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New York Times, Thursday, January 2, 2014

Author: Todd Gross
Editor: Will Shortz
Todd Gross
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
149/13/20096/18/20165
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4111313
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1.52120

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 70, Blocks: 32 Missing: {JQXZ} This is puzzle # 9 for Mr. Gross. NYT links: Across Lite PDF

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Todd Gross notes: I first tried this puzzle on Peter Gordon in March of 2012. He liked the theme idea, but didn't like that every theme entry would ... more
Todd Gross notes: I first tried this puzzle on Peter Gordon in March of 2012. He liked the theme idea, but didn't like that every theme entry would take the same form. I tried sending it to Will in July of 2012: he liked the idea more, just asking me to improve the fill in places. After a couple of resubmissions, he accepted this puzzle the same day (in the same e-mail, in fact) as David's and my recent Crossword Centennial puzzle.

I don't remember where the idea came from, but I was really glad I could use 51 Across as a theme revealer (my original clue was "Taking liberties ... as with this puzzle's theme"). I'm also interested in seeing how 8 Down will be clued: a straight (if somewhat racy) definition, or a reference to the 45 year old hit song? Also, I couldn't resist referencing Stan Newman's book Cruciverbalism to clue 52 Down...I'm guessing that clue will be changed.

Will Shortz notes: Sometimes I think every possible Thursday gimmick must have been used by now ... but, no. Great new ideas, like today's, keep ... more
Will Shortz notes: Sometimes I think every possible Thursday gimmick must have been used by now ... but, no. Great new ideas, like today's, keep showing up. That's one reason I maintain an "open submissions" policy at The Times, unlike many British papers, which limit crossword submissions to a select few. Todd Gross is only an occasional contributor, and if he weren't on that hypothetical roster of approved submitters, he wouldn't have sent me this beautiful puzzle. In addition to the four long theme entries, I love the bonus one at 32A.
Jeff Chen notes: Man oh man, it took me forever to cotton to this very innovative theme. Five theme answers are quasi-literal interpretations of ... more
Jeff Chen notes: Man oh man, it took me forever to cotton to this very innovative theme. Five theme answers are quasi-literal interpretations of phrases where the first word ends in ENDING. For example, the first theme answer is VENDING MACHINES, written out as MACHINES V (machine with V-ending). Tough, huh?

The hardest part was finishing the middle, where I didn't expect there to be a fifth theme answer (MENDING WALL written as a WALL with a M-ending). Will has said in the past that he prefers to have the theme answers stand out in some way, usually by making them the longest answers in the puzzle (or at least the longest answers in the across direction). That would have helped me greatly here, as I found it very confusing to have a shorty smack dab in the middle. But perhaps a little changeroo is good every now and then to keep everyone on their toes.

Note the wide-open nature of the grid. At just 70 words, it could qualify as a themeless puzzle. But any time you work with themeless-level word counts plus four (or more) theme answers, there are bound to be trade-offs. Todd has some nice long fill in here: LOVE CHILD and MATTRESS with its fun clue are really nice, but overall, there were enough compromises to affect the quality of my solve. Seeing too much of AMATIVE, UNLOOSES, GROFE, ARACE, etc. took me out of the experience somewhat.

I do wish there had been more wordplay type of cluing to help keep the solve a little more playful, especially as I was banging my head against the (non-mending) wall, attempting to figure out what the heck was going on. Overall though, I applaud the decision to push the boundaries of construction.

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© 2014, The New York TimesNo. 23,431
Across Down
1. Some support beams : IBARS
6. 100% : ALL
9. Key of Chopin's Polonaise No. 6 : AFLAT
14. Hit the highlights : RECAP
15. Husband and wife, e.g. : DUO
16. Sponge : MOOCH
17. Food or drink dispensers : VENDINGMACHINES
19. ___ to the top : ARACE
20. First word in the English lyrics of "Frère Jacques" : ARE
21. Nick of "The Deep" : NOLTE
22. Kind of cartridge : TONER
23. Burning the midnight oil : UPLATE
25. Like virtually all gold medalists in Olympic table tennis : CHINESE
27. Science of light : OPTICS
28. Lads : SHAVERS
29. Performs, in the Bible : DOETH
30. Shimmery silks : MOIRES
31. "You ___" (2011 Lady Gaga song) : ANDI
32. Robert Frost poem that includes "Good fences make good neighbors" : MENDINGWALL
33. Three-toed runners : EMUS
37. Designed (for) : GEARED
39. Yoga pose that strengthens the abs : PLANK
40. Pope who declared "I am a sinner. This is the most accurate definition" : FRANCIS
42. With skill and grace : DEFTLY
43. Hog : GLUTTON
44. Ignoring : DEAFTO
45. Maid on "The Jetsons" : ROSIE
46. ___ squash : ACORN
48. Sea eggs : ROE
50. Sci-fi novelist ___ Scott Card : ORSON
51. Taking liberties : BENDINGTHERULES
53. Mock attack : FEINT
54. "Star Trek" prosthesis : EAR
55. Oceanward : TOSEA
56. Tour de France stage : ETAPE
57. Board member: Abbr. : DIR
58. Full of spunk : SASSY
1. "___ la Douce" : IRMA
2. Relate to : BEARUPON
3. Successful, as an applicant : ACCEPTED
4. Sound of support : RAH
5. Ingredient in Florentine dishes : SPINACH
6. "Someone Like You" singer : ADELE
7. Hircosity : LUST
8. 1968 #1 hit for the Supremes : LOVECHILD
9. Feeling romantic : AMATIVE
10. Going without help : FENDINGFORONESELF
11. Car not in a garage : LOANER
12. Gatekeeper's grant : ACCESS
13. "Voilà!" : THERE
18. Forget-me-___ : NOTS
24. Future court case : PENDINGLITIGATION
26. Mistreatment : HARM
27. ___ Mae ("Ghost" role) : ODA
28. Parts of clogs : SOLES
30. Softened up, in a way : MARINATED
32. Where Snickers, Skittles and Starburst are manufactured : WACO
34. Crash pad? : MATTRESS
35. Frees : UNLOOSES
36. It goes around the world : SKY
38. Diplomatic agreement : ENTENTE
39. Inconsequential stuff : PEANUTS
40. Little bloom : FLORET
41. Don's place : RUSSIA
42. Charlie Chan's creator Earl ___ Biggers : DERR
43. "Grand Canyon Suite" composer : GROFE
44. Red Sox Hall-of-Famer Bobby : DOERR
47. Tea type : CHAI
49. Company with a 1998 Nasdaq I.P.O. that hired its first employee in 1996 : EBAY
52. Mauna ___ : LOA

Answer summary: 2 unique to this puzzle, 1 debuted here and reused later, 2 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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