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CLUED IN

New York Times, Sunday, January 5, 2014

Author:
Alan DerKazarian
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
511/7/20131/13/20180
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
2010101
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.61110
Alan DerKazarian

This puzzle:

Rows: 23, Columns: 23 Words: 160, Blocks: 106 Missing: {JQ} Grid is asymmetric. This is puzzle # 3 for Mr. DerKazarian. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Alan DerKazarian notes:
The first puzzle I ever sent to the New York Times was so God-awful it's amazing Will Shortz didn't tell his people to throw anything else from me right in the trash. Check this beauty out: Clue: ... read more

The first puzzle I ever sent to the New York Times was so God-awful it's amazing Will Shortz didn't tell his people to throw anything else from me right in the trash. Check this beauty out:

Clue: _X_VMDCCIIII (16,704)

Answer: MXLIIIITIMESXVI

Hoo boy … Anyway, over the next year and a half things got better and better, yet I still received those emails from Paula Gamache ending "He did appreciate seeing these, tho." Then about a year ago Will wrote that he liked a Sunday of mine but wanted to talk about it on the phone as there was just too much to discuss in an email. So I got to talk to Will Shortz, which was quite a thrill! He told me he "liked the puzzle or we wouldn't be talking now" and went over two or three things he'd like changed to improve it. After a few weeks I emailed him the new puzzle with the changes he'd requested and got a reply that the theme now looked solid but he had issues with some of the fill in the southeast and southwest grids. After re-doing those two grids yet again, BANG, my first puzzle accepted (though third to see publication).

I'm very curious to see what Will did with the southeast grid. As I wrote to him, I wanted that section to be so difficult that without knowing the answers to the Clue accusation not even fastest-solver-in-the-universe Dan Feyer could solve it in under 10 minutes; yet with the answers to the Clue accusation entered (around 35% of that grid) it would become typical Sunday-hard. I felt this was necessary because, if people were able to figure out the accusation by solving the SE quadrant before the other three, then what was the point of the puzzle? I wanted solving the other three before the SE to be of paramount importance.

Jeff Chen notes:
One of the aspects I love most about the NYT crossword is the constant desire to stretch the limits of the art form; to create something never seen before. I enjoy xws from many different sources, but what ... read more

One of the aspects I love most about the NYT crossword is the constant desire to stretch the limits of the art form; to create something never seen before. I enjoy xws from many different sources, but what other daily xw pushes the boundaries like this? Neat idea to incorporate the game "Clue" today. It's been made into a movie, why not a crossword as well?

Interesting layout: four "rooms", three of which give clues to the fourth one, which reveals the SUSPECT, the ROOM, and the WEAPON. Each of the three "rooms" give hints in a different way, i.e. the first room contains three words which can be preceded by the word SCARLET. Ah, our old crossword friend the SCARLET TANAGER makes itself useful in a fun way, giving an insider's nod to all the times it's been (over)used in triple-stack creations due to its very friendly crossword nature of common letters and mostly alternating consonants and vowels.

I enjoyed the solve, but I'm not sold on the total segregation of the four rooms. Small diagonal "doors" three blocks long could have been a fun way to keep the sense of a house layout while maintaining the usual crossword rule of "no isolated sections". It could also have made for a natural progression, moving from one room to the next, gathering clues as you went. It also would have been really cool to have multiple possible suspects, rooms, and/or weapons, using a Schrödinger-type puzzle. Not sure how that would have gone over though; perhaps too tricky for many.

I was amazed to see that this was Alan's first construction for the NYT (though third to be published). The quality of fill is not at all what I would expect from a beginner, with such long goodness as PTERODACTYL, DIET SODA, ABANDON SHiP, ALIEN ATTACK, etc. Yes, there are instances of the dreaded (and not really a thing) ENOTES and the old-timey ISTLE in close proximity to ARACE, but I'm willing to wager that Alan will work hard to avoid these types of entries in the future. Themeless grids are hard to fill, and this xw has effectively four themeless-style mini-puzzles. Good job of filling them with some nice entries and a minimum of ugly stuff; looking forward to more from Alan.

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© 2014, The New York TimesNo. 0105 ( 23,434 )
Across
1
The "who" of a Clue accusation, whose identity is hinted at by the three shaded answers in this quadrant : SUSPECT
8
"Most ___" ("For sure") : DEF
11
The "where" of a Clue accusation, whose identity is hinted at by the three shaded answers in this quadrant : ROOM
15
Not skilled in : POORAT
21
What you can bring up, in a phrase : THEREAR
22
Photo lab abbr. : ENL
23
"M*A*S*H" star : ALDA
24
Midwest capital : TOPEKA
25
George's mother on "Seinfeld" : ESTELLE
26
Luau dish : POI
27
Part of Caesar's boast : VIDI
28
Thrown out of the country : EXILED
29
Got logged off, in a way : TIMEDOUT
31
Textile tool : EVENER
33
"The Lion King" queen : NALA
34
Blows one's mind : AMAZES
37
Ain't right? : ISNT
38
Southern terminus of I-35 : LAREDOTEXAS
40
Pyrexia : FEVER
41
Unfrost : DEICE
42
Old Tokyo : EDO
43
Go pfft : FAIL
44
Varsity award : LETTER
45
Early Coleco hand-held game : ALIENATTACK
53
The Palins, e.g. : ALASKANS
55
Musical notation : REST
56
___ bleu : CORDON
57
Tad : BIT
58
Motor coach : AUTOBUS
62
To boot : ATTHAT
64
Lay off : IDLE
65
MGM symbol : LEO
66
Orbit competitor : TRIDENT
67
Bloody Mary stirrer : CELERY
68
Others, to Ovid : ALIA
69
Make a boner : ERR
70
Colorful bird : TANAGER
71
"Bam!" man : EMERIL
72
Advance : LEND
73
The "what" of a Clue accusation, whose identity is hinted at by the three shaded answers in this quadrant : WEAPON
79
Saturnalia : ORGY
83
Thing in doubt? : SILENTB
90
Conned : HAD
93
Wrestling star Lou : ALBANO
94
Opening for a dermatologist? : PORE
95
Running wild : ONATEAR
96
Jungian complex : EGO
97
Bordeaux wine : CLARET
98
Some Ivy Leaguers : ELIS
99
Start of the accusation : MISSSCARLET
101
Untouched? : SANE
102
___ girl : VALLEY
104
Firm group: Abbr. : ATTYS
105
Tennis's Petrova : NADIA
106
Like some football teams : DEFENSIVE
108
Fringe : EDGING
109
___-Cat : SNO
111
Makeshift ballot box : URN
112
Classic gaming inits. : NES
113
Middle of the accusation : INTHELOUNGE
118
Expressing : CONVEYING
121
Feature of a baseball shutout : NORUNS
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Sainted archbishop of Canterbury who founded Scholasticism : ANSELM
123
Phone abbr. : OPER
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Friend of Franco : AMIGO
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What Lou Gehrig played : FIRST
132
1939 Garland co-star : LAHR
133
Home-body? : UMPIRE
135
End of the accusation : WITHTHEROPE
137
Author Kingsley or Martin : AMIS
138
Actor Richard : CRENNA
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"So that's ___?" : ANO
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1990s-2000s Volkswagen vehicle : EUROVAN
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2010 film "___ Men" : REPO
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Greeted the villain : HISSED
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Want : YEN
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Director Mack of early slapstick : SENNETT
Down
1
Chateau ___ Michelle : STE
2
Hesitant sounds : UHS
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Fixed : SET
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Ballpark fare : PRETZELS
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More elusive : EELIER
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Appeases : CALMS
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Coat rack : TREE
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A.T.M. offering : DEPOSIT
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Formally declare : ENOUNCE
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Move like a butterfly : FLITTER
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Become entwined : RAVEL
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Tony the Twin : OLIVA
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More anomalous : ODDER
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Its seal has an anchor and a moose : MAINE
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Prehistoric menace : PTERODACTYL
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Noughts-and-crosses loser : OOX
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Have a thought : OPINE
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"Cool it!" : RELAX
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Cub Scouts leader : AKELA
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Cries of pride : TADAS
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It may contain aspartame : DIETSODA
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Starting point? : EDEN
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Genial : AFFABLE
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Not so smooth, maybe : MEALIER
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An ace is a good one : AVIATOR
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Completely, after "in" : TOTO
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Major part of a tooth : DENTIN
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Bush who wrote "Spoken From the Heart" : LAURA
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___ to the finish : ARACE
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"I don't care what they do" : LETEM
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Basket fiber : ISTLE
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It's a knockout : ETHER
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Ordeal : TRIAL
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Confound : ADDLE
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Farrell or Firth : COLIN
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Work, as clay : KNEAD
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Actor William : KATT
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Entreat : BEG
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French article : UNE
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Bering ___: Abbr. : STR
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Mr. Onassis : ARI
73
W.W. II group : WACS
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"___ Enchanted" : ELLA
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Captain's last order : ABANDONSHIP
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"Gay" city : PAREE
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Pepsi brand : ONE
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Hardly at all : NOTVERYMUCH
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Some German cars : OPELS
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Cartoony clubs : ROLLINGPINS
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React to a loss : GRIEVE
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"Uh-huh, definitely" : YESYES
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"Brave New World" drug : SOMA
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Part of U.S.: Abbr. : INIT
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Endure : LAST
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E-commerce site : ETSY
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Crime buster Eliot : NESS
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Tic ___ (candy) : TAC
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Antony's player in "Julius Caesar," 1953 : BRANDO
90
Repressed : HELDIN
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Inevitability of life : AGEING
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Result of 91-Down, maybe : DOTAGE
100
Sauce brand : RAGU
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Years abroad : ANNI
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Coke, for one : FUEL
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High rails : ELS
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Having no direction, in math : SCALAR
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Generic : NONAME
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Sort of : INAWAY
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In ___ Patris (prayer words) : NOMINE
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King in "The Little Mermaid" : TRITON
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Grant for filmmaking? : HUGH
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Cybermemos : ENOTES
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Recto's flip side : VERSO
120
Slangy denials : NOPES
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Coastal raptor : ERNE
125
Scanned : READ
127
Bit of office greenery : FERN
128
Unyielding : IRON
129
Go all over : ROVE
130
Tiff : SPAT
131
Backpack item : TENT
134
Dr.'s order : MRI
136
Cry's partner : HUE

Answer summary: 6 unique to this puzzle, 2 debuted here and reused later, 4 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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