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New York Times, Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Author:
Mary Lou Guizzo and Jeff Chen
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
244/17/20143/6/201913
SunMonTueWedThuFriSatVariety
31153641
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.61440
Mary Lou Guizzo
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
997/5/20106/13/201960
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
2578172598
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.636212
Jeff Chen

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 76, Blocks: 40 Missing: {GQW} Spans: 5 This is puzzle # 3 for Ms. Guizzo. This is puzzle # 32 for Mr. Chen. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Constructor notes:
MARY LOU: I enjoyed working with and learning from Jeff. He was very kind and patient mentoring me during the long evolution of this ... read more

MARY LOU: I enjoyed working with and learning from Jeff. He was very kind and patient mentoring me during the long evolution of this puzzle. He designed a grid that highlighted the five theme answers, and we tried to 1.) minimize the unsavory short fill and 2.) make sure no long fill would detract from or be confused with the themers. Thanks to Will Shortz for accepting and editing the puzzle.

I hope you enjoyed solving the puzzle. It was my first acceptance by the NYT, so I was quite elated to receive that "Yes!" email.

Jeff Chen notes:
Working with Mary Lou is a pleasure. She exemplifies one quality I think all good constructors must have: the ability to generate and ... read more

Working with Mary Lou is a pleasure. She exemplifies one quality I think all good constructors must have: the ability to generate and sort through a ton of ideas. I find it takes maybe 10-20 ideas to discover one worthy of publication. Many times a person will give up after two or three theme ideas, but not her — I admire her determination and drive. When people talk about hard work leading to success, that's ML they're talking about.

As for this puzzle, I honestly was only lukewarm on the general idea at first. But when ML found five strong themers that worked, I thought twice. I'm a sucker for Muhammad Ali — "When We Were Kings," a documentary about the Rumble in the Jungle, cracked my vaunted Tier 2 list of favorite movies. (I only have 28 movies listed in my Top Tier; the most recent addition was "The Fighter.") The final hook was when she pointed out the challenge of executing this grid in a way that was both smooth and fun for solvers. I'm also a sucker for a challenge.

Five 15-letter themers is so rough. Four of them is hard enough because there's so many areas that get constrained, and five adds a real kick in the pants (not the good kind). There are so few places that aren't affected by two (or more) themers. The NE and SW were especially painful — there are five parallel answers from STATS to LEE which run through the same two themers; usually a situation you want to avoid like the plague. I don't much care for A TUNE and the visual of those lone cheater squares in the corners, but all the alternatives seemed worse. Grid-making is often an exercise in iteration, trying to sort through hundreds of possibilities in an attempt to figure out what would be most interesting / least grump-inducing for solvers.

It took us a lot of iterating, plus helpful feedback from Will, in order to get it to a place where we felt like it would be a fun experience for solvers. I wish we could have worked in some long fill besides ASHANTI, OH THAT? and IN ON IT, but every arrangement incorporating 8+ letter entries caused too much stress on the grid. As always, construction is rife with trade-offs.

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© 2014, The New York TimesNo. 1008 ( 23,710 )
Across
1
Try to sink, maybe : RAM
4
"Rhyme Pays" rapper : ICET
8
Fantasy league figures : STATS
13
TBS competitor : USA
14
Knock silly : DAZE
15
"Ah, I didn't know what you were referring to" : OHTHAT
17
Put on a blacklist : BAN
18
The Auld Sod : ERIN
19
Honest with : TRUETO
20
"Hot to trot" or "cold feet" : IDIOM
22
Many a PX shopper : NCO
24
The Dow, for one : INDEX
25
"Amerika" novelist : KAFKA
26
Many, many moons : EON
27
Jeans brand : LEE
28
Shoreline raptor : ERNE
30
"The Rachael Ray Show" creation : MEAL
32
___ Lanka : SRI
35
Father-and-son rulers of Syria : ASSADS
37
Homer Simpson's mother : MONA
38
One with a checkered existence? : CAB
39
Quickly write : JOT
40
"Foolish" singer, 2002 : ASHANTI
42
Time to revel : EVE
43
First-goal link : AND
44
Jockey's control : REIN
45
Privy to a practical joke, say : INONIT
47
Pastrami go-with : RYE
48
Cornerstone abbr. : ESTD
49
Porn : SMUT
50
Onetime tribe of the Upper Midwest : SAC
52
Official with a whisk broom, for short : UMP
54
Positrons' places : ATOMS
57
All, in Alba : TUTTO
59
"___ your request ..." : PER
60
Commerce pact signed by Clinton : NAFTA
61
Incite, as trouble : STIRUP
63
Dr Pepper Snapple Group brand : NEHI
65
Be sociable : MIX
66
Italian sandwich : PANINI
67
Slave away : TOIL
68
Gator's tail? : ADE
69
Marriott competitor : HYATT
70
Humane org. : SPCA
71
"N.Y. State of Mind" rapper : NAS
Down
1
Inventor of a six-color puzzle : RUBIK
2
Carne ___ (Mexican dish) : ASADA
3
Expansionist doctrine : MANIFESTDESTINY
4
Election loser's cry : IDEMANDARECOUNT
5
Vacation rental, maybe : CAR
6
Slate or Salon : EZINE
7
Text on tablets : TENCOMMANDMENTS
8
Elbow-bender : SOT
9
Big 1975 boxing showdown : THRILLAINMANILA
10
Carry ___ (sing on key) : ATUNE
11
Darwin work ... with a hint to three consecutive letters in 3-, 4-, 7-, 9- and 11-Down : THEDESCENTOFMAN
12
Fill beyond full : SATE
16
Poison sci. : TOX
21
Gumbo need : OKRA
23
Result of a leadoff single : ONEON
29
Handy Scrabble tiles : ESSES
31
Nay sayers : ANTIS
33
Beatle George's sitar teacher : RAVI
34
"Fat chance!" : IBET
35
Cracked a bit : AJAR
36
Maker of Aibo robotic pets : SONY
41
Ask, as for a loan : HITUP
46
Eke ___ living : OUTA
51
Skylit rooms : ATRIA
53
Before surgery, informally : PREOP
55
Crete's highest peak : MTIDA
56
Big band section : SAXES
57
Rx amt. : TSP
58
One of its symbols is the sego lily : UTAH
62
Indy service area : PIT
64
Sound from an 8-Down : HIC

Answer summary: 1 debuted here and reused later.

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