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New York Times, Friday, July 26, 2019

Author:
Trenton Charlson
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
144/26/20177/26/20191
SunMonTueWedThuFriSatVariety
11022521
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.79012
Trenton Charlson

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 70, Blocks: 36 Missing: none – this is a pangram. Scrabble average: 1.94 This is puzzle # 14 for Mr. Charlson. Jeff Chen's Puzzle of the Week pick. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Trenton Charlson notes:
This puzzle was sparked by a love of rare letters (I'm an avid Scrabble player who studies the J, Q, X, and Z words for fun) and the ... read more

This puzzle was sparked by a love of rare letters (I'm an avid Scrabble player who studies the J, Q, X, and Z words for fun) and the discovery that AQUAMARINE seemed to fit rather nicely on top of FUZZY NAVEL. I began to create a potential grid skeleton around the double stack with ZEBRA on top, when I excitedly realized that I might actually be able to make it into a triple stack by using ZEBRA FINCH instead! This stack still remains one of my all-time favorites from my themeless constructions — I think getting four Z's and a Q into that 4x4 block is pretty cool, all four of the long answers up there seem pretty nice to me (especially ZEBRA FINCH, which is my favorite entry in the puzzle), and I'm especially pleased with how cleanly that corner turned out.

Once I came up with a rough grid skeleton, ALL THAT JAZZ seemed like it might work well at 27-Down to smoothly work in a few more rare letters, and it turns out it did. Construction often feels like it's all about compromise, so it's always nice when things just seem to fall into place — here, even allowing for a fortuitous pangram! With that in mind, though I admit that there was a not-so-small part of me that wanted to find a way to fit in ten more Z's (I might have a problem), I decided to prioritize filling the rest of the grid cleanly while trying to incorporate some more nice long entries. I think the puzzle turned out pretty well — it seems to me like one that can be enjoyed by a wide range of solvers, as there isn't much in the way of esoterica, current pop culture or niche references here, just some interesting entries, Scrabbly letters and some unique — and perhaps even mildly entertaining — clues.

Speaking of which, some of my favorite clues of mine in this puzzle are those for 42-Across, 50-Across, 27-Down, 43-Down, and 44-Down. Some might be interested to know that I originally clued CHALK LINE as the carpentry tool; to be honest, the new clue feels somewhat arbitrary to me. However, I was pleased to see that all three of my clues for the stacked entries in the upper-right survived, as I thought they were particularly… color-ful. On that (admittedly groan-worthy) note, happy solving!

Jeff Chen notes:
So many rare letters worked in so smoothly! J Q X Z are the crossworld's Big Four, and to have one each of J Q X plus six (!) Zs is ... read more

So many rare letters worked in so smoothly! J Q X Z are the crossworld's Big Four, and to have one each of J Q X plus six (!) Zs is fantastic. It doesn't come anywhere close to the record number of Zs – scads of themed and themelesses with more – but Trenton worked them in so beautifully, his grid showing none of the signs of strain that most puzzles on that list exhibit.

Such a wondrous north section, with a string of connected ZQZZZ. That could be a new name brand for a sleep product — ZQZZZQUIL, anyone?

As if that wasn't enough, the clues stood out; so entertaining:

  • Doughnut played upon as [Dough nut?] for MISER.
  • How charming, CAST A SPELL clue playing on "charming." I always wondered if Prince Charming was secretly a wizard.
  • Will knows that Jim's a concert pianist, so I wonder if the clue for PIANOS was a shout-out to him. Their players are often benched indeed – on a piano bench!
  • And my favorite, [It comes from Mars]. ETS? Cosmic rays? Men? Nope, the candy bar TWIX. That's MARS, the candy company, not the planet. Beautiful misdirect.

ALL THAT JAZZ and hardly any wastage in his 16 long slots? (Maybe LAST TO LEAVE is a bit dull, but what else?) Sometimes I have to mull over which puzzle strikes me best during any particular week. This was not one of those weeks. Such a tremendous pleasure to do a themeless as enjoyable as this one.

1
F
2
O
3
O
4
L
5
Z
6
E
7
B
8
R
9
A
10
F
11
I
12
N
13
C
14
H
15
E
D
N
A
16
A
Q
U
A
M
A
R
I
N
E
17
L
O
I
S
18
F
U
Z
Z
Y
N
A
V
E
L
19
T
R
O
T
20
T
A
Z
O
21
E
T
D
22
E
N
T
23
A
I
L
24
R
25
O
26
M
27
A
N
28
S
A
R
O
N
G
29
T
B
I
L
L
30
A
T
I
L
T
31
C
H
A
L
K
L
32
I
33
N
34
E
35
G
E
N
E
36
R
I
C
37
T
W
I
X
38
O
R
G
A
39
N
40
B
A
N
K
41
T
H
A
N
E
42
V
E
R
B
S
43
P
I
A
N
O
S
44
M
E
A
R
A
45
M
U
S
T
N
T
46
E
47
L
I
48
P
49
H
I
L
50
J
A
C
51
K
52
C
A
S
53
T
54
A
55
S
P
E
L
L
56
A
S
H
E
57
O
N
E
I
D
A
L
A
K
E
58
Z
E
K
E
59
N
A
R
C
O
L
E
P
S
Y
60
Z
E
A
L
© 2019, The New York TimesNo. 0726 ( 25,462 )
Across
1
Tarot card, with "the" : FOOL
5
Bird named for its black-and-white markings : ZEBRAFINCH
15
Eccentric fashion designer in "The Incredibles" : EDNA
16
Its deep blue variety is called maxixe : AQUAMARINE
17
Trixie's mom, in the comics : LOIS
18
Cocktail made from peach schnapps and orange juice : FUZZYNAVEL
19
Track event : TROT
20
Brand once marketed as "The Reincarnation of Tea" : TAZO
21
Gate announcement, briefly : ETD
22
Demand : ENTAIL
24
Kind of type : ROMAN
28
Island attire : SARONG
29
One maturing quickly, informally : TBILL
30
Skewed : ATILT
31
Erasable mark : CHALKLINE
35
Target of some therapy : GENE
36
Wrestler Flair : RIC
37
It comes from Mars : TWIX
38
Your heart may go out to it : ORGANBANK
41
Title for Macbeth : THANE
42
Rock and roll, e.g. : VERBS
43
Their players are often benched : PIANOS
44
Half of an old comedy duo : MEARA
45
Taboo word : MUSTNT
46
Ivy League nickname : ELI
48
One of the Everly Brothers : PHIL
50
Either of the two highest trump cards in euchre : JACK
52
Was charming? : CASTASPELL
56
Queens stadium eponym : ASHE
57
Body of water between two locks of the Erie Canal : ONEIDALAKE
58
The Big Bad Wolf, in old cartoons : ZEKE
59
Reason for going out a lot? : NARCOLEPSY
60
Fervor : ZEAL
Down
1
Pool surface : FELT
2
Sole supporter? : ODOREATER
3
Item sold at Burger King but not at most McDonald's : ONIONRING
4
Person tasked with locking up : LASTTOLEAVE
5
Full-figured : ZAFTIG
6
Peer : EQUAL
7
Hype : BUZZ
8
University of Arkansas mascot : RAZORBACK
9
One of the March sisters : AMY
10
Cooler : FAN
11
Portfolio part, for short : IRA
12
"Around the World in 80 Days" star, 1956 : NIVEN
13
Tech news source : CNET
14
Not free to go : HELD
23
Pismire : ANT
25
Rembrandt or Vermeer : OIL
26
"The fierce urgency of now" speaker, familiarly : MLK
27
So on and so forth : ALLTHATJAZZ
28
Starch-producing palm tree : SAGO
29
Oreo ___ : THINS
31
Small fruit high in pectin : CRABAPPLE
32
"Lemme look!" : IWANNASEE
33
1939 film banned in the Soviet Union : NINOTCHKA
34
Participants in some awkward meetings : EXES
39
Exhibition-funding grp. : NEA
40
"Man, it's cold!" : BRR
41
Quaint contraction : TIS
43
Part of a Rube Goldberg device : PULLEY
44
Dough nut? : MISER
45
Uses shamelessly : MILKS
46
M.B.A. prereq. : ECON
47
Singer ___ Del Rey : LANA
49
Crate : HEAP
51
Balance beam? : KEEL
53
Poker game tell, perhaps : TIC
54
Foofaraw : ADO
55
___ soda : SAL

Answer summary: 3 unique to this puzzle.

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