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New York Times, Thursday, September 14, 2017

Author: John Guzzetta
Editor: Will Shortz
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1.63100
John Guzzetta

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 69, Blocks: 35 Missing: {JKQZ} This is puzzle # 16 for Mr. Guzzetta. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
John Guzzetta notes: The inspiration for this puzzle came from looking in the mirror. I have a gap wide enough to stick a screwdriver through. ... more
John Guzzetta notes:

The inspiration for this puzzle came from looking in the mirror. I have a gap wide enough to stick a screwdriver through.

Initially, I laid this out as a Sunday 21x, wanting to have all the gaps exactly in the middle of the puzzle. Even when I tried some rebus ideas (like Delaware Water GAP and SinGAPore), and threw in the names of famous people with gaps, there just wasn't enough there for a Sunday, and I boiled it down to a 15x.

Initially, I had SPREADS TOO THIN where SEED PEARLS / ILES is now but chose to break symmetry and bump it up a row in order match the tenses of the verbs.

Jeff Chen notes: DIASTEMA? That's a … gap in one's teeth? I was confused at the end of my solve, having missed the concept, but I got a nice ... more
Jeff Chen notes:

DIASTEMA? That's a … gap in one's teeth? I was confused at the end of my solve, having missed the concept, but I got a nice a-ha when I realized that John split theme answers so that they were "gap-toothed": TOOT / HIS OWN HORN, DO UNTO / OTHERS, SPREAD TOO / THIN. Fun twist on the old "words hidden within theme phrases" theme type.

DIASTEMA is an unusual revealer. I might have chosen to go with GAP TOOTHED so as to be more transparent, but there's something to be said about using DIASTEMA to delay the a-ha moment; to make the solver work for it. It does run the risk of the solver finishing the grid without understanding the theme, and putting the puzzle aside.

I get John's point about matching verb tenses in the themers, but I found the lack of symmetry odd. Along with DIASTEMA being in an unusual location for a revealer — with no symmetrical theme answer — the layout felt a little clunky. Other solvers might not notice any of this, but symmetry is such a core feature of crosswords that breaking it requires an extraordinary or theme-specific reason to do so, in my book.

I wonder if it would have helped to split MOLAR, CANINE, INCISOR, etc. instead of just TOOTH? Or to use TEETH?

Some tough fill. Totally fine to use esoteric words in a Thursday puzzle, like DUMONT, RYDELL, NESSUS (and DIASTEMA!). But too many of them can be a turn-off, especially when they leave room for a solver to finish with an unfair error. I finished with SHIEST / RIDELL instead of SHYEST / RYDELL, and DOMONT / CENSORED instead of DUMONT / CENSURED. Ultimately, I think both errors are more on me than on the puzzle — SHIEST is apparently a variant spelling — but that didn't stop me from coming away frustrated.

Neat concept, fun to see those gaps in the TOOTHs (maybe it should have been TEETH!). Some problems in execution, though.

1
A
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© 2017, The New York TimesNo. 0914 ( 24,782 )
Across Down
1. Interjection derived from the Latin for "weary" : ALAS
5. Peak : ACME
9. Rips off : ROBS
13. Food ___ (post-Thanksgiving meal condition) : COMA
14. Innocent sort : CHILD
16. Sal's canal, in song : ERIE
17. With 18-Across, what a boastful guy might do : TOOTHISOWNHORN
20. Wouldn't settle, say : SUED
22. Exhibits : MANIFESTS
23. Condemned : CENSURED
25. Save for later : CACHE
26. What comes before a clue? : GET
27. ___ NFL (video game franchise) : MADDEN
30. Antarctica's ___ Ice Shelf : ROSS
31. They're often made at icebreakers : INTROS
33. Dr. of verse : SEUSS
35. With 37-Across, start of an ethical rule : DOUNTOOTHERS
40. Prop for Gandalf : STAFF
42. "Grease" high school : RYDELL
44. Twitter site : NEST
47. Singer Nicks : STEVIE
49. Fight : VIE
50. Rejoice : EXULT
52. Formal term for the gap suggested by 17/18-, 35/37- and 54/57-Across : DIASTEMA
54. With 57-Across, overextended : SPREADTOOTHIN
58. Tiny treasures from the sea : SEEDPEARLS
60. Dots in la mer : ILES
62. Language of the Lahore Post : URDU
63. Way up : STAIR
64. In addition : ELSE
65. Quit : STOP
66. Come ___ surprise : ASNO
67. Celebration : FEST
1. It's the law : ACT
2. Something to tie up : LOOSEEND
3. Become in life : AMOUNTTO
4. Fills : SATES
5. German cry : ACH
6. Put in one's two cents, with "in" : CHIMED
7. Does sumthing wrong? : MISADDS
8. University near Greensboro : ELON
9. Did a dry run : REHEARSED
10. Jesse who pitched in a record 1,252 major-league games : OROSCO
11. Demographic statistic : BIRTHS
12. Faculties : SENSES
15. Cause for a suspension, in brief : DWI
19. Giants' grp. : NFC
21. Early TV network competing with NBC, ABC and CBS : DUMONT
23. Most movie explosions these days, for short : CGI
24. Some Jamaicans, informally : RASTAS
28. Job listing abbr. : EEO
29. Burrowing South American rodent : NUTRIA
32. Found, as grub : RUSTLEDUP
34. Most retiring : SHYEST
36. ___-mentioned : OFT
38. Rising notes? : REVEILLE
39. Dieter's goal : SLIMNESS
41. Gangsters' wear, in old movies : FEDORAS
43. Place for a shepherd : LEA
44. Centaur who was killed by Hercules : NESSUS
45. Black belt, e.g. : EXPERT
46. "You betcha!" : SUREDO
48. Quintet instrument : VIOLIN
51. Weak punch? : TAP
53. Dickens's Fagin, e.g. : THIEF
55. Paris's Pont ___ Arts : DES
56. "Toodles!" : TATA
59. Above capacity, for short : SRO
61. Harden : SET

Answer summary: 6 unique to this puzzle, 5 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

Found bugs or have suggestions?