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New York Times, Saturday, July 9, 2016

Author:
Josh Knapp
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
232/26/20109/7/20180
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
20102810
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.70002
Josh Knapp

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 70, Blocks: 29 Missing: {JQ} This is puzzle # 21 for Mr. Knapp. Jeff Chen's Puzzle of the Week pick. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Josh Knapp notes:
A few notes that comes to mind: I planned to submit this puzzle to Peter Gordon's Washington Post Puzzler guest constructor ... read more

A few notes that comes to mind:

  • I planned to submit this puzzle to Peter Gordon's Washington Post Puzzler guest constructor contest back in 2014. It had a different NE corner that I wasn't completely satisfied with, so ended up submitting another puzzle instead.
  • I was reluctant to give up USAINBOLT (had a fun clue for him), but TREEHOLE was iffy and IRR/TUTTED no fun, so eventually rebuilt that corner.
  • Spent a lot of time on the clues, since Peter judged the puzzles by solving them instead of looking at the finished grids.

Glad most of my clues survived. A few that Will/Joel changed:

  • BLACK EYE: Hard-hitting evidence, maybe?
  • OLD MASTERS: Martini and Bellini, e.g.
  • HAIRCUT: It might result in a blowout
  • IT GIRL: Magnetic young star
Jeff Chen notes:
This puzzle exemplifies why I think Josh is possibly the best themeless constructor out there. I've always been impressed with his ... read more

This puzzle exemplifies why I think Josh is possibly the best themeless constructor out there. I've always been impressed with his puzzles, but this one sizzles. I can't remember the last time I did a themeless where nearly everything I turned up was pure gold. From PIRATE SHIP to FAT SUITS to OLD MASTERS, to TESLA COIL to NOSEGAYS to DO YOU MIND! Not only were almost all the long entries fantastic, but there was a little something for everyone, making it accessible and enjoyable for a huge range of solvers.

Josh goes big by working with 18 (!) long slots of 8+ letters. I've found that it's nearly impossible to convert so many slots into stellar material, because once you start fixing a few in place, you get less and less flexibility as you go. Josh does a great job of spreading his long slots around, but it's impossible to isolate any one of them — each must interact with a ton more.

And what results! I'm usually happy to get 10 colorful answers in a themeless, but I count roughly 17 here (things like ERRONEOUS feel more neutral to me). During my solve, it seemed like Josh was pulling some sort of magic trick. When I went back and studied the grid, what he did made more sense — by staying at a relatively high word count (70), he was able to use a lot of short words to stick his longer ones together. And by never packing too many long slots together, he was able to avoid any one area that had too much white space. It still seems a little magical even after I study it, though.

All this, without using much crossword glue. There's an ELL and an SYST, but those are so minor. Dabs of crossword glue tend to drag down my solving experience when there are more than about five (or one is egregious), but these two little guys were negligible.

And so many amazing clues! I won't point them all out, but if you're an aspiring constructor, go back and study the clues for HURL, GREEN ALGAE, HINGE, HOP, BLACK EYE. Brilliant wordplay in there.

My favorite themeless so far this year. Standing O for Josh.

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P
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B
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A
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© 2016, The New York TimesNo. 0709 ( 24,350 )
Across
1
One might have black-and-white standards : PIRATESHIP
11
Treasure hunter's loot, maybe : IDOL
15
Stay off the water? : SHORELEAVE
16
Unconventional and hippielike, informally : BOHO
17
Some juvenile records : HOMEMOVIES
18
Way: Abbr. : SYST
19
Developers work on them : APPS
20
Wrong : ERRONEOUS
22
Jazz great Montgomery : WES
23
More than a fraction of a cent : ZINC
25
Responsibility : ONUS
26
Outfits for big parts? : FATSUITS
29
Station display : MAP
31
"The perfect idiot's profession," per Katharine Hepburn : ACTING
34
Certain upper-growth limit : TREELINE
36
Orange snack in a red box : CHEEZIT
38
Where the Lost Battalion got lost : ARGONNE
39
Doesn't go off as expected : MISFIRES
41
Flip-flop, e.g. : SANDAL
42
Crooked joint : ELL
43
Boxing ring? : BLACKEYE
45
Religious figure from on high? : LAMA
47
Set at sea? : OARS
48
Small vault : HOP
51
One of 20-30 "genius grants" awarded annually : MACARTHUR
54
___ soup : MISO
55
Impulse transmitter : AXON
56
North Carolina vacation area : OUTERBANKS
59
Gaiman who wrote "American Gods" and "Coraline" : NEIL
60
Film about rock groups? : GREENALGAE
61
Without much effort : IDLY
62
Bellini and Botticelli : OLDMASTERS
Down
1
"Yeah, right!" : PSHAW
2
[Fingers crossed] : IHOPE
3
Wins easily : ROMPS
4
War force : ARES
5
Pro ___ : TEM
6
"Out of the Blue" group, for short : ELO
7
"Hockey sticks," in cards : SEVENS
8
Buzz, e.g. : HAIRCUT
9
2011 Best New Artist Grammy winner Bon ___ : IVER
10
Philippine money : PESO
11
His last play was "When We Dead Awaken" : IBSEN
12
"Excuse me?" : DOYOUMIND
13
Classic folk number : OHSUSANNA
14
Heaps : LOTS
21
Bouquets, quaintly : NOSEGAYS
23
Island known for its spices : ZANZIBAR
24
This year's starlet : ITGIRL
26
Sphere of control : FIEF
27
Org. in "Patriot Games" : IRA
28
Like Hemingway vis-à-vis most other writers : TERSER
30
Exfoliation : PEEL
31
Tiptop : ACME
32
Hung around casually? : CHILLAXED
33
It may cause sparks to fly : TESLACOIL
35
Isolated : LONE
37
It may be in the bag : TEA
40
Went looking for places to shoot : SCOUTED
44
First name on the 1970s-'80s Lakers : KAREEM
46
Rugged : MANLY
48
Swinging joint : HINGE
49
"The Tin Drum" boy : OSKAR
50
Duck faces, e.g. : POSES
51
Salon job, informally : MANI
52
Land on the Gulf of Guinea : TOGO
53
Project with a lot of momentum : HURL
54
Like Colt 45 and Mickey's : MALT
57
Kind of virus : RNA
58
Not haut : BAS

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

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