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New York Times, Thursday, February 19, 2015

Author: Jason Flinn
Editor: Will Shortz
Jason Flinn
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1.53030
Puzzle of the Week

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 76, Blocks: 36 Missing: {JQXZ} This is puzzle # 4 for Mr. Flinn. Jeff Chen's Puzzle of the Week pick NYT links: Across Lite PDF

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Jason Flinn notes: As a solver, I really enjoy the variety of Thursdays in the NYT puzzle. So, it's not a big shock to me that 'puzzles with a twist' ... more
Jason Flinn notes:

As a solver, I really enjoy the variety of Thursdays in the NYT puzzle. So, it's not a big shock to me that "puzzles with a twist" have become my favorite to construct. In the grid I submitted, I used a highlighter to mark the theme answers. I wonder: does marking the loop squares make this too easy? My feeling is that this puzzle would be a very tough solve without that extra help.

I learned a lot constructing this puzzle. It was surprisingly hard to place the theme answers. Each creates 3-5 triple-checked letters and also requires placing 1 or 2 extra blocks (black squares) in the grid. Even worse, for this type of theme, it's not possible to place the theme answers symmetrically (unless you like downward loops), so each extra block creates another somewhere else in the grid to preserve symmetry.

Despite having a few additional theme possibilities (e.g., DAREDEVIL), I couldn't see a way to get another such entry in the grid. Even with the current set, I was stumped for a while until I saw that I could pair the blocks at the start of PAPER AIRPLANE and ROLLER COASTER with the blocks symmetrically opposite the loop blocks of the other entry.

Jeff Chen notes: Very, very cool idea. I bet many solvers filled in 'APERA' as a rebus square and wondered who the heck APERANNA SUI was. (I still ... more
Jeff Chen notes:

Very, very cool idea. I bet many solvers filled in "APERA" as a rebus square and wondered who the heck APERANNA SUI was. (I still think Aperanna is a nice name.) Following along the loop, especially ROLLER COASTER looping around R (O L L E R C) OASTER, was really fun. And the fact that the resulting answer looks like ROASTER in the grid, a normal word — what a bonus!

Squeal!

P (A P E R) AIRPLANE also is neat, some types of planes able to gracefully execute loop-de-loops. It's not quite as neat as ROLLER COASTER since "PAIRPLANE" is obviously odd in the grid, but still, PAPER AIRPLANE fits nicely with the theme.

I get that a SHOELACE gets tied in a loop, but that themer didn't work quite as well for me. SHOELACEs don't really get tied in vertical loops, do they? I brainstormed a little bit, and could only come up with two other possible themers which might fit the vertical loop motif: STUNT PILOTS, which would look like S (T U N T P I L O) TS, or STUNT MOTORCYCLE. Maybe those are too close to PAPER AIRPLANE though.

These types of puzzles where the themers bend, twist, etc. are usually tough to execute, because of all the extra real estate taken up. So I like that Jason just uses three, and spaces them out nicely. Also very cool to incorporate R CRUMB into that difficult RC???? slot. The fill isn't particularly sparkly — more CATALYTIC and ATYPICAL than the beautiful BITCOIN and FIRE AWAY — but I appreciate the relative grid cleanliness.

Finally, two great clues. I love Greek mythology, so getting ARGUS and the [100-eyed giant of myth] was pleasing. (Although I would have been equally happy with ARGUS Filch, the groundskeeper of Hogwarts.) And [Illegal motion penalty?] thankfully had nothing to do with football (still not over the Seahawks' SB XLIX loss) but cleverly hinted at TILTing a pinball machine.

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© 2015, The New York TimesNo. 23,844
Across Down
1. Put a coat on sloppily, say : DAUB
5. City that supplied granite for Egyptian monuments : ASWAN
10. Theater deg. : MFA
13. Hyatt alternative : OMNI
14. Shot : PHOTO
15. Illegal motion penalty? : TILT
17. Former Washington heavyweight : TAFT
18. "I'm off!" : SEEYA
19. "Casta diva," e.g. : ARIA
20. Hors d'oeuvre staple : CRACKER
22. ___ mater (brain part) : PIA
24. Reaction to an exorbitant bill, maybe : EEK
25. Turkey dressing ingredient : ONION
26. Classroom projectile : PAPERAIRPLANE
29. Lisa ___ Presley : MARIE
30. Mandela's org. : ANC
31. Grope clumsily : PAWAT
32. "Game of Thrones" patriarch ___ Stark : NED
34. Disgust : NAUSEATE
36. "Isn't she cu-u-ute?!" : AWW
39. European border : URALS
41. Thirst : YEN
42. Gets inspiration? : BREATHES
45. E.R. test : EEG
48. Plant used in herbal remedies : SENNA
49. América del ___ : SUR
51. What the paths of three answers in this puzzle include : LOOPS
55. ___ converter : CATALYTIC
57. Bebé's milk : LECHE
58. And on and on : ETC
59. Rustic expanse : LEA
60. Theme park part : ROLLERCOASTER
62. It may be on the tip of the tongue : SHOELACE
64. 100-eyed giant of myth : ARGUS
66. Plague : BANE
67. ___-worth : SELF
68. Looks : SEEMS
69. River through Bristol : AVON
70. "Silent Spring" topic, for short : DDT
71. Exercise option : TAEBO
72. Igloo, essentially : DOME
1. Kind of bubble : DOTCOM
2. Archaeological site along the Nile : AMARNA
3. Biased : UNFAIR
4. Digital currency : BITCOIN
5. Vaulted recess : APSE
6. Worker in peak physical condition? : SHERPA
7. Heartache : WOE
8. Anomalous : ATYPICAL
9. Asphyxiation cause : NOAIR
10. N.Y.C. rail org. : MTA
11. "I'll take your questions now" : FIREAWAY
12. Drive off : ALIENATE
16. Rest a bit : TAKETEN
21. Something to make a proposal on? : KNEE
23. Many games nowadays : APPS
27. Chinese-American fashion icon : ANNASUI
28. Pacific port from which Amelia Earhart left on her last and fatal flight : LAE
33. "Ya think?!" : DUH
35. Consumption : USE
36. Certain infection : ABSCESS
37. Encircled : WREATHED
38. Disappeared, as a trail : WENTCOLD
40. Place to change drivers : RESTAREA
43. Santa ___, Calif. : ANA
44. One way to walk : TALL
46. Actress Raines of "Phantom Lady" : ELLA
47. Sours : GOESBAD
50. "Keep on Truckin'" cartoonist : RCRUMB
52. Book size : OCTAVO
53. Whiz : PHENOM
54. Untroubled : SERENE
56. Vintner's supply : YEAST
61. ___ buco : OSSO
63. Pond dweller : EFT
65. "No kidding!" : GEE

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

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