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New York Times, Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Author:
Jim Hilger
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
1312/11/200811/19/20180
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0115600
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.62320
Jim Hilger

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 78, Blocks: 38 Missing: {FQXZ} This is puzzle # 9 for Mr. Hilger. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Jim Hilger notes:
This crossword was assembled during the fall of 2012. Although several of the edited clues now look unfamiliar, I'm still almost ... read more

This crossword was assembled during the fall of 2012. Although several of the edited clues now look unfamiliar, I'm still almost positive that I was the guilty party. I was going for a gradual reveal of an unknown answer, somewhat similar to the feel of playing Hangman. Having WORD GAME as the circled unknown answer — with the added feature that it be the sole, communal clue for all the puzzle's theme answers — seemed like a nice, mischievous twist.

I have always loved playing word games with family and friends. I've had three particular game favorites over the years, one being "PROBE", from Parker Brothers. It's a card-based diversion similar to Hangman, and appears in this puzzle as a theme answer. The other two? Well, put it this way: if you are willing to play a little of my second favorite word game (6 letters), the third's name (11 letters) can be unearthed within this puzzle grid.

There are seven theme answers bouncing around in here, plus the WORD GAME reveal, which was intentionally positioned to not share any letters with the themers. This means that the theme material tends to ooze into about every nook and cranny of the grid. All that oozing can sometimes have an effect on a puzzle's word fill quality. Hopefully this, my ninth NY Times outing, has a minimal number of fill "HAEC-cups".

Come to think of it, a crossword puzzle is quite a bit like a word game, too. So, thanks to everyone who chose to play this game with me. As always, it's been a lot of fun.

My other two favorite word games? Boggle and Bananagrams.

Jeff Chen notes:
I like variety in my daily puzzles, and I like seeing things I've never seen before. It was fun to experience this one, slowly ... read more

I like variety in my daily puzzles, and I like seeing things I've never seen before. It was fun to experience this one, slowly uncovering the circled letters to find that it was a WORD GAME revealer. A nice touch.

I wasn't familiar with JOTTO or PROBE or... where are the other themers? I highlighted them below because I kept losing track what was a themer and what wasn't. Although SHAME ON ME, now there's a game I'd like to play! KEEP HOUSE, not so much. Seriously though, it would have been great to find some way to distinguish the themers from the fill, given the short name lengths. Perhaps perimeter answers? All across in rows? Not sure how, but the placements as is felt a bit inelegant to me.

Ah, HAEC. Although there's not a ton of theme density, any time you fix words in strewn-about places, you're sure to run into challenges. In this case, not only does Jim run into issues because of all the constraints he's given himself, but the fact that there must be some long fill in order to keep under the word count limit of 78. Usually the themers are the long answers, so everything else is easier to fit in because they're shorter. This sort of reversal of the status quo makes it very tough to find long fill that is both snappy and allows for smooth fill. Having to knit so many disparate sections together often results in a CORM or a BEG TO. Not easy at all.

One example: once you've fixed the circled "W" and placed SCRABBLE, look at that giant slot you have to fill at 17-across. Jim does well to fit in KEEP HOUSE, a solid entry. But then you have a ??PA??? to fill, and once that becomes ESPARTO, oof, that little corner is jammed up. HAEC is an entry I tend to reboot one of my own puzzles for if it's ever required, but I'm sure there are Latin majors out there who are celebrating from the stoas and agoras. Similar action happens in the opposite corner, the heavy constraints forcing MMVI and NEVA. Each of those are fine in themselves, but both in one little subsection is a bit much for me.

Not being much of a word-game fan, this was a puzzle I enjoyed more after reading Jim's note. That doesn't often happen, but hearing about his thought process and his interests leading up to this theme made me appreciate it. I'm personally not a SCRABBLE or a BANANAGRAMS fan, so hearing about the intent for the solver to slowly uncover W O R D / G A M E from an avid player was pretty neat.

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© 2014, The New York TimesNo. 0604 ( 23,584 )
Across
1
Pronoun repeated in "America" : THEE
5
Weapon with a warhead, in brief : ICBM
9
"Thriller" singer, in tabloids : JACKO
14
"Let sleeping dogs lie" and others : SAWS
15
Board's partner : ROOM
16
Subject of a donor card : ORGAN
17
Dust, vacuum, do windows, etc. : KEEPHOUSE
19
Done to death : TRITE
20
See circled letters : SCRABBLE
21
Come ___ price : ATA
22
Crucifixion symbol : ROOD
23
One from column A, one from column B, etc. : CHOICES
27
Go to the dogs : ROT
29
See circled letters : TABOO
31
Big do : GALA
32
Tend to another spill : REMOP
34
How knights roam : ERRANTLY
36
Take habitually : USE
37
See circled letters : HANGMAN
40
"... in excelsis ___" : DEO
41
What to do when dealt a flush : STANDPAT
43
Fast-food utensil : SPORK
45
Prefix with zone and skeptic : EURO
46
See circled letters : PROBE
49
Adams of "Junebug" : AMY
50
Decked out in sequins : SPANGLY
52
Vet school subj. : ANAT
54
Still owing : SHY
55
See circled letters : ANAGRAMS
59
Speed skater ___ Anton Ohno : APOLO
62
"I did bad!" : SHAMEONME
63
"Quo ___?" : VADIS
64
Place to place your bets : RENO
65
St. Petersburg's river : NEVA
66
Showing mastery : ADEPT
67
Stickup man on "The Wire" : OMAR
68
Triathlon start : SWIM
Down
1
Relatives of tuts : TSKS
2
Hic, ___, hoc : HAEC
3
Still-life pitcher : EWER
4
Grass for cordage : ESPARTO
5
Asimov classic : IROBOT
6
Part of an "if only ..." lament : COULDA
7
Big name in audio equipment : BOSE
8
Marie Curie, e.g.: Abbr. : MME
9
See circled letters : JOTTO
10
Bring up on charges : ARRAIGN
11
Special FX technology : CGI
12
Kit ___ Club ("Cabaret" setting) : KAT
13
___-hit wonder : ONE
18
"Veep" channel : HBO
21
Now, in Nogales : AHORA
23
Bulblike plant part : CORM
24
Realm of Garfield : CATDOM
25
Queen of fiction : ELLERY
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Voice one's approval : SAYOK
27
Recharge one's batteries : RESTUP
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Mark who won the 1998 Masters : OMEARA
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___ differ (object) : BEGTO
32
Artful dodges : RUSES
33
Deg. held by Woodrow Wilson : PHD
35
Quiz response: Abbr. : ANS
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Fill out the necessary forms, say : APPLY
39
___ a soul : NARY
42
Like a shower mat, ideally : NONSLIP
44
Clientele : PATRONS
47
Daiquiri flavor : BANANA
48
Win the heart of : ENAMOR
51
See circled letters : GHOST
53
What liver spots may be a sign of : AGE
55
"Um, excuse me" : AHEM
56
From the start : ANEW
57
Year of Super Bowl XL : MMVI
58
Line of jeans? : SEAM
59
"___: My Story" (Tinseltown autobiography) : AVA
60
Inflate, as a bill : PAD
61
"___ to Joy" : ODE
62
Full house indicator : SRO

Answer summary: 1 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

Found bugs or have suggestions?