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New York Times, Saturday, November 1, 2014

Author: Trip Payne
Editor: Will Shortz
Trip Payne
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
454/10/199411/1/20141
SunMonTueWedThuFriSatVariety
1033463133
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.52411

This puzzle:

Rows: 17, Columns: 17 Words: 98, Blocks: 44 Missing: {JKQXZ} This is puzzle # 45 for Mr. Payne. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Notepad: With daylight saving time ending tonight, you have an extra hour to work on this extra-hard, oversize puzzle
Will Shortz notes: This 17x17 crossword (a first for the daily Times) has a curious history. It was originally slated for Puzzle #5 at last March's American Crossword ... more
Will Shortz notes: This 17x17 crossword (a first for the daily Times) has a curious history. It was originally slated for Puzzle #5 at last March's American Crossword Puzzle Tournament. By tradition, Puzzle #5 is the killer of the event — the one that separates the champion solvers from everyone else. Trip sent me the puzzle by email on Jan. 8. I loved it, printed it out, and, because it was early, set it on top of my office printer.

A few weeks later the website Business Insider came to interview me at my home. We'd agreed beforehand they would interview me in my living room, but after wandering around my house, they asked if they could set me up in my office instead. At that point I had forgotten all about Trip's puzzle, which was nowhere near the desk where I sat anyway, so I said yes.

Well, wouldn't you know it, during the course of the interview the cameraperson panned around my office, including the printer, stopping, in fact, to dwell for four seconds on Trip's puzzle, which just happened to say across the top: "2014 ACPT Puzzle 5." Sometime after the interview was posted online, a friend who'd seen it emailed me, "Can that possibly be Puzzle #5 at this year's ACPT?" Arrrgggh!

At that point Trip didn't have time to make a new Puzzle #5 for the tournament, so Brendan Quigley stepped in instead. Meanwhile, I still loved Trip's puzzle. Since it was spoiled for the ACPT, I asked him if I could run it in the Times. He graciously agreed. It's probably better suited for the Times, anyway, because this way you have more time to appreciate the theme. It's not something meant to be raced through.

Jeff Chen notes: I've attended several ACPTs now, but always judging, never competing. Is that because I take a perverse pleasure in watching as the poor suckers — ... more
Jeff Chen notes: I've attended several ACPTs now, but always judging, never competing. Is that because I take a perverse pleasure in watching as the poor suckers — er, contestants — struggle with one of the hardest puzzles of the year in what's come to be spoken in a hushed tone: "THE DREADED PUZZLE #5." Maybe. Okay, yes.

Trip's puzzle was scheduled to be that crazy Puzzle #5 this part year, but due to an unfortunate videotaping, it got pulled at the last moment. And man oh man did it live up to reputation. I ended up finishing most of it after the better part of three sit-down sessions, and boy oh boy was it worth it. Trip gives us a few "arithmetic clues" like 33 – 21, but those numbers refer to the specific entries in the grid. For instance, 33 – 21 = NET SALES – COSTS = GROSS PROFIT. Clever idea! Even better were ones where the symbol was disguised, i.e. 61 + 86 = PERT PLUS RIVAL = NEUTROGENA. I love that sort of cunning trickery.

From a constructor's viewpoint, it's amazing to see how much theme density Trip packed in. Each of the four themers really requires a set of three entries. Not only that, Trip laid them out so that none of the secret theme entries starts on a square starting both an across and a down entry. For example, a natural place to sneak a bonus entry is at 1A or 1D, but those are both no-gos, since doing so would leave the solver confused as to whether 1A or 1D is the bonus answer. What an elegant touch.

And to do all of this with a relatively smooth fill is pretty incredible. Sure, we see an LA RAM here and an ORA there, but those LURER type entries are very minor. There is some freedom in that Trip was able to place his pairs of bonus entries in multiple places, but achieving a smooth fill with this many constraints really shouldn't be possible. I've highlighted the triplets of theme answers for solvers' benefit, so everyone can visualize just how jam-packed this grid is.

And some devious clues. ERASE, how could that be [Cut from a log]? Much more logical when you think about a ship's log. [HE is one] makes sense, but only after thinking of He as the symbol for helium.

Seriously hard solve for me, with a neat a-ha moment.

JimH notes: Since I've been asked, the other two theme answers Jeff didn't cover are: REPEATEDLY is MANY times OVER, and BATTLEFIELD is PLACE divided by WAR.
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© 2014, The New York TimesNo. 23,734
Across Down
1. Send : ELATE
6. Future works? : SCIFI
11. Apricot or eggplant : COLOR
16. Reveal : LETON
17. Husband of Elisheba : AARON
18. Laughable : INANE
19. 81 ÷ 27 : BATTLEFIELD
21. Lists for : COSTS
22. Bee relative : OPIE
23. Kind of sleep : REM
24. Get out of the line : DELE
26. Supertrendy : HOT
27. It's conducted in a theater : WAR
28. Old Memorial Coliseum player, for short : LARAM
30. Utter : PURE
32. Staff with notes : STENOS
34. 61 + 86 : NEUTROGENA
39. He is one : ELEM
41. National Junior Tennis League co-founder : ASHE
42. Supervising : OVER
43. The Apostle of Cuban Independence : MARTI
46. Checkout line? : TATA
48. Upgrade, as a shower : RETILE
50. Explicatory words : IDEST
51. Powerful guy : MRBIG
53. Digs near the ocean, perhaps : VILLA
54. Miss dismissal : NOMAAM
56. ___ a time : MANY
57. Ends of scissors? : ESSES
58. Like illegal charades clues : ORAL
59. 1977 law school memoir : ONEL
61. Flip : PERT
63. 56 x 42 : REPEATEDLY
66. European Parliament locale : ALSACE
70. Blanket material : SNOW
71. Crude : SALTY
73. Wicked : RAD
74. Block number?: Abbr. : SPF
77. 1989 AP Female Athlete of the Year : GRAF
79. Sans le ___ (broke: Fr.) : SOU
80. "Go ask your mother" elicitor : CANI
81. Cul-de-sac, in some addresses : PLACE
83. 33 - 21 : GROSSPROFIT
86. Match : RIVAL
87. Like some coincidences : EERIE
88. Wind stopper? : BEANO
89. Sentence units : YEARS
90. Cans : REARS
91. Lay low? : INTER
1. Jabbers, at times : ELBOWS
2. Unhesitatingly go for : LEAPAT
3. Threads : ATTIRE
4. Word with bag or board : TOTE
5. Developing option: Abbr. : ENL
6. Comparatively trouble-free : SAFER
7. South American reptile : CAIMAN
8. Eruption cause : IRE
9. Turn down a raise? : FOLD
10. Comprehensive : INDEPTH
11. "Academica" author : CICERO
12. Subject of the tribute album "Every Man Has a Woman" : ONO
13. Eye liner? : LASH
14. Well aware of : ONTO
15. Hinge (upon) : REST
20. Cut from a log, maybe : ERASE
25. Lorelei, notably : LURER
28. Novel about Dolores Haze : LOLITA
29. 1979 comedy set at Camp North Star : MEATBALLS
31. #1 fans : EGOTISTS
33. Take after all? : NETSALES
35. Bolt with gold : USAIN
36. Utopias lack them : EVILS
37. ___ Porter, "Ally McBeal" role : NELLE
38. Belts : AREAS
40. "Newhart" production co. : MTM
43. No big deal : MINOR
44. Be crazy about : ADORE
45. Change the plot of : REMAP
47. Carrying : ARMED
49. Pop's ___ Brothers : EVERLY
52. Fleece : GYP
55. Tool along : MOTOR
60. John Tesh fan, maybe : NEWAGER
62. Be crazy about : EATUP
64. Team once owned by Gene Autry : ANGELS
65. With 67-Down, signer of the Oslo Accords : YASSIR
67. See 65-Down : ARAFAT
68. Like boxers : CANINE
69. Paper cutter? : EDITOR
72. Shakes off : LOSES
74. Not at all creaky : SPRY
75. Ballet move : PLIE
76. ___ bean : FAVA
78. Not taken : FREE
80. Either "Inside Llewyn Davis" director : COEN
82. Tilt-A-Whirl part : CAR
84. "Che ___ è?" ("What time is it?": It.) : ORA
85. Abbr. on a Topps card : RBI

Answer summary: 4 unique to this puzzle, 1 debuted here and reused later.

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