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New York Times, Saturday, October 10, 2015

Author: Roland Huget
Editor: Will Shortz
Roland Huget
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1.53011

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 70, Blocks: 26 Missing: {FQXZ} This is puzzle # 2 for Mr. Huget. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Roland Huget notes: I became interested in crossword puzzles fairly late in life. When your debut publication occurs in your early sixties, you aren't ... more
Roland Huget notes:

I became interested in crossword puzzles fairly late in life. When your debut publication occurs in your early sixties, you aren't going to break any records in that area. Still, I have certain goals in mind that would give me great satisfaction to achieve.

This is my second crossword puzzle in The New York Times. This puzzle underwent several revisions. I will remember it as one for which persistence paid off.

The first version of this puzzle was constructed in the summer of 2013, when I had little experience with sub-72-word grids. It was rejected, but MAHJONGG, OKEY-DOKEY and WINGDINGS got a thumbs-up. I decided to re-work the grid, retaining these long answers (except that WINGDINGS became RINGDINGS). My aim was to create a smoothness that the original version lacked.

I re-submitted at the end of 2013 and was pleasantly surprised when Will expressed interest in the crossword. He requested that several short answers be replaced, which required revision to the SW and NE quadrants. A final revision of the NE quadrant was needed to remove an obscurity that I introduced in the previous revision. The crossword was accepted for publication in the spring of 2014.

I'm pleased with how this puzzle turned out. Having said that, today, with one more year of puzzle constructing experience, I would do the final revision differently.

My favorite clues in this puzzle are 24A: "Unpleasant surprise from a worker" (STING), and 3D: "Black Friday event?" (MAD DASH). I can take credit for the latter only.

I would like to thank Will and Joel for their fine work on this puzzle. Two tweaks got rid of an answer that was awkward to clue, and had a more subtle benefit as well. Their clues greatly improved the puzzle, in particular, the clever handling of a boo-boo, and the dialing of the difficulty level to "eleven."

Jeff Chen notes: With just two entries connecting each corner to the center of the puzzle, we have five mini-puzzles today. I liked how MAH JONGG ... more
Jeff Chen notes:

With just two entries connecting each corner to the center of the puzzle, we have five mini-puzzles today. I liked how MAH JONGG served as one of the connectors — great to feature one of your best entries in such a critical spot. I haven't played that much MAH JONGG, but I've always found the tiles so interesting. There are not only four winds, but four seasons, three dragons, and even four flowers. A friend of mine says that experienced players don't even need to turn the tiles over, rather just a quick feel underside the (etched) designs is enough to tell them what they've selected.

MAH JONGG tiles

Such little connectivity in the puzzle made for an extremely difficult solve for me. As usual with this type of arrangement, the center was my favorite, with MAH JONGG, RING DINGS, OKEY DOKEY, and even GECKOES and WEENIES adding to the zing. (The Cal fans are nicknamed "the weenies" for the annual Stanford vs. Cal Big Game. Don't ask me why.)

In the upper left, I didn't like EEE and the old-timey AES (Adlai E. Stevenson) and the not-quite-crossworthy ISAO Aoki, but getting MAD DASH and OPEN SEA helped make up for those gluey bits.

Similar trade-offs through the rest of the mini-puzzles. MULLETS, yes! ASO and TER, no thanks. NEW WAVE and ODYSSEY, yes! PKWY and the curiously pluralized PHEWS, not so much.

I finished up in the upper right corner — or I should say, didn't finish. Not being familiar with ALTOONA or TATIANA killed me. But it's good to be humbled once in a while. I'm not sure ALTOONA is worth the memory slot in my brain, already slowly losing its bits and bytes, but "Eugene Onegin" is an important enough novel that I'm glad to assign TATIANA to precious storage space.

BTW, ALIENEE apparently is a "dated term for GRANTEE," according to Oxford dictionaries.

1
H
2
O
3
M
4
A
5
G
6
E
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S
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D
9
I
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N
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B
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A
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T
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16
A
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N
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17
R
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A
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W
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29
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30
E
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N
31
M
A
H
32
J
O
N
G
G
33
C
E
34
S
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N
A
35
O
K
E
Y
D
36
O
K
E
Y
37
P
38
A
39
R
S
E
C
40
I
P
O
D
N
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A
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N
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O
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A
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S
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D
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L
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E
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P
K
W
Y
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O
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63
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© 2015, The New York TimesNo. 24,077
Across Down
1. Tributes : HOMAGES
8. Yo-yo : DINGBAT
15. Jacket attachment : EPAULET
16. Home of a Penn State campus : ALTOONA
17. Alberta city named after a quadruped : REDDEER
18. Made good on a promise : SAWTOIT
19. Finally come to : ENDIN
20. Eliot's "___ Vos Prec" : ARA
22. Rwandan minority : TUTSI
23. ___ Takahata, Oscar-nominated director of 2013's "The Tale of Princess Kaguya" : ISAO
24. Unpleasant surprise from a worker : STING
26. Mediterranean restaurant staple : PITA
27. 1950s runner's inits. : AES
28. Twerps : WEENIES
30. The Hadean was the earth's first one : EON
31. Four winds are featured in it : MAHJONGG
33. Skylane maker : CESSNA
35. "No prob" : OKEYDOKEY
37. Distance light travels in 3.26 years : PARSEC
40. Very light player : IPODNANO
44. Japan's largest active volcano : ASO
45. Many bottle washers : NANNIES
47. "Non sibi ___ patriae" (Navy motto) : SED
48. Cut lightly? : LASE
50. Protest group? : SIGNS
51. N.Y.C.'s F.D.R. Drive, e.g. : PKWY
52. Brand with a Pro-Health product line : ORALB
54. Inflation fig. : PSI
55. Close-call cries : PHEWS
56. Retro hairstyles : MULLETS
58. New York natives : ONEIDAS
60. Grant recipient : ALIENEE
61. Prerecorded : NOTLIVE
62. Event near the end of a mission : REENTRY
63. Actress who starred in the "It's Pat" sketches on "S.N.L." : SWEENEY
1. Cry from a hand-waver in a crowd : HEREIAM
2. Deep : OPENSEA
3. Black Friday event? : MADDASH
4. Sound : AUDIO
5. Highland lowland? : GLEN
6. Wide shoe spec : EEE
7. Chess necessity : STRATEGY
8. Aquafina alternative : DASANI
9. Dockhands' grp. : ILA
10. Wrapper abbr. : NTWT
11. Mustered : GOTUP
12. Common knitting project : BOOTIES
13. "The Switch" co-star, 2010 : ANISTON
14. "Eugene Onegin" heroine : TATIANA
21. Alternative to Ho Hos : RINGDINGS
24. New York natives : SENECAS
25. Creatures that can lick their own eyes : GECKOES
28. No longer out? : WOKEN
29. Ones who might be upset : SEEDS
32. Alcott's "Aunt ___ Scrap-Bag" : JOS
34. Case, for example: Abbr. : SYN
36. They're just what you think : OPINIONS
37. Hale telescope's home : PALOMAR
38. Mostly : ASARULE
39. "Twilight" vampire ___ Hale : ROSALIE
41. Warmly welcomed, say : ASKEDIN
42. Aggressively modern : NEWWAVE
43. It tells of a trip to Ithaca : ODYSSEY
46. Russell of comedy : NIPSEY
49. First name in talk shows : ELLEN
51. Suffix with 4-Down : PHILE
53. Like some ears and rules : BENT
55. Rose with many hits : PETE
57. One more than bis, in prescriptions : TER
59. Oxymoronic lead-in to "then" : NOW

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

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