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New York Times, Monday, July 17, 2017

Author:
Tom McCoy
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
3311/14/20139/29/20190
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
18815100
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.61362
Tom McCoy

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 that ... read more

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 ... read more

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
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
Down
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 debuted here and reused later, 2 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

Found bugs or have suggestions?