COUNTRY ROAD

New York Times, Sunday, October 20, 2013

Author: Elizabeth C. Gorski
Editor: Will Shortz
Elizabeth C. Gorski
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
2197/31/19952/23/20160
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6716363439243
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1.5430225

This puzzle:

Rows: 23, Columns: 23 Words: 170, Blocks: 93 Missing: {Q} Spans: 4 Grid has mirror symmetry This is puzzle # 206 for Ms. Gorski. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Elizabeth C. Gorski notes: Imagine standing in Times Square and then walking west, through 14 states... all the way to San Francisco's Lincoln Park. Unimaginable? Not if you follow the Lincoln Highway. Until a few years ago, I never realized ... more
Elizabeth C. Gorski notes: Imagine standing in Times Square and then walking west, through 14 states... all the way to San Francisco's Lincoln Park. Unimaginable? Not if you follow the Lincoln Highway.

Until a few years ago, I never realized that Times Square was the starting point of one of our nation's first coast-to-coast road — the Lincoln Highway. Nicknamed "Main Street Across America," it predates Washington D.C.'s Lincoln Memorial as a major memorial to President Lincoln.

The possibility of making a puzzle came about when MAINSTREET ACROSS AMERICA revealed itself as a 23-letter phrase (cue the "tingling feeling"). Road trip! I rarely make 23x puzzles, but took a chance on this one. Bottom line — a puzzle about a coast-to-coast, 14-state American highway had to be big, wide open and travel-worthy. The 23x23 landscape seemed perfect.

Keeping with the "big" theme, I was elated to work with four 23-letter entries sweeping across the grid in a coast-to-coast pattern. The 14 state abbreviations correspond to their approximate locations on a U.S. map (as close as one can get in a 529-square grid). Think abstract art.

Luckily, those big, 23-letter entries yield dividends: (a) a low-word count (170) and (b) a low three-letter-word count (30). These stats offer a chance to make an interesting fill, a make-or-break feature of any themed puzzle (I can't stand boring puzzle fills, and will rewrite a puzzle to within an inch of its life, if need be).

The puzzle bottom (148-A) revealed a directional twist (somewhat of an afterthought) — a way to simulate the direction of the Lincoln Highway as one travels from east to west coast. It's a sneaky surprise — like finding icing at the bottom of a cupcake. I hope you enjoyed today's cupcake-y road trip across the grid!

Will Shortz notes: I accepted this puzzle by Liz in 2009 — holding it for four years until the Lincoln Highway Centennial, which occurs this month. Fortunately, most accepted puzzles don't have so long a wait. Next Sunday's puzzle, for example, ... more
Will Shortz notes: I accepted this puzzle by Liz in 2009 — holding it for four years until the Lincoln Highway Centennial, which occurs this month. Fortunately, most accepted puzzles don't have so long a wait. Next Sunday's puzzle, for example, took less than a week from acceptance to scheduling. Many factors affect the wait (or lack of one).
Jeff Chen notes: A tribute puzzle today, one which taught me something, filling in one of the many gaps in my sad knowledge of history and geography. Being an inveterate West-coaster, I had never heard of the LINCOLN HIGHWAY, but after looking it up ... more
Jeff Chen notes: A tribute puzzle today, one which taught me something, filling in one of the many gaps in my sad knowledge of history and geography. Being an inveterate West-coaster, I had never heard of the LINCOLN HIGHWAY, but after looking it up I cringed at how famous it was. Not knowing it seems a bit like mixing up Wyoming and Wisconsin (hey, I was tired!).

As with most of Liz's puzzles, neat visual. I was vaguely aware that the circled pairs were all states, but after finishing and going to Google, I sat back, impressed that the placement actually reflected the path of the Lincoln Highway. Pretty cool!

Note her use of L-R (or mirror) symmetry. Liz is one of the few constructors who uses L-R symmetry regularly, and I love seeing it. Yes, traditionally xws have called for rotational symmetry because there's an inherent elegance and beauty to the symmetry, but I'm glad Will and others have adopted the stance that L-R symmetry is just as elegant. Note how this allows Liz to place LINCOLN / HIGHWAY wherever she wants, instead of it being in the middle row the grid, as would be required in a puzzle with traditionally symmetry (if she wanted to keep those answers together). The fact that she can offset LINCOLN / HIGHWAY allows her to 1.) place them toward the bottom to give them more impact as a revealer, and 2.) keep them out of the way of the 13 states, making for a much easier fill.

Liz has used L-R symmetry to come up with some of the most visually stunning puzzles during the Shortz era. Her holiday puzzles are always a treat, this gingerbread man one was particularly memorable for me.

Interesting to note that there has only been one instance of up-down symmetry in the Shortz era. I've sent Will a handful of up-down symmetry puzzles, and he's politely said that they just look too strange. It took me a while to figure out why that was, but now it makes a great deal of sense: if human eyes were arranged one atop the other, up-down symmetry would be commonplace. Sadly, the tyranny of left-right human eye placement may take some time to overcome.

(shakes fist at the universe)

Will's note this past week regarding how far fill has come in the past four years might be relevant today. There are so many constraints in the grid, what with four 23-letter grid spanners plus LINCOLN HIGHWAY and 13 states, which makes the construction inherently very difficult. There were enough entries like TREN, A DATE, CCCL, AGLET, NISI, EAR TO, ONE I etc. that it bogged down my solve a little. Overall though, always a treat to see Liz's byline at the top of a puzzle.

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© 2013, The New York TimesNo. 23,357
Across Down
1. In tandem : ASATEAM
8. Decorative shoe features : TOECAPS
15. Like some feet and envelopes : STAMPED
22. Bill : INVOICE
23. It's often swiped by a shopaholic : ATMCARD
24. Go from A to B? : DOWORSE
25. Nickname for the 122-/124-Across : MAINSTREETACROSSAMERICA
28. Stops: Abbr. : STAS
29. Jazz/blues singer Cassidy : EVA
30. Shoelace tip : AGLET
31. Barely make, with "out" : EKE
32. "___ two minds" : IMOF
33. ___ Bell (Anne Brontë pseudonym) : ACTON
35. Like eggs in eggnog : RAW
37. Class for some immigrants, for short : ESL
39. Jump back, maybe : START
40. With 105-Across, historical significance of the 122-/124-Across : THEFIRSTMAJORMEMORIALTO
48. It's ENE of Fiji : SAMOA
49. "Wheel of Fortune" buy : ANE
50. Declined : WANED
51. It fits all, sometimes : ONESIZE
55. Up on things : TUNEDIN
58. Part of a page of Google results : ADSPACE
63. 1796 Napoleon battle site : LODI
64. Freight carrier: Abbr. : RWY
66. Young and Sedaka : NEILS
67. Italian possessive : MIO
68. Von Furstenberg of fashion : EGON
69. "___ luck!" : LOTSA
71. European capital once behind the Iron Curtain : SOFIA
73. Comic finisher : INKER
75. Ocean : BRINY
76. Item dropped by Wile E. Coyote : ANVIL
77. Times Square flasher? : NEON
78. "So nice!" : OOOH
79. Masked warrior : NINJA
80. Beer belly : GUT
83. Chemistry suffix : ENE
84. Ultimate : NTH
85. Day ___ : SPA
87. They really click : CASTANETS
92. It may be corrected with magnification : LOWVISION
98. Piece at the Met : ARIA
99. El Al destination: Abbr. : ISR
100. German cry : ACH
103. Inherit : GET
104. Italian writer Vittorini : ELIO
105. 122-Across : THESIXTEENTHUSPRESIDENT
112. Like most houses : EAVED
113. Expensive patio material : SLATETILE
114. Comment before "Bitte schön" : DANKE
115. Components of fatty tissues : STEROLS
118. Bit of jive : LIE
119. French wine classification : CRU
120. It may leave you weak in the knees : ILLNESS
122. With 124-Across, dedicated in October 1913, project represented by the 13 pairs of circled letters  : LINCOLN
124. See 122-Across : HIGHWAY
126. Captain : HEAD
130. ___-turn : NOU
131. "Alley ___" : OOP
132. Sports org. headquartered in Indianapolis : NCAA
136. Wearing clothes fit for a queen? : INDRAG
138. Concerned : APPLIEDTO
146. Kindle downloads : EBOOKS
148. Follows the east-west route of the 122-/124-Across? : TRAVELSFROMCOASTTOCOAST
151. Doll : CUTIE
152. Tropicana grove : ORANGETREES
153. Knight's trait : VALOR
154. Follows : HEEDS
155. Sauce brand : MOTTS
156. ___ of time : SANDS
157. Kind of question : YESNO
1. Targets : AIMSAT
2. Weightlifting move : SNATCH
3. Hedgehop, e.g. : AVIATE
4. Many, many : TONSOF
5. Sue Grafton's "___ for Evidence" : EIS
6. "Tartuffe" segment : ACTE
7. TV's Griffin : MERV
8. ___ kwon do : TAE
9. Tulip festival city : OTTAWA
10. Web periodical : EMAG
11. Cicero's 350 : CCCL
12. Rhine tributary : AARE
13. For now, for short : PROTEM
14. Campus political grp. : SDS
15. Mt. Rushmore's home: Abbr. : SDAK
16. Heavy volume : TOME
17. Bowl over : AWE
18. Sony co-founder Akio : MORITA
19. Elementary : PRIMAL
20. Kind of service : ESCORT
21. Intentionally disregarding : DEAFTO
26. Keep one's ___ the ground : EARTO
27. Historic march site : SELMA
34. Vivaldi's "___ Dominus" : NISI
36. Latin 101 verb : AMAT
38. In stitches : SEWN
39. Caesar and others : SIDS
41. Motorola phone : RAZR
42. Eurasian ducks : SMEWS
43. Funny Garofalo : JANEANE
44. "You're the ___ Love" : ONEI
45. Figure on the Scottish coat of arms : REDLION
46. Radio booth sign : ONAIR
47. Make over : REDO
51. Pueblo pot : OLLA
52. Whistle time? : NOON
53. 1999 Ron Howard film : EDTV
54. "Of course, Jorge!" : SISI
56. Group in a striking photo? : UNION
57. "This ___ a test" : ISNOT
59. Prefix with -scope : PERI
60. Not fer : AGIN
61. Or or nor: Abbr. : CONJ
62. "May It Be" singer, 2001 : ENYA
65. Over there : YON
67. "So-so" : MEH
70. Sea grass, e.g. : ALGA
72. Charges : FEES
74. 1980s-'90s German leader Helmut : KOHL
75. ___ B'rith : BNAI
81. Bell Labs system : UNIX
82. Try : TEST
85. Popeye's ___' Pea : SWEE
86. Sarge's charges: Abbr. : PVTS
87. Phoebe of "Gremlins" : CATES
88. Buddhist who has attained nirvana : ARHAT
89. What's a strain to cook with? : SIEVE
90. Stun with a gun : TASER
91. Very, in Vichy : TRES
93. Gruesome sort : OGRE
94. Body type : SEDAN
95. Actress Graff : ILENE
96. Sounds from pens : OINKS
97. Jottings : NOTES
100. When some local news comes on : ATTEN
101. Revolutionary figure : CHE
102. China cupboard : HUTCH
106. Sacred cow : IDOL
107. London greeting : ELLO
108. Something to file : NAIL
109. iPhone voice : SIRI
110. Promote : PLUG
111. Without thinking : IDLY
116. Jargon : LINGO
117. ___-Off (windshield cover) : SNO
120. 1945 battle site, for short : IWO
121. Big flap in 1970s fashion? : LAPEL
123. Dos y dos : CUATRO
125. Like cattle and reindeer : HOOFED
126. Snag : HITCH
127. Follow : ENSUE
128. "It's ___!" : ADATE
129. Motorola phone : DROID
132. Stars bursting in air? : NOVAE
133. Frosty's eyes : COALS
134. Buckeye city : AKRON
135. A.L. West player : ASTRO
137. Some war heroes : ACES
139. Exam for jrs. : PSAT
140. Hot dog breath? : PANT
141. Cabin material : LOGS
142. Slay, in slang : ICE
143. CPR experts : EMTS
144. TV girl with a talking map : DORA
145. Mexican transportación : TREN
147. ___ of beauties : BEVY
149. Novelist Clancy : TOM
150. Draft org. : SSS

Answer summary: 11 unique to this puzzle, 1 debuted here and reused later, 2 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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