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New York Times, Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Author:
Mark McClain
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
28/17/201612/12/20160
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1.57010
Mark McClain

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 78, Blocks: 38 Missing: {QY} This is the debut puzzle for Mr. McClain. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Notepad: In the print version of this puzzle, five clues have a solid black bar in them. Here, these are represented by a string of number signs (####).
Mark McClain notes:
I'm really pleased to make my NYT debut in the Wednesday slot – it's my personal favorite place in the weekday lineup. I like to ... read more

I'm really pleased to make my NYT debut in the Wednesday slot – it's my personal favorite place in the weekday lineup. I like to think of the Wednesday puzzles as "stop and think" difficult. Seldom tough enough to stump the average solver, but usually interesting and clever.

This puzzle's theme (revealed at 38-Down) is in a category that I call "clue-play", in which the chicanery is found in the clues instead of the answers. We've seen several in this vein recently including one with symbols and one with "half-letters" in the clues. I suspected that most solvers would sniff this theme out after they got one or two of the theme entries (or maybe immediately, if they peeked at the reveal entry, which I personally try not to do). I constructed another puzzle similar to this one in which the blacked-out parts of the clues weren't the same word, but rather members of a category. That one's a little trickier.

In terms of the incidental fill, there were some revisions (actually quite a few, I must admit), but one surviving entry that Will really wanted to deep-six was ARNE. Perhaps I'm the only person that does crosswords and also has a CD of Thomas Arne's music on the shelf next to my computer. Despite the objections, Arne could not be expunged from the grid, so there he is for all the classical music haters to gripe about. I don't really see the problem! Arne is obviously more popular than Beethoven, as evidenced by his 17 appearances in crosswords so far this year (compared to only one for Beethoven)! ;)

Jeff Chen notes:
I like when a puzzle baffles me — as long as I eventually figure out what's going on. Today, we get a fun debut offering, using ... read more

I like when a puzzle baffles me — as long as I eventually figure out what's going on. Today, we get a fun debut offering, using DARK ARTS to hide the "arts" in certain clues: MARTS, WARTS, TARTS, PARTS, DARTS. I'm curious to see how the NYT's solving app handles this — the Across Lite version with its pound signs in the clues (shown below) so disappointingly fails Mark's fun idea.

This is essentially a "definitional" puzzle, where the clues and answers are swapped. Generally, I like these best when the entries in the puzzle are colorful; of themeless-quality. EXCHANGES (for MARTS) and MOVIE ROLES (for PARTS) are fine answers — but more neutral than assets. I couldn't think of perfect examples off the top of my head, but something like STRIP MALLS or LEAD ROLES are so much more colorful. (Those don't quite work since they're too specific.)

And if only PUB PASTIME didn't sound so definitional — it feels like there might be a solid, snazzy answer that could perfectly define DARTS, but again, I couldn't think of one right away.

Mark does a nice job of working in six themers; rarely an easy task. I was a little worried to see PASTRIES and MOVIE ROLES having so much overlap, but Mark filled nicely around them (not a surprise that ARNE popped up there!). SEMIARID going through that section works, although it's not the most stellar piece of fill.

GLADRAGS, on the other hand, caught my attention. Even when I was down to the last letter, I couldn't quite make sense of it. Not sure I'd ever use that term, but it was fun to learn; a weird combination of two words.

So overall, a nice debut puzzle. Not a lot of crossword glue used to hold six theme answers together (SCI, MAJ, IRES = mostly minor dings), and an interesting find with so many ?ARTS words in existence. Neat to be stumped on the idea until I finally hit DARK ARTS to lift the curtain.

1
D
2
U
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C
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S
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H
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I
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M
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P
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M
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A
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J
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P
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© 2016, The New York TimesNo. 0817 ( 24,389 )

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Students & seniors
Across
1. Airway or pipe : DUCT
5. Gulf Coast catch : SHRIMP
11. ___ gen. : MAJ
14. Part of A.D. : ANNO
15. Where Caterpillar is headquartered : PEORIA
16. Carry a balance : OWE
17. Intangible feeling, informally : VIBE
18. Cars introduced with much fanfare on "E Day" : EDSELS
19. "I do," e.g. : VOW
20. M # # # # : EXCHANGES
22. It has a 50% chance : TAILS
24. Shoppe descriptor : OLDE
25. Composer Thomas : ARNE
26. Generous : AMPLE
29. Like much of Montana : SEMIARID
33. Forte, on a score : LOUD
34. ___-l'oeil (illusion) : TROMPE
36. Opening number : ONE
37. Sphere : ORB
38. Dining table decorations : DOILIES
39. Big oaf : LUG
40. Fail as a night guard, say : NAP
41. Traitor in the Revolutionary War : ARNOLD
42. Spanish for "table" : MESA
43. Party clothes : GLADRAGS
45. Gains, as in the stock market : RISES
46. Punjabi for "disciple" : SIKH
47. "Chocolate" dogs : LABS
49. Hartford-based insurance giant : AETNA
51. W # # # # : BLEMISHES
56. Part of STEM: Abbr. : SCI
57. Experience anew : RELIVE
59. Lacking slack : TAUT
60. Resistance unit : OHM
61. Bird on a Froot Loops box : TOUCAN
62. ___ Taft Benson (1980s-'90s Mormon leader) : EZRA
63. Adversary : FOE
64. Dismissive looks : SNEERS
65. Common laborer : PEON
Down
1. "Affirmative, ___, I read you" (line in "2001: A Space Odyssey") : DAVE
2. Pioneering computer operating system : UNIX
3. Stock watcher's network : CNBC
4. Starting progress, metaphorically : TOEHOLD
5. Not be a tightwad : SPEND
6. Guard one's bets : HEDGE
7. Wine variety : ROSE
8. States of pique : IRES
9. Thousand G's : MIL
10. T # # # # : PASTRIES
11. P # # # # : MOVIEROLES
12. Runaway G.I. : AWOL
13. Seder celebrants : JEWS
21. What's brewing, maybe : ALE
23. Santa ___ winds : ANA
25. All fired up : AMPED
26. "I knew it all ___" : ALONG
27. Upstanding : MORAL
28. D # # # # : PUBPASTIME
29. Recital pieces : SOLOS
30. Pianist Gilels : EMIL
31. Occupied, as a lav : INUSE
32. "At the Milliner's" painter : DEGAS
34. Holy text : TORAH
35. Part of the Olympics logo : RING
38. What sorcerers practice ... or a hint to interpreting five clues in this puzzle : DARKARTS
42. Blunder : MISSTEP
44. Cacophony : DIN
45. One of 2,297 for Hank Aaron, in brief : RBI
47. Actor Burton : LEVAR
48. Church chorus? : AMENS
49. Since : ASOF
50. Something you might hear in an empty building : ECHO
51. Off-color, paradoxically : BLUE
52. Big nits : LICE
53. Hangover feeling : HAZE
54. Lead-in to zone : EURO
55. Musial in Cooperstown : STAN
58. Years and years : EON

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

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