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New York Times, Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Author:
Jason Flinn
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
1410/9/20137/21/20180
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0112505
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.53030
Jason Flinn

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 74, Blocks: 34 Missing: {JQZ} Spans: 4, (2 double stacks) This is the debut puzzle for Mr. Flinn. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Jason Flinn notes:
This is my first published puzzle, so I am quite excited! The stacked 15s constrain the fill, so I had to make some hard choices. ... read more

This is my first published puzzle, so I am quite excited!

The stacked 15s constrain the fill, so I had to make some hard choices. My least favorite fill (by far) is REPEN, but it's a linchpin. I couldn't find a way to eliminate it without adding even more painful fill elsewhere. IVAN I invaded the northern part of my grid because my alternative fill required a repetition (ANOTE and TNOTES) that I found unacceptable.

It's very educational to see how editing improves your puzzle between submission and publication. I was pleased that about 60% of my clues survived without modification and that almost half of the remaining clues had only minor edits. It looks to me like most of the changes are intended to dial down the difficulty level and help solvers unfamiliar with the theme answers. This makes a lot of sense. Tribute puzzles like this one could really benefit from having an easy and a hard set of clues. That way, people who are very familiar with the theme can still get a challenge.

Unfortunately, the edits did cause many of my favorite clues to disappear. Of the remaining clues that I wrote, my favorite is 4-down. I also like 30-down as a (hopefully) fresh way to clue a common answer and 51-down as an attempt to help solvers with a relatively obscure answer.

The grid had some minor surgery in the West between submission and publication, and I can guess why. This is the least constrained area of the grid, so I was adventurous with the fill. 25-down was originally MOOC (massive online open course). Currently, MOOCs are quite a disruptive force in college education. I can why this isn't Wednesday fill, especially in a puzzle in which the difficulty notch needs to be dialed down. Don't worry MOOC — I'm sure your (crossword) day will come soon!

For the very curious, that section was originally CAGY ODOM MOOC. If Will had kicked it back to me, I probably would have gone with CCCP (nice cross with COMMIE), ORAL, and MERE. The crosses of CREPT, CAR, and PLEA would have been fine. Failing that, as a computer scientist, I would definitely have clued CERF with Vint Cerf, one of the scientists generally credited with inventing the Internet.

Will Shortz notes:
Others can comment on this astonishing theme discovery by first-time contributor Jason Flinn. I'd like to comment on the word REPEN at ... read more

Others can comment on this astonishing theme discovery by first-time contributor Jason Flinn. I'd like to comment on the word REPEN at 64A. Uncommon "re-" words like this are sometimes described as "roll-your-own" — meaning they're made-up. I think it's a term that blogger Amy Reynaldo coined. To me a roll-your-own word is one that really is made-up; that is, one that is not in the dictionary and gets little or no usage online. But REPEN is real. It's found in Random House Unabridged, Webster's Second New International, and Funk & Wagnalls Unabridged. It also has real usage online. It's not a good entry, to be sure, but it's legit. And sometimes a weak entry like this helps set up other good things, like (in this case) I'M HIP, PIG OUT, and the intricate interlock in the lower-middle. So it passes muster here in my book.

Jeff Chen notes:
It's not often that a constructor comes across a serendipitous find, but the fact that two of Philip K. Dick's famous short stories ... read more

It's not often that a constructor comes across a serendipitous find, but the fact that two of Philip K. Dick's famous short stories split nicely into 15/15 definitely qualifies. Kudos to Jason for attempting one of the most difficult constructions in crossword-land, double stacks where you have no ability to swap in one of the answers. And he does it twice! It's like a first-time Olympian attempting a quintuple axel or a one-handed iron cross.

Being an utter sci-fi geek (scientific name: dorkus malorkus) DO ANDROIDS DREAM OF ELECTRIC SHEEP was a gimme, so much so that the top fell in no time. The bottom, however, put up so much of a fight that I had to throw in the towel after trying to reel it in for 15 minutes (my average Wed time is about 6 minutes). I don't remember seeing WE CAN REMEMBER IT FOR YOU WHOLESALE before, but it Googles well (1.7M hits) so perhaps it's a gap in my sci-fi knowledge base that needs serious shoring up (preemptive apologies to my girlfriend/wife/barbarian, Jill Denny). This is going to be a divisive puzzle, some loving it, some finding the solving experience frustrating because four grid-spanning entries will effectively be random words strung together.

Let's look at the crossings from a construction standpoint. Usually, double-stacks provide a killer challenge to constructors not named Patrick Berry or Byron Walden, but Jason does an admirable job here, especially given that this is his debut. Not many solvers like to see Christine DAAE because her last name is a bit of esoteric trivia. STAEL is also a toughie, but otherwise, the crossing entries are relatively smooth.

What was troublesome for me was the difficulty of cluing in those crossings. Typically with really tough (or virtually unclued) across answers, Will goes easy on the clues for the crossing down answers, so the solver has a real chance. I didn't need that for the top set, but the really hard clues in the SW made that entire corner inscrutable.

Finally, the off-center placement of DICK felt inelegant. I've used an asymmetrical revealer before and looking back on it, regretted that I didn't find a way to adhere to usual symmetry rules (I wish I had thought of putting A R O U N D in a circle pattern around the center). Of course, DICK is a four-letter word (pun intended) so it can't be the center entry of the middle row. PHILIP K DICK would be a great central entry (11 letters) but that would also make the construction even harder. Putting D I C K in the four corners (as an easter egg) might have been cool, but adding even more difficulty to this puzzle probably wouldn't be a good idea. Extending the grid to 16 rows would have allowed DICK to be a vertical entry of the center column (where UPC is) but who knows how that would have affected the sets of double-stacks. Tough choices.

Looking forward to more from Jason.

1
R
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A
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D
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S
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C
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A
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P
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E
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D
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T
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D
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B
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N
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A
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D
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F
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A
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F
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© 2013, The New York TimesNo. 1009 ( 23,346 )
Across
1
Exposure units : RADS
5
Like many a superhero : CAPED
10
Cheater's sound, maybe : PSST
14
Biblical twin : ESAU
15
First in a line of Russian grand princes : IVANI
16
Jazzy James : ETTA
17
With 20-Across, story by 42-Across on which the movie "Blade Runner" is based : DOANDROIDSDREAM
20
See 17-Across : OFELECTRICSHEEP
21
Best-suited for a job : ABLEST
22
Kind of lily : CALLA
23
Cold war foe, slangily : COMMIE
26
Cause of a dramatic death in Shakespeare : ASP
27
Go ballistic : ERUPT
28
Displace : BUMP
31
Music magazine founded by Bob Guccione Jr. : SPIN
35
Disloyal sort : RAT
36
Like bits of old music in some new music : SAMPLED
39
Keats creation : ODE
40
One going for a little bite? : FLEA
42
Author Philip K. ___ : DICK
43
XXX : ADULT
45
Cleanse : RID
47
Auctioned investments, in brief : TNOTES
48
Affright : ALARM
51
Eat, eat, eat : PIGOUT
54
With 59-Across, story by 42-Across on which the movie "Total Recall" is based : WECANREMEMBERIT
59
See 54-Across : FORYOUWHOLESALE
60
Together, in Toulouse : UNIE
61
Swiss miss of fiction : HEIDI
62
African antelope : ORYX
63
"Shane" star Alan : LADD
64
Put back in the fold : REPEN
65
"Gnarly!" : NEAT
Down
1
Request after a failure, sometimes : REDO
2
Since : ASOF
3
Christine ___, heroine of "The Phantom of the Opera" : DAAE
4
Light that darkens : SUNLAMP
5
Club : CIRCLE
6
"Let's take ___" : AVOTE
7
Competition category in bridge and skating : PAIRS
8
Break off a relationship : ENDIT
9
Kind of brake : DISC
10
Noncommittal response : PERHAPS
11
Andrew Carnegie's industry : STEEL
12
Author Madame de ___ : STAEL
13
Home of the N.H.L.'s Lightning : TAMPA
18
Accountants put them on the left : DEBITS
19
Mil. awards : DSCS
23
Humorist Bennett : CERF
24
Like some contraceptives : ORAL
25
Remote button : MUTE
26
Bruiser : APE
28
Ascap rival : BMI
29
It's scanned in a store, for short : UPC
30
U2 song paying tribute to an American icon : MLK
32
Sulk : POUT
33
Run while standing still : IDLE
34
Takes home : NETS
37
Throw in : ADD
38
View from Budapest : DANUBE
41
Ready for battle : ARRAYED
44
Cares for maybe too much : DOTESON
46
"___ expert, but ..." : IMNO
47
"One ringy-dingy" comic : TOMLIN
48
Ghastly : AWFUL
49
"Bleeding Love" singer Lewis : LEONA
50
Astringent : ACRID
51
Bird that's as small as it sounds : PEWEE
52
Beatnik's "gotcha" : IMHIP
53
Sparkly rock : GEODE
55
Essen's river : RUHR
56
Like hurricanes in January : RARE
57
Three-time N.H.L. All-Star Kovalchuk : ILYA
58
"u r so funny ... lmao," e.g. : TEXT

Answer summary: 4 unique to this puzzle, 1 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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