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New York Times, Thursday, June 30, 2016

Author: Jonathan M. Kaye
Editor: Will Shortz
Jonathan M. Kaye
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
46/30/201611/10/20161
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0000400
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.70100
Puzzle of the Week

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 ... more
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 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 / ... more
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. 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
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A
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M
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P
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H
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M
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© 2016, The New York TimesNo. 0630 ( 24,341 )
Across Down
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
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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