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New York Times, Saturday, October 12, 2013

Author:
John Farmer
Editor:
Will Shortz
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331/25/20061/29/20150
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21361083
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1.64275
John Farmer

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 72, Blocks: 29 Missing: {JKQV} This is puzzle # 31 for Mr. Farmer. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
John Farmer notes:
Filling a grid is an act of discovery as much as construction. Construction implies you know the end product before you begin, as if ... read more

Filling a grid is an act of discovery as much as construction. Construction implies you know the end product before you begin, as if working off a blueprint. Maybe there's something to that when building a themed puzzle.

Making a themeless puzzle is different. More like a journey, you pick a place to start, head off in one direction or another, not sure what you'll find but hoping for memorable encounters as you try to reach the other end or come full circle. In this case, I set out from the northwest, traveled south, then east, and finally up north again. For the most part, not a bad ride. Every section has a thing or two worth the visit — a lively answer, a clever clue, pleasant accommodations.

One spot where I feared the wheels were coming off was the middle. My attempts to avoid F-SHAPED were for naught. But if you can't get around it, you go through it, so that's what I did. Luckily, there is something shaped like the letter F. For anyone unfamiliar with cellos and their sound holes, don't think of a capital F in sans serif font, but a lowercase f in calligraphy. That's a better image, and the reason that musical types call them f-holes.

I also thought twice about TURTLE DIARY. It offered better crossings than the alternatives, but I imagine not everyone knows the movie. I had good memories of it, watched it again this week, and I'm glad I went with it. The film is a small gem, based on a Russell Hoban novel that is now in print again. I give the title a big thumbs up, too — it looks good in the grid. And it is the end of the week, so why not?

Will Shortz notes:
Lots of great entries in this grid. Besides the wonderful NASTYGRAM at 1A, I especially like CAMERA SHY, EYE EXAM, BAD END, POOL ... read more

Lots of great entries in this grid. Besides the wonderful NASTYGRAM at 1A, I especially like CAMERA SHY, EYE EXAM, BAD END, POOL HALLS, DEATH STAR, AALIYAH, NOBODYS HOME, SLY FOX, and OMAHA BEACH. I could do without SDI, which is over 25 years old and something you don't hear much about anymore. In fact, I'd like to see this entry banned. In this particular puzzle, though, it helps set up too much other good stuff, so I made an exception. BTW, John Farmer writes great clues. Nearly all of today's are his.

Jeff Chen notes:
Nice puzzle from John today, with a highlight of NOBODYS HOME and its brilliant clue. Bravo as well for the misdirectional clue 'John ... read more

Nice puzzle from John today, with a highlight of NOBODYS HOME and its brilliant clue. Bravo as well for the misdirectional clue "John Paul's successor", referring to John Paul Stevens, not Pope John Paul (I or II). I tried LEOIX, LEOXI, PIUSI, etc. until I realized that both Pope John Pauls were recent. I blame the fact that my buddy Merlin gave me his backward-progressing timeline. I'll tell you all about tomorrow's puzzle yesterday.

Quite a bit of good stuff in this puzzle, as Will mentioned. The SE stack in particular is fantastic, with not only three great answers but two more (RED ZONE and SPAMALOT) crossing them all. Now that's a beautiful piece of construction. I also appreciated how little dreck John incorporated overall. APTER isn't great ("more apt" being more common) and ULCER feels a bit grim, but overall, excellent work.

TURTLE DIARY: curious choice of answer. There are only two slots for 11-letter entries, and at first, I winced when I needed most of the crossings to uncover what seemed to be two random words strung together. After some searching, I found that the movie made $2.2M domestically. Yes, Harold Pinter (definitely gridworthy, Nobelist in Literature) wrote the script for TURTLE DIARY, but it still feels a touch questionable. I was curious if it was a necessary evil to make CAMERA SHY/EYE EXAM/BAD END section possible, or if it was a seed entry, so I'm very glad John weighed in on that (I will see it, John, thanks for the recommendation!). As for F SHAPED, I played cello for 20 years, so from my perspective, F SHAPED was both a gimme and an asset to the puzzle. The great thing about the diversity of constructors is that we as solvers get exposed to a huge range of subjects.

Finally, I love the fact that Will points out an entry he wants to see less (or none) of. SDI was an important acronym 30 years ago, but it's faded into the background by this point. It's important for crosswords to evolve, to keep relevant to people's lives, and I enjoy observing this process of adaptation. I really appreciate hardly ever seeing ADIT (esoteric term for a mine opening) anymore: ADIT instances in the Maleska era = well over 100 (in the puzzles litzed so far), in the Shortz era = 20.

Excellent Saturday challenge.

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© 2013, The New York TimesNo. 1012 ( 23,349 )

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Students & seniors
Across
1. Angry missive : NASTYGRAM
10. Body parts often targeted by masseurs : NAPES
15. Trailing : INTHEREAR
16. Hatch in the upper house : ORRIN
17. Chutes behind boats : PARASAILS
18. Treaty of Sycamore Shoals negotiator, 1775 : BOONE
19. Taking forever : SLOW
20. Antimissile plan, for short : SDI
21. Part of Duchamp's parody of the "Mona Lisa" : GOATEE
22. Octane booster brand : STP
24. San ___, Calif. (border town opposite Tijuana) : YSIDRO
26. Discount ticket letters : SRO
29. In the main : USUALLY
31. Stuffed bear voiced by Seth MacFarlane : TED
34. Not likely to be a "cheese" lover? : CAMERASHY
36. Pens for tablets : STYLI
38. Learn to live with : ADAPTTO
39. Like the sound holes of a cello : FSHAPED
41. 1986 Indy 500 champion : RAHAL
42. Champion : PROPONENT
44. Venetian mapmaker ___ Mauro : FRA
45. Driver's license requirement : EYEEXAM
47. Portugal's Palácio de ___ Bento : SAO
48. What a movie villain often comes to : BADEND
50. Faced : MET
52. Enter as a mediator : STEPIN
54. Tribe whose sun symbol is on the New Mexico flag : ZIA
56. Grandson of Abraham : ESAU
60. Roadster from Japan : MIATA
61. Sites for shark sightings : POOLHALLS
63. Gut trouble : ULCER
64. Group in a star's orbit : ENTOURAGE
65. Disney Hall architect : GEHRY
66. Sci-fi battle site : DEATHSTAR
Down
1. Beats at the buzzer, say : NIPS
2. Like a control freak : ANAL
3. Houston ballplayer, in sports shorthand : STRO
4. Spring events : THAWS
5. Word spoken 90 times in Molly Bloom's soliloquy : YES
6. Desperately tries to get : GRASPSAT
7. "Criminal Minds" agent with an I.Q. of 187 : REID
8. Singer of the #1 single "Try Again," 2000 : AALIYAH
9. Half a couple : MRS
10. Vacancy clause? : NOBODYSHOME
11. Like the crowd at a campaign rally : AROAR
12. Some mock-ups : PROTOTYPES
13. One in a Kindergarten? : EINE
14. Three-time All-Pro guard Chris : SNEE
21. Owen Wilson's "Midnight in Paris" role : GIL
23. Glenda Jackson/Ben Kingsley film scripted by Harold Pinter : TURTLEDIARY
25. Cunning one : SLYFOX
26. Wolf (down) : SCARF
27. ___ gun : RADAR
28. Battle site of June 6, 1944 : OMAHABEACH
30. Grand Slam event : USOPEN
32. John Paul's successor : ELENA
33. Inflicted on : DIDTO
35. Green org. : EPA
37. Shade that fades : TAN
40. Musical with a cow that's catapulted over a castle : SPAMALOT
43. Area inside the 20, in football : REDZONE
46. Appetite : YEN
49. More likely : APTER
51. Sadness symbolized : TEARS
52. Complacent : SMUG
53. Plaza square, maybe : TILE
55. Least bit : IOTA
57. Blind strip : SLAT
58. Morsel for a guppy : ALGA
59. One with a password, say : USER
61. Street crosser, briefly : PED
62. "You wanna run that by me again?" : HUH

Answer summary: 7 unique to this puzzle, 1 debuted here and reused later, 4 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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