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New York Times, Saturday, January 25, 2020

Author:
Stella Zawistowski
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
158/26/20041/25/202014
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
1153221
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.61002
Stella Zawistowski

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 70, Blocks: 29 Missing: {KQZ} This is puzzle # 15 for Ms. Zawistowski. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Stella Zawistowski notes:
Given that I spend too much time on Twitter complaining that the NYT weekend puzzles have gotten too easy, it's only right that my ... read more

Given that I spend too much time on Twitter complaining that the NYT weekend puzzles have gotten too easy, it's only right that my comeback as a constructor, and my solo debut, should be on a Saturday. (Feel free to razz me if this one turned out easy for you.)

When I quit constructing in 2010, I was fine with my decision. I was pursuing a lot of other interests, and eventually, I started writing trivia, which scratches my itch for clue-writing but with fewer constraints. So, despite being part of the crossword community all this time, I didn't miss making puzzles. But over the past couple of years, as the conversation has turned more to the underrepresentation of women in puzzles, I started to feel a little guilty about not constructing. I also realized that I wanted the puzzles I solve not to be so bro all the time! In 2019 I decided it was time to be the change I want to see in the world.

When I worked with Bruce Venzke, our arrangement was that one or the other of us would come up with a theme (if any), he made the grids, and I wrote the clues. So despite having published many, many crosswords, I felt very unqualified to do it on my own at first. At the 2019 ACPT, there was so much great discussion about constructing and women in puzzles, and of course, placing the highest I've ever placed as a solver helped to light a fire under me to get started. I asked Andy Kravis over and traded him a home-cooked meal for a gridmaking tutorial, for which I am eternally grateful.

Don't call it a comeback. I've been here for years! But I'm thrilled to be back as a solo artist, making puzzles with my own womanly voice.

Jeff Chen notes:
Stella's back! I'm always entertained by her social media posts involving her lifting something gigantic over her head. I was tickled ... read more

Stella's back! I'm always entertained by her social media posts involving her lifting something gigantic over her head. I was tickled by her profile pic and the mantra on her T-shirt.

Once a week, I have a climbing session with a bunch of folks where we work on stuff that's too hard for us. It usually involves clenched teeth, unexpected falls, taping up cuts, and plenty of pain, but that's the way to get to the next level.

Similarly, reaching for stuff that was too hard for me in today's puzzle left me exhausted. Better off for it, though.

Jim Horne and I enjoy exchanging thoughts about puzzles, and I figured DURANCE VILE was something cultured, literary folks like himself would feel smug about knowing. His impression of the puzzle overall? "Loved it, except I had no idea what the heck DURANCEVILLE was."

I have a feeling it's not as fun a place as Margaritaville.

I know GAMINS from crosswords, similarly with PALAVER. I felt high and mighty that I could plop in that crossing letter with no problem. Take that, non-solvers-extraordinaire! Peons, can't even determine that it's not PALEVER / GEMINS or PALOVER / GOMINS (that's a goblin + gremlin hybrid).

Jim said he felt smug knowing Ravel's "Pavane Por UNE Infante Defunte." I, as a classical cellist, of course dropped that in too, not SES then LES then ILE then UND then AAAAARRRGH! None of those make any sense, of course, only a gamin would even think of them.

Similarly with "lemniscate." Exactly 50% of Jim and I dropped in FIGURE EIGHT without blinking (hint: not the guy who took roughly 63 years worth of math through an engineering masters degree).

One's assessment of a themeless has a large component of "how smart did this make me feel." Sure, there are many other criteria, like quality of snazzy long entries, quantity of crossword glue, solving flow, fairness of crosses, but it's so much about smugness. Things that are good for you don't usually generate the shot of elation that a piece of candy delivers.

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© 2020, The New York TimesNo. 0125 ( 25,645 )

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Across
1
Self-conscious person's exclamation : DONTJUDGEME
12
Self-conscious person's question : AMI
15
Once in a while, poetically : EVERANDANON
16
Get the heck out of Dodge : LAM
17
What mathematicians call a lemniscate : FIGUREEIGHT
18
Letters in film and the hotel business : MGM
19
Burning feeling : ANGER
20
At birth : NEE
21
Whole head of hair : MANE
22
Back-combs : TEASES
24
Opposite of fortuitous : ILLTIMED
26
Guzzles, say : DOWNS
28
Musical family name from Cremona : AMATI
29
Dross : SLAG
33
Problem with live-streaming : LAG
34
Olden land north of Anglia : SCOTIA
35
Chitchat : PALAVER
37
Most baggy : LOOSEST
38
Owners of the dogs Bo and Sunny : OBAMAS
39
Home of the 2000 Summer Olympics: Abbr. : AUS
40
Pistolet, par exemple : ARME
41
Sign of spring : ROBIN
42
Company Steve Jobs once owned : PIXAR
44
Bit of off-season N.C.A.A. news : TRANSFER
46
Take a bite out of? : DEFANG
51
Popular video game of 2000, with "The" : SIMS
52
Easy interview question : LOB
53
Reason for a medal : VALOR
54
And ... that's a wrap! : BOA
55
Fancy term for a long prison sentence : DURANCEVILE
58
Get the heck out of Dodge : RUN
59
One-third of a literary trio : EMILYBRONTE
60
Fathead : ASS
61
Hub of Memphis night life : BEALESTREET
Down
1
Get the grease out of : DEFAT
2
Of a flock : OVINE
3
Actress Ruth of "Loving" : NEGGA
4
Levels : TRUES
5
Shaken up : JARRED
6
Ravel's "Pavane Pour ___ Infante Défunte" : UNE
7
Presidential monogram hidden in this clue : DDE
8
Closing the gap : GAINING
9
Author of "The Condition of the Working Class in England," 1845 : ENGELS
10
Bris official : MOHEL
11
Otolaryngologist, familiarly : ENT
12
Where did you go? : ALMAMATER
13
Attractive quality : MAGNETISM
14
Instant : IMMEDIATE
21
Bubbly cocktail : MIMOSA
23
Arch supports : SOLES
25
___ Tuesday (modern restaurant promotion) : TACO
27
"What happens when language fails," per Margaret Atwood : WAR
29
Garment made with spandex : SPORTSBRA
30
Taxing : LABORIOUS
31
Rosa Parks and Booker T. Washington, for two : ALABAMANS
32
Urchins : GAMINS
34
"Terrible, just terrible" : SOSAD
36
Fleet at a distribution center : VANS
37
First word in Yale's motto : LUX
39
Complete miss : AIRBALL
42
Middle America, symbolically : PEORIA
43
Go back (to) : REVERT
45
Water park feature : FLUME
47
Preferential treatment : FAVOR
48
Something worn with flare? : ALINE
49
Nick of 2019's "Angel Has Fallen" : NOLTE
50
Nod at, say : GREET
55
Nebraska senator Fischer : DEB
56
Dec. 31 : NYE
57
"I Love Lucy" network : CBS

Answer summary: 4 unique to this puzzle, 2 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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