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BUMPER CARS

New York Times, Sunday, September 8, 2013

Author: Pete Muller and Sue Keefer
Editor: Will Shortz
Pete Muller
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
174/18/20069/8/20136
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
5042501
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.60240
Sue Keefer
TotalDebutCollabs
19/8/20131
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
1000000
RebusCirclePangram
000

This puzzle:

Rows: 21, Columns: 21 Words: 140, Blocks: 72 Missing: {J} Spans: 5 Scrabble average: 1.72 This is puzzle # 17 for Mr. Muller. This is the debut puzzle for Ms. Keefer NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Constructor notes: Pete: Sue Keefer is my sister and a longtime NY Times solver. This is her first published puzzle. The first version of it included BLAZER LEGEND ESCORT [Companion for Clyde Drexler?] and GREMLIN WRANGLER FIESTA ... more
Constructor notes: Pete: Sue Keefer is my sister and a longtime NY Times solver. This is her first published puzzle. The first version of it included BLAZER LEGEND ESCORT [Companion for Clyde Drexler?] and GREMLIN WRANGLER FIESTA [Where to find spirit chasers on a Friday night?]. Will asked us to change both of these.

PARK AVENUE COUGAR QUEST was the seed entry and the one that made us decide to do the puzzle. We hope you like it!

Will Shortz notes: Judging by the test-solvers' comments, the clue for 99-Down, "Pussy ___ (Russian girl group)," will raise some eyebrows. But the group's name has been much in the news for several years, including in several New York Times headlines, so I think it's fair game.
Jeff Chen notes: Fantastic to see a brother and sister team up! I'm trying to get my nephew (age nine) to co-construct with me, but he stubbornly and heinously insists that LEGOs are more fun than crosswords. I will break him ... more
Jeff Chen notes: Fantastic to see a brother and sister team up! I'm trying to get my nephew (age nine) to co-construct with me, but he stubbornly and heinously insists that LEGOs are more fun than crosswords. I will break him sooner or later.

Five grid-spanners (21-letter lengths) plus two 18's make for a tough construction. All those long across entries necessitate a spate of down entries which must cross two or more theme entries. Pete and Sue use a quasi-stairstep pattern (note how most of the black squares flow NW to SE) which is frequently employed to reduce these constraints and segment the grid into sections. Working with smaller subsections is much easier than trying to fill an entire grid as a whole.

Areas that are more cordoned from the rest of the grid tend to be easiest to fill. Let's look at the ROLEX/BRIM section at the west. There are five parallel constraints (five down words that must cross both of the theme answers), but the fact that this area doesn't have to connect to anything to the left makes it easier. Pete and Sue did an admirable job with a tough set of constraints, only OONA being slightly esoteric (I'm still not sure what her "Game of Thrones" role is, but then again, I still get Renley Baratheon confused with a dozen other people).

Now consider the adjacent POOH/SOMA section. This part must connect to the left (into the ROLEX/BRIM area), but also to the SE (the BITO/TCBY area), which already has its own constraints. The result isn't as nice, with a IMRE crossing SOMA. That's two subsections covered, and the constructors have roughly a dozen more to boot, each with its set of constraints. Is it any wonder that Sundays are so much more difficult to construct than weekday puzzles?

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© 2013, The New York TimesNo. 23,315
Across Down
1. Fix : SPAY
5. Some powder : TALC
9. Hurdles for future E.N.T.'s and G.P.'s : MCATS
14. Antiqued photograph color : SEPIA
19. "Idomeneo" heroine : ILIA
20. River into which the Great Miami flows : OHIO
21. Japanese copier company : RICOH
22. Some title holders : EARLS
23. Search for a cradle-robbing woman in New York City? : PARKAVENUECOUGARQUEST
27. Candy bar featured in a "Seinfeld" episode : TWIX
28. Bittern's habitat : MARSH
29. Country composed of 200+ islands : PALAU
30. Start of many Brazilian place names : SAO
31. Salts : SEAMEN
33. "___ any wonder?" : ISIT
35. Sticky handle? : ELMERS
37. High-handed ambassador stationed off the Italian coast? : CAVALIERCAPRIDIPLOMAT
43. Cast : HUE
44. TV show broadcast from Times Square, for short : GMA
45. French/Belgian river : YSER
46. Turbaned type : SWAMI
47. Musician with the gold-selling album "Sugar Lips" : ALHIRT
50. Billet-doux recipient : AMOUR
54. Four-time Best New Age Album Grammy winner : ENYA
55. Peace treaty between a predator and its prey? : BOBCATRABBITACCORD
61. Frequently faked luxury brand : ROLEX
62. Palindromic constellation : ARA
63. Relation? : TALE
64. Contents of some six-packs : ABS
67. Tom Brady, in the 2002 Super Bowl? : INTREPIDRAMCHALLENGER
74. More, in Madrid : MAS
75. ___ cube (popular 1960s puzzle) : SOMA
76. ___ Canals : SOO
77. Charred : BURNT
78. Musical piece for a "Star Wars" battle scene? : STORMTROOPERSONATA
84. Here, in Honduras : AQUI
87. As a result : HENCE
88. Mistakes made by some bad drivers : SHANKS
89. Writer H. H. ___ : MUNRO
91. ___-Honey : BITO
94. Magazine user? : UZI
95. Smuggler-chasing org. : ATF
98. Advocate for pro-am tournaments? : CELEBRITYGOLFDEFENDER
105. Kind of kick : ONSIDE
106. Pixar title character : NEMO
107. Like some excuses : FLIMSY
108. Pseudonym preceder : AKA
110. Change : COINS
112. Short-winded : TERSE
115. Turning point : AXIS
116. Diminutive Aborigine? : MIDGETOUTBACKEXPLORER
121. Engage in excessive self-reflection? : PREEN
122. Marathoner's woe : CRAMP
123. Sections of a natural history museum, maybe : ERAS
124. Super Soaker brand : NERF
125. Not approach directly : SIDLE
126. Himalayans of legend : YETIS
127. Prefix with god : DEMI
128. Home of Wind Cave Natl. Park : SDAK
1. Nurse : SIP
2. Stop getting better : PLATEAU
3. Broadcast medium : AIRWAVE
4. City near Mount Rainier : YAKIMA
5. "Mazel ___!" : TOV
6. [Pardon] : AHEM
7. Director Wertmüller : LINA
8. "CBS Evening News" anchor before Pelley : COURIC
9. 1969 Peter O'Toole title role : MRCHIPS
10. Union letters : CIO
11. Small 58-Down size : ACUP
12. Ready for a frat party, say : TOGAED
13. "Would you like me to?" : SHALLI
14. "The Dark Knight" and "The Bourne Supremacy," e.g. : SEQUELS
15. Mer contents : EAU
16. Newspaper worker : PRESSMAN
17. "Casablanca" heroine : ILSA
18. Concerning : ASTO
24. Skater's jump : AXEL
25. Time piece : ESSAY
26. X Games fixture : RAMP
31. Acad., e.g. : SCH
32. Brief remark upon retiring : NIGHT
34. Milk-Bone, e.g. : TREAT
36. Stroked, in a way : ROWED
38. Arabic for "commander" : EMIR
39. ___ avis : RARA
40. "___ la Douce" : IRMA
41. Singer Winehouse : AMY
42. Actress Carrere : TIA
47. Lenovo competitor : ACER
48. Having the fewest rules : LAXEST
49. It'll grab you by the seat of your pants : TBAR
51. Twice tetra- : OCTA
52. Berkeley campus, for short : UCAL
53. Sushi bar offering : ROLL
55. Lip : BRIM
56. Actress Chaplin of "Game of Thrones" : OONA
57. Nonkosher lunch orders, for short : BLTS
58. See 11-Down : BRA
59. Playground retort : IAMSO
60. Shoe brand named after an animal : REEBOK
64. Taj Mahal city : AGRA
65. Inclination : BENT
66. Mex. miss : SRTA
68. ___ Bear : POOH
69. Hungarian man's name that's an anagram of 38-Down : IMRE
70. "Nuts!" : DAMN
71. Speak pigeon? : COO
72. Short trips : HOPS
73. Ones with good habits? : NUNS
78. Seductive singer : SIREN
79. Frozen dessert brand owned by Mrs. Fields : TCBY
80. Rule : REIGN
81. Book of Judges judge : EHUD
82. Bring down the house? : RAZE
83. Disdainful response : SNIFF
84. "Mad Men" channel : AMC
85. Neighbor of Vt. : QUE
86. Dumped (on) : UNLOADED
90. Very blue : OBSCENE
92. Accessories for hoofers : TOETAPS
93. Ancient Mexican : OLMEC
95. Like role models : ADMIRED
96. Small mosaic tile : TESSERA
97. Small ___ : FRY
99. Pussy ___ (Russian girl group) : RIOT
100. Opposite of brilliance : IDIOCY
101. Job security, for some : TENURE
102. Split : FORKED
103. Carrier to Ben Gurion : ELAL
104. Onetime White House family : NIXONS
108. Some concert gear : AMPS
109. Diva ___ Te Kanawa : KIRI
111. H.R.'s, e.g. : STAT
113. Withered : SERE
114. Checkup, e.g. : EXAM
117. Shampoo, maybe : GEL
118. Ascap rival : BMI
119. Inflation indicator: Abbr. : PSI
120. D.C.'s ___ Stadium : RFK

Answer summary: 7 unique to this puzzle.

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