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New York Times, Saturday, July 29, 2017

Author:
Erik Agard
Editor:
Will Shortz
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3011/6/201212/15/201812
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Erik Agard

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 66, Blocks: 29 Missing: {JQX} Spans: 2 This is puzzle # 7 for Mr. Agard. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Erik Agard notes:
Thanks for having me back so soon - I wasn't sure if I'd be allowed back at all after my last puzzle for the Gray Lady, which I hear ... read more

Thanks for having me back so soon - I wasn't sure if I'd be allowed back at all after my last puzzle for the Gray Lady, which I hear was raisin' quite the controversy.

Anyway, there's way more "I'm not convinced anyone has ever said this in real life ever" answers than I'd like in this grid: EFTS? CUTELY? VENALLY? DEADEST? TWEEST? Get outta here. Not wild about AVES or MCI, either. Otherwise, I like it. The editing team did a great job dialing up the clues.

"Girls Trip", which takes place at Essence Fest, is currently in theaters, so 16-Across (one of my seed entries for the puzzle) feels timelyish.

Jeff Chen notes:
I indeed felt SPENT after finishing this puzzle — I'm curious to find out whose clue that was! Some great feature entries, ... read more

I indeed felt SPENT after finishing this puzzle — I'm curious to find out whose clue that was! Some great feature entries, ESSENCE MAGAZINE with its clue about "Dynamite Afros" (Erik has been known to sport a dynamite Afro!), with EASY MONEY stacked onto top. DISCO BALL also shone (pun intended), even more so given its fantastic clue, [One lighting up the dance floor].

I love Erik's website themelesses, as he's one of the best constructors out there in terms of writing devilishly fantastic clues.

LOZENGES was a perfect example of Agardian cluing. By itself, LOZENGES is not something I'd count as a puzzle asset. But [Hackers' helpers] had me thinking about decoding, encryption schema, password crackers. Great a-ha moment when I realized that "hackers" meant "people that hack." Cough cough.

Erik is much younger and hipper than me, so I do struggle with some of his entries and clues. CAN I LIVE was foreign to me, and I haven't heard anyone say NO BIG. Then again, I play bridge and do crosswords, so I tend to hang out with people who still cling to the 20th century.

ASAPROCKY was another mystery. It took every crossing to figure out — thank goodness each one felt fair! For fun, I tried to guess what the guy's (woman's?) name really was before looking it up. Sadly, my best guess was Asa Procky, followed by As a Procky. ASAP ROCKY is a pretty catchy name, but boy is it tough to suss out.

Unusual to see a Maleskan EFTS in an Agard themeless, but it is a dictionary supported word. Otherwise, strong craftsmanship in putting this grid together. Those big SW / NE corners are so tough to feel cleanly and snazzily, especially with grid spanning entries running through them.

I like when a constructor's vibe and personal interests show through in a puzzle. This one didn't resonate with me, but that's not a surprise given how different my interests are from Erik's. I'm curious to hear how younger people reacted to this one.

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© 2017, The New York TimesNo. 0729 ( 24,735 )

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Students & seniors
Across
1. Heating system network : DUCTS
6. "Jeez, why don't you just mind your own business?!" : CANILIVE
14. Floored : INAWE
15. Gain with little effort : EASYMONEY
16. Its first cover, in 1970, said "Dynamite Afros" : ESSENCEMAGAZINE
18. "Rests one's eyes" : TAKESANAP
19. Grammy category : METAL
20. Class of fliers? : AVES
21. Fragrant biblical gift : MYRRH
23. It passes Luxor Temple : NILE
24. 1984 Summer Olympics star : RETTON
26. Setting after resetting : OOO
27. Ayn Rand hero : GALT
28. Players rush for them: Abbr. : YDS
29. Amalgamate : WED
31. In a darling way : CUTELY
33. Fuzzy food : KIWI
34. First name on "Keeping Up With the Kardashians" : KRIS
35. Pair on a table at a nice restaurant : CRUETS
37. Orange side : YAM
38. Stuff "tested" in the 1960s' Acid Tests : LSD
41. "Close one!" : PHEW
42. When Supreme Court sessions start: Abbr. : OCT
44. Overturn : NEGATE
46. European capital : RIGA
47. "Don't worry about it," slangily : NOBIG
49. Octavia's "others" : ALIA
50. Trap during a ski trip, say : ICEIN
52. Sunset, e.g. : BOULEVARD
54. Basketball tactic : MANTOMANDEFENSE
56. Rings : ENCIRCLES
57. ___-Carthage International Airport : TUNIS
58. Eschews overnight shipping? : DAYSAILS
59. How you might feel after finishing this puzzle : SPENT
Down
1. Like some religious laws : DIETARY
2. Not backed up : UNSAVED
3. Haunted house sights : CASKETS
4. Most affectedly dainty, to a Brit : TWEEST
5. Political century: Abbr. : SENS
6. Firebird alternative : CAMARO
7. Rapper with a role in the 2015 film "Dope" : ASAPROCKY
8. Eli Manning's team, on scoreboards : NYG
9. Certain congregation leader : IMAM
10. Hackers' helpers : LOZENGES
11. C. S. Lewis piece? : INITIAL
12. Through bribery : VENALLY
13. Hole near a tongue : EYELET
15. Recess rhyme starter : EENY
17. 2015 N.F.L. M.V.P. : CAMNEWTON
22. Measurement in a celestial coordinate system : HOURANGLE
25. Boo-boo : OWIE
30. One lighting up the dance floor : DISCOBALL
32. It can crawl or fly, but not walk : TIME
33. Dinar spenders : KUWAITIS
35. Selena Gomez or Eva Longoria, e.g. : CHICANA
36. Hyatt hotel line : REGENCY
38. Fitness legend Jack : LALANNE
39. Adds to the pot : STIRSIN
40. Least happening : DEADEST
41. Ready : PRIMED
43. Crashes into, in a way : TBONES
45. Parted with : GAVEUP
48. Family planning options, briefly : IUDS
51. Roberts of romance : NORA
53. Pond juveniles : EFTS
55. Verizon purchase of 2006 : MCI

Answer summary: 11 unique to this puzzle, 1 debuted here and reused later, 5 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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