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New York Times, Thursday, July 16, 2015

Author:
Paula Gamache
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
1085/21/20021/14/20184
SunMonTueWedThuFriSatVariety
81318151217619
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.58431
Paula Gamache

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 72, Blocks: 33 Missing: {JKQ} Spans: 4 This is puzzle # 97 for Ms. Gamache. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Jeff Chen notes:
Paula's back! Fun to see her byline after a year and a half hiatus (although she has done a variety puzzle recently). I enjoy her ... read more

Paula's back! Fun to see her byline after a year and a half hiatus (although she has done a variety puzzle recently). I enjoy her usually edgy take. Today, that comes in the form of HAIR TODAY GONE TOMORROW, a play on WAXing. I haven't been a big fan of the BRAZILIAN WAX in the NYT crossword as of late, since it's a pretty private (no pun intended) matter, but this to me is pushing the envelope of taste just far enough while eliciting a laugh.

Say hello to my little friend! Oh wait, that was Scarface. Dang it.

With four grid-spanning themers, there are often some compromises in fill, especially in spots where down answers have to cross two themers. This gets even more tricky when you go to a low word count like 72 — with very few blocks to deploy, you can't separate your themers very much. This gets noticeable in the upper right, where UREY and TWO GIGS sit. Normally, this subsection would be easy to fill cleanly, but when you introduce longer words like GROOMED and CRAZIES into the mix, that task becomes much harder.

I don't mind Harold UREY, but I can see how some might be turned off by having to know a Nobelist from 80 years ago. And TWO GIGS is awfully arbitrary. Maybe back when 2G jump drives were the state of the art this would have been fine.

I like some features of 72-word feat. Even if it doesn't allow for that much longer stuff — only four entries of 8+ letters — notice how many 6- and 7-letter words are in there. CARLITO and DO GOOD caught my attention. I still would generally prefer a grid with four stellar 8+ letter entries, as those tend to stand out in my mind, but I can see the merits of going to an ultra-low word count and focusing on the 6- and 7-letter stuff.

Some great clues, making her mid-length fill sing:

  • ALIMONY is indeed a [Splitting headache?]. Hilarious!
  • [Water source for many insects] is a great piece of trivia. I had no idea DEWDROPS nurtured life forms.
  • [Sticking point?] = nice wordplay on the CARET, the editing symbol to stick in a character.
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© 2015, The New York TimesNo. 0716 ( 23,991 )
Across
1
Shade of black : COAL
5
Zip around : DART
9
Woody Allen title role : ZELIG
14
1999 drama "___ and the King" : ANNA
15
"Stoppeth it!"? : ENOW
16
Cause of some abdominal cramps : ECOLI
17
Entreaty to Rapunzel : LETDOWNYOURHAIR
20
Bro : DUDE
21
Like show horses : GROOMED
22
Bro, e.g. : SIB
25
Loons : CRAZIES
27
Magazine whose website has a "Find a Therapist" feature : PSYCHOLOGYTODAY
33
Collector's suffix : IANA
34
They run free on TV, in brief : PSAS
35
Love : ADORE
36
Girl bands? : TIARAS
38
Myers-___ personality test : BRIGGS
39
Willie of "Eight Is Enough" : AAMES
40
Sitcom nickname of Wally's bro : BEAV
43
Opposite of 32-Down : NOES
44
1970 B. B. King hit : THETHRILLISGONE
47
___ Brigante (1993 Pacino role) : CARLITO
48
Withdrawal symptom, in short : DTS
49
Stock : RESERVE
53
Germinated grain : MALT
55
Procrastinator's promise : ILLDOITTOMORROW
60
Van ___ & Arpels (jeweler) : CLEEF
61
Author Morrison : TONI
62
River flowing SE to the Mississippi : IOWA
63
Lacked, for short : HADNT
64
Kirk ___, first actor to play Superman on screen, 1948 : ALYN
65
Cheeky, flirtatious sort : MINX
Down
1
Old White House nickname : CAL
2
"Good ___!" : ONE
3
Orkin target : ANT
4
"The Blue Dahlia" star, 1946 : LADD
5
Water source for many insects : DEWDROPS
6
Tempers : ANNEALS
7
Disney's nephew : ROY
8
Modest flash drive capacity, informally : TWOGIGS
9
Worst possible, as a review : ZEROSTAR
10
Nymph of myth : ECHO
11
Good earth : LOAM
12
"Would ___?" : ILIE
13
Encircle : GIRD
18
Punch line? : OUCH
19
1934 Chemistry Nobelist Harold : UREY
22
Show disdain for : SPITAT
23
Source of the line "They shall beat their swords into plowshares" : ISAIAH
24
One way to address someone : BYNAME
26
Animal group suffix : ZOA
28
Sticking point? : CARET
29
Having too much, informally : ODING
30
Be charitable : DOGOOD
31
Silver, in heraldry : ARGENT
32
Acceptances : YESSES
37
Attorney general during George W. Bush's entire first term : ASHCROFT
38
Part of a complex : BVITAMIN
40
Cardinal's cap : BIRETTA
41
July third? : ELL
42
Splitting headache? : ALIMONY
45
Musician Shankar : RAVI
46
Helpless? : SOLO
49
"That's ___" (sarcastic response) : RICH
50
Lorde's actual first name : ELLA
51
Gravity-powered vehicle : SLED
52
Setting for a panel of Bosch's "The Garden of Earthly Delights" : EDEN
54
Short cut : TRIM
56
"My mama done ___ me" : TOL
57
Early resident in the Louvre : ROI
58
Dominate : OWN
59
Spa treatment hinted at by the ends of 17-, 27-, 44- and 55-Across : WAX

Answer summary: 6 unique to this puzzle, 1 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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