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New York Times, Friday, September 18, 2015

Author: Gareth Bain and Brad Wilber
Editor: Will Shortz
Gareth Bain
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
144/6/20119/18/20152
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
0334112
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.58210
Brad Wilber
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
512/19/200510/21/201725
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
001201434
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.60001

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 68, Blocks: 31 Missing: {JQX} This is puzzle # 14 for Mr. Bain. This is puzzle # 46 for Mr. Wilber. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Constructor notes: GARETH: I can't remember how Brad and I started putting together some themeless grids. I know we made a ton of stacks, and from ... more
Constructor notes:

GARETH: I can't remember how Brad and I started putting together some themeless grids. I know we made a ton of stacks, and from those made several different themeless puzzles, of which this one has made the cut.

I don't remember that many specifics about this puzzle. I remember CABOTCOVE was something I included in a stack in a different grid, that Brad built his own stack around. I think most stacks were fairly collaborative in the end, but it's probably about 70% Brad that you're looking at in the final product.

Why? That's what I really came to say: It was an amazing and educating experience working with one of the masters of themeless construction! What really blew me away was the perfectionism — never leaving a bit of grid as "good enough". Brad is a tireless polisher! And a wonderful clue writer! It was a great privilege to be able to work with you, Brad! If this sounds fawning then so be it!

BRAD: When you're constructing a puzzle with a partner, "perfectionist" can come across as "control freak," so I'm exceedingly glad if Gareth had fun. Rather than be content partnering Doug Peterson, Byron Walden, and Kevin Christian and coping with a three-hour time difference, I went big: the time difference between Gareth and me is SIX hours.

I recall 1A and 15A being Gareth's starter stack (yes, possibly recycled from something we abandoned), and I was able to slip 17A in there. We actually added a white square to our original design to get the two 10-letter entries, and my favorite part of the finished product was Gareth's eventual crossing of 33D and 50A. His cluing aesthetic is mischievous but well-refined — it's on display in entries like 1D and 30D, not verbatim from the manuscript, but close.

Themeless construction DOES mean polishing to me; sometimes just one entry can sink you, and I don't like to put myself in the position of hoping something will skate through. Gareth brought lots of savvy and open-mindedness to the discussions we had on that score. I think you probably will be hearing from us again!

Jeff Chen notes: CORY Booker finally gets his due in the NYT crossword! Stanford undergrad, Rhodes scholar, Yale law, mayor of Newark, and now New ... more
Jeff Chen notes:

CORY Booker finally gets his due in the NYT crossword! Stanford undergrad, Rhodes scholar, Yale law, mayor of Newark, and now New Jersey senator. Not to mention his saving a woman from a fire back in 2012. Sure takes a lot to supplant the "Boy Meets World" CORY that's usually used!

CABOT COVE ... filmed in Mendocino, CA

Some nice entries today, DANCE CRAZE such a fun one. SPREAD EM is also catchy, although it reminds me a little too much of when I got harassed by a cop a few years ago. Sometimes I wonder if a white guy would have been asked to step out of his car and then shoved against the door, only to realize that he indeed wasn't drunk or even tipsy, as he protested. Anyhoo, hopefully SPREAD EM doesn't induce similar reactions for other solvers.

The top left triple-stack is pretty nice. I wasn't familiar with CABOT COVE, but apparently it's famous from "Murder, She Wrote." These proper nouns are tricky — I'm sure MSW fans will squee in delight over this one. Others will need every cross to piece it together. Divisive.

I wasn't as big a fan of the opposite stack, as it reminded me of Rich Norris' advice to me a few years back: single-word entries can be tough to make snazzy. ELECTIVES has some potential for a clever clue to make it sing. OBSOLESCE feels slightly off to me, as "goes obsolete" is much more common to my ear. MARTINETS is pretty good, but even as the best of the three entries in my opinion, it's not an entry that makes me want to incorporate it into one of my puzzles.

I much prefer entries like MAKE NICE, HOT MIC, and even DNA LAB. All are colorful, and it's fun for me as a solver to have to figure out where a space should go.

I appreciated the low number of gluey bits. With just a few (minor) entries like ADAR and RECTO, which will be perfectly fine to many, it made for a smooth if not pizzazz-filled solve.

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© 2015, The New York TimesNo. 0918 ( 24,055 )
Across Down
1. Like Blofeld in Ian Fleming's "You Only Live Twice" : SCARFACED
10. Some tiltyard paraphernalia : ARMOR
15. "Murder, She Wrote" setting : CABOTCOVE
16. Flip : GOAPE
17. Protest song on Pink Floyd's "The Dark Side of the Moon" : USANDTHEM
18. Sought, as a price : ASKED
19. Off one's rocker : BATS
20. Bouncer of radio signals : IONOSPHERE
22. Fiver : ABE
23. Alley of reality TV : KIRSTIE
24. Voice against a bill : NAY
25. 29-day month : ADAR
27. Ballet supporters : TOES
28. Venue : SITE
29. Inventor of a mineral hardness scale : MOHS
31. Covers with a trowel, say : STUCCOS
33. One whose work hours may involve minutes : STENO
35. It's a knockout : ETHER
36. Small pianos : SPINETS
38. On the dark side : GRIM
39. Conservatory pursuits : ARTS
40. Took home : MADE
42. Brat Pack name : LOWE
45. Mens ___ (criminal intent) : REA
46. Night courses? : DINNERS
48. Court org. : ATP
50. Chicken or mashed potato : DANCECRAZE
52. It makes granite glint : MICA
53. Challenge for an E.S.L. student : IDIOM
54. They're never required : ELECTIVES
56. Brain study, informally : NEURO
57. Disciplinarians : MARTINETS
58. Show of shows, with "the" : EMMYS
59. Become 49-Down : OBSOLESCE
1. Do a school visit, maybe? : SCUBA
2. Yellow-skinned fruit : CASABA
3. Quieted down : ABATED
4. Cey and Darling of baseball : RONS
5. Co. with budding prospects? : FTD
6. When Musetta's waltz is heard in "La Bohème" : ACTII
7. Associates : COHORTS
8. "All the same ..." : EVENSO
9. Sends back down the ladder : DEMOTES
10. Looking floored : AGAPE
11. Start of a holy day? : ROSH
12. Try to placate someone : MAKENICE
13. Wheeler-dealer : OPERATOR
14. They leave at night : REDEYES
21. Maid of honor, often : SISTER
23. Scandinavian coin with a hole in it : KRONE
26. Chorus of approval : AMENS
28. Dummy : SCHMO
30. Source of some political gaffes : HOTMIC
32. Monopoly pair: Abbr. : UTILS
33. Terse cop order : SPREADEM
34. Club metal : TITANIUM
36. Rush-hour subway rider, figuratively : SARDINE
37. Italian Riviera city : SANREMO
38. Grumpy old men : GEEZERS
41. "CSI" setting : DNALAB
43. Doesn't claim : WAIVES
44. "... and all that jazz" : ETCETC
46. They're not for sale : DEMOS
47. Odd-numbered page : RECTO
49. Not done anymore : PASSE
51. Sen. Booker of New Jersey : CORY
52. Toddler's assertion : MINE
55. To : TIL

Answer summary: 2 unique to this puzzle, 2 debuted here and reused later, 2 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

Found bugs or have suggestions?