New York Times, Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Author: Morton J. Mendelson
Editor: Will Shortz
Morton J. Mendelson
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25/19/20169/28/20160
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1.60000

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 78, Blocks: 38 Missing: {JQX} This is puzzle # 2 for Mr. Mendelson. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Note: This was published as a uniclue puzzle in print.
All the clues appear in a single list, combining Across and Down.
When two answers share a number, they also share a clue.

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Morton J. Mendelson notes: Although this is my second puzzle appearing in the NYT, it was my first accepted. I had previously submitted twelve ... more
Morton J. Mendelson notes:

Although this is my second puzzle appearing in the NYT, it was my first accepted. I had previously submitted twelve puzzles. Some elicited an encouraging remark — e.g., "clever idea" or "appreciated the creativity" — but they were all rejected, typically because the theme or vocabulary didn't excite or interest Will quite enough.

One day, exploring XWord Info, I came across uniclue puzzles. Although I didn't have a new twist on the genre, I decided to try to construct one like Larry Shearer's of Nov. 1, 2007. I looked for pairs of words with the same initial letter and the same clue, quickly finding several, such as BOOB / BOZO (Doofus), MONEY / MOOLAH (Scratch), and ZEST / ZEAL (Zip). I realized the last pair could be tweaked to ZEST / ZILCH (Zip) — i.e., unrelated words with the same clue. Aha, I had a new twist!

I designed a grid based on ZEST / ZILCH in the NW corner. Using cheater squares to the left of 25 and above 58, I was able to include nine uniclue pairs, which seemed like a respectable number and which was more tractable than an earlier grid that had eleven pairs, eight of which overlapped with other pairs. I then looked for pairs to fill the grid, a harder task than I anticipated, given how easily I fell upon ZEST / ZILCH, and I had to keep changing pairs when I encountered difficulties with the fill. But I sentimentally held onto ZEST / ZILCH.

When I completed the puzzle, I was optimistic it would, if not excite, at least interest Will quite enough. Indeed, my lucky 13th submission (July 13, 2015) got the nod, but I did encounter a bit of bad luck with it. I didn't see the email (Oct. 15, 2015) telling me the puzzle might be acceptable until I inquired about it (Dec. 3, 2015). At that point, the puzzle still needed work, including two new pairs, but Will and Joel Fagliano patiently helped me iron out the wrinkles in what I consider my debut puzzle.

Jeff Chen notes: Been a while since we've seen a uniclue theme. I like that this one employs two very different meanings for each uniclue, e.g. ZEST ... more
Jeff Chen notes:

Been a while since we've seen a uniclue theme. I like that this one employs two very different meanings for each uniclue, e.g. ZEST and ZILCH are both synonyms for [Zip], but they they're not synonyms of each other. All nine pairs exhibit this quality, my favorite GRIN and GIRDER both clued by [Beam]. Tricksy!

I had to go back and recount the themers — were there really nine (!) pairs? That is a ton of material to stuff into one grid.

I once thought about doing a uniclue Sunday puzzle. Why not try it with something simple, like pairs of synonyms? Turns out it's much, much harder than you might think, for a few reasons:

  1. Any time you have intersecting themers, the region right around that intersection becomes inflexible.
  2. Think about how many pairs of themers you must have — not want to have, but MUST have, since there are inevitably a bunch of squares that start both an Across and a Down answer.
  3. With so many pairs strewn about the grid, there are bound to be some intersecting theme answers, making your life even more difficult.

That last point might be the toughest of the three. Check out the middle of the puzzle, where GRIN / GIRDER, AFRESH / AT AN END, SHARE / SEVER, and even TAKE FIVE / TAME all must work together. Talk about constraints! AFRESH is more an oddball than the rest of the themers — and all those crossings force YAD. I think it's a fair answer, but right above AFRESH made for an unsavory finish to my solving experience.

Even just one crossing pair can be so rough. STERN and SPONSOR don't need to work with any other pairs, really, but along with some of the longer fill, it all chokes off that north section something fierce — PORTO, ERST, RTE is a lot of glue — albeit minor — in one area.

But overall, I really liked the concept of one clue defining two intersecting answers, in very different ways.

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© 2016, The New York TimesNo. 24,431
Clues
1. Zip : ZEST / ZILCH
2. Subject of some 2015 border control measures : EBOLA
3. Instrument with 18+ strings : SITAR
4. Women's shoe feature : TSTRAP
5. Back : STERN / SPONSOR
6. "Don't use that ___ with me!" : TONE
7. Back when, long ago : ERST
8. Artery: Abbr. : RTE
9. Sign to continue straight : NOTURNS
10. Bill : BEAK / BANKNOTE
11. One guarded in a duel? : EPEE
12. Stat : ASAP
13. Etta of old comics : KETT
14. Bird with a forcepslike bill : IBIS
15. City north of Lisboa : PORTO
16. Something that sticks out in a church? : APSE
17. Former Mississippi senator Trent : LOTT
18. Outbreak : ONSET
19. Orderly : NEAT
20. Mozart was the first major composer to write specifically for it : CLARINET
21. Key : ISLET
22. Broken, as promises : UNKEPT
23. Chill : NIP
24. Razz : HARASS
25. Beam : GRIN / GIRDER
26. What a spoiler may spoil : PLOT
27. Work toward : TRYFOR
28. Holding office : INPOWER
29. Swell : WAVE
30. Starter home? : EDEN
31. Like black rhinos : RARE
32. Dump : STY / SELL
33. Quartet minus one : TRIO
34. Pro side of a vote : YEAS
35. Heading in a baseball box score : ERRORS
36. Row : OAR
37. "There! I did it!" : TADA
38. Like the posture of human beings : ERECT
39. Specialty skillet : CREPEPAN
40. ___ Vashem, Israel's Holocaust memorial : YAD
41. Cut : SEVER / SHARE
42. Mythomaniac : LIAR
43. Over : AFRESH / ATANEND
44. Super ___ (toy water guns) : SOAKERS
45. Suffix with acetyl : ENE
46. Is licked by : LOSESTO
47. Go out with : SEE
48. Laugh without restraint : ROAR
49. Murder : crows :: ___ : turkeys : RAFTER
50. Word with prickly or alligator : PEAR
51. One of the six official languages of the United Nations : ARABIC
52. What to expect when you're expecting : BIRTH
53. Something the U.S. government bans the sale of : IVORY
54. Gives up : CEDES
55. Hide : SCREEN / SKIN
56. ___ curriculum : CORE
57. Longtime Dallas Cowboys QB Tony : ROMO
58. Break : TAKEFIVE / TAME
59. Sources of vitamin C : ADES
60. C. Everett ___, 1980s surgeon general : KOOP
61. Get around : EVADE
62. What "whisky" is to "whiskey": Abbr. : VAR
63. Stepped (on) : TROD
64. ___ Bunt, villainess in "On Her Majesty's Secret Service" : IRMA
65. Whistle-blower, e.g. : NAMER
66. French "to be" : ETRE
67. Commercial light : NEON
68. Put bandages on, as wounds : DRESS
69. Novelist Jean who wrote "Wide Sargasso Sea" : RHYS

Answer summary: 2 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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