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New York Times, Saturday, July 16, 2016

Author:
Byron Walden
Editor:
Will Shortz
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Byron Walden

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 66, Blocks: 26 Missing: {JZ} Spans: 1 This is puzzle # 82 for Mr. Walden. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Byron Walden notes:
See that black square at the end of 46-Across? I hate that square. It and its northeastern counterpart add 6 three-letter words to the ... read more

See that black square at the end of 46-Across? I hate that square. It and its northeastern counterpart add 6 three-letter words to the puzzle. I had a good fill in the northeast without it but just didn't like the fill I came up with in the southwest. So I sat on the puzzle for a long time--long enough that I doubt QUINOA is trendy any more--hoping the constructing elves would sneak in one night and fix it for me. Alas, they never came so I conceded defeat and added the blasted black square.

I would have greatly preferred a cheater square at the first letter of CHASMS,but ??SMS is not really going anywhere. This is one of those instances that makes me think cheater squares don't deserve such an ugly name. My noncheater was much more perfidious. Oh well, hope you enjoyed all the squares you got to fill in.

Jeff Chen notes:
Talk about Byronesque difficulty! I often have trouble with Byron's themelesses, what with a handful of entries I don't totally cotton ... read more

Talk about Byronesque difficulty! I often have trouble with Byron's themelesses, what with a handful of entries I don't totally cotton to, and today was no different. Ultimately though, a hard-won, satisfying finish.

Byron tackles a very challenging grid pattern in the NW and SE corners. It's tough enough to get four colorful answers stacked like WINGMAN, MANICURE, ART SALON, and STAMPEDE — but to run three more long answers straight through them is crazy! LA QUINTA is really nice, especially with that Q in a weird spot. BATHING CAP didn't do much for me — SWIM CAP seems more appropriate to a pool, and SHOWER CAP feels more in the language — but SATURNISM is an interesting term.

Similar results in the opposite corner. Loved YOGA MATS with its clever [Balance sheets?] clue (you balance on YOGA MATS …), and LION KING is great too. EEG TEST feels like something that's technically correct but not actually said. Running an EEG = yes, but running an EEG TEST = slightly odd.

Byron once told me that he tries to avoid using three-letter and even four-letter words in themelesses, since they tend to be giveaways. He's spot-on with that today, with OTS, NAE, and AROD very difficult to clue in a non-obvious way. Even NENE and ODIE were relatively easy, even with their obfuscating clues. But I personally was really glad for them — not sure I would have even been able to fill in a single square without these guys!

I was relieved that my old company was in pharmaceutical development, as the NH2 of the [HC(O)NH2] clue told me it was going to be AMIDE or AMINE; I get those mixed up. (Ammonia is NH3, so that's a good etymological hint.) It's not a great piece of fill, but again, I was very thankful for it.

Overall, some really colorful entries like the STOP MOTION / MARIO CUOMO / SLEEP APNEA triplet and US PASSPORT, to balance out some of the ones I didn't care for as much. On the whole, a really well-designed puzzle allowing a solver who's willing to chip away at it a fair chance for victory.

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© 2016, The New York TimesNo. 0716 ( 24,357 )
Across
1. School for Rory Gilmore of "Gilmore Girls" : YALE
5. Item that became trilingual in the late '90s : USPASSPORT
15. Slavering toon : ODIE
16. Captain : TEAMLEADER
17. Salty drink? : GROG
18. She was "the answer to a prayer" in a 1941 #1 Jimmy Dorsey hit : MARIAELENA
19. 1983 hit for Rufus and Chaka Khan : AINTNOBODY
21. French pronoun : TOI
22. Pitch successfully : MAKEASALE
23. Like salsa : LATIN
25. Ingredient in a Baltimore Bracer : ANISETTE
26. Pros at settling disputes : FIXERS
27. Auto option patented by 3M : TINT
28. Cast mate? : TVWIFE
30. Italian term of address: Abbr. : SIG
31. Leaves out in the open? : FOLIAGE
33. "No ___!" : MAS
36. Shower component : METEOR
37. Apparent flaw : WART
38. Confessed statements : CREEDS
41. "Wake Up on the Bright Side" sloganeer : LAQUINTA
44. Louses : HEELS
45. Medical term for lead poisoning : SATURNISM
46. "___ word?" : ANY
47. Pool cover : BATHINGCAP
48. Film animation technique : STOPMOTION
51. Drug smuggler : MULE
52. Governor who was the father of another governor : MARIOCUOMO
53. Yank with 25 grand slams : AROD
54. Polysomnogram finding : SLEEPAPNEA
55. Bird with a resonant "ha-wah" call : NENE
Down
1. Balance sheets? : YOGAMATS
2. Ninth-century pope who was married with a daughter : ADRIANII
3. Simba sobriquet : LIONKING
4. A migraine sufferer might have one : EEGTEST
5. Level best : UTMOST
6. Aeschylus' play "The Persians" is about one : SEABATTLE
7. Crossing state lines, perhaps : PAROLEVIOLATION
8. HC(O)NH2, for one : AMIDE
9. Kill : SLAY
10. Grasp : SEE
11. Companion : PAL
12. "Swan Lake" heroine : ODETTE
13. "Claude Monet Painting in His Garden at Argenteuil," e.g. : RENOIR
14. Drills : TRAINS
20. Scottish refusal : NAE
23. Magazine that published Harry Truman's memoirs : LIFE
24. Kill : AXE
26. Worthless amount : FIG
29. 2005-07 sitcom about the Gold family, with "The" : WARATHOME
31. RICO enforcers : FEDS
32. They may end with golden goals, for short : OTS
33. Job for which you give someone a hand : MANICURE
34. Exhibition locale : ARTSALON
35. Rush : STAMPEDE
36. Former Florida senator Martinez : MEL
37. Support for a pilot : WINGMAN
38. Gulfs : CHASMS
39. Zipcar alternative : RENTAL
40. Kid-lit character who says "The nicest thing about the rain is that it always stops. Eventually" : EEYORE
42. Trendy pseudocereal : QUINOA
43. Cinerary item : URN
45. Suddenly took notice : SATUP
47. Locale of the Evert Tennis Academy, familiarly : BOCA
49. Word that follows pot but precedes pan : PIE
50. Clean (up) : MOP

Answer summary: 11 unique to this puzzle, 2 debuted here and reused later, 1 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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