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New York Times, Thursday, July 24, 2014

Author: David Phillips
Editor: Will Shortz
David Phillips
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167/24/201411/5/20161
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1.58000
Puzzle of the Week

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 72, Blocks: 40 Missing: {JMQXZ} This is the debut puzzle for Mr. Phillips Jeff Chen's Puzzle of the Week pick NYT links: Across Lite PDF
David Phillips notes: Hello fellow xword(info)ers. Glad to make your acquaintance. I hope today's offering didn't rough you up too badly. =) The ... more
David Phillips notes: Hello fellow xword(info)ers. Glad to make your acquaintance. I hope today's offering didn't rough you up too badly. =)

The direct inspiration for this puzzle was David Pringle's 2005 NYT April Fool's Day puzzle, but I'm sure other constructors' work seeped into my brain cells without my knowing. (Despite some similarities, this puzzle's conception dates before Mr. Steinberg's ERASE R'S puzzle.) My intent was to create a metaphorical yin to Mr. Pringle's yang: instead of using black squares posing as white squares, I would use white squares masquerading as black squares. The Rolling Stones hit "Paint It Black" seemed like a rockin' way to execute this idea.

To successfully pull off the illusion, I would need to make solvers think the newly "added" black squares could actually be black squares. This forced some immediate restrictions: (1) theme answers could not occupy rows/columns 1, 2, 3, 13, 14, or 15 and (2) theme answers needed to have the word "IT" preceded and followed by at least 3 letters. Furthermore, I knew that repeating the letter string "IT"/"TI" in any entry other than the theme entries would be confusing/inelegant, and thus made it a priority to avoid such.

After I had found a nice collection of theme answers and tried placing some, I soon discovered that placing all themers in the across direction severely limited *real* black square placement in the grid's center. Since my revealer was a devious length of 12 letters, I needed as much flexibility in black square placement as I could get. Hence, the pinwheel arrangement.

Filling the NW/SE center portions of the grid was also fairly tricky, but, once they went down, I was sure the puzzle would make it.

Fare thee well for now, brave solvers. But, beware the perilous puzzles that lie ahead! [insert evil laugh]

Jeff Chen notes: It took me a long time to figure out what was going on here, but what a neat moment when it clicked. I didn't know the song PAINT IT ... more
Jeff Chen notes: It took me a long time to figure out what was going on here, but what a neat moment when it clicked. I didn't know the song PAINT IT BLACK, but that didn't take away too much from my solving experience. Once I got over that hump of figuring out the first IT themer, it all fell into place. Great concept.

I couldn't visualize how David put this together! So I reconstructed his puzzle skeleton, which helped me understand much better. It's actually a 72-word grid with crossing themers, a really tough puzzle to pull off. To get this to work, and on a debut puzzle no less... super impressive.

I might have liked the revealer to be placed in the horizontal direction, which is easy to do by "flipping" the puzzle about a line from the NW to the SE (any crossword can be flipped like this and still have all the answers read correctly). For me, it would have been so nice to have the puzzle flipped like this, so that the revealer had been in the usual location. I'm so used to having most revealers running horizontally, located somewhere around the bottom of the puzzle. I'm such a creature of habit.

When I construct, I always look for the most constrained and/or biggest chunk of space I need to fill. Notice how the north and south, with their 6x3 chunks and the themers bordering them, stick out? That's where I'd typically start filling, as they'd be among the hardest parts to fill, if not the hardest. The rest of the puzzle is quite smooth, darn impressive given the 72-word nature of it and the crossing themers, so it was a bit unfortunate that ECARTE reared its ugly head right off the bat, and in the south we get SDI (which Will has mentioned that he's on the verge of not allowing anymore), OSH, TAVI, and the crossing I got wrong, PETER TOSH / SOLANO. I expect to not get a lot of pop music references, but I'm from California and hadn't heard of SOLANO. I don't think I'll be the only solver to have issues there.

All in all, an impressive debut. Great idea and pretty darn good execution.

JimH notes: from Shakespeare in Love: Philip Henslowe: Mr. Fennyman, allow me to explain about the theatre business. The natural condition is one of ... more
JimH notes: from Shakespeare in Love:
Philip Henslowe: Mr. Fennyman, allow me to explain about the theatre business. The natural condition is one of insurmountable obstacles on the road to imminent disaster.
Hugh Fennyman: So what do we do?
Henslowe: Nothing. Strangely enough, it all turns out well.
Fennyman: How?
Henslowe: I don't know. It's a mystery.
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© 2014, The New York TimesNo. 23,634
Across Down
1. Bunch : SLEW
5. Game similar to euchre : ECARTE
11. "Arsenal of democracy" prez : FDR
14. Auto datum : YEAR
15. Credit card lure : NOFEES
16. ___ Highway, classic New York-to-San Francisco route : LEE
17. Area in front of a chancel : NAVE
18. Linoleum alternative : CARPET
19. Place of rest : INN
20. "Looky here!" : CHECKITOUT
23. Nabokov novel after "Lolita" : PNIN
24. Mario ___ (Nintendo racing series) : KART
27. A series of "insurmountable obstacles on the road to imminent disaster," per Tom Stoppard : THEATRE
29. Flight setting : STAIRCASE
34. Helmet part : VISOR
35. Greater part of Turkey : ANATOLIA
37. Sound a hot dog makes? : PANT
38. End of a fairy's wand : STAR
40. Outwit, in a way : ELUDE
42. Goose : gaggle :: ___ : knot : TOAD
45. Wedding feature, in two different senses : BAND
47. Interrupts, as a broadcast : CUTSINTO
50. South Australian exports : OPALS
52. Chosen people : SELECTEES
54. Overlook, as someone's flaws : GETPAST
56. ___ notes : CRIB
58. Writer Philip : ROTH
59. Not worry about something annoying : LETITSLIDE
65. Choler : IRE
66. California county between San Francisco and Sacramento : SOLANO
69. Similar : AKIN
70. "No ___!" : SIR
71. Digs deeply : DELVES
72. Small price to pay : CENT
73. Kind of fever : HAY
74. Prophet on the Sistine Chapel ceiling : ISAIAH
75. Evil "Get Smart" organization : KAOS
1. In ___ with : SYNC
2. Genesis matriarch : LEAH
3. Place for a wasp's nest : EAVE
4. Hit 2012 Disney film : WRECKITRALPH
5. Went around : ENCIRCLED
6. Men's formalwear feature : COATTAIL
7. Picked locks? : AFRO
8. Good or bad name : REPUTE
9. Means of enforcement, metaphorically : TEETH
10. It's just a guess: Abbr. : EST
11. Pebbles, e.g. : FLINTSTONE
12. "GoodFellas" co-star : DENIRO
13. Jeremy of "The Avengers" : RENNER
21. Corn syrup brand : KARO
23. 1966 Rolling Stones hit ... or an instruction to be followed four times in this puzzle : PAINTITBLACK
28. "Casino Royale" Bond girl ___ Green : EVA
29. KLM competitor : SAS
30. Big bang maker : TNT
31. Remote power source, maybe : AAABATTERY
33. Booze : SAUCE
37. One of the Wailers of Bob Marley and the Wailers : PETERTOSH
41. Don Quixote's love : DULCINEA
43. Took in : ATE
44. Tango twosome? : DOS
46. Org. for which Edward Snowden once worked : NSA
48. "Hard" or "soft" subjects: Abbr. : SCIS
50. Beastly : OGRISH
51. Bradley University site : PEORIA
52. Stanley Kowalski's woman : STELLA
55. Dark-skinned fruit : SLOES
60. Rikki-tikki-___ : TAVI
62. Furniture megastore : IKEA
63. 11-Down pet : DINO
64. Middle-earth creatures : ENTS
66. Reagan's Star Wars program: Abbr. : SDI

Answer summary: 5 unique to this puzzle, 2 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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