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New York Times, Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Author: Bruce Venzke and Gail Grabowski
Editor: Will Shortz
Bruce Venzke
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
198/26/200410/19/201518
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
2264320
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.61002
Gail Grabowski
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
1311/18/20027/8/20144
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
0580000
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.57000

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 78, Blocks: 36 Missing: {QWX} This is puzzle # 18 for Mr. Venzke. This is puzzle # 13 for Ms. Grabowski. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Jeff Chen notes: Two more CrosSynergy members on the byline today! Yesterday Lynn Lempel, today, Gail and Bruce. Nice. There are fifteen of us. By my ... more
Jeff Chen notes: Two more CrosSynergy members on the byline today! Yesterday Lynn Lempel, today, Gail and Bruce. Nice. There are fifteen of us. By my math, three CS members will have written tomorrow's puzzle. Numbers don't lie.

One thing I like about good "word that can follow both words of X" type themes is when I don't see them coming. That usually means the themers must be snappy and not feel contrived, otherwise running across a made-up-sounding entry is a sure giveaway. I enjoyed most of the themers today, SPORTS NUT in particular. HIGH ENERGY is also a fun one, evoking images not only of energy bars but of yappy dogs and certain people on my Ultimate frisbee team.

COFFEE ROLL befuddled me, but it does appear to be "a thing." Perhaps I would like it better on a later-week puzzle though, as something that gets less than 100K Google hits when in quotes feels a bit esoteric to me. Generally, that's the bar that many of my constructor friends seem to use. This does serve as a good example of potential issues with this type of theme — there are only so many words that can follow BAR. Pairing them up into snazzy theme answers which will also fit symmetrically into a crossword grid can be tough.

As with all puzzles containing a central nine-letter answer, the fill is harder than average to execute on. There's sure some nice fill in the corners, which can always be tricky. And I absolutely loved what Bruce and Gail did with the SW corner. That's the way to fill an OPEN SPACE, not only selecting juicy entries like GUFF, JIFFY, EDIT OUT and RUN-OFFS, but tossing in a J without needing a glue entry to do so. Well done. As a solver, I appreciate having a couple of Scrabbly letters here and there. Spices things up. I'm not sure if this is a universal desire (probably not), but I do get the anecdotal feel that solvers generally are on the same page as me.

The north is a different story for me, when it comes to Scrabbly letters. It's fun to toss in a Z as a constructor. But having an awkward partial like RUE DE at the top of the puzzle, plus ARROZ crossing EZER... that would be tough for some solvers to suss out. It's one thing to know MEIR, and another to know EZER, methinks. And I think it's fine to expect a solver to be able to figure out some foreign words (especially in a Romance language), but ARROZ is pretty tough to derive. Along with URIEL, that north section strikes me as inelegant, especially given there are few constraints up there and plenty of other ways to fill that region.

As always, simply a personal opinion. During my solve I felt like there was quite a bit of the ASCAP, REATA, GAPERS kind of stuff (some of which is expected due to having five themers, especially given the center themer splitting the puzzle in half), and in retrospect, if that north section had been cleaned up, I don't think I really would have noticed the crosswordese overall. Anyway, I'm sure people will be writing in from the RUE DE la paix, saying that they both loved the Z and are aghast that I don't know who EZER Weizman is.

Finally, a comment on CGI. A friend of mine is in the computer graphics area, and when I used the term CGI the other day he got all riled up, saying that the proper term is VFX (visual effects). Terms and acronyms go by the wayside all the time, but I still wonder whether CGI is perfectly fine. Hopefully Tony's not reading this post...

CGI!

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© 2014, The New York TimesNo. 0708 ( 23,618 )
Across Down
1. Safe havens : ARKS
5. Start of some French street names : RUEDE
10. 1974 C.I.A. spoof : SPYS
14. Israel's Golda : MEIR
15. Spanish rice : ARROZ
16. Warning on a highway : TOOT
17. Calligraphers' supplies : INKS
18. Like much snack food for hikers : HIGHENERGY
20. "___ have to?" : DOI
21. Is for more than one? : ARE
22. Bit of gaucho gear : REATA
23. Small order of greens : SIDESALAD
27. Reads rapidly : SKIMS
29. Detective's coat, informally : TRENCH
30. Some savings plans, for short : IRAS
32. Lion or tiger : CAT
33. Shot contents : SERA
34. Nerve-racking test, for some : ORAL
35. Goes to pot : ROTS
36. Clearing : OPENSPACE
39. Flowerless plant : FERN
42. Pine (for) : ACHE
43. Corn covering : HUSK
46. End of a school email address : EDU
47. Fashion designer Gernreich : RUDI
48. Rubberneckers : GAPERS
50. Japanese assassin : NINJA
52. Season ticket holder for baseball, basketball and football, say : SPORTSNUT
54. Hoity-___ : TOITY
56. Ones "over there" : GIS
57. The "H" of H.M.S. : HER
58. Glazed dessert : COFFEEROLL
61. Special seating section : LOGE
62. Back talk : GUFF
63. ___-gazing : NAVEL
64. Metal containers? : ORES
65. Tiny, to a tot : ITSY
66. Club alternative : SPADE
67. Signs of cell service ... or a word that can follow both parts of 18-, 23-, 36-, 52- and 58-Across : BARS
1. Surrounded by : AMIDST
2. Some Impressionist paintings : RENOIRS
3. Duettist with Elton John on 1976's "Don't Go Breaking My Heart" : KIKIDEE
4. Sophs., two years later : SRS
5. Openly enthusiastic : RAHRAH
6. One of the archangels : URIEL
7. Fraction of a joule : ERG
8. Outburst from Homer : DOH
9. Former Israeli president Weizman : EZER
10. Meat sometimes served au poivre : STEAK
11. Colonnaded entrance : PORTICO
12. You might sit cross-legged on one : YOGAMAT
13. Squalid digs : STY
19. Loch ___ : NESS
21. Music-licensing org. : ASCAP
24. Bankrupted company led by Kenneth Lay : ENRON
25. Blimp : AIRSHIP
26. Curtain : DRAPE
28. N.Y.C.'s Bleecker and Canal : STS
31. In the style of : ALA
34. Obsolescent way to store music : ONCDS
35. Does another stint : REUPS
37. ___ de toilette : EAU
38. F.D.R.'s fireside addresses : CHATS
39. Swampland : FEN
40. Delete : EDITOUT
41. Postelection elections : RUNOFFS
44. Lady of Brazil : SENHORA
45. Freddy of Elm Street : KRUEGER
47. Miles per gallon, e.g. : RATE
48. Car part that may have a decorative design : GRILLE
49. Accentuate : STRESS
51. Second : JIFFY
53. Eyed : OGLED
55. Longings : YENS
58. Special effects graphics, briefly : CGI
59. Grammy category : RAP
60. Egg cells : OVA
61. Smashable shot : LOB

Answer summary: 3 unique to this puzzle, 1 debuted here and reused later, 1 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

Found bugs or have suggestions?