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New York Times, Monday, August 15, 2016

Author:
Sam Trabucco
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
2010/29/20156/19/20190
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3102356
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.68150
Sam Trabucco

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 76, Blocks: 38 Missing: {QZ} This is puzzle # 2 for Mr. Trabucco. Jeff Chen's Puzzle of the Week pick. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Sam Trabucco notes:
This puzzle's got an embarrassing backstory. Originally, I managed to drop EGGHEADS in as the first themer, apparently not noticing ... read more

This puzzle's got an embarrassing backstory. Originally, I managed to drop EGGHEADS in as the first themer, apparently not noticing that the revealer is HEADS WILL ROLL and it's probably not wise to dupe theme words. And by "originally," I mean "to the point where I was content to send it to Will," because I didn't realize it until Joel sent a far-too-polite note about a "pretty bad dupe." Luckily, they were cool with me reworking the grid around EGG HUNTS, et voila. Figures the new grid would contain a TOO dupe, then — though, I've never actually been bothered by small dupes like that in the fill.

Anyway, when making easy puzzles (especially those which might end up on a Monday), I tend to hold myself to pretty high standards with respect to subpar / unfamiliar fill. I often see tweets on Mondays from solvers who just finished their first NYT crossword ever, and the last thing I want is to stymie such a would-be new solver with an even potentially-frustrating crossing, or other similar downer of a moment. Setting the solver up for success and all that. I think it's a huge responsibility for early-week puzzles, which can have particular influence on someone's relationship to crosswords, to provide an experience which leaves them wanting more.

I'd say this puzzle is solid in that regard — the least familiar / legit things are probably ET TU, LTRS, ETHNO-, EXT, but they're all inferable / crossed fine at worst. Though, wow, did I write this during a phase when I valued getting an X into the grid at literally any cost? EXT is so avoidable, would not do again.

I hope you enjoyed the puzzle!

Jeff Chen notes:
Such a well-executed puzzle. Colorful themers, strong long fill, nary a gluey bit in sight, and a really fun revealer: HEADS WILL ... read more

Such a well-executed puzzle. Colorful themers, strong long fill, nary a gluey bit in sight, and a really fun revealer: HEADS WILL ROLL, describing an EGG roll, BARREL roll, DRUM roll, and LOG roll. Hits most every criterion I look for in a Monday puzzle.

Okay, there was one point I considered before giving this the POW. Will has said that he's not taking "words that can follow (or precede) X" puzzles anymore, and rightfully so. Over the years, these have been done to death. And I can just hear people asking me, "Isn't this essentially a words-that-follow" puzzle?

Yes and no. I came up with a tiered system:

  • Lowest level: using the word ROLL at the end of the puzzle for a revealer, with the clue [word that can follow the starts of …]. I think many will agree that this is pretty boring.
  • Middle level: using a dry phrase as a revealer, i.e. ROLL TOP [Type of desk, and a hint to the starts of …]. A little better, but still not punchy.
  • Higher level: using a colorful, themeless-worthy phrase for a revealer. ROLL CALL ["Sound off!" and a hint to the starts of …] is pretty fun.
  • Best: using a colorful, themeless-worthy phrase for a revealer — which cleverly hints at the position of ROLL: HEADS WILL ROLL indicates that the first word — or "head" — of each phrase is a type of roll.

And EGG HUNTS, BARREL RACE, DRUMSTICKS, LOG CABIN are all phrases I'd give check-marks to in a themeless. As are HOT SEAT, FAMILY TREE, END OF STORY, even IM NEXT. Sam wisely spreads out his long fill so he doesn't have to struggle with filling it. Beautiful results, only the minor blights Sam pointed out. And ET TU I'm perfectly fine with.

Doesn't hurt that I'm a huge Andrew Luck fan. Go COLTS! And go Sam! Really well done.

1
S
2
A
3
G
4
O
5
V
6
A
7
L
8
E
9
F
10
F
11
O
12
R
13
T
14
T
E
A
15
P
A
P
A
16
M
A
I
D
E
N
17
E
G
G
18
H
U
N
T
S
19
I
M
N
E
X
T
20
L
E
G
O
S
21
E
22
E
N
I
E
23
M
A
L
T
24
B
25
A
R
R
E
L
R
26
A
27
C
28
E
29
O
N
E
S
30
E
L
F
31
A
M
Y
32
B
O
X
33
E
N
T
E
34
R
35
T
36
R
E
A
T
37
H
38
E
A
D
S
W
I
39
L
40
L
R
O
L
L
41
M
O
T
T
O
42
G
O
T
E
M
43
O
U
T
44
F
45
A
46
B
47
C
R
E
A
48
T
49
O
50
R
51
D
R
U
52
M
S
T
I
53
C
K
S
54
N
O
N
E
55
E
T
H
N
O
56
A
I
O
L
I
57
T
58
I
59
P
T
O
E
60
L
61
O
62
G
C
A
B
I
N
63
I
N
B
O
R
N
64
T
H
A
I
65
A
N
I
66
E
N
J
O
Y
S
67
S
O
L
D
68
D
E
N
© 2016, The New York TimesNo. 0815 ( 24,387 )
Across
1
Droop : SAG
4
Squished circle : OVAL
8
What to get an "E" for : EFFORT
14
Drink that's steeped : TEA
15
Mama's mate : PAPA
16
Word before name or voyage : MAIDEN
17
Easter Day activities : EGGHUNTS
19
"It's my turn!" : IMNEXT
20
Detachable toy blocks : LEGOS
21
"___, meenie ..." : EENIE
23
Grain used in making beer : MALT
24
Competition in a rodeo ring : BARRELRACE
29
Personal identity : ONESELF
31
"Trainwreck" star Schumer : AMY
32
Trade some punches : BOX
33
"Come onstage" stage direction : ENTER
35
Alternative to "trick" on Halloween : TREAT
37
"Someone's gonna pay" ... or a statement about 17-, 24-, 51- and 60-Across? : HEADSWILLROLL
41
"In God We Trust," for the United States : MOTTO
42
"They're mine now!," informally : GOTEM
43
Openly gay : OUT
44
Groovy : FAB
47
God, with "the" : CREATOR
51
Legs at KFC : DRUMSTICKS
54
___ of the above : NONE
55
Culture: Prefix : ETHNO
56
Garlicky mayo : AIOLI
57
Walk very, very quietly : TIPTOE
60
Early home for Lincoln : LOGCABIN
63
Natural : INBORN
64
Bangkok native : THAI
65
Alex and ___ (jewelry retailer) : ANI
66
Takes pleasure in : ENJOYS
67
Red-lettered announcement added to a real estate sign : SOLD
68
Bear's home : DEN
Down
1
Patron of mariners : STELMO
2
Sea crossed by the Argonauts : AEGEAN
3
Group of geese : GAGGLE
4
Numbered musical work : OPUS
5
What may help you make your move? : VAN
6
Likely : APT
7
Intense beam : LASER
8
"8 Mile" rapper : EMINEM
9
Genealogist's drawing : FAMILYTREE
10
Like sand vis-à-vis gravel : FINER
11
"___ on a Grecian Urn" : ODE
12
Latin for "king" : REX
13
Detonation material : TNT
18
Place where one is under uncomfortable pressure : HOTSEAT
22
Time in history : ERA
24
Usually toasted sandwiches, for short : BLTS
25
Not many : AFEW
26
Brother of Cain : ABEL
27
Big product of Kentucky : COAL
28
Phone no. addition : EXT
30
"And that's that" : ENDOFSTORY
34
Fix, as an election : RIG
36
Bucharest's home : ROMANIA
37
Midnight, for one : HOUR
38
"___, Brute!" : ETTU
39
Key's partner : LOCK
40
Mail: Abbr. : LTRS
41
"The ___ Squad" of TV and film : MOD
45
Home to Plato and Aristotle : ATHENS
46
Trash container : BIN
48
"That's a shame" : TOOBAD
49
Connected to Wi-Fi, say : ONLINE
50
Bring under control : REININ
52
"Same here!" : METOO
53
Indianapolis footballers : COLTS
56
Boric ___ : ACID
57
Score before sudden death : TIE
58
Word after Holiday or Days : INN
59
Homemade sandwich, informally : PBJ
61
"What a surprise!" : OHO
62
___ pal (female bestie) : GAL

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

Found bugs or have suggestions?