CAPITAL L'S

New York Times, Sunday, August 25, 2013

Author: Victor Barocas
Editor: Will Shortz
Victor Barocas
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This puzzle:

Rows: 21, Columns: 21 Words: 136, Blocks: 69 Missing: {X} This is puzzle # 3 for Mr. Barocas. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Victor Barocas notes: Once I had the idea for this puzzle, I was pleasantly surprised to see that there are exactly eight six-letter state capitals (not counting my own STPAUL!), and that all of them had workable three-letter ... more
Victor Barocas notes: Once I had the idea for this puzzle, I was pleasantly surprised to see that there are exactly eight six-letter state capitals (not counting my own STPAUL!), and that all of them had workable three-letter blocks. It was a bit of a challenge trying to make a grid with enough room for the L's all to fit symmetrically. I also didn't want any six-letter words starting with the first three-letter block because it would be too misleading. PIETAS at 116-Across is the one, and I decided that by then, the solver would probably have figured out what is going on and would not be inclined to write PIETAS like a normal entry.

The fill was difficult but ended up okay, and then Will cleaned up some weak spots. I tried some other things at various times (NITTANY for TIFFANY, DENTISTS for DENOUNCE), but this is where it ended up. If it weren't for Kaley CUOCO, I am not sure that I would have been able to unsnarl the NW quarter of the puzzle. I hope that people enjoyed it.

Jeff Chen notes: It's a rare occasion that I run across a theme idea I've never seen before. Bravo to Victor! It took me a ridiculously long time to figure out the trick, but when I realized the state capitals were split, forming ... more
Jeff Chen notes: It's a rare occasion that I run across a theme idea I've never seen before. Bravo to Victor! It took me a ridiculously long time to figure out the trick, but when I realized the state capitals were split, forming two L-shapes apiece, I smiled.

Sunday puzzles are notoriously difficult to construct; roughly a factor of five more difficult than a regular weekday puzzle. The biggest challenge is that instead of 225 squares/78 max words, you're working with 441 squares/140 max words. While this might seem no different at first glance, it's like sculpting with clay vs. damp sand. So many of my Sunday puzzles have fallen apart just when I think I'm nearly done (unfillable corner, too much ugliness, etc.), and I'm forced to reboot.

Consider the open white spaces in the four corners, for example. You don't typically see that kind of real estate outside of themeless puzzles. Trying to fill them cleanly while maintaining your thematic density can be a serious challenge. Ratcheting up the difficulty level, Victor has chosen to use only 136 words, making the task even harder. He could have split up 23A/123A and/or 24A/126A with black squares, but it would have taken away some really nice long fill. For a Sunday puzzle, which comes with the expectation that there will be some less-than-stellar fill, the price to pay (ONDES, PUD, et al.) seems fair. I personally might have split up one pair to get cleaner fill, but that's a subjective difference in construction style.

JimH notes: At first, it seems like the Across theme answers are unclued. Nothing corresponds to TOPEKA, DENVER, JUNEAU, BOSTON, AUSTIN, ALBANY, HELENA or PIERRE. But then, did you notice the puzzle's title? "Putting out on an anniversary, maybe" at 47 Across is an outstanding clue.
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© 2013, The New York TimesNo. 23,301
Across Down
1. Item whose name is derived from the Latin "aquarius" : EWER
5. Auto parts giant : NAPA
9. Pot user, maybe : EELER
14. Peyote and saguaro : CACTI
19. Rossini's William Tell and others : BARITONES
21. Lump in one's throat : UVULA
22. First acrylic fiber : ORLON
23. Superlative for Sirius : BRIGHTEST
24. Rush job? : ROCKCONCERT
26. Home security system component : SENSOR
27. Big kahunas : TOPDOGS
29. Stationery item: Abbr. : ENV
30. Had : ATE
31. Log : RECORD
33. Abbr. on a lawyer's stationery : ESQ
35. Censure : DENOUNCE
37. Berry used to make gin : JUNIPER
40. They have pluses and minuses : IONS
42. In ___ : UTERO
44. ___-pedi : MANI
45. Medicine label info : DOSAGE
47. Putting out on an anniversary, maybe : REISSUING
51. Bosch's "The Garden of Earthly Delights," for one : TRIPTYCH
53. Lustrous fabric : SATEEN
55. Provide with a quality : ENDUE
56. Daisylike bloom : ASTER
57. Massive ref. : OED
59. Maze explorer : LABRAT
61. Turn over : CEDE
62. Disencumber : RID
64. Not beat : LOSETO
66. Collapses : CAVESIN
68. Drain : SAP
71. White-suited "Dukes of Hazzard" villain : BOSSHOGG
73. Spartan : AUSTERE
75. ___ Party : TEA
76. Some bio majors : PREMEDS
78. Fails to : DOESNT
80. Court judgment : LET
82. Barrett of gossip : RONA
83. "Phooey!" : OHDARN
85. ___ Moines : DES
87. Mentions : CITES
91. Apple line : IMACS
93. Experience you might want to forget : ORDEAL
95. Guaranteed : RISKFREE
97. Darwin stopping point, with "the" : GALAPAGOS
99. Founder of the Missionaries of Charity : TERESA
101. Epitome of cool, with "the" : FONZ
102. Lead singer on "Octopus's Garden" : RINGO
103. Singer Peniston : CECE
104. Einstein and Camus : ALBERTS
106. Hint-giving columnist : HELOISE
109. Three, for a short hole : PAR
111. Postwar prime minister : ATTLEE
113. Simpson case judge : ITO
114. 11th-century hero, with "El" : CID
116. Religious art figures : PIETAS
118. Country crooner Randy : TRAVIS
123. Emergency Broadcast System opening : THISISATEST
126. Kind of treatment : INPATIENT
128. Still goopy, as concrete : UNSET
129. Poet/dramatist Federico García ___ : LORCA
130. Pixar movie between "Toy Story" and "Toy Story 2" : ABUGSLIFE
131. Verse-writing : POESY
132. Jerks : YOYOS
133. Some screens, for short : LCDS
134. Glacial : SLOW
1. Goes down : EBBS
2. Suffix with hard or soft : WARE
3. Girl's name that's also a place name : ERIN
4. Semis : RIGS
5. Unprepared : NOTREADY
6. Hydrocarbon suffix : ANE
7. Basil sauce : PESTO
8. One end of New York's Triborough Bridge : ASTORIA
9. Cry of epiphany : EUREKA
10. Suggests : EVOKES
11. Director George : LUCAS
12. Bull or cow : ELK
13. Tear : RACE
14. Nike rival : CONVERSE
15. Parenthesis shape : ARC
16. Butcher's tool : CLEAVER
17. Layered dessert : TORTE
18. Head of state? : INTER
20. He wrote "It is life near the bone where it is sweetest" : THOREAU
25. French waves : ONDES
32. Kaley of "The Big Bang Theory" : CUOCO
34. Eccentric : QUEER
37. Pantry lineup : JARS
38. Squad, e.g. : UNIT
41. Author Zora ___ Hurston : NEALE
43. Athlete's foot treatment : TINACTIN
44. Where Charlie may ride forever, in song : MTA
46. Connecticut city : SHELTON
47. Carom : REBOUND
48. Words of explanation : IDEST
49. Blue flick : NUDIE
50. Hollywood's Davis : GEENA
52. Crow, e.g. : TRIBE
54. Byes : TATAS
58. Thingamabobs : DOODADS
60. Cow's fly swatter : TAIL
63. Dummy : DODO
65. Bad thing for a roommate to do : SNORE
67. Sweater option : VNECK
68. Rosemary piece : SPRIG
69. Rosemary feature : AROMA
70. Like some codes : PENAL
77. 1990s craze : MACARENA
79. Related on the mother's side : ENATE
81. Renowned jeweler : TIFFANY
84. Sag : DROOP
86. Rug fiber : SISAL
88. Jeff Bridges sci-fi classic : TRON
89. Start of a count-off : EENY
90. "___ who?" : SEZ
92. TV show on which Charlie Sheen replaced Michael J. Fox : SPINCITY
94. Best-selling author who once worked for Britain's MI6 : LECARRE
96. Markdown markers : SALETAGS
98. Author Nin : ANAIS
100. New DNA evidence may lead to one : RETRIAL
103. It's been shortening for over 100 years : CRISCO
106. Ask for money : HITUP
107. Prefix with musicology : ETHNO
110. Imitation : APERY
112. Year the emperor Claudius was born : TENBC
115. 1991 P.G.A. champion John : DALY
119. Is unwell : AILS
120. Obscure : VEIL
121. Skinny : INFO
122. Fuss : STEW
124. French possessive : SES
125. "___ cool!" : TOO
127. British dessert, for short : PUD

Answer summary: 9 unique to this puzzle, 7 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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