New York Times, Saturday, April 5, 2014

Author: Ashton Anderson and James Mulhern
Editor: Will Shortz
Ashton Anderson
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
1011/16/20097/31/20155
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
0100063
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.62000
James Mulhern
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
2011/16/20097/19/20165
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
0120089
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.61000

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 72, Blocks: 27 Missing: {JQ} This is puzzle # 7 for Mr. Anderson. This is puzzle # 4 for Mr. Mulhern. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Constructor notes: ASHTON: A quick intro: I'm a PhD student in computer science. James and I met during our undergrads at McGill, where he first ... more
Constructor notes:

ASHTON: A quick intro: I'm a PhD student in computer science. James and I met during our undergrads at McGill, where he first introduced me to crosswords, and, later, to the idea of constructing them. I never thought I'd be a "crossword person", but it has turned out to be a weirdly perfect combination of many things I love (language, pattern, misdirection, etc.). I think of constructing as a craft, or a minor form of art, and it makes for a great creative outlet for me.

When James and I collaborate, I usually start off with the first corner (seeded with an entry from James), then pass it off to James who fills in the opposite corner (seeded with one of my entries), and we try to design the grid so that the 3rd and 4th corners can then be finished simultaneously. This is because I'm a hopeless puzzle perfectionist and love the freedom of the first corner (but my solo output is mostly a folder full of first corners), whereas James is much better at making shrewd compromises to squeeze great corners out of constrained situations — I open, he closes.

I did the top half of the puzzle (seeded by LEGALIZE IT) and James did the bottom (seeded by SHE SAID YES, although I was thinking of the ecstatic phrase). I'm especially excited about this one because it has a lot of answers that feel very "us", like I GOT YOU, MAKE BANK, DUCHAMP, and PATTYCAKE.

JAMES: Despite almost ruining our friendship (PEELINGS led to a heated debate), it was a blast making this puzzle. Ashton's NE corner in particular is a beaut, with LEGALIZE IT crossing REEFER, and my favorite clue, [Drive to drink, e.g.] for the super-fun PRIMAL URGE.

Speaking of cluing, our cluing method for our collaborations involves each of us writing a set of clues without talking to each other, then brainstorming as we merge them. That way, we get two perspectives — that is, assuming we don't have the same clue... and that Ashton actually manages to finish his (3+ months to write clues is not unusual for him!).

And finally, a huge thank you to Will for agreeing to run this puzzle today. I reached out to him a few weeks back about the possibility of having it in the paper on the day I propose to Kate, my one, and he graciously agreed. 58-Across will be a keepsake for life.

Jeff Chen notes: Good Saturday workout, with a huge number of fresh, up-to-date entries. It's really neat to see a themeless puzzle obviously put ... more
Jeff Chen notes: Good Saturday workout, with a huge number of fresh, up-to-date entries. It's really neat to see a themeless puzzle obviously put together by constructors of Gen Y, hopefully bringing in more younger solvers into the NYT fold.

Some wonderful long entries, PRIMAL URGE and MAKE BANK my favorite. Colorful phrases that jump off the page are hard to beat. LEGALIZE IT also does a nice job touching on the national debate around marijuana, which is legal here in Washington State. FYI, it's odd to be running around Greenlake (a beautiful 2.8 mi loop in the heart of Seattle) and get a big whiff of pot smoke. Sometimes from another runner!

The older generation of solvers might not be as into this puzzle as others, as it could argued that it doesn't have a "classic" feel. One aspect of that is the test of time, which I'm not sure LEGALIZE IT or SHE SAID YES (the song) will pass (congrats, James!). Another is that there's so much material geared toward "feeling fresh" that it might overwhelm. I like new entries as much as anyone, but seeing LEGALIZE IT, REEFER, and SEX SYMBOL all together felt like a tad too much testosterone flowing through the grid. Could just be me, also reading too much into some of the clues.

Heck though, even if you agree with me, a great thing about a daily puzzle with a large number of constructors is the huge variety. It's a reasonable bet that there will be a more female-oriented puzzle in the near future, if that's your taste. FYI, Amy Reynaldo started a great dialogue about male/female constructors well worth reading.

Take a look at that fantastic SE corner (count me as a huge fan of ANATOLIA and the Seven Wonder of the Ancient World). That area is a beautiful piece of work, what with PATTY CAKE, LUCKY ME, MAKE BANK integrated all without a single blemish. I'd hope all themeless puzzles aspire to that level of quality. It's rare to see such snazziness without at least one ugly entry.

As far as the overall construction, the long entries are beautiful. All twelve of them are good to great, and LUCKY ME is such a beautiful choice for a seven-letter entry. It all does come at a price though, with the handful of NES, FER, ABAB, ETERNE, AYLA to hold everything together. While that seems like such a small number of entries, there's so much competition in themelesses these days that I did notice them as I solved.

Finally, a beautiful clue for the difficult LEE. At first glance it would seem simple to clue, yes? But it's been used so many times, finding something interesting and not overused is tough. Trivia-related clues can be hit or miss, but I really enjoyed learning something I didn't know about General Lee.

ADDED NOTE: James's girlfriend... SHE SAID YES! Okay, forgot what I said about the staying power of that entry. Congrats, James!

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© 2014, The New York TimesNo. 23,524
Across Down
1. "That's crazy, dude!" : WHOA
5. Drive to drink, e.g. : PRIMALURGE
15. It's best to stay out of its way : HARM
16. Debut Peter Tosh album, and a rallying cry for pot smokers : LEGALIZEIT
17. Scheme for the start of a sonnet : ABAB
18. Opinion leader? : IDOBELIEVE
19. Pioneer of New Journalism : TALESE
21. "r u there?," e.g. : TEXT
22. Unpolished pro? : FER
23. Stationary : INERT
24. Cro-Magnon orphan of literature : AYLA
25. Head turner : REIN
26. Rihanna or Sharon Stone : SEXSYMBOL
28. Big name in late-night TV : LORNE
29. See 25-Down : IRA
30. Dandy : LULU
31. Ripped : CUT
32. U.S. Open champion whose last name is a toy : TOMKITE
34. Artist and chess player who said "While all artists are not chess players, all chess players are artists" : DUCHAMP
38. The end? : IST
39. It takes time to cure : PORK
40. McDonald's denial : NAE
41. The end : DEATH
44. It involves hand-to-hand coordination : PATTYCAKE
46. Souls : ONES
47. Wish-Bone alternative : KENS
48. Lodging portmanteau : MOTEL
49. 1967 Calder Trophy winner at age 18 : ORR
50. ___ Epstein, baseball V.I.P. known as "Boy Wonder" : THEO
51. Last name in "Star Wars" : KENOBI
52. Singer with the 1996 triple-platinum album "Tidal" : FIONAAPPLE
55. Panache : ELAN
56. Where Jason Kidd played college hoops : UCBERKELEY
57. Rap's ___ Yang Twins : YING
58. 1996 Rhett Akins country hit : SHESAIDYES
59. Store whose shoe department has its own ZIP code (10022-SHOE) : SAKS
1. "Yes?" : WHATISIT
2. Certain chili : HABANERO
3. Third degree for a third degree? : ORALEXAM
4. One may prefer them to blondes : AMBERS
5. Bit of ballet instruction : PLIE
6. Like Tickle Me Elmo : RED
7. "My treat" : IGOTYOU
8. Parent company? : MABELL
9. Internet traffic statistics company : ALEXA
10. Pleasant cadence : LILT
11. Strong arm : UZI
12. Joint : REEFER
13. Buckle : GIVEIN
14. Forever in the past? : ETERNE
20. Up-to-date : STYLISH
24. Like some seamen : ABLE
25. With 29-Across, nest egg choice : ROTH
27. Cockerdoodle, e.g. : MUTT
28. "Oh goody!" : LUCKYME
31. Clipped : CURT
33. Young foxes : KITS
34. Certain gumdrops : DOTS
35. It was home to two Wonders of the Ancient World : ANATOLIA
36. Earn a load of money, in modern lingo : MAKEBANK
37. Some kitchen detritus : PEELINGS
39. Impressive range : PANOPLY
41. Tool : DOOFUS
42. Fortify : ENRICH
43. Oxygen user : AEROBE
44. Imitated chicks : PEEPED
45. Carnival items served with chili : CONEYS
47. Yellow-brown shade : KHAKI
50. Fictional home five miles from Jonesboro : TARA
51. A through G : KEYS
53. Duck Hunt platform, briefly : NES
54. Historical figure a.k.a. Marse Robert : LEE

Answer summary: 10 unique to this puzzle, 1 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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