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# New York Times, Saturday, June 6, 2015

 Author: Jason Flinn Editor: Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
1210/9/201312/3/20160
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
0102504
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.53030

## This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 70, Blocks: 35 Missing: {JXZ} This is puzzle # 5 for Mr. Flinn. Jeff Chen's Puzzle of the Week pick NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Jason Flinn notes: When submitting this puzzle I was aiming for a Thursday, but I suspect that the overall difficulty of uncovering the trick moved ... more
Jason Flinn notes:

When submitting this puzzle I was aiming for a Thursday, but I suspect that the overall difficulty of uncovering the trick moved the puzzle later in the week. Hopefully, the shaded squares will clue solvers into the fact that there is something unusual going on.

The idea for this puzzle started with that trick, of course, and the trick itself forced a lot of the grid design. I wanted to center the mirror(s) on a diagonal. It would have been awkward to start or stop a reflected entry on a mirror square, so I could not start a mirror in the top left corner or end one in the bottom right. Using a single mirror would have required a 14x14 or 16x16 grid, so I settled on the two-mirror design in the puzzle.

Next, I wanted to embed some hints for the solver in the grid. I went through a few possibilities (e.g. NARCISSUS) but SNOW WHITE and EVIL QUEEN kind of jumped right out once I considered the MIRROR MIRROR on the diagonal. As a bonus, the convenient equal word length let the entries fit nicely in opposite corners. The grid was getting pretty constrained at that point, so DWARFS didn't make it into the final product (though SEVEN remains with a non-theme clue).

Filling the center was hard, but not for the reason you might imagine. The MIRRORs are no more constraining than fixing a particular answer in the grid. However, all the reflected answers are at least 5 letters long and they intersect with each other, making this, in effect, a pretty open section.

Jeff Chen notes: Wow. Just wow. I love when a puzzle surprises me. I got the entire SNOW WHITE corner in my first pass, so filled in MIRROR MIRROR ... more
Jeff Chen notes:

Wow. Just wow.

I love when a puzzle surprises me. I got the entire SNOW WHITE corner in my first pass, so filled in MIRROR MIRROR without hesitation. In my second pass I got the EVIL QUEEN corner without much difficulty. Just a mini-themed themeless, with MIRROR MIRROR sitting in the diagonal = nothing to write home about, right?

But that central swath remained oddly blank. I had IM OUT and NOIRE plunked in at 1-D and 2-D, but nothing else would fit. Finally, I wondered if MIRROR MIRROR was contributing to my confusion. [Small tower on a castle] had to be TURRET — maybe it fit in the mirror spot, 18-A?

Then came one of the best a-ha moments in recent memory. NOIRE doesn't go straight down, it doesn't start at the reflected position … it reflects along the MIRROR, as if it were a ray of light bouncing off! Same with TURRET reflecting at the second R, same with IM OUT reflecting at the M … same with ALL THE ENTRIES HITTING MIRROR MIRROR. EVERY ONE OF THEM.

Now, some people may scoff at this tour de force, but when a handful of words turn at a 90 degree angle, the surrounding fill gets harder. When you have this constraint all along a full corridor — that's dozens of tough intersections to work through — it's an absolute gem to only need OF MAN. Otherwise, it's so clean and colorful, working in THE MASTERS and Erik ESTRADA and a PRISON RIOT.

And to do this in a 70-word puzzle? Amazing. Check out the bottom left corner, which stacks four long answers atop each other. Sure, you can complain about EEE, but this is a wonderful corner pulled off with a tough constraint. Constructors usually never stack four long words (8+ letters) atop each other for good reason — areas like this are nearly impossible to get both colorful and clean. Jason does a nice job with both of them.

The concept did make me think that MIRROR MIRROR might be even better if 1-D and 14-A started with the same sequence, so they were truly "mirrored." But even this is a sign that the puzzle did its job plus a whole lot more, spurring me on to think about it well after I finished solving.

Bravo, one of my favorites this year.

 1I 2N 3T 4S 5E 6V 7I 8L 9Q 10U 11E 12E 13N 14O M O U T 15M A D E A P L A Y 16W E I R E 17I S L A N D E R S 18E N G R E 19T 20T E N T A C L E 21S H O R A 22G E 23S A T 24S T O I S 25T 26S E 27V 28E 29N 30P 31R 32I S O N R T H 33D I V A 34A O K 35F Y I 36E 37W 38E 39B E G 40D U E 41S 42O 43F M A S 44T E R S 45S T A I 46R 47T R A I T E 48L I 49B 50E N T R A 51D 52A 53T 54E 55L E P O 56R T 57S E R I N 58G 59I R O N S T O N 60E 61A M O D E 62T I C T A C T O E 63T O R R O 64S N O W W H I T E 65S N E E
© 2015, The New York TimesNo. 23,951

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

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