New York Times, Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Author: Joel Fagliano
Editor: Will Shortz
Joel Fagliano
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This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 78, Blocks: 38 Missing: {JQVXZ} This is puzzle # 28 for Mr. Fagliano. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Joel Fagliano notes: This puzzle started out as a Sunday with a related but different theme. The theme answers were going to be things like CAVEMAN ... more
Joel Fagliano notes: This puzzle started out as a Sunday with a related but different theme. The theme answers were going to be things like CAVEMAN MANCAVE, "Neanderthal's hangout with a stocked fridge and plasma TV?", and HUNTSMAN MANHUNTS "Searches for a Utah politician?".

I had a couple problems with this though — solvers would be able to fill in the answers too easily once they figured out the theme, and I couldn't find enough examples that sounded natural. I still liked the idea of these flippable phrases, though, so this sat around a while in my files until I finally figured out a different way it could work. I think that this lesson, to keep tinkering with a puzzle until you've presented it in the best way you can, is a valuable one for budding constructors.

Finally, I hope the cross-referencing in this one didn't bother solvers too much. I definitely was aware that some people hate this, but I think the fact that the theme answers intersect means people don't have to hop around the grid too much. Also, the NY Times' new solving interface highlights cross-referenced answers, which I think improves the solving experience in puzzles like this.

Jeff Chen notes: Fun puzzle from prolific constructor and Will's new assistant, Joel. Today's theme uses crossing answers that mean one thing when put ... more
Jeff Chen notes: Fun puzzle from prolific constructor and Will's new assistant, Joel. Today's theme uses crossing answers that mean one thing when put together in one order, and a completely different thing when reversed. I actually didn't notice at first, as I tend to skip or gloss over cross-referenced clues when I solve, but it was a neat moment when I realized what was going on. MAN MADE vs. MADE MAN was my favorite. Such a difference to switch two tiny words.

I highlighted the answers below because it was a little hard for me to keep track of where the themers were. It's impressive to see how much Joel packed in! It would have been nice if every one of the themers had a symmetrically placed theme answer, but that would have been awfully difficult to do. Nearly impossible, I would guess, since finding word pairs that fit this reversing pattern AND had a common letter is hard enough. I did like the quasi-symmetry of MAN / MADE and PAN / CAKE; it would have been nice to have more of that.

I'm amazed at how smooth this grid is. With 1.) seven pairs of theme answers, 2.) short themers (which force longer non-theme fill) and 3.) the fact that each pair of themers cross each other, it's an incredibly difficult construction. Very, very difficult to pull off smoothly, much less with jazz. I like how Joel quasi-sectioned off his grid into nine parts which he could (more or less) independently work on. Although that does cut down on puzzle flow a bit, it's amazing how smooth he got the fill.

And to do so with great long stuff like BANDLEADER and DIRT BIKES and even IN CROWD! Pretty much every piece of long non-theme fill sings. Note how Joel prioritizes two-word phrases? It's much easier to get snazz out of phrases like LASER DISC as opposed to REFILLED.

Joel asked my opinion about this idea a while back, and I was skeptical about all the cross-referencing it would put the solver through. But I was pleasantly surprised at how much fun I had, once I took the time to appreciate each clever pair. Enjoyable experience.

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© 2014, The New York TimesNo. 23,632
Across Down
1. Knee-ankle connector : TIBIA
6. With 8-Down, lime shade : LIGHT
11. Texter's "Holy cow!" : OMG
14. "Sorry, already have plans" : ICANT
15. Screenwriter Sorkin : AARON
16. With 12-Down, not natural : MAN
17. Harmonize : SYNCH
18. Refine, as ore : SMELT
19. Nabokov's longest novel : ADA
20. One in service to the queen? : DRONEBEE
22. Rapper's posse : CREW
23. Bottom-of-the-ninth pitcher : CLOSER
24. Like Michelangelo's "David" : NUDE
26. Ponder, with "on" : CHEW
27. Philadelphia summer hrs. : EDT
29. "Survivor" host Jeff : PROBST
33. With 23-Down, deli product : HEAD
34. Was incredibly embarrassed, in slang : DIED
36. Be of ___ : USETO
37. 20-volume ref. : OED
38. With 38-Down, place to drop a coin : WISHING
40. With 31-Down, jazz legend : ARM
41. Rhone tributary : ISERE
43. Michael of "Arrested Development" : CERA
44. Ancient Greek colonnade : STOA
45. Try to improve a Yahtzee turn : REROLL
47. LAX listing : ETD
48. Items in pocket protectors : PENS
49. Oodles : ALOT
51. Making a bundle : BALING
53. Get-rich-quick offer, typically : SCAM
56. Like gas tanks and many prescriptions, again and again : REFILLED
58. With 54-Down, waffle alternative : PAN
59. With 57-Down, part of a morning routine : BREAK
60. Unpopular baby name : ADOLF
63. ___ out a living : EKE
64. Dentist's directive : RINSE
65. Lawn tool : MOWER
66. Drops on the ground? : DEW
67. Takes a breather : RESTS
68. Bug : ANNOY
1. "My country" follower : TIS
2. Standoffish : ICY
3. Count Basie, e.g. : BANDLEADER
4. Exclusive group : INCROWD
5. One of the Three Musketeers : ATHOS
6. Bygone video format : LASERDISC
7. Foot used to keep rhythm? : IAMB
8. With 6-Across, approve : GREEN
9. Go into hiding : HOLEUP
10. "Falling Skies" airer : TNT
11. Sharif of "Doctor Zhivago" : OMAR
12. With 16-Across, mob inductee : MADE
13. Act like a beaver : GNAW
21. "___ say more?" : NEEDI
22. Board hirees : CEOS
23. With 33-Across, fan of the N.F.L.'s Packers : CHEESE
25. Narcotize : DRUG
26. It often functions with the help of an organ : CHOIR
28. Little laugh : TEHEE
30. Demoralized : BEATENDOWN
31. With 40-Across, coerce : STRONG
32. Spanish inquisitor ___ de Torquemada : TOMAS
35. Off-road two-wheelers : DIRTBIKES
38. With 38-Across, desiring happiness for someone : WELL
39. Winner of the most French Open singles titles : NADAL
42. Drift : ROAM
44. Watched through binoculars, say : SPIEDON
46. Moore who wrote "Birds of America" : LORRIE
50. Many Snapchat users : TEENS
52. Fleeced beast : LLAMA
53. Hightailed it : SPED
54. With 58-Across, bakery container : CAKE
55. Over again : ANEW
57. With 59-Across, basketball tactic : FAST
59. "It's so-o-o cold!" : BRR
61. Fierce, loyal sort, it's said : LEO
62. Cook, as bacon : FRY

Answer summary: 4 unique to this puzzle, 1 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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