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New York Times, Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Author:
Peter A. Collins
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
1045/2/20064/18/201812
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51225361394
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.564313
Peter A. Collins
Peter, Will and Liane

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 74, Blocks: 34 Missing: {BQX} This is puzzle # 83 for Mr. Collins. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Peter A. Collins notes:
To be completely honest, themes like the one in this puzzle (where all the first or last words in various phrases are synonyms for a ... read more

To be completely honest, themes like the one in this puzzle (where all the first or last words in various phrases are synonyms for a word in the revealer) have never really thrilled me too much. They just don't seem to have the level of wordplay I expect. I don't think I've ever had another one of these published.

So why did I write this one? There are a couple of reasons. First of all, about a year ago I saw a notice (I can't remember where) stating that Will Shortz was relatively low on Monday puzzles. I don't have very many Monday puzzles under my belt, and I really appreciate the skills of Lynn Lempel, Andrea Carla Michaels, and others who can make fun, interesting puzzles while working with the limited palette of Monday-friendly vocabulary. So this was my attempt at a Monday puzzle. I only missed by two days.

Second, about the same time I saw Will's message, I solved a Fireball contest puzzle by Peter Gordon with the title "Head Start." My immediate reaction upon seeing the title was to think that Peter's theme was similar to the theme of my puzzle. That idea didn't last long. If you know the Fireball at all, my kind of theme would be way too straight forward for Peter. Nonetheless, I thought it would make a good Monday theme, so I rounded up a few phrases with "head" starts, and went to work.

I do, however, like the sonic semblance of the symmetrically-placed ISAAC STERN and KAZAKHSTAN.

About the picture above: Will and Liane (Hansen) were on an NPR barnstorming tour — if you donated enough money to your local station, you could come and have a glass of wine with the Weekend Edition host and the Puzzlemaster. Even though this was from before my puzzle constructing days, I did slip Will a puzzle idea I had for the NPR Sunday Puzzle. I'm happy to report that he actually used it! That was the start of my puzzling career.

I guess you can take that last comment two ways.

Will Shortz notes:
This puzzle reminds me of a supposed 'themeless' crossword that Will Weng once ran, in which each of the long answers contained a ... read more

This puzzle reminds me of a supposed "themeless" crossword that Will Weng once ran, in which each of the long answers contained a synonym for "rear end." After publication, when the hidden theme was pointed out to him, the proper-minded Weng embarrassedly expressed regret about publishing it. I wonder what he would have thought about today's theme?!

Jeff Chen notes:
I've enjoyed getting to know Pete through these comments. Turns out that both of us are boys at heart, so I smiled at today's puzzle. ... read more

I've enjoyed getting to know Pete through these comments. Turns out that both of us are boys at heart, so I smiled at today's puzzle. I didn't know what was going on, and hitting HEAD STARTS made me laugh out loud. You'd think I'd be tired of potty humor by age 42, but no.

I'm impressed that Pete found such great theme phrases, given how constrained he must have been. Often you can find enough theme entries, but pairing them symmetrically can be another story. PRIVY COUNCIL is one of the few "PRIVY ___" phrases out there, and what can you make out of WC but WC HANDY and WC FIELDS? It is nice that CAN and JOHN both give good flexibility, but still, finding a theme set that follows crossword rules can often be problematic.

Does toilet humor belong in the NYT crossword? I'm not sure. As much as I enjoyed the theme, I was surprised to see it. Perhaps I'm being too much of a stickler — I'm sure there are many solvers who will have my heh-heh-heh boyish reaction as well — but there's something undignified about it appearing in the hallowed tradition of the NYT. I enjoyed the theme immensely and might have given this puzzle the POW! If it had been in a different venue.

I appreciate Pete's efforts to incorporate long fill. I was struggling to spell KAZAKHSTAN correctly during my solve, so I was amused when Pete spelled it KAZAHKSTAN too when he sent me his notes. There was a good amount of esoterica today, but I did enjoy learning LANTANA, a ROSCOE being a mob gun, and the mysterious (but what was probably many people's favorite show?) DAKTARI. Perhaps a tad much new info to glean out of one puzzle? Not sure.

BTW, hopefully people have noticed Pete's Benjamin Button act, his pictures gradually going back in time. By the time he hits his 100th puzzle, we'll need a baby pic. LOO-king sharp! (Sorry, I couldn't help myself.)

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© 2014, The New York TimesNo. 0903 ( 23,675 )
Across
1. 2013 Tonto portrayer : DEPP
5. Artwork and furnishings : DECOR
10. Flaky mineral : MICA
14. Word at the bottom of a page, perhaps : OVER
15. Eye: Prefix : OCULO
16. Slippery ___ eel : ASAN
17. Metaphorical mess : CANOFWORMS
19. Bloods or Crips : GANG
20. Working stiff : SCHMO
21. Stage, say : RECREATE
23. Monarch's advisers : PRIVYCOUNCIL
26. 1960s TV show featuring the cross-eyed lion Clarence : DAKTARI
29. Wizards of aahs, for short? : ENTS
30. Postings at LAX and ORD : ETAS
31. Twice tetra- : OCTA
34. Sharply dressed : NATTY
37. ___ Lemon ("30 Rock" role) : LIZ
38. "St. Louis Blues" composer : WCHANDY
40. Period sometimes named after a president : ERA
41. Author Calvino : ITALO
43. Himalayan legend : YETI
44. Push : PROD
45. "Get Smart" adversary : KAOS
47. Micronesia's home : OCEANIA
49. Only president to win a Pulitzer : JOHNFKENNEDY
53. Manhattan region : EASTSIDE
54. "You're wrong about me!" : IDOSO
58. Mex. miss : SRTA
59. Race advantages ... or a hint to 17-, 23-, 38- and 49-Across : HEADSTARTS
62. ___ Parker, first president of Facebook : SEAN
63. Fired up : AMPED
64. "Oh, why not?!" : YEAH
65. "Giant" novelist Ferber : EDNA
66. Jolts, in a way : TASES
67. Bean staple : SOYA
Down
1. Official paperwork, for short : DOCS
2. FEMA request, briefly : EVAC
3. Phnom ___ : PENH
4. Memory triggers : PROMPTS
5. Big name in chemicals : DOW
6. "The Name of the Rose" author : ECO
7. Rice spice : CURRY
8. Ancient Mexican : OLMEC
9. Mobster's gun : ROSCOE
10. Burgundy relative : MAGENTA
11. Musician with a Presidential Medal of Freedom : ISAACSTERN
12. "Ple-e-e-ease?" : CANTI
13. Guardian ___ : ANGEL
18. Words with time or song : FORA
22. Undercooked, as an egg : RUNNY
24. Old stock car inits. : IROC
25. French spa locale : VICHY
26. Place where people pick lox? : DELI
27. Bickering : ATIT
28. Former Soviet republic : KAZAKHSTAN
32. ___ Bo : TAE
33. Chekhov or Bruckner : ANTON
35. "Star Trek: T.N.G." counselor : TROI
36. One-third of "et cetera"? : YADA
38. Scares a cat, in a way : WOOFS
39. Chop up : DICE
42. Showy flower : LANTANA
44. Biweekly occurrences, for many : PAYDAYS
46. Part of Waldo's wear in "Where's Waldo?" : SKIHAT
48. Shorten, say : EDIT
49. Track great Owens : JESSE
50. Worked on a trireme : OARED
51. Plant swelling : EDEMA
52. Minimum-range tides : NEAPS
55. Traditional ingredient in cookies and cream ice cream : OREO
56. Certain court order : STAY
57. Workplace rules setter, for short : OSHA
60. Joey ___ & the Starliters : DEE
61. 1960s antiwar grp. : SDS

Answer summary: 2 unique to this puzzle, 1 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

Found bugs or have suggestions?