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New York Times, Friday, July 12, 2019

Author:
Evan Kalish
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
57/2/20187/12/20190
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
0210020
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.59020
Evan Kalish

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 68, Blocks: 36 Missing: {GJQZ} This is puzzle # 5 for Mr. Kalish. Jeff Chen's Puzzle of the Week pick. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Evan Kalish notes:
The inspiration for this puzzle was this Peter Wentz themeless from 2013. I solved that at a hotel in Charleston, South Carolina while ... read more

The inspiration for this puzzle was this Peter Wentz themeless from 2013. I solved that at a hotel in Charleston, South Carolina while I was on the road, photographing post offices across the Southeast. (Seriously—I have a blog, an Instagram of post offices, the whole shebang.) Peter's grids are always great, but this one really fascinated me: how the Z occupied such a position of prominence in two awesome entries; the clean stagger-stack of 13s; and that VW-/AAA-/NBA- stack in the southeast. I started jotting down any 13-letter phrases I encountered, and tried for years in vain to create a satisfying grid with similar topography. Nearly five years later, and with the benefit of some... let's call it "competence," this puzzle was complete.

My aim was to deliver three fun 13-letter entries that were not only Shortz-era debuts, but which also formed some silly little narrative if you take a step back. (See also: 36-/33-Down. That corner was actually remanded to me, and this iteration of fill is much nicer; thank you, Will.)

This grid is somewhat segmented, and that helped me create the rest of the puzzle. I tried to maximize the count of fresh entries, and my inner nerd led me to pack the corners full of sci-tech goodness.

I don't know how many other constructors have this tendency to constantly revisit or second-guess their completed work (for you classical music buffs, I'm more of a Mahler than a Shostakovich), but it still slightly gnaws at me that there are a bunch of plural entries crossing the central stack. Feels a bit inelegant. Alas!

Jeff Chen notes:
My inner nerd dug the heavy sci-fi bent, from STARSHIPS to TELEPORTS to waking up from THE MATRIX and saying WHERE AM I? Perhaps even ... read more

My inner nerd dug the heavy sci-fi bent, from STARSHIPS to TELEPORTS to waking up from THE MATRIX and saying WHERE AM I? Perhaps even a nod to Star Trek's most famous android, DATA, in DATA MINER? Loved it all.

I can understand how non-sci-fi DWEEBs might not have enjoyed the quasi-mini-theme as much, though.

"Stair stack" puzzles (describing the middle three rows) are familiar enough now that they have to shine to be noticed. The middle triplet is almost always great, since if you don't have at least that, it's a non-starter for most editors.

Where this one stood out from other stair stacks was in the lower left and upper right corners. These regions too often get filled with neutral or blah material, since they're often highly constrained by the middle stair stack. Not only are both of Evan's SW / NE corners clean and smooth, but WHERE AM I / THE MATRIX are so strong, doubly so when adjacent. NOSE STUDS and IN STEREO are winners, too.

Excellent work in squeezing the most out of all the long entries. I wasn't big on SWEETEN UP – filler more than an asset – but there were no other wasted long slots. That's a fantastic hit rate.

A couple of amusing clues, too. SEVEN was confoundingly self-referencing — clue number 49 divided by SEVEN itself. I had to stop and think about it, and I loved how it gave me an initial DOES NOT COMPUTE that was quickly resolved.

MOP, with its head usually on its bottom? That's the way to make a boring ol' common entry stand out!

In any particular week, Jim and I don't usually agree on which puzzle we liked best. Jim's words expressed my thoughts on today's puzzle so concisely: "Everything a Friday puzzle ought to be."

1
S
2
T
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A
4
R
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S
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H
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P
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W
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© 2019, The New York TimesNo. 0712 ( 25,448 )
Across
1
Means of interstellar travel : STARSHIPS
10
Supreme Court colleague of Ruth and Neil : SONIA
15
Oklahoma tribe originally from the Southeast : CHICKASAW
16
Parts of nerve cells : AXONS
17
An anchor is at its end : RELAYRACE
18
Five-time winner of FIFA's player of the year award : MESSI
19
Sport ___ : UTE
20
Loser : DWEEB
22
Garners : NETS
23
What might hurt a celebrity's Q Score : BADPR
26
Top of Scotland : TAM
28
Main : SEA
29
Word with Pacific or basketball : RIM
31
Sheep's milk product : FETA
32
Arm muscle, informally : TRI
33
"This isn't over" : TOBECONTINUED
36
Advice column query : WHATSHOULDIDO
37
Some facial treatments : CHEMICALPEELS
38
Ad ___ : REM
39
Forty-niners' equipment : PANS
40
First show to win 50 Emmys, in brief : SNL
41
Sister company of Century 21 : ERA
42
Delta Air Lines hub in the Mountain time zone, for short : SLC
43
State capital known as the Cherry City : SALEM
47
Great-great-great-great-great-great-grandfather of Noah : SETH
49
This clue's number divided by this clue's answer : SEVEN
53
Cells joined by other cells : OVA
54
Alternative to tea leaves : TAROT
56
Modern information analyst : DATAMINER
59
Who sings "Some Enchanted Evening" in "South Pacific" : EMILE
60
Shortly : INAMOMENT
61
Kind of cup : DIXIE
62
Travels like the fly in sci-fi's "The Fly" : TELEPORTS
Down
1
Cancel : SCRUB
2
Letter found between two vowels in the alphabet : THETA
3
Felt off : AILED
4
___ Dome (former Indianapolis venue) : RCA
5
Something on the horizon : SKY
6
Like a rock and many a roll : HARD
7
Part of Caesar's boast : ISAW
8
Something to set or pick up : PACE
9
Make nice to in a manipulative way : SWEETENUP
10
"The Lord of the Rings" role : SAM
11
Farm team : OXEN
12
Certain facial piercings : NOSESTUDS
13
Like the sound of surround sound, typically : INSTEREO
14
"Again ..." : ASISAID
21
Much of military history : BATTLES
24
Competition at Pebble Beach : PROAM
25
Meat cuts that are often barbecued : RIBTIPS
27
Valkyries, e.g. : MAIDENS
30
Drinks made from agave : MESCALS
31
Tricks : FOOLS
33
Hit 1999 film that popularized a slo-mo effect known as "bullet time" : THEMATRIX
34
Took a gamble : CHANCEDIT
35
Nabisco brand : NILLA
36
Question asked after opening one's eyes and blinking repeatedly : WHEREAMI
37
Like cockatoos and iguanas : CRESTED
44
Unlikely partygoer : LONER
45
Party, e.g. : EVENT
46
Selling points : MARTS
48
Colorful Hindu festival : HOLI
50
One providing directions : VANE
51
Abbr. after a series of 52-Downs : ETAL
52
See 51-Down : NAME
55
Driving aid : TEE
57
Its head is usually at the bottom : MOP
58
"If u ask me ..." : IMO

Answer summary: 10 unique to this puzzle, 2 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

Found bugs or have suggestions?