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New York Times, Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Author:
Brian Cox
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutCollabs
17/26/20170
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0001000
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.55000
Brian Cox

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 78, Blocks: 36 Missing: {JQZ} This is the debut puzzle for Mr. Cox. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Brian Cox notes:
Some bio: I am a newspaper editor in Detroit. I have had some mystery short stories published in Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, ... read more

Some bio: I am a newspaper editor in Detroit. I have had some mystery short stories published in Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, where I was once the managing editor many, many years ago. I recently had my first play, "Clutter," produced at Theatre Nova in Ann Arbor, and I am the artistic director of a small theatre company called Pencilpoint Theatreworks here in Ypsilanti. Ann Arbor constructors James Tuttle and Peter Collins are local celebrities in my mind.

My puzzle went through three revisions over the course of a year. Will was incredibly patient with me as I worked through refining the theme answers and the fill. This was the sixth puzzle I had submitted for Will's consideration so you can see I'm a slow learner. This particular theme came to me as I recalled days when my son was very young, and he went through a period when he was delighted with "Knock Knock" jokes. We would spend time before bed making different ones up. I thought combining knock-knock jokes with a crossword would make an interesting hybrid.

One theme answer that didn't work for Will that I thought was funny was the classic, "Hutch who?" with the response being "gesundheit." He wanted the responses to be complete sentences, which is the better idea, but I shed a few tears letting "gesundheit" go.

Jeff Chen notes:
Debut! And such a fun idea, a take on knock knock jokes. I enjoyed the puns, a surprise given that I'm sick of knock knock jokes (my ... read more

Debut! And such a fun idea, a take on knock knock jokes. I enjoyed the puns, a surprise given that I'm sick of knock knock jokes (my two-year old constantly says "Interrupting cow MOO!"). My favorite was Sadie MAGIC WORD — "say the MAGIC WORD" — but the rest of them worked pretty well for me, too. I especially appreciated the multi-syllabic names, "Is there" punned upon as "Esther." "I want" as "Yvonne" was more of a stretch, but good puns are supposed to bad. Or something like that.

Love the audacity of a debut grid packed with six themers. Sometimes it's easier to work with six themers instead of five, as a longish (9+ letters) middle themer can create all sorts of problems.

Here, Brian does well to stack themers, WHOS THERE atop ANYONE HOME and I GET AN AMEN atop MA NO HANDS. This makes it more like you're working with four themers instead of six. As long as the overlapping letter pairs are friendly, this can make a constructor's life so much easier (vs. placing themers in every other row).

Brian had some flexibility in swapping themers, and he wisely paired up phrases resulting in such easy letter doublets like HA, EN, RY, EO at the top. The only one that's even remotely tricky is ??EO, but CLEO works fine there.

I'm usually happy to not notice short fill — its job is largely to stay out of the way — but TAXID is awfully nice. So hard to parse it into TAX ID.

HOB isn't as nice. Nor MLLES (although part of me does admire that crazy MLL beginning). Or ABED. But that's awfully good work from a debut constructor, especially considering the high theme density.

I would personally go out of my way to avoid ENSLAVE, as I prefer my crosswords to be uplifting, but to each his/her own.

Strong debut. I would have loved it if KNOCK KNOCK had been the first themer and WHOS THERE the second. Would also have been perfect if the themers had all related to knocking — [Esther] ANYONE HOME made for such an appropriate pun.

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© 2017, The New York TimesNo. 0726 ( 24,732 )

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Across
1
"Common Sense" pamphleteer : PAINE
6
Rambler maker of old, for short : AMC
9
Hindu on a bed of nails : FAKIR
14
Yellowstone has more than two million of them : ACRES
15
Guy's square dance partner : GAL
16
2006 Supreme Court appointee : ALITO
17
Response to "Knock knock" : WHOSTHERE
19
Fr. misses : MLLES
20
On its way : SENT
21
"Esther ..." : ANYONEHOME
23
Cut, as with a letter opener : SLIT
25
Ore-___ (frozen food brand) : IDA
26
One referred to as "my hero!" : SAVIOR
29
Witchy woman : HAG
31
Not genuine: Abbr. : IMIT
35
Squeeze moisture from : WRING
36
"Yvonne ..." : TOBEALONE
38
Go public with : AIR
39
Natalie Portman or Gene Simmons, by birth : ISRAELI
41
Some E.R. cases : ODS
42
"Sadie ..." : MAGICWORD
44
Reason to earn a badge : MERIT
46
Whodunit's essence : PLOT
47
Like all prime numbers but one : ODD
48
Where Dorothy and Toto are from : KANSAS
49
Camera type, in brief : SLR
51
Shelter rescues, e.g. : PETS
52
"Ken ..." : IGETANAMEN
57
In ___ of (replacing) : LIEU
61
S.S.N., e.g. : TAXID
62
"Luke ..." : MANOHANDS
64
General local weather pattern : CLIME
65
Like some stock trades, for short : OTC
66
Like a merino : OVINE
67
Can't stomach : HATES
68
Drop in on : SEE
69
Often-buggy software versions : BETAS
Down
1
Handles clumsily : PAWS
2
Need ibuprofen, say : ACHE
3
Mineral plentiful in kale : IRON
4
Occupies, as a bird does a tree : NESTSIN
5
Ballpark fig. : EST
6
Secret ___ : AGENT
7
Musical partner of Peter and Paul : MARY
8
Queen of the Nile, briefly : CLEO
9
World-renowned : FAMED
10
Words of acclamation : ALLHAIL
11
Scale unit, in most of the world : KILO
12
Subject for gossips : ITEM
13
Jack's love in "Titanic" : ROSE
18
___ metal (1980s music subgenre) : HAIR
22
British pol Farage : NIGEL
24
KenKen solver's need : LOGIC
26
Washington establishment, so to speak : SWAMP
27
Typeface similar to Helvetica : ARIAL
28
Many a September birth : VIRGO
29
Overcollect? : HOARD
30
Tucked in : ABED
32
Eighth-century conquerors of Iberia : MOORS
33
Second-most-populous nation : INDIA
34
Components of some batteries : TESTS
36
Stepped heavily (on) : TROD
37
Align the cross hairs on : AIMAT
40
Like some testimony and enemies : SWORN
43
"The deadline has arrived" : ITSTIME
45
Keep under one's thumb : ENSLAVE
48
Vegas numbers game : KENO
50
Fills with cargo : LADES
51
Biden's successor as V.P. : PENCE
52
Hankering : ITCH
53
Black-tie affair : GALA
54
Fire drill objective : EXIT
55
"Chicago" simpleton ___ Hart : AMOS
56
One to whom you might say "G'day!" : MATE
58
Rolling ___ (wealthy) : INIT
59
Pulitzer winner Ferber : EDNA
60
Plays for a sap : USES
63
Play ___ with (do mischief to) : HOB

Answer summary: 6 unique to this puzzle.

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