R
O
T
42
M
A
R
43
S
H
44
S
A
L
45
E
D
N
A
46
S
H
A
P
E
47
D
48
L
I
K
E
49
A
N
E
G
G
50
O
N
E
I
L
51
A
B
C
52
E
53
A
54
R
N
55
B
E
L
56
A
57
E
L
58
I
59
Z
60
A
61
B
R
I
G
62
H
T
L
Y
C
63
O
L
O
R
E
D
64
B
E
D
E
W
65
O
M
E
N
66
S
O
R
E
67
S
A
S
S
Y
68
W
E
D
S
69
E
N
O
S
© 2016, The New York TimesNo. 0630 ( 24,341 )

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Students & seniors
Across
1
They may get into a jam : CARS
5
Sub : TEMP
9
Thin air : ETHER
14
Electrified bit of sports equipment : EPEE
15
Caligula's love : AMOR
16
Light violet : MAUVE
17
B0B : DEFECTIVEBULLET
20
Christensen of "Parenthood" : ERIKA
21
City whose name, appropriately, rhymes with "casino" : RENO
22
Ingredient in old-time cookie recipes : LARD
23
Record co. excoriated in a Sex Pistols song : EMI
25
Electrical anomaly : SURGE
27
TB8L : ADOREDSUPERSTAR
34
Tout's stock-in-trade : TIPS
35
Fuzz : NAP
36
"And thereby hangs ___" : ATALE
37
Many a numerator : ONE
38
With 39-Across, refill to capacity ... or a hint to interpreting the clues at 17-, 27-, 46- and 61-Across : TOP
39
See 38-Across : OFF
41
Nonsense : ROT
42
Reed section? : MARSH
44
Actor Mineo : SAL
45
Novelist O'Brien : EDNA
46
8V8TB : SHAPEDLIKEANEGG
50
Baseball great Buck : ONEIL
51
Start of a familiar run : ABC
52
Realize : EARN
55
Actor Lugosi : BELA
57
"My Fair Lady" lady : ELIZA
61
VMB : BRIGHTLYCOLORED
64
Moisten, in a way : BEDEW
65
Gathering clouds, e.g. : OMEN
66
Ticked : SORE
67
Saying "Talk to the hand 'cause the face don't care," say : SASSY
68
Unites : WEDS
69
Book of Mormon prophet : ENOS
Down
1
Give up : CEDE
2
Parodist, e.g. : APER
3
Bank offering, briefly : REFI
4
Positions in Quidditch : SEEKERS
5
Result of needling someone? : TAT
6
Arabian prince : EMIR
7
Gets promoted : MOVESUP
8
Possible hitch to getting hitched : PRENUP
9
One of the 10-Down birds in the world : EMU
10
See 9-Down : TALLEST
11
Kind of skirt : HULA
12
At any juncture : EVER
13
Like many a capt. or gen. : RETD
18
Showed : CAME
19
Gun measure : BORE
24
Prisoner's assignment: Abbr. : IDNO
26
Navratilova rival : GRAF
27
Subjects in quantum mechanics : ATOMS
28
1956 jazz/blues album with an exclamation point : DINAH
29
"Porgy and Bess," e.g. : OPERA
30
Person taken for a fool : SAP
31
Afternoon, to Alejandro : TARDE
32
As a companion : ALONG
33
Mark down, maybe : RETAG
38
After that : THEN
39
Royal ___ (Detroit suburb) : OAK
40
One having a small bite? : FLEA
43
Heavy drinkers, informally : SPONGES
44
"Gosh, what was I thinking?!" : SILLYME
45
Pen : ENCLOSE
47
Student woe : DEBT
48
Avoid the limelight : LIELOW
49
Biblical anagram of 55-Across : ABEL
52
Falls back : EBBS
53
Bailiwick : AREA
54
Purges : RIDS
56
Nailed : ACED
58
Weights, so to speak : IRON
59
Loser, informally : ZERO
60
Some sources of vitamin C : ADES
62
Artery: Abbr. : HWY
63
Walk-___ : ONS

Answer summary: 4 unique to this puzzle.

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