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New York Times, Saturday, August 29, 2015

Author: Evan Birnholz
Editor: Will Shortz
Evan Birnholz
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0001124
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1.69100

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 70, Blocks: 31 Missing: {JZ} This is puzzle # 7 for Mr. Birnholz. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Evan Birnholz notes: I'm a major proponent of the OXFORD COMMA in writing (this little cartoon explains why), so I built a puzzle around it. I ... more
Evan Birnholz notes:

I'm a major proponent of the OXFORD COMMA in writing (this little cartoon explains why), so I built a puzzle around it. I submitted two clues for that one: [It comes right before the last step of "stop, drop, and roll"] and [2008 Vampire Weekend song whose title is an oft-misunderstood piece of grammar]. Neither made the final cut, obviously. I also had a pseudo-paired set of clues for WEIRD AL ["Do I Creep You Out" rocker] and AXL ROSE ["You're Crazy" rocker], but maybe those songs would've been too obscure for the NYT.

In general I like how this one turned out, but I wish I had spent a little more time revising it, if only to get rid of RED DOT, which isn't my favorite answer. That northeast corner really gave me fits when I tried to refill it, though. In fact, I submitted a revision of the puzzle with a redone right side of the puzzle and HATERADE where HAT CHECK is. Will said he liked the HAT CHECK version better, though to his credit he actually gave me the choice of which fill option I wanted. But being the procrastinator that I am, I never wrote clues for the alternate version. So while I didn't get HATERADE in the New York Times, I put it in a recent Devil Cross puzzle instead. That's where having my own site comes in handy.

Speaking of which: I've seen many heartfelt tributes for the late great Merl Reagle lately. My upcoming Devil Cross puzzle (Puzzle #61) is my own way of adding to that conversation.

Jeff Chen notes: Cool layout, one that disperses feature entries throughout. As much as I like the usual triple-stacks-in-each-of-the-four-corners, it ... more
Jeff Chen notes:

Cool layout, one that disperses feature entries throughout. As much as I like the usual triple-stacks-in-each-of-the-four-corners, it tends to concentrate all the goodness into small sections. Today, it was such a treat to get OXFORD COMMA, LAY IT ON ME, TV SPECIAL, WALLENDA, etc. popping up everywhere throughout the grid. It also made it feel like there were even more great entries than there really were. Strong effect.

So THAT'S a Y LEVEL!

I like how careful Evan is about avoiding the usual gluey suspects. A quick glance at his three- and four-letter entries shows all fine entries.

Most any themeless grid has some compromises, of course. Here, just two mid-length entries made me go "hmm." ADONAI was a toughie. But God has so many names in so many cultures/religions that it felt reasonable. Ideal? Perhaps not. But fair.

And granted, I'm a mechanical, not a civil engineer, but Y LEVEL was baffling. Googling jogged my memory and I recognized it as a (somewhat outdated) tool, but I still will have a hard time with it in the future. Thank goodness Evan crossed that Y with something easily gettable!

On that note, I struggled mightily in the lower right. It's a nice piece of work, what with EXOTICA and the Israeli diet KNESSET (diet here means "legislative body"). Having CAMERON, KNESSET, and COE crossing was not ideal for me, though. I should know how to spell Gordon Brown and David Cameron (British PMs), but David CAMERAN looked equally fine. I can imagine people entering KNESSOT or KNESSIT as well. All in all, I'd prefer not having tough-ish proper names crossing each other.

Finally, what a great entry in SCARE QUOTES! Of course I know what this means, because I'm hip on this sort of stuff! (Not really.) Even after reading up on it, I'm not sure. I think it's similar to "air quotes"? Anyone? Bueller? "Bueller"?

Man, am I unhip.

I wonder if DEPORTED's clue is going to cause controversy. I like clever / playful clues, and more of them would have been welcome in this puzzle — SEX APPEAL has so much potential, for example. But being playful with such a charged topic doesn't seem quite appropriate to me.

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A
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X
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I
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B
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M
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D
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W
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A
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H
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© 2015, The New York TimesNo. 0829 ( 24,035 )
Across Down
1. Dump : AXE
4. Minuteman III, e.g. : ICBM
8. Page formatting aid : TABSET
14. Group of shooting stars, for short? : NBA
15. Do some drills? : BORE
16. Piece heard in "Immortal Beloved" : EROICA
17. "Not marble, ___ the gilded monuments / Of princes ...": Shak. : NOR
18. Stereotypical pennant waver, colloquially : ALUM
19. Aid in target shooting : REDDOT
20. Much-debated grammar subject : OXFORDCOMMA
23. Battle of Isengard participant : ENT
24. One getting a beating in the kitchen? : YOLK
25. Perianth component : SEPAL
26. Recurring Shakespearean figure : FOOL
27. Pass : ENACT
29. "I'm listening" : LAYITONME
31. Forced out at home? : DEPORTED
33. First name in 2000s pop music : MILEY
34. * * * * *, say : RAVE
35. Part of ;-) : WINK
36. Gets toasty : WARMS
38. Where a bowler might go on a date : HATCHECK
42. It : SEXAPPEAL
44. President #36, #41 or #43 : TEXAN
45. Eminem's "___ I Collapse" : TILL
46. Necessary things, perhaps : EVILS
48. "La Dolce Vita" setting : ROME
49. Count six E's in this puzzle clue, for example : ERR
50. Marks of derision : SCAREQUOTES
52. God, in Hebrew literature : ADONAI
54. Savanna sights : GNUS
55. Govt. org. with roots going back to the Civil War : IRS
56. Spice mixture in an Indian restaurant : MASALA
57. One of the housewives on "Desperate Housewives" : EDIE
58. Longtime Washington Post theater critic Richard : COE
59. Surveying device with letter-shaped rests : YLEVEL
60. Where to find solutions : LABS
61. Member of a small work force? : ANT
1. Got to : ANNOYED
2. Microsoft release of 2013 : XBOXONE
3. Feature of a bomber hat : EARFLAP
4. Skyscraper piece : IBAR
5. Unpleasant things to pass around : COLDS
6. He died while filming "Game of Death" : BRUCELEE
7. Place for minutes : MEMOPAD
8. Restriction for some offices : TERMLIMIT
9. Integration calculation : AREA
10. Hottie's hot thing : BOD
11. Start of a record : SIDEONE
12. High class? : ECONOMY
13. Tell : TATTLE
21. "My Darling Clementine" locale : OKCORRAL
22. "___ I?" : MAY
26. Romanticized figure : FOLKHERO
28. Lady love? : TRAMP
30. Color : TINCT
32. The Oscars, e.g. : TVSPECIAL
35. "Flying" one : WALLENDA
36. Big producer of novelty records, informally : WEIRDAL
37. "Sweet Child O' Mine" rocker : AXLROSE
38. Do stuff : HAIRGEL
39. Things rarely seen : EXOTICA
40. Brown's follower : CAMERON
41. Mideast diet : KNESSET
42. Blue, say : STEAMY
43. "Little" girl of fiction : EVA
47. News filler : SQUIB
50. Good time to get the goods : SALE
51. Milks : USES
53. ___ system (car's built-in GPS) : NAV

Answer summary: 5 unique to this puzzle.

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