New York Times, Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Author: Robert Cirillo
Editor: Will Shortz
Robert Cirillo
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52/9/20109/27/20160
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0230000
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1.61000

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 78, Blocks: 40 Missing: {FJQV} This is puzzle # 5 for Mr. Cirillo. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Robert Cirillo notes: I had the idea for this puzzle when my daughter was recovering from a cold, just as I was coming down with it. She was going one ... more
Robert Cirillo notes:

I had the idea for this puzzle when my daughter was recovering from a cold, just as I was coming down with it. She was going one way on the word ladder while I was going the other. Puzzles come from the oddest places.

I thought the theme material needed to be a bit denser, so I added the additional food phrases to pull it together. I really wanted to keep USMAIL next to POSTAL, but paid for it with some blah fill, TSO and HMS.

I was glad to see my clues for DODGE and TOW survived editing. I hope everyone enjoys solving.

Jeff Chen notes: We haven't seen a word ladder in a while. They don't get published that often these days, so when they do, they usually need some ... more
Jeff Chen notes:

We haven't seen a word ladder in a while. They don't get published that often these days, so when they do, they usually need some lift to make them stand out. I like the pairing of AN APPLE A DAY and CHICKEN SOUP, perfect material to add to the SICK -> WELL ladder.

Nice placement of the words in the word ladder. I've highlighted them below to help them stand out — such a pretty cascade.

Even though there aren't that many theme squares — just the two 11s and the six 4s for a total of 46 — needing to use so many different theme entries makes for a tough construction. Robert does well to space them all out as best as possible, both left to right and top to bottom. Smart thinking there.

But it does make for filling challenges just about everywhere in the grid. Because so many of the theme entries are short, it means that there must be more long fill than usual — some entries in the grid have to be long (in order to stay under the max 78 word limit), so if the themers aren't long, fill must be.

That makes things tough. Check out the middle left, for example. Robert has the lovely CENTRAL BANK in there — great fill, at least to this macroeconomics geek — but when that has to interact with SICK and AN APPLE A DAY, and then OUT TO WIN / UNLEASH / COALESCE all get into the picture, it's pretty tough to avoid gluey bits like LESE, MCI, DIO, ONS. That's a lot to concentrate into a single region.

OUT TO WIN felt a bit off, too. "In it to win it" would be gold, in my book. OUT TO WIN … wouldn't win. Additionally, having to work with SILK fixed in place, THOS and OLIO are prices to pay.

I like seeing traditional themes like word ladders once in a while, if they have something extra to help them stand out. Although there were some rough patches due to the long AN APPLE A DAY and CHICKEN SOUP, those two entries helped elevate my solving experience.

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S
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Y
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A
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N
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B
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© 2016, The New York TimesNo. 24,430
Across Down
1. Start of a "recuperative" word ladder ending at 73-Across : SICK
5. Pres. Jefferson : THOS
9. 1000 or 2000, but not 0 : YEAR
13. Cookies with a Double Stuf variety : OREOS
15. Part 2 of the word ladder : SILK
16. Singer Fitzgerald : ELLA
17. Socially unacceptable : NONPC
18. Cleveland's lake : ERIE
19. Part 3 of the word ladder : SILT
20. Morsel for an aardvark : ANT
21. Seeking victory : OUTTOWIN
24. Blue Jays, on scoreboards : TOR
25. Switch ups? : ONS
26. Place to get outta, in a saying : DODGE
30. How to avoid becoming 1-Across, so they say : ANAPPLEADAY
35. 60 minuti : ORA
36. ___-majesté : LESE
37. Wires for thrill-seekers : ZIPLINES
39. Palindromic band name : ABBA
41. "Are not!" retort : AMTOO
43. No. on a periodic table : ATWT
44. Come together : COALESCE
46. ___-ho : GUNG
48. Quaint lodging : INN
49. Aid for getting 73-Across, so they say : CHICKENSOUP
53. Capital of Senegal : DAKAR
55. ___ Lingus : AER
56. General ___ (name on a Chinese menu) : TSO
57. Dunk : SUBMERSE
61. ___ Pinafore : HMS
62. Part 4 of the word ladder : WILT
65. Football coach Jim : MORA
66. Really bothered : ATEAT
68. Taiwan-based computer maker : ACER
69. Part 5 of the word ladder : WELT
70. Andrea ___ (ill-fated ship) : DORIA
71. Alien: Prefix : XENO
72. Fr. honorees : STES
73. End of the word ladder : WELL
1. Hyundai model : SONATA
2. Attach, as a patch : IRONON
3. The Fed, for example : CENTRALBANK
4. Keystone ___ : KOP
5. Fly over sub-Saharan Africa? : TSETSE
6. Trumpeter Al : HIRT
7. Mélange : OLIO
8. Slant : SKEW
9. Answerable with a head nod or shake : YESNO
10. Inventor Whitney : ELI
11. The whole enchilada : ALL
12. Subway station sighting : RAT
14. Reporters' coups : SCOOPS
22. Let loose : UNLEASH
23. Tranquil scene : IDYL
27. "Can we not talk about that!" : DONTGOTHERE
28. Ballooned : GREW
29. Heading for Marco Polo : EAST
31. Church bell sound : PEAL
32. The Mexica people ruled over them : AZTEC
33. God, in Roma : DIO
34. Orbital high points : APOGEES
38. Writer Fleming and others : IANS
39. If you drop this you'll trip : ACID
40. ___ fide : BONA
42. Former telecom giant : MCI
45. Hosiery shade : ECRU
47. Not book-smart : UNREAD
50. Gold standards : KARATS
51. Service symbolized by a blue-and-white eagle : USMAIL
52. Relating to 51-Down : POSTAL
54. Houston ballplayer : ASTRO
58. German autos : BMWS
59. Brand of bubbly, familiarly : MOET
60. Writer ___ Stanley Gardner : ERLE
62. Madame Tussaud material : WAX
63. Rocks or diamonds : ICE
64. Judge Goodman of "Dancing With the Stars" : LEN
67. A busy mom might keep a child in this : TOW

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

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