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New York Times, Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Author:
Lynn Lempel
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
8812/9/19798/13/20192
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662142130
ScrabRebusCirclePangramPre‑WS
1.610912
Lynn Lempel

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 78, Blocks: 38 Missing: {JQUZ} This is puzzle # 88 for Ms. Lempel. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Lynn Lempel notes:
This idea sat around for years until I finally tackled it the weekend I had to miss the ACPT this past spring. I figured I might as ... read more

This idea sat around for years until I finally tackled it the weekend I had to miss the ACPT this past spring. I figured I might as well work on a puzzle.

At first, I tried to put STAR-CROSSED across the middle and got absolutely nowhere. Finally, the lightbulb went off, and I realized I could cross it, appropriately enough. But then finding "star" words that crossed proved harder than I would have thought. There had to be four longish entries and four short ones, and I wanted to make sure there were different kinds of stars without totally repeating any. Like, I wouldn't use both FILM and MOVIE, or MORNING and EVENING. And I couldn't use anything too technical that no one ever heard of. I do remember having to abandon some more interesting choices (for example, FREE-FOR-ALL, instead of LEAST OF ALL, would not work), as well as being stuck with the likes of SOLIDER.

Sometimes we just have to give in.

Jeff Chen notes:
No one makes SOLIDER early-week puzzles than Lynn. Her formula is tried and true: go up to the max of 78 words (or near it), so that ... read more

No one makes SOLIDER early-week puzzles than Lynn. Her formula is tried and true: go up to the max of 78 words (or near it), so that you can pack in some bonuses (EXTERIOR, SEXISM, ON FIRE) while making your short fill as unobjectionable as possible. With just minor blips in ESL ESTA, it's a top-notch early-week product.

I've worked with many newer constructors eager to debut what they consider fresh or cool new short material. That focus on personal ego is opposed to solver satisfaction, so I always appreciate Lynn's unwavering laser-lock onto smoothness.

I wish the theme had been more interesting, though. A puzzle this technically proficient deserves POW! consideration – it's so hard to achieve this level of silkiness. I couldn't give it a nom, because intersecting "___ STAR" words is too easy. There's a lack of elegance when you can think of a ton of other options like GUEST, NORTH, RADIO, POLE, SEA, SUPER, TIN, DEATH, DWARF, etc.

Maybe if Lynn had crossed stars like RIGEL (is URI GELLER a star?), VEGA, SIRIUS? Now that would have been serious!

I did like how the crossers pictorially formed stars (ish) in the four corners of the grid. ROCK and CHILD not as much, but LONE and GOLD resemble what you might see in a quick sketch of the night sky? Sort of? If you squint hard?

Although the theme didn't sparkle, the overall puzzle still worked well as an early-week offering. I'd give it to a rookie solver, with the caveat that it's not exciting, but it is likely solvable.

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© 2019, The New York TimesNo. 0813 ( 25,480 )
Across
1
Diana who led the Supremes : ROSS
5
Masked man's sidekick on old TV : TONTO
10
Assembled : MET
13
Norwegian city with the Munch Museum : OSLO
14
"Hey Diddle Diddle" runaway : SPOON
15
Rich supply of ore : LODE
16
Safe for youngsters : CHILDPROOF
18
One of five Greats : ERIE
19
Ledecky who has been named World Swimmer of the Year five times : KATIE
20
Bill killer's position : ANTI
21
Cookout crashers : ANTS
22
Bit of salt : DASH
24
Shankar with a sitar : RAVI
26
Mum : SILENT
29
Averts : PREVENTS
33
Computer company with a Predator line : ACER
34
Soothing lotion ingredient : ALOE
36
Valuable bar at Fort Knox : INGOT
37
Actress Arthur with a Tony for "Mame" : BEA
38
See 23-Down : CROSSED
40
Kind of testing done at Ancestry.com : DNA
41
Rodeo rope : LASSO
43
Acquires : GETS
44
"Turf" half of surf and turf : MEAT
45
Outside surface : EXTERIOR
47
Deep-sea fishing nets : TRAWLS
49
Yoked pair in a field : OXEN
50
Profit : GAIN
51
Flight amenity that costs extra : WIFI
53
Backbone of a boat : KEEL
56
Zesty chip dip : SALSA
60
Savings plans for one's later years, in brief : IRAS
61
Hit the jackpot : STRIKEGOLD
63
Old camera need : FILM
64
Idiotic : INANE
65
Oklahoma city named for an "Idylls of the King" woman : ENID
66
Class for U.S. citizen hopefuls, in brief : ESL
67
Disgustingly dirty : NASTY
68
Pols like Pelosi : DEMS
Down
1
Alternative to rap and R&B : ROCK
2
Fed. monitor of workplace hazards : OSHA
3
Narrow cut : SLIT
4
More substantial : SOLIDER
5
Small recipe amt. : TSP
6
Founder of Harpo Productions : OPRAH
7
Common lunchtime : NOON
8
Drinking spree : TOOT
9
Ablaze : ONFIRE
10
Droplets seen early in the day : MORNINGDEW
11
Tend to some p's and q's, say : EDIT
12
Golfer's bagful : TEES
15
Cause to expand, as bread : LEAVEN
17
College V.I.P. : DEAN
23
With 38-Across, like Romeo and Juliet ... and like the shaded words? : STAR
25
Fervent : AVID
26
Expensive dark fur : SABLE
27
Tool for a Himalayan climber : ICEAX
28
Lowest in importance : LEASTOFALL
29
Baffling question : POSER
30
Musical pause : REST
31
Based on major and minor scales : TONAL
32
H.R.s and R.B.I.s : STATS
35
Bitten-into apple, for Apple : LOGO
38
Apple throwaway : CORE
39
"Cómo ___ usted?" : ESTA
42
Gender discrimination : SEXISM
44
Made do despite difficulties : MANAGED
46
Finishes, as a cartoon : INKSIN
48
Move up : RISE
50
Sparkle : GLINT
51
Desdemona, to Othello : WIFE
52
Flower named for a goddess : IRIS
54
Sicilian tourist draw : ETNA
55
Prohibition and Victorian periods : ERAS
57
Solitary : LONE
58
Svelte : SLIM
59
Throws into the mix : ADDS
62
Critically important : KEY

Answer summary: 2 unique to this puzzle.

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