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New York Times, Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Author: Brian Cox
Editor: Will Shortz
Brian Cox
TotalDebutCollabs
17/26/20170
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1.55000

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 78, Blocks: 36 Missing: {JQZ} This is the debut puzzle for Mr. Cox NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Brian Cox notes: Some bio: I am a newspaper editor in Detroit. I have had some mystery short stories published in Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, ... more
Brian Cox notes:

Some bio: I am a newspaper editor in Detroit. I have had some mystery short stories published in Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, where I was once the managing editor many, many years ago. I recently had my first play, "Clutter," produced at Theatre Nova in Ann Arbor, and I am the artistic director of a small theatre company called Pencilpoint Theatreworks here in Ypsilanti. Ann Arbor constructors James Tuttle and Peter Collins are local celebrities in my mind.

My puzzle went through three revisions over the course of a year. Will was incredibly patient with me as I worked through refining the theme answers and the fill. This was the sixth puzzle I had submitted for Will's consideration so you can see I'm a slow learner. This particular theme came to me as I recalled days when my son was very young, and he went through a period when he was delighted with "Knock Knock" jokes. We would spend time before bed making different ones up. I thought combining knock-knock jokes with a crossword would make an interesting hybrid.

One theme answer that didn't work for Will that I thought was funny was the classic, "Hutch who?" with the response being "gesundheit." He wanted the responses to be complete sentences, which is the better idea, but I shed a few tears letting "gesundheit" go.

Jeff Chen notes: Debut! And such a fun idea, a take on knock knock jokes. I enjoyed the puns, a surprise given that I'm sick of knock knock jokes (my ... more
Jeff Chen notes:

Debut! And such a fun idea, a take on knock knock jokes. I enjoyed the puns, a surprise given that I'm sick of knock knock jokes (my two-year old constantly says "Interrupting cow MOO!"). My favorite was Sadie MAGIC WORD — "say the MAGIC WORD" — but the rest of them worked pretty well for me, too. I especially appreciated the multi-syllabic names, "Is there" punned upon as "Esther." "I want" as "Yvonne" was more of a stretch, but good puns are supposed to bad. Or something like that.

Love the audacity of a debut grid packed with six themers. Sometimes it's easier to work with six themers instead of five, as a longish (9+ letters) middle themer can create all sorts of problems.

Here, Brian does well to stack themers, WHOS THERE atop ANYONE HOME and I GET AN AMEN atop MA NO HANDS. This makes it more like you're working with four themers instead of six. As long as the overlapping letter pairs are friendly, this can make a constructor's life so much easier (vs. placing themers in every other row).

Brian had some flexibility in swapping themers, and he wisely paired up phrases resulting in such easy letter doublets like HA, EN, RY, EO at the top. The only one that's even remotely tricky is ??EO, but CLEO works fine there.

I'm usually happy to not notice short fill — its job is largely to stay out of the way — but TAXID is awfully nice. So hard to parse it into TAX ID.

HOB isn't as nice. Nor MLLES (although part of me does admire that crazy MLL beginning). Or ABED. But that's awfully good work from a debut constructor, especially considering the high theme density.

I would personally go out of my way to avoid ENSLAVE, as I prefer my crosswords to be uplifting, but to each his/her own.

Strong debut. I would have loved it if KNOCK KNOCK had been the first themer and WHOS THERE the second. Would also have been perfect if the themers had all related to knocking — [Esther] ANYONE HOME made for such an appropriate pun.

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© 2017, The New York TimesNo. 0726 ( 24,732 )
Across Down
1. "Common Sense" pamphleteer : PAINE
6. Rambler maker of old, for short : AMC
9. Hindu on a bed of nails : FAKIR
14. Yellowstone has more than two million of them : ACRES
15. Guy's square dance partner : GAL
16. 2006 Supreme Court appointee : ALITO
17. Response to "Knock knock" : WHOSTHERE
19. Fr. misses : MLLES
20. On its way : SENT
21. "Esther ..." : ANYONEHOME
23. Cut, as with a letter opener : SLIT
25. Ore-___ (frozen food brand) : IDA
26. One referred to as "my hero!" : SAVIOR
29. Witchy woman : HAG
31. Not genuine: Abbr. : IMIT
35. Squeeze moisture from : WRING
36. "Yvonne ..." : TOBEALONE
38. Go public with : AIR
39. Natalie Portman or Gene Simmons, by birth : ISRAELI
41. Some E.R. cases : ODS
42. "Sadie ..." : MAGICWORD
44. Reason to earn a badge : MERIT
46. Whodunit's essence : PLOT
47. Like all prime numbers but one : ODD
48. Where Dorothy and Toto are from : KANSAS
49. Camera type, in brief : SLR
51. Shelter rescues, e.g. : PETS
52. "Ken ..." : IGETANAMEN
57. In ___ of (replacing) : LIEU
61. S.S.N., e.g. : TAXID
62. "Luke ..." : MANOHANDS
64. General local weather pattern : CLIME
65. Like some stock trades, for short : OTC
66. Like a merino : OVINE
67. Can't stomach : HATES
68. Drop in on : SEE
69. Often-buggy software versions : BETAS
1. Handles clumsily : PAWS
2. Need ibuprofen, say : ACHE
3. Mineral plentiful in kale : IRON
4. Occupies, as a bird does a tree : NESTSIN
5. Ballpark fig. : EST
6. Secret ___ : AGENT
7. Musical partner of Peter and Paul : MARY
8. Queen of the Nile, briefly : CLEO
9. World-renowned : FAMED
10. Words of acclamation : ALLHAIL
11. Scale unit, in most of the world : KILO
12. Subject for gossips : ITEM
13. Jack's love in "Titanic" : ROSE
18. ___ metal (1980s music subgenre) : HAIR
22. British pol Farage : NIGEL
24. KenKen solver's need : LOGIC
26. Washington establishment, so to speak : SWAMP
27. Typeface similar to Helvetica : ARIAL
28. Many a September birth : VIRGO
29. Overcollect? : HOARD
30. Tucked in : ABED
32. Eighth-century conquerors of Iberia : MOORS
33. Second-most-populous nation : INDIA
34. Components of some batteries : TESTS
36. Stepped heavily (on) : TROD
37. Align the cross hairs on : AIMAT
40. Like some testimony and enemies : SWORN
43. "The deadline has arrived" : ITSTIME
45. Keep under one's thumb : ENSLAVE
48. Vegas numbers game : KENO
50. Fills with cargo : LADES
51. Biden's successor as V.P. : PENCE
52. Hankering : ITCH
53. Black-tie affair : GALA
54. Fire drill objective : EXIT
55. "Chicago" simpleton ___ Hart : AMOS
56. One to whom you might say "G'day!" : MATE
58. Rolling ___ (wealthy) : INIT
59. Pulitzer winner Ferber : EDNA
60. Plays for a sap : USES
63. Play ___ with (do mischief to) : HOB

Answer summary: 6 unique to this puzzle.

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