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New York Times, Friday, November 24, 2017

Author:
Bruce Haight and David Steinberg
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
501/3/20137/9/20195
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
314149460
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.59042
Bruce Haight
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
956/16/20117/13/201918
SunMonTueWedThuFriSatVariety
66681132242
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.645163
David Steinberg

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
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 ... read more

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 ... read more

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.

Jim Horne 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
I
8
I
9
N
10
K
11
S
12
A
13
C
14
S
15
O
T
T
O
M
A
N
16
G
A
N
A
C
H
E
17
F
L
I
P
P
I
N
18
G
O
N
E
S
L
I
D
19
T
A
N
20
S
N
O
O
T
21
L
H
A
S
A
22
T
N
G
23
S
W
A
T
24
A
T
25
S
E
T
26
A
T
E
27
Q
A
T
A
R
28
I
S
L
E
29
C
A
R
30
G
U
Y
31
T
32
I
P
33
O
N
S
34
I
T
E
35
V
O
36
T
37
E
38
R
39
R
E
E
40
N
41
A
42
C
43
T
S
44
A
X
E
45
P
46
A
47
P
A
48
Z
O
R
R
O
49
J
I
M
50
A
G
O
51
C
E
N
T
E
R
52
M
T
A
53
L
A
T
54
C
H
55
P
O
E
T
56
S
57
A
L
S
58
A
T
T
H
E
59
D
R
O
P
O
F
60
A
H
A
T
61
C
H
E
E
R
I
O
62
E
N
P
L
A
N
E
63
E
A
R
W
I
G
S
64
R
I
D
D
L
E
R
© 2017, The New York TimesNo. 1124 ( 24,853 )
Across
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
Down
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?