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New York Times, Monday, July 17, 2017

Author: Tom McCoy
Editor: Will Shortz
Tom McCoy
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
2911/14/20139/18/20170
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14815100
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.61341

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 78, Blocks: 40 Missing: {QZ} This is puzzle # 27 for Mr. McCoy. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Tom McCoy notes: When constructing a crossword, the more flexibility you have in your theme answers, the easier it is to fill the grid. This means ... more
Tom McCoy notes:

When constructing a crossword, the more flexibility you have in your theme answers, the easier it is to fill the grid. This means that this puzzle would have been much easier to make if the theme had been loosened up a little bit. For example, allowing any odd numbers (rather than using exactly the set of single-digit odd numbers) would have made construction easier because it would've increased the number of possible theme answers by allowing phrases such as FRESHMANFIFTEEN or FOREVERTWENTYONE.

The puzzle also would've been much easier to make if the numbers were not necessarily presented in order--for me at least, the start of construction usually involves lots of moving theme answers around to find the arrangement that works best, but having them in a fixed order removes a lot of the freedom in theme positioning.

However, I thought it was important to restrict the theme to being exactly the five single-digit odd numbers presented in order because a theme of "phrases ending in odd numbers" didn't seem quite tight enough without these extra features. Luckily, there are enough phrases ending with ONE, THREE, and FIVE to make the theme workable despite these constraints.

As always, thanks to the editing team for making this puzzle much better than the version I submitted!

Jeff Chen notes: ODDS AND ENDS played upon today, construed as 'phrases whose last words are odd numbers.' I hesitated when I got to the revealer ... more
Jeff Chen notes:

ODDS AND ENDS played upon today, construed as "phrases whose last words are odd numbers." I hesitated when I got to the revealer — wouldn't ODDS ARE ENDS or ENDS ARE ODD be more apt? Alas, neither of those are real phrases. Stupid crossword gods!

It would have been all too easy to stick with ONE THREE FIVE SEVEN — with the revealer, that would have made five total themers, just about right for a dense, meaty grid. But it would have felt incomplete without the final single-digit odd number, NINE. Kudos to Tom for going the whole NINE yards (*rimshot*), working with an extremely high theme density. Six themers is no joke.

The grid is well crafted, not a surprise given that Tom is one of the best in the construction business. So smooth, just a minor YTD (and we business folks don't even blink at that). I usually keep a running tab of crossword glue, since I prize smoothness so highly in Monday puzzles — to get only that one minor tick is fantastic. Makes the puzzle so accessible to a newer solver.

I do wish the NW and SE corners hadn't been so sectioned off from the rest of the puzzle. There are two answers — AIR FORCE ONE and WORSTS — connecting the NW to the rest of the puzzle, so it's not as bad as it could be, but I prefer a bigger passageway, allowing for more solving flow.

Speaking of bigger passageways, Will once asked me to avoid "stair steps" of black squares involving three-letter words, i.e. the narrow RAS / SAX region. I didn't understand the feedback back then, but these days I do notice how constricted such a stair step can make a puzzle feel.

All these narrowings are prices to pay to get that ON CLOUD NINE entry in — so many black squares are needed to separate so many themers — so I like the trade-off.

Fantastic JEDI clue. "Force-ful" characters indeed!

Simple theme but executed well. If the revealer had generated a stronger a-ha moment for me, it would be POW! material.

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© 2017, The New York TimesNo. 0717 ( 24,723 )
Across Down
1. Building material for the first little pig : STRAW
6. Some bank offerings, for short : CDS
9. ___ and cheese : HAM
12. Swim meet coverage? : SPEEDO
13. Nancy who solves mysteries : DREW
14. Words said at the altar : IDO
15. President's plane : AIRFORCEONE
17. ___-Mex : TEX
18. Roadside stops : INNS
19. Wrestling for 400-pounders : SUMO
20. Rod-shaped bacterium : ECOLI
22. Broadway's "___ Miz" : LES
23. Cry before "You're out!" : STRIKETHREE
25. Dorm figs. : RAS
26. Actor Hemsworth of "The Hunger Games" : LIAM
27. Material for a tight-fitting glove : LATEX
30. "Up top!" : GIMMEFIVE
35. Landed, as on a branch : ALIT
36. Actions on the dance floor : MOVES
37. "Mmm-hmm, mmm-hmm" : ISEE
38. Conclusion of a close World Series : GAMESEVEN
40. Photographer Adams : ANSEL
41. Flair : ELAN
42. Brand of sheepskin boots : UGG
43. Ecstatic : ONCLOUDNINE
48. He-sheep : RAM
51. Beauty's partner, with "the" : BEAST
52. Charged particles : IONS
53. Martial art that's an Olympic sport : JUDO
54. Big feature on a donkey : EAR
55. Miscellany ... or a description of the final words in 15-, 23-, 30-, 38- and 43-Across : ODDSANDENDS
58. Since Jan. 1 : YTD
59. Word repeated in "It's ___, all ___!" : MINE
60. Tax cheats' fears : AUDITS
61. "Hel-l-lp!" : SOS
62. Suffix with differ : ENT
63. Insurance company with a lizard mascot : GEICO
1. Backbone : SPINE
2. Shore birds : TERNS
3. Officials crying "Offside" and "Pass interference" : REFS
4. Commotion : ADO
5. Opposite of bests : WORSTS
6. No-good thief : CROOK
7. Lair : DEN
8. Hon : SWEETIE
9. Sometimes good, sometimes bad : HITORMISS
10. "Hello" singer of 2015 : ADELE
11. Gumption : MOXIE
12. Take a yacht out : SAIL
13. Singer Lovato : DEMI
16. Scoundrel : CUR
21. Rubbing the wrong way? : CHAFING
23. "Wailing" instrument : SAX
24. Stately shade trees : ELMS
25. Gives a new account of : RETELLS
27. Annoying feature of an online stream : LAG
28. In the manner of : ALA
29. Means of tracking workers' hours : TIMECARDS
30. www.healthcare.___ : GOV
31. "Now ___ seen it all!" : IVE
32. Restroom sign : MEN
33. Flying geese formation : VEE
34. Sea slitherer : EEL
36. It's fixed for a prix fixe meal : MENU
39. Príncipe's sister island : SAOTOME
40. 6 or so, for first graders : AGE
42. Release from being caught on a nail, say : UNSNAG
43. Adheres to, as a rule : OBEYS
44. Old-fashioned "Awesome!" : NEATO
45. "I ___ see that coming!" : DIDNT
46. What smells : NOSE
47. Pigs ___ blanket : INA
48. Like some ancient characters : RUNIC
49. Embellish : ADDTO
50. What rolling stones don't gather : MOSS
53. Force-ful characters? : JEDI
56. Cacophony : DIN
57. Like some library books and babies : DUE

Answer summary: 1 unique to this puzzle, 2 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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