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New York Times, Monday, December 7, 2015

Author: Jason Mueller
Editor: Will Shortz
Jason Mueller
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
49/20/201512/19/20161
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1300000
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1.55001

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 76, Blocks: 34 Missing: {BJQZ} This is puzzle # 2 for Mr. Mueller. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Jason Mueller notes: Hi, I'm Jason Mueller, and after co-writing a Sunday puzzle with Jeff Chen that ran back in September, I'm proud to be making my ... more
Jason Mueller notes:

Hi, I'm Jason Mueller, and after co-writing a Sunday puzzle with Jeff Chen that ran back in September, I'm proud to be making my solo NYT debut! Reminder: I'm an alum of the University of Missouri with degrees in physics, math, and economics.

My first draft on this Iliad-themed puzzle had HELENHAYES instead of PARISMETRO, but Will didn't want the theme entries to be three people and one thing (ACHILLES HEEL), so the switch was made.

This puzzle took several drafts to get the fill just right, but Will and Joel had several good suggestions on what didn't belong. Thanks!

Will Shortz notes: In case anyone is curious about how crossword clues are fact-checked and edited, my assistant, Joel, taped us editing today's and ... more
Will Shortz notes:

In case anyone is curious about how crossword clues are fact-checked and edited, my assistant, Joel, taped us editing today's and tomorrow's puzzles, and he's transcribed a bit of our discussion each day. It illustrates our process as well as our back-and-forth, which sometimes goes off on tangents. We work together at a desk in my office. I'm on an iPad, surrounded by dictionaries and books. Joel sits next to me at the main computer. Below, we're working on the clue for 2-Down, VERDI. The constructor's given clue was "'Rigoletto' composer."

Will: Verdi. Hmm. [Reaches for the Oxford Dictionary of Opera]

Joel: How many people do you think own the Oxford Dictionary of Opera?

Will: Not many, not many. You know, I was thinking the other day ... I have not updated my reference library in a while. I think it's because ... I don't feel I need to. Just about everything is online. I wonder if most of these books are even being produced anymore. If I go to the bookstore and look in the reference section ...

Joel: [pointing to another book on the shelf] Well, you're not going to find Milton Cross's "Complete Stories of the Great Operas," probably.

Will: That's out of print. Great reference, though.

Joel: When was this made … oh, two dollars, good for you. Oh, 1952. It smells like an old book.

Will: It's still worth having, because I feel, first of all, I can trust it. And, second, I know my books so well that sometimes I can look things up faster in books than I can online.

[pause]

Will: [Thinking back to the constructor's clue for 1-Down, "When Carmen dies, in 'Carmen,'" for the answer ACT IV] Is there any operatic character who dies in Act IV in a Verdi opera?

Joel: Phew, jeez, what a question. What a question to make me go and research …

Will: [newscaster voice] Over to you, Joel!

Joel: Okay, Verdi operas ... [sound of typing]

Will: Let's see … how many acts are there in "Rigoletto"?

Joel: Well, Verdi did do "Otello," and definitely a bunch of people die in "Otello," so ...

Will: "Rigoletto" has only three acts, so that's not going to work.

Joel: So when do, like, Desdemona or Iago, when do they die? [muttering] Act IV, Act IV …

Will: Ah! "Otello" has four acts.

Joel: Yeah, Desdemona dies. And then everybody dies in the last act as per Shakespeare's every other play.

Will: Hmm.

Joel: So we can say "When Desdemona dies, in 'Otello,'" and then we can say "'Otello' composer" for VERDI.

Will: Yeah. Actually, I like your first idea for ACT IV, or the first thing you said: "When everyone dies, in 'Otello.'"

Joel: [laughs] Well, I don't know if that's true, if everybody dies.

Will: Well, obviously not everyone.

Joel: It looks like in the opera, Otello is about to commit suicide and then they do a fade-to-black thing.

Will: [quoting the book] "Otello stabs himself, kissing Desdemona as he dies." Huh. How about "When Otello dies, in 'Otello'"?

Joel: Yeah, that's snappier.

Will: [laughs] Yeah, it's got that echo. Nancy [Schuster] will love us for back-to-back opera clues.

Jeff Chen notes: I'm loving the trend toward 'meta-crosswords,' i.e. puzzles with a secret answer to be figured out after you've filled in the last ... more
Jeff Chen notes:

I'm loving the trend toward "meta-crosswords," i.e. puzzles with a secret answer to be figured out after you've filled in the last box. Matt Gaffney is the master at this, and the WSJ recently launched a weekly puzzle as well. I hope the NYT considers jumping in — what better way to engage your audience with contest and a prize drawing?

TROY AIKMAN's jersey in the HoF

Today's crossword would have made for an excellent (easy) meta. With TROY, HOMER, ACHILLES, and PARIS, it wouldn't be hard to come up with the ILIAD if the meta question read "Today's meta answer is the name of a famous book." I like the idea here, with TROY, HOMER, and PARIS sneakily hinting at three famous people (the author and two famous participants). ACHILLES HEEL is way too overt for my taste since it's directly about Achilles himself, but it certainly would have made the meta-puzzle drop dead easy.

I enjoyed collaborating with Jason on his debut puzzle, and it's great to see his solo debut. I thought he did a nice job with his fill, although I would have preferred more cleanliness in the lower left corner. That combination of RASA, SARI, IRENIC and ARON (I don't think should a novice solver be expected to know Elvis' middle name) wasn't worth the long downs to me. ELECTORAL and SOPHOMORE are two fine words, but I'd much rather have one stellar long entry and a cleaner corner.

I debated whether TROY AIKMAN is gridworthy. I know him because I'm a 49ers fan, and he destroyed so many of our seasons.

PROS

  • Hall-of-Fame QB
  • Three Super Bowl rings

CONS

  • Only 550K Google hits (in quotes) — that's not a huge number
  • Could cause grumbling from solvers who already complain about having to know too much sports
  • He's a hated Dallas Cowboy

Ultimately, I decided I'd rather have something like TROY OUNCE, which can be worked through etymology (AIKMAN is impossible to get if you don't know him), but I think he's passable (pun intended). The low number of Google hits surprised me, but his heyday was in a time where the internet barely existed, so I'm okay with that.

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© 2015, The New York TimesNo. 24,135
Across Down
1. Pirate's "Stop!" : AVAST
6. Cry that means "I want some milk" (or who knows what?) : MEOW
10. It blocks Superman's X-ray vision : LEAD
14. Wood used in shingles : CEDAR
15. Guns & ___ magazine : AMMO
16. What a wheel rotates on : AXLE
17. He quarterbacked the Dallas Cowboys to three 1990s Super Bowl wins : TROYAIKMAN
19. "___ be all right" : ITLL
20. Things checked by the T.S.A. : IDS
21. "Um ... that is ..." : IMEAN
22. Perfect : IDEAL
23. Hanoi is its capital : VIETNAM
25. Unhealthily thin : GAUNT
26. Animated TV character who cries "D'oh!" : HOMERSIMPSON
30. Chávez or Romero : CESAR
33. Morays and congers : EELS
34. Abbr. ending a co. name : INC
35. Tons : ALOT
36. Work hinted at by the starts of 17-, 26-, 42- and 56-Across : ILIAD
38. Centers of attention : FOCI
39. G.O.P.'er: Abbr. : REP
40. Yemeni port city : ADEN
41. Candy ___ (Christmas decorations) : CANES
42. Key vulnerability : ACHILLESHEEL
46. Rich cake : TORTE
47. Freeway access points : ONRAMPS
51. Juliet's lover : ROMEO
52. Yorba ___, Calif. : LINDA
54. Slangy affirmative : YEP
55. Elvis ___ Presley : ARON
56. French underground : PARISMETRO
58. Indian dress : SARI
59. Shakespeare's stream : AVON
60. Comment made while fanning oneself : IMHOT
61. Baldwin of "30 Rock" : ALEC
62. Telephoned : RANG
63. Salaries, raw materials, advertising, etc. : COSTS
1. When Otello dies in "Otello" : ACTIV
2. "Otello" composer : VERDI
3. Give ___ of one's own medicine : ADOSE
4. Utter : SAY
5. Singer Meghan : TRAINOR
6. "You and what army?!" : MAKEME
7. Jane Austen novel on which "Clueless" is based : EMMA
8. Muscat's land : OMAN
9. Triumphed : WON
10. Bedridden : LAIDUP
11. File name add-on : EXTENSION
12. Suddenly : ALLATONCE
13. "The Farmer in the ___" : DELL
18. Mosque leader : IMAM
22. Dog food brand : IAMS
24. "All About ___ Bass" (2014 #1 hit by 5-Down) : THAT
25. ___ the lily : GILD
27. Bridle straps : REINS
28. Caribbean, e.g. : SEA
29. Formerly top-rated show starring Mark Harmon : NCIS
30. ___ mia (Italian term of endearment) : CARA
31. Kind of map often colored red and blue : ELECTORAL
32. Many a junior varsity player : SOPHOMORE
36. Out of a job : IDLE
37. Big name in jeans : LEE
38. Old presidential dog whose name starts a Christmas carol refrain : FALA
40. Voice above tenor : ALTO
41. Made from clay : CERAMIC
43. Peaceful : IRENIC
44. Sharpening : HONING
45. Finishes : ENDS
48. The "fact" that the Great Wall of China is visible from space, and others : MYTHS
49. 1990s candidate H. Ross ___ : PEROT
50. Features of Dalmatians : SPOTS
51. Tabula ___ (blank slate) : RASA
52. Volcanic output : LAVA
53. Club that's usually numbered from 3 to 9 : IRON
56. Golfing standard : PAR
57. Jimmy Eat World genre : EMO

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

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