New York Times, Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Author: Samuel A. Donaldson
Editor: Will Shortz
Samuel A. Donaldson
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Puzzle of the Week

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 76, Blocks: 36 Missing: {JQZ} Spans: 1 This is puzzle # 13 for Mr. Donaldson. Jeff Chen's Puzzle of the Week pick NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Samuel A. Donaldson notes: I brainstormed phrases that could work as revealing entries for add-a-letter and drop-a-letter themes. THROW IN THE TOWEL ... more
Samuel A. Donaldson notes: I brainstormed phrases that could work as revealing entries for add-a-letter and drop-a-letter themes. THROW IN THE TOWEL stood out, not only because it allowed for the addition of HIS and HERS but also because it contained 15 letters. Crossword gold!

To class it up a little, I wanted theme entries where the HIS and HERS were appended to the front or the end, not jammed in the middle (e.g., PARIS FRANCHISE). And of course I needed four theme entries: two with HIS and two with HERS. Finally, I felt it important to have a HIS and HERS up top and another set at the bottom. Looking back, I don't know if all of these self-imposed constraints were essential, but I was happy with the symmetrical set of theme entries that emerged. HERSHEY BABY was my favorite.

The grid may not be the smoothest you'll ever see (LEONAS, NIDI, and ACHT, anyone?), but I like to think it was in service of the theme and some of the more interesting non-thematic fill. I spent a lot of time thinking whether it was something of a sin to have I CHOKED and I RAISE in the same line (much less the same grid), but ultimately I LIKED it.

Will Shortz notes: Besides the theme, my favorite entries here are AL CAPP, OH MY, PT BOAT, PHREAK, and YOU ARE HERE. I also kind of like I CHOKED, ... more
Will Shortz notes: Besides the theme, my favorite entries here are AL CAPP, OH MY, PT BOAT, PHREAK, and YOU ARE HERE. I also kind of like I CHOKED, although I'm not 100% sure it's a stand-alone phrase, which lessens its desirableness.
Jeff Chen notes: A few years ago, I was working on a construction at my local bagel shop, and a guy said, 'Excuse me, but is that Crossword ... more
Jeff Chen notes: A few years ago, I was working on a construction at my local bagel shop, and a guy said, "Excuse me, but is that Crossword Compiler?". My first reaction was to hide under the table and/or pretend I didn't speak English, but luckily my second reaction was to shake Sam Donaldson's hand. Little by little we started hanging out along with Jim Horne, and now Sam is one of my favorite people in all of crossword-land. Amazing how a chance meeting can turn into something so awesome.

Sam used to blog daily over at Crossword Fiend and managed to write entertaining pieces every day for about two years while reviewing the CrosSynergy puzzles. One of his best features was "Guess the Constructor", where he ranked three guesses, trying to match the puzzle's grid and cluing vibe to one of the CrosSynergy regulars. If I were to play that game with this week's seven puzzles, I think I could have picked out Sam's in a heartbeat. It's a puzzle chock-full of Donaldson personality, and for that I give it the POW.

Fun theme with a catchy revealer, working on a deeper level than usual "add-a-letter(s)" themes by adding HIS and HERS to each of two phrases. I appreciated Sam's effort to incorporate the HIS and HERS at the ends of the first two theme entries and at the beginnings of the last two. Thoughtfulness like that makes for an elegant execution.

More importantly, all aspects of the puzzle scream SAM DONALDSON! and I love it (yes, I'm biased, but what are you going to do). Sam and I have both been known to 1.) titter at juvenile jokes and 2.) enjoy greasy food, so the base phrases HEY BABY and BACON FAT made me reminisce of the good old days when Sam still lived in Seattle. You throw in I CHOKED, I RAISE right next to each other, the "No acting up!" clue for BE GOOD, "Jeez Louise!" for MAN, and "End of a lame pickup line" for OFTEN and you have yourself a Donaldson signature. BTW, it's a good thing Sam and I are both married because we'd be those two pathetic guys at the end of the bar poking each other, saying, "No, YOU go talk to her!" while giggling a la "Dumb and Dumber".

To be sure, this puzzle isn't without its flaws. I debated for a long time whether to disqualify the puzzle for POW contention solely based on the NIDI/HSIA area, but eventually all the great stuff won me over. And I do like the pairs of stacked 10's in the NE and SW corners, but the trade-off of having a lot of three-letter abbreviations (SYL sticking out) and acronyms made me wonder whether it would have been better to break up COHABITANT and YOU ARE HERE for cleaner fill, especially if it could mean improving the NIDI/HSIA region.

But overall, this puzzle gave me a tremendous smile. Full of personality and enjoyment. Can't wait to see Sam at the ACPT in 2014.

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© 2013, The New York TimesNo. 23,353
Across Down
1. Creator of Fearless Fosdick : ALCAPP
7. "This is bad" : OHMY
11. Word part: Abbr. : SYL
14. Kind of pork on a Chinese menu : MOOSHU
15. What's to eat : FARE
16. Cedar Rapids college : COE
17. Blow away singer Johnny? : FLOORMATHIS
19. National Dog Day mo. : AUG
20. Navigational aid : MAP
21. Name on some euros : EIRE
22. Mountain goat's perch : CRAG
23. Boars? : BACONFATHERS
27. "In the end the pressure got to me" : ICHOKED
30. Bluffer's words : IRAISE
31. What may precede one : NOON
32. "You wish!" : ASIF
33. Sounds of relief : AHS
35. Call it quits ... with a hint to 17-, 23-, 48- and 56-Across : THROWINTHETOWEL
40. Western treaty grp. : OAS
41. First Chinese dynasty : HSIA
42. Inspiration for a "Jackass" stunt, maybe : DARE
43. "No acting up!" : BEGOOD
45. Ticked off : ANNOYED
48. Sala? : HISPANICROOM
50. Salt Lake City athletes : UTES
51. Zwei cubed : ACHT
52. Bub : MAC
55. "Jeez Louise!" : MAN
56. Toddler raised on chocolate? : HERSHEYBABY
60. Slip-___ (some shoes) : ONS
61. Removal from harm's way, for short : EVAC
62. Hotelier Helmsley and others : LEONAS
63. Hwy. : RTE
64. Warrior princess of TV : XENA
65. J.F.K.'s W.W. II craft : PTBOAT
1. Like most car radios : AMFM
2. Showgirl in the song "Copacabana" : LOLA
3. Many a city dwelling : COOP
4. Volcano on Kyushu : ASO
5. Telephone system hacker : PHREAK
6. Rock that may float : PUMICE
7. End of a lame pickup line : OFTEN
8. "You wish!" : HAH
9. Med. scan : MRI
10. Cry that may accompany fist-pumping : YES
11. Frightens off : SCARESAWAY
12. Words on a 20-Across at a mall : YOUAREHERE
13. Hosiery brand that sponsored women-only 10K races : LEGGS
18. Biogenesis scandal nickname : AROD
22. Hellenic X : CHI
23. U2's frontman : BONO
24. Shore dinner entree : FISH
25. Indy racer Luyendyk : ARIE
26. Ex-president who swore in President Hoover : TAFT
27. Digging, so to speak : INTO
28. One sharing living space : COHABITANT
29. Practical smarts : HORSESENSE
32. One-time link : ATA
34. Anchorage-to-Nome racer : SLED
36. "Hang on a sec!" : WHOA
37. Currently airs : ISON
38. Spiders' nests : NIDI
39. Lamar who married a Kardashian : ODOM
44. Navigational aid, for short : GPS
45. Angel or enemy preceder : ARCH
46. Totally useless : NOHELP
47. "Give me a sec" : NOTYET
48. Bookstore section : HUMOR
49. First to stab Caesar : CASCA
52. Ranchero's hand : MANO
53. Simple quatrain form : ABAA
54. Dermatologist's concern : CYST
56. Put the whammy on : HEX
57. Time to revel : EVE
58. Sought office : RAN
59. Go for apples : BOB

Answer summary: 6 unique to this puzzle, 1 debuted here and reused later.

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