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New York Times, Saturday, November 1, 2014

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

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 ... read more

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 — ... read more

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 past 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 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 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.

Jim Horne 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.

1
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H
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M
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P
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33
N
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34
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36
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N
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A
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H
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O
V
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B
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90
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91
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© 2014, The New York TimesNo. 1101 ( 23,734 )
Across
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
Down
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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