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New York Times, Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Author:
Michelle Kenney and Jeff Chen
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutCollabs
19/5/20171
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
0010000
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.54010
Michelle Kenney
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
977/5/20104/8/201959
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
2578172398
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.636212
Jeff Chen

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 16 Words: 77, Blocks: 40 Missing: {JQXZ} This is the debut puzzle for Ms. Kenney. This is puzzle # 73 for Mr. Chen. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Constructor notes:
Michelle Kenney: When I was a freshman in college, I told my advisor that I wanted to write crossword puzzles for money someday, only to have ... read more

Michelle Kenney: When I was a freshman in college, I told my advisor that I wanted to write crossword puzzles for money someday, only to have him show me the door and tell me to come back when I grew up. After I turned 54 last year, I woke up one morning with a now-or-never feeling that had me reaching for a dictionary and my old thesaurus.

I spent a week in my pajamas, surrounded by a growing heap of crumpled papers, as I struggled to design a puzzle that didn't rely on a two-toed sloth or a bitter vetch for that final, impossible bit of fill. I finally decided that I needed some help getting this project off the ground, and I was lucky enough to meet Jeff Chen, who helped me refine the INTERMISSION theme.

We knew that we wanted to "interrupt" the names of Broadway shows, but finding themers proved to be much more difficult than I anticipated. Almost every time I thought I had one — WICKERBACKED for Wicked, or FACETIME for Fame, for example — something wouldn't work; Jeff's wife insisted (correctly) that the correct word is wicker back, and an Internet search revealed that the title of Fame is really Fame: The Musical.

I didn't count the number of emails we sent to each other, but I wouldn't be surprised if there were over one hundred in the exchange. Writing this puzzle is one of the craziest and most maddening things I have ever done (including the time I took a taxi with a live crocodile) but ultimately, it was very gratifying when it was finally finished.

Jeff Chen notes:
I enjoy working with new constructors, and I really enjoy it when they're like Michelle. Open to feedback, never quitting, willing to work as ... read more

I enjoy working with new constructors, and I really enjoy it when they're like Michelle. Open to feedback, never quitting, willing to work as hard as it takes to create a product that solvers will hopefully enjoy conquering. It was a pleasure to go back and forth with her.

She had pinged me with a very different idea, and it was neat to see her take my feedback about brainstorming … and actually do some brainstorming! A few ideas later, she hit on something that seemed interesting — hidden plays / musicals, i.e. HAIR in BRITISH AIRWAYS, with INTERMISSION as a revealer. It didn't seem quite right to me, but switching it so the play had an "intermission" in the middle felt like it could have legs.

Michelle started a list of possibilities, and we tried to find as many long musicals that could be broken up by short intermissions, like a real musical. HAWAIIAN AIR has a looooong intermission, while the GREEK VASE much more reflects the actual relative durations of a musical's first half, intermission, and second half.

We debated WISECRACKED vs. WINGBACKED — the latter felt very close to a real thing, but WINGBACK seemed much more in the language. I suggested WII WHACKED, i.e. what happens to a TV screen when a kid wildly flings a Wiimote at it. Michelle politely said that might be a little … ahem … esoteric. Good call, looking back on it!

It is incredible that anyone ever listens to me.

I laid out a grid skeleton for Michelle, testing to make sure it wouldn't cause problems, and Michelle took off from there. I coached her a little on what solvers might hate and love, and she did a fantastic job of iterating over 20 different versions to come up with what you see.

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© 2017, The New York TimesNo. 0905 ( 24,773 )
Across
1
What some castles are made of : SAND
5
Goaded (on) : EGGED
10
Clock setting for an alarm : AMPM
14
2015 "Rocky" sequel : CREED
16
String quartet member : VIOLA
17
Unadorned : BARE
18
Honolulu-based carrier, informally : HAWAIIANAIR
20
Corp. money managers : CFOS
21
"Big Blue" : IBM
22
Like caves with streams running through them : DANK
23
Early Uber policy unpopular with drivers : NOTIPS
25
"Coke is it!" or "Say 'Pepsi, please'" : SLOGAN
27
Piece of pottery featuring Achilles, say : GREEKVASE
30
Interoffice notes : MEMOS
31
They're heard but not seen : SOUNDS
32
Firecracker that goes pfft : DUD
33
Money owed : DEBT
35
Ike's monogram : DDE
36
Cut (off) : LOP
37
Break ... such as at the middle of 18-, 27-, 50- or 58-Across? : INTERMISSION
40
___ Paulo, Brazil : SAO
41
Perch for a ball : TEE
42
Humble response to a compliment : ITRY
43
"___ be my pleasure" : ITD
44
"There's something else you should know ..." : OHWAIT
46
Desert refuge : OASIS
50
Military bottoms, informally : CAMOPANTS
52
How you can shop without leaving home : ONLINE
53
In the thick of : AMIDST
54
Getting close, in a guessing game : WARM
56
Trail Blazers' org. : NBA
57
Bar mitzvah, e.g. : RITE
58
Made snappy comments : WISECRACKED
62
Meter or liter : UNIT
63
Rose petal oil : ATTAR
64
Enrique Peña ___, Mexican president beginning in 2012 : NIETO
65
Their maximum scores are 1600 : SATS
66
Word before "wrong" or "welcome" : YOURE
67
Bummer : DRAG
Down
1
Serious rift : SCHISM
2
Supportive of cultivation : ARABLE
3
One may attend a class on parenting : NEWMOM
4
Antismuggling org. : DEA
5
Actress ___ Rachel Wood : EVAN
6
Tree whose leaves appear in many Chinese fossils : GINKGO
7
___ long way : GOA
8
Certain Ivy Leaguer : ELI
9
Utmost, informally : DARNEDEST
10
"Fresh Off the Boat" network : ABCTV
11
Certain crime boss : MAFIADON
12
Stops from slipping : PROPSUP
13
Fooled (around) : MESSED
15
Played some tunes, say : DIDASET
19
McKellen of "The Hobbit" : IAN
24
Gives the nod : OKS
26
Emphatic rejection : GODNO
28
Fashion designer Gernreich : RUDI
29
Says "You and I are done," e.g. : ENDSIT
31
Scattered : STREWN
34
"Fine then!" : BETHATWAY
36
Unwavering, as a friend : LOYAL
37
"O.K., you got me" : IADMITIT
38
Paleo diet staple : MEAT
39
Tony Stark's alter ego in comics and movies : IRONMAN
40
Staying power : STAMINA
43
Mythical figure who flew too close to the sun : ICARUS
44
Special ___ (unconventional missions) : OPS
45
"Cross my heart and hope to die!" : ISWEAR
47
Baseball pitch that suddenly drops : SINKER
48
Not quite ready for full release : INBETA
49
Old salt : SEADOG
51
Clifford who wrote "Golden Boy" : ODETS
52
Bruin hockey legend : ORR
55
Something to build on : ACRE
59
Japanese figure skater Midori : ITO
60
Nickname formed by three consecutive letters of the alphabet : STU
61
El ___ (Spanish hero) : CID

Answer summary: 7 unique to this puzzle, 1 debuted here and reused later.

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