It looks like you're using an Ad Blocker. Please consider supporting our site by purchasing an account.

New York Times, Friday, January 2, 2015

Author: David Steinberg
Editor: Will Shortz
David Steinberg
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
616/16/20113/25/201710
SunMonTueWedThuFriSatVariety
4556717161
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.652113
Puzzle of the Week

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 64, Blocks: 36 Missing: {BFQZ} Spans: 2 This is puzzle # 34 for Mr. Steinberg. Jeff Chen's Puzzle of the Week pick NYT links: Across Lite PDF
David Steinberg notes: I constructed this puzzle in September 2013, a time when I was experimenting with numerous themeless grids with low word ... more
David Steinberg notes:

I constructed this puzzle in September 2013, a time when I was experimenting with numerous themeless grids with low word counts. My first task in constructing this puzzle (after designing the grid, of course) was filling the center; I soon realized that filling this section was so challenging that even running my construction software for hours on end would be futile!

Remembering a construction trick I picked up during my quad stack phase, the next tactic I tried was seeding entries with friendly letter patterns into the bottom slot of the center stack before letting the construction software grind away at the rest of the grid. From a constructor's perspective, my intuition was to seed the stack with an S-heavy word, such as LAWLESSNESS; switching to my perspective as a longtime solver, however, I decided that such an entry would be dull and somewhat inelegant. Thus, my job was to come up with an entry that would both be lively and likely to lead to a fill for the center stack.

After many failed attempts, I came up with MINESWEEPER, a term with a more contemporary cluing angle that has appeared in just one other Shortz-era New York Times crossword. Although W and P are not ideal in terms of serving as ends to five-letter entries, S, E, and R are particularly nice; before long, I ended up with a center that was surprisingly junk-free! The clean center inspired me to make the rest of the puzzle as comparably smooth as possible; overall, I was (and still am) very satisfied with the final product, even though the grid is rather closed off.

Will/Joel changed fewer clues than they have in some of my older puzzles — as usual, though, they found ways to inject even more misdirection! My favorite new clue is "There's not much interest in them nowadays" for CDS, and my favorite original clue that made the cut is "It might change color" for RIPENER. I was a little disappointed to see that "Being . . . or not being" for IN EXISTENCE (which can also be read as INEXISTENCE) was rewritten, though I realize this clue was a bit of a stretch. I hope you enjoy solving this puzzle, and Happy 2015!

Jeff Chen notes: My wife's favorite themeless experience is when you go through a first pass and turn up nearly empty. A feeling of despondence ... more
Jeff Chen notes:

My wife's favorite themeless experience is when you go through a first pass and turn up nearly empty. A feeling of despondence consumes you, but one of those toeholds suddenly trigger a thought, and you can enter another answer. And another! Chunks break open, and neurons fire. Ten minutes later (20 in my case), a seemingly impossible solve is cracked. Tremendously satisfying.

I had that experience today, daunted at first by those gigantic white spaces. I entered three answers in my first pass and wondered if 1.) I'd be able to finish and 2.) how much glue I was going to encounter — I often find that these wide-open grids require a lot of glue to hold them together. To my relief and amazement, I encountered virtually nothing ugly the whole way through. Yes, there's a HALER and a TEK from Shatner's esoteric "TekWar," but what else? The cleanliness is astounding.

Pluto and Earth, volume comparison

And what nice long entries. Often with this style of crazy-wide-open puzzle, you see neutral words depending on –NESS or –ERS. But to get ADULT MOVIES, HIS EMINENCE, PIN CUSHIONS, MINOR PLANET just to start? Really nice selection. If the worst of your 11 long answers is IN EXISTENCE, I call that quite the success.

As is usual with some of these types of stunt grids, I don't love the feng shui. The puzzle is broken so distinctly into three parts. I know from the constructor's viewpoint how much easier it is to make a low-word count puzzle when you can section areas off and work on them one at a time. But, as a solver, it bugs me to see such fragmentation.

Overall though, a puzzle in the Patrick Berry mold — uber-clean with a smart selection of long entries. I really like David's desire to experiment with themeless grids; it's cool to see the variety in his products. I don't always love the solving experience his more experimental stuff, but I thought this one was a big winner.

P.S. For those of you who don't get the brilliance of the CDS clue, it's referring to ultra-low interest rates. I work in investment management, so it got a big smile from me. Reader Greg Johnson points out that it can also refer to music CDs, which are falling out of favor — doubly cool!

1
T
2
E
3
A
4
C
5
H
6
J
7
E
8
T
9
L
10
I
11
P
12
A
13
R
14
A
D
U
L
T
15
M
O
V
I
E
S
16
O
D
E
17
H
I
S
E
M
I
N
E
N
C
E
18
T
A
W
19
I
T
S
A
L
L
I
N
T
H
E
20
G
A
M
E
21
N
O
I
R
22
A
T
A
D
23
I
R
E
24
P
25
I
26
N
27
C
28
U
29
S
30
H
I
O
N
S
31
M
I
N
O
R
P
L
A
N
E
T
32
T
A
T
T
L
E
T
A
L
E
S
33
R
E
D
H
O
T
P
O
K
E
R
34
M
I
N
E
S
W
E
E
P
E
R
35
T
36
E
37
K
38
O
P
E
D
39
D
Y
N
E
40
D
E
M
O
41
C
42
R
43
A
44
T
45
I
46
C
47
P
A
R
T
Y
48
E
N
E
49
L
E
G
E
R
D
E
M
A
I
N
50
L
E
N
51
I
N
E
X
I
S
T
E
N
C
E
52
A
R
T
53
P
O
R
T
S
54
E
S
T
E
S
© 2015, The New York TimesNo. 0102 ( 23,796 )
Across Down
1. One at the head of the class, informally : TEACH
6. "Fearless" star, 2006 : JETLI
11. Green yardstick : PAR
14. They may be marked with X's : ADULTMOVIES
16. Panegyrical lines : ODE
17. What to call a cardinal : HISEMINENCE
18. Shooter for kids : TAW
19. 1958 #1 hit composed by Vice President Charles Dawes : ITSALLINTHEGAME
21. Rouge counterpart : NOIR
22. Slightly : ATAD
23. Burning sensation? : IRE
24. Stuffed accessories : PINCUSHIONS
31. Pluto, for one : MINORPLANET
32. Rats : TATTLETALES
33. Brand maker? : REDHOTPOKER
34. Classic computer game played on a grid : MINESWEEPER
35. Sci-fi narcotic : TEK
38. Leaning column? : OPED
39. 10 micronewtons : DYNE
40. Group for people who are feeling blue? : DEMOCRATICPARTY
48. Sierra Leone-to-Burkina Faso dir. : ENE
49. Hocus-pocus : LEGERDEMAIN
50. Sportswriter Pasquarelli : LEN
51. Living : INEXISTENCE
52. "The proper task of life," per Nietzsche : ART
53. Modern connection points : PORTS
54. Newbery Medal-winning author Eleanor : ESTES
1. Falafel topper : TAHINI
2. One with paper cuts? : EDITOR
3. Kiwi's neighbor : AUSSIE
4. Calculator button : CLEAR
5. Code with tags : HTML
6. Mitchell with the platinum album "Blue" : JONI
7. Like 2014 but not 2015 : EVEN
8. Salon job : TINT
9. Source of dirty looks : LECH
10. Roman "video" : ISEE
11. Fries things? : POTATOES
12. Disinclined to move : ADAMANT
13. Takes a second? : REWEDS
15. 1,000 G's : MIL
20. It's a dive : GAINER
24. Hearts : PITHS
25. Tagging along : INTOW
26. People's 1992 Sexiest Man Alive : NOLTE
27. Brunch offering : CREPE
28. High-five request : UPTOP
29. Satisfy : SLAKE
30. Comparatively sound : HALER
31. Got by : MADEDO
32. Place where people lived in "How the Other Half Lives" : TENEMENT
33. It might change color : RIPENER
34. Detroit debut of 1927 : MODELA
35. Fist-pounding boss, say : TYRANT
36. Be coquettish with : ENTICE
37. Macroeconomics pioneer : KEYNES
39. Women, in pulp fiction : DAMES
41. YouTube upload : CLIP
42. Member of Clinton's cabinet for all eight years : RENO
43. New ___ : AGER
44. Part of 5-Down : TEXT
45. Long-stemmed flower : IRIS
46. There's not much interest in these nowadays : CDS
47. Best of classic rock : PETE

Answer summary: 2 unique to this puzzle, 3 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

Found bugs or have suggestions?

|