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New York Times, Friday, July 28, 2017

Author:
Robyn Weintraub
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
223/28/20116/21/20190
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02320123
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1.58000
Robyn Weintraub

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 70, Blocks: 31 Missing: {QXZ} This is puzzle # 12 for Ms. Weintraub. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Robyn Weintraub notes:
Ok, Jeff, I know what you're going to say: look at that big ugly diagonal thing sitting in the middle of the puzzle. I know, I ... read more

Ok, Jeff, I know what you're going to say: look at that big ugly diagonal thing sitting in the middle of the puzzle. I know, I know— but in my defense I didn't realize it was an issue until you pointed it out in one of my puzzles last December. This grid, and my previous offending grids were already submitted before I knew better. But I assure you that now when I create a puzzle, I have a little invisible Jeff Chen sitting on my shoulder, reminding me to avoid dividing grids in half. I also strive for grids with 14 eight-letter words or more, another strategy I learned from you. Those two guidelines have definitely made my puzzles stronger, and I have you to thank. So… thank you Jeff!

As for commentary on this particular puzzle, not much to say, other than I'm glad I finally snuck BETTE in the grid, which is my mom's name. My mother has been solving the NY Times crossword for more than 60 years, and even though I began solving (and constructing) relatively recently, the Times puzzle has always been part of my world thanks to her. So this one's for you, mama bear!

Jeff Chen notes:
Robyn has seeded her themelesses with material that has resonated so strongly with me. First it was SMARTY PANTS over MADE YOU LOOK, ... read more

Robyn has seeded her themelesses with material that has resonated so strongly with me. First it was SMARTY PANTS over MADE YOU LOOK, then JEDI MASTER over MIRACLE MAX, then a TRACTOR BEAM / STARGAZER combo, and finally she asked me to RIDE SHOTGUN while I was supposed to KEEP TALKING. She's got a knack for hitting my wavelength.

Today, DO I HAVE TO did it for this parent of two toddlers. (When does this phase end, BTW?) As a huge fan of "The Godfather," CORLEONE was good too, although DON CORLEONE or VITO CORLEONE would have been so much more colorful.

RUN A FEVER usually would be neutral for me, but what great wordplay, playing on a literal "hot body." Elevated it to an asset in my book.

Ha, Robyn got me! Yup, those narrow little passageways in the NE and SW corners ... why do I keep pointing these out? I am annoyingly OCD, granted. But a solver, I don't like these, since they create an impression of two separate mini-puzzles rather than one full solving experience. And as a constructor, they feel like too much of a crutch to rely on — once you fix LEWIS and LYMPH into place, you can work on each half independently.

I struggle with this issue. On the one hand, segmentation like this sometimes allows for an incredibly beautiful or fun half-puzzle — it's so much easier to construct half a puzzle vs. having to account for how one half affects the other. And some solvers may never notice the choking down of puzzle feng shui.

But for me personally, both as a solver and a constructor, it's so important for themelesses to feel wide-open — that's part of the magic of a themeless. I would have loved to see what costs Robyn had to pay to take out the black cheater square below DROPS and above POISE, for instance. Funny how much that would have opened up the entire puzzle.

With not as many fantastic feature entries as in her previous themelesses, and with ESTE, AMO, the obsolete ICHAT, ILE, STET, ILO, UNI — way too much, especially given that it's a 70-word puzzle — it's not my favorite of Robyn's themelesses. But I continue to look forward to her byline on the weekends. She has such a talent for delighting me with her seed entries.

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© 2017, The New York TimesNo. 0728 ( 24,734 )

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Across
1
Award for "Hairspray" but not "Hair" : BESTMUSICAL
12
Some party hirees : DJS
15
Famous 1980s movie quote : ETPHONEHOME
16
Breakfast morsel : OAT
17
XXX, for example : THREEINAROW
18
Land in la mer : ILE
19
A goner : TOAST
20
Platform locale: Abbr. : STA
21
Texting app that was so 2012 : ICHAT
23
Tequila sunrise direction : ESTE
24
"Ten ___ Commandments" (song from "Hamilton") : DUEL
25
Response to an affront : SLAP
26
Parisian crowd? : TROIS
27
Burl who sang about Rudolph : IVES
29
Evidence of a change of mind : CROSSOUT
33
Grooms : PREENS
35
Lug nut hiders : HUBCAPS
36
Have as emergency backup, say : COUNTON
37
Crosses the threshold : ENTERS
38
Dispute settler, maybe : COINTOSS
39
Caution : WARN
40
Like some myths : NORSE
41
Fire's need : FUEL
43
___ Decor (Hearst magazine) : ELLE
44
Alternatives to lumps: Abbr. : TSPS
48
Like some divorces : MESSY
49
"O, ___ the day!" (exclamation from Miranda in "The Tempest") : WOE
50
Intimate : GETAT
51
Lead-in to duct : OVI
52
Oversee to a fault : MICROMANAGE
55
Home of Paradise: Abbr. : NEV
56
Bluntly honest : PLAINSPOKEN
57
Rock band? : ORE
58
Dangerous situation : HORNETSNEST
Down
1
The Divine Miss M : BETTE
2
Guiding beliefs of a people : ETHOS
3
Jack ___ : SPRAT
4
"___ Colors Don't Run" (flag maxim) : THESE
5
Big name in Champagne : MOET
6
College, in British lingo : UNI
7
Aesthetically pleasing : SENSUOUS
8
"Big thumbs-down!" : IHATEIT
9
Some lipstick shades : CORALS
10
Word from a Latin lover : AMO
11
Lamb Chop puppeteer : LEWIS
12
Question from the unwilling : DOIHAVETO
13
Sriracha ingredients : JALAPENOS
14
Reversal of a 29-Across : STET
22
Lawyer's need : CLIENT
24
Roller coaster features : DROPS
26
Bolshevik's target : TSAR
28
Figs. in a 3-2-4 format : SSNS
29
Muse (on) : CHEW
30
Have a hot body : RUNAFEVER
31
Meddling : OBTRUSIVE
32
Dramatic parts : SCENES
33
Aplomb : POISE
34
It may be carved in stone : RUNE
36
Coppola film family name : CORLEONE
38
Fill with crayons : COLORIN
40
Big showcase prize on "The Price Is Right" : NEWCAR
42
Body fluid : LYMPH
44
Dovetail component : TENON
45
Support for a garden plant : STAKE
46
House aides : PAGES
47
Vessel opener : STENT
48
Little bit of MSG? : MONO
50
Breaches : GAPS
53
U.N. worker protection grp. : ILO
54
Tucson hrs. : MST

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

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