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New York Times, Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Author:
Michael S. Maurer
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
255/4/19921/10/20183
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32511310
ScrabRebusCirclePangramPre‑WS
1.550006
Michael S. Maurer

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 74, Blocks: 36 Missing: {JQX} This is puzzle # 23 for Mr. Maurer. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Michael S. Maurer notes:
This is my 23rd NYT puzzle dating back to May of 1992. Eugene Maleska preferred quips and so did I. Will Shortz liked them better in ... read more

This is my 23rd NYT puzzle dating back to May of 1992. Eugene Maleska preferred quips and so did I. Will Shortz liked them better in his early years — now not so much. Today he prefers word play. I have tried to adapt.

I call this puzzle "Fantasy Football." I had a lot of fun with the theme. Here are some ideas I didn't use:

  • Chaperone? – Pass protection
  • Spicy pekoe? – Kicking tea
  • Like some crusts? – Offsides
  • Play cuer? – Lineman
  • Raise, as a skirt? – Hike
  • Deodorant product? – Right Guard

When I submitted this puzzle last year I was doubtful of its acceptance. I had tried a similar concept a couple of years ago regarding baseball:

  • Kamikaze mission? – Sacrifice fly
  • Pre-dinner phenomena – Plate appearance
  • Genesis? – Fall classic
  • Flashlight bulb? – Battery mate
  • Janus – Double header
  • Purposeful stroll – Intentional walk

For my trouble I received a polite rejection. Shortz is so nice about that. How can you possibly be upset?

Shortz accepted this puzzle but was not pleased with the construction in the lower left corner because it included: The ____ closed (BAR IS). He improved on that, changed a few clues as he is wont to do and the final result is what you see. The release date was timed for the opening of the 2015 NFL football season; a nice touch. Hope you liked it.

Jeff Chen notes:
Football terms interpreted in wacky ways, appropriate for the recent KICKOFF of the NFL season. FIRST DOWN as an appetizer and ... read more

Football terms interpreted in wacky ways, appropriate for the recent KICKOFF of the NFL season. FIRST DOWN as an appetizer and DEFENSIVE LINE as "I am not guilty" made me smile.

Defensive line getting defensive

FAIR CATCH in the sense of "she's a catch" sort of worked for me too, although the tortured clue — [Beauty queen bride, quaintly?] — betrays that something isn't quite right. A catch is a great person, so how could a great person be just fair? ADDED NOTE: A frequent reader, Laslzo Denes, points out that "fair" here is in the archaic "beautiful" sense of the word, so this does make more sense.

RED ZONE was a little too similar to RED STATE for me, and KICKOFF as [Exile from?] … where's the wackiness in that? I think these types of themes work best when the wack factor is high.

I liked that the grid had some big swaths of white, the upper right and lower left in particular. That lower left is so clean, and even features a couple of nice entries like RENOIR and ADWARE. I wasn't hot on ESPECIAL in the upper right, wondering if the E was supposed to be left blank to make it SPECIAL? But ESPECIAL does seem to be a legitimate word.

What with the lowish word count (74), Michael does pretty well to keep the gluey bits to minor stuff like HRS and SRS. EFS I personally see as less minor, but some solvers seem to dig letters spelled out, i.e. ESSES, PEE, DEE. I don't understand that, but perhaps it's because as something seen much more in crosswords than in real life, it gives regular solvers a leg up?

EMOTER is also a controversial one. I don't care for it at all, but I can see how people in acting might think it's perfectly fine.

It would have been great to get some more snappy long fill like NO MATTER, but I do appreciate how relatively clean Michael kept the puzzle, especially with the unusual and pretty tough layout. 13-letter middle themers are so hard to cleanly build around.

1
R
2
A
3
P
4
T
5
B
6
E
7
L
8
A
9
E
10
S
11
T
12
O
13
S
14
A
R
E
A
15
O
M
A
N
16
S
H
U
S
H
17
F
I
R
S
18
T
D
O
W
N
19
P
A
R
S
E
20
S
K
E
E
T
S
21
S
E
R
B
I
A
22
S
23
A
U
S
A
G
E
24
K
I
C
K
O
F
F
25
R
C
A
26
M
A
R
27
T
I
N
I
28
S
Y
S
29
S
I
D
30
E
31
R
E
C
A
32
P
33
D
E
F
34
E
35
N
36
S
I
V
E
L
I
37
N
38
E
39
S
N
O
O
P
40
N
O
V
41
A
42
B
43
R
44
A
45
D
E
L
E
46
T
47
E
48
D
49
M
E
D
50
R
E
D
51
Z
O
N
E
52
U
N
I
53
T
A
R
D
54
I
N
W
A
R
D
55
P
R
E
S
E
T
56
G
O
A
L
S
57
F
A
I
R
C
A
T
58
C
59
H
60
H
I
R
E
E
61
R
I
N
G
62
S
E
E
R
63
T
R
E
S
S
64
O
R
G
Y
65
E
R
O
S
© 2015, The New York TimesNo. 0923 ( 24,060 )
Across
1
Engrossed : RAPT
5
Composer Bartók : BELA
9
These, in San José : ESTOS
14
The "A" of San Francisco's BART : AREA
15
Country whose flag has a dagger and two swords : OMAN
16
Reprimand in a movie theater : SHUSH
17
Appetizer, usually? : FIRSTDOWN
19
Analyze : PARSE
20
Clay targets : SKEETS
21
Where you might spend dinars for dinners : SERBIA
22
Pizza order : SAUSAGE
24
Exile from? : KICKOFF
25
Record label for Kelly Clarkson and Miley Cyrus : RCA
26
"The only American invention as perfect as a sonnet," per H. L. Mencken : MARTINI
28
GPS part: Abbr. : SYS
29
Agree (with) : SIDE
31
End of many a sports broadcast : RECAP
33
"I am not guilty," e.g.? : DEFENSIVELINE
39
Eavesdrop, e.g. : SNOOP
40
Deli purchase : NOVA
42
Training ___ : BRA
45
Expunged : DELETED
49
Club ___ : MED
50
Cuba or North Korea? : REDZONE
52
Dance class wear : UNITARD
54
How the spiritual look : INWARD
55
Car radio feature : PRESET
56
Hockey stat : GOALS
57
Beauty queen bride, quaintly? : FAIRCATCH
60
Personnel director's choice : HIREE
61
Best man's charge : RING
62
Cassandra, in Greek myth : SEER
63
Part of a bun : TRESS
64
Wild time : ORGY
65
Statue in London's Piccadilly Circus : EROS
Down
1
Battle of Britain grp. : RAF
2
"Entourage" agent Gold : ARI
3
Bring around : PERSUADE
4
To-do list items : TASKS
5
Madre-y-padre store? : BODEGA
6
One who acts badly : EMOTER
7
Corpus juris contents : LAWS
8
Miller of "On the Town" and "Kiss Me Kate" : ANN
9
Out of the ordinary : ESPECIAL
10
Reason for a beach closing : SHARK
11
Powerful engines : TURBOS
12
Become fixed : OSSIFY
13
Bundles : SHEAFS
18
Bulls or Bears : TEAM
21
Word before a year on a storefront : SINCE
22
Next year's alumni: Abbr. : SRS
23
Word before test or trip : ACID
24
Eastern European capital : KIEV
27
Hogwash : TRIPE
30
G.P.A. destroyers : EFS
32
Wrestling win : PIN
34
Backs : ENDORSES
35
Ceaselessly : NOEND
36
Kind of beneficiary : SOLE
37
"Don't worry about it" : NOMATTER
38
At least once : EVER
41
Cause of fidgeting, for short : ADD
42
Intelligent : BRIGHT
43
"Bal du Moulin de la Galette" painter : RENOIR
44
Norton AntiVirus target : ADWARE
46
"The Imitation Game" subject : TURING
47
Vigor : ENERGY
48
Alternative to a download : DISC
51
Big name in jewelry : ZALES
53
Bring up an embarrassing story about, say : TEASE
55
One plus one : PAIR
57
Big do : FRO
58
Fast Company profilee, for short : CEO
59
Storefront listing: Abbr. : HRS

Answer summary: 1 unique to this puzzle.

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