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New York Times, Friday, October 4, 2019

Author:
Matthew Sewell
Editor:
Will Shortz
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118/24/201610/4/20191
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2104121
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1.64121
Matthew Sewell

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 68, Blocks: 37 Missing: {BJZ} This is puzzle # 11 for Mr. Sewell. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Matthew Sewell notes:
Solvers might be surprised to learn that 1-Across wasn't a seed entry for this puzzle; it wasn't even in the original submitted ... read more

Solvers might be surprised to learn that 1-Across wasn't a seed entry for this puzzle; it wasn't even in the original submitted version. This puzzle began with the grid shape, which seemed interesting somehow (it's unusual in having a relatively low number of Across entries). I did the middle first, which I do NOT recommend as a construction strategy, and generated a number of variants for the big corners in the NW and SE.

The first version avoided infelicities like 6-Down at the expense of liveliness, and was rightly returned with a polite, "close but no cigar." I swapped in the corners you see today and tried my luck a second time, and I hope solvers enjoy the result. My thanks to Will Shortz and the rest of the puzzle team for their improvements to the finished product.

Jeff Chen notes:
Third day in a row where a bit of the constructor shines through! Matt is a professor, so I smiled, seeing the god of wisdom ERUDITE ... read more

Third day in a row where a bit of the constructor shines through! Matt is a professor, so I smiled, seeing the god of wisdom ERUDITE (rhymes with Aphrodite).

Ha, ha, of course, it's pronounced like "bite," as in a "crudite" platter, containing little food bites. Duh!

This is why I should never use the word ERUDITE in one of my puzzles. Seems appropriate that it crosses (the fantastic) I RUE THE DAY.

Brilliant clue for ESCAPE ROOM. The term has been in many crosswords by now, but playing on "outgoing people" is sheer erudité.

I enjoy themelesses that feature most of the flashy answers going in the across direction. That's not easy to accomplish – most themelesses have about half their feature entries across and half down, for ease of construction – but it makes them so much more pleasant to read as a solver. Getting HELLION, GREEN LIGHT, NON FACTORS, HETERONYMS, and PIEROGI all horizontally, made the puzzle feel more jam-packed with goodness than usual.

I got a little worried when uncovering GDR / OED / ACA right off the bat. These are decent entries, but having three initialisms bunched together isn't elegant. GDR, in particular, is a toughie – my sad geography knowledge had me wondering … Great … Democratic … Republic?

HA I GOT THE LAST TWO WORDS RIGHT, SUCKA!

Okay, maybe GDR (German Democratic Republic, another name for East Germany), isn't such a decent entry. Will Shortz is particular about initialisms that aren't universally known (think USA), since if you don't know them, there's no way to figure it out without the crosses.

Nor is OSA, a bit of crosswordese Will is trying to stamp out. These little 4x3 chunks (from OSA to the right) seem like they should be the easiest part of a triple-stack to fill, but they're often the most problematic. If one of them had been expanded into a 4-letter word, that would have given a lot more flexibility.

Overall, though, a lot to love in this one. I appreciate when constructors use difficult grid patterns in an attempt to make the solving experience more pleasurable.

1
S
2
Q
3
U
4
A
5
D
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G
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O
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A
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L
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M
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N
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F
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© 2019, The New York TimesNo. 1004 ( 25,532 )
Across
1
Aspirations for a group of friends : SQUADGOALS
11
Put in a hold : STOW
15
Pet that makes frequent use of a door flap : OUTSIDECAT
16
Jumble : HASH
17
Part of a romantic evening : DINNERDATE
18
Toll unit : AXLE
19
Do to ___ : ATEE
20
Wild troublemaker : HELLION
22
Activity for outgoing people? : ESCAPEROOM
27
Paradigms : IDEALS
28
One sense : SMELL
31
O.K. : GREENLIGHT
34
Part of a dim sum meal : TEA
35
Professorial : ERUDITE
36
Clothing : RAIMENT
38
Something fabulous : LIE
39
They don't come into play : NONFACTORS
41
It may hang from a chain : IDTAG
43
Compares (to) : LIKENS
44
Polish and polish, e.g. : HETERONYMS
47
Polish dish : PIEROGI
49
Ruthless sort : OGRE
53
Forest Service's agcy. : USDA
54
Natural moisturizer in some cosmetics : AVOCADOOIL
59
Outright : FLAT
60
Make drinkable, in a way : DESALINATE
61
Actress Marsay of "Game of Thrones" : FAYE
62
Sirius, for one : STARSYSTEM
Down
1
Gin fizz ingredient : SODA
2
Bail : QUIT
3
Alternative media magazine, informally : UTNE
4
Medical directive : ASNEEDED
5
Fizzle : DIE
6
Warsaw Pact member west of Poland, for short : GDR
7
Where "♥" has appeared since 2011, in brief : OED
8
Legislative landmark of '10 : ACA
9
Shop spinner : LATHE
10
Drive ... or part of a drive : STEER
11
Peace in the Mideast : SHALOM
12
They run while you ride : TAXIMETERS
13
City where "Peer Gynt" premiered : OSLO
14
"That's enough" : WHEN
21
Something that might be turned in to security : LOSTITEM
23
Handling : SEEINGTO
24
Division of a poem : CANTO
25
Director Irwin famous for disaster films : ALLEN
26
Inflation fig. : PSI
27
Expression of regret : IRUETHEDAY
29
Part of the eye : LENS
30
Exempli gratia, e.g.: Abbr. : LAT
31
Electrical ___ : GRID
32
Mill fill : GRAIN
33
Unoriginal, as a comedian : HACKY
35
"My God!," in Hebrew : ELI
37
Rainmakers? : MONSOONS
40
Spokeswoman in some insurance commercials : FLO
42
Make bubbly : AERATE
45
"Crikey!" : EGADS
46
Transfix : RIVET
47
What an out-of-shape person might do while exercising : PUFF
48
Spanish key : ISLA
50
Charge : GOAT
51
Church observance : RITE
52
He, but not she: Abbr. : ELEM
55
___ Mayor (Spanish constellation) : OSA
56
Token in The Game of Life : CAR
57
Hangout for the Fonz : ALS
58
Kind of home project, for short : DIY

Answer summary: 9 unique to this puzzle, 2 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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