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New York Times, Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Author: Joel Fagliano
Editor: Will Shortz
Joel Fagliano
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Puzzle of the Week

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 77, Blocks: 36 Missing: {FQXZ} Grid has mirror symmetry. This is puzzle # 24 for Mr. Fagliano. Jeff Chen's Puzzle of the Week pick. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Joel Fagliano notes: I really liked the base idea of this puzzle (the V's representing a flock of geese), but I struggled with coming up with good ... more
Joel Fagliano notes: I really liked the base idea of this puzzle (the V's representing a flock of geese), but I struggled with coming up with good surrounding theme material. With the left/right symmetry and all the Vs locked in place in the top half of the grid, I didn't have much flexibility in the bottom to include more theme answers. With the current grid design, I worked for a while trying to get themers to work in those bottom 7 stacks, before eventually deciding that the fill was either undoable or the themers too strained. I'll be interested to see if solvers are annoyed by the lack of theme answers in the bottom half of the puzzle or if they appreciate the effort to keep the overall fill more clean and lively.
Will Shortz notes: You don't see left/right symmetry often in American crosswords, but it's just as legitimate as the regular kind. This puzzle is ... more
Will Shortz notes: You don't see left/right symmetry often in American crosswords, but it's just as legitimate as the regular kind. This puzzle is light on theme material, but I think it makes up for it with liveliness — especially LOVER'S LANE, LIVING WILL, UP TO YOU, and NICE JOB. Joel just started his senior year at Pomona College in California. He has been my intern for the past three summers and intends to return full-time after graduating. Virtually all the clues in this puzzle are his.

Winning time for this puzzle at the 17th Westchester Crossword Puzzle Tournament, held last Friday in Pleasantville, NY:

Jeffrey Schwartz, New York, NY, in 4:33.

Jeff Chen notes: What a treat to get something different on a Tuesday! Joel Fagliano, a very well-rounded constructor, shows off his chops with a ... more
Jeff Chen notes: What a treat to get something different on a Tuesday! Joel Fagliano, a very well-rounded constructor, shows off his chops with a (relatively) rare "mirror symmetry" puzzle, one which exhibits left-right symmetry. It might not be apparent why he chooses this option, but consider the pattern of V's that's central to this theme. If Joel had used normal (180 rotational) symmetry, the black squares might have visually overwhelmed everything else, a point Michael Sharp (aka Rex Parker) has noted many times in the past. As an added layer of elegance, there are no other V's in the puzzle.

It's a thing of beauty to imagine a flock of MIGRATING/GEESE flying straight overhead (I would have preferred MIGRATING/GEESE or MIGRATING/BIRDS over GEESE/MIGRATION, as the latter feels slightly stilted as a phrase). All crosswords are works of art in their own right, but this one I could imagine up on someone's wall.

Will and Joel's notes about the relative thinness of theme are well-taken, and I would have liked to see something else — not sure what though. V SIGN would be cool, but it would also throw a loose V into the puzzle (or require a "????V" theme answer to preserve mirror symmetry). So I like Joel's compromise of making the rest of the puzzle a quasi-themeless, giving us such great stuff as the long fill Will mentioned. I also appreciate the cluing, which felt Joel-ish (more modern than average). Neat when the constructor's cluing vibe comes through.

KISLEV...I scratched my head when I ran into it while solving. I polled a few Jewish friends afterward, and indeed KISLEV is important because of its relation to Hanukkah, so I'm glad to have learned it. But IYAR, ELUL, and SIVAN, you're on notice.

This puzzle gets my POW! but let me tell you, we have a couple of stonkers coming up. Gareth Bain assures me that "stonker" means "something good". It's possible he's pulling my leg, but I like the word too much not to use it. "Stonker of the Week", that's catchy.

1
V
2
O
3
L
4
S
5
C
6
O
7
P
8
T
9
O
10
S
11
L
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A
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V
14
A
V
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W
15
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16
H
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V
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N
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18
G
E
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A
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A
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V
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26
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27
A
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28
K
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V
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V
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G
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N
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O
W
L
34
R
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35
V
36
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37
V
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38
W
H
O
39
L
O
A
40
D
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V
E
N
42
L
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A
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C
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A
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G
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M
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© 2013, The New York TimesNo. 1001 ( 23,338 )
Across Down
1. Tennessee team, for short : VOLS
5. Acknowledge as true : COPTO
10. Pole or Czech : SLAV
14. Admit openly : AVOW
15. Often-maligned relative : INLAW
16. ___ mind : HIVE
17. Blue-skinned race in "Avatar" : NAVI
18. With 50-Across, it's represented by 15 squares in an appropriate arrangement in this puzzle : GEESE
19. Some Monopoly purchases: Abbr. : AVES
20. French pupil : ELEVE
22. Grandpa on "The Simpsons" : ABE
23. Boot : EVICT
24. Live it up : REVEL
26. N.F.L. player with a black helmet : RAVEN
28. Hebrew month when Hanukkah starts : KISLEV
30. Richard Branson's airline company : VIRGIN
33. Hundred Acre Wood resident : OWL
34. Place to hear fire and brimstone : REVIVAL
38. Personal question? : WHO
39. Washing machine contents : LOAD
41. David of "The Pink Panther" : NIVEN
42. Rear half of a griffin : LION
43. Writer Katherine ___ Porter : ANNE
44. Barely adequate : SCANT
45. Iams competitor : ALPO
46. 1943 penny material : STEEL
48. Suffix with meth- or prop- : ANE
49. What you might buy a flight with : MILES
50. See 18-Across : MIGRATION
53. Place with complimentary bathrobes : SPA
56. Pronoun for Miss Piggy : MOI
57. Rodeway ___ : INN
58. Past the expiration date : BAD
61. Ship sinker : TORPEDO
63. Pep up : ANIMATE
65. "Not my call" : UPTOYOU
66. Words of encouragement : NICEJOB
67. Calls it quits : DESISTS
68. Weatherproofing stuff : SEALANT
1. Revolver with the letters N-E-W-S : VANE
2. Speed skater's path : OVAL
3. Make-out session spot : LOVERSLANE
4. Spin, as an office chair : SWIVEL
5. It might be bummed : CIG
6. Basketball player who starred in "Kazaam" : ONEAL
7. Commoner : PLEB
8. Police stun gun : TASER
9. "I ___ you one" : OWE
10. Barber, at times : SHAVER
11. Medical directive : LIVINGWILL
12. With, on le menu : AVEC
13. Item under a jacket, maybe : VEST
21. At any time : EVER
23. Nefarious : EVIL
25. Roulette bet : EVENS
27. ___-garde : AVANT
28. Caffeine-laden nuts : KOLAS
29. "Not gonna happen" : IWONT
31. Comment made while crossing one's fingers : IHOPE
32. Pitchers' hitless games, in baseball slang : NONOS
35. Experienced through another : VICARIOUS
36. The first Mrs. Trump : IVANA
37. Shakespeare's Antonio and Bassanio, e.g. : VENETIANS
40. Judge : DEEM
42. Reclined : LAIN
47. British sailors : LIMEYS
49. One of the friends on "Friends" : MONICA
51. No-show in a Beckett play : GODOT
52. Certain belly button : INNIE
53. Tuxedo shirt button : STUD
54. St. Peter was the first : POPE
55. B.A. part : ARTS
58. Cabo's peninsula : BAJA
59. Lots : ATON
60. Thing often of interest? : DEBT
62. Hawaiian dish : POI
64. Blanc or Brooks : MEL

Answer summary: 1 unique to this puzzle, 1 debuted here and reused later, 3 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

Found bugs or have suggestions?