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New York Times, Monday, July 2, 2018

Author:
Evan Kalish
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
57/2/20187/12/20190
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0210020
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.59020
Evan Kalish

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 76, Blocks: 42 Missing: {FJQX} This is the debut puzzle for Mr. Kalish. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Evan Kalish notes:
As with many constructors, this marks the fulfillment of a long-time dream. I've always loved playing with words, and back in middle ... read more

As with many constructors, this marks the fulfillment of a long-time dream. I've always loved playing with words, and back in middle school I would eagerly await Will Shortz's next Sunday Puzzle challenge, tuning in to NPR at exactly 10:41 A.M. (But who's counting?) In college I was inspired by the work of Dustin Foley, who wrote a daily puzzle comic strip. Back then I was filling 15x15 grids printed from Microsoft Word, and the results weren't particularly encouraging. (To wit: Once I tried asking a crush out via crossword on Valentine's Day. It went unsolved.) Puzzling at Brown really took off soon after I graduated, and I vowed that one day I would join the ranks of Shortz-certified Brunonian cruciverbalists. [Insert training montage here.]

I'm a huge road trip enthusiast, and over time I've come to realize the importance of certain life skills… like navigating the secret menu at In-N-Out Burger. (Psst… think Will would allow "Animal Style" in a grid?) I first considered a SECRET MENU puzzle in 2014, lamenting that the only decent phrase I could find a secret "menu" in was PRIME NUMBER. Years later, "IT'S A SECRET" struck me as a good revealer, leading to this puzzle.

The veritable cornucopia of potential thematic material led to high ambitions and an inevitable Grid Reckoning. It eventually led me to attempt a theme answer stack à la Patrick Berry, though the challenge left this mere mortal with the unfortunate TELNET and cheater squares at 6- and 65-Across. Considering that every down answer intersects between one and three theme entries, I was pleased to keep the damage fairly contained. (I know, ID EST can be a bit of a party pooper… though initially he's great.) Hopefully MARKUP LANGUAGE—the ‘ML' of ‘HTML'—isn't too outré for a Monday puzzle. My favorite find was WHAT A GENTLEMAN, a comment I've heard in the wild! SHOPPER, à la GRASSHOPPER, was the coolest possibility I didn't incorporate.

Hope you enjoyed the puzzle! I'd like to thank Jeff Chen, who has a) put up with me for years as I've learned the ropes and peppered him with random crossword ideas; and b) made great resources available for budding constructors everywhere.

Jeff Chen notes:
Shh! IT'S A SECRET, i.e., words that can follow SECRET. The 'words that can follow' theme type is largely bygone these days, but I ... read more

Shh! IT'S A SECRET, i.e., words that can follow SECRET. The "words that can follow" theme type is largely bygone these days, but I like Evan's effort to elevate it: appropriate to "hide" SECRET words within themers!

Strong work for a debut. Six long themers? A great majority of experienced constructors wouldn't take that on, and if they did, the results would be catastrophic. Evan did incredibly well, stacking pairs atop each other, making sure that his letter pairs were friendly (PASTA SHELL over PEASANT ARMY has a lot of easy AP, SE, HA, ES, LA pairs).

I'm not sure such high theme density was desirable, though. (secret) SANTA, (secret) agent, yes! (secret) menu, okay – the menus you have to specifically ask for at fast food joints.

(secret) stash and (secret) plan? Huh.

I didn't feel like those two added much if anything. I would have preferred fewer themers, which would have made it easier to jazz up the grid. BAY AREA and SKI MASK are good, colorful fill, but I wanted more.

I eventually did recognize all the theme phrases, but I squinted hard at WHAT A GENTLEMAN at first. I suppose it's commonly enough said? And while MARKUP LANGUAGE is technically a thing, at the very least it doesn't feel very welcoming to a newer solver.

Speaking of not welcoming: MSRP crossing ISP. Ultimately, I think even newer solvers ought to have heard of one or the other, but it's iffy for a Monday.

Overall, a nice way to do something slightly different with a mostly dead theme type. I respect the choice Evan made (high theme density), even if it wasn't what I would have done, and I think he did a solid job of executing.

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© 2018, The New York TimesNo. 0702 ( 25,073 )
Across
1
Foggy mental states : HAZES
6
Play a role onstage : ACT
9
Wild hog : BOAR
13
Atlantic or Pacific : OCEAN
14
Soothing substance : ALOE
15
Bullets and BBs : AMMO
16
Italian food item that can be stuffed and baked : PASTASHELL
18
Doesn't stop talking : YAPS
19
Common canine command : SIT
20
Militia of farmers, e.g. : PEASANTARMY
22
___ Solo of 2018's "Solo" : HAN
23
Corn unit : EAR
24
"He's so polite" : WHATAGENTLEMAN
32
Sir's counterpart : MAAM
33
What poi is made from : TARO
34
What a plane's hold holds : CARGO
35
___-Man (shrinking Marvel superhero) : ANT
36
Hit musical set in Argentina : EVITA
38
Something the eco-conscious bring to a grocery : BAG
39
"I.e.," spelled out : IDEST
42
Vaper's device : ECIG
43
A-list group at an event : VIPS
44
It may allow a text document to be displayed on a web page : MARKUPLANGUAGE
47
Once ___ while : INA
48
No room at the ___ (problem once in Bethlehem) : INN
49
3, 5 or 7, but not 9 : PRIMENUMBER
55
Guerrilla ___ Guevara : CHE
58
"Today" co-host Kotb : HODA
59
"Keep this between us" ... or hint to this puzzle's circled letters : ITSASECRET
61
December 24 and 31, e.g. : EVES
62
One probably not with the jocks at the lunch table : NERD
63
Practices boxing : SPARS
64
Watered down, as coffee : WEAK
65
Verizon Fios or Comcast's Xfinity, for short : ISP
66
Striped cat : TABBY
Down
1
Kangaroo movements : HOPS
2
Berry marketed as a superfood : ACAI
3
Lemon rind part : ZEST
4
Consume : EAT
5
Get testy with : SNAPAT
6
Lager alternatives : ALES
7
___ wars (longtime advertising battle) : COLA
8
Early computer connection protocol : TELNET
9
Where San Francisco and Oakland are : BAYAREA
10
Actor Epps : OMAR
11
12-hour toggle on clocks : AMPM
12
Flushed, as cheeks : ROSY
14
"Eureka!" : AHA
17
Its members serve six-year terms : SENATE
21
Barber's powder : TALC
22
Nonkosher sandwich meat : HAM
24
"A Fish Called ___" (1988 comedy) : WANDA
25
Jealous critic, informally : HATER
26
Judge's mallet : GAVEL
27
Writer Jong : ERICA
28
Away from the office : NOTIN
29
Head honcho : MRBIG
30
Open-mouthed : AGAPE
31
Spiced holiday drinks : NOGS
32
Seriously injure : MAIM
37
Texas A&M team : AGGIES
40
Robber's identity-protecting headwear : SKIMASK
41
Something carried by a singer : TUNE
43
Tradesperson's vehicle : VAN
45
Sandwich with grill marks : PANINI
46
Turmoil : UNREST
49
[What a relief!] : PHEW
50
Wander about : ROVE
51
What a light bulb indicates in cartoons : IDEA
52
Beehive State tribe : UTES
53
Car sticker fig. : MSRP
54
Word to a dog that has just chewed the sofa : BAD
55
One who complains, complains, complains : CRAB
56
Parsley, sage, rosemary or thyme : HERB
57
Website for craft vendors : ETSY
60
Busy worker in April, for short : CPA

Answer summary: 3 unique to this puzzle.

Found bugs or have suggestions?