New York Times, Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Author: Samuel A. Donaldson
Editor: Will Shortz
Samuel A. Donaldson
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1.62120

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 78, Blocks: 35 Missing: {QV} This is puzzle # 14 for Mr. Donaldson. NYT links: Across Lite PDF

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Samuel A. Donaldson notes: This puzzle's proof that it takes a village to make a crossword. The first iteration of the puzzle was sent back to me in ... more
Samuel A. Donaldson notes: This puzzle's proof that it takes a village to make a crossword. The first iteration of the puzzle was sent back to me in December 2012, to remove some fill like I ATE IT and NSFW. The revised puzzle was accepted in June of last year (in case anyone's wondering about the current waiting time for Wednesday puzzles). After the puzzle was accepted, Will and his team changed three letters in the grid, which affected four answers (AXTON, CROAT, FTC, and NOA became AXION, GREAT, FIG, and NEA, respectively — a considerable improvement to say the least). In addition, the format of the clues to the theme answers also changed. The original clues were in the imperative, each beginning with "Go away." BUZZ OFF, for instance, was clued as ["Go away, bumblebee!"], and ["Go away, outdoor enthusiast!"] was the clue for TAKE A HIKE. Maybe that was a little too obtuse, or maybe it was confusing to have these and other non-theme imperatives in the clues.

Subtract the four new answers and the clue formatting revisions to the six theme answers spanning eight entries and you have 66 additional non-theme answers for which I submitted clues. Of those, Will left only 11 completely unchanged. He made what I would consider minor modifications (like changing [One of the "ice giants"] to [A solar system "ice giant"]) to another 24 clues. That means he completely re-wrote the remaining 31 clues, including, alas, [Newsman Donaldson] for SAM. (My other favorite was [Some fixed figures] for STATUARY, though looking back that was way too hard for an early-week puzzle.)

Normally I would want a higher percentage of my clues to make it through to the end, if for no other reason than my wanting an editor to have confidence that I really do know how to clue a crossword. But I'm fine with the percentage here, as I was originally conceiving of this as a Tuesday crossword instead of a Wednesday puzzle. After all the revisions, it feels more like a Wednesday puzzle to me.

I was happy to fit six theme entries into the grid, especially since the last one paired off three others. I also liked that the arrangement of the theme entries allowed for some open corners, which we don't often see in early-week grids. Sixty theme squares isn't impossibly dense, but the grid does betray some of the complexity in making it all work, at least in my hands. (Hello, SSGTS, A SOU, and SOLEA!) Still, I hope solvers find it entertaining. Those that didn't can just ... go away.

Jeff Chen notes: Fun outing today from one of my favorite people in crossword-land. I appreciate that Sam tries for non-standard grid layouts, ... more
Jeff Chen notes: Fun outing today from one of my favorite people in crossword-land. I appreciate that Sam tries for non-standard grid layouts, breaking the mold to deliver something different. It would never have occurred to me to break up MAKE LIKE A / BANANA / AND SPLIT. At first I thought it was odd to have a single themer spread across three grid entries, but after considering the one themer containing SPLIT is split, I grinned.

Neat theme, a bit easy for a Wednesday, as all theme answers were readily inferable once the trick became apparent. I like what Sam's done to make the puzzle harder: look at those big NW and SE corners. Typically rows 1, 2, 14, and 15 get split up into three entries a piece, because using only two entries a piece produces a much more difficult filling challenge. I wasn't a huge fan of some of the short stuff required to do it (ERG, ORU = Oral Roberts U, AST, IRR, and the awkward TYE), but it sure was nice to get some long fill in unusual places. NO HASSLE is such a fantastic opening to the puzzle! That's the kind of 1-across I aspire to.

Today's fill falls in the camp of "let some ugly stuff by in order to achieve some snazzy fill." Man oh man did I like the SW corner: I mean, MY GOSH, OLD NAG next to a SKI BUM with its awesome double-acting clue? Please sir, I want some more! I did hitch a few times though, especially at the randomISH XOX and ugly-looking SSGTS, in addition to the aforementioned short stuff.

Hard to say which philosophy is best, the ultraclean-but-sometimes-lifeless or the zany-with-some-uggos (I don't think there's a clear right or wrong). The XOX section is a perfect example: I hadn't heard of the AXION, and I really appreciated learning something about that particular particle. But was it worth the price of XOX, the partial A SOU, and the chance that solvers will put in OXION/OZOWA or the like? I probably wouldn't have made the same decision as Sam/Will, but that's what's great about a daily puzzle with such a variety of constructors: if you don't like this trade-off, come back tomorrow and you'll get something different.

Off to make myself a banana split, which I'm pretty sure Sam and his puzzle are implicitly giving me permission to do.

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© 2014, The New York TimesNo. 23,507
Across Down
1. Easy, in adspeak : NOHASSLE
9. Like the stars : ASTRAL
15. Tooth next to a canine : PREMOLAR
16. The "cave" of "cave canem" : BEWARE
17. Go away as a marathoner might? : RUNALONG
18. Go away as a Michael Jackson impersonator might? : BEATIT
19. Z abroad : ZETA
20. Yank rival : JAY
21. Pothook shape : ESS
22. Go away as an outdoorsman might? : TAKEAHIKE
26. Augment : ADDTO
28. Olympics chant : USA
29. Some Marine NCOs : SSGTS
31. Neural conductor : AXON
32. Wrinkle-reducing shot : BOTOX
35. Step up or down : STAIR
37. Go away as a bumblebee might? : BUZZOFF
40. Go away as a speaker of pig Latin might? : AMSCRAY
44. Particle theorized in 1977 : AXION
46. Carnivore that both hunts and scavenges : HYENA
47. Overwhelm with flattery : SNOW
50. "Wonderful!" : GREAT
53. Word with living or dead : END
54. Caffeine-laden nuts : KOLAS
56. With 63- and 65-Across, go away as a soda jerk might? : MAKELIKEA
59. "___ be a pleasure!" : ITD
60. They're checked at the door : IDS
62. ___ instant : INAN
63. See 56-Across : BANANA
65. See 56-Across : ANDSPLIT
69. A solar system "ice giant" : URANUS
70. Sculptor's works : STATUARY
71. "For heaven's sake!" : MYGOSH
72. F. A. O. Schwarz, for one : TOYSTORE
1. "Science Friday" airer : NPR
2. Tulsa sch. with a Prayer Tower : ORU
3. Mad-when-wet bird, idiomatically : HEN
4. Knock the socks off : AMAZE
5. Form of flamenco : SOLEA
6. Poky sorts : SLOTHS
7. Hawaiian verandas : LANAIS
8. Joule fraction : ERG
9. Group featured in "Mamma Mia!" : ABBA
10. "Later!" : SEEYA
11. Carrier in "The Aviator" : TWA
12. Hard-core : RATEDX
13. British upper-cruster, for short : ARISTO
14. Reveals one's feelings : LETSON
20. Volkswagen model since 1979 : JETTA
22. Ernest of country music : TUBB
23. Not worth ___ : ASOU
24. Willy who lent his name to a historic Manhattan deli : KATZ
25. British scale divs. : KGS
27. "Pride and Prejudice" protagonist : DARCY
30. College football star Michael in 2014 news : SAM
33. Conductor Seiji : OZAWA
34. Worthless tic-tac-toe row : XOX
36. "Sorta" suffix : ISH
38. Garden of Eden tree : FIG
39. Much paperwork : FORMS
41. Need a bath badly : REEK
42. Hathaway of "Becoming Jane" : ANNE
43. When tripled, a Seinfeld catchphrase : YADA
45. Museum-funding org. : NEA
47. One often in need of a lift? : SKIBUM
48. Official with a seal : NOTARY
49. Racetrack has-been : OLDNAG
51. Closely resembling : AKINTO
52. Like some short-term N.B.A. contracts : TENDAY
55. Hole in one's head? : SINUS
57. Stands the test of time : LASTS
58. Raw data, often : INPUT
61. Usain Bolt event : DASH
64. "It's ___-brainer" : ANO
65. Prince Edward Island hrs. : AST
66. Mekong Valley native : LAO
67. Sale rack abbr. : IRR
68. Rope on a ship : TYE

Answer summary: 3 unique to this puzzle, 1 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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