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New York Times, Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Author:
Joel Fagliano
Editor:
Will Shortz
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1.65351
Joel Fagliano

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 76, Blocks: 36 Missing: {JKQXZ} This is puzzle # 35 for Mr. Fagliano. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Joel Fagliano notes:
One of my constructing idols is Patrick Merrell. When I was first solving and making crosswords, I admired how he was able to bend and ... read more

One of my constructing idols is Patrick Merrell. When I was first solving and making crosswords, I admired how he was able to bend and stretch the conventions of crosswords while still making it entertaining for the solver. So when I come up with a simple theme like today's, I always try to think of an extra wrinkle that'll make the puzzle unique or different in some way.

For this puzzle, I had the idea for the DNA strand in the middle, but obviously needed to use other black squares. The problem was that the other black squares sort of ruined the visual element. I brainstormed some other ways to make it pop, and ended up with what you see in the print edition. If nothing else, it'll be a different solving experience, and in my book, different is always good!

Jeff Chen notes:
DNA! I often feel ambivalent about 'a single word hidden in phrases,' because once you've found one or two of them, the rest is ... read more

DNA! I often feel ambivalent about "a single word hidden in phrases," because once you've found one or two of them, the rest is repetitive. An exception is when I can't see it coming. I don't know if it was the graceful black square curves, or the themers running vertically, but I was pleasantly surprised to have to go back and look for the DNAs. Well done.

What a smooth execution, especially considering the huge constraints. Once you fix those curves into place, you don't leave yourself much room for themer placement. Joel wisely squeaks a 7-letter one right in the middle, and then has to tackle the high overlap on the left and right.

Normally, a few letters of overlap is pretty easy, if the letter combinations are friendly. Here though, there are seven places, running from the BA of AT BAR to the AL of REALTOR. Seven places means seven potential pitfalls where you might be forced to deal with a strange UO or a LW combination. Luckily, there are a good number of *D NA* phrases to choose from; plus, the puzzle symmetry allows you to swap BRAND NAMES and GOOD NATURE or TOOTH AND NAIL and ISLAND NATION.

With all those constraints, to finish with just an ENROL is impressive work. I imagine it took Joel several iterations to find themers and placements that allowed friendly letter combinations.

Visual of a DNA molecule

I wish the visual had done a little something more for me. As much as I like the oddity of removing the side black squares in the print version – I almost always like something weird and new – as a whole, it doesn't look a lot like DNA to me. Those black curves are very pretty, yes, and they sort of twist around. DNA-like? Hmm. And as with Liz's previous DNA puzzle (see Jim's note), I would have LOVED to see A-T and C-G base pairs somehow. Ripe for crossword goodness, people!

Love, love, loved the clue for GRAPH. It doesn't have the plural of "axe," but it does have the plural of "axis." And to get a brilliant clue right on a themer – someone give poor Eisenhower a baseball glove or vacuum BRAND NAME already – added so much to my solving pleasure.

Jim Horne notes:

Back in 2002, Elizabeth Gorski had a different twist on the famous double helix.

1
B
2
O
3
T
4
T
5
L
6
E
7
A
8
M
9
P
10
S
11
G
12
Y
13
M
14
O
H
I
O
A
N
15
M
E
A
T
16
O
O
O
17
O
N
T
O
U
R
18
Y
O
G
A
19
O
W
N
20
P
O
S
T
D
O
21
C
22
W
E
D
23
I
D
I
T
24
H
E
L
L
25
O
26
D
I
S
N
E
Y
27
A
28
T
29
B
A
R
30
A
L
31
P
32
A
L
A
33
B
A
R
N
34
A
R
D
O
35
R
36
A
T
37
A
38
D
39
I
P
A
D
40
M
I
N
T
Y
41
N
U
D
E
42
T
E
N
N
43
S
C
A
L
E
44
D
R
A
W
45
D
A
46
B
47
E
V
E
48
E
N
E
M
Y
49
G
50
E
N
I
U
51
S
52
Y
A
53
L
T
A
54
R
E
A
L
T
O
55
R
56
F
E
R
T
57
I
58
L
59
E
60
A
R
M
61
T
R
O
62
D
63
G
A
I
N
O
N
64
P
I
E
65
E
T
O
N
66
I
D
O
T
O
O
67
H
E
S
68
D
A
T
A
69
T
E
N
O
N
S
© 2015, The New York TimesNo. 0106 ( 23,800 )
Across
1. Wine store purchase : BOTTLE
7. Sound investments? : AMPS
11. Business with monthly memberships : GYM
14. Neighbor of a Hoosier : OHIOAN
15. Ham or lamb : MEAT
16. Winning tic-tac-toe row : OOO
17. Traveling, as a band : ONTOUR
18. Exercise with a cobra pose : YOGA
19. Possess : OWN
20. Lab research assistant, maybe : POSTDOC
22. "Hooray for us!" : WEDIDIT
24. Word on a red-and-white name tag : HELLO
26. "Frozen" studio : DISNEY
27. Like a case before the court : ATBAR
30. Mont Blanc, e.g. : ALP
32. ___ mode : ALA
33. Place for a hoedown : BARN
34. Passion : ARDOR
36. Somewhat : ATAD
39. Modern cash register device : IPAD
40. Like many mouthwashes : MINTY
41. Beige shade : NUDE
42. Where Graceland is: Abbr. : TENN
43. 1-10, e.g. : SCALE
44. Result of a king vs. king endgame : DRAW
45. Pat : DAB
47. Biblical partner of 37-Down : EVE
48. "The best is the ___ of the good": Voltaire : ENEMY
49. Einstein : GENIUS
52. 1945 conference site : YALTA
54. House tour giver : REALTOR
56. Like loamy soil : FERTILE
60. Spot for a shot : ARM
61. Walked : TROD
63. Start to catch up to : GAINON
64. Thanksgiving dessert : PIE
65. School attended by Lord Grantham on "Downton Abbey" : ETON
66. "Same here" : IDOTOO
67. "___ Your Dog, Charlie Brown" (1968 TV special) : HES
68. Spreadsheet contents : DATA
69. Mortise inserts : TENONS
Down
1. Betty who appeared in "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" : BOOP
2. "It's all gone wrong!" : OHNO
3. Small songbirds : TITS
4. Fierce way to fight : TOOTHANDNAIL
5. Estée of fragrances : LAUDER
6. Sign up, to Brits : ENROL
7. "Little Women" woman : AMY
8. Speak Persian? : MEOW
9. Contacted via beeper : PAGED
10. Sporting arenas : STADIA
11. Cheerful disposition : GOODNATURE
12. "Ouch!" : YOWIE
13. Hall of fame : MONTY
21. ___ Starling, "The Silence of the Lambs" protagonist : CLARICE
23. Comoros or Barbados : ISLANDNATION
25. Gap subsidiary : OLDNAVY
27. Somewhat : ABIT
28. "Roll the ___" : TAPE
29. Wilson and Hoover, but not Eisenhower : BRANDNAMES
31. Image often accompanying the phrase "Legalize it" : POTLEAF
34. Pro-___ : AMS
35. Deli loaf : RYE
37. Biblical partner of 47-Across : ADAM
38. Like morning grass : DEWY
46. Rammed like a ram : BUTTED
48. Charles Schwab competitor : ETRADE
49. It has axes : GRAPH
50. Spine-tingling : EERIE
51. Somewhat, informally : SORTA
53. O.K. : LEGIT
55. What fans do : ROOT
57. Really liking : INTO
58. Nut job : LOON
59. Grandson of 47-Across and 37-Down : ENOS
62. Molecule hidden in 4-, 11-, 23-, 25- and 29-Down : DNA

Answer summary: 4 unique to this puzzle, 1 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

Found bugs or have suggestions?