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New York Times, Friday, October 10, 2014

Author:
David Steinberg
Editor:
Will Shortz
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86691132242
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1.645183
David Steinberg

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 62, Blocks: 36 Missing: {JKQZ} This is puzzle # 32 for Mr. Steinberg. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
David Steinberg notes:
I constructed this puzzle in March 2013. I had been experimenting with repeated bigrams along the staircases of wide-open grids, and ... read more

I constructed this puzzle in March 2013. I had been experimenting with repeated bigrams along the staircases of wide-open grids, and CH seemed like a natural choice since, as I discovered, many fun words and phrases start with these two letters. Also, CH is a somewhat Scrabbly bigram, though it doesn't come close to ZZ (which I used in another puzzle constructed a couple months earlier)! The string of CH entries limited my options for the rest of the nonthematic fill, though I'm very pleased with how this one turned out. The only entry I'm not particularly fond of in the middle section is ENISLE, though hopefully this tougher word won't leave too many solvers AT SEA! In an effort to make the other corners as clean as possible, I ended up using a handful of cheater squares. I'm glad that a large percentage of my original clues survived or received only minor surgery — some of my favorites are "Ranch dressing?" for OVERALLS and "Low-tech hacker?" for POLE-AX.

This puzzle marks the end of my 62-word grid phase — I've found that I prefer grids with higher word counts because they allow me to squeeze in more fresh entries and are less sectioned off. Happy solving — and for all you fans of puzzles with low word counts, I may well construct a few more for variety's sake in the near future!

Will Shortz notes:
Do you like the 'stairstep' of CH- answers running through the middle of the grid? David's construction is very handsome, but I worry ... read more

Do you like the "stairstep" of CH- answers running through the middle of the grid? David's construction is very handsome, but I worry that the CH- pattern makes the puzzle a little too predictable.

Jeff Chen notes:
David has been exploring with this stair-step, low word-count themeless grid style, as you can see in his thumbnails. It's hard enough ... read more

David has been exploring with this stair-step, low word-count themeless grid style, as you can see in his thumbnails. It's hard enough to fill these huge swaths of white space with colorful and clean entries, but David takes it one step further with his bigram experimentation. I like the efforts to achieve something new.

I also like that David used two strong, snazzy entries to connect the three segments of his grid. YOU CHEATED! and CHATTERBOX are my favorite entries — it's nice that they're the ones that meld the puzzle together. It's not ideal that the three segments are so partitioned, so it's much appreciated that these two entries both got relatively easy clues. Not sure that I would have actually broken into the SE mini-puzzle without it.

I also like the heavenly mini-theme running through the SW. The clue for APOLO is nice enough in itself, but having Helios and Mars both referenced is a nice touch.

As with quad-stacks or other stunt grid types, I tend to give them more leeway when they first appear on the scene, and I gradually revert to normal criteria as I see more and more of them. This one has some nice entries, but there aren't quite enough fantastic ones for my taste. So many of the seven-letter entries across the middle are one word, and are not necessarily standout. CHOCULA was fun, CHINNED sounded forced (did a one-armed chin-up = yes! chinned = ?), but the rest fell more into neutral territory for me.

All in all, a interesting continuation of this 62-word grid style, with not as much colorful language as I'd like in a themeless. I'm impressed that David has the self-awareness to recognize that this style limits his freedom. It's a rare constructor that can break out of established patterns and continue pushing the envelope in new ways.

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© 2014, The New York TimesNo. 1010 ( 23,712 )
Across
1
Major artery : FREEWAY
8
No longer under consideration : DEAD
12
"Absolutely!" : PLEASEDO
13
Raid target : PANTY
14
Something a bride brings to a marriage : TROUSSEAU
15
Originate : ARISE
16
Like some nuts : ROASTED
17
Black-and-white : CRUISER
19
Sunroof, maybe : OPTION
20
Count at the breakfast table : CHOCULA
21
Golden Gophers' sch. : UMINN
22
Woman's shift : CHEMISE
23
Guilty sensation : PANG
24
Italian red : CHIANTI
25
Bath site: Abbr. : ENG
26
Number 10-Down : CHANTEY
27
Routes: Abbr. : RDS
30
Indian condiment : CHUTNEY
31
Sugar source : BEET
32
Was a hit, say : CHARTED
33
Ballerina descriptor : PRIMA
34
Blackened : CHARRED
35
Showed unhappiness, in a way : MOANED
36
Mars, notably : WARRIOR
37
1949 show tune with the lyric "Here am I, your special island!" : BALIHAI
38
Olympian's first name that sounds like another Olympian's name : APOLO
39
Site of the largest sports arena in Europe : BARCELONA
41
Cupid's teammate : COMET
42
Ranch dressing? : OVERALLS
43
Small change : ONES
44
Quickly reproduced : XEROXED
Down
1
Suggesting, as an idea : FLOATING
2
Extending the life of : REUSING
3
City where the Lehigh and Delaware Rivers meet : EASTON
4
Scene of W.W. II airstrikes : ESSEN
5
Do some yard work : WEED
6
Org. concerned with bridges and canals : ADA
7
"Unfair!" : YOUCHEATED
8
Persian ruler dubbed "the Great" : DARIUSI
9
Strand, in a way : ENISLE
10
See 26-Across : ATSEA
11
One changing locks? : DYER
12
Stage assistant : PROPMAN
13
Dearth : PAUCITY
14
Play group : TROUPE
18
Presidential candidate who wrote "No Apology" : ROMNEY
20
Pulled up to a bar : CHINNED
22
Yakker : CHATTERBOX
24
Spanish/Mexican pastry : CHURRO
26
Transportation for Helios : CHARIOT
27
Judge of movies : REINHOLD
28
Slights : DEMEANS
29
Large bowls : STADIA
30
River that flows past four universities : CHARLES
31
Touch-type? : BRAILLE
32
2014 Kentucky Derby winner California ___ : CHROME
33
Low-tech hacker? : POLEAX
34
Dinner chicken : CAPON
35
Certain shortcut : MACRO
36
Only major U.S. city with a radio station whose call letters spell the city's name : WACO
37
Title in children's literature : BRER
40
Hail and farewell : AVE

Answer summary: 2 unique to this puzzle, 1 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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