New York Times, Thursday, June 19, 2014

Author: Timothy Polin
Editor: Will Shortz
Timothy Polin
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Puzzle of the Week

This puzzle:

Rows: 16, Columns: 15 Words: 72, Blocks: 33 Missing: {JV} Spans: 2 Grid is asymmetric This is puzzle # 5 for Mr. Polin. Jeff Chen's Puzzle of the Week pick NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Timothy Polin notes: There are a couple of embarrassing truths about this one. The first is that there was a grid design long before any theme ... more
Timothy Polin notes: There are a couple of embarrassing truths about this one.

The first is that there was a grid design long before any theme concept materialized. Most of my ideas for puzzles are directly inspired by other constructors' creativity and execution, and in this case I wanted to try to construct an asymmetrical themeless puzzle with subtle thematic content, much like Joe Krozel's CREVE/COEUR (July 10, 2009) and Elizabeth Gorski's JOHNNY ONE-NOTE (December 10, 2010). Lacking any kind of plan, I just played around with blocks, hoping to stumble upon something that could be a viable backbone. The question mark design was simply the first grid that gave me pause, and the TWENTY QUESTIONS concept only surfaced after I'd already tried and dismissed several other ideas.

The second is that the cluing concept of the published version is radically different from the concept of the submitted one. My very inferior — and probably semantically incorrect — idea was that 20 of the entries would be clued with a wordplay-style clue ending in a question mark. You can still bear witness to my legion of awful puns in the clues for TIARA, EAU, CUE STICKS and DEF.

Be thankful for editors. Mr. Shortz saw my vision more clearly than I ever did, and with his lambent touch effortlessly improved the puzzle to the point at which I'm not even sure I should receive full authorship. In my limited constructing experience, nothing else begins to approach how truly confounding and humbling it was to open the preview puzzle a week ago and see my middling concept eviscerated, transformed and then rebuilt into the polished product you see today.

In the end it's fitting that this puzzle is running today, the sixth anniversary of Joe Krozel's LIES puzzle (June 19, 2008) — a puzzle which wasn't on my mind while making this one, but is perhaps the puzzle that this one ended up most closely resembling.

Jeff Chen notes: Man oh man do I love visual grid elements! Such a beautiful question mark made out of black squares; what a cool graphic. This grid ... more
Jeff Chen notes: Man oh man do I love visual grid elements! Such a beautiful question mark made out of black squares; what a cool graphic. This grid doesn't display normal crossword symmetry (or any, for that matter) but I don't give a hoot about that, because the visual is so stunning. Well done!

TWENTY QUESTIONS is a really nice entry for the theme. And I believe there are twenty question, although I got a little tired of counting at around three, so I'll trust that it adds up. As Bill Clinton said, it's just arithmetic. All that counting made me TOO TIRED TO THINK. So I suppose that's kind of thematic?

Generally it played like a themeless, which was a nice change of pace for a Thursday. I typically seek out the crazy, twisty type of puzzle on Thursdays, the ones that break your brain as you struggle to figure out what the heck is going on (and then gasp when you find out the insanity in the creator's head). But I know that's not everyone's preference, and lots of people love themelesses, so this will be especially good for them.

Like with most themeless puzzles, there's a huge amount of solid long stuff. EROTIC ART, SPIT AND POLISH, CONTORTIONIST, and my favorite, CUE STICKS. That last one was made even better with a brilliant clue, referring to the opening break of a pool game. Love, love, love that kind of cluing!

And also as with most themeless puzzles, there are such big open white spaces that there will be some compromises. Inside the question mark was my first guess as to where we'd see a little crunchiness, but Tim actually does amazingly well there. NEAPS isn't pretty, but it's a single glue entry that enables the snazz of GRANDPARENTS, THIN AS A RAIL, CAN IT BE, etc. Really impressed with the care he put into that section.

I was a little surprised to see the blips pop up in the NW and NE corners. There was enough of the APER / ALAR, ISSA, PREX kind of stuff that I almost wish Tim had broken up POWER LINE and MONETIZES to give us a net of two more words with a cleaner overall fill. Tough though — it is a treat for the eyes to see such big open areas on the sides of the puzzle. And I do love the word MONETIZES. It's so "Shark Tank," my favorite show on TV.

Overall, I love the amazing visual spectacle of the grid. Perhaps some untapped potential, although I'm not sure how more thematic material could have been incorporated. A memorable piece of grid art, to be sure.

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© 2014, The New York TimesNo. 23,599
Across Down
1. What group founded in 1960 currently has 12 members? : OPEC
5. What Fox series was set in Newport Beach? : THEOC
10. Cab locale : SEMI
14. What sport has divisions called chukkers? : POLO
15. Rock band? : TIARA
16. Wizards : PROS
17. Classic 1940s-'50s quiz show : TWENTYQUESTIONS
20. Of a bodily partition : SEPTAL
21. Winter warmer : HOTTEA
22. What are Greek P's? : RHOS
23. What automaker makes the Yukon and Acadia? : GMC
26. Pace : GAIT
27. What is the popular name for daminozide? : ALAR
28. The Police and others : TRIOS
30. CBS procedural : NCIS
32. What do four gills make? : PINT
33. Invited to one's penthouse, say : HADUP
34. Muddle : DAZE
35. À la a siren : ENTICINGLY
37. School head, slangily : PREX
38. Thundered : RESOUNDED
39. What is hopscotch called in New York City? : POTSY
40. Some tides : NEAPS
41. What company owns MapQuest? : AOL
42. What notorious 1999 computer virus was named after an exotic dancer? : MELISSA
45. States of madness : DELIRIA
49. What rating does the Michelin Guide give to "a very good restaurant"? : ONESTAR
50. Sacred petitions : ORISONS
51. Mentally pooped : TOOTIREDTOTHINK
53. Directional suffix : ERN
54. Incredulous response : CANITBE
55. ___ Palmas, Spain : LAS
56. Response to an oversharer : TMI
57. Pots : KITTIES
58. W.W. II inits. : ETO
59. Multitude : SEA
60. Mercedes roadsters : SLS
61. "Scientia potentia ___" : EST
62. C train? : DEF
1. Goes (for) : OPTS
2. Juice provider : POWERLINE
3. What do mahouts ride? : ELEPHANTS
4. Twister : CONTORTIONIST
5. What best-selling 2004 young adult novel was written entirely in the form of instant messages? : TTYL
6. What is the oldest academic quiz competition in the U.S. (since 1948)? : HIQ
7. Contents of Suisse banks? : EAU
8. What is 1/100 of a Danish krone? : ORE
9. Carry's partner : CASH
10. Fastidiousness : SPITANDPOLISH
11. Kama Sutra illustrations, e.g. : EROTICART
12. Converts to currency : MONETIZES
13. What California congressman heads the House Oversight Committee? : ISSA
18. Future profs, maybe : TAS
19. Dress smartly, with "out" : TOG
23. What were Russell and Anna Huxtable on "The Cosby Show"? : GRANDPARENTS
24. Tiny pests : MIDGES
25. Was able to : COULD
27. One who makes an impression? : APER
28. Superskinny : THINASARAIL
29. What was Caleb in the Bible? : SPY
31. What word precedes "Eyes," "Girl," "Love" and "Mama" in Top 40 song titles? : SEXY
36. Ones with breaking points? : CUESTICKS
39. Exhibiting the most civility : POLITEST
41. Oxygen users : AEROBES
42. Sacred pieces : MOTETS
43. What is French for "huge"? : ENORME
44. Neighbor of Teaneck, N.J. : LEONIA
45. Country singer West : DOTTIE
46. Disturbed : ROILED
47. Not acquired, say : INNATE
48. Solicits from : ASKSOF
52. Morse bit : DIT

Answer summary: 5 unique to this puzzle, 3 debuted here and reused later, 6 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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