New York Times, Friday, August 8, 2014

Author: Bruce Haight
Editor: Will Shortz
Bruce Haight
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This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 70, Blocks: 34 Missing: {JQVXZ} Spans: 2 Grid is asymmetric This is puzzle # 6 for Mr. Haight. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Bruce Haight notes: First off, if you didn't see the 'grid art' in this puzzle, the picture below will give you a hint. It also gives you a good idea ... more
Bruce Haight notes: First off, if you didn't see the "grid art" in this puzzle, the picture below will give you a hint. It also gives you a good idea where I got this puzzle idea, since I am a cheddarhead from Wisconsin and these are my favorite crackers.

This project started out as a themed puzzle with corner entries like MERMAID and REELSIN — that puzzle was not reeled in. Then I tried a Thursday version where you had to complete the seven letter corner entries with the word FISH — my favorite was STANDOF(FISH) clued as "Shy". Will was standoffish (my puzzle came up shy) and felt the theme entries were interfering with solid fill. He recommended a mini-themed Friday version and that managed to get accepted. I seeded the upper left with GANGNAM because it had just passed Justin Bieber as the all-time most popular YouTube video. Thankfully, with AMERICA's help, it worked out.

In case you enjoy grid art, here's another fish-related puzzle I sent Will. He felt most solvers would not figure out the image, but try to guess what it depicts and what the 17 letter middle theme entry might be. (Here's a clue and the answer.)

Hope you enjoyed the fishing expedition!

Will Shortz notes: In the first version of this puzzle, which I sent to test-solvers, the clues for 17A and 58A did not reference the three swimming ... more
Will Shortz notes: In the first version of this puzzle, which I sent to test-solvers, the clues for 17A and 58A did not reference the three swimming "fish" symbolized by black squares in the middle of the grid. However, after only one of the four testers noticed the fish, I added bracketed remarks so that solvers could appreciate the extra layer to the mini-theme.
Jeff Chen notes: What a cool visual! Bruce has a real knack for using black squares to create art I haven't seen before. I was really impressed by one ... more
Jeff Chen notes: What a cool visual! Bruce has a real knack for using black squares to create art I haven't seen before. I was really impressed by one of his last ones, and when I saw the three goldfish swimming upstream today, I couldn't believe no one's done it before. Bravo!

I really like mini-themes buried inside a themeless grid. Like with triple-stacks, or ultra-low word count, or other non-standard themeless grids, I wouldn't want to see them every weekend, but it's such a nice treat to get a bonus as you solve, often making for a memorable puzzle. Reminds me of Matt Ginsberg's amusing comments about trying to hide an "Easter Egg" in a puzzle. There's something so exhilarating about discovering a treat you never expected.

For me, SOMETHING'S FISHY hit the bulls-eye. A perfect phrase for this visual, I found it clever and amusing. ON THE WATERFRONT fell flat for me, perhaps because SOMETHING'S FISHY was so perfect. It's tough to make a mini-theme sing — most of the time you only have space for two long entries, so they both have to really sing in order to make it work.

And as with every construction, there will be compromises. In order to get the three goldfish and the two long entries, Bruce had to section his grid up a bit, the SW and NE corners feeling pretty separate. And big corners like that are naturally hard to fill. I enjoyed seeing OIL RICH, A LA MODE and DOORMAT, all quality answers, but there wasn't as much sparkle as I like to see in a themeless. Combined with EIS, NO I, and AT AN, the overall effect wasn't as strong as I would have liked.

All in all, a very neat visual, with a little price to pay as a trade-off. P.S. Although it looks symmetric across the NW/SE diagonal, it's not! Take another look.

JimH notes: Martin Ashwood-Smith took issue with calling this grid asymmetric. He sees it as a new kind of symmetry that superimposes diagonal ... more
JimH notes: Martin Ashwood-Smith took issue with calling this grid asymmetric. He sees it as a new kind of symmetry that superimposes diagonal symmetry on the normal rotational kind. The suggested name for this: Goldfish Symmetry.
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© 2014, The New York TimesNo. 23,649
Across Down
1. "___ Style," first video with a billion YouTube views : GANGNAM
8. Goes for enthusiastically : LEAPSAT
15. Home to "alabaster cities" : AMERICA
16. Like Saudi Arabia : OILRICH
17. "Hmmmmm ..." [as hinted at by the three groups of black squares in the middle of the grid] : SOMETHINGSFISHY
19. It may contain mercury : ORE
20. One of its flavors is Mud Pie : EDYS
21. Starwort, e.g. : ASTER
22. Sounds from some mall temps : HOS
23. Those south of the border? : ESOS
25. ___ soup : MISO
26. Medical suffix : OSIS
28. Bests : ONEUPS
30. "___ am your father" (classic "Star Wars" line) : NOI
31. Things that ties never have : LOSERS
33. Last part : TAILEND
35. Mythical predator : ROC
36. Vietnam's ___ Dinh Diem : NGO
37. Excellent, in slang : ALLTHAT
41. Quintet comprising "Ode to the West Wind" : SONNETS
45. See 51-Across : LEE
46. "It was you," operatically : ERITU
48. Dictator's beginning : INRE
49. ___ angle : ATAN
51. With 45-Across, Thor's co-creator : STAN
52. Many a base player : CAD
53. Like 19-Across : MINED
55. No sophisticate : RUBE
57. Ovid's others : ALIA
58. Best Picture of 1954 [see 17-Across] : ONTHEWATERFRONT
61. Hardly the assertive type : DOORMAT
62. Gander : LOOKSEE
63. As part of a series : ENSUITE
64. A wild card is unlikely to beat one : TOPSEED
1. Hybrid on the road? : GASOHOL
2. Lovingly, on a music score : AMOROSO
3. Greek goddess of vengeance : NEMESIS
4. 170 is its max score : GRE
5. Minute beef : NIT
6. Really long? : ACHE
7. First : MAIDEN
8. Closes a session : LOGSOUT
9. Rostock bar stock : EIS
10. "Bravo" preceder : ALFA
11. Optical separator : PRISM
12. Like some famous frescoes : SISTINE
13. Secretary of state before Dulles : ACHESON
14. Neighbor of the Adam's apple : THYROID
18. Where Sotheby's is BID : NYSE
24. "NCIS" actor Joe : SPANO
27. Spanish muralist : SERT
28. They're clutched during some speeches : OSCARS
29. Sharp or flat : SIGN
32. Mies van der ___ : ROHE
34. Anderson of "Nurses" : LONI
37. Dessert preference : ALAMODE
38. Told, as a secret : LETINON
39. Rough housing : LEANTOS
40. Test the strength of, in a way : TITRATE
41. Where snowbirds flock : SUNBELT
42. Corral : ENCLOSE
43. Cadet, e.g. : TRAINEE
44. Under : SEDATED
47. Like a guitar string : TAUT
50. Indian chief, once : NEHRU
54. Prefix with john : DEMI
56. Suffix with switch : EROO
57. Refuges : ARKS
59. Southeast Asian temple : WAT
60. Metrosexual sort : FOP

Answer summary: 5 unique to this puzzle.

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