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New York Times, Saturday, November 11, 2017

Author:
George Barany and Michael Shteyman
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
101/22/200611/11/201710
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
2010322
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.55120
George Barany
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
552/13/200111/11/20176
SunMonTueWedThuFriSatVariety
336717694
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.62524
Michael Shteyman

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 70, Blocks: 34 Missing: {JX} This is puzzle # 10 for Mr. Barany. This is puzzle # 55 for Mr. Shteyman. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Constructor notes:
Today's puzzle has been in the making for over seven years, with several periods of intense activity punctuated by long hiatuses. Two ... read more

Today's puzzle has been in the making for over seven years, with several periods of intense activity punctuated by long hiatuses. Two complementary narratives account for this. The simpler one is that we--both being naturalized U.S. citizens--sought to pay tribute to our brave men and women in uniform on the annual federal holiday that honors their service and sacrifice, and to have this published on the 99th anniversary of the armistice signed at 11 a.m. on 11/11 (of the previous century) to end the hostilities of World War l.

More complicated, we initially targeted the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity afforded by 11/11/11 (a Friday) to try to work VETERANS DAY (11 letters), and perhaps THANK YOU FOR and YOUR SERVICE (both 11 letters), and then ELEVEN as a reveal, all into the same grid. However, Friday offerings tend to be themeless with wide-open relatively low-word-count grids, so our goal morphed into developing a puzzle with interlocking and/or stacked entries all of the same length [specifically 11, since good luck jam-packing a grid with twelve 12s a year, month, and day later, on 12/12/12].

In all, we examined at least a dozen grid skeletons comprising several hundred fills, with substantial tweaking of those that appeared most promising--all this via e-mail. We finally met in person in Baltimore to close this out, including clue writing, but we were too late and the Times ran Alex Vratsanos' puzzle with a different concept.

Deflated, we took a long hiatus until the approach of 2016, the next year that 11/11 would again fall on a Friday. Long story short, we again waited too long, and our submission was judged--by the increasingly rigorous standards in play these days--to have too many compromises in the fill. With 11/11/17 (a Saturday) looming just about a year away as a possibly final opportunity to implement the concept, we tried to keep some momentum and continued to experiment with grid designs and fill options--culminating with something reasonably close to the grid you see today.

The project was again set aside (with confidence, never actually put to the test, that fresh looks might produce even further variations) while other commitments took priority, but fortunately, we were able to reconvene just in time to complete everything for the present calendar year (2017).

Jeff Chen notes:
Mini-theme! Sort of. ELEVEN hints at VETERAN'S DAY, because … ah, it's 11/11 on the calendar. And there are ELEVEN answers of ... read more

Mini-theme! Sort of. ELEVEN hints at VETERAN'S DAY, because … ah, it's 11/11 on the calendar. And there are ELEVEN answers of ELEVEN letters. It's not my favorite mini-theme ever — I much prefer ones that have maybe two or three long answers slyly connected, with that connection up to you to figure out. But it mostly works.

Some beautiful phrases in those featured ELEVENs, TAKE A NUMBER, PEST CONTROL, DRAFT ANIMAL, MARE NOSTRUM! The fact that "mare" is used in many moon location names, because ancient folks thought there were seas on the moon = trivia gold!

ACCOUNT FOR, TIRE BALANCE (you balance your tires, and you might get a "tire balancing," but a TIRE BALANCE?), HORROR FLICK ("horror movie" sounds so much better to me) … well, they do their job of filling out those ELEVEN-letter slots, if not adding much.

PUSSY GALORE … I used to think that was hilarious when I was younger. Not sure why not anymore. Maybe the joke feels dated now. Or *gasp* I've grown up?

(Nah.)

ELEVEN-letter entries make life tough on crossword constructors, because that length forces a ton of three-letter entries (15 squares wide - 11 letter entry - 1 black square = 3 remaining). That's not a problem in itself unless the three-letter entry count gets too high.

These shorties can mess with solving flow because 1.) the solver has to change to a new entry very frequently, making for a choppy feel, 2.) most three-letter entries have been used so much in crosswords that it's hard to come up with a fresh clue, and 3.) in order to make these fresh clues themeless-level difficult, they sometimes veer into "annoyingly difficult" territory.

Take RMN, for example. It's not a great entry in itself since Nixon wasn't known as RMN (compare to Johnson / LBJ). And when you're stuck in a puzzle, and you hit the ridiculously vague [Presidential inits.] … maddening!

Not every three-letter word will exhibit one of these problems — UFO as a subject of some conspiracies is both figure-out-able and fun — but when you have 26 (!) of them, you're bound to get some pain. I think somewhere in the teens is about as high as a constructor should go.

It's a concept I haven't seen before, and I like that. But I wanted a much bigger a-ha moment to make up for the costs I had to pay as a solver.

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© 2017, The New York TimesNo. 1111 ( 24,840 )
Across
1
Array in ancient battles : SPEARS
7
Hot beverage : CHAI
11
Bradford and Bradshaw, for two: Abbr. : QBS
14
What "It" is : HORRORFLICK
16
New England state sch. : URI
17
Something tested at an auto shop : TIREBALANCE
18
Whose tears create the morning dew, in myth : EOS
19
Obliterate : ERASE
20
Until : UPTO
21
Multitude : SEA
22
Multitude : TON
23
Presidential inits. : RMN
25
World's second most populous landlocked country, after Ethiopia : UGANDA
28
Part of many a business name : LTD
29
Deli counter sign : TAKEANUMBER
32
Old union member: Abbr. : SSR
33
Text alert? : NOTABENE
34
Time for remembrance : VETERANSDAY
36
Freaking out, say : INAPANIC
38
Scale notes : FAS
39
Debugging? : PESTCONTROL
41
Comments like "Yer joshin'!" : AWS
44
Things applied to black eyes, traditionally : STEAKS
45
It doesn't come full circle : ARC
46
Group in any circle in a Venn diagram : SET
47
Cool, in slang : ILL
48
Twerp : TWIT
51
Friend, in Firenze : AMICO
53
Eponymous weapon designer : UZI
54
Plow puller : DRAFTANIMAL
56
Feature of coastal Louisiana : FEN
57
1964 role for Honor Blackman : PUSSYGALORE
58
Wedded : ONE
59
"If you ask me ...," for short : IMHO
60
How many letters are in the longest answers in this puzzle - or how many of these answers there are : ELEVEN
Down
1
"Yentl" setting : SHTETL
2
Agatha Christie once described him as a "detestable, bombastic, tiresome little creature" : POIROT
3
Something to run : ERRAND
4
Symbol of bloodlust : ARES
5
Star of TV's "The Untouchables" : ROBERTSTACK
6
Foreign title: Abbr. : SRA
7
Go hand to hand? : CLAP
8
60-Across, to 34-Across, e.g. : HINT
9
Explains : ACCOUNTSFOR
10
W.W. II hero : IKE
11
Pop icon, to members of her "hive" : QUEENBEY
12
Expand : BROADEN
13
One of a pair of fraternal twins, maybe : SIS
15
Fail : FLUNK
21
Dances done in 2/4 time : SAMBAS
24
The Mediterranean, to ancient Romans : MARENOSTRUM
26
1942-43 battle site : GUADALCANAL
27
Cost : ARE
30
Pass : ENACT
31
Chicago's ___ Center : AON
32
Acting as a partition : SEPTAL
34
Relief for xerosis : VASELINE
35
1/1,000 of a yen : RIN
36
Computer addresses, for short : IPS
37
Luddite's opposite, of a sort : NETIZEN
40
Dilapidated : RATTY
41
Polymathic Isaac : ASIMOV
42
Words of support : WECARE
43
Like home, on rare occasions : STOLEN
49
Opposite of dirty : WASH
50
Contingency phrase : IFSO
52
What a marker may mark : MILE
53
Subj. of some conspiracy theories : UFO
54
Print quality meas. : DPI
55
Museum estimate, maybe : AGE

Answer summary: 5 unique to this puzzle, 1 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

Found bugs or have suggestions?