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New York Times, Friday, August 3, 2018

Author:
David Steinberg
Editor:
Will Shortz
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876/16/201111/2/201816
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66681129192
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1.645163
David Steinberg

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 72, Blocks: 32 Missing: {J} This is puzzle # 85 for Mr. Steinberg. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
David Steinberg notes:
This is the last themeless I constructed before heading off to college in the fall of 2015. I spent a good part of that summer scoring ... read more

This is the last themeless I constructed before heading off to college in the fall of 2015. I spent a good part of that summer scoring all the 3-6 letter entries in my various word lists, and so I was excited to test out the fruits of my labor in a themeless grid. Having a scored word list made my life a lot easier—I was suddenly able to squeeze in more zing than ever before while still keeping the short fill smooth. All the cruddy entries I'd been rejecting manually for years no longer showed up as possibilities, because their scores were finally low enough that they didn't make the cut.

Nowadays, I've gotten so used to having a scored word list that I've forgotten what it's like to construct without one. The one thing I wish is that Jeff Chen's XWord Info word list had been around at the time since scoring your word list from scratch nowadays is like reinventing the wheel. Jeff deserves a huge shout-out for making a quality scored list available to everyone in the community!

Jeff Chen notes:
Solid 72-word themeless. David did such a nice job of using his long slots — AIR QUOTES, POISON PEN, CORKAGE FEE, PRISON RIOT, ... read more

Solid 72-word themeless. David did such a nice job of using his long slots — AIR QUOTES, POISON PEN, CORKAGE FEE, PRISON RIOT, SPRAY ON TAN, STRIP MALLS = great stuff!

(I wasn't wild about ED SHEERAN, as I'm not a fan of his music, but I can see how others would love seeing him in the grid.)

What stood out for me was the fantastic cluing, which has become more and more important in how I assess a themeless puzzle. AIR QUOTES is a great entry on its own, but what the heck is [Four-finger gestures?] Maybe it was something four times as offensive as a one-finger salute? Some crazy thing the kids are doing these days? No, two fingers per hand, making that smarmy gesture!

SEX QUIZ, similarly. Fantastic entry, and [Cosmopolitan feature] had me thinking about skylines at first, and then the cocktail drink next. Nope, it's Cosmo, the magazine!

And DOG EARS is a good use of a mid-length slot already, but its clue elevates it into the stratosphere. "Turns a corner" is a common phrase. Repurposing it into how DOG EARS are turned corners of pages is brilliant.

For a 72-word puzzle — the max allowed in a themeless — I want to see less of the PPS PTS RIEN SHMOO stuff, but it's passable. Given how much color and sizzle there was in the entries and (maybe more importantly?) the clues, I was able to overlook those.

I debated whether to give this one the POW! Could easily have. But in the end, I decided I gotta make David work even harder (especially when staying in relatively easy 72-word territory), now that he's near the top of the POW! list.

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© 2018, The New York TimesNo. 0803 ( 25,105 )
Across
1. Factor in calculating an object's momentum : MASS
5. Commercial lines? : STRIPMALLS
15. Get in the game : ANTE
16. Complete, as a skeleton : HEADTOTAIL
17. Record label for Otis Redding : STAX
18. Complains vocally : MAKESNOISE
19. Four-finger gestures : AIRQUOTES
21. Somewhat : ATAD
22. Henry Higgins, to Eliza Doolittle : TUTOR
23. "Another thing I forgot to mention ...": Abbr. : PPS
25. Diagonal sail support : SPRIT
27. Breakfast cookware item : OMELETPAN
33. Rock band with four(!) self-titled albums : WEEZER
35. OS X runner : IMAC
36. Feeling after a guilt trip : RUE
37. "Don't ___" : ASK
38. Monet that isn't worth much money, say : REPLICA
40. Keogh plan alternative : IRA
41. Channel that used to show a clip of the 1969 moon landing every hour : MTV
42. Nothing, in Nantes : RIEN
43. Says goodbye to a lover : ENDSIT
45. Scathing : POISONPEN
48. Four-legged friend : POOCH
49. Extras on TV's "Doctor Who" : ETS
50. Digitally endorse : ESIGN
52. What Adderall treats, for short : ADHD
55. Singer whose "Thinking Out Loud" won the 2015 Grammy for Song of the Year : EDSHEERAN
59. Cancel on someone : BREAKADATE
62. Plagues : AILS
63. Cab charge? : CORKAGEFEE
64. Urban garden locale : ROOF
65. Bronze producer : SPRAYONTAN
66. Burgoo or callaloo : STEW
Down
1. Corn flour in Latin American cuisine : MASA
2. Prefix with thesis : ANTI
3. 1991 sci-fi film sequel : STARTREKVI
4. Cosmopolitan feature : SEXQUIZ
5. "Li'l Abner" creature : SHMOO
6. Italy's ___ alla Scala : TEATRO
7. Croupier's implement : RAKE
8. When "et tu" was spoken : IDES
9. A trilogy has three: Abbr. : PTS
10. "___ Dieu!" : MON
11. Words said with one's glass raised : ATOAST
12. French vanilla ice cream ingredient : LAIT
13. Cartoon character who plays a saxophone : LISA
14. Skeleton vehicle, in the Olympics : SLED
20. Claptrap : UTTERROT
23. Take second : PLACE
24. Popular holiday dessert : PECANPIE
25. Washington establishment, so it's said : SWAMP
26. Sauce with the same consonants as what it's used on : PESTO
28. Children's author who wrote "Did you ever stop to think, and forget to start again?" : MILNE
29. Bygone record giant : EMI
30. Stir crazy? : PRISONRIOT
31. Containing gold : AURIC
32. Poetic preposition : NEATH
34. Symbols of control : REINS
39. Animation : PEP
44. Turns a corner? : DOGEARS
46. Singer/songwriter who composed the Captain & Tennille's #1 hit "Love Will Keep Us Together" : SEDAKA
47. Fuze competitor : NESTEA
51. Bright look : SHEEN
52. Start of learning : ABCS
53. Stop bringing up : DROP
54. Hamburger, maybe : HERR
55. Dreamland : EDEN
56. Touched : DAFT
57. Skin softener : ALOE
58. You might be careful opening something with this label : NSFW
60. Sir ___ of the Round Table : KAY
61. Back : AGO

Answer summary: 4 unique to this puzzle, 2 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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