It looks like you're using an Ad Blocker. Please consider supporting our site by purchasing an account.

New York Times, Saturday, January 11, 2014

Author: Martin Ashwood-Smith
Editor: Will Shortz
Martin Ashwood-Smith
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
836/5/199110/21/20169
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
000246215
ScrabRebusCirclePangrampre-WS
1.520017

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 66, Blocks: 27 Missing: {FJQ} Spans: 8, (2 quad stacks) This is puzzle # 72 for Mr. Ashwood-Smith. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Martin Ashwood-Smith notes: This puzzle started with the bottom stack, a lonely orphaned 4x15 sitting in my file of unfinished projects. The problem ... more
Martin Ashwood-Smith notes: This puzzle started with the bottom stack, a lonely orphaned 4x15 sitting in my file of unfinished projects. The problem was that any potential top stack was going to be quite restricted, by the symmetry created by the bottom stack. After a couple of months, I decided to try the ultimate stack-maker's "cheat": loading up the bottom row with esses. So after grappling with my conscience for a full three or four nano-seconds, I hit upon STEMLESS GLASSES. If most of the Downs (through the top stacks) had not been rock-solid (with the sole exception of CTNS) I would have abandoned the STEMLESS GLASSES route and gone back to the drawing board. Larger grid version

This, as is so often the case, created a whole new set of problems: I couldn't for the life of me get the centre of the puzzle to work, unless I enlarged the grid and made it a 15x16. To make matters worse, PALESTRINA had to extend into a relatively obscure Haydn opera LA CANTERINA.

And finally, what I needed was a good LOGS??? entry to match a potential ???GUTS at the bottom. Unfortunately I had a mental block, thinking of only computer-related LOGS OUT, LOGS OFF, etc. Finally it dawned on me that those LOG SHIPS that sail up and down the (Juan de Fuca) strait less than a 1/2 mile from my house might come in useful (I live in British Columbia; major export = logs)!

Keen-eyed observers will notice that I've developed an obsession with circus elephants. Last month, I gave you TRAINED ELEPHANT, and today it's ELEPHANT TRAINER. I'd love to say this is a super-duper circus theme that'll run though my themeless puzzles, but alas, I cannot. These puzzles were constructed over two years apart, with dozens of other puzzles written and published in between, so the mini-dupe caught me by surprise when I noticed it a few days ago (that's my excuse and I'm sticking to it!).

Finally a shout out to Kevin Der for paving the way back in 2010, by getting the whole double-quad-stack thing going. Coincidentally CTNS was also a stack-crossing entry in Kevin's pioneering puzzle. So you can think of CTNS as my tribute to Kevin Der, or maybe just a poor 4-letter fill word I'm desperately trying to justify using!

Anyway, I hope you'll find the rest of this puzzle, minus the circus elephants, trainers, and CTNS an enjoyable and challenging solve!

Will Shortz notes: I love a puzzle that has supersmooth fill. But at times I also like to see how far the English language can be pushed, even if ... more
Will Shortz notes: I love a puzzle that has supersmooth fill. But at times I also like to see how far the English language can be pushed, even if there are a few compromises as a result — as long as the overall effect is good. Martin Ashwood-Smith is a master of quad-stacks, and this construction is gorgeous.
Jeff Chen notes: I don't know how MAS does it. I've tried my hand at quad-stacks in order to expand my construction skills, but I'm nowhere even close ... more
Jeff Chen notes: I don't know how MAS does it. I've tried my hand at quad-stacks in order to expand my construction skills, but I'm nowhere even close yet. Coming up with the four stacked grid-spanners is hard enough, but throw in the fact that you need the section to tie to something else in order to make it a full puzzle (and have everything be symmetrical!), and you have a real feat on your hands. There's a reason why very few people are making grids like this.

There's not much room for snazzy fill outside of the 15s, so they must be snappy in order to give the puzzle kick. MAS does a pretty good job here, OBSCENE GESTURES being my favorite (no surprise given my fourth-grade maturity level). Some people might disparage TRADITIONAL IRAS, but financial and investment planning is a hobby of mine, so I really liked seeing it there. DENTAL ASSISTANT isn't great in itself, but a nice wordplay clue makes it shine.

Let's look at just one interlock issue as a demonstration of how difficult this construction is. In the bottom stack we have *ESHA in the fifth column. WAUKESHA isn't a great answer (unless you're from Wisconsin and/or love cheese curds, yum!) but what else is going to go there? Sure, you could shorten the entry to MOESHA or AYESHA, but that means you'd have to do the same in the symmetrical spot (GLEASONS might become GLEANS or GLEAMS). And then what happens to the surrounding areas? Maybe you could get something to work where KERT and where SOSPAD are, but with all the other constraints locking you in, that's highly doubtful.

Sure would be nice to do something about the KERT/MENSAL/REINA subsection though.

Yes, there is a good amount of subpar fill in here, but that's typically the price to pay for an audacious construction like this. Solvers' preferences are all over the map, some loving this sort of jaw-dropping grid, some preferring smooth and silky but less ambitious. I wouldn't want every themeless to push the boundaries like this, but I appreciate both the variety and the feat of construction. Fun solve.

1
C
2
A
3
N
4
A
5
D
6
A
7
B
8
L
9
U
10
E
11
G
12
R
13
A
14
S
15
S
16
T
R
A
D
I
T
I
O
N
A
L
I
R
A
S
17
N
A
V
A
L
E
N
G
A
G
E
M
E
N
T
18
S
T
E
M
L
E
S
S
G
L
A
S
S
E
S
19
L
A
Y
20
H
I
E
S
21
C
22
D
R
23
S
24
K
I
25
S
O
26
S
27
P
28
A
29
D
30
R
A
I
31
D
32
R
A
P
33
S
34
N
E
A
L
E
35
I
N
N
O
36
W
A
Y
37
I
38
T
S
A
L
O
T
39
S
I
G
M
A
40
O
41
R
Z
O
42
R
E
N
O
43
P
O
S
S
U
44
M
45
O
E
R
46
S
E
X
47
K
E
48
R
T
49
S
50
A
T
51
O
52
B
53
S
54
C
E
N
E
G
55
E
56
S
T
U
R
57
E
58
S
59
P
O
T
A
S
S
I
U
M
I
O
D
I
D
E
60
E
L
E
P
H
A
N
T
T
R
A
I
N
E
R
61
D
E
N
T
A
L
A
S
S
I
S
T
A
N
T
© 2014, The New York TimesNo. 23,440
Across Down
1. It has a close "Kentucky" cousin : CANADABLUEGRASS
16. Tax deferral options : TRADITIONALIRAS
17. Water gun fight? : NAVALENGAGEMENT
18. Tumblers : STEMLESSGLASSES
19. Nonprofessional : LAY
20. "Thus weary of the world, away she ___": Shak. : HIES
21. Burnable medium, briefly : CDR
23. Slender runner : SKI
25. One may remove grease with elbow grease : SOSPAD
30. SC Johnson brand : RAID
32. Does a Ludacris impersonation : RAPS
34. Grid great Greasy : NEALE
35. Not the least bit : INNOWAY
37. "That's expensive!" : ITSALOT
39. Sum symbol : SIGMA
40. Rice alternative : ORZO
42. Stop on Amtrak's California Zephyr : RENO
43. Dead player? : POSSUM
45. Key contraction : OER
46. ___ ed : SEX
47. Larry of the original "West Side Story" : KERT
49. Went nowhere : SAT
51. They're usually pixelated on TV : OBSCENEGESTURES
59. Kelp is a natural source of it : POTASSIUMIODIDE
60. One who orders trunks to be moved? : ELEPHANTTRAINER
61. Member of a drill team? : DENTALASSISTANT
1. U.P.S. deliveries: Abbr. : CTNS
2. Poor as ___ (destitute) : ARAT
3. Belly dancers' bands? : NAVELRINGS
4. Native of Caprica on "Battlestar Galactica" : ADAMA
5. Corker : DILLY
6. Done to ___ : ATEE
7. Alternatives to racks : BINS
8. Sawmill supplier : LOGSHIP
9. Fish in a dragon roll : UNAGI
10. They have bills and appear on bills : EAGLES
11. Renowned boxing gym in Brooklyn : GLEASONS
12. Outer limits : RIMS
13. Diomedes speared him : ARES
14. Having good balance : SANE
15. They were retired in '03 : SSTS
21. Like new notes : CRISP
22. Freshwater aquarium favorite : DANIO
23. Many a dama: Abbr. : SRA
24. Deck : KAYO
26. Brand : SEAR
27. Renaissance composer of "Missa Papae Marcelli" : PALESTRINA
28. How troglodytes live : ALONE
29. Clean out : DETOX
31. DiMaggio and others : DOMS
33. Fitting decision : SIZE
36. Wisconsin county or its seat : WAUKESHA
38. A.L. East team, on scoreboards : TOR
41. Really cheap shots? : ROTGUTS
44. Monthly : MENSAL
48. Spanish royal : REINA
49. Attic promenades : STOAS
50. Book review? : AUDIT
51. Weigh-in section? : OPED
52. Woody trunk : BOLE
53. Korean War weapon : STEN
54. Abbr. by Hook or by Cook : CAPT
55. Drs. often take over for them : EMTS
56. iPhone talker : SIRI
57. Fall scene : EDEN
58. Fundació Joan Miró designer : SERT

Answer summary: 8 unique to this puzzle, 2 debuted here and reused later, 3 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

Found bugs or have suggestions?

Previous puzzle | Next puzzle