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New York Times, Saturday, July 23, 2016

Author: Debbie Ellerin
Editor: Will Shortz
Debbie Ellerin
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1.58000
Puzzle of the Week

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 70, Blocks: 29 Missing: {JQX} This is puzzle # 2 for Ms. Ellerin. Jeff Chen's Puzzle of the Week pick NYT links: Across Lite PDF

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Debbie Ellerin notes: This is my second puzzle in the NYT. The first was a Monday puzzle over a year ago. I started constructing this puzzle after ... more
Debbie Ellerin notes:

This is my second puzzle in the NYT. The first was a Monday puzzle over a year ago.

I started constructing this puzzle after I got a super nice and encouraging rejection letter from Will Shortz on a previous themeless submission. Jeff Chen, with whom I had collaborated on a different puzzle, was willing to help, and reviewed many different versions of this puzzle. (Thanks, Jeff!)

I tried to make the longer answers interesting while keeping the undesirable fill to a minimum. Hope it worked.

Originally, I'd thought this puzzle would be slated for a Friday, but I am happy to see it run on a Saturday.

Jeff Chen notes: Even knowing all the answers beforehand, I really enjoyed the solve. Debbie got in touch with me a while back, and I worked with her ... more
Jeff Chen notes:

Even knowing all the answers beforehand, I really enjoyed the solve. Debbie got in touch with me a while back, and I worked with her to complete her first themeless. Will thought it was very good, but given the huge competition in themelesses, it didn't have enough snazzy material to cross his high threshold. I really liked that this feedback drove Debbie to develop another one, which you see today. Hard work + careful adherence to feedback = success!

Debbie saved 18 versions of this puzzle, and I thought I'd list out some feedback I gave her through the different stages, in case that helps out aspiring themeless constructors:

  • Version 6: This one didn't have enough fresh, eye-catching material. And one corner in particular seemed problematic. It had SVENGALI, and HAVE AN IN was pretty nice, but ELIAN / ERNS / INES / SANER felt like it really weakened that corner. The grid also had SROS and ESALEN — too much glue in all.
  • Version 10: ONESIDED / ONE AM dupe. Also, THE MONEY felt too much like a partial to me.
  • Version 13: Introducing FLAME WAR added a lot of spice. She had TV REMOTE next to it, but SEASONED was the third in the triple — that one wasn't nearly as strong. Also, the bottom left corner contained CLARITIN and HOME BASE. They're both fine answers, but neither wowed me. I suggested she ought to redo that, trying to work in stronger answers, in order to show Will she was listening to his advice.
  • Version 15: Getting IT'S A SIGN felt like it added a lot to the bottom left corner, along with LIVE A LIE. Debbie hadn't filled out the bottom right, but this partial grid felt like it could be NYT-worthy if she could get a really nice triplet of answers to finish it out.
  • Version 17: TRADE NAME / SETH ROGEN / DEAD WOOD in that bottom right corner was a really nice result. However, it required DHA, and Will doesn't like tough acronyms that aren't widely known. He has a valid point — to many, DHA will look like three random, ungettable letters.
  • Version 17.1: The grid as shown. I didn't care for GO I, but that and DST allowed for IPAD MINIS, AFROPOP, PET NAMES, BARNUM (I was plus/minus on NOT SO SURE).

Revision has to stop at some point, and I think Debbie did really well to call it only when she felt like her profile of assets and liabilities was very strong. I love seeing that work ethic.

Such a great combination of colorful assets — 15 by my count — along with just a smattering of HRS, WBA, GOI, DST made for such an enjoyable solve.

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© 2016, The New York TimesNo. 0723 ( 24,364 )
Across Down
1. Those falling head over heels? : ACROBATS
9. Little rows : TIFFS
14. Ones with love-hate relationships, say : FRENEMIES
16. Pop singer Goulding : ELLIE
17. Show on which Adam West voices Mayor Adam West : FAMILYGUY
18. Actress Balaban of "Supernatural" : LIANE
19. Make a measure of : ENACT
20. Shift specification: Abbr. : HRS
21. Some temple figures : LAMAS
22. César subject : CINE
23. Measure (up) : STACK
25. Press target, informally : DELT
26. Soupçon : TAD
27. Is a kiss-up : KOWTOWS
29. Org. awarding 5-Downs : WBA
30. Bass brass : TUBAS
31. Foreign aide : AUPAIR
33. Reduced : SLIMMED
36. Guts : INNARDS
37. Do-it-yourself wheels : KITCAR
38. W.W. II landing site in Italy : ANZIO
39. Hookups on "House" : IVS
40. Tough : RUFFIAN
42. Malfunctioning : BUM
45. Like venison : LEAN
47. First division, maybe : PARTA
48. Hindu embodiment of virtue : RAMA
49. Procedure improving one's looks? : LASIK
51. "Let me ___ pray thee": Exodus 4:18 : GOI
52. Picks nits : CARPS
53. Golfer's error : SLICE
54. Some small tablets : IPADMINIS
56. Power of two : EIGHT
57. Hesitant : NOTSOSURE
58. Something to believe in : TENET
59. Princess and angel, e.g. : PETNAMES
1. Move : AFFECT
2. Holders of thoughts? : CRANIA
3. Order back : REMAND
4. Shelved : ONICE
5. Supporting strip : BELT
6. She anchored "Weekend Update" with Tina, then Seth : AMY
7. Scrooge : TIGHTWAD
8. "Bathers at Asnières" and "Parade de Cirque" : SEURATS
9. Game giveaway : TELL
10. 24-book classic : ILIAD
11. What a troll may perpetuate : FLAMEWAR
12. Preceder of the sound of a gavel : FINALBID
13. Be in shock from a sock : SEESTARS
15. Biggest rival of US Foods : SYSCO
23. Recover after being wrecked : SOBERUP
24. Year-end tradition since 1966 : KWANZAA
27. Half of a 2000s stoner-film duo : KUMAR
28. Longtime hair lightener brand : SUNIN
30. Alternative to Flix : TMC
32. Kung ___ beef : PAO
33. Things that one is good at : SKILLSET
34. Be what one isn't : LIVEALIE
35. Prognostication proclamation : ITSASIGN
36. Start : INITIATE
38. Music genre for Miriam Makeba : AFROPOP
41. Charley Bates's mentor, in literature : FAGIN
42. Musical with the song "There's a Sucker Born Ev'ry Minute" : BARNUM
43. One often accused of being blind : UMPIRE
44. Rank and file : MASSES
46. Something to carve out : NICHE
48. First lady Barbara's Russian counterpart : RAISA
50. Last name in the funnies for nearly 50 years : KETT
52. "Let's go!" : CMON
55. Ariz. doesn't observe it : DST

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

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