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New York Times, Thursday, October 15, 2015

Author:
Kevin G. Der
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
403/12/200710/13/20182
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122124118
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.65865
Kevin G. Der

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 84, Blocks: 54 Missing: {JQX} This is puzzle # 35 for Mr. Der. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Notepad: We asked some favorite Times crossword contributors, "What would you like to do in a daily Times crossword that has never been done before?" This week's puzzles, Monday to Saturday, are the result.
Kevin G. Der notes:
I submitted this puzzle about a year and half ago, and fortunately it ended up fitting into this special week. I tend to like the ... read more

I submitted this puzzle about a year and half ago, and fortunately it ended up fitting into this special week. I tend to like the rebus puzzles that have a reason for the rebus squares to exist, and creating dense shapes in the grid with rebus squares was something I hadn't seen before. A spiral seemed like a visually interesting choice that contrasted with typical crossword symmetry, and it would require a rebus density that was much higher than usual.

The original submission didn't shade the rebus squares, only the black squares that were part of the spiral's path, with a note telling the solver to look for a shape indicated by the theme entries. I slightly doubted that the puzzle was solvable that way because the gimmick is so unexpected, but I just figured Will would make it easier if he thought the same. I think moving the puzzle from its original Saturday spot to a Thursday, and shading the spiral, makes it tractable. Hopefully there's still a challenge in figuring out the theme and that the disruption in pattern matching makes for a unique solving experience. (I'm not afraid that the puzzle is too easy because a test solver already let me know that it was "sadistic." My goal isn't sadism, it's merely to provide a challenge!)

It seemed necessary to include theme entries representing spiral shapes, and I chose ones that spanned a variety of physical scales, as well ones manmade versus found in nature. Unusually, the theme entries are symmetric but their lengths are not, due to the spiral shape. Overall, there were dozens of partially filled grids before arriving at this final result.

Jeff Chen notes:
A very impressive construction given the elaborate theme concept. I'm used to seeing multiple letters in squares on Thursdays, but to ... read more

A very impressive construction given the elaborate theme concept. I'm used to seeing multiple letters in squares on Thursdays, but to have EVERY SQUARE within a long spiral contain double letters? It's a crazy idea, only doable by a select group of constructors. Kevin uses his own custom construction software, so I imagine he coded some special functions to help him fill this one.

Inside the GUGGENHEIM

Neat to get some theme material besides just the idea of "spiral where every cell gets two letters." SNAIL SHELL, GUGGENHEIM, and WHIRLPOOL (and YULE LOG and MILKY WAY!) are good examples of this shape. (The GUGGENHEIM's famous architecture already was memorialized by Liz Gorski, so it didn't have the power for me as it might have had.)

As soon as I cottoned to this theme, I worried about how much glue Kevin would need. Yes, he's a top-notch constructor and programmer, but the level of constraints here are incredibly difficult. I could hardly believe my eyes to get such little glue, only a STATAL, FIT TO, N TEST = nothing major. Well, HUMBUGGED and SIDELINER felt sort of made up, and BESTRODE … okay, maybe that one's fine. Still, for a grid that works in a mind-boggling 25 words of seven letters or longer, it's great work.

As a solver, I found this one really difficult, my brain struggling with trying to fill in two letters at a time. The NW was especially difficult, with the unfortunate STATAL being one of the few entries into that section. I thought the idea was really cool when I first encountered it, but it became so hard to solve that my enjoyment level decreased toward the end.

Overall, I appreciated Kevin's not just pushing the boundaries for this theme week, but demolishing them. I don't know that I ever would have come up with such a crazy idea. Even if I didn't have as much fun solving it as I would have liked, I do admire both the concept and execution.

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© 2015, The New York TimesNo. 1015 ( 24,082 )
Across
1
Did some gardening : HOED
5
Food product whose name is used nowadays mostly in a nonfood way : SPAM
9
Pro-___ : AMS
12
One bit : INTHELEAST
14
Not connected : UNLINKED
15
Danger for a small boat : LEETIDE
17
Puccini title heroine : TOSCA
18
Home that's never left? : SNAILSHELL
20
Working as assigned : ONTASK
22
Orpheus or Spartacus, by birth : THRACIAN
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Swinish sound : OINK
24
Christmas edible : YULELOG
27
Ones powerless to move? : GLIDERS
29
Word with code or road : ACCESS
30
Volcanic peak in the Cascades : SHASTA
32
1978 Superman portrayer : REEVE
33
Mesmerized : RAPT
34
___ be tied : FITTO
36
Follower of "roger," to a radioer : WILCO
39
Like cherries jubilee : FLAMBE
41
Big name in appliances : WHIRLPOOL
42
"Are you joking?" : REALLY
44
Intl. treaty subject : NTEST
45
Pass an exam with flying colors : ACEIT
46
Yuri's love in "Doctor Zhivago" : LARA
47
Flimflams : ROOKS
49
Gazed : PEERED
51
Comfortably warm : TOASTY
52
[How horrible!] : SHUDDER
55
Our place in the universe : MILKYWAY
57
Prefix with -dextrous : AMBI
58
Entree : MAINDISH
62
One of Goya's Black Paintings also known as "El Perro" : THEDOG
63
Frank Lloyd Wright masterpiece, with "the" : GUGGENHEIM
66
Some bandage materials : GAUZES
70
In olden times : AGESAGO
71
Satellite dish precursors : ANTENNAS
72
Companion of Quasimodo : ESMERALDA
73
Drunk's ailment, for short : DTS
74
Prohibitionists : DRYS
75
Picnic side dish : SLAW
Down
1
Help for the flummoxed : HINT
2
Roman emperor who overthrew Galba : OTHO
3
Slippery ones : EELS
4
Certain clergywoman : DEACONESS
5
Phoenix athletes : SUNS
6
Bust supporter : PLINTH
7
Capital ESE of Istanbul : ANKARA
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Ruling family of Florence : MEDICI
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Flagon fillers : ALES
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Socratic ___ : METHOD
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Backup player : SIDELINER
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Relating to national governments : STATAL
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Order with a Grand Lodge : ELKS
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Jessica with an Oscar for "Tootsie" : LANGE
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Smidgen : SKOSH
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Desert bloomer : YUCCAPLANT
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"Step aside, I can help" : LETME
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Certain stovetop hazard : GASFIRE
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Real go-getter : LIVEWIRE
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Pooch's sound : ARF
31
Muffler attachment : TAILPIPE
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Modernize, as machinery : RETOOL
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Until due : TOTERM
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1980s-'90s courtroom drama : LALAW
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Dress shirt insert : COLLARSTAY
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Straddled : BESTRODE
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Hits sharply : WHACKS
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Celebratory cry : YAY
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Financial guru Suze : ORMAN
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Wharton who wrote "Ethan Frome" : EDITH
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1964 Summer Olympics : TOKYOGAMES
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Epic tale : SAGA
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Flimflammed : HUMBUGGED
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Makes cutting remarks toward : DIGSAT
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Places pigeons perch : LEDGES
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Secured : INHAND
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Calorie watcher : DIETER
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Climb (up) : SHINNY
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"Super" parts of the psyche : EGOS
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Church service : MASS
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Eurasia's ___ Mountains : URAL
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Mrs. F. Scott Fitzgerald : ZELDA
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Espied : SAW

Answer summary: 7 unique to this puzzle, 2 debuted here and reused later, 9 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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