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New York Times, Friday, July 13, 2018

Author:
Trenton Charlson
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
94/26/201712/8/20181
SunMonTueWedThuFriSatVariety
01011321
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.83011
Trenton Charlson

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 72, Blocks: 36 Missing: {Q} Grid has mirror symmetry. Scrabble average: 2.00 This is puzzle # 6 for Mr. Charlson. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Trenton Charlson notes:
I'm not exactly sure how I came up with this idea, but I remember trying to brainstorm other possible theme material, though that came ... read more

I'm not exactly sure how I came up with this idea, but I remember trying to brainstorm other possible theme material, though that came to an end quickly (What? You mean AA BOTTOM isn't a thing?) Fortunately, I realized that it might make for a fun mini-theme. Mirror symmetry seemed to be the way to go, and I decided on stacks of 8-letter entries as I figured it made the most sense to start off with the larger stacks. This decision was confirmed when I noticed that ZEROES IN and ZOETROPE stack rather nicely, and I worked my way from there. Once the top of the puzzle came together, I looked for interesting longer entries for the bottom that would fit well with the ZZ TOP revealer (which I guess could have gone anywhere in the stack, but it just seemed strange to not put it on the top).

To be honest, I have mixed feelings about this puzzle. I still like the mini-theme, especially as a sort of callback to the theme of my debut. Speaking of which, it's interesting to think about how my constructing philosophy has changed over time. I am finding that the more I construct, the more I discover about what makes my voice as a constructor unique, and this puzzle stands out to me as not entirely capturing what I currently recognize as my constructing "voice".

EVEN NOW, I really like some of the entries, especially ZOETROPE, WHIZ KID, HOW GOES IT, and the duo of ZOOMS OUT and ZEROES IN, but some of the other fill doesn't feel as much like me, so to speak. For instance, though POP DIVA and IRON MIKE seemed like entries that solvers / editors would find snazzy, they don't really resonate with me personally. NIMRODS, HAVE-NOT, WEIRDO and SEXPOTS in the aggregate also aren't as attractive to me now as they perhaps were when I made this.

The voice of a puzzle can also shine through its cluing, and though I don't have a ton of favorites from this one, I am glad to see that my clues for ELEGY, WHIZ KID and SIXES survived. Personal philosophical pondering aside, I hope that you got some enjoyment out of solving this odd duck of a Friday puzzle.

Jeff Chen notes:
ZZ TOP – as in a triplet of ZZs at the top of the puzzle. Appropriate to have three of them, since ZZ TOP has three members! I ... read more

ZZ TOP – as in a triplet of ZZs at the top of the puzzle. Appropriate to have three of them, since ZZ TOP has three members! I always thought it was amusing that Frank Beard is the only one who doesn't have the trademark long beard.

Some fun fill, HOW GOES IT friendly and colloquial. SCHROEDER bringing back memories of the "Peanuts" kid playing the toy piano to perfection. Interesting terms like RAGNAROK (back in the public eye due to the "Thor" movies) and ZOETROPE (you might not recognize the word, but the image to the right is likely familiar).

I expect more quantity of quality long fill in a themeless, though. What happened?

Well, with regular crossword symmetry, it's easy to place three long slots in each of the four corners. Not so using mirror (left-right) symmetry!

In a mirror themeless grid, you can put 8x3 chunks in either the top two corners or the bottom two corners, but not both. It is possible to create mirror grids that do have a lot of long slots, but for various spacing reasons, those tend to be tougher to fill than normal symmetry grids.

Still, Trenton did well in using his mid-length slots — XGAMES, NIMRODS, WHIZ KID are strong entries. SEXPOTS felt a bit icky, but that could easily be personal preference. The term seems loaded with so many negative connotations that I'd avoid using it in my grids.

As much as I like mini-themes in themeless puzzles, I do want the usual quantity and quality of long entries as well. This one didn't quite get there for me.

1
R
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A
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© 2018, The New York TimesNo. 0713 ( 25,084 )

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Students & seniors
Across
1. Ride : RAZZ
5. Trattoria offering : PIZZA
10. Effervescence : FIZZ
14. Natural pain reliever : ALOE
15. West Indian sorcery : OBEAH
16. Dirt pie ingredient : OREO
17. Amorphous mass : GLOB
18. 5-Across unit : PIECE
19. Days long gone : YORE
20. Inept sorts : NIMRODS
22. One low on dough : HAVENOT
24. Aziz of Netflix's "Master of None" : ANSARI
25. Loft addition : DORMER
26. Bush animal, for short : ROO
27. "Still, after all this time ..." : EVENNOW
31. Film speed letters : ISO
32. Cross to bear : ONUS
34. Somewhat icy : ALOOF
35. What old records and happy-go-lucky people may do : SKIP
36. Fore-and-aft-rigged vessel : KETCH
38. Stoppage : END
39. Geoffrey of fashion : BEENE
40. "Sup?" : HOWGOESIT
43. Meritorious : WORTHY
45. Picked up on : SENSED
48. Subject of the 2008 biography "Woman of the House" : PELOSI
49. Annual event that includes snocross and ski superpipe : XGAMES
51. Number two : AIDE
52. Rock band whose name is suggested by the first row of this puzzle : ZZTOP
56. "The Burning Giraffe" artist : DALI
57. ___ school : GRAD
58. Martial art whose name means, literally, "sword way" : KENDO
59. Sophocles tragedy : AJAX
60. Best, but barely : EDGE
61. Language from which "kayak" comes : INUIT
62. Paint swatch selection : TONE
63. Go-getter : DOER
64. Pours on the love : DOTES
65. "The Garden of ___" (Oscar Wilde poem) : EROS
Down
1. Apocalyptic event predicted in Norse mythology : RAGNAROK
2. Like a shampoo/conditioner : ALLINONE
3. Expands one's view, in a way : ZOOMSOUT
4. Referee, in slang : ZEBRA
5. Pink, for one : POPDIVA
6. Sacred symbol of ancient Egypt : IBIS
7. The Hudson's Tappan ___ Bridge : ZEE
8. Galifianakis of "The Hangover" : ZACH
9. Leading : AHEADOF
10. Place for an umbrella stand : FOYER
11. Heavyweight champion who defeated "Bonecrusher" Smith : IRONMIKE
12. Gets closer and closer : ZEROESIN
13. Old-fashioned image projector : ZOETROPE
21. Fractions of a krona : ORE
23. Word : VOW
28. "Beowulf," essentially : ELEGY
29. Eating with one's elbows on the table, e.g. : NONO
30. Meeting places : NODES
33. "Peanuts" boy : SCHROEDER
35. Makes plans to tie the knot : SETSADATE
37. Intense attraction, with "the" : HOTS
39. Google alternative : BING
41. Tiny brain? : WHIZKID
42. Vamps : SEXPOTS
43. Odd duck : WEIRDO
44. What "education is the best provision for," per Aristotle : OLDAGE
46. Key for "Spring" in Vivaldi's "The Four Seasons" : EMAJOR
47. Roosevelt predecessor? : DELANO
48. Summoned : PAGED
50. Yahtzee scoresheet row : SIXES
53. Founder of Stoicism : ZENO
54. Hardware bit : TNUT
55. Comics character who once, surprisingly, solved a sudoku puzzle : ODIE

Answer summary: 2 unique to this puzzle.

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