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New York Times, Saturday, August 5, 2017

Author: David Phillips
Editor: Will Shortz
David Phillips
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
207/24/20148/5/20171
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1021277
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.57000

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 72, Blocks: 31 Missing: {QZ} This is puzzle # 20 for Mr. Phillips. NYT links: Across Lite PDF

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David Phillips notes: I have a confession: constructing a 72-word themeless grid scares me. When I personally begin solving a themeless puzzle that ... more
David Phillips notes:

I have a confession: constructing a 72-word themeless grid scares me. When I personally begin solving a themeless puzzle that goes up to the max word count, there's a tiny, overly entitled person in my head that mutters under his breath, "This puzzle better be fresh, lively, and contain zero crosswordese or I'ma gonna throw my hat in-a disgust." (For the purposes of this blurb, I wanted Mario to serve as my privileged persona, because Mario's funny when he's haughty.)

If, as a constructor, I went by Mario's judgment, I'd say this puzzle doesn't quite hit the mark due to a lack of super-fresh entries (perhaps with HAWKMAN and APP STORE serving as exceptions) and the existence of crosswordese/undesirable entries (including, but not limited to, URE, ESTE, CRU, and SRA).

If I were to take a more holistic approach and tell Mario to find his princess in another castle, I'd say the puzzle does just fine. The puzzle doesn't seem to contain a preponderance of entries in any single subject; plus, many of the clues/entries seem to hit my ideal combination of trivia, wordplay, and fun--with some thought-provoking material thrown in for good measure (see 36D; I'm glad Will/Joel/the editing team kept this clue).

Overall, I kind of like this little guy (the puzzle, not snobbish Mario) but would listen to the other little guy a bit more if I were to tackle another 72-word themeless for the Times.

Jeff Chen notes: Some brilliant cluing today, so much clever wordplay in effect. Wordplay for short entries is great, i.e. an [Apple field] isn't a ... more
Jeff Chen notes:

Some brilliant cluing today, so much clever wordplay in effect. Wordplay for short entries is great, i.e. an [Apple field] isn't a field of apple trees, but Apple (computer) in TECH. And wordplay is even more delightful when applied to feature entries, making those long answers stand out even more.

PEACE SIGN was a perfect example. "Double-digit figure" is a fine phrase, expressing when a number crosses from 9 to 10. Here, "digit" actually refers to the finger" definition. Great stuff.

Another example is SANS SERIF. [Unembellished type] at first struck me as describing an engineer like me who doesn't bother matching his socks and enjoys shaving his head because no hair means a huge savings in time and shampoo costs. But "type" refers to a type font — such an innocent clue, yet so deviously brilliant.

A lot of themeless constructors aim to debut their favorite new musician's full name, or an esoteric entry that they love but solvers might need every cross to figure out. More and more, I'm favoring these types of PEACE SIGN / SANS SERIF entries that lend themselves to taking a great wordplay clue that so many more people can enjoy.

HAWKMAN is a good example of the esoteric(ish) type of entry. I'm a big comics fan, so HAWKMAN was fun for me to see (he really does fly around hitting people with a giant mace!). But he is admittedly not a major character in the DC Comics universe. Not sure how well this one will hit solvers who aren't comics fanatics. (Hopefully not with a mace.)

A good number of feature entries, although PER ANNUM, PET SOUNDS (a Beach Boys album), EAR DOCTOR (ENT, yeah?), LEFT ALONE didn't sing as well as others for me. I'm sure Beach Boys fans will call PET SOUNDS fun, fun, fun, though.

As David mentioned, a few dings. PANTO was another that felt not as minor-feeling to me.

All in all though, I had a lot of fun with all the great cluing. It just takes a few stellar ones to make a puzzle sing, and all of today's wordplay made for an entertaining solve.

JimH notes: There was a rare error in this puzzle as first published. The original clue for PANTO at 26 Across was "Silent dramatic performance, to Brits." Pantos are anything but silent.
1
P
2
E
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A
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C
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E
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S
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I
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G
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J
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P
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A
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A
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F
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L
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M
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H
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A
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H
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H
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P
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H
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L
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H
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W
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M
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M
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M
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F
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A
D
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L
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B
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O
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N
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© 2017, The New York TimesNo. 0805 ( 24,742 )
Across Down
1. Double-digit figure? : PEACESIGN
10. See 20-Across : JAPAN
15. Spider producer : ALFAROMEO
16. Lacking dexterity : INEPT
17. Untouched : LEFTALONE
18. Reform? : MORPH
19. Colosseum greeting : AVE
20. National beverage of 10-Across : SAKE
21. Scratch : RASP
22. Apple field : TECH
24. Not thought out : RASH
26. Christmastime musical/comedy stage show, in England : PANTO
27. Input : ENTER
29. "You don't have to tell me twice!" : YEAHIKNOW
31. Bit of Disneyana : CEL
33. Floor : STUN
34. Cult follower? : URE
35. Mace-wielding DC Comics superhero : HAWKMAN
39. Joint : SLAMMER
41. Actress Ortiz : ANA
42. Bullet point : ITEM
44. Put away : ATE
45. Unembellished type : SANSSERIF
48. Skip the lines, say : ADLIB
52. On-line jerks? : BITES
53. Draft picks? : OXEN
55. 0, for 0 degrees : SINE
56. Toward el sol naciente : ESTE
57. Brisk pace : TROT
59. Title for Queen Isabella: Abbr. : SRA
60. Mushroom added to udon soup : ENOKI
62. Expert on the drums? : EARDOCTOR
64. Third-longest river in Africa : NIGER
65. Get through lines quickly : SPEEDREAD
66. Rumble in the night : SNORE
67. 1966 album ranked #2 on Rolling Stone's "500 Greatest Albums of All Time" : PETSOUNDS
1. It's a matter of taste : PALATE
2. Number of sides on a loonie : ELEVEN
3. Make a difference to : AFFECT
4. Monopoly token since 2013 : CAT
5. Eight-year presidencies, e.g. : ERAS
6. Kind of cell : SOLAR
7. "Don't worry about me" : IMOKAY
8. Beginnings : GENESES
9. San Francisco's ___ Valley : NOE
10. Good name for a personal trainer? : JIM
11. Winter coat : ANORAK
12. Yearly : PERANNUM
13. Smartphone home screen option : APPSTORE
14. High degree of proof? : NTHPOWER
23. "Darn it!" : HECK
25. Covers for locks : HATS
26. Party animal? : PINATA
28. Not paying attention : REMISS
30. Dance with strong percussion : HULA
32. Behind : LATE
35. Old stars : HASBEENS
36. Who wrote "We do not see things as they are, we see them as we are" : ANAISNIN
37. "Interested in one of my tickets?" : WANTTOGO
38. Enemy captain in 2009's "Star Trek" film : NERO
40. Pharma supply : MEDS
43. Collection of favorites, of a sort : MIXTAPE
46. Position in Quidditch : SEEKER
47. Relative of a skunk : FERRET
49. "Now see here ..." : LISTEN
50. Encroachment : INROAD
51. Things studied by pogonologists : BEARDS
54. Branching-out points : NODES
58. Rumpus : TODO
61. Cause of an explosion : IRE
62. Picking things up? : ESP
63. Word on une bouteille de vin : CRU

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

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