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New York Times, Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Author: Michael S. Maurer
Editor: Will Shortz
Michael S. Maurer
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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 ... more
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 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 ... more
Jeff Chen notes:

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.

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© 2015, The New York TimesNo. 0923 ( 24,060 )
Across Down
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
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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