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New York Times, Thursday, November 13, 2014

Author:
Tracy Gray
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
249/8/20106/12/20185
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
6245610
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.60431
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 )
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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