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New York Times, Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Author: Peter A. Collins
Editor: Will Shortz
Peter A. Collins
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1.564283
Puzzle of the Week

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 75, Blocks: 38 Missing: {JKQVXZ} Spans: 2 Grid has mirror symmetry Grid has repeated answers This is puzzle # 96 for Mr. Collins. Jeff Chen's Puzzle of the Week pick NYT links: Across Lite PDF

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Peter A. Collins notes: This one went through six iterations before it was ready for prime time. The editors even asked me to consider ripping out my ... more
Peter A. Collins notes:

This one went through six iterations before it was ready for prime time. The editors even asked me to consider ripping out my NEEDLEPOINT. It certainly constrains the fill near the apex of the SLATE ROOF. I begged and pleaded, and eventually Will and Joel allowed NEEDLEPOINT to stay.

In order to keep SWEET, NEEDLEPOINT, and the angled SLATE ROOF down the center column, I had to fill ??W?LT and ??E?PR. For the first one, the solution I came up with was Patton OSWALT – perhaps not a household name in a lot of households. Joel and I had to twist Will's arm to get OSWALT to stay – and just for the record, we twisted his left arm so as not to impede his table tennis career. For the second, I needed to pull FREE PR out of thin air. I was quite proud of that entry until Byron Walden stole some of my thunder. He debuted BAD PR while my puzzle sat in the queue. Is there a grumbly-faced, fist-shaking emoticon? If so, insert one here.

Overall, I hope the grid has a COMFY, cross stitch vibe to it (IDI AMIN notwithstanding).

Jeff Chen notes: Very pretty graphic, with a THREE / STORY / HOUSE and its SLATE ROOF memorialized in NEEDLEPOINT. HOME / SWEET / HOME indeed! ... more
Jeff Chen notes:

Very pretty graphic, with a THREE / STORY / HOUSE and its SLATE ROOF memorialized in NEEDLEPOINT. HOME / SWEET / HOME indeed!

Be it ever so humble ...

I was amazed by how much Pete packed in today, especially THREE / STORY / HOUSE right atop each other. It's very hard to stack three specific answers when you have no flexibility. Then you throw in SLATE ROOF to further constrain things. I was worried at how many compromises Pete would have to make — and that was before I realized NEEDLEPOINT was part of the theme!

Pete did a nice job of deploying his black squares to separate the themers. You absolutely have to use some so THREE / STORY / HOUSE doesn't interact much with the SLATE ROOF. Then, the NEEDLEPOINT intersecting the SLATE ROOF has to be separated from HOME / SWEET / HOME as best as possible, otherwise you're forced to make a ton of compromises.

What with the enormous level of inflexibility — I can't remember when I've seen a puzzle constrained to this level — I like Pete's result. Sure, I hit RUHR / OTOE, SHERE, MEECE (ugh), ISERE right off the bat, but none of them are horrendous. And throughout the puzzle we get some of the usual suspects like ESSO, OPEL, DER, MAI, STE, but there's not a major offender in there. Some would even argue that ESSO is perfectly fine, since it's a major Canadian gas brand.

PHOEBES … apparently it's a fairly common bird in the Americas? Even after piecing it together from the crosses, I stared at the word in DISbelief. Some poor older solvers might choke on the OTOH crossing, four letters that will look random to non-texters. Even knowing that one, somehow PLOEBES seemed more plausible to me.

ASHTONS is a more clear-cut case. Not only is it a pluralized name, inelegant to start with, but it takes up a valuable 7-letter slot. Missed potential; could have been something as fun as CEDILLA.

All in all though, it's actually MUCH less crossword glue than I had expected, given the off-the-charts level of constraints. It's such a fun and pretty image; well worth the trade-offs to me.

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© 2016, The New York TimesNo. 24,318
Across Down
1. Shapes of bacilli bacteria : RODS
5. Snug : COMFY
10. North-of-the-border station : ESSO
14. State that voted Republican by the highest percentage (73%) in the 2012 presidential election : UTAH
15. River to the Rhône : ISERE
16. Sporty car feature : TTOP
17. With 18- and 19-Across, classic song that starts "'Mid pleasures and palaces though we may roam" : HOME
18. See 17-Across : SWEET
19. See 17-Across : HOME
20. Company shake-up, for short : REORG
22. Hero war pilot : ACE
23. Suit coat feature : LAPEL
24. Popular setting for 17-/18-/19-Across : NEEDLEPOINT
27. Hagen of stage and screen : UTA
29. Fanatic : NUT
30. GPS suggestion: Abbr. : RTE
31. Was down with : HAD
34. Swinger's target at a party : PINATA
36. Yale, affectionately : OLDELI
38. Façade feature : CEDILLA
40. Small flycatchers : PHOEBES
41. Korean performer with a monster 2012 international hit : PSY
42. Jeanne d'Arc, e.g.: Abbr. : STE
44. 1974-75 pigskin org. : WFL
45. Pastoral poem : IDYL
47. With 53- and 56-Across, certain abode : THREE
49. Certain military hazards, for short : IEDS
52. Evening, in ads : NITE
53. See 47-Across : STORY
54. Q*___ (1980s arcade game) : BERT
55. Homer Simpson cry : DOH
56. See 47-Across : HOUSE
57. "___ Rosenkavalier" : DER
58. Bygone Ugandan despot : IDIAMIN
61. Oxide in rubies and sapphires : ALUMINA
64. Harvesting machines : REAPERS
65. Possession of property : TENANCY
66. What initials on something may signify : ASSENT
67. Where femurs are located : THIGHS
1. Germany's ___ Valley : RUHR
2. Indian tribe that lent its name to a county in Nebraska : OTOE
3. Classical exemplars of steadfast friendship : DAMONANDPYTHIAS
4. Hite of "The Hite Report" : SHERE
5. Modern prefix with gender : CIS
6. Comedian Patton ___ : OSWALT
7. Little rodents, jocularly : MEECE
8. Having one's business mentioned in a news article, e.g. : FREEPR
9. Up to now : YET
10. Patriot Allen : ETHAN
11. Avert more serious losses : STOPTHEBLEEDING
12. Four or five, say : SOME
13. German-based G.M. subsidiary : OPEL
21. How George Harrison's guitar "weeps" : GENTLY
23. Hide out : LIELOW
25. Like many exhausts : DUAL
26. "Looking at it a different way," in texts : OTOH
27. Something a scanner scans, in brief : UPC
28. 20-20, e.g. : TIE
32. Stein filler : ALE
33. Insult, informally : DIS
35. Dairy ___ : AISLE
37. "Clear!" procedure, for short : DEFIB
39. Actor Kutcher and others : ASHTONS
40. Watches intently : PEERSAT
43. Pants, in slang : TROU
45. Former Indian P.M. Gandhi : INDIRA
46. Semiconductor devices : DIODES
47. Improper attire at a fancy restaurant : TSHIRT
48. Hole in one's shoe : EYELET
50. Make sopping wet : DRENCH
51. Humane Society pickups : STRAYS
59. Hairy primate : APE
60. Not-so-hairy primates : MEN
62. Durham sch. : UNH
63. ___ tai (drink) : MAI

Answer summary: 6 unique to this puzzle.

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