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New York Times, Thursday, July 7, 2016

Author:
Joel Elkins and Andrea Carla Michaels
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutCollabs
17/7/20161
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
0000100
RebusCirclePangram
100
Joel Elkins
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
666/12/20009/23/201937
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
74692200
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.63217
Andrea Carla Michaels

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 74, Blocks: 40 Missing: {JQXZ} This is the debut puzzle for Mr. Elkins. This is puzzle # 53 for Ms. Michaels. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Constructor notes:
JOEL: Andrea (the 'Queen of Mondays') and I know each other from LA Scrabble before she moved to NoCal. At the California Open in SF ... read more

JOEL: Andrea (the "Queen of Mondays") and I know each other from LA Scrabble before she moved to NoCal. At the California Open in SF in late 2014 she was mentioning to me that despite her many published puzzles, she wouldn't know how to even begin constructing a rebus. Somehow the idea of "TSA" came up and I told her I'd take a stab at doing a grid.

I sent her about 30 potential theme answers, of which she told me which ones she really liked (PATSAJAK, MORTSAHL, LIGHTSABER, YOUDONTSAY, WARTSANDALL, THATSAMORE). I liked "CROSS_CHECK" for the reveal, and she preferred "CHECKPOINTS". I deferred, and in retrospect, I think that was the better choice. We obviously couldn't get in everything we wanted (sorry, Pat), but I tried to get in most. We worked on the fill and cluing over a few dozen emails.

I have never had a puzzle published before (other than some I did for a throw-away years ago) and so I am thrilled to be able to check this off my bucket list. And in the NYT to boot! (Sort of like debuting on Broadway!) Only need about 50 more to catch up to Andrea...

ACME: Joel is a brilliant Scrabble player, a natural puzzle constructor, and a fun collaborator. It's his debut ... and a mini-one for me as I've never even been a part of a rebus. I loved this, WARTSANDALL! It's also my first puzzle in the NYT this year, and a Thursday no less! Wha?!

In re-solving it 18 months later, I recognized almost nothing, so it's been heavily edited or I've lost my memory. Perhaps a bit of both!

(Actually I found the original submission... grid totally intact, 1/3 of clues edited. I believe I came up with the original TSA for the rebus. Joel dug up at least 30 theme possibilities, which we whittled down to 8 and added the reveal. Joel built the grid where we put in 8s where the rebuses were to go.)

During the many iterations to smooth out the fill, we added the square in the upper NE and lower SW, and that did wonders.

Touches that mean something to me personally include: ELYSE (which is my sister's name), MORTSAHL, a role model when I began my career as a topical quasi-political standup back in the day (he got his start and is still going strong here in SF), and the ATTITUDE / Miley Cyrus clue that we didn't write, but I totally approve of!

Jeff Chen notes:
Congrats on the debut, Joel! TSA rebus, with CHECKPOINTS helping to describe the idea. Some really nice phrases hiding TSA: THAT'S ... read more

Congrats on the debut, Joel!

TSA rebus, with CHECKPOINTS helping to describe the idea. Some really nice phrases hiding TSA: THAT'S AMORE, LIGHTSABERS, WARTS AND ALL, YOU DON'T SAY. All four are ones I'd happily seed a themeless corner with — very well done. I also liked the crossing answers. MORT SAHL, SET SAIL aren't super exciting to me, but Joel and Acme could have easily resorted to neutral material like GETS AT.

My favorite rebuses are ones where there's a strong rationale why letters should be crammed into one box. CHECKPOINTS doesn't totally do that. "Points" does hint at a single box, but it would have been so nice to get something referencing how cramped and crammed those TSA checkpoints always are.

That central area is so choked-off from the rest of the puzzle. It makes constructing easier, since you can section off smaller areas and work on them independently, but it makes for not very good grid flow as a solver. Today however, it gave me an idea — how cool would it have been if those TSA CHECKPOINTS had been at the four squares choking off the middle! Something like the I of MOTIVE, the O of CONTRITE, etc.

Those big NE and SW corners are so tough to fill, even without constraints. Throw in a pair of crossing answers and they become even tougher. I have no doubt that the black squares at the very NE / SW corners helped a lot. Still, while I like entries like IF THAT and GENERALS, the plural TESSAS, tough French word TRENTE, and the odd AMEBA spelling made me hitch. Same goes with the really neat ARAWAK at the price of TOTALER (feels made up with that -ER), deep chemistry KETONE, and the partial-ish AT NINE.

Similar trade-offs occur with the NW and SE corners. They're not nearly as hard to fill given their lesser white space, but they're still not easy. Love KAHUNA. EVADER, not so much (especially since there's already a TOTALER).

But overall, those beautiful phrases hiding TSA made for an entertaining solve.

1
I
2
K
3
E
4
S
5
E
6
C
7
O
8
I
9
M
10
A
11
G
12
E
13
N
A
V
E
14
G
U
N
15
F
O
M
E
N
16
T
17
T
H
A
TSA
18
M
O
R
E
19
T
R
E
N
T
E
20
A
U
D
I
O
21
L
I
22
G
H
TSA
B
E
R
S
23
K
N
E
L
T
24
S
E
A
H
A
R
E
S
25
E
A
R
26
I
27
D
28
I
29
S
T
L
30
A
A
A
31
O
V
E
N
32
S
33
B
L
T
S
34
C
H
E
C
K
P
35
O
36
I
37
N
T
S
38
A
39
T
O
M
40
A
R
R
O
W
41
R
O
N
42
A
43
S
44
P
45
B
E
D
46
E
47
T
48
C
49
A
T
T
50
I
T
U
D
51
E
52
D
53
I
R
E
R
54
W
A
R
TSA
N
D
A
L
55
L
56
E
L
E
N
A
57
A
L
I
B
I
S
58
Y
O
59
U
D
O
N
TSA
Y
60
K
E
T
O
N
E
61
S
O
S
62
S
O
L
O
63
R
E
Y
E
S
64
E
K
E
65
E
W
E
N
© 2016, The New York TimesNo. 0707 ( 24,348 )
Across
1
"___ Bluff: President Eisenhower's Secret Battle to Save the World" (2012 book) : IKES
5
Prefix with aware or catastrophe : ECO
8
It may be a reflection : IMAGE
13
What the transept transects : NAVE
14
Barrel holder : GUN
15
Whip up : FOMENT
17
Dean Martin classic : THATSAMORE
19
Twice quinze : TRENTE
20
Appliance store department : AUDIO
21
Jedi defenses : LIGHTSABERS
23
Prepared for dubbing : KNELT
24
Mollusks once known as lepus marinus : SEAHARES
25
Q-Tip target : EAR
26
___ Amin, Oscar-winning role for Forest Whitaker : IDI
29
N.L. Central team: Abbr. : STL
30
It might give you a lift, briefly : AAA
31
A lot of dough can go into them : OVENS
33
Short-order orders : BLTS
34
Border stops ... or a hint to four squares in this puzzle : CHECKPOINTS
38
Focus of quantum mechanics : ATOM
40
"I'm With Stupid" shirt feature : ARROW
41
Burgundy of "Anchorman" : RON
42
Venomous viper : ASP
45
Resting place : BED
46
Series finale? : ETC
49
"Pink isn't just a color, it's an ___!": Miley Cyrus : ATTITUDE
52
Even more calamitous : DIRER
54
Everything, the good with the bad : WARTSANDALL
56
___ Gilbert, protagonist of "The Vampire Diaries" : ELENA
57
Outs : ALIBIS
58
"Really?!" : YOUDONTSAY
60
Camphor or fructose : KETONE
61
Line in the sand? : SOS
62
Go it alone : SOLO
63
California's Point ___ National Seashore : REYES
64
Scratch (out) : EKE
65
Actor Bremner of "Trainspotting" and "Black Hawk Down" : EWEN
Down
1
Kind of valve : INTAKE
2
Bigwig : KAHUNA
3
Dodger : EVADER
4
Go to sea : SETSAIL
5
Swellheadedness : EGO
6
Headlock? : CURL
7
"___ the loneliest number" (Three Dog Night lyric) : ONEIS
8
At most : IFTHAT
9
Political comic who once had a one-man show on Broadway : MORTSAHL
10
Low life? : AMEBA
11
Warheads? : GENERALS
12
Implore : ENTREAT
16
Characters in "Romola" and "The Gondoliers" : TESSAS
18
Issue in a murder trial : MOTIVE
22
Some TVs : GES
27
Main mo. in so-called "Oscar season" : DEC
28
Tats : INK
31
Volt per ampere : OHM
32
Luxe spot : SPA
33
Incidentally, in a txt msg : BTW
34
Saying "Sorry," say : CONTRITE
35
Spherical symbol of authority : ORB
36
Cross state : IRE
37
Emulated a bobblehead : NODDED
38
Onetime Caribbean native : ARAWAK
39
Summer : TOTALER
42
When the morning shift might start : ATNINE
43
Lathers up : SUDSES
44
Something that may make people go "ick," for short : PDA
46
Before this moment, in poetry : ERENOW
47
Outside clearance event : TENTSALE
48
Colorer : CRAYON
50
Delivery room announcement : ITSABOY
51
"Family Ties" mom : ELYSE
53
"How can ___?" : ILOSE
55
Gander : LOOK
59
Employ, as "the Force" : USE

Answer summary: 4 unique to this puzzle, 1 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

Found bugs or have suggestions?