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Puzzles for February, 2015
with Will Shortz comments

Sun 2/1/2015THIS N' THAT
MEATPIESFLAWEDHAHAS
CAROLALTOENONEELENA
SUMMONSUBSTANCEAARGH
OATFUSSRAVIOLI
MARTCOFFINWHEEZENEB
ALCOPOPFLORIDTHAMES
NFLROEGTAKESOPA
DRAGONDROPYEMENOKRA
MEDALSAJAKDAVIDLEAN
GIFCANISENROUTE
DOWFOREIGNTWENTYPEW
ARABICASKIEDHBS
MARACAIBOSNAGSOUNCE
NLRBLLAMAKRAKENPEEL
EELSCALDRILECRO
RINSESONPOSTMISSTEP
ASPFISSIONCHIPSTASE
MAESTROIRANLAR
ABATEFOREMANFUNCTION
DECAYTINCUPEVIDENCE
ALENECLAUSERATSNEST
Mon 2/2/2015
JUMBOPAREWSJ
ONIONONEADOTO
TONYCURTISRUIN
DESTINYCALLS
AWWESCCANDLE
MOHAIRALLOWED
YEASTBALIERA
THEBIGAPPLE
WASUDONRAVEL
ALMONDSVOWELS
FLYRODACERID
FELONYCHARGE
LAINCOMPANYCAR
ERNOOLEOAROMA
SSEPADSWEEPY
Tue 2/3/2015
GLOBALPOSTAL
REVENUEDIPLOMA
INITIALONTARIO
GODNITROKISS
TRADETHE
CAREEARADDED
PARENTROOMRAY
ANTEORDERSAVE
ITSOVERBATTED
ROYALFORMASS
CARPARTY
WIDEISSUENEW
ACADEMYLETTUCE
RETIREDSCIENCE
STATESEARNED
Wed 2/4/2015
MIREHYATTFIEF
AMEXMOTESIOWA
CHECKOUTCOUNTER
SOFIABAHREARS
TYPEBAGASSI
TAKEOUTORDER
ALLSETYEATGIF
LIEDIYCPRECO
LIEFTASTEHRAN
LOOKOUTPOINT
SATURNSNOOT
ALONESOYSPOSE
WORKOUTROUTINES
TATEMARKSNEAP
ODEDSTYESKATY
Thu 2/5/2015
TAPASGIRLPAMS
IVANAEBAYERIQ
FORYOUREYESONLY
FWIWKALEUPEND
SHERRIBELLES
STIEGDECODE
ARARATVIAALOU
LONELYTEARDROPS
SISIKOIDEEDEE
WHENCEAPERS
CACAOSANKLES
EDENSSNOWOTIS
LEADEROFTHEPACK
ELSEIDLEELREY
BEERDAYSKESEY

Somehow over time, Thursday has gotten the reputation of being the "trickster" day for the Times crossword. This is when you're most likely to encounter a rebus, answers that read in unorthodox directions, letters getting entered onto black squares or outside the grid, etc.

In truth, though, at least to me, Thursday is just supposed to be harder than Wednesday and easier than Friday. That is all.

Today's puzzle has about as untricky a theme as you'll find — three 15-letter song titles Across intersecting three other 15-letter song titles Down. Amazing. How did Mike find this?! All are titles of truly big songs that are familar to me (although 4D, just barely — that's a little before my time). The construction is pretty damn clean, too.

What makes this a Thursday? Partly it's the puzzle's 72-word word count, which is low enough to meet themeless Friday/Saturday standards. And partly it's that not everyone may know all these titles, in which case they're not so easy to fill in. Naturally, the cluing level has been pitched to a Thursday level to keep everything in sync.

If you like your Thursday themes trickier than this, hang on for future weeks. I've got some doozies on the way. But sometimes a Thursday theme can come in a straightforward variety, too.

Fri 2/6/2015
LOOKATTHATBETS
EXHILARATEEXEC
DOGLICENSENEER
ROCKEDTEMPO
PROBESJSHAPED
AIWAPALETTES
YOURETOOMUCH
STPPANGAEAMAO
THISOLDTHING
SCOURGESISNO
AIRBOATHATRED
LTGENFLECHE
ERATSPEARHEADS
MONOITSDOORDIE
SNAPEASYDOESIT
POW Sat 2/7/2015
GRABLEEASYACES
RULEONMONOTONE
ICHINGBROUHAHA
PHINDICATORLAG
PERSONALADGENL
EDTNEWMETOSCA
LAMESBRACES
WAVEREDBOILERS
ELEVENHOBBS
ATRIADITKAPIM
KAYSWILHELMINA
SIMDESIARNAZJR
PRICECUTRAZZES
OILLEASEEMDASH
TVDINNERYEASTY
Sun 2/8/2015MULTIFACETED
TIMESLITICETCBER
SHIERPASSINGGOSHERA
GARNERATTENTIONWEARY
AVAPURETKOSEXIER
RECKONSOSEWNDISSING
PILETINTEDCRUISESBY
TEENTSASOUPETHAN
PONYEXPRESSSSR
SLOMOTROOPHAIARS
MEANSTOASSNELLYETI
LTDGAMETHESYSTEMVOL
KILLFREETCMINAFUNK
NEEAILSTOPSTRIPE
ANNPOPAWHEELIE
OBESEBONAOTTESPY
WATERGATEJUSTASTOUR
SHOTFORDCUPLIPBALMS
NOGOODUNSELALEMT
AEIOUQUARTERSIZEHAIL
PRAWNULULATIONWAXEN
PENNELKSSONGMERE
Mon 2/9/2015
OFLATEHATECPR
BRIDALOXENORE
SUPERBOWLADVIM
EMTPANTMEMO
SPOTCOLDWATER
SYNAPSEORATORS
LEEOLEGUSE
MEADOWLANDS
UFOLOVEMER
PANTENEPYRAMID
SLOWDANCEWADE
USTAALITHIM
RIOWHERESWALDO
GENIAGOLIVEIN
ESEGLOBEXERTS
Tue 2/10/2015
SPATEAMOKHAWS
NASALROTOODON
OUTOFSORTSMIME
OLESUSESEEYA
TARFEELINGPUNK
OSAYNATL
HAITICHAPASTO
UNDERTHEWEATHER
BASEEINEPEONS
LEANPESO
WAYBELOWPARTAP
ASIANYSLREPO
STENINTHEDUMPS
TOLDDOHAADULT
ENDSSTEWTYPES
POW Wed 2/11/2015
TODDCATTCAUSE
AREAWHOAHURTS
NCARTHEBEETLES
GAFFERODEO
LUDICROUSLUV
ITERATECELINE
TAOMEDICSANDS
HIPSMACAWSCOT
AWASHREDIDONE
CARTEDENABLED
ANDBOYSTOMEN
ARRAYSAPPY
MOTLEYCREWSARI
ALLOWHIHOTRAP
PACESTASESKYS
Thu 2/12/2015
SWALLSAFTGEMS
HITSATJIBATOM
ENLACEARSLAVA
NEATPAREZALES
GSNNOSARIITO
EATINSCRIPTION
PITTAMOCO
CORNERSTONE
POEMEDEMI
TIMECAPSULEOMG
OSAAPESISTER
UTTERRISESIMI
CRITZOONIACIN
HINTARTOSMOND
SAGEGSARHINES
Fri 2/13/2015
STEWPUSHTBILL
TAXIINNAMEONLY
UKESECONOMYCAR
DECKCARGOPLANE
FARKEPTONENOS
ALANISVET
ROBESEYEDOCTOR
MOLLSSIRSHEBA
SKELETONSSISSY
RATPENTEL
DUETSENSESPSI
OBLITERATEMISO
ROUGHRIDERALIT
MADEASCENECOOT
STERNARODETNA
Sat 2/14/2015
JAVASCRIPTMASS
IHADNOIDEAONEL
MAIDENFORMOGRE
ISOLATEPETRIE
EKEAPEXYAP
WSWESQUIREBLY
ACHEDURGEPIPE
FROMMOOEDTROY
FEDSOTROPADRE
LEAELEANORSTD
ENTREDSNED
CIGARSDETECTO
ODICKARATECHOP
NORMICEBOXCAKE
ELLENIXONTAPES
Sun 2/15/2015SPLIT ENDS
BETHEREGOBIGTHELADY
USHERINOHARARETIREE
SQUEALSTONESARIETTA
SURSELDOMSEADOGIRR
TABLEERNETOREEPSON
OREOSRITUMSRETIE
PERPVOLGSAESTD
GEEORENUS
HALFFULLCHOISITLIVE
INPERILQUERYNEMESIS
MANMADEUSAGEAGEGAPS
PIERCESAVEME
INTLYOURMONEYONLY
BRAYEDBELABORDRDOOM
URNSIPSITOISEEGLO
TINSTARAFTERTAXICAB
TTYLRIFLESATEDNATS
RAGAITOOHOWEABET
EBONSHOULDISTAYPINE
SLATTEDBEGEREENGR
SETSSESJLOMDSTSOS
Mon 2/16/2015
ELMERCHIJODIE
NEATORANEARLS
TIRETRACKSTEEP
SAXTACKYTEA
OINKSDERMAL
AMOUNTMARSALA
BOURGYEATSBLU
ARTSPOLKAHOED
TEOOAKIEGOUGE
ENFORCERRATED
DOODLESAUER
ROEANIMEJEW
AUDRATEMPTFATE
PREENTAEELITE
BIRDSADDDOLED
Tue 2/17/2015
CATBAGSGABPOM
HMOOONAACEYAO
OATXRAYRCARHO
WHOLETTHEDOGSOUT
ORAISEULT
ARLOTANNERIES
SEEKOUSTENNE
SAMOANTACT
IDUNNOCRAT
STREETAMPMHOSE
TOSSESNCOSEWER
BLOODHOUND
PIPEBREADTOAST
UKESATALLHUSKY
GENTDONEESTAIR
Wed 2/18/2015
CCCPASSISIBPS
ULNASPIDERRIP
BABYTHEROCKUNO
ENCARTAINTO
BOOKSTHECOOK
EVELYNTRIPE
SOREPAIGEDES
QUESTIONTHEDUCK
SSSANODEELHI
ALICETEFLON
BLAMETHEBEAR
LILTETVOILA
AFTDECKTHESWAB
ZEEAVIATETONI
ERRBATTERSNIT
POW Thu 2/19/2015
DAUBASWANMFA
OMNIPHOTOTILT
TAFTSEEYAARIA
CRACKERPIAEEK
ONIONPAIRPLANE
MARIEANCPAWAT
NEDNAUSEATE
AWWURALSYEN
BREATHESEEG
SENNASURLOOPS
CATALYTICLECHE
ETCLEAROASTER
SHOEARGUSBANE
SELFSEEMSAVON
DDTTAEBODOME
Fri 2/20/2015
BIGBREASTEDASK
ISHOULDHAVECHE
KNOWNBETTERTRE
EOUSASITBENIN
STLEOCLAYTON
ROOMKEYARKS
STRZIPSEGGMAN
TRAVELSSAMEAGE
AUTISMANYALEE
REPOAPPLEID
COLONELLEILA
TRIALLEHRADIN
HISINONEEARAND
EMOOUTTHEOTHER
YENSTAYEDLOOSE
Sat 2/21/2015
CLASSTRIPSALTI
LATETEENSAXIOM
OVENREADYTEMPT
CIAEMMYMORESO
KEMPTSYNLEO
ACETATESICS
RALPHNADEROGRE
OBEYCLUESCHEX
SOARHELLOKITTY
AUDIANTENNA
PTSBITELUDE
ATTAINDALEDEV
RHOMBSATELLITE
KARELCLOSEINON
STYNEHYPERTEXT
Sun 2/22/2015FLIP-FLOPS
AFFORDSTATELMOSCPA
DRUMOUTAGERECATCHAS
SAENDRIPURINASTAREOW
TLIEERHEARTEDTESLA
ORSONASSSEWSON
SNIPNARCTWIT
CANADAODIEELACTPAD
ARUNUSREFSTALBOWITE
BDIEETTETAPINSLIBRA
SOTSREELGALSINBAD
GOESUPANDDOWN
SCOWLSNAPAURADATE
OHARADOGIESPRIMUSEG
WARIDEAPERLILNAPINA
STSTEPNTPINESEEDED
EASEIMAXSETS
EXHALEVATSEAMS
SAUNASELFRESTANTET
SCROPMOUNTAINBRAINRS
ATONEOLISLPSAIRCOOL
YONLEDTOLEETALKSTO
POW Mon 2/23/2015
GLASSCLAWPORT
YENTAHOLYUHOH
MEGANAUTOTYPE
ROTTENTOMATOES
REARIMSURE
CHADACCTNO
RACESOURGRAPES
ARABSMRIERATO
BITTERPILLTROT
GOSOLOMENS
ATRIUMSHUN
LEAVEABADTASTE
INTONOVADEITY
BEERCRIBJUNTA
ITSYENDSIMGAY
Tue 2/24/2015
BLASSUSMCHOWL
LANCENCAAOPIE
ENDUEDANLRUNG
EARLSSUNGLASSES
PIELIKEAARE
ENANCOOFF
BRERIDEALHUE
LADYJANESBLINDS
AGEEMCEENODS
HENABUOWN
SNUBSTOOLIE
ZANESLAMPCOVERS
IMAXATIEDANES
NOSENOTASTONE
GRADTREKYESES

Hi Jeff,

Your description on XWord Info today sounds about right. When Joel and I look at submissions, we mark them up with our reactions — check marks for entries we like, minus signs for ones we don't, x's for things we won't accept, question marks for entries we have to think about (like, hmm, is this really an in-the-language phrase?), and "ck" for stuff we need to check.

The size of these marks indicates the strength of our feelings. For example, OONA might get a small ding for being crosswordese, whereas E LEE would get a big demerit for being something we really, really don't want to use.

When we're done, we look over the manuscript as a whole, weighing the pluses and minuses, in deciding whether we want to accept the puzzle or not.

As for Elizabeth's puzzle today, we liked CALL A CAB, MANGANESE, SCULLERY, and WOODSY. On the minus side, PIELIKE gave us pause, and the grid has a modest amount of crosswordese. Joel revised the lower-left corner to remove the crosswordy ZASU and ANAS. He also looked at improving other areas, but didn't see a way to do this without making wholesale changes in the construction, which we didn't want.

The theme is really what sold me on this puzzle. I thought it was different and amusing. Of course, we timed its publication for the release of the movie "Fifty Shades of Grey."

I believe Elizabeth constructs without a computer (her grids are hand-drawn), so I give her big props for that.

--Will

Wed 2/25/2015
ROLLEDRAMEBAE
ONEEAREDBONERS
CANTLOSEENVIES
WISPTONNE
LANSINGMICHIGAN
ADOPTNOELS
IDEATEICUDISK
LINCOLNNEBRASKA
ANDYSUESORTOF
NORSESTORK
STPAULMINNESOTA
CHARTIOTA
REGIMEWRISTPAD
AMAZESAAVERAGE
MENAGEPENALTY
Thu 2/26/2015
HIPPOECHOGAME
IDEALLEOIOBOE
KENNEDYDOLIDOL
ESSMUSEDINUSE
ASIDEWAGGLED
ACCUSEDINGO
COOPSFUNNYFARM
TALEJACKOFRAU
STARBUCKSCCING
BIDESGHOSTS
MOLOTOVTRACT
SHOWSADAIROAK
NACLFLYINGATMA
BRATDUELELLEN
CALIREDSREESE
Fri 2/27/2015
GRACEPERIOD
PRISONEROFWAR
THISISSPINALTAP
ROSEATECATSEYE
ANTBOT
MELISMABUSLANE
PSYCHICBRIARS
HOMOGARP
IMAGERUNEARTH
EDITIONNONZERO
DINGAP
YOUANDISHALLWE
STEPHENJAYGOULD
STORAGESPACES
SPARETHEROD
Sat 2/28/2015
PANAMAHATPARTB
IRONCROSSOPERA
GETSAGRIPTOPAZ
LANNONSDODO
EMITSEANCAMEO
TACOSDICKCLARK
SPELLSDIALNSA
DANKSLAT
SSRPONSEMBOSS
PHOTOBOMBPANAM
YOUINBELARENE
WELTLULUSRA
ABAFTSTRETCHER
RODEOWEARISOME
EXERTFRYOLATOR