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New York Times, Friday, January 1, 2016

Author: David Steinberg
Editor: Will Shortz
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856/16/20118/3/201816
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66681128182
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1.645163
David Steinberg

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 66, Blocks: 36 Missing: {GJKQZ} Spans: 2 This is puzzle # 46 for Mr. Steinberg. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
David Steinberg notes: Happy 2016, everyone! I constructed this crossword in May 2014 #TBT as a companion puzzle for my BASE themeless that appeared ... more
David Steinberg notes:

Happy 2016, everyone! I constructed this crossword in May 2014 #TBT as a companion puzzle for my BASE themeless that appeared in August . . . because even crossword puzzles deserve to find true love, of course! In all seriousness, I was pleased with how my BASE themeless turned out, so I decided to recycle the grid pattern.

My seed entry for the center stack was POLE DANCE, which I picked for its liveliness and relatively easy letters. One trick I frequently use when building themelesses like this is blocking off areas of the puzzle I feel will be easier (and thus don't want to focus on) by inserting what are called bars in Crossword Compiler. For this particular puzzle, I initially put bars around the first five letters of SHAME-FACED/the last five letters of WALDEN POND and next to the last four letters of WHEN I'M SIXTY FOUR/the first four letters of PERSONAL OPINION. In doing this, I was able to "tell" the Compiler that I cared most about generating the center stack; in other words, the pair of 15-letter entries and the upper left/lower right sections could wait till later.

Anyway, I soon noticed that LOVE BEADS could potentially fit on top of POLE DANCE, so I temporarily typed it in. At that point, I could see that the stack had little flexibility, so I did a quick Autofill to see what possibilities existed for the top three entries. I was thrilled when RICE PILAF popped up; even though LAMINATED and FAREWELLS didn't do much for me, they both struck me as solid, and I very much liked the two 10-letter crossers (SHAME-FACED and WALDEN POND). Also, the short crossers seemed pretty good, though I can't say I was thrilled with AMEBA. But I realized there probably wasn't a better POLE DANCE/LOVE BEADS stack, so I decided to just roll with what I had.

My next exciting break was discovering that WHEN I'M SIXTY FOUR could work as the upper 15-letter entry! I liked the Scrabbly letters of this entry—the only problem was that I didn't actually know what it referred to, because my tastes in music at the time were very contemporary. Some quick research showed me that I was dealing with a Beatles song (and yes, I've definitely heard of the Beatles!), though just to make sure it was a well-known one, I checked with my trusty Boomer parents. Reassured, I finished filling the puzzle!

PERSONAL OPINION seemed a bit dry to me, so for good measure, I threw in some moist TOMATO PASTE and RISOTTO. In the upper left, I was pleased that BROWNIE and ORDER AROUND didn't require a significant number of tradeoffs. One of the toughest areas was actually the upper right, because I just couldn't seem to find a good balance between lively midlength entries and clean short crossers. Then I came up with MY WORLD, which was music to my ears, and the rest was history!

I hope you enjoy solving this puzzle and have a happy and successful new year.

Jeff Chen notes: I'm enjoying David's experimentation in big center swaths. That stairstep of five stacked 9s is eye-popping. I also like how he kept ... more
Jeff Chen notes:

I'm enjoying David's experimentation in big center swaths. That stairstep of five stacked 9s is eye-popping. I also like how he kept the grid from getting segmented by running SHAME-FACED and WALDEN POND straight through that center area. Very cool; I enjoyed his neat tips for constructing.

"Love beads, mood rings, and candle light. Zodiac says the time is right ..." (Janet Jackson)

Although I enjoyed LOVE BEADS, RICE PILAF, and POLE DANCE, I liked one of David's prior outings better. LAMINATED and FAREWELLS are fine entries, but as David mentioned, I wouldn't count them as much more than neutral. And AMEBA is a sticky one for me too — I'd only seen the AMOEBA spelling all throughout my 30 years before starting crosswords. I like ENIAC, as it's an important development in the history of technology, but I can see how others might debate its relevance to their life today.

Nice to get some grid-spanning answers, with the snappy WHEN I'M SIXTY FOUR and PERSONAL OPINION. I love the latter, as it's a phrase I use all the time in giving caveats to people asking me for crossword help. And I appreciated how David didn't stop there, giving us chunky white space in the NW and SE. BROWNIE / AIR HORN / ST DENIS makes for a nice trio.

I enjoyed seeing RIM and LIP in symmetrical spots — spots that sort of separate the NW and SE from the rest of the puzzle! There are so many people making themeless puzzles these days, so I like it when there's even a tiny glimpse of something a little extra. More mini-themes, please!

As much as I enjoy a clue that winks at something suggestive, I'm getting a little too much from David's puzzles. I totally get that he's a freshman in college, but the clue for BRA [Something you may need to get off your chest] seemed excessive, given POLE DANCE and entries in prior puzzles. Just PERSONAL OPINION, but given his great talent in grid-making, I'm looking forward to seeing his voice develop past the teenage guy stage.

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© 2016, The New York TimesNo. 0101 ( 24,160 )
Across Down
1. Prominent feature of dubstep music : BASS
5. Try to avoid an accident, maybe : SWERVE
11. Fields of food? : MRS
14. Mass observance : RITE
15. Lit from above? : HALOED
16. It sounds like you : YEW
17. Boss : ORDERAROUND
19. Big source of coal: Abbr. : WVA
20. Song that Paul McCartney wrote at 16 : WHENIMSIXTYFOUR
22. Generic : NONAME
23. Street ___ : CRED
24. Goddess who caused the Trojan women to riot in the "Aeneid" : IRIS
25. Parting chorus : FAREWELLS
31. Sinner's heart? : ENS
32. Having a protective cover, of a sort : LAMINATED
33. One side of the Mideast : RICEPILAF
34. Wear for a flower child : LOVEBEADS
35. Something you may need to get off your chest : BRA
38. Provocative performance : POLEDANCE
39. Create an icicle, say : DRIP
40. Heart's partner : SOUL
41. Mets' division, for short : NLEAST
43. Stance : PERSONALOPINION
49. Bordeaux toasting time : ETE
50. Ketchup base : TOMATOPASTE
51. Stretch out : LIE
52. "Ave Maria," e.g. : ORISON
53. "Sure, I'm game" : LETS
54. Rock's ___ Soundsystem : LCD
55. Worked (out) : HASHED
56. Binding exchange : IDOS
1. Base for some ice cream : BROWNIE
2. Stadium noisemaker : AIRHORN
3. First bishop of Paris : STDENIS
4. Perceived to be : SEENAS
5. Embarrassed : SHAMEFACED
6. They take place in theaters : WARS
7. "The Time Machine" people : ELOI
8. Sauce thickener : ROUX
9. Scream one's head off : VENT
10. Start to go down the drain : EDDY
11. 2009 million-selling Justin Bieber release : MYWORLD
12. Some vaudeville fare : REVUES
13. Grassy surface : SWARD
18. Edge : RIM
21. Symbol on a cello or tuba composition : FCLEF
26. Slide presentation? : AMEBA
27. Mature : RIPEN
28. Historic computer : ENIAC
29. Famed cabin site : WALDENPOND
30. Flight figures, for short : ETAS
32. Start of a Saturday night catchphrase : LIVE
33. Big cheese wheels? : ROLLS
34. "Walk on the Wild Side" singer, 1973 : LOUREED
35. Like Swiss steak : BRAISED
36. Creamy, whitish dish : RISOTTO
37. Relevance : APTNESS
38. Beautifully worded : POETIC
39. Alaska's ___ Park Road : DENALI
40. Brief period : SPELL
42. Edge : LIP
44. Texter's "Alternatively ..." : OTOH
45. Gumshoe Charles : NORA
46. "Lucky Jim" author : AMIS
47. Tie securely : LASH
48. Winnebago relative : OTOE

Answer summary: 2 unique to this puzzle, 1 debuted here and reused later, 4 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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