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New York Times, Thursday, July 5, 2018

Author:
Randolph Ross
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
1105/12/19911/27/20190
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
49103151824
ScrabRebusCirclePangramPre‑WS
1.476002
Randolph Ross

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 76, Blocks: 35 Missing: {JQXZ} This is puzzle # 107 for Mr. Ross. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Randolph Ross notes:
The idea for this puzzle was inspired when Donald Trump made the unfounded charges that he was being wiretapped by President Obama at ... read more

The idea for this puzzle was inspired when Donald Trump made the unfounded charges that he was being wiretapped by President Obama at Trump Tower. It got me to thinking what government agencies might go undercover to listen in on our conversations. Four came to mind: FBI, DEA, NSA, and CIA. Since each of these three-letter agencies hide themselves I thought I could hide them in a crossword and "wiretap" the puzzle solver.

Of course, with NY Times solvers being as smart as they are, they would figure who was spying on them as soon as the theme clicked in. I provided a "helper" by including the entry WIRETAP in the lower right of the puzzle (this clearly made the puzzle easier to solve — I wonder if most solvers want that kind of help or not).

Rebus puzzles with multiple unique rebuses are more challenging to solve than ones with the same rebus throughout. It's nice when you can connect them with a theme, especially one that is also related to how they appear "undercover" in the grid.

The entry ILL LIVE, which is making its debut in the NY Times, came to mind when my grandson banged his knee and went into full histrionics. I said to him "Don't worry, you'll live."

Have a great summer.

Jeff Chen notes:
Secretive orgs rebusized … WIRETAPped? It's fun to see those rebus bugs planted into the grid, but I didn't get why WIRETAP ... read more

Secretive orgs rebusized … WIRETAPped? It's fun to see those rebus bugs planted into the grid, but I didn't get why WIRETAP would mean that those trigrams would be shoved into a single box.

Still, it was fun to uncover the four special boxes. Great find in DATE OF BIRTH – which felt quasi-semi-sorta-kinda-theme-related! (Something that a secretive org might secretly record?) Not easy to work with the *FBI* string of letters, and this is the way to do it.

BAY OF BISCAY wasn't as interesting to me, personally. If this weren't the NYT, I'd be intrigued to see SONS OF BITCHES — no commentary on the FBI, please don't wiretap me! — but perhaps PAIR OF BINOCULARS or WAD OF BILLS?

MARCIA CLARK also didn't resonate with me. I remember watching the Trial of the Century, and of course, I remember Johnny Cochran. Brilliant self-promoter. The lead prosecutor though … sadly, fewer people remember the loser. Or were we all losers in that one? I'd have preferred maybe SOCIAL WORKER or ARTIFICIAL KNEE.

Don't get me wrong, I think BAY OF BISCAY and MARCIA CLARK are both crossworthy. But unless the name is uber-famous, known by almost anyone, I prefer theme phrases that have more universal appeal.

It's tough to achieve long rebus entries in both directions, so props to Randy for crossings like MADE A SCENE / ART DEALER. Beautiful stuff! Also beautiful: DNA TEST, ALI BABA, ILL LIVE. That kind of bonus fill sparkles up a grid.

Not so sparkly: SNEERY. THE MOST? And I gave the side-eye to GLAD EYE. I don't mind one or even two of these in a grid, but all of them left me with an unready discomfort.

It's tough. With so many constraints, Randy had to make some trade-offs. On the plus side, he did well to keep the short crossword glue limited to ALERO, SMEE, RANDD (curiously similar to RANDY!). So although some of that mid-length fill did leave me sneery, I thought he struck a decent balance in grid fill.

Something interesting about those secretive orgs rebusized. WIRETAP didn't serve me up a sharp a-ha moment, but the solving experience was still entertaining.

1
A
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N
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D
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R
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A
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B
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NSA
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A
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B
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FBI
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C
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M
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U
B
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W
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M
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D
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H
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E
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CIA
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K
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C
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M
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DEA
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Y
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P
S
T
© 2018, The New York TimesNo. 0705 ( 25,076 )
Across
1
Director Lee : ANG
4
Humdrum : DRAB
8
World's largest peninsula : ARABIA
14
Response to a good meme, maybe : LOL
15
Many a staffer : AIDE
16
"She" went through a huge breakup in 1984 : MABELL
17
Hells Canyon locale: Abbr. : IDA
18
Stooge : TOOL
19
Low draw : ONEALL
20
Something good to be under : BUDGET
22
Spring event at a nursery : GARDENSALE
24
Successor to the Cutlass : ALERO
25
Intended : AIMED
26
Wee wee? : LIL
27
Outlet for the Loire : BAYOFBISCAY
29
Give in : CAVE
30
Live and breathe : ARE
31
This pulls a bit : REIN
32
Ways : MODES
33
Not much : ATAD
34
Figure in Milton's "Paradise Lost" : ADAM
36
Give a zero-star review : TRASH
39
Ride provider : UBER
40
Subj. of arms talks : WMD
43
___ de combat (out of action due to injury) : HORS
44
Clear speaking : ENUNCIATION
46
Chest thumper, for short? : EMT
47
Clothing portmanteau : SKORT
49
Map of México, e.g. : CARTA
50
Fought in public : MADEASCENE
52
Even though : ALBEIT
53
J. R. Ewing, e.g. : OILMAN
54
Heroine of Tennessee Williams's "Summer and Smoke" : ALMA
56
Corn site : TOE
57
Derisive : SNEERY
58
A couple of bucks? : DEER
59
T or F, frequently: Abbr. : ANS
60
Weatherspoon of the W.N.B.A. : TERESA
61
Big jerk : YANK
62
Wash. setting, in the winter : PST
Down
1
Poor woodcutter of folklore : ALIBABA
2
Lumpy : NODULAR
3
Pleasant glance : GLADEYE
4
Driver's license information : DATEOFBIRTH
5
Hoot : RIOT
6
Flap : ADO
7
Hercule Poirot, e.g. : BELGIAN
8
Subject of an Italian aria : AMORE
9
Big Pharma expense : RANDD
10
"... sting like ___" : ABEE
11
Protein-rich picnic dish : BEANSALAD
12
"It doesn't hurt that bad" : ILLLIVE
13
Gene mutation results : ALLELES
21
Miracle-___ : GRO
23
Frank Loesser's "Once in Love With ___" : AMY
25
Tart : ACID
28
Rhyme for "thee" in "America the Beautiful" : SEA
29
It may follow a dot : COM
32
Lead prosecutor in the O. J. Simpson case : MARCIACLARK
33
Stubborn one : ASS
34
Be against : ABUT
35
Animal house : DEN
36
Maximally : THEMOST
37
Iceberg's cousin : ROMAINE
38
Gallery owner : ARTDEALER
39
Still packing, say : UNREADY
40
What the four undercover orgs. in this puzzle might do : WIRETAP
41
Things that are voted on : MOTIONS
42
Means of identification : DNATEST
44
Long, long time : EON
45
Early diet drink : TAB
47
Some cuts, later : SCARS
48
Neighbor of South Sudan : KENYA
51
Jolly Roger pirate : SMEE
52
Grace period? : AMEN
55
Rural expanse : LEA

Answer summary: 5 unique to this puzzle, 2 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

Found bugs or have suggestions?