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New York Times, Friday, July 6, 2018

Author:
Robyn Weintraub
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
183/28/201111/9/20180
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02320101
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1.58000
Robyn Weintraub

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 70, Blocks: 32 Missing: {FQXZ} Spans: 2 This is puzzle # 15 for Ms. Weintraub. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Robyn Weintraub notes:
Today's puzzle, a mini-themed Friday, came about purely by chance. I set up a random grid with two intersecting 15s, a departure from ... read more

Today's puzzle, a mini-themed Friday, came about purely by chance. I set up a random grid with two intersecting 15s, a departure from my usual layouts. I then spent many days in search of the perfect phrases to populate the two 15s. I rarely begin with ‘seed entries'; I just prefer to create a blank grid and see what develops.

I had fiddled with MEET IN THE MIDDLE early in my search and didn't love it. Although I thought it was cute that it ran across the middle of the grid, that by itself wasn't enough to warrant my keeping it. It was significantly later that I stumbled across RACE TO THE BOTTOM running from top to bottom, and miraculously, it interlocked with MEET IN THE MIDDLE! I did a little happy dance, thanked the crossword gods for their assistance and then proceeded to work on the other 68 words in the grid.

Jeff Chen notes:
I do so many themeless puzzles that getting a mini-theme to help one stand out is a real treat. I loved Robyn's usage of RACE TO THE ... read more

I do so many themeless puzzles that getting a mini-theme to help one stand out is a real treat. I loved Robyn's usage of RACE TO THE BOTTOM — heading downward — meeting MEET IN THE MIDDLE ... in the middle of the grid! Two great phrases anchoring the puzzle in such a fun way.

Robyn's entertaining voice is so clear in her themelesses. Today, SPITTAKE with its fantastic clue – an ironic reaction to dry humor, indeed! – was a standout. UMPTEENTH and JUST KIDDING also did it for me. SWEETTALK too!

Now that Robyn's won several of my POW!s, I have high expectations of her. Granted, the two long interlocking 15-letter entries are a serious constraint to work around, but I wanted more out of the long slots, INTERLACE and VOCATIONS in particular. REASONING had an interesting clue, relating to the Supreme Court, but it also didn't do much for me. Nor did TRENDIER.

And for a 70-word puzzle, there's way too much crossword glue holding it together. I was worried when I hit LINO and ESTD right off the bat, and ESE NOB OTO IAMSO SVU ETE … it wasn't Robyn's smoothest effort.

As much as I like mini-themes – and I thought Robyn's mini-theme was incredibly fun – interlocking two 15's like this is a serious constraint that can put a huge damper on the rest of the puzzle. I think trying to work some long stuff in the middle – SWEETTALK and REASONING – exacerbated the problem. I do like the wide-open feel of the grid, but perhaps more segmentation would have allowed for a smoother overall product.

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© 2018, The New York TimesNo. 0706 ( 25,077 )
Across
1. Ruler who died in 30 B.C. : CLEOPATRA
10. Panic button : EJECT
15. Ticket request : AISLESEAT
16. Alice with a Nobel Prize in Literature : MUNRO
17. Weave : INTERLACE
18. Co-star of Wood in "The Lord of the Rings" : ASTIN
19. Land of ___ (where 1-Down lived) : NOD
20. Legal conclusion? : ESE
21. Doesn't get involved : SITSBY
22. Cajolery : SWEETTALK
25. One of two polar opposites : ICECAP
28. Standard product, once : OIL
29. "___ It Time" (1977 hit for the Babys) : ISNT
33. Unlikely Top 40 songs : ARIAS
34. More au courant : TRENDIER
36. Find common ground : MEETINTHEMIDDLE
39. Ironic reaction to dry humor? : SPITTAKE
40. Has a great night at the comedy club : KILLS
41. Tribe encountered by Lewis and Clark : OTOE
42. One of the jacks in cribbage : NOB
43. Dearies : HONEYS
44. Much of the text of a Supreme Court decision : REASONING
47. Big gaps : CHASMS
50. Hawaiian souvenir : TAN
51. Floppy disk creator : IBM
54. River of forgetfulness, in myth : LETHE
55. Image on the Maine or South Carolina flag : STATETREE
58. Some "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" costumes : ARMOR
59. Trades : VOCATIONS
60. Pallid and unhealthy in appearance : PASTY
61. Sizable ordinal : UMPTEENTH
Down
1. Problematic firstborn : CAIN
2. Lead-in to type : LINO
3. Abbr. on a city boundary sign : ESTD
4. Pamplona plaudit : OLE
5. / : PER
6. Out : ASLEEP
7. Rib : TEASE
8. Competition that hurts everyone : RACETOTHEBOTTOM
9. Got into a pickle? : ATE
10. Some WikiLeaks leaks : EMAIL
11. Words after "Ha, ha" : JUSTKIDDING
12. Drs. that see head cases : ENTS
13. Home, in slang : CRIB
14. Orlando, in the music world : TONY
21. State capital that was a boyhood home of Herbert Hoover : SALEM
22. Lacking focus : SCATTERSHOT
23. "You sure about that?" : WASIT
24. Weary : TIRE
25. Kid's proud retort : IAMSO
26. Moved furtively : CREPT
27. Letters sung as mi, mi, re, re, do : EIEIO
30. Move furtively : SIDLE
31. Nervous ___ : NELLY
32. Lock : TRESS
35. Olympus rival : NIKON
37. Pram pushers, perhaps : NANAS
38. Ring data : TKOS
43. Intimate : HINTAT
45. ___ board : EMERY
46. Civil rights org. since 1909 : NAACP
47. Thunderous sound : CLAP
48. Goddess of marriage : HERA
49. Some bill collectors : ATMS
51. Decrease? : IRON
52. Like lop ears : BENT
53. Go well (with) : MESH
55. Long-running drama set in N.Y.C., informally : SVU
56. When la Bastille was stormed : ETE
57. Word with black or blood : TIE

Answer summary: 3 unique to this puzzle, 1 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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