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DOWNRIGHT TRICKY!

New York Times, Sunday, June 29, 2014

Author: Byron Walden
Editor: Will Shortz
Byron Walden
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8211/23/20017/16/201611
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701192557
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1.58321

This puzzle:

Rows: 21, Columns: 22 Words: 141, Blocks: 76 Missing: {JQ} This is puzzle # 72 for Mr. Walden. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Byron Walden notes: This puzzle had two distinct geneses. The first was CHIVALRY IS DEAD, which I had liked as a potential entry for, oh, 7 or 8 years. 14-letter entries can sit on the shelf a long time. At some point, much more recently, ... more
Byron Walden notes: This puzzle had two distinct geneses. The first was CHIVALRY IS DEAD, which I had liked as a potential entry for, oh, 7 or 8 years. 14-letter entries can sit on the shelf a long time. At some point, much more recently, CONSIDER IT DONE caught my eye as another nice 14, and I thought of pairing it with CHIVALRY IS DEAD in a themeless. I think I actually started a grid and then noticed the C.I.D. connection.

The other thing I had in mind for quite some while was that feeling you get solving. You know something is wrong, and then you realize "Oh, it's a rebus!" and then everything starts working properly. I wanted to construct a puzzle where that has to happen twice — first when you think it's a rebus, and then when you realize it isn't. There would have to be a way that the themers were too long to fit, but then ended up somewhere else.

So when the CID part jumped out at me, a bunch of things came together at once. CID and CHIVALRY IS DEAD both got me thinking of knights. And the knight in chess moves like an L, ... "L" CID ... and hence the puzzle. My original title was "Knight Moves," which Matt Gaffney later used for a different gimmick, so I suggested to Will to change it to "Knight Shift." Will's title is probably a clearer hint ... hope you all remembered to look at the title before you started.

I lit onto MADE A DECISION pretty early on, to disguise the DEAD part. Then when I realized that I'VE MADE A DECISION could go in the middle and allow for symmetric placement of my two theme seed entries, I had my basic structure. I was lucky enough to hang a few more L's off the center entry and get some pretty complicated interlock to work out. The roughest section to fill was that little knot around HSIA/AAAA/EVIE. A lot of not-greatness there, but I could live with it. A special THANK U to Alanis, without whom I would have had to rip up the whole thing.

The area that was surprisingly challenging was the bottom of CONSIDER IT DONE. I needed ???DONE but I didn't want DONE in the answer and I had ONE elsewhere, so wanted to avoid using it again. That pretty much left me with CONDONE, making that section rather knotty, especially since I wanted the revealer next door. After all that, I somehow missed the dupe of LEG PAD and PADDED BRA, which I just spotted a couple of days ago. But I guess it never hurts to have a little extra PADding.

Jeff Chen notes: Nice change of pace today, six theme answers, all three words starting with C I D and 'turning a corner' to create an L-shape. All with the revealer... EL CID! Clever. I'm not sure how many people know El Cid but he's ... more
Jeff Chen notes: Nice change of pace today, six theme answers, all three words starting with C I D and "turning a corner" to create an L-shape. All with the revealer... EL CID! Clever. I'm not sure how many people know El Cid but he's certainly a historical person of note.

I liked the quirkiness of this one. At first I thought it was a bit out there to have these giant L shapes in the puzzle, especially since they're not symmetrical (see the highlights in the grid below), but I do like seeing things I've never seen before. Perhaps it might have been nice to get more thematic material about EL CID, given how historically important he was? Although, I searched through the wikipedia article and found roughly zero recognizable snippets that could be used as a crossword entry. "Ludriq al-Kanbiyatur" doesn't exactly scream CROSSWORD-WORTHY ENTRY!

As with all of Byron's work, it's well executed. It might seem like this one would be a bit easier than normal given there are only six themers, but the fact that the L-bend is hidden inside another entry (the DEAD in CHIVALRY is DEAD is hidden in IVE MA(DE A D)ECISION, e.g.) makes the construction quite challenging. But Byron finds a nice layout that allows for a lot of snazzy fill in chunks of the puzzle. Note the ICE CUBE / MOSH PIT section up top — beautiful stuff in an area Byron left himself with just one constraint. It all starts with the layout.

It's pretty amazing just how much good fill Byron manages to work in, actually. Often we get Sundays with a single pair of long down entries. Byron gives us I HAD A HUNCH / OFF BALANCE, SALT MINING / SPIKED ACES (not totally sure what those are, but they sound cool — NEWSFLASH: astute reader Martin Herbach tells me they're SPIKEDACES; aha!), even SPARE KEY / SEA HOLLY. And that's just to start! He also works in nice fill in the across direction (kids, don't try this at home). Fitting in MS PAC MAN and PADDED BRA, along with HOG CALLING and BLIND BID, it just doesn't stop. I almost gave this puzzle the POW based on execution and fun solve alone. The expertise shines through here, starting with a smart layout and ending with such care and feeding, balancing strong long fill and the desire to keep ugly short stuff out. It's not perfect (I struggled with the ESTIVATE / AAAA / EVIE section) but overall it's a strong product.

Even some strong clues. [Stoker of fear?] is something I've seen variants of before. I also liked [What might give you a big head?] for AFRO. And my favorite (which took a while to figure out even after putting in the letters was the clue for MANCAVE. It might feel a little tortured to some, given that "coordinates" is a bit of a stretch in order to misdirect, but the XY coordinates have to do with the XY chromosomes males carry, not XY coordinates on a plot. The Facebook "like button" had a nice repurposing for the IKE clue too.

An innovative idea, perhaps with a bit of untapped potential? That's up for debate, but it'd be tough to argue with how well the grid is executed.

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© 2014, The New York TimesNo. 23,609
Across Down
1. It may be cut by an uppercut : CHIN
5. Drink cooler : ICECUBE
12. Map feature : SCALE
17. Nurse : SIP
20. "From Here to Eternity" setting : OAHU
21. Stage-diving locale : MOSHPIT
22. More than willing : EAGER
23. For : PRO
24. Stoker of fear? : BRAM
25. Not flat or sharp : ONPITCH
26. Lay ___ : ANEGG
27. Politician with a like button? : IKE
28. Adorns : BEDECKS
30. Minnesota player, familiarly : VIKE
31. Microwaveable snack : HOTPOCKET
33. Dress that drapes : SARI
34. Hall-of-___ : FAMER
35. Highly desirable to Uncle Sam? : ONEA
36. Wine list heading : REDS
37. Competitor in some county fairs : HOGCALLER
40. Offer to buy unspecified stocks, say : BLINDBID
42. Lean meat source : EMU
44. Shortstop-turned-ESPN analyst Garciaparra : NOMAR
45. "Thanks a ___!" : MIL
46. Stylebook concern : USAGE
49. Area with XY coordinates? : MANCAVE
51. Routine checkup : YEARLYPHYSICAL
57. Desire : ITCH
58. Stay inactive over the summer : ESTIVATE
60. Paris street : RUE
61. Vend : SELL
62. Moderator of the first Obama/McCain and Obama/Romney debates : LEHRER
64. Early Chinese dynasty : HSIA
65. Graph's x-coordinate : ABSCISSA
67. Statement after long deliberation : IVEMADEADECISION
72. Relayed : PASSEDON
75. Son of Aphrodite : EROS
76. Common pool or store posting : NODOGS
80. Word with house or boy : FRAT
81. Type : ILK
82. "The Education of a Golfer" autobiographer : SAMSNEAD
85. What might give you a big head? : AFRO
86. Hollywood and Bollywood, e.g. : FILMINDUSTRIES
89. Material in the hats of Buckingham Palace guards : BEARFUR
91. Byes : TATAS
92. Litter member : PUP
93. Do-nothing : IDLER
95. Grp. battling consumer fraud : BBB
96. 1980s video game spinoff : MSPACMAN
100. Drag staple : PADDEDBRA
103. Et ___ : ALII
105. Surf sound : ROAR
106. Ones trapped in boxes of their own making? : MIMES
107. Connecticut Ivy : YALE
109. Southern grocery chain : WINNDIXIE
111. Harry Potter mark : SCAR
112. Downloader's directive : INSTALL
115. Agents' org. : FBI
116. Black ___ : ASINK
117. Post-Weimar period : NAZIERA
119. Terrace farming pioneers : INCA
120. Mantel piece : URN
121. "Walk Away ___" (1966 hit) : RENEE
122. "Absolutely Fabulous," e.g. : BRITCOM
123. "JAG" spinoff : NCIS
124. Fail to keep up : LAG
125. Beyond piqued : ANGRY
126. Allow to continue : CONDONE
127. H.S. proficiency exams : GEDS
1. ___ salad : COBB
2. Proverbial speedsters : HARES
3. "That's what my Spidey sense told me" : IHADAHUNCH
4. Quince, e.g. : NUMERO
5. Reassuring reply : IMOK
6. Reasons to say no : CONS
7. Subj. of a thought experiment : ESP
8. Lament about modern men : CHIVALRYISDEAD
9. When computers work : UPTIME
10. Trade cross words : BICKER
11. C4H10O : ETHER
12. European coastal plant once thought to be an aphrodisiac : SEAHOLLY
13. Pachelbel classic, familiarly : CANONIND
14. When Tatum O'Neal won her Oscar : AGETEN
15. Part of a hockey goalie's equipment : LEGPAD
16. "Cogito, ___ sum" : ERGO
17. Ray-finned fishes of the Southwest U.S. : SPIKEDACES
18. Ticked off : IRKED
19. Versifiers : POETS
29. Health care giant with a Tree of Life logo : CIGNA
32. Major African humanitarian concern of the 2000s : CRISISINDARFUR
34. Hollywood setting: Abbr. : FLA
38. Like the contents of many attics : COVEREDINDUST
39. Traitor Aldrich : AMES
40. Nastiness : BILE
41. Tour transport : BUS
42. Actor Jannings : EMIL
43. Chess ending : MATE
45. '80s TV star who later pitched Snickers : MRT
47. Some square dancers : GALS
48. "___ Enchanted" (2004 film) : ELLA
50. 1982 holiday country hit by Alabama : CHRISTMASINDIXIE
52. 1960s pop singer Sands : EVIE
53. Tiny battery : AAAA
54. Laud : PRAISE
55. LAX, O'Hare and others : HUBS
56. "Of course!" : YESINDEED
59. Grammy-nominated 1998 hit for Alanis Morissette : THANKU
63. New Year's ___ : EVE
66. Bill's partner : COO
68. Jell-O maker : MOLD
69. Actress Moore : DEMI
70. Highland tongue : ERSE
71. "Right away, boss" : CONSIDERITDONE
72. Kaput : PFFT
73. "Celeste Aida," for one : ARIA
74. Enterprise for Morton : SALTMINING
77. Bad way to be caught : OFFBALANCE
78. Eats : GRUB
79. Collect on the surface, in chemistry : SORB
82. Floor : STUN
83. Dadaism pioneer : ARP
84. Up to snuff : ABLE
87. AOL, e.g., for short : ISP
88. Item for a houseguest : SPAREKEY
90. Fast-food chain with the Ultimate Angus sandwich : ARBYS
94. One who drills, fills and bills: Abbr. : DDS
97. Up : ARISEN
98. Directing a shell : COXING
99. Down Easter : MAINER
100. Rogue : PICARO
101. The ___ Mets : AMAZIN
102. Half a star, maybe : RATING
103. Label for pans? : AWFUL
104. House entered near the autumnal equinox : LIBRA
106. "All In" network : MSNBC
108. Spanish hero whose 113-Down is represented enigmatically six times in this puzzle : ELCID
110. ___ Torres, four-time Olympic swimming gold medalist : DARA
112. Press : IRON
113. Moniker : NAME
114. Colleen : LASS
118. Green: Prefix : ECO

Answer summary: 25 unique to this puzzle, 2 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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