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New York Times, Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Author:
Ruth Bloomfield Margolin
Editor:
Will Shortz
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92/26/201412/20/20180
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1.50100
Ruth B. Margolin

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 76, Blocks: 36 Missing: {FJQXZ} This is puzzle # 2 for Ms. Margolin. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Notepad: The answers to this puzzle's four starred clues can each precede a hidden word in 16-, 27-, 43- and 59-Across.
Ruth B. Margolin notes:
This puzzle began as a shameless attempt to pander to Will Shortz's love of table tennis. I had been making puzzles with themes that ... read more

This puzzle began as a shameless attempt to pander to Will Shortz's love of table tennis. I had been making puzzles with themes that didn't amuse Will quite enough, so I figured that a table tennis theme might do the trick, if I could do it in some new way. Unfortunately, I wasn't finding word play that I liked for any related words except "game," so the theme evolved into what you see today.

In my original puzzle, I had tried to use the clues to link each of the long theme answers to one of the corner words. So, for example, the clue for GILGAMESH was "Ancient epic of Mortal Kombat?" referencing the VIDEO game of the same name. (And the clue for VIDEO was "How the hidden feature of 16-Across might begin.") Similarly, the clue for MAKINGAMENDS was "Saying ‘Sorry!'?" referencing the BOARD game. The clue for TORNLIGAMENT was "It might hobble a Horse?" referencing the BALL game. And the clue for AGAMEMNON was "Greek king who returned from War?" referencing the CARD game. I was pleased with how my clues had a one-to-one correlation with the corner words. But I also knew that the connections were pretty subtle, so it didn't quite work. I suspected that many solvers might finish the puzzle without even noticing my carefully chosen details! Would you have noticed?

Will obviously decided that the connections were better made by way of the note that he attached to the puzzle. I feel better knowing that he couldn't figure out how to do it within the cluing either. Thanks, Will for making it work!

Jeff Chen notes:
I had to read the notepad a few times to figure out what was going on: GAME is hidden within four themers, and four short entries ... read more

I had to read the notepad a few times to figure out what was going on: GAME is hidden within four themers, and four short entries — BALL, VIDEO, BOARD, and CARD — can precede that hidden GAME. Whew!

Tablet from the Epic of GILGAMESH

Normally I'm not a huge fan of one-word themers, but I like Ruth's inclusion of both GILGAMESH and AGAMEMNON. Two epic heroes in symmetrical locations, both hiding GAME = a lot of fun for this fan of the classics. Okay, I skimmed the Epic of Gilgamesh during undergrad. Okay, I only read the first page. But I've come to appreciate how broadly that tale has affected storytelling throughout the ages.

Four long themers + four short ones = a lot of material to pack into a grid. Ruth does a pretty good job of working with all those constraints. I enjoyed the NE, with DOWN UNDER running through VIDEO and MAKING AMENDS, and just DE LA as a minor blight. It's too bad ICE AGE and ACORN weren't cross-referenced — the beginning of ICE AGE (the movie) was so funny, with the prehistoric squirrel questing for his ACORN.

The NW: it gets tough to fill when you place BALL over GILGAMESH with not much space in between. OLIO (the mish-mash, not OLEO, the margarine) is one of those unfortunate old-timey gluey bits that many constructors strive to avoid. I don't mind BOGGS and LILLE, two toughish proper nouns, but everything together might draw some complaints from solvers. To me it's just the OLIO that sticks out, and what else can you do when you fix BALL and GILGAMESH in place?

Well, maybe different options for BALL would have avoided that. There are a ton of "___ GAME" phrases, yeah?

For a "word that can precede X" type theme, I really want some new twist, something that differentiates it from the theme type many editors are no longer accepting. I like the idea here; there's no doubt it is innovative. It sure would have been nice though, to work some revealer into the grid that avoided the tortuous notepad explanation.

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© 2015, The New York TimesNo. 1104 ( 24,102 )

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Students & seniors
Across
1
*Event in "Cinderella" : BALL
5
Sound of admonishment : TSK
8
*Watch it! : VIDEO
13
Mishmash : OLIO
14
Branch of Islam : SHIA
15
Nut with a cupule : ACORN
16
Sumerian king in an ancient epic : GILGAMESH
18
Self-description after a lifestyle change : NEWME
19
Shaver's alternative to cream : GEL
20
In need of a rally, say : LOSING
22
Like a control freak : ANAL
23
One of Seuss's Star-Bellies : SNEETCH
25
Old World Style sauce brand : RAGU
27
Saying sorry, say : MAKINGAMENDS
32
Storm locator : RADAR
35
New, in Napoli : NUOVA
36
"Agnus ___" : DEI
37
'60s designer for Jackie : OLEG
38
Swearing-in staple : BIBLE
39
Partner of show or kiss : TELL
40
Permanent member of the U.N. Security Council : USA
41
Jackal or coyote : CANID
42
Like otologists' tests : AURAL
43
Reason to get Tommy John surgery : TORNLIGAMENT
46
Futures analyst? : SEER
47
Finally reach : ENDUPAT
51
Vast expanses : SEAS
53
Like a doornail, only more so : DEADER
56
Bon ___ : AMI
57
Hilda and Zelda, to TV's Sabrina : AUNTS
59
Trojan War hero of myth : AGAMEMNON
61
"Star Wars" droid, for short : ARTOO
62
Depend (on) : RELY
63
Together, in music : ADUE
64
*Executive group : BOARD
65
The Mormon Church, for short : LDS
66
*Jokester : CARD
Down
1
Wade who was five-time A.L. batting champ : BOGGS
2
Very strange : ALIEN
3
French textile city : LILLE
4
Where to record a stardate : LOG
5
Movie with the classic line "Here's Johnny!" : THESHINING
6
Pedro's emphatic assent : SISI
7
"It Had to Be You" lyricist Gus : KAHN
8
Relo vehicle : VAN
9
When mastodons roamed : ICEAGE
10
Where "G'day!" is heard : DOWNUNDER
11
Singing sister of Aretha Franklin : ERMA
12
Student in Torts or Contracts, most likely : ONEL
14
Artist's garb : SMOCK
17
Where some sacrifices are made : ALTAR
21
Like the accent in "crème" : GRAVE
24
Online read : EMAG
26
Docs' org. : AMA
28
Egypt/Sudan border region : NUBIA
29
Nobel Prizes, e.g. : GOLDMEDALS
30
Crème ___ crème : DELA
31
Flowerpot spot : SILL
32
Blowout, as in sports : ROUT
33
"Oh, I almost forgot ..." : ALSO
34
Wish list opener : DEARSANTA
38
Puppeteer Bil : BAIRD
39
"Swan Lake" attire : TUTU
41
The Cavs, on sports tickers : CLE
42
Agassi of tennis : ANDRE
44
Trojan War sage : NESTOR
45
"The bad guys" : ENEMY
48
Black-and-white zoo attraction : PANDA
49
One in a tryst : AMOUR
50
Like forks and tridents : TINED
51
Car company once owned by G.M. : SAAB
52
Prefix with zone or trash : EURO
54
Rank below marquis : EARL
55
Like Gruyère cheese, for 5-12 months : AGED
58
Farm product bought in rolls : SOD
60
Bub : MAC

Answer summary: 2 unique to this puzzle, 1 debuted here and reused later, 1 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

Found bugs or have suggestions?