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New York Times, Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Author:
Alex Eaton-Salners
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
252/2/20179/5/20191
SunMonTueWedThuFriSatVariety
125410003
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.54240
Alex Eaton-Salners

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 72, Blocks: 37 Missing: {JQZ} This is puzzle # 10 for Mr. Eaton-Salners. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Alex Eaton-Salners notes:
This puzzle took close to two years from conception to publication. I started brainstorming in August of 2016, submitted it to the ... read more

This puzzle took close to two years from conception to publication. I started brainstorming in August of 2016, submitted it to the Times in October 2016, and got an acceptance in February of 2017.

Even though this was my third accepted NYT puzzle, it's my tenth to be published. The disparity is primarily due to shorter queue times for Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday puzzles. For the past few years, Tuesday has had the longest non-themeless publication queue. I wonder whether the disparities in publication queue length among different days of the week correlate to disparities in the number of puzzles submitted that are appropriate for that day. Or is there something inherent to puzzles of particular difficulty levels that makes acceptance more or less likely?

My original theme constraint was just phrases with a three-of-a-kind and a pair. This more permissive interpretation of a FULL HOUSE allowed for lively phrases like BUSINESS SCHOOL, FOR GOODNESS SAKE, and CLASS STRUGGLE. Ultimately, however, I decided that the theme would be better served if the five letters were always in a row with the same 3-2 ordering. Although that reformulation significantly reduced my options for theme entries, it created a much tighter theme and (I hope) a stronger aha moment for the solver.

Along the way, I also changed the revealer from FULL HOUSES to the more natural-sounding FULL HOUSE, which opened up better cluing options, and aligned the three circled areas vertically to create a more ordered feeling for the grid.

Back in 2016, the TV show FULL HOUSE re-entered the national conversation when Netflix released a sequel called "Fuller House" with most of the original cast reprising their roles. That show is now filming its fourth season. We'll see if it lasts as long as the original.

Jeff Chen notes:
A FULL HOUSE in poker is three cards of one value + two cards of a different one. Amusing extension of this concept to crosswords ... read more

A FULL HOUSE in poker is three cards of one value + two cards of a different one. Amusing extension of this concept to crosswords today. Something so aesthetically pleasing about having the three FULL HOUSEs right atop each other, too.

Anyone else put in WELL LOOKIE HERE? I was all set to rave about it; what a brilliant and colorful themer! Such a shame. WELL, LOOKY THERE ... maybe it's neither here nor there, but IT'S SUPPOSED TO BE HERE, NOT THERE, goldarnit!

Alex tackles some of the most challenging themes and gridwork, providing some delightfully tricksy solves. I think he has some work to do, though, in his early-week gridwork. I get the allure of creating a themed, 72-word puzzle — it's such a fun challenge. But it's also so incredibly difficult to execute on while still presenting a newb-friendly grid.

Expecting newer solvers to get IBEX / SERAPHIC correct seems tenuous at best. Toss in some NATAL EFFS FRIA, and I think you've given too many solvers too many reasons to go do something else.

Put a black square at the D of OPEN DEBATE, and you can smooth things out a ton, and still have room for something great at 9-D.

Another option: HAM SALAD didn't do much for me, so placing a black square at the first A of ATTAIN could smooth out the south region to a whole new level.

Many other ways to improve this grid — most of them involving punting on the 72-word gridding challenge.

Novel enough concept that I would have put it into POW! consideration for creativity alone. But the solving experience for newer solvers has to be given first and foremost priority.

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© 2018, The New York TimesNo. 0710 ( 25,081 )
Across
1
Grp. from which many people are drafted : NCAA
5
Twosome on TMZ : ITEM
9
Longtime members of the bar? : SOTS
13
Clumsy sorts : OAFS
14
___ Scotia : NOVA
15
Old print tint : SEPIA
16
Groundskeeper's supply : GRASSSEED
18
Rome's ___ Fountain : TREVI
19
Narrow passage for ships : STRAIT
20
"Aquí se habla ___" : ESPANOL
22
"Play it by ear" or "see eye to eye" : IDIOM
25
"Dragnet" force, briefly : LAPD
26
"Do my eyes deceive me?!" : WELLLOOKYTHERE
31
Health class subject : SEX
32
Actress Kemper of "Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt" : ELLIE
33
Alpine goat : IBEX
34
"Guernica" artist : PICASSO
36
It goes from 0 to 14, in chemistry : PHSCALE
39
Lab assistant in many a horror film : IGOR
40
Birth-related : NATAL
42
Periodically tugging on one's ear, say : TIC
43
Hearty breakfast order : THREEEGGOMELET
47
Actors McShane and McKellen : IANS
48
Follow : ENSUE
49
Alarm : STARTLE
52
Reach : ATTAIN
56
Concert pianist Rubinstein : ARTUR
57
Hit 1980s-'90s sitcom ... or what the circled letters in 16-, 26- and 43-Across represent? : FULLHOUSE
60
Military action that includes a blockade : SIEGE
61
Arizona's Agua ___ National Monument : FRIA
62
Ash containers : URNS
63
Groundskeepers' supplies : SODS
64
Conveyance used either lying down or sitting up : SLED
65
Pictures created with needles, informally : TATS
Down
1
Some holiday concoctions : NOGS
2
Sight at a golf course or grocery : CART
3
In the distance : AFAR
4
Lay into : ASSAIL
5
Inculcates : INSTILLS
6
"Piggy" : TOE
7
Preceding day : EVE
8
Earned : MADE
9
Blissfully serene : SERAPHIC
10
Expression of opinion from all sides : OPENDEBATE
11
Big name in DVRs : TIVO
12
It's rigged : SAIL
15
March honoree, for short : STPAT
17
Moves like a crab : SIDLES
21
Crafty : SLY
23
Tea choice : OOLONG
24
"Voulez-vous coucher avec ___?" : MOI
26
Consider in detail, as options : WEIGH
27
Censured : EXCORIATED
28
Didn't stop : KEPTON
29
Kindled anew : RELIT
30
Prez, e.g. : EXEC
31
Pig roast need : SPIT
35
Throws on the floor? : AREARUGS
37
Nonkosher deli offering : HAMSALAD
38
Nancy Drew, for one : SLEUTH
41
What a tree's rings signify : AGE
44
___ nous : ENTRE
45
Night school subj. : ESL
46
Free from a cage : LETOUT
49
Lip or cheek : SASS
50
Huey, Dewey and Louie, e.g. : TRIO
51
Lots of fluff? : EFFS
53
Ambience : AURA
54
"___ that something?!" : ISNT
55
Eliot of the Untouchables : NESS
58
"www" address : URL
59
"This is not the last clue in this puzzle," e.g. : LIE

Answer summary: 4 unique to this puzzle, 1 debuted here and reused later.

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