|Author:||Kevin G. Der|
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.
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.
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.
|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
23. 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
|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
8. Ruling family of Florence : MEDICI
9. Flagon fillers : ALES
10. Socratic ___ : METHOD
11. Backup player : SIDELINER
13. Relating to national governments : STATAL
16. Order with a Grand Lodge : ELKS
19. Jessica with an Oscar for "Tootsie" : LANGE
21. Smidgen : SKOSH
24. Desert bloomer : YUCCAPLANT
25. "Step aside, I can help" : LETME
26. Certain stovetop hazard : GASFIRE
28. Real go-getter : LIVEWIRE
29. Pooch's sound : ARF
31. Muffler attachment : TAILPIPE
32. Modernize, as machinery : RETOOL
35. Until due : TOTERM
37. 1980s-'90s courtroom drama : LALAW
38. Dress shirt insert : COLLARSTAY
40. Straddled : BESTRODE
41. Hits sharply : WHACKS
43. Celebratory cry : YAY
48. Financial guru Suze : ORMAN
50. Wharton who wrote "Ethan Frome" : EDITH
51. 1964 Summer Olympics : TOKYOGAMES
52. Epic tale : SAGA
53. Flimflammed : HUMBUGGED
54. Makes cutting remarks toward : DIGSAT
56. Places pigeons perch : LEDGES
59. Secured : INHAND
60. Calorie watcher : DIETER
61. Climb (up) : SHINNY
64. "Super" parts of the psyche : EGOS
65. Church service : MASS
67. Eurasia's ___ Mountains : URAL
68. Mrs. F. Scott Fitzgerald : ZELDA
69. Espied : SAW
Answer summary: 8 unique to this puzzle, 1 debuted here and reused later, 9 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.
The grid uses 23 of 26 letters, missing JQX.
It has normal 180-degree rotational crossword symmetry.
Average word length: 4.07, Scrabble score: 281, Scrabble average: 1.64.
Puzzle has 4 fill-in-the-blank clues and 0 cross-reference clues.
This puzzle has 8 unique answer words.
It has 1 word that debuted in this puzzle and was later reused:
These words are unique to the Shortz Era but have appeared in pre-Shortz puzzles:
These 39 answer words are not legal Scrabble™ entries, which sometimes means they are interesting:
|Scrabble Score: 1||2||3||4||5||8||10|
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Crosswords that share the most words with this one (excluding Sundays):
Unusual or long words that appear elsewhere:
Other puzzles with the same block pattern as this one:
Other crosswords with exactly 54 blocks, 84 words, 39 open squares, and an average word length of 4.07:
The next two sections attempt to show how fresh the grid entries are.
In this view, unusual answers are colored depending on how often they have appeared in other puzzles.
Unique answers are in red, red overwrites orange which overwrites yellow, etc.
Cheater squares are indicated with a + sign.
|Unique||1 other||2 others||3 others||4 others|
Freshness Factor is a calculation that compares the number of times words in this puzzle have appeared
in other Shortz Era puzzles.
Click here for an explanation.
The chart below shows how many times each word has been used across all NYT puzzles, old and modern including Variety.
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