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# WINNERS' CIRCLE

## New York Times, Sunday, October 26, 2014

 Author: Caleb Emmons Editor: Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
66/21/20127/28/20150
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
1011300
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.72110

## This puzzle:

Rows: 21, Columns: 21 Words: 140, Blocks: 80 Missing: {Q} This is puzzle # 3 for Mr. Emmons. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Notepad: When this puzzle is completed, the eight circled letters, starting in the upper left and proceeding roughly clockwise, will spell an appropriate word... or a different appropriate word.
Caleb Emmons notes: I had been knocking around the idea of having some theme answers 'override' others for quite awhile before I came up with the idea of using famous matchups from history and popular culture. At first, I just ... more
Caleb Emmons notes: I had been knocking around the idea of having some theme answers "override" others for quite awhile before I came up with the idea of using famous matchups from history and popular culture. At first, I just thought the "winner" of the battle would claim the square and that would be that. But then there would be no rhyme or reason to where the opponents would cross. So the idea of using the winning — and losing — letters to spell something meaningful came to me.

My first try was the pair CHAMP/LOSER in a 15x15 grid, but it turned out that was too small to accommodate that much theme material. (Not to mention, I didn't really feel comfortable calling GM Kasparov a "loser.") So I turned to a 21x21 grid.

The grid was terrible to create (just ask my wife) since the theme pairs had to cross in exact spots, the pairs in a given order, and the non-matching length themers had to fit into a symmetric grid. Only two of the "cheater" black squares in the grid are really cheaters; the rest were necessitated by fitting the theme entries. Once the theme entries were placed, there was almost no choice for where the rest of the black squares could go without chopping into the non-symmetrically placed themers.

Filling a grid with such constraints was truly a, um, battle. The struggle was real, but I'm very happy to be in the, uh, winner's circle, with my first Sunday in the NYT! And though my original title ("Clash of the Typos") was defeated, my favorite clue (67-Across) did survive the editorial process! Victory lap!

Jeff Chen notes: It's pretty rare that I see a new type of theme I don't remember seeing before, and today's concept gave me a great big smile. There have been a lot of Schrödingers now as well as pairs of answers crossing for ... more
Jeff Chen notes: It's pretty rare that I see a new type of theme I don't remember seeing before, and today's concept gave me a great big smile. There have been a lot of Schrödingers now as well as pairs of answers crossing for various reasons, but this idea felt fresh and new to me. I love seeing the innovation. Caleb picked pairs of well-known adversaries; the crossing squares contain a different letter in the across and the down directions; one set of letters spells CHAMPION and the other spells DEFEATED. Made for a really enjoyable solve for me.

Caleb's not kidding — puzzles with crossing themers are tough. It's especially difficult to create smooth fill right around those intersection points, so I was impressed that he didn't really need more glue-y answers than average. And check out the HERCULES and HYDRA region, excellent construction. The letters right around the special square — Y / U / R / R — create all sort of constraints to work with. I love what Caleb has done with this NW corner. It's a big chunk of white space to fill; an audacious target given how difficult it usually is to work with crossing answers. And to kick off a puzzle with SCHLUBS is beautiful. Great use of a cheater square in the very NW corner.

Caleb also does a nice job of separating his themers with black squares. Enough separation to be able to fill around one pair of themers at a time, but not too much as to choke off puzzle flow. The only area that gave me a pause was where KING KONG / GODZILLA and TORTOISE / HARE flowed together. COERCIVELY is such a long slot to fill (not a lot of flexibility) that it's hard to avoid odd bits like OTILDE (although I'm still undecided as to whether it's actually awesome). Similarly, in the symmetrical section, that region where two sets of themers flow together gets us the awkward partial IS MAN and the sticky bit of AME. However, that region is adorned with the beautiful ACID JAZZ — impressive to work that in.

I would have liked for there to be more symmetry in the theme answers. I know how challenging that would have been to do — it must have been hard enough to simply find enough pairs that worked with the required letters. Even to have the longest ones paired up = I wouldn't have thought twice. Or to have all the CHAMPION letters used only in the across direction, and all the DEFEATED letters used in the down? And I know it would be a huge stretch, but even better would be if the eight special squares had been symmetrically paired — could have made for amazing elegance.

All that said though, I admire the novelty of this puzzle. What's most important for me these days is the delight level a crossword provides, and I had so much fun solving this one.

 1S 2C 3H 4L 5U 6B 7S 8S 9A 10L 11S 12A 13S 14AF 15L 16I 17P L A Y A R E A 18C C L A M P 19A 20C O I N 21H E R CD U L E S 22H HE C T O R 23I R R E G 24S W O R N 25P E 26P S I 27I N A 28T R E E 29S L A C 30K E S T 31L 32E N G T H 33S M 34O 35G 36H E R 37B 38E L A 39E 40S C A R P 41J 42A 43S 44P E R 45O P E R 46A 47S P L E N D A 48A C T O R 49G 50L A S S 51B 52A T ME A N 53C H A N 54C O A T I 55B I E N 56T 57R 58A 59P 60K I N G 61K O ND G 62L 63E 64G A L A G 65E 66A R I 67P E Z 68F E Z 69F O T O S 70M U D 71T I A 72O V A 73C R I 74M I N A L 75A C I D 76J A Z Z 77T E S 78T 79C L A N 80I 81S M A N 82A T O Z 83O 84T I L D E 85B A U E R 86D I A N A 87K 88E 89D R O V A 90D 91A V IT D 92D E L T A S 93P L A T T E 94H I H O 95T I E 96H A R OE 97L 98O 99C 100C I T 101K 102A S P PA 103R 104O 105V 106L I 107L Y P A D 108A 109M U S E 110B A S I 111L 112R 113A I S E 114I N R 115O M E 116S T 117A L B A N S 118A N N E X 119U T O P I A 120A S S U A G E D 121W I G 122M O M E N T 123D E L E T E S
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