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New York Times, Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Author:
Ned White
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
251/16/20109/11/20191
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
1206259
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.58020
Ned White

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 76, Blocks: 34 Missing: {BJQV} Spans: 1 This is puzzle # 25 for Mr. White. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Ned White notes:
Looking at the finished version of this puzzle, I think what I'm most impressed by is the mix of difficult (actually, evil) clues with ... read more

Looking at the finished version of this puzzle, I think what I'm most impressed by is the mix of difficult (actually, evil) clues with easy clues. Maybe just as a Wednesday should be: a blend of tough and tender. Thanks Will (and Sam and Joel) for this.

I loved making this puzzle, taking familiar "____ in the ____" phrases and looking for synonyms or descriptors that enclosed a synonym for the first word in some way. It's one of my favorites — appropriate as my 25th for the NYT. Hope you enjoy(ed) it.

You may have read I'm principally a writer of novels and scripts, with crosswords as a second line of defense. I'm pleased to announce the recent publication of my sixth novel, BILLY BUCK, available on Amazon.com and my website, nedwhitebooks.com, print or ebook. It's a story of a nearly broken man driving his teenage kids cross-country and their strange encounters along the way. Here's the blurb:

Maybe it started with his trip to Devils Tower ten years earlier, or maybe it was connected to his life-threatening surgery a few years later. But for Billy Buck, something is seriously askew, seeming to distort the very fabric of reality around him.

Now he's on a cross-country road trip with his two teenage kids to deliver them to their mother in Southern California as part of their custody agreement. In a decrepit old van, one can expect misadventures over three thousand miles. But what happens en route lurches sharply off the highway into the realm of the nearly impossible, challenging their view of themselves and the world they inhabit.

Something out there - powerful and invasive - has its sights trained on them.

Jeff Chen notes:
There's a great seed of an idea in here. Take 'X in Y' phrases, and find theme entries that mean Y, such that you can spread out the ... read more

There's a great seed of an idea in here. Take "X in Y" phrases, and find theme entries that mean Y, such that you can spread out the letters of X within? As much as I dislike the scattered appearance of random circles strewn through a grid, that would make up for it, in spades.

However, the theme entries ought to be solid in their own right, not made up. There are so many "X in Y" phrases out there, and so many solid themers meaning Y, that making up whatever you want is the easy way out. As a solver, it's not enjoyable to work so hard, just to uncover something as contrived as MARS FOR INSTANCE.

Let's take a look at the first theme clue, [Bird in the hand?]. There are dozens of birds that could have been used, a lot of them short, with friendly letters: OWL, DODO, DOVE, JAY, EMU, HEN, etc. There are also many meanings of "hand" that lend themselves to snazzy, or at least non-made-up-sounding phrases. APPRENTICE, ROUND OF APPLAUSE, UNIT OF MEASUREMENT, FULL HOUSE, etc.

It's possible that no combination of bird + snazzy phrase would work. If that's the case, you move onto the next "X in Y" phrase and start over.

Gridwise, I stopped my tally of gluey bits after ANAT STET SDS AMI SNERD, and it kept on going. Far from a polished product.

With several more rounds of rework, improvement, and finessing, this could have been a solid offering.

1
Z
2
E
3
S
4
T
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S
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A
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M
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I
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G
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A
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H
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A
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R
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A
L
P
H
A
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G
O
D
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T
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A
G
O
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H
I
R
E
D
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P
E
R
S
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N
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R
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N
E
Y
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U
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A
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D
O
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O
D
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C
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A
T
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L
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E
F
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R
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W
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S
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R
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G
O
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S
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M
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C
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K
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M
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R
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F
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O
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T
A
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C
E
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X
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I
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K
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H
A
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O
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N
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S
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P
A
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Y
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M
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D
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A
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A
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F
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© 2019, The New York TimesNo. 0911 ( 25,509 )
Across
1
Piquant garnishes : ZESTS
6
Female friend, to Felipe : AMIGA
11
Guffaw syllable : HAR
14
Top dog : ALPHA
15
Unseen title character in a classic play : GODOT
16
Previously : AGO
17
Bird in the hand? : HIREDPERSON
19
Headstone letters : RIP
20
R&B singer with the 2006 hit "So Sick" : NEYO
21
___ vez (once: Sp.) : UNA
22
Art often of marginal quality? : DOODLE
24
Snake in the grass? : CATTLEFODDER
27
Rarer than rare : RAW
30
Bourbon and Beale: Abbr. : STS
31
Time off, informally : RANDR
32
English architect Jones : INIGO
34
Grab a stool, say : SIT
35
Head Stone? : MICK
38
Come up in the world? : MARSFORINSTANCE
42
Proofreader's "leave it in" : STET
43
Omicrons' predecessors : XIS
44
Signed : INKED
45
"___ ever occurred to you ...?" : HASIT
47
Inseparable : ONE
49
1960s campus org. : SDS
50
Throw in the towel? : SPAACCESSORY
54
Die-hard fan's cry : MYIDOL
55
Question of introspection : AMI
56
Provides pieces for : ARMS
60
Fumble or stumble : ERR
61
Ace in the hole? : PERFORATION
64
One of three figures carved on Georgia's Stone Mountain : LEE
65
Gone from the plate : EATEN
66
Lewis who sang the theme for "Avatar" : LEONA
67
Acid : LSD
68
Mortimer ___, dummy voiced by Edgar Bergen : SNERD
69
Shutterbug's setting : FSTOP
Down
1
Former CNN anchor Paula : ZAHN
2
"Night" memoirist Wiesel : ELIE
3
Nimble, especially for one's age : SPRY
4
2000s Fox drama set in Newport Beach : THEOC
5
Elegiac : SAD
6
Transportation safety workers, e.g. : AGENTS
7
Fable's end : MORAL
8
Cards at a club, say : IDS
9
Olive oil and fish oil are high in them : GOODFATS
10
When a nautical day begins : ATNOON
11
Screwdrivers, e.g. : HARDDRINKS
12
Like gymnasts : AGILE
13
One handy with a lariat : ROPER
18
When repeated, a club game? : PUTT
23
One who's "out" : ODDMAN
25
Starting on : ASOF
26
Home of the Blarney Stone : ERIN
27
What some eyeglasses lack : RIMS
28
Basic subj. for a surgeon : ANAT
29
Like some terriers : WIREHAIRED
33
Upscale Swiss ski resort : GSTAAD
34
Palindromic nickname : SIS
36
Included in an email chain : CCED
37
Converse competitor : KEDS
39
Big name in stain removal : OXICLEAN
40
Baptism, e.g. : RITE
41
Stadium ticket specification : TIER
46
Checks (out) : SCOPES
47
Onetime pop star Donny : OSMOND
48
Neo-___ (film genre) : NOIR
50
Stink : SMELL
51
Some funeral arrangements : PYRES
52
Not so risky : SAFER
53
Rowdy ___, lead role on TV's "Rawhide" : YATES
57
Real scream : RIOT
58
Part of MSG : MONO
59
Cinch : SNAP
62
Hwy. : RTE
63
Visitor from the planet Melmac : ALF

Answer summary: 7 unique to this puzzle, 1 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

Found bugs or have suggestions?