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New York Times, Friday, November 4, 2016

Author:
David Steinberg
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
936/16/20113/23/201917
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66681131232
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1.645163
David Steinberg

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 68, Blocks: 34 Missing: {QXZ} Spans: 1 This is puzzle # 55 for Mr. Steinberg. Jeff Chen's Puzzle of the Week pick. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
David Steinberg notes:
This puzzle dates back to January 2015. If memory serves, Matt Ginsberg had just sent out the final version of a crowdsourced word ... read more

This puzzle dates back to January 2015. If memory serves, Matt Ginsberg had just sent out the final version of a crowdsourced word list that numerous other constructors and I had been working on, so I was excited to put it to the test! After receiving the word list, I sifted through it a bit to see which entries really stood out to me. One of the tricky things about crowdsourcing anything, especially something as subjective as a word list, is that everyone has slightly different tastes. So it took me a while to find three highly scored entries for the bottom left stack that I genuinely liked.

Once I had the bottom left in place, I plunked down WOW JUST WOW and moved on to the upper right. I can't say I was quite as happy with the upper right—the "never heard of it outside of crosswords" EILAT bothered me—but I was still pleased to work in a handful of entries I thought were interesting. My next task was to find a 15-letter entry for the center slot to tie everything together. I was thrilled to discover that HOT STONE MASSAGE fit nicely, and everything else fell into place from there.

I hope you enjoy the puzzle! In the meantime, I'll be busy working on my word list. . . .

Jeff Chen notes:
A ton of flashy, catchy answers. That bottom left corner is especially shiny, with four strong answers — WOW JUST WOW / ASK ... read more

A ton of flashy, catchy answers. That bottom left corner is especially shiny, with four strong answers — WOW JUST WOW / ASK ANYONE / SLOW DANCE / TUNA STEAK — stacked right atop each other, with only the very minor ASTI needed to hold it all together. Stacking three long answers is hard enough, but when you throw in a fourth (even if it is shifted over somewhat), it gets much harder. That's fantastic work.

WOW JUST WOW might not do much for some people, but it's one of my favorite types of entries, taking advantage of the crossword convention of ignoring punctuation. WOW JUST WOW looks odd, but think of it like this: WOW. (eye roll) JUST … WOW. (shake head.) Love it.

Interesting to hear David say that HOT STONE MASSAGE wasn't one of the seed entries. I would never have thought to build opposite corners like this, hoping that they would mesh in the middle — seems like you'd too often end up with unmatchable starts / ends for that long slot. But David kept his middle section pretty closed off with liberal use of black squares, so he set himself up to facilitate the start / end of that grid-spanning entry meshing in the middle. Clever!

Also nice to hear David point out EILAT as the least desirable entry, as that one stood out to me as well (a name I know only from crosswords). Is it a truly gluey entry, though? I'm on the fence about that. Major cities ought to be fair game, and never having traveled in that part of the world, I don't know enough about EILAT to gauge its tourist draw or its place in history. Tough call.

AMICO was second behind EILAT for me, but that felt more minor to me (it's easily inferable from the common "amigo" and "amicus brief"). It speaks to David's construction abilities that he was able to keep it to just these entries in terms of crossword glue, especially considering all the long answers stacked atop each other.

I wasn't a fan of the mini-theme — four of the first five answers clued to "pot" or "pots" — a rare case that a mini-theme actually detracted from a themeless for me. Felt a bit haphazard; inelegant. I'm glad I went back afterward to review the construction though, because once I got past that opening sensation of oddness, I really enjoyed the craftsmanship.

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© 2016, The New York TimesNo. 1104 ( 24,468 )
Across
1
Pot remnant : SHARD
6
Pot part : ANTE
10
Anagram of "pots" : STOP
14
Magnetic flux unit : WEBER
15
Pot : MARIJUANA
17
Word from the Greek for "feigned ignorance" : IRONY
18
Source of the word "geyser" : ICELANDIC
19
Professional boxer? : MOVER
20
One who doesn't need fancy wining and dining : CHEAPDATE
21
Prestigious award or flattering compliment : EGOBOOSTER
23
Talk like a pirate, say : SWEAR
24
Things short people have? : DEBTS
28
Open-house grp. : PTA
29
Make more powerful : SOUPUP
34
Spill over : SLOP
35
Spa treatment favored by rock fans? : HOTSTONEMASSAGE
38
Something no one can sing? : DUET
39
Senator who wrote "Why Courage Matters" and "Hard Call" : MCCAIN
40
Sleazeball : CAD
41
Cutting edge producer : STROP
43
Certain tablets : NOOKS
45
Words from the speechless : WOWJUSTWOW
50
"It's not only me who thinks this" : ASKANYONE
53
Fiscal ___ : CLIFF
56
Sway with a partner : SLOWDANCE
57
BBC ___ : RADIO
58
Serving of ahi : TUNASTEAK
59
Beside : ALONG
60
Azalea with the 2014 #1 hit "Fancy" : IGGY
61
Fractions of fluid ozs. : TSPS
62
Off-color : BAWDY
Down
1
Exercise at the Y, maybe : SWIM
2
Knight in shining armor : HERO
3
Solvent : ABOVEWATER
4
Not follow suit : RENEGE
5
Process, in a way, as peanuts : DRYROAST
6
Firenze friend : AMICO
7
Sports bar bite : NACHO
8
Joyce Kilmer poem that starts "I think that I shall never see" : TREES
9
Israeli seaport : EILAT
10
Informal summer wear : SUNDRESS
11
Word of mock fanfare : TADA
12
Doing the job : ONIT
13
Tempo : PACE
16
Said something in jest : JAPED
22
One stuck in the closet : BROOM
23
Full-bodied : STOUT
25
"Deadly" vodka cocktail : BLACKWIDOW
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Caesar dressing? : TOGAS
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Hastened : SPED
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Elite group of grads : PHDS
30
N.C.A.A. hoops giant : UNC
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Top part of a trunk, for short : PEC
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Actress Thurman : UMA
33
Basic PC program : PAINT
36
Nautical nuisance : STOWAWAY
37
Bright orange seafood delicacy : SNOWCRAB
42
Settings for some Monet artwork : PONDS
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"What a knockout!" : OOLALA
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One of the Earp brothers : WYATT
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Ache (for) : JONES
48
Take the top off : UNCAP
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Tries to 54-Down : SEEKS
50
Freisa d'___ (Italian wine) : ASTI
51
Bullet : SLUG
52
King ___ : KONG
54
See 49-Down : FIND
55
Square type : FOGY

Answer summary: 5 unique to this puzzle, 1 debuted here and reused later, 3 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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