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New York Times, Friday, September 27, 2013

Author: Peter A. Collins
Editor: Will Shortz
Peter A. Collins
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1.564273

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 72, Blocks: 28 Missing: {BJQXZ} Spans: 2 This is puzzle # 71 for Mr. Collins. NYT links: Across Lite PDF

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Will Shortz notes: I think Pete intended this puzzle as a Thursday, but as much as I liked the theme, I didn't think it was powerful enough to devote ... more
Will Shortz notes: I think Pete intended this puzzle as a Thursday, but as much as I liked the theme, I didn't think it was powerful enough to devote an entire puzzle to. For this to be a "themeless" puzzle, though, my rule is that the grid has to have 72 or fewer entries, and Pete's original grid had 74. So my colleague Frank Longo revised the construction. The last black square in the sixth row used to be one square higher, and its symmetrical mate in the lower left was one square lower. This shift lowered the word count by the necessary two words. Then Frank reworked the upper-right and lower-left corners accordingly. The result turned out great, I think — a themeless puzzle with a mini-theme!
Peter A. Collins notes: Well, this is a surprise. The puzzle I submitted was a 74-worder. Because of the theme, I thought it would be used on a ... more
Peter A. Collins notes: Well, this is a surprise. The puzzle I submitted was a 74-worder. Because of the theme, I thought it would be used on a Thursday — or even on a Friday, if conventions could be broken. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that some major reengineering took place. Two black squares were shifted, which resulted in a 72-worder. That necessitated the NE and SW corners being completely reworked. I feel like someone else should get co-constructor credit. As a result, I don't have the same sense of ownership, I suppose, but I still think it turned out quite well. I am glad, that NATALIA made the cut, as that's my second oldest daughter's name.
Jeff Chen notes: What a cool idea to have the first across answer = GERMINATE and the last one = TERMINATE! Themeless puzzles are usually, well, ... more
Jeff Chen notes: What a cool idea to have the first across answer = GERMINATE and the last one = TERMINATE! Themeless puzzles are usually, well, themeless (that sounded smarter in my head), so I love seeing a change-up, especially when it's a neat mini-theme.

The skeleton of the puzzle (TERMINATE/GERMINATE/CHANGE ONE LETTER) is quite clever but I agree with Will that those entries alone are a bit thin to hold their own as a full-blown theme (here's an artist's rendition of what the original skeleton might have looked like; note the shifted pair of black squares in the NE and SW corners). I liked this puzzle as a mini-themed themeless, especially since there's enough good fill so that the puzzle can stand as a 72-word themeless in its own right. The bottom TAG TEAM/AREA CODES/ARMPIT section is snazzy in particular, especially given the clever clues for those entries. Excellent work in the two 15's, both in clues and answers.

Interesting interplay between Will and Pete today. Will and/or Frank changed a small corner of one of my early puzzles and it was jarring at first to see an unexpected change in the grid. I wondered, why not kick it back to me and ask me to jazz it up? It took me a while to realize that Will carries an enormous workload and has a proportional quantity of associated communication. Selecting, cleaning up, and finalizing 365+ puzzles a year (plus variety puzzles) is a monumental task, and going back and forth with hundreds of constructors for small changes would be a bear (he does kick grids back when he likes the concept but there are major issues). It would be great for us constructors to have a say in every step of the process, but that can't always happen.

Frank, by the way, is one of the nicest crossword people you'll meet, and very unassuming. Plus, he did a nice job on my previously mentioned puzzle, adding some needed spice to my SW corner, inserting such goodness as DR EVIL and WOOKIEES.

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© 2013, The New York TimesNo. 23,334
Across Down
1. Begin : GERMINATE
10. Donizetti heroine : LUCIA
15. Catches up to : OVERTAKES
16. Magnetron component : ANODE
17. Relative of a spouse : DOMESTICPARTNER
19. "Just playin'" : IKID
20. Things often dropped in Harvard Yard? : ARS
21. Big name in winter vehicles : SKIDOO
22. Fixer, perhaps : VET
23. In the way of : ALA
24. Phony blazers : GASLOGS
25. Birthplace of the Franciscan order : ASSISI
27. "Before My Birth" collagist, 1914 : ARP
28. ___-yo (cold treat, briefly) : FRO
29. With 36- and 39-Across, go from 1- to 61-Across : CHANGE
31. 10-year-old Best Supporting Actress : ONEAL
33. Robert W. Service's "The Cremation of Sam ___" : MCGEE
36. See 29-Across : ONE
37. Robert W. Service output : POEMS
38. Soothing flora : ALOES
39. See 29-Across : LETTER
41. Bumped into : MET
42. Bumped into : SAW
43. Razor target, maybe : ARMPIT
47. Pack into a thick mass : MATDOWN
50. Ottoman bigwig : AGA
51. Tan in a library : AMY
52. Anatomical ring : AREOLA
53. Direction de Paris à Nancy : EST
54. Vegan gelatin substitute : AGAR
55. Stopgap supervisor's duty : MINDINGTHESTORE
58. ___ Montoya, swordsman in "The Princess Bride" : INIGO
59. Prefixes featured on some maps : AREACODES
60. Baden-Powell of the Girl Guides : AGNES
61. End : TERMINATE
1. One known for riding out of gear? : GODIVA
2. Brings out : EVOKES
3. Sends in : REMITS
4. He'll "talk 'til his voice is hoarse" : MRED
5. The Who's "___ Hard" : ITS
6. ___ Romanova, alter ego of Marvel's Black Widow : NATALIA
7. Landmark anime film of 1988 : AKIRA
8. Many pulp heroes, in slang : TECS
9. Picking up skill? : ESP
10. Cheerful early risers : LARKS
11. Preposition on a business-hours sign : UNTIL
12. Unit charge : CONDOFEE
13. "&" or "@," but not "and" or "at" : IDEOGRAM
14. Restricted flight items : AEROSOLS
18. By yesterday, so to speak : ASAP
23. Indication of some oxidation : ASHES
24. Hug or kiss, maybe : GREET
26. Drink brand symbolized by a polar bear : ICEE
27. 39th vice president : AGNEW
30. "The Dark Knight Rises" director, 2012 : NOLAN
31. Grammy category : OPERA
32. What's typical : NORM
33. "Lordy!" in Lodi : MAMMAMIA
34. Snow job? : CLEARING
35. Been chosen, as for office : GOTTENIN
40. One-two in the ring? : TAGTEAM
42. Pavlova portrayed one over 4,000 times : SWAN
44. Storied place of worship : PAGODA
45. Eastern lodging : IMARET
46. "2 Fast 2 Furious" co-star Gibson : TYRESE
48. Grand Caravan maker : DODGE
49. Jumbles : OLIOS
50. One of Jacob's sons : ASHER
53. Ser, across the Pyrenees : ETRE
54. Loads : ATON
56. Piece of the street : GAT
57. ___-fi : SCI

Answer summary: 4 unique to this puzzle, 1 debuted here and reused later, 1 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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