CLUED IN

New York Times, Sunday, January 5, 2014

Author: Alan DerKazarian
Editor: Will Shortz
Alan Derkazarian
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411/7/20134/12/20160
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2010100
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1.63110

This puzzle:

Rows: 23, Columns: 23 Words: 160, Blocks: 106 Missing: {JQ} Grid is asymmetric This is puzzle # 3 for Mr. Derkazarian. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Alan Derkazarian notes: The first puzzle I ever sent to the New York Times was so God-awful it's amazing Will Shortz didn't tell his people to throw anything else from me right in the trash. Check this beauty out: Clue: _X_VMDCCIIII (16,704) ... more
Alan Derkazarian notes: The first puzzle I ever sent to the New York Times was so God-awful it's amazing Will Shortz didn't tell his people to throw anything else from me right in the trash. Check this beauty out:

Clue:   _X_VMDCCIIII (16,704)

Answer:   MXLIIIITIMESXVI

Hoo boy … Anyway, over the next year and a half things got better and better, yet I still received those emails from Paula Gamache ending "He did appreciate seeing these, tho." Then about a year ago Will wrote that he liked a Sunday of mine but wanted to talk about it on the phone as there was just too much to discuss in an email. So I got to talk to Will Shortz, which was quite a thrill! He told me he "liked the puzzle or we wouldn't be talking now" and went over two or three things he'd like changed to improve it. After a few weeks I emailed him the new puzzle with the changes he'd requested and got a reply that the theme now looked solid but he had issues with some of the fill in the southeast and southwest grids. After re-doing those two grids yet again, BANG, my first puzzle accepted (though third to see publication).

I'm very curious to see what Will did with the southeast grid. As I wrote to him, I wanted that section to be so difficult that without knowing the answers to the Clue accusation not even fastest-solver-in-the-universe Dan Feyer could solve it in under 10 minutes; yet with the answers to the Clue accusation entered (around 35% of that grid) it would become typical Sunday-hard. I felt this was necessary because, if people were able to figure out the accusation by solving the SE quadrant before the other three, then what was the point of the puzzle? I wanted solving the other three before the SE to be of paramount importance.

Jeff Chen notes: One of the aspects I love most about the NYT crossword is the constant desire to stretch the limits of the art form; to create something never seen before. I enjoy xws from many different sources, but what other daily xw pushes the ... more
Jeff Chen notes: One of the aspects I love most about the NYT crossword is the constant desire to stretch the limits of the art form; to create something never seen before. I enjoy xws from many different sources, but what other daily xw pushes the boundaries like this? Neat idea to incorporate the game "Clue" today. It's been made into a movie, why not a crossword as well?

Interesting layout: four "rooms", three of which give clues to the fourth one, which reveals the SUSPECT, the ROOM, and the WEAPON. Each of the three "rooms" give hints in a different way, i.e. the first room contains three words which can be preceded by the word SCARLET. Ah, our old crossword friend the SCARLET TANAGER makes itself useful in a fun way, giving an insider's nod to all the times it's been (over)used in triple-stack creations due to its very friendly crossword nature of common letters and mostly alternating consonants and vowels.

I enjoyed the solve, but I'm not sold on the total segregation of the four rooms. Small diagonal "doors" three blocks long could have been a fun way to keep the sense of a house layout while maintaining the usual crossword rule of "no isolated sections". It could also have made for a natural progression, moving from one room to the next, gathering clues as you went. It also would have been really cool to have multiple possible suspects, rooms, and/or weapons, using a Schrödinger-type puzzle. Not sure how that would have gone over though; perhaps too tricky for many.

I was amazed to see that this was Alan's first construction for the NYT (though third to be published). The quality of fill is not at all what I would expect from a beginner, with such long goodness as PTERODACTYL, DIET SODA, ABANDON SHiP, ALIEN ATTACK, etc. Yes, there are instances of the dreaded (and not really a thing) ENOTES and the old-timey ISTLE in close proximity to ARACE, but I'm willing to wager that Alan will work hard to avoid these types of entries in the future. Themeless grids are hard to fill, and this xw has effectively four themeless-style mini-puzzles. Good job of filling them with some nice entries and a minimum of ugly stuff; looking forward to more from Alan.

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© 2014, The New York TimesNo. 23,434
Across Down
1. The "who" of a Clue accusation, whose identity is hinted at by the three shaded answers in this quadrant : SUSPECT
8. "Most ___" ("For sure") : DEF
11. The "where" of a Clue accusation, whose identity is hinted at by the three shaded answers in this quadrant : ROOM
15. Not skilled in : POORAT
21. What you can bring up, in a phrase : THEREAR
22. Photo lab abbr. : ENL
23. "M*A*S*H" star : ALDA
24. Midwest capital : TOPEKA
25. George's mother on "Seinfeld" : ESTELLE
26. Luau dish : POI
27. Part of Caesar's boast : VIDI
28. Thrown out of the country : EXILED
29. Got logged off, in a way : TIMEDOUT
31. Textile tool : EVENER
33. "The Lion King" queen : NALA
34. Blows one's mind : AMAZES
37. Ain't right? : ISNT
38. Southern terminus of I-35 : LAREDOTEXAS
40. Pyrexia : FEVER
41. Unfrost : DEICE
42. Old Tokyo : EDO
43. Go pfft : FAIL
44. Varsity award : LETTER
45. Early Coleco hand-held game : ALIENATTACK
53. The Palins, e.g. : ALASKANS
55. Musical notation : REST
56. ___ bleu : CORDON
57. Tad : BIT
58. Motor coach : AUTOBUS
62. To boot : ATTHAT
64. Lay off : IDLE
65. MGM symbol : LEO
66. Orbit competitor : TRIDENT
67. Bloody Mary stirrer : CELERY
68. Others, to Ovid : ALIA
69. Make a boner : ERR
70. Colorful bird : TANAGER
71. "Bam!" man : EMERIL
72. Advance : LEND
73. The "what" of a Clue accusation, whose identity is hinted at by the three shaded answers in this quadrant : WEAPON
79. Saturnalia : ORGY
83. Thing in doubt? : SILENTB
90. Conned : HAD
93. Wrestling star Lou : ALBANO
94. Opening for a dermatologist? : PORE
95. Running wild : ONATEAR
96. Jungian complex : EGO
97. Bordeaux wine : CLARET
98. Some Ivy Leaguers : ELIS
99. Start of the accusation : MISSSCARLET
101. Untouched? : SANE
102. ___ girl : VALLEY
104. Firm group: Abbr. : ATTYS
105. Tennis's Petrova : NADIA
106. Like some football teams : DEFENSIVE
108. Fringe : EDGING
109. ___-Cat : SNO
111. Makeshift ballot box : URN
112. Classic gaming inits. : NES
113. Middle of the accusation : INTHELOUNGE
118. Expressing : CONVEYING
121. Feature of a baseball shutout : NORUNS
122. Sainted archbishop of Canterbury who founded Scholasticism : ANSELM
123. Phone abbr. : OPER
126. Friend of Franco : AMIGO
127. What Lou Gehrig played : FIRST
132. 1939 Garland co-star : LAHR
133. Home-body? : UMPIRE
135. End of the accusation : WITHTHEROPE
137. Author Kingsley or Martin : AMIS
138. Actor Richard : CRENNA
139. "So that's ___?" : ANO
140. 1990s-2000s Volkswagen vehicle : EUROVAN
141. 2010 film "___ Men" : REPO
142. Greeted the villain : HISSED
143. Want : YEN
144. Director Mack of early slapstick : SENNETT
1. Chateau ___ Michelle : STE
2. Hesitant sounds : UHS
3. Fixed : SET
4. Ballpark fare : PRETZELS
5. More elusive : EELIER
6. Appeases : CALMS
7. Coat rack : TREE
8. A.T.M. offering : DEPOSIT
9. Formally declare : ENOUNCE
10. Move like a butterfly : FLITTER
11. Become entwined : RAVEL
12. Tony the Twin : OLIVA
13. More anomalous : ODDER
14. Its seal has an anchor and a moose : MAINE
15. Prehistoric menace : PTERODACTYL
16. Noughts-and-crosses loser : OOX
17. Have a thought : OPINE
18. "Cool it!" : RELAX
19. Cub Scouts leader : AKELA
20. Cries of pride : TADAS
30. It may contain aspartame : DIETSODA
32. Starting point? : EDEN
34. Genial : AFFABLE
35. Not so smooth, maybe : MEALIER
36. An ace is a good one : AVIATOR
39. Completely, after "in" : TOTO
41. Major part of a tooth : DENTIN
44. Bush who wrote "Spoken From the Heart" : LAURA
45. ___ to the finish : ARACE
46. "I don't care what they do" : LETEM
47. Basket fiber : ISTLE
48. It's a knockout : ETHER
49. Ordeal : TRIAL
50. Confound : ADDLE
51. Farrell or Firth : COLIN
52. Work, as clay : KNEAD
54. Actor William : KATT
59. Entreat : BEG
60. French article : UNE
61. Bering ___: Abbr. : STR
63. Mr. Onassis : ARI
73. W.W. II group : WACS
74. "___ Enchanted" : ELLA
75. Captain's last order : ABANDONSHIP
76. "Gay" city : PAREE
77. Pepsi brand : ONE
78. Hardly at all : NOTVERYMUCH
79. Some German cars : OPELS
80. Cartoony clubs : ROLLINGPINS
81. React to a loss : GRIEVE
82. "Uh-huh, definitely" : YESYES
83. "Brave New World" drug : SOMA
84. Part of U.S.: Abbr. : INIT
85. Endure : LAST
86. E-commerce site : ETSY
87. Crime buster Eliot : NESS
88. Tic ___ (candy) : TAC
89. Antony's player in "Julius Caesar," 1953 : BRANDO
90. Repressed : HELDIN
91. Inevitability of life : AGEING
92. Result of 91-Down, maybe : DOTAGE
100. Sauce brand : RAGU
103. Years abroad : ANNI
107. Coke, for one : FUEL
108. High rails : ELS
109. Having no direction, in math : SCALAR
110. Generic : NONAME
113. Sort of : INAWAY
114. In ___ Patris (prayer words) : NOMINE
115. King in "The Little Mermaid" : TRITON
116. Grant for filmmaking? : HUGH
117. Cybermemos : ENOTES
119. Recto's flip side : VERSO
120. Slangy denials : NOPES
124. Coastal raptor : ERNE
125. Scanned : READ
127. Bit of office greenery : FERN
128. Unyielding : IRON
129. Go all over : ROVE
130. Tiff : SPAT
131. Backpack item : TENT
134. Dr.'s order : MRI
136. Cry's partner : HUE

Answer summary: 6 unique to this puzzle, 2 debuted here and reused later, 5 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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