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New York Times, Saturday, November 3, 2018

Author:
Ryan McCarty
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
126/17/20178/3/20191
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0000129
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.58000
Ryan McCarty

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 62, Blocks: 38 Missing: {FJKQZ} Spans: 2 This is puzzle # 7 for Mr. McCarty. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Ryan McCarty notes:
This odd-looking grid was the result of an experiment to find some new themeless grid shapes. It began with the thought, 'what would ... read more

This odd-looking grid was the result of an experiment to find some new themeless grid shapes. It began with the thought, "what would happen if I cut the grid almost entirely in half?" and morphed into the vaguely circular shape with wide open quadrants you see today. But boy was this puzzle a chore! It was one of my first attempts in sub-64-word grids, and as such took many, many hours to fill cleanly.

I submitted the grid, and got an acceptance contingent on replacing an entry in the SW quadrant. I worked to fix this and was able to get an OK-looking bottom half after needing to replace a good chunk of the grid due to the high interlock of the entries. The editing team initially accepted the changes, but challenged me further to make the bottom half more interesting, which had gotten duller in the redo. So, I went back and ended up tearing out and refilling the entire bottom half of the grid…again…to finally get the puzzle you see today.

The grid itself is unusual in that it only really has 4 long slots, yet a metric ton of 7-letter entries (24!) With that many mid-length words in this limiting grid design, they couldn't all be winners. Though, the SAT tutor in me enjoyed the preponderance of vocab words (NEONATE, APPARAT, IGNOBLE, STYGIAN.) The longer slots could have been a bit more exciting, but overall this grid was very instructive for me in learning to work with constrictive grid designs. At the time I said I wouldn't attempt another sub-64-word grid for a while, but I've since broken that several times over…

I hope, if anything, you enjoy the variety that a weird puzzle like this provides, and the story of its somewhat painful journey to fruition.

Jeff Chen notes:
Ooh, a wide-open 62-worder! A daunting construction challenge! The SW / NE corners are hard enough – 4x7 stacks, not at all ... read more

Ooh, a wide-open 62-worder! A daunting construction challenge! The SW / NE corners are hard enough – 4x7 stacks, not at all segmented from the rest of the puzzle.

And the opposite corners? It takes some serious guts to tackle areas as big as those. Themeless constructors can usually rely on a dab of short crossword glue here or there, helping to hold their feature entries together. But take a closer look at that NW corner. There are virtually no short slots! Impossible to slip in a CUL or a SIL when every darn entry is mid-length or more.

What, AND there are four long entries locking the grid skeleton in place? Hatchi matchi! Talk about an uber-duber-challenge.

I was mighty impressed that Ryan was able to use such lively feature entries – ANTIVAXXERS is such a neat-looking string of letters. (Not so neat are the anti-vaxxers themselves, harrumph.) Loved DORA THE EXPLORER and SAINT PETERSBURG, too. Not personally taken by DEE DEE MYERS, especially with her oh-so-friendly constructor-friendly letters, but she works.

It's so difficult (impossible?) to escape a whoppingly-gigantic corner without a CAPEMAN. Or SERENER (more serene?). Or UNIPED (un-ip-ed = no IP address, ha ha). Or a NON HERO. These are all real, dictionary-supported things — and likely not at all odd to some (I can already hear Paul Simon fans' outrage). But to me, they're not nearly as juicy as APPARAT, AMUSE ME, STYGIAN, IGNOBLE.

There's much subjectivity here. But AMUSE ME is at least figure-out-able if you haven't heard someone say that. CAPEMAN, not so much.

Mighty fine fill overall. Especially given the immense level of difficulty, I considered this one for the POW! It just gave me one too many moments of pause to get it to the promised land.

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© 2018, The New York TimesNo. 1103 ( 25,197 )

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Across
1
"I Am ___" (2013 best-selling autobiography) : MALALA
7
Deals : PACTS
12
1998 Paul Simon/Derek Walcott musical, with "The" : CAPEMAN
13
Party leader : EMCEE
14
Jaguar's coat, e.g. : CARPAINT
15
Apple ___ : CORER
16
Classified : WANTAD
17
Little put-down : DIG
19
Exorcism, e.g. : RITE
20
[Yawn] : IMTIRED
22
Addictive pain reliever : VICODIN
24
Baby during its first four weeks : NEONATE
25
"Do something funny!" : AMUSEME
26
Nick name : DORATHEEXPLORER
28
Rapper with the 5x platinum album "... And Then There Was X" : DMX
29
"Crime and Punishment" setting : SAINTPETERSBURG
41
Low : IGNOBLE
42
U.S. women's soccer star Megan ___ : RAPINOE
43
Sporty Pontiac of old : TRANSAM
44
Dark and forbidding : STYGIAN
45
MacFarlane of "American Dad!" : SETH
46
Capital of the U.S. from 1785 to 1790, in brief : NYC
48
Thick, as toilet tissue : TWOPLY
49
Members of familles : PERES
51
Tried to follow : EMULATED
53
Company that once had tremendous "quarterly" profits? : ATARI
54
Light crimson : ROSERED
55
"Fiddler on the Roof" Oscar nominee : TOPOL
56
Showed signs of congestion, maybe : SNORED
Down
1
First name of two Wimbledon winners in the 1980s and '90s : MARTINA
2
Political organization : APPARAT
3
Shepherds, in the Bible : LEADETH
4
Le Pen pal? : AMI
5
International treaty subject : LAND
6
Ones not calling the shots? : ANTIVAXXERS
7
Chest part, informally : PEC
8
Lovingly, in scores : AMOROSO
9
Classic blues song with the line "I'd rather be dead than to stay here and be your dog" : CCRIDER
10
When to start on a course : TEETIME
11
Less stressed : SERENER
12
Singer in Jewish services : CANTOR
14
Small part : CAMEO
16
Tucker out, in a way : WIND
18
Hobble : GIMP
21
Press secretary who inspired C. J. Cregg of "The West Wing" : DEEDEEMYERS
23
___-de-sac : CUL
27
Graduate of a Red Cross training course, for short : EMT
29
Resists change : SITSPAT
30
Go along with : AGREETO
31
Stuck : INATRAP
32
Ordinary joe : NONHERO
33
"Full Frontal With Samantha Bee" network : TBS
34
Word with game or building : PLAN
35
One letting you know before going for a bite? : RATTLER
36
Some malicious programs : SPYWARE
37
Intolerant : BIGOTED
38
One-footed creature : UNIPED
39
South Pole discoverer Amundsen : ROALD
40
Millennials, by another name : GENY
47
"Seriously?!" : CMON
50
Part of R.S.V.P. : SIL
52
Morale-boosting grp. : USO

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

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