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New York Times, Friday, November 24, 2017

Author: Bruce Haight and David Steinberg
Editor: Will Shortz
Bruce Haight
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
311/3/201311/24/20172
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
2995330
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.56022
David Steinberg
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
716/16/201112/3/201713
SunMonTueWedThuFriSatVariety
5656921181
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.653133

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 70, Blocks: 34 Missing: {B} Spans: 2 Grid is asymmetric. This is puzzle # 31 for Mr. Haight. This is puzzle # 70 for Mr. Steinberg. NYT links: Across Lite PDF

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Constructor notes: BRUCE: I first submitted this puzzle in January of 2014. Anna Shechtman wrote back : 'Will is intrigued by your AT THE DROP OF A ... more
Constructor notes:

BRUCE: I first submitted this puzzle in January of 2014. Anna Shechtman wrote back : "Will is intrigued by your AT THE DROP OF A HAT mini-themed 15x, whose strange symmetry effectively makes the black squares look like "dropping" hats. Assuming this was your intention, though, Will is not certain that MEXICAN HAT DANCE makes much sense as your second theme entry".

This was a bit embarrassing, and I switched to HOLD ON TO YOUR HAT for the next couple submissions, which failed for lack of sparkling fill. I decided to bring in a hired gun, and David rode in with his big white hat and saved the day. He didn't just blindly start working on better fill though — he first suggested we switch to FLIPPING ONES LID as the second theme entry and he then talked me into adding two blocks. This made the visual slightly less dramatic than my fish puzzle of 8/8/14 but moving from 66 words to 70 made it WAY easier to come up with good fill.

David is a master grid technician, and I believe he has the most precisely scored word list on the planet, so he is an amazing person to work with. He also has interned with Will and Joel for much of the past two summers. David has a great sense of humor too, so he is just fun to work with all around.

You might think that with my age being 64 and David's age being 20 this would be close to a record for biggest gap, but he did one with Bernice Gordon when she was 100 and he was 17! David turns 21 on the day this puzzle is published, and I think he has quite a future ahead of him in the crossbiz — HAPPY BIRTHDAY DAVID!

DAVID: Always a pleasure to work with Bruce/Mr. Grid Art. I fell in love with the hat concept at first sight, though boy, was that grid difficult to work with given the constraints of the hats and the two 15s! The final product took many back-and-forths, so even if my word list is more fine-tuned than Bruce's (which is a big if), there's no way this would've turned out as well without his input every step of the way. Keep your eye out for more from us in the coming months :).

Jeff Chen notes: Mini-theme, FLIPPING ONE'S LID paired with AT THE DROP OF A HAT. Actually, more than just a mini-theme, what with the 'hat' of black ... more
Jeff Chen notes:

Mini-theme, FLIPPING ONE'S LID paired with AT THE DROP OF A HAT. Actually, more than just a mini-theme, what with the "hat" of black squares … flipping? Not exactly sure what kind of flip that is, but I can sort of buy it. Valiant attempt to create a sense of kinetic motion with those three "hats."

Not exactly sure why the sets of black squares relate to AT THE DROP OF A HAT though. The hat is flipping … while it's dropping?

Sure, let's go with that.

It's not my favorite mini-theme, as the two phrases don't seem that related, and the visuals don't help pull it all together for me. I much prefer mini-themes where there's some clever connection between the two main seed entries that you might even have to work at to figure out. Or to realize that it's an Easter egg!

All the black squares also left me feeling a bit cheated. I like filling in a lot of white squares in a themeless, by gum!

And those hats nibbled away so much at the grid, leaving a ton of short answers. 21 3-letter entries? No wonder my solve felt a bit choppy, never really letting me drop into the flow of things.

But a couple of nice feature entries besides the mini-theme, MAIN SQUEEZE and TAJ MAHAL = beautiful. Not a lot of long entries, but Bruce and David did well with their 7-letter entries, notoriously difficult to make sing. CHEERIO, GANACHE (yum!), INKSACS, OTTOMAN, RIDDLER, SASHIMI, yes! These helped a ton in terms of the quality of my solve.

(NONPROS or ENPLANE, not so much. Curious if anyone actually uses these terms.)

Let's speak no further of ALD, ALS, GTE, MTA, TNG.

Overall, this one didn't cohere as smartly as I wanted, and the maxi-theme forced too many compromises. But I like it when constructors try something new with mini-themes.

JimH notes: This is the 29th asymmetric grid of the Shortz Era. Here are the rest.
1
S
2
A
3
S
4
H
5
I
6
M
7
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8
I
9
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K
11
S
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A
13
C
14
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15
O
T
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M
A
N
16
G
A
N
A
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17
F
L
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P
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18
G
O
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D
19
T
A
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20
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21
L
H
A
S
A
22
T
N
G
23
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W
A
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24
A
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25
S
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26
A
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E
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Q
A
T
A
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28
I
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L
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29
C
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30
G
U
Y
31
T
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33
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34
I
T
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35
V
O
36
T
37
E
38
R
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R
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N
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A
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C
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T
S
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A
X
E
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P
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A
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P
A
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Z
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J
I
M
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A
G
O
51
C
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M
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A
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L
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C
H
55
P
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56
S
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A
L
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58
A
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H
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59
D
R
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P
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F
60
A
H
A
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C
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63
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64
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© 2017, The New York TimesNo. 1124 ( 24,853 )
Across Down
1. Dish whose name means "pierce flesh" : SASHIMI
8. Squids' squirters : INKSACS
15. What can get two feet higher : OTTOMAN
16. Chocolate truffle filling : GANACHE
17. Snapping ... as suggested by some black squares in this puzzle : FLIPPINGONESLID
19. Summer shade : TAN
20. High-and-mighty sort : SNOOT
21. Asian capital that's home to Jokhang Temple : LHASA
22. Sci-fi TV series before "DS9" : TNG
23. Attack, as a gnat : SWATAT
25. No longer flexible : SET
26. Got things down : ATE
27. It has the world's highest per capita income : QATAR
28. One surrounded at sea : ISLE
29. Ferris wheel part : CAR
30. Fall ___ : GUY
31. Thanks for waiting : TIP
33. Not remote : ONSITE
35. Person picking a ticket : VOTER
39. Goes through the motions of? : REENACTS
44. Sack : AXE
45. Oscar follower, in communications : PAPA
48. Fictional hero who wore a sombrero cordobés : ZORRO
49. Beam that might hit someone hard? : JIM
50. Heretofore : AGO
51. Football lineman : CENTER
52. Staten Island Railway inits. : MTA
53. Childproofing option : LATCH
55. Meter masters : POETS
57. Singer Green and others : ALS
58. With only slight provocation ... as suggested by some black squares in this puzzle : ATTHEDROPOFAHAT
61. "Toodle-oo!" : CHEERIO
62. Board near a gate : ENPLANE
63. Pincered bugs : EARWIGS
64. Villain whose alter ego is Edward Nigma : RIDDLER
1. Its shell isn't hard : SOFTTACO
2. Brave person, typically? : ATLANTAN
3. Brandy cocktails : STINGERS
4. Quick flight : HOP
5. Parenting challenges : IMPS
6. Steady : MAINSQUEEZE
7. Not even slightly : INNOWAY
8. "You can't stop me!" : IGOTTA
9. Bread also called khamiri : NAN
10. Assumed the hero pose, in yoga : KNELT
11. Something the narrator of "A Visit From St. Nicholas" threw up : SASH
12. Compact Mercedes-Benz : ACLASS
13. Chip maker : CHISEL
14. Tranquil : SEDATE
18. One forced to take the blame : GOAT
24. What we have "in order not to die of the truth," per Nietzsche : ART
28. Fitbit had one in 2015, for short : IPO
30. Former telco giant : GTE
32. E.R. staples : IVS
34. Plan for later yrs. : IRA
36. Attraction on the bank of the Yamuna River : TAJMAHAL
37. Branch from an artery : EXITLANE
38. Enhance, as a recording : REMASTER
40. Amateurs : NONPROS
41. Sci-fi beeper : ARTOO
42. Trumpet vine, e.g. : CREEPER
43. Trattoria treat : TORTONI
45. State quarters? : PALACE
46. Name on an annual literary award : AGATHA
47. Literary orphan who lived for a while in a cupboard : POTTER
51. Dearest, in Dijon : CHERI
54. Cogitate (on) : CHEW
56. Cal tecs? : SFPD
59. Go for : DIG
60. City govt. official : ALD

Answer summary: 3 unique to this puzzle, 1 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

Found bugs or have suggestions?