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New York Times, Saturday, July 23, 2016

Author:
Debbie Ellerin
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
33/9/20154/13/20190
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0100002
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.58000
Debbie Ellerin

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
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 ... read more

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 ... read more

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.

1
A
2
C
3
R
4
O
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B
6
A
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T
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S
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T
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I
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F
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F
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F
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F
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G
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K
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D
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K
O
W
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W
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S
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W
B
A
30
T
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A
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P
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S
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L
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M
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D
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I
N
N
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K
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C
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A
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O
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I
V
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F
F
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B
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M
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N
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P
A
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R
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L
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K
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G
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C
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S
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C
E
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I
P
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D
M
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E
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G
H
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N
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P
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© 2016, The New York TimesNo. 0723 ( 24,364 )
Across
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
Down
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.

Found bugs or have suggestions?