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New York Times, Saturday, October 24, 2015

Author:
Andrew Zhou
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
1711/11/20101/5/20190
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3021533
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.62241
Andrew Zhou

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 68, Blocks: 34 Missing: {JWXZ} This is puzzle # 2 for Mr. Zhou. Jeff Chen's Puzzle of the Week pick. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Andrew Zhou notes:
I'm pleased to make a comeback after a single, rather controversial outing a few years ago. I soon realized that cutting your teeth on ... read more

I'm pleased to make a comeback after a single, rather controversial outing a few years ago. I soon realized that cutting your teeth on themeless puzzles is probably the most intensive way of getting better at construction in general. A phrase like VANITY PRESS is ideal to me, because 1) it's a new entry for a Times puzzle, 2) it has so much personality, and 3) it's decipherable as a phrase even without prior knowledge, meaning it passes my "learnable moment" test. As a musician who currently finds himself at a highly academic institution, I love it.

Jacques LACAN may seem obscure, but he is UBER-big in academia (I originally had "'Hysteric's Discourse' psychoanalyst" hoping some solvers would lay down FREUD). KICK ME SIGNS are ... also big in academic settings? (Although, honestly, more cultural trope than reality? Tell me, world!) NIQAB and ARAB conversing with each another at the top is nice, though I hope implication of any sort of one-to-one between them has been avoided.

My non-reliance on any sort of autofill — does that qualify these puzzles as "artisanal"? — has taught me to think creatively about longer entries. ADULT SITES and BLANK CDS came about this way — it is always my hope that the quality of the seed entries and non-seed entries are near to each other enough that it becomes hard to tell which came first.

Thanks to Will and Joel for most of the clues and for a mild redo of the SE corner. The isolation there isn't ideal, but opening it up a bit would have meant undoing the central weave. I'm happy to see Will stuck more or less to the flavor of my original clues for 1D and 34A. My clue for 21D (BEDTIME STORY) was originally "Its end is rarely reached," but the published one is more on point. The transformation of 27D (CHESS) is just hilarious: my original clue was "Speed ___."

Jeff Chen notes:
Really dug this one. I like odd grid patterns, and this one has a cool-looking middle. Slant-stacks (answers on top of each other but ... read more

Really dug this one. I like odd grid patterns, and this one has a cool-looking middle. Slant-stacks (answers on top of each other but shifted) are easier to create than straight-up stacks because the ends have fewer constraints, but they're still hard. And running EIGHT long answers through them — that's notable.

Barrel organ, sadly with no monkey

Now, Andrew doesn't have a huge number of long slots in this grid — just 13 that are 8+ letters long — and most of them are located in that tough-to-build middle section. With only 13 long slots, it's important to me to get most all of them converted into great material. Andrew delivers, with KICK ME SIGNS and BARREL ORGANS my favorites.

The only one that's neutral in my eyes is SOLVENTS, and even that could have been made into an asset with a more interesting clue. With a more esoteric chemistry answer like ENOL or AMINE, you need a straightforward clue. SOLVENTS I think is well-known enough to be fair game for a clever clue, though.

I think a great puzzle should have (assets minus liabilities > ~10), so did Andrew hold his liabilities to three or less? EROO sticks out like a sore thumb, an inelegant suffix. Hard to avoid in that tough south section, what with BEDTIME STORY, ALPINE LAKE, and DENSE FOG bordering it. But other than that … SSA is minor (Social Security Administration), and AGE ONE is iffy to me. It is an important age milestone though, so I give it a pass.

Some might complain about NIQAB — I plunked in HIJAB as I think many will — but I like how these ported words have multiple acceptable spellings.

The NW corner, which was too sectioned off from the rest of the puzzle for my taste, had the one real worry for me. As I was solving, I had 14-A [Toughen] as ?NURE. I was rooting so hard for it to be the spelling I knew from before I started crosswords: INURE (not ENURE). Whew!

Overall, enough assets to overcome the small number of liabilities, plus a cool-looking grid. A great solve.

1
N
2
I
3
Q
4
A
5
B
6
A
7
R
8
A
9
B
10
A
11
T
12
M
13
S
14
I
N
U
R
E
15
D
O
R
A
16
S
H
O
O
17
E
V
O
K
E
18
U
B
E
R
19
H
E
R
R
20
C
I
T
I
21
B
L
E
A
R
22
S
23
B
A
R
24
E
V
E
N
25
B
E
T
S
26
E
O
27
C
E
N
E
28
S
O
D
29
L
D
S
30
A
L
L
H
A
I
L
31
L
A
T
I
32
N
L
O
V
E
R
S
33
V
A
N
I
T
Y
P
R
E
S
S
34
K
I
C
K
M
E
S
I
G
N
S
35
A
I
R
A
C
E
S
36
N
A
T
37
G
38
P
39
A
40
G
R
I
N
D
S
41
D
E
N
S
42
E
F
O
G
43
E
S
L
44
S
T
45
E
E
L
S
46
M
O
T
H
47
O
T
I
48
S
49
O
R
C
A
50
P
A
R
T
A
51
N
E
T
S
52
R
O
O
K
53
D
I
C
E
S
54
E
N
Y
A
55
Y
O
R
E
56
A
L
E
R
T
© 2015, The New York TimesNo. 1024 ( 24,091 )
Across
1
Cover for a Muslim woman's face : NIQAB
6
1-Across wearer, e.g. : ARAB
10
Ones passing notes? : ATMS
14
Toughen : INURE
15
Pseudonym of Freud's famed hysteria patient : DORA
16
Dismiss unceremoniously : SHOO
17
Stir up : EVOKE
18
Really, informally : UBER
19
Mister abroad : HERR
20
Bank opening? : CITI
21
Dims : BLEARS
23
Cosmopolitan place : BAR
24
They're 50-50 : EVENBETS
26
Epoch when horses first appeared : EOCENE
28
Course material, maybe : SOD
29
Religious grp. observing Family Home Evening : LDS
30
Lead-in to an exalted leader's name : ALLHAIL
31
Don Juans : LATINLOVERS
33
Publishing option when all else fails : VANITYPRESS
34
Things some people need to get off their backs : KICKMESIGNS
35
Some Medal of Honor recipients : AIRACES
36
Faxon who won a 2011 screenwriting Oscar : NAT
37
Sch. yardstick : GPA
40
8:00-6:00 routines, say : GRINDS
41
Pea soup : DENSEFOG
43
What you might hear halting speech in, for short : ESL
44
Toughens : STEELS
46
Fly-by-night? : MOTH
47
Moving walkway maker : OTIS
49
Willy of the "Free Willy" movies, e.g. : ORCA
50
Section one : PARTA
51
Ends up with : NETS
52
Starter on square a1, h1, a8 or h8 : ROOK
53
Cubes : DICES
54
Singer who has recorded in Tolkien's Elvish language : ENYA
55
Old : YORE
56
See 42-Down : ALERT
Down
1
Two of Ferdinand VII's wives, to Ferdinand VII : NIECES
2
How many experiments are done : INVIVO
3
Like Yogi Berra, often : QUOTED
4
"Little Miss Sunshine" Oscar winner : ARKIN
5
Fancier of melliferous plants : BEE
6
Net Nanny no-nos : ADULTSITES
7
Pre-bout wear : ROBES
8
Scope : AREA
9
Instruments for old street musicians : BARRELORGANS
10
What a firefighter might leave footprints in : ASH
11
N.F.L. record-holder for most retired jersey numbers : THEBEARS
12
"Honey, I Shrunk the Kids" star : MORANIS
13
Chestnut : SORREL
21
A tot often goes out in the middle of it : BEDTIMESTORY
22
Nail polish removers, e.g. : SOLVENTS
25
You might give them away after burning them : BLANKCDS
27
"As elaborate a waste of human intelligence as you could find anywhere outside an advertising agency," per Raymond Chandler : CHESS
30
Tahoe, e.g. : ALPINELAKE
31
Jacques ___, French psychoanalyst who studied hysteria : LACAN
32
Its motto is "Excelsior": Abbr. : NYS
33
Manliness : VIRILITY
34
Sen. Gillibrand : KIRSTEN
35
When preliminary steps are taken? : AGEONE
37
Experience of riding a roller coaster : GFORCE
38
Vase maker : POTTER
39
Shocked : AGHAST
41
Look inside? : DECOR
42
With 56-Across, a smartphone notification : EMAIL
45
Sock attachment? : EROO
48
Org. with an annual list of top baby names : SSA
50
Reason for some averted looks, for short : PDA

Answer summary: 9 unique to this puzzle, 1 debuted here and reused later, 1 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

Found bugs or have suggestions?