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New York Times, Thursday, August 3, 2017

Author:
Timothy Polin
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
4812/11/201111/7/20182
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74962002
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.626140
Timothy Polin

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 74, Blocks: 37 Missing: {FQZ} Grid has up-down mirror symmetry. This is puzzle # 40 for Mr. Polin. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Jeff Chen notes:
Rare sighting of up-down symmetry! Will's told me before that this type of symmetry looks too odd for him, so I'm glad to see another ... read more

Rare sighting of up-down symmetry! Will's told me before that this type of symmetry looks too odd for him, so I'm glad to see another example we can add to our list. I do agree that it's not as visually pleasing as normal or mirror (left-right) symmetry, but I like how it opens up more possibilities for creative constructors.

Speaking of creative, BELT LOOP gets interpreted as "words that can precede BELT, looping around the right of the puzzle back to the left." (AMMO, LAP, TOOL.) As an old-school gamer, I think "warp" is a better description of this phenomenon — TIME WARP might have resonated better for me, using "words that can precede TIME" — but I can see how that would get lost on a lot of solvers.

At first, I was curious why Tim used up-down symmetry. It shouldn't be that hard to find a 14-letter phrase with LAP or AMMO in the middle, yeah? But then I realized Tim gave himself an additional constraint of having the ends of the phrases be actual words — MOTHS, APSE, LIVES. It narrows down his choice of themers dramatically, thus forcing the up-down symmetry, but I like that added constraint a lot.

I did find it a bit odd that BELT LOOP didn't have a symmetrically-placed theme partner. It would have been perfect if Tim could have added a fourth example of this LOOPing to match with BELT LOOP, but how would you even lay that out? Maybe BELT all the way over on the right of the puzzle, and LOOP in the same row, all the way to the left, with a cross-referenced clue?

Well-executed grid otherwise, with just an ASK NO, NESTER, and TEDS as dings. TEDS does mean "spreads, as straw," but I'd much prefer a straightforward clue referring to multiple TEDs.

Nice to get some CLEAN AIR, CRUCIBLE, YES SIREE, KABOOM, IT'S A SECRET, HEDONISTIC in there, too. That's a ton of great bonuses. I would have expected much more crossword glue to make these all happen, so it speaks well to Tim's craftsmanship.

1
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© 2017, The New York TimesNo. 0803 ( 24,740 )
Across
1. Tough-to-remove stain : STIGMA
7. Cracked : MAD
10. Basketball brand : VOIT
14. Big report : KABOOM
15. Severe test : CRUCIBLE
17. Gets frosty : ICESUP
18. Concern for the E.P.A. : CLEANAIR
19. Outdoor lighting fixtures? : MOTHS
20. Drawings seen in France's Rouffignac Cave : WOOLLYMAMMOTHS
21. Grey Goose competitor : SKYY
23. Striplings : LADS
24. "Love in the Time of ___" (Gabriel García Márquez novel) : CHOLERA
28. Shake : JAR
31. Actress Anderson : LONI
32. What putting one's finger to one's lips may mean : ITSASECRET
38. Indoor recess : APSE
39. Headline after a market crash : STOCKSCOLLAPSE
40. "Walkabout" director Nicolas : ROEG
41. Pleasure-seeking : HEDONISTIC
42. Cell tower feature : ANTENNA
44. ___ vivant : BON
45. British title holder : EARL
47. Parris Island grp. : USMC
51. Video game units : LIVES
55. Stuffed garnishes : PIMIENTOOLIVES
59. Code broken by rats : OMERTA
61. Waistband sight ... or what 20-, 39- and 55-Across each have? : BELTLOOP
62. What red may mean : DANGER
63. "You got it!" : YESSIREE
64. Acquire via blackmail : EXTORT
65. Otherwise called : AKA
66. Spreads, as straw : TEDS
Down
1. Less than 1%, say : SKIM
2. Order across the border : TACO
3. Sarcastic response : IBET
4. "Holy smokes!" : GOSH
5. Salon stuff : MOUSSE
6. Hype (up) : AMP
7. Sci-fi character nicknamed "Bones" : MCCOY
8. 1968 self-titled folk album : ARLO
9. Drawing contest? : DUEL
10. Like records that are easily broken? : VINYL
11. President whose initials were also his dog's name : OBAMA
12. Long, old yarn : ILIAD
13. Come to ___ : TERMS
16. Nutritional label abbr. : CAL
20. Nemesis of the Clanton gang : WYATTEARP
22. Deity often depicted with blue skin : KRISHNA
24. Santa ___ : CLARA
25. Biker's invitation : HOPON
26. Dawn : ONSET
27. One working for the lord : LIEGE
28. Patriarch with 12 sons : JACOB
29. ___ quarter (refuse mercy) : ASKNO
30. Shellac, e.g. : RESIN
33. What might make up for lost ground? : SOD
34. Also keeps in the know, in a way : CCS
35. Corruption : ROT
36. Skull and Bones collegian : ELI
37. "Cake Boss" channel : TLC
43. One living in the sticks, e.g. : NESTER
46. Modern home of ancient Tripolitania : LIBYA
47. Dark : UNLIT
48. Cache : STORE
49. Made field calls? : MOOED
50. Carries on through difficulty : COPES
51. Lucky strike? : LODE
52. Wide-screen format : IMAX
53. Magma conduit : VENT
54. "And so ..." : ERGO
56. Not assertive : MEEK
57. Visitor to Rick's Café Américain : ILSA
58. Figures in the 2016 film "Arrival," for short : ETS
60. Works in a salon : ART

Answer summary: 3 unique to this puzzle.

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