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New York Times, Tuesday, January 21, 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: 78, Blocks: 38 Missing: {FJQZ} This is puzzle # 10 for Mr. Gross. NYT links: Across Lite PDF

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Todd Gross notes: Pardon my crucinerdism, but I'm totally psyched to have my 10th NYT crossword, which means I get to be on those awesome XWordInfo ... more
Todd Gross notes: Pardon my crucinerdism, but I'm totally psyched to have my 10th NYT crossword, which means I get to be on those awesome XWordInfo lists with the cool constructors. WE MADE IT! Squee!!! (uh, I mean WOOT!!!)

Oh, right, the puzzle... I submitted it in April of 2011. Will accepted the puzzle in September, but didn't publish it until now because, well, I'll let Will tell you. (I believe the reason for the long delay is he has a lot of word ladder puzzles waiting to be published, and he wants to space them out. Makes me curious what all those other puzzles are like.) Note: I created this WORD LOOP puzzle well before Ms. Gorski's EDGINESS puzzle was published, so I couldn't LISTEN TO her (and Jeff's) advice. I don't remember pulling my hair out, but I did need to use A TRIP and ADRIP as crossing entries. Sorry about that.

Did you notice that O is the only vowel along the perimeter, and that there are no O's in the rest of the grid? Indeed, if you connect the O's, so to speak, you'll get a shape that looks a lot like an O. And since O is the only vowel in my name, it seems fitting that I would be this puzzle's constructor.

Will Shortz notes: Todd's grid ended up with a lot more crossword-y stuff than I like — especially WILE E, OBER, OR ME, ORNE, UP AS, AGRO, ... more
Will Shortz notes: Todd's grid ended up with a lot more crossword-y stuff than I like — especially WILE E, OBER, OR ME, ORNE, UP AS, AGRO, A-WEE, ISE, ADRIP, and A TRIP. But a theme like this, with fixed answers around the perimeter, is difficult to pull off, and I think the result here is worth the compromises. On the plus side, I like KEY WEST, CAR WAX, NEWSWEEK, and especially WE MADE IT.
Jeff Chen notes: Clever idea today. Word ladders, which connect a starting word to an ending word using intermediates where only letter has changed, ... more
Jeff Chen notes: Clever idea today. Word ladders, which connect a starting word to an ending word using intermediates where only letter has changed, have become a little overdone in crosswords, so these days it's important to have some new aspect. I really like Todd's idea here, calling it a WORD LOOP, and actually progressing from WORD to LOOP and back, forming a complete circle around the perimeter.

As with most perimeter puzzles, the fill suffers because of the high constraints. Each corner presents its own problem to the constructor, and even if he/she can get all the corners to fill decently, there's still the huge problem of getting everything to knit together. Typically puzzles can be filled from the center toward the edges, and usually each little edge area is not very constrained, so they're not that difficult to fill out. Trying to get four subsections to mesh together cleanly is a head-banging problem.

I do like how Todd's arranged his black squares to help ameliorate this issue. Notice how the grid is sort of cordoned off, forming a SW and a NE region, along with a barbell connecting the NW and SE? Very smart to do so, and it makes his middle region quite nice. Kudos for working in SVELTE and KEY WEST into a tough-to-fill area.

Due to the requirement of each perimeter answer being four letters, there are cheater squares in the NW and SE. That makes filling much easier. In the NW, Todd does a great job. Yes, there are a lot of RSTLNE letters, but I'm okay with that considering the cleanliness of the fill. The SE is a different story, with A DRIP and A TRIP crossing each other. Typically those are reasonable (if not pretty) answers, but crossing each other draws extra attention.

And the other corners, so carefully cordoned off as best as possible, also suffer. I love WE MADE IT! but not at the price of EBRO, OR ME, OBER all in that single corner. Same goes for NEWSWEEK and CARWAX, two great answers in the SW which bring the very heavy price of OGEE, ORNE, and AGRO all in one tiny space. It makes me wonder if Todd started in the middle and worked his way out, sort of painting himself into those corners.

All in all, an innovative puzzle, one I appreciated for its novelty, but also one so constrained that the trade-off felt a little shaky.

1
W
2
O
3
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D
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O
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A
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O
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K
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72
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P
© 2014, The New York TimesNo. 0121 ( 23,450 )
Across Down
1. With 72-Across, what the answers on this puzzle's perimeter form : WORD
5. Beech and birch : WOOD
9. "Yay!," in a text message : WOOT
13. Drink served either hot or cold : CIDER
14. Qualified : ABLE
15. Iberian river : EBRO
16. Any hit by the Everly Brothers, e.g. : OLDIE
17. Swarm (with) : TEEM
18. Brief reminder : MEMO
19. Performs, as historical scenes : REENACTS
21. Turkish hospice : IMARET
23. Taunt : DERIDE
24. Moved smoothly : EASED
26. Fictional Flanders and Plimpton : NEDS
28. Not worthy of : BENEATH
32. Hack's vehicle : CAB
35. Nancy Reagan's maiden name : DAVIS
37. 2007 documentary about the health care system : SICKO
38. Wilson of "The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou" : OWEN
40. Put back to zero, say : RESET
42. Latin musician Puente : TITO
43. Celebrate noisily : REVEL
45. Inspiration for Old Major of "Animal Farm" : LENIN
47. Summer clock observance: Abbr. : DST
48. Florida home for Hemingway : KEYWEST
50. Caddie's pocketful : TEES
52. Brew, as tea : STEEP
54. Indonesian currency : RUPIAH
58. Certain paint protector : CARWAX
61. Heed : LISTENTO
63. Curve in a crown molding : OGEE
64. Dress ___ (impersonate) : UPAS
66. Nostalgic style : RETRO
67. Writer Sarah ___ Jewett : ORNE
68. Ski resort in Salt Lake County : ALTA
69. Leaking, as a faucet : ADRIP
70. Nutcase : KOOK
71. Take a gander : LOOK
72. See 1-Across : LOOP
1. ___ Coyote (toon) : WILEE
2. More bizarre : ODDER
3. Control, as costs : REININ
4. Like calls from bill collectors, typically : DREADED
5. Unit of power : WATT
6. Way overweight : OBESE
7. Cheer in Chihuahua : OLE
8. Death : DEMISE
9. Cry upon arrival : WEMADEIT
10. High, in German names : OBER
11. "Coffee, Tea ___?" (1960s best seller) : ORME
12. Beep : TOOT
13. Telephone attachment : CORD
20. Chest material : CEDAR
22. ___ Health magazine : MENS
25. Part of AWOL : ABSENT
27. Gracefully thin : SVELTE
29. ___ wash jeans : ACID
30. Times Square booth sign : TKTS
31. Knee-slapper : HOOT
32. One may pop on New Year's Eve : CORK
33. Bide-___ : AWEE
34. Group of beauties : BEVY
36. Ending with advert : ISE
39. Magazine launch of 1933 with a hyphen in its name : NEWSWEEK
41. Wedding cake parts : TIERS
44. "___ thousand flowers bloom" : LETA
46. Car gear : NEUTRAL
49. ___ relations : SEXUAL
51. Suit company founded in Australia : SPEEDO
53. Student of Socrates : PLATO
55. Emcee's delivery : INTRO
56. Take ___ (travel) : ATRIP
57. Basketball target : HOOP
58. Diner employee : COOK
59. Farming: Prefix : AGRO
60. City NNE of Tahoe : RENO
62. "Babette's Feast" author Dinesen : ISAK
65. Mideast grp. : PLO

Answer summary:

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