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New York Times, Thursday, July 3, 2014

Author:
Luke Vaughn
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
27/3/201412/30/20180
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
1000100
RebusCirclePangram
101
Luke Vaughn

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 80, Blocks: 42 Missing: {JKQZ} This is the debut puzzle for Mr. Vaughn. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Luke Vaughn notes:
Very proud to make my debut today! When I thought of this theme I instantly loved it (I still do) and I'm glad Will liked it enough to ... read more

Very proud to make my debut today! When I thought of this theme I instantly loved it (I still do) and I'm glad Will liked it enough to accept the puzzle despite it having 80 words and a couple sections of not-great fill. I don't like ESSENES next to NOOSES any more than the next guy (especially crossed by DSO and ONONE), but I'm somewhat okay with it because (a) I was unable to make it work with anything better; (b) I liked my clue for NOOSES; and (c) somewhere, someone is trying to cram [ASH]KENAZI into 50D.

The biggest change to my clues that Will made was taking out a lot of that sort of one-dimensional misdirection. For example, my clue for SL[ASH] was "Guns N' Roses rocker," for which the obvious answer is the 3-letter AXL. In one revision I had that at 59A and had [ASH]LEE at 60D with the clue "A Simpson sister," which would of course make the solver confidently enter the 4-letter LISA, reinforcing the incorrect L. I think that kind of misdirection is fun, but once the solver has grokked the theme, those clues might fall flat. My favorite clue that didn't make it — my favorite clue in my entire original submission, actually — was "Headed for the beach" for 62A (WASHING ASHORE). My favorite clues that did make it were 36A (PAR) and 42D (LOO).

My first passion is running, so I was happy that BOLT retained its Usain definition rather than being clued as the verb, and I was VERY happy (and surprised) that [ASH]TON was kept as Eaton (who lives in the same city as me) rather than Kutcher. I was also glad that RON's clue referenced Arrested Development, my favorite TV show.

Overall I'm not too [ASH]AMED of the final product since it's my debut. I hope to make a few more NYT-worthy puzzles and I'm sure the quality will improve with each one.

Jeff Chen notes:
What a neat idea! Congrats on the debut, Luke. When I got to that central entry, I smugly sat back. And entered MOUNT RAINIER. So what ... read more

What a neat idea! Congrats on the debut, Luke. When I got to that central entry, I smugly sat back. And entered MOUNT RAINIER. So what if it didn't fit? There had to be some rebus-y shenanigans, right? Some Seattle-ite I am. I wasn't aware that MT ST HELENS spread ASH into 11 different states — fun to learn!

As with any established theme type, it's important to do something new, something different, or at least incorporate snappy themers which add zing. Art must evolve or it dies. And I like what Luke has done here. Instead of just saying "Why don't I do a rebus with ASH squares?" he uses that fact about spreading ASH into 11 different states as a rationale. I like that step to go above and beyond. It would have been really cool if the eleven states had been incorporated somehow. Perhaps if 1A had been something like (WA)LTER and 1D (ASH)CROFT — a two-way rebus? Those extra layers are tough to incorporate, but how cool would that have been?

The grid did feel a bit restricted to me, so it wasn't a surprise to find out it was an 80-worder. I didn't mind that so much since there were still a lot of long answers, but the abundance of three-letter answers (25) did make it feel a bit choppy for me. Will typically doesn't allow more than 22-ish three-letter words in a puzzle, and for good reason. Each three-letter word typically has been used so much that it's tough to come up with strong clues for them (that haven't been used before). And to me, so much short stuff brings a feeling of inelegance, both by making a puzzle look constricted and producing a choppy solve where you have to switch from word to word more quickly. Subjective, of course.

A couple of rough spots, not surprising given the 13-letter central answer plus eleven instances of ASH. Even six-ish rebus squares can be difficult, so having eleven is quite the challenge, especially when you consider you can't duplicated answers (if you have ASHEN, you can't use ASHES). The NW and SE corners are where I'd expect to see some difficulty (considering they're the biggest chunks of open white space), and there are some chunky bits. By fixing ASHCROFT, ASHAMED, and TEXAS HOLD EM (great entry!) into place, you've constrained three sides of that subspace. Tough to fill cleanly from there, and OON / FLIC / AREOLE are not a great trio. I wonder if moving that first ASH square to the start of 5D would have been better (ASHRAM, A SHARP, etc.)? Leaving that long 1D unconstrained might have given better flexibility in filling that tough region.

Finally, some great clues. Luke's already pointed out the clever clue for NOOSES and LOO — bravo, sir! I also liked the one for EVEL, which had me thinking about Olympic long jumping.

Congrats again, and I hope to see more from Luke! BTW, Will recently put out a note that he's in greatest need of Sunday-size puzzles and non-rebus Thursdays.

1
ASH
2
A
3
M
4
E
5
D
6
A
7
R
8
C
9
S
10
M
11
S
12
G
13
S
14
C
R
A
V
E
15
B
O
L
T
16
O
P
E
L
17
R
E
N
E
E
18
O
N
ASH
O
19
R
T
L
E
ASH
20
O
O
N
21
P
22
D
A
23
R
E
H
ASH
24
F
L
I
25
C
26
E
R
27
R
28
M
O
S
D
29
E
30
F
31
T
E
X
ASH
32
O
L
D
E
33
M
34
O
R
O
35
O
W
E
36
P
A
37
R
38
T
W
I
X
39
M
40
O
U
N
T
41
S
T
H
E
42
L
E
N
S
43
W
E
P
T
44
E
M
I
45
L
O
L
46
E
T
A
47
ASH
L
48
E
Y
O
L
49
S
50
E
51
N
52
T
H
R
53
ASH
54
E
55
S
56
E
N
O
57
S
O
S
O
58
T
A
R
T
59
G
N
60
ASH
61
D
S
O
62
W
63
ASH
I
N
G
ASH
64
O
65
R
E
66
T
67
R
ASH
E
S
68
V
E
S
T
69
E
V
E
L
70
O
N
O
N
E
71
A
N
T
I
72
D
A
D
S
73
N
A
P
E
S
© 2014, The New York TimesNo. 0703 ( 23,613 )
Across
1
Sheepish : ASHAMED
6
Compass drawings : ARCS
10
Secretaries may collect them: Abbr. : MSGS
14
Jones for : CRAVE
15
Aptly named Olympics star : BOLT
16
Maker of the Insignia : OPEL
17
Woman's name with an accent : RENEE
18
Under tight control : ONASHORTLEASH
20
Suffix with bass : OON
21
Purse or pocket item, briefly : PDA
23
Go over and over : REHASH
24
French cop : FLIC
26
Go off : ERR
28
Half of hip-hop's Black Star : MOSDEF
31
Game in 2006's "Casino Royale" : TEXASHOLDEM
34
Treasure of the Sierra Madre : ORO
35
Must give : OWE
36
It's not unusual : PAR
38
"Two for me. None for you" candy : TWIX
39
It left parts of itself in 11 states in 1980 : MOUNTSTHELENS
43
Had pity (for) : WEPT
44
One of the music industry's former Big Four : EMI
45
[Ha!] : LOL
46
Info for an airport car service, briefly : ETA
47
"It Takes Two" co-star : ASHLEYOLSEN
52
Licks : THRASHES
56
"Here Come the Warm Jets" musician : ENO
57
All right : SOSO
58
Like limeade : TART
59
Grind : GNASH
61
Brit. military decoration : DSO
62
Like seashells at high tide : WASHINGASHORE
66
Bad-mouths : TRASHES
68
Three-piece piece : VEST
69
First name in long jumping : EVEL
70
Two ___ (double-teaming situation) : ONONE
71
Pro competitor : ANTI
72
Pops : DADS
73
What locks may cover : NAPES
Down
1
Early 2000s attorney general : ASHCROFT
2
Anatomical ring : AREOLE
3
Detective of 1960s-'70s TV : MANNIX
4
Female rapper with the 2002 hit "Gangsta Lovin'" : EVE
5
Thought-provoking : DEEP
6
On : ABOARD
7
Howard who narrated "Arrested Development" : RON
8
Not go together at all : CLASH
9
Attack en masse : STORM
10
Ones woolgathering? : MOTHS
11
Landing for many an Apollo mission : SPLASHDOWN
12
"Who'da thunk it?!" : GEE
13
/ : SLASH
19
U.S. truck maker until the early '50s : REO
22
X : DELETE
25
Leave the casino, say : CASHOUT
27
Cold-blooded sort : REPTILE
29
Dwarf planet beyond Pluto : ERIS
30
Hottie : FOX
32
Keep : OWN
33
Start of a tile game : MAH
37
Need for support : RELYON
38
Enlightens : TELLS
39
Kind of lab : METH
40
Illusion creator : OPARTIST
41
Chart-topper : SMASH
42
Throne room at Buckingham Palace : LOO
43
Like April, typically : WET
48
Co-author of "The Communist Manifesto" : ENGELS
49
Place to get a malted : SODASHOP
50
Early Semite : ESSENE
51
Deadly constrictors : NOOSES
53
One-named singer with the 2003 hit "Rock Wit U (Awww Baby)" : ASHANTI
54
Fraction of a watt-hour : ERG
55
Hidden (away) : STASHED
60
Olympic decathlon gold medalist ___ Eaton : ASHTON
62
Home of Marshall Univ. : WVA
63
Colorless : ASHEN
64
Eggs : OVA
65
Sunburned : RED
67
Code carrier, sometimes : RNA

Answer summary: 5 unique to this puzzle, 1 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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