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New York Times, Friday, August 3, 2018

Author:
David Steinberg
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
956/16/20117/13/201918
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66681132242
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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.

1
M
2
A
3
S
4
S
5
S
6
T
7
R
8
I
9
P
10
M
11
A
12
L
13
L
14
S
15
A
N
T
E
16
H
E
A
D
T
O
T
A
I
L
17
S
T
A
X
18
M
A
K
E
S
N
O
I
S
E
19
A
I
R
Q
20
U
O
T
E
S
21
A
T
A
D
22
T
U
T
O
R
23
P
24
P
S
25
S
26
P
R
I
T
27
O
28
M
29
E
L
E
T
30
P
31
A
32
N
33
W
E
E
Z
E
34
R
35
I
M
A
C
36
R
U
E
37
A
S
K
38
R
E
39
P
L
I
C
A
40
I
R
A
41
M
T
V
42
R
I
E
N
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E
N
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D
S
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T
45
P
O
I
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S
O
N
P
E
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N
48
P
O
O
C
H
49
E
T
S
50
E
51
S
I
G
N
52
A
53
D
54
H
D
55
E
56
D
S
H
E
E
R
57
A
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N
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B
R
E
A
60
K
61
A
D
A
T
E
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A
I
L
S
63
C
O
R
K
A
G
E
F
E
E
64
R
O
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F
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S
P
R
A
Y
O
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A
N
66
S
T
E
W
© 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, 1 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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