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New York Times, Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Author:
Michael Black
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
67/14/20109/24/20180
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
0213000
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.73012
Michael Black

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 78, Blocks: 38 Missing: none – this is a pangram. This is puzzle # 4 for Mr. Black. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Michael Black notes:
Though it took me three tries to get this puzzle accepted, I was glad with the final result. Looking back on the first two ... read more

Though it took me three tries to get this puzzle accepted, I was glad with the final result. Looking back on the first two submissions, I have a "What was I thinking?" mentality; so although it meant more effort on my end, I'm glad Will did not accept either of the first two. I mean I actually had "THE NAME GAME" (the Shirley Ellis hit song) as the revealer in my first submission — weak, weak, WEAK! That entry helped with symmetry at the time, but that's a perfect example of rushing, being overexcited and submitting a puzzle that isn't all it can be.

In my second submission, I got rid of the reaveler. With this entry gone, I had to come up with new people to reconstruct the symmetry. Like my first submission, I wanted to try and use four people from four different categories (e.g. music, acting, politics, sports). I was able to do that, but with an obscure entry or two that Will wasn't buying. It was then that I realized how limited my palette was with this theme.

I had to sacrifice the idea of getting people from four different categories and double up on one — and then Woodrow Wilson came to mind, who I think has the coolest name for this theme, with WWI right in the middle. It meant having two presidents in the puzzle, but when it came right down to it, I figured, "So what? It turned out just fine."

The one thing I really like about this puzzle, which I've done in a Times crossword before, is taking words in their natural state and creating wordplay out of them. I didn't have to do anything to the words themselves; I was simply able to allow everyone to see these words in a different light.

My favorite clue in the puzzle is 5-down: Word after "take" or "give me". That is Will's handy work. My favorite answer, far and away, is SABO, as in Chris Sabo the baseball player. I always try and include one in my crosswords — the names usually get re-clued as non-baseball players, but there's no alternative for this one since he's the only well-known person with this last name. It's also my second pangram of my four accepted NYT puzzles (which I forgot until I looked at it recently), and it's the only puzzle thus far in which Will has not modified a single letter.

Thanks and hope you all like it!

Will Shortz notes:
How did Michael find the four examples of this lovely theme? I have no idea. For consistency's sake I do wish they'd all been either ... read more

How did Michael find the four examples of this lovely theme? I have no idea. For consistency's sake I do wish they'd all been either like 37A and 59A, with the three circled letters together, or like 20A and 44A, where the circles are separated. But that's probably asking too much. Anyway, having two of each type at least maintains a balance.

Jeff Chen notes:
One of those eye-opening themes, a Wish-I-Thought-of-That (WITT). I'm in agreement with Will, it would have been just about a perfect ... read more

One of those eye-opening themes, a Wish-I-Thought-of-That (WITT). I'm in agreement with Will, it would have been just about a perfect theme if Michael could have found even just three examples where the three letters were consecutive. I'm not a big fan of random circled letters, so the consecutive trios were particularly pleasing to my eye. Bravo for uncovering this theme, Michael, very fun.

I never used to pay attention to my 1-across, but I've come to realize that consciously or subconsciously, solvers' perceptions tend to be affected right away in that NW corner. And to start off with a relatively esoteric Spanish word crossing A MOLE ... not a great first impression for me. I think it affected my perception of the puzzle, especially upon seeing PRS, ENOL (with a crazy clue), ALEE, et al. as I went.

I did really like some of the long fill, SHADOWBOX and PAY TO PLAY adding a lot of body to the puzzle. But my constructor's brain just couldn't help wondering why with only four themers, two long downs, and a 78-word puzzle, there seemed to be quite a few compromises. I can understand why someone would include SABO (MLB or Reds fans — glad to hear Michael's thinking on that), but ENOL is pretty easy to replace with something much nicer. Same goes for SALA/AMOLE/ATESTS in that isolated NW corner.

Perhaps some solvers (and chemists) will argue that they like the crosswordese ENOL, because it helps them get a toehold as a freebie. But I strongly feel that this sort of thinking turns off newer solvers, as well as a more recent generation, and constructors should avoid this rationale whenever possible. As Will says in his submission guidelines: "Keep crosswordese to a minimum."

And I can understand Will's editorial philosophy of "let the constructor's fill stand unless there's something that REALLY needs to be fixed." There is a certain beauty in that, as the constructor is allowed to present his/her work as he/she intended. I don't think it's the philosophy I'd take if I were editor, but I respect Will's belief. So given that, I would ask any constructors reading this post to keep Will's above criteria always in mind. Totally fine if a challenging construction requires a weird little entry or two, but if at all possible, why not strive for perfection?

Overall, a very nice theme which I felt could have been made golden by upping the quality of some fill, notably the SW and NW corners. I'm not as rabid/fanatical about "The War on Fill" as others, but I do think that as with every evolving, competitive market, the NYT must continually work to maintain its reputation as the gold standard in daily crosswords.

1
S
2
A
3
L
4
A
5
F
6
E
7
D
8
U
9
P
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J
11
P
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E
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G
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E
M
I
T
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I
L
O
S
E
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O
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R
O
B
E
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V
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A
E
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H
Y
P
O
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U
L
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S
E
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A
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M
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A
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E
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Q
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O
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N
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E
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E
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A
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K
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U
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N
P
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P
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E
L
G
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N
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B
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L
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H
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H
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O
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S
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C
A
B
O
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A
D
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B
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V
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D
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M
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W
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R
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© 2014, The New York TimesNo. 0129 ( 23,458 )
Across
1
Part of una casa : SALA
5
Totally disgusted : FEDUP
10
Compressed pic, of a sort : JPEG
14
Let off : EMIT
15
Brief concession : ILOSE
16
Brewery fixture : OAST
17
Spa wear : ROBE
18
See 22-Down : VITAE
19
Hospital sticker : HYPO
20
A general and his country : ULYSSESSGRANT
23
Loaded with substance : MEATY
24
Title for a J.D. holder : ESQ
25
Impossible point total in American pro football : ONE
28
Clandestine sort : SNEAK
32
Remove, as a corsage : UNPIN
34
Trigram on rotary phones : PRS
37
A hoops great and his league : ELGINBAYLOR
40
Cake similar to a Yodel : HOHO
42
Battle zone of 1956 and 1967 : SINAI
43
Baja resort area : CABO
44
A comic and his former show : ADAMSANDLER
47
Kobe cash : YEN
48
Cassette half : SIDEA
49
Soup alternative : SALAD
51
Brian who's a self-professed "nonmusician" : ENO
52
Part of a bridle : BIT
55
Harem wear : VEILS
59
A president and his conflict : WOODROWWILSON
64
Mazar of "Entourage" : DEBI
66
What "-phage" means : EATER
67
Wear a long face : MOPE
68
___ ether : ENOL
69
Final part of most Broadway musicals : ACTII
70
Away from the wind : ALEE
71
Like candy corn's texture : WAXY
72
Woman's golf garment : SKORT
73
Motorola phone brand : RAZR
Down
1
Immunizing fluid : SERUM
2
Whac-___ (carnival game) : AMOLE
3
Benghazi's land : LIBYA
4
Bikini atoll trials, informally : ATESTS
5
Word after "take" or "give me" : FIVE
6
New Haven collegians : ELIS
7
Fruity candy since 1945 : DOTS
8
Grammarian's concern : USAGE
9
Exerters of pressure, maybe : PEERS
10
W.C. : JOHN
11
Ante up : PAYTOPLAY
12
Psychic's "gift," for short : ESP
13
Classic muscle car : GTO
21
1/1 title word : SYNE
22
With 18-Across, an old term for brandy : AQUA
26
Weeper of myth : NIOBE
27
Scandalous company with a tilted-E logo : ENRON
29
Joy Adamson's big cat : ELSA
30
Opposed to, in dialect : AGIN
31
Classifications : KINDS
33
View from Ft. Lee, N.J. : NYC
34
Thumb-sucking, e.g. : PHASE
35
"The Kiss" sculptor : RODIN
36
Spar with nobody : SHADOWBOX
38
Simba's mate : NALA
39
Jessica of "7th Heaven" : BIEL
41
Kipling's "Follow Me ___" : OME
45
1988 N.L. Rookie of the Year Chris : SABO
46
Noted first name in raga : RAVI
50
San Diego-area horse-racing venue : DELMAR
53
Bits of creativity : IDEAS
54
Follow, as a U.P.S. shipment : TRACK
56
Sicilia, per esempio : ISOLA
57
"J to tha L-O!" artist : LOPEZ
58
Smile like Snidely Whiplash : SNEER
60
In need of a shampoo, say : OILY
61
German Expressionist ___ Dix : OTTO
62
Small dam : WEIR
63
Order in the court : WRIT
64
It might get your feet wet : DEW
65
Bambi's aunt : ENA

Answer summary: 4 unique to this puzzle.

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