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New York Times, Thursday, January 2, 2014

Author:
Todd Gross
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
179/13/20097/23/20185
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4211513
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.54130
Todd Gross

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 70, Blocks: 32 Missing: {JQXZ} This is puzzle # 9 for Mr. Gross. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Todd Gross notes:
I first tried this puzzle on Peter Gordon in March of 2012. He liked the theme idea, but didn't like that every theme entry would take ... read more

I first tried this puzzle on Peter Gordon in March of 2012. He liked the theme idea, but didn't like that every theme entry would take the same form. I tried sending it to Will in July of 2012: he liked the idea more, just asking me to improve the fill in places. After a couple of resubmissions, he accepted this puzzle the same day (in the same e-mail, in fact) as David's and my recent Crossword Centennial puzzle.

I don't remember where the idea came from, but I was really glad I could use 51 Across as a theme revealer (my original clue was "Taking liberties ... as with this puzzle's theme"). I'm also interested in seeing how 8 Down will be clued: a straight (if somewhat racy) definition, or a reference to the 45 year old hit song? Also, I couldn't resist referencing Stan Newman's book Cruciverbalism to clue 52 Down...I'm guessing that clue will be changed.

Will Shortz notes:
Sometimes I think every possible Thursday gimmick must have been used by now ... but, no. Great new ideas, like today's, keep showing ... read more

Sometimes I think every possible Thursday gimmick must have been used by now ... but, no. Great new ideas, like today's, keep showing up. That's one reason I maintain an "open submissions" policy at The Times, unlike many British papers, which limit crossword submissions to a select few. Todd Gross is only an occasional contributor, and if he weren't on that hypothetical roster of approved submitters, he wouldn't have sent me this beautiful puzzle. In addition to the four long theme entries, I love the bonus one at 32A.

Jeff Chen notes:
Man oh man, it took me forever to cotton to this very innovative theme. Five theme answers are quasi-literal interpretations of ... read more

Man oh man, it took me forever to cotton to this very innovative theme. Five theme answers are quasi-literal interpretations of phrases where the first word ends in ENDING. For example, the first theme answer is VENDING MACHINES, written out as MACHINES V (machine with V-ending). Tough, huh?

The hardest part was finishing the middle, where I didn't expect there to be a fifth theme answer (MENDING WALL written as a WALL with a M-ending). Will has said in the past that he prefers to have the theme answers stand out in some way, usually by making them the longest answers in the puzzle (or at least the longest answers in the across direction). That would have helped me greatly here, as I found it very confusing to have a shorty smack dab in the middle. But perhaps a little changeroo is good every now and then to keep everyone on their toes.

Note the wide-open nature of the grid. At just 70 words, it could qualify as a themeless puzzle. But any time you work with themeless-level word counts plus four (or more) theme answers, there are bound to be trade-offs. Todd has some nice long fill in here: LOVE CHILD and MATTRESS with its fun clue are really nice, but overall, there were enough compromises to affect the quality of my solve. Seeing too much of AMATIVE, UNLOOSES, GROFE, ARACE, etc. took me out of the experience somewhat.

I do wish there had been more wordplay type of cluing to help keep the solve a little more playful, especially as I was banging my head against the (non-mending) wall, attempting to figure out what the heck was going on. Overall though, I applaud the decision to push the boundaries of construction.

1
I
2
B
3
A
4
R
5
S
6
A
7
L
8
L
9
A
10
F
11
L
12
A
13
T
14
R
E
C
A
P
15
D
U
O
16
M
O
O
C
H
17
M
A
C
H
I
18
N
E
S
V
19
A
R
A
C
E
20
A
R
E
21
N
O
L
T
E
22
T
O
N
E
R
23
U
P
24
L
A
T
E
25
C
26
H
I
N
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S
E
27
O
P
T
I
C
S
28
S
H
A
V
E
R
S
29
D
O
E
T
H
30
M
O
I
R
E
S
31
A
N
D
I
32
W
A
L
L
M
33
E
34
M
35
U
36
S
37
G
38
E
A
R
E
D
39
P
L
A
N
K
40
F
41
R
A
N
C
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S
42
D
E
F
T
L
Y
43
G
L
U
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N
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D
E
A
F
T
O
45
R
O
S
I
E
46
A
47
C
O
R
N
48
R
O
49
E
50
O
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S
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N
51
T
H
E
R
U
52
L
E
S
B
53
F
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54
E
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T
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A
56
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D
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S
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Y
© 2014, The New York TimesNo. 0102 ( 23,431 )
Across
1
Some support beams : IBARS
6
100% : ALL
9
Key of Chopin's Polonaise No. 6 : AFLAT
14
Hit the highlights : RECAP
15
Husband and wife, e.g. : DUO
16
Sponge : MOOCH
17
Food or drink dispensers : VENDINGMACHINES
19
___ to the top : ARACE
20
First word in the English lyrics of "Frère Jacques" : ARE
21
Nick of "The Deep" : NOLTE
22
Kind of cartridge : TONER
23
Burning the midnight oil : UPLATE
25
Like virtually all gold medalists in Olympic table tennis : CHINESE
27
Science of light : OPTICS
28
Lads : SHAVERS
29
Performs, in the Bible : DOETH
30
Shimmery silks : MOIRES
31
"You ___" (2011 Lady Gaga song) : ANDI
32
Robert Frost poem that includes "Good fences make good neighbors" : MENDINGWALL
33
Three-toed runners : EMUS
37
Designed (for) : GEARED
39
Yoga pose that strengthens the abs : PLANK
40
Pope who declared "I am a sinner. This is the most accurate definition" : FRANCIS
42
With skill and grace : DEFTLY
43
Hog : GLUTTON
44
Ignoring : DEAFTO
45
Maid on "The Jetsons" : ROSIE
46
___ squash : ACORN
48
Sea eggs : ROE
50
Sci-fi novelist ___ Scott Card : ORSON
51
Taking liberties : BENDINGTHERULES
53
Mock attack : FEINT
54
"Star Trek" prosthesis : EAR
55
Oceanward : TOSEA
56
Tour de France stage : ETAPE
57
Board member: Abbr. : DIR
58
Full of spunk : SASSY
Down
1
"___ la Douce" : IRMA
2
Relate to : BEARUPON
3
Successful, as an applicant : ACCEPTED
4
Sound of support : RAH
5
Ingredient in Florentine dishes : SPINACH
6
"Someone Like You" singer : ADELE
7
Hircosity : LUST
8
1968 #1 hit for the Supremes : LOVECHILD
9
Feeling romantic : AMATIVE
10
Going without help : FENDINGFORONESELF
11
Car not in a garage : LOANER
12
Gatekeeper's grant : ACCESS
13
"Voilà!" : THERE
18
Forget-me-___ : NOTS
24
Future court case : PENDINGLITIGATION
26
Mistreatment : HARM
27
___ Mae ("Ghost" role) : ODA
28
Parts of clogs : SOLES
30
Softened up, in a way : MARINATED
32
Where Snickers, Skittles and Starburst are manufactured : WACO
34
Crash pad? : MATTRESS
35
Frees : UNLOOSES
36
It goes around the world : SKY
38
Diplomatic agreement : ENTENTE
39
Inconsequential stuff : PEANUTS
40
Little bloom : FLORET
41
Don's place : RUSSIA
42
Charlie Chan's creator Earl ___ Biggers : DERR
43
"Grand Canyon Suite" composer : GROFE
44
Red Sox Hall-of-Famer Bobby : DOERR
47
Tea type : CHAI
49
Company with a 1998 Nasdaq I.P.O. that hired its first employee in 1996 : EBAY
52
Mauna ___ : LOA

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

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