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New York Times, Saturday, October 17, 2015

Author: Timothy Polin
Editor: Will Shortz
Timothy Polin
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Puzzle of the Week

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 64, Blocks: 23 Missing: {JKQX} Spans: 4 Grid has repeated answers This is puzzle # 19 for Mr. Polin. Jeff Chen's Puzzle of the Week pick NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Notepad: We asked some favorite Times crossword contributors, "What would you like to do in a daily Times crossword that has never been done before?" This week's puzzles, Monday to Saturday, are the result.
Timothy Polin notes: There have been a few recent puzzles with blanks as part of the solution. David Kwong's DRACULA. Jim Hilger's 'Breaks.' Even Miss ... more
Timothy Polin notes:

There have been a few recent puzzles with blanks as part of the solution. David Kwong's DRACULA. Jim Hilger's "Breaks." Even Miss Trunchbull — I mean, Jeff Chen (and his wife) — had SPACE BAR. Those were all great.

This basis for this idea actually came from a much older one: Manny Nosowsky's 2000 April Fools' Day puzzle, whose entire perimeter consisted of the letter T. Looking at that grid, I tried to come up with other tricky ways a perimeter might be utilized.

What about literal spaces, or blanks? BLANKS has lots of meanings, both as a noun and a verb. Better yet, it could be also clued as a proper. When the phrase OUTER SPACE, a fitting revealer, sprang to mind, I hoped I was onto something. Usually I'm not.

The best part about making this was generating a list of 13s and seeing what would interlock. That was loads of fun, because there was a huge reservoir to draw from. An earlier draft's successful interlock had "hard" science fiction entries like EVENT HORIZONS and GAMMA RAY BURSTS, but those were pretty literal, and not at all receptive to playful cluing. These four entries were the most colorful and varied set.

Some of my favorite new clues are those for LUNAR ECLIPSES, AD LIB and SLOGAN. Among the originals, I like CONSTELLATION, DOO-WOP, TENANT, ALI and ALIEN INVASION. It's cool that the Scrabble clue for BLANKS remains in a 6-letter slot, hinting at ?-TILES or a written-in BLANKS. ASSIZES is a word I learned on my first day of Torts. Well, my first day, and everyone else's second. Oops. Elle Woods I was not.

The five other puzzles this week have been fantastic. I'm thrilled, and very lucky, to have been included along with them.

Jeff Chen notes: Loved this one; a perfect way to cap off my favorite theme week since the amazing Patrick Berry puzzle suite back in 2011. I've seen ... more
Jeff Chen notes:

Loved this one; a perfect way to cap off my favorite theme week since the amazing Patrick Berry puzzle suite back in 2011. I've seen OUTER SPACE interpreted many ways in crosswords (phrases starting with SP and ending with ACE, having the word SPACE outside the grid, etc.) but nothing quite like this. Tim's version of OUTER / SPACE includes a ring of blanks all around the perimeter, which visually represents that "region beyond the Kármán line" (an astronomy term). So cool!

Tae Bo, anyone?

I cottoned to the idea quickly (Billy BLANKS is awesome), but what a bonus to get thematic(ish) material in what I expected to be a themeless! The quartet of CONSTELLATION, USS ENTERPRISE, LUNAR ECLIPSES, and ALIEN INVASION would be too loose for a themed puzzle, but it makes for a great mini-theme. And I'm fascinated by the Search for Extra-terrestrial Intelligence (SETI), so I liked seeing that. SOL was fun too, especially since it's the term for a Mars day. ("The Martian" was one of my favorite reads of the year so far.)

Nice execution on the 13x13 grid, too. I had a tough time recalling LAPUTA from "Gulliver's Travels" and ASSIZES made for an impossible crossing for me, but I liked it enough to ignore that blip. Getting APE SUIT and AFC EAST and some ARCANA SLOGAN ALL SET stuff was nice, all with just a FAIN to hold it together. FAIN is pretty outdated crossword to me, but since it's the only piece of short glue, I didn't mind so much.

I also liked that Tim found so many ways to clue BLANKS. It did feel repetitive to me after a while though, and given that each one of those could have been a synonym of BLANKS like EMPTIES or VOIDS, some variety might have been fun. Not having to intersect those answers with anything sure opens up a lot of freedom! I suppose there is a certain consistency and elegance to having all BLANKS, though.

A great end to this theme week; clever concept with good execution. I always like seeing constructors do crazy and unique things, and Tim's mind-bending concept is perhaps the best of the best this week.

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© 2015, The New York TimesNo. 24,084
Across Down
1. Entry forms : BLANKS
8. You might draw them when answering questions : BLANKS
15. Abstruse knowledge : ARCANA
16. Floating island visited in "Gulliver's Travels" : LAPUTA
17. Barbershop relative : DOOWOP
18. Van Gogh masterpiece : IRISES
19. Sun blocks? : LUNARECLIPSES
21. Lilliputian, informally : ITSY
22. Sun : SOL
23. Project that analyzes electromagnetic radiation, for short : SETI
24. Not check : BET
25. With 39-Across, region beyond the Kármán line ... or a literal hint to what this puzzle has : OUTER
27. Part of le visage : NEZ
28. Weird : EERIE
30. Weird : OUTRE
32. "I'm ready!" : ALLSET
35. Levy : ASSESS
36. Singer with the 1986 #1 hit "Rock Me Amadeus" : FALCO
37. Take a ___ : FLIER
38. '60s org. : CSA
39. See 25-Across : SPACE
41. Canola oil product : PAM
45. Grub : EATS
47. Exotic "Now, Voyager" setting : RIO
48. Comic strip husband : ARLO
49. Recurrent "Twilight Zone" plot device : ALIENINVASION
52. Pitch-perfect words? : SLOGAN
53. Wonder-working prophet in II Kings : ELISHA
54. Typical Manhattanite : TENANT
55. Irish equivalent of "Jane" : SINEAD
56. Billy of infomercials : BLANKS
57. Voids, with "out" : BLANKS
1. Valuable things to have in Scrabble : BLANKS
2. It can't be canned : ADLIB
3. Up this street and down the next, perhaps : ROUTE
4. Hercules or Perseus : CONSTELLATION
5. "Beat it!" : AWAY
6. Negative conjunction : NOR
7. Jungle-themed Halloween costume : APESUIT
8. French metropolis near the Belgian border : LILLE
9. Man's name that's another man's name in reverse : ARI
10. Spots at a casino : PIPS
11. Setting for many sci-fi stories : USSENTERPRISE
12. Is indecisive : TEETERS
13. Old English county court sessions : ASSIZES
14. Doesn't remember, as something obvious, with "on" : BLANKS
20. Bird house : COTE
25. Some crumbled dessert toppings : OREOS
26. W.W. II poster girl : ROSIE
29. Key on a computer keyboard : ESC
31. Work with : USE
32. What starter pistols shoot : BLANKS
33. Dolphins' grp. : AFCEAST
34. Explorer born René-Robert Cavelier : LASALLE
35. Recesses : ALCOVES
37. Willingly, once : FAIN
40. It may be left at a crime scene : PRINT
42. Greeting that means "love" or "peace" : ALOHA
43. Unicellular organism : MONAD
44. Unstamped metal discs used for making coins : BLANKS
46. Creator of Saturn : SEGA
48. Explanatory words : ASIN
50. Bread in some ethnic cuisine : NAN
51. Winning party in Clay v. United States : ALI

Answer summary: 2 unique to this puzzle, 1 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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