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IT WAS 50 YEARS AGO TODAY

New York Times, Sunday, February 9, 2014

Author: Charles M. Deber
Editor: Will Shortz
Charles M. Deber
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
374/4/19822/9/20140
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1.4631118

This puzzle:

Rows: 21, Columns: 21 Words: 138, Blocks: 74 Missing: {KQXZ} Grid has mirror symmetry This is puzzle # 37 for Mr. Deber. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Charles M. Deber notes: Listening to the Beatles' classic 'Sgt. Pepper' album a few months back, I heard them sing, 'It was 20 years ago today, Sgt. Pepper taught the band to play'. This led me in short order to discover that the ... more
Charles M. Deber notes: Listening to the Beatles' classic "Sgt. Pepper" album a few months back, I heard them sing, "It was 20 years ago today, Sgt. Pepper taught the band to play". This led me in short order to discover that the Beatles made their much-touted U.S. TV debut (spoiler alert!) on the Ed Sullivan show on Sunday, February 9, 1964. Once I noticed that February 9 is also a Sunday in 2014 — which would be 50 years later to the day — I was launched on the puzzle.

I realized that the theme would become apparent to solvers of all generations, and wanting to make the puzzle something special beyond including an ample supply of phrases and songs relating to the Beatles, I came up with the idea of incorporating the names of the Beatles into the shape of a guitar. This took a few iterations, as the combination of their four names required 47 letters to produce the shape (rendered in gray squares in the print puzzle), and a bit of organization to get the surrounding black squares properly placed. Since some musicians could speculate as to whether this shape resembles an instrument that all but Ringo might actually have played, I decided to include the word "guitar" at 102 Down. I very much appreciate how Will streamlined the fill in a couple of corners. Trust this puzzle is fun — and that solvers "can work it out" without too much "help".

Jeff Chen notes: Ah, the Beatles. There have been several puzzles incorporating JOHN, PAUL, RINGO, and GEORGE, including a stealth one by Peter Collins, but none incorporating their full names quite like this. I found the most ... more
Jeff Chen notes: Ah, the Beatles. There have been several puzzles incorporating JOHN, PAUL, RINGO, and GEORGE, including a stealth one by Peter Collins, but none incorporating their full names quite like this.

I found the most interesting question to ponder today: how the heck do we fix the answers up so the database is clean and accurate? Jim and I take great care to reverse entries, unbend them, do whatever it takes to make the entry make sense to the clue. This often requires judgment calls, and we try to just be as consistent as possible. We ended up splitting the theme answers into two, so that if solvers later want to find this puzzle, a search for *JOHN LENNON* (the asterisks being wild card operators) will turn up PAUL MCCARTNEY JOHN LENNON. Perhaps there are better ways to do it? (shaking fist at constructors who defiantly break the molds)

Neat change of pace; it's rare to see a long entry sweep around like this to form a single gigantic theme entry. The shape isn't bad, although it struck me as more of a banjo than a guitar. A few slight indentations in the body of the guitar might have helped, but could also have made the construction even harder than it already is.

This mirror-symmetry grid may not come across as tricky, but as soon as I saw it I knew there would have to be some compromises here and there. Just look at 9D and 11D separated by only one column, and they stretch almost the full length of the puzzle. And to top it off, they spread out, forcing a very tough section within the "body" of the guitar. Stuff like AAU and NEUER in the center is bound to happen with this many constraints. Not only that, but you have to spend so many of your black squares in the middle of the puzzle, that the outer regions are forced to be big white swaths, hard to fill. A real challenge.

Some compromises in execution today, but I find that it's always fun to remember the greatness that was the Beatles.

JimH notes: Grid numbers correspond to the Across Lite version of this grid. The printed puzzle was slightly different.
A related instrument complete with tuning pegs was cleverly revealed in this 2010 Diagramless by Michael Shteyman.
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© 2014, The New York TimesNo. 23,469
Across Down
1. Cellphones, in Britain : MOBILES
8. Alone : APART
13. 13-Down, in Dresden : STRASSE
20. A debater takes it : ONESIDE
21. Jazz count? : BASIE
22. In that direction : THITHER
23. One favoring a strong central government : STATIST
24. ___ Vista : BUENA
25. Turns in : REDEEMS
26. Film terrier : TOTO
27. Bar order, with "the" : USUAL
29. Sadness : GRIEF
31. Narrow cut : SLIT
32. Move in an ungainly way : LOLLOP
34. Mine, in Madrid : MIO
36. Cherished by : DEARTO
38. Literary inits. : TSE
40. It's below the humerus : ULNA
41. Trig. function : COS
42. "Let ___" : ITBE
43. ___ deferens : VAS
46. Dweller on the Red Sea : YEMENI
48. Less than right : ACUTE
50. Crème de la crème : FINEST
52. 1996-2001 show featuring home videos : REALTV
53. Actress Gardner : AVA
54. The People's Champion : ALI
56. "The Battleship Potemkin" locale : ODESSA
57. An O'Neill : OONA
58. More appropriate : APTER
60. Houston sch. : RICEU
62. Followers of exes : WYES
63. Detour, e.g. : NUISANCE
65. Coal distillate : TAR
67. Announcer's aid : EARPHONE
69. Plural French word that spells its singular English form in reverse : ETATS
70. Much of the audience for 6-Down's show on 2/9/64 : TEENAGERS
73. Trounces : ROUTS
74. "When ___ younger, so much younger ..." ("Help!" lyric) : IWAS
76. More modern, in Munich : NEUER
77. Relative of a convertible : TTOP
79. Part of a train from a refinery : OILCAR
85. Servant, e.g. : OBEYER
89. "Why ___ so shy when ...?" ("It's Only Love" lyric) : AMI
90. Snack chip : NACHO
92. Nest on a cliff : AERIE
94. Author Umberto : ECO
95. Dave Clark ___ : FIVE
97. "___ the time ..." : MANYS
99. Playwright Fugard : ATHOL
100. General ___ chicken : TSOS
101. Attractive legs, in slang : STEMS
103. "Yuck!" : BLEH
104. Actor Hemsworth of "The Hunger Games" : LIAM
105. Bold : GUTSY
106. Stuck, after "in" : ARUT
107. Queen who fell for Zeus' swan song? : LEDA
108. It may be a plot : ACRE
109. Lone Star State sch. : UTEP
110. 500 letters? : STP
111. Cause of the witch's demise in "Hansel and Gretel" : OVEN
113. '60s war zone : NAM
115. Rice-A-___ : RONI
117. Fraternity chapter : RHO
119. Big to-do : HOOPLA
124. They're played at un conservatoire : ETUDES
126. Undermines, as support : ERODES
127. Living in a swing state? : MOODY
128. Kind of jacket with pockets on the chest : SAFARI
129. Tilted : ASLANT
130. Oxford's St. ___ College : ANNES
131. City on the Seine upstream from Paris : TROYES
1. A majority : MOST
2. Aware of : ONTO
3. Craze caused by this puzzle's subjects : BEATLEMANIA
4. Schoolyard rejoinder : ISTOO
5. Card count in Caesar's Palace? : LII
6. Host for this puzzle's subjects on 2/9/64 : EDSULLIVAN
7. Places atop : SETSON
8. Eban of Israel : ABBA
9. With 11-Down, subjects of this puzzle : PAULMCCARTNEYJOHNLENNON
10. Enzyme suffix : ASE
11. See 9-Down : RINGOSTARRGEORGEHARRISON
12. Rampage : TEAR
13. Way to go : STREET
14. Nickname for this puzzle's subjects : THEFABFOUR
15. Free : RID
16. Bikini blast, informally : ATEST
17. Song sung by this puzzle's subjects on 6-Down's show on 2/9/64 : SHELOVESYOU
18. Big rig : SEMI
19. Lead-in to while : ERST
28. ___ creek : UPA
30. Dictator Amin : IDI
33. Broadway's ___-Fontanne Theater : LUNT
35. Promise of payment : IOU
37. Frist's successor as Senate majority leader : REID
38. One of the six counties of Northern Ireland : TYRONE
39. Escort to the door : SEEOUT
44. Yes : ASSENT
45. Balanced conditions : STASES
47. Band material : ELASTIC
48. Park, e.g., in N.Y.C. : AVE
49. Wallach of "The Misfits" : ELI
51. Subtitle for "Star Wars Episode IV," with "A" : NEWHOPE
53. Just so, after "to" : ATEE
55. Bakeshop worker : ICER
59. Free throw avgs., e.g. : PCTS
61. One team in the N.B.A. All-Star Game, with "the" : EAST
64. City on the Nile : ASWAN
66. Junior Olympics org. : AAU
68. Certain NASA launch : PROBE
71. Had a ball at : ENJOYED
72. Unpredictable : ERRATIC
75. Composer Khachaturian : ARAM
78. Slave : TOIL
79. Apes : OAFS
80. Apes : IMITATORS
81. Where this puzzle's subjects got their start : LIVERPOOL
86. Song sung by this puzzle's subjects on 6-Down's show on 9/12/65 : YESTERDAY
87. Earth's habitable parts : ECOSPHERE
88. Dawnlike : ROSY
91. Common monthly expense : CABLE
93. Ladies' man : ROMEO
96. Prey for a dingo : EMU
98. Molly formerly on "S.N.L." : SHANNON
99. Like some dessert orders : ALAMODE
100. King in 1922 news : TUT
102. Hot : STOLEN
105. Instrument depicted by the shaded squares in this grid : GUITAR
110. 1965 and 1966 concert site for this puzzle's subjects : SHEA
112. Sweeping : VAST
114. Soon : ANON
116. Be domestic : NEST
118. Medical suffix : OSIS
120. Calendar keeper, for short : PDA
122. Medical suffix : OMA
123. The "S" of CBS: Abbr. : SYS
125. Sci-fi sighting : UFO

Answer summary: 7 unique to this puzzle, 3 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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