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New York Times, Thursday, November 13, 2014

Author:
Tracy Gray
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
259/8/20104/8/20196
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
6345610
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.61441
Tracy Gray

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 78, Blocks: 40 Missing: {JQZ} This is puzzle # 9 for Ms. Gray. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Tracy Gray notes:
The idea for this puzzle came to me right off the bat … Baton Rouge, that is, which my constructor mind parsed as BAT-ON-ROUGE ... read more

The idea for this puzzle came to me right off the bat … Baton Rouge, that is, which my constructor mind parsed as BAT-ON-ROUGE — two legitimate words separated by "ON." I then found many other phrases including JACKS-ON-FIVE, WAG-ON-TRAIN, NIX-ON-TAPES, and DICED-ON-IONS, and I began building my grid with the first word literally (over) "ON" the second word.

In a perfect constructing world ☺, I would have been able to keep some of my favorite phrases. But, with the constraints of five stacked theme entries and symmetry, I struggled with the fill and had several grids going at one time, moving the location of the theme letters above and below each other and swapping out various theme entries. Eventually, I was able to fill a grid successfully but still decided to beef up the center of the grid and changed my seed entry BATON ROUGE (3 over 5 letters) to SURGEON GENERAL (5 over 7 letters).

I want to thank Will for keeping my original wording of "literally" in the cluing of the theme entries, but for editing them all to a Thursday level difficulty. For example: My cluing for CARSON CITY was "Literally … capital of Nevada" and Will edited it to "Literally … a Western state capital," which is definitely more Thursday-appropriate.

Also, with the recent discussions of how long it takes to get from acceptance to publishing, here is the info: mailed 7/16/14, accepted 9/10/14, published 11/13/14. Thanks, Will and Joel!

Jeff Chen notes:
Cool concept, phrases with the '*ON *' pattern literalized into two stacked answers. It came relatively quickly for me when I got to ... read more

Cool concept, phrases with the "*ON *" pattern literalized into two stacked answers. It came relatively quickly for me when I got to CARS(ON) CITY, but that didn't hinder my enjoyment. Very neat that Tracy picked all themers that when put into their arranged pairs, read as regular crossword entries! CARS, SEAS, SURGE, CORD, HARRIS are all fine answers in their own right, so at first glance, the grid looks like nothing tricksy is going on. Well done; a touch of elegance.

The asymmetry in the center did bug me a tiny bit. I liked this concept well enough that perhaps with a few more touches, it would have been my Puzzle of the Week. I don't know if it would have been possible to have a three-word stack in the center, but that would have been a gigantic bonus. As it was, I wondered where the symmetrical entry to SURGE was. Perhaps this is asking way too much — after a quick search, all I could find that was remotely close was MASON DIXON LINE.

The Mason Dixon line

But of course, MAS doesn't symmetrically pair up with LINE. Rats! (Such a shame too, since Mason "The Line" Dixon is a hilarious movie name.) It would be interesting to hear from someone with a clever idea on how to discover a workable central entry. Perhaps a genius programmer, like Alex Boisvert or Bob Klahn, perhaps?

The stacked entries did force some compromises in the fill, too. Stacked entries almost always bring challenges, as we see that embodied in OLEA, ORTS, SAHEL running through theme pairs. I think some of those might have been alleviated by a little more space — counterintuitive, perhaps? In this type of situation, a 4x4 chunk like in the NW can actually be tougher than a 5x4, in that a little extra space allows for more possibilities.

I might not have even blinked at the compromises, knowing that the cool theme would likely result in a few, except that there were other bits spread around. SERE is the worst offender in my eyes, being a word very people ever use. If there had been just one of ORTS and SERE, two of the examples people tend to point out when they talk about "crosswordese," that would have been much better.

Finally, I loved several clues in here. [One pulling strings?] is great, for a piano TUNER. And SURGE(ON) GENERAL did double duty, as a nice themer, and with its clever clue. [… head doctor] made me immediately think of ENTs, which is exactly the type of misdirection I like. Beautiful stuff. Overall, such a fun solve.

1
W
2
O
3
R
4
K
5
C
6
O
7
L
8
O
9
R
10
A
11
T
12
O
13
P
14
A
L
I
I
15
H
A
I
K
U
16
C
A
R
S
17
S
E
A
S
18
A
T
E
I
T
19
C
I
T
Y
20
P
A
S
S
21
E
S
22
T
E
A
23
S
E
L
S
24
C
R
E
25
D
O
26
B
A
D
27
B
28
A
29
C
A
R
D
I
30
A
A
H
E
31
D
32
A
33
T
34
A
T
O
M
35
S
36
U
R
G
E
37
E
D
U
38
N
O
R
39
G
40
E
N
E
R
A
L
41
R
O
N
42
D
N
A
43
O
X
E
Y
E
44
S
E
R
E
45
B
E
L
46
T
W
A
Y
47
S
48
M
49
A
C
K
E
R
50
I
N
C
51
S
T
O
M
A
52
M
53
A
E
S
T
54
R
I
55
H
A
R
56
R
57
I
58
S
59
C
O
R
D
60
I
O
N
61
I
A
62
F
O
R
D
63
B
L
E
U
64
N
B
C
T
V
65
E
L
I
A
66
C
L
A
P
67
G
E
E
S
E
68
D
E
S
K
© 2014, The New York TimesNo. 1113 ( 23,746 )

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Across
1
Get down to business : WORK
5
Plum or peach : COLOR
10
Straddling : ATOP
14
Others, in Latin : ALII
15
Exercise in brevity : HAIKU
16
Literally, with 19-Across, a Western state capital : CARS
17
Literally, with 20-Across, ski resort purchases : SEAS
18
Swallowed a loss : ATEIT
19
See 16-Across : CITY
20
See 17-Across : PASSES
22
Prickly plants : TEASELS
24
Ideology : CREDO
26
Rotten : BAD
27
Captain Morgan competitor : BACARDI
30
Reacted to, as fireworks : AAHEDAT
34
Scintilla : ATOM
35
Literally, with 39-Across, head doctor : SURGE
37
Part of a collegian's email address : EDU
38
It's north of Den. : NOR
39
See 35-Across : GENERAL
41
Hollywood's Howard : RON
42
Something that might be left at the scene of a crime : DNA
43
Common daisy : OXEYE
44
Desiccated : SERE
45
Baltimore's I-695, e.g. : BELTWAY
47
Buck : SMACKER
50
Firm ending : INC
51
Botanical opening : STOMA
52
Toscanini and Maazel : MAESTRI
55
Literally, with 62-Across, longtime action star : HARRIS
59
Literally, with 63-Across, distinguished chef : CORD
60
Ancient region of Anatolia : IONIA
62
See 55-Across : FORD
63
See 59-Across : BLEU
64
"America's Got Talent" airer : NBCTV
65
"The Praise of Chimney-Sweepers" essayist : ELIA
66
Go hand to hand? : CLAP
67
Honkers : GEESE
68
___ job : DESK
Down
1
Upper-crust sort, stereotypically : WASP
2
Olive, to Ovid : OLEA
3
Narrow estuaries : RIAS
4
Between-innings feature on a Jumbotron : KISSCAM
5
Took off after : CHASED
6
Lead-in to cake or meal : OAT
7
More than mislead : LIETO
8
Dust Bowl migrant : OKIE
9
Vegetable whose name comes from Swedish : RUTABAGA
10
Bow : ACCEDE
11
Shadow : TAIL
12
Table scraps : ORTS
13
Stage name for 2012 singing sensation Park Jae-sang : PSY
21
Muff : ERR
23
Semiarid region of Africa : SAHEL
25
Big name in parks : DISNEY
27
Motel alternative, informally : BANDB
28
In agreement (with) : ATONE
29
Pinkish : CORAL
30
Halt : ARREST
31
John who played Joshua in "The Ten Commandments" : DEREK
32
Flip over : ADORE
33
One pulling strings? : TUNER
36
180 : UEY
39
Graduation attire : GOWNS
40
Strict : EXACTING
44
Gobbled (down) : SCARFED
46
At deuce, say : TIEDUP
48
Native Arizonan : MOHAVE
49
Physicians' org. : AMA
51
"___ U Been Gone" (Kelly Clarkson hit) : SINCE
52
Mobster's gal : MOLL
53
Bay ___ : AREA
54
It's a wrap : ROBE
56
Capacity : ROLE
57
Spring bloomer : IRIS
58
Where I-90 and I-29 cross: Abbr. : SDAK
59
Ottawa-based media inits. : CBC
61
"___ a miracle!" : ITS

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

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