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New York Times, Thursday, November 6, 2014

Author:
Matt Ginsberg
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
471/17/200811/1/20187
SunMonTueWedThuFriSatVariety
1603015463
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.57330
Matt Ginsberg

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 72, Blocks: 30 Missing: {FJQXZ} This is puzzle # 39 for Mr. Ginsberg. Jeff Chen's Puzzle of the Week pick. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Matt Ginsberg notes:
This is a relatively straightforward puzzle, but it reminds me how curious the whole process from construction to publication is. So, ... read more

This is a relatively straightforward puzzle, but it reminds me how curious the whole process from construction to publication is. So, for example, this puzzle took 132 days from the time I submitted until it appeared, which seemed fast. Best ever for me is an incredibly quick 27 days; longest is 1377 days — just over 3 3/4 years! I have no idea why some puzzles go quickly and others don't; it just seems to be part of the process.

As always, many of the clues changed. I originally had [Con-dense?] for 46-Across, which I liked, and it took me forever to understand the clue for 9-Down, and I live there! As I often tell people, I can't do my own puzzles when they come out in the Times, and this one was no exception. Dr.Fill, however, had no such problem, solving it correctly in about 15 seconds. It had trouble in the southwest, but eventually managed to patch things up and get a perfect solve. I've put a video of the program solving the puzzle below, where you'll see Dr.Fill mess up the southwest and then fix it before spending the rest of its "ACPT minute" checking its work.

I hope everyone enjoys both the video and the puzzle itself.

Jeff Chen notes:
I really enjoyed this one. Sometimes puzzles trying to do too much fall flat, but this hybrid of part tricky Thursday and part ... read more

I really enjoyed this one. Sometimes puzzles trying to do too much fall flat, but this hybrid of part tricky Thursday and part themeless-style fill worked well for me. There's not a huge amount of theme — PARTING of the RED / SEA, plus PHARAOH, ISRAELI, MOSES, and EGYPT — but the visual PARTING of the unclued entries RED and SEA was a neat added bonus.

Although there's not a huge theme density at 37 theme squares, the fact that there are essentially five seed answers (four short ones plus RED / PARTING / SEA across the middle) ups the level of difficulty. Matt does well to spread his themers around, placing the four loose ones into different quadrants of the grid, which allows for high flexibility in fill. Take for example, the SE corner. With just EGYPT fixed into place, Matt has great freedom to place colorful entries like SAO PAULO, TIRE IRON, and PEEPER, working that corner through dozens of possibilities.

And the clues are strong, with themeless-level cleverness. YETI gives us a really interesting bit of trivia. [Snake's place, in part] mystified me, until I realized the "snake" was actually a capitalized "Snake," i.e. the Snake River. Great use of placement, hiding that capital letter at the very beginning of the clue. BERG also gave me a great a-ha moment when I realized 4/14/12 was talking about 4/14/1912, not 4/4/2012. Excellent piece of deception.

Just like any puzzle, it's not perfect, with its smattering of OSTE, IDAS, ALEE, A MAN. But notice how these four bits of crossword glue are spread out? That deft touch made those four bits less apparent for me during my solve. And I did find PESACH a bit of an ODD ONE, but it was buried in the recesses of my memory banks somewhere. A Jewish buddy of mine confirmed that it's totally legit.

Overall, a highly entertaining solve for me. I like puzzles that break molds and conventions, and I found the mixture of the trickiness of a Thursday and the chock-full goodness of a themeless to be spot on.

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© 2014, The New York TimesNo. 1106 ( 23,739 )
Across
1
Winter plantings? : SKIPOLES
9
First name in "Star Wars" : OBIWAN
15
One who's just out for a good time : HEDONIST
16
Junk shop transaction : RESALE
17
So to speak : INASENSE
18
More Serling-esque : EERIER
19
Leader of a noted 37-Across : MOSES
20
Left for good : EMIGRATED
22
"Nebraska" star, 2013 : DERN
24
Turn blue? : MOPE
25
Feast of unleavened bread : PESACH
28
Southernmost U.S. capital : HONOLULU
32
Gardner namesakes : AVAS
33
Nonmusical Abba : EBAN
35
Diamond complements : NINES
36
- : RED
37
See 19- and 54-Across and 11- and 41-Down : PARTING
39
- : SEA
40
Not perfectly put : INAPT
42
Subject of a onetime Nepali hunting license [true fact!] : YETI
43
Belated observation of 4/14/12 : BERG
44
Home of Charlotte Amalie : STTHOMAS
46
Like the people of Siberia : SPARSE
48
Unanimously, after "to" : AMAN
49
Stadium projection, maybe : TIER
50
Co-signer, say : GUARANTOR
54
Location of the 37-Across : EGYPT
58
Priestify : ORDAIN
59
2014 World Cup host : SAOPAULO
61
Strange bird : ODDONE
62
Spare item? : TIREIRON
63
Airplane with the propeller at the back : PUSHER
64
"As if you could kill time without injuring ___": Thoreau, "Walden" : ETERNITY
Down
1
Leveler : SHIM
2
Many a state lottery game : KENO
3
Mythical Greek who slew Castor : IDAS
4
Impersonated : POSEDAS
5
"Just a mo!" : ONESEC
6
Hoopster Jeremy : LIN
7
European city of 500,000+ whose name translates as "to eat" : ESSEN
8
Result (from) : STEM
9
Snake's place, in part : OREGON
10
Party game : BEERPONG
11
Beneficiary of the 37-Across, in modern times : ISRAELI
12
"Just a moment!" : WAIT
13
Captain's direction : ALEE
14
Filmdom's Napoleon Dynamite, for one : NERD
21
"You can count on me" : IMONIT
23
Flightless bird : RHEA
25
Setting for much of "Inglourious Basterds" : PARIS
26
Schedule listing : EVENT
27
October War leader : SADAT
28
Bad feelings? : HATES
29
Last name of three Indianapolis 500 winners : UNSER
30
Bad looks : LEERS
31
Copy editor's concern : USAGE
34
Bear on a field : BRYANT
37
Product of organic decay : PTOMAINE
38
Pending, as a legal decree : NISI
41
Loser on account of the 37-Across : PHARAOH
43
Deal : BARGAIN
45
Sort : MANNER
47
Eye : PEEPER
49
Blue eyes, e.g. : TRAIT
50
Hair gel, e.g. : GOOP
51
Language from which "cummerbund" comes : URDU
52
Tots : ADDS
53
Bone: Prefix : OSTE
55
First name in space : YURI
56
What cabalists do : PLOT
57
One of eight for Stephen Sondheim : TONY
60
Vein filler : ORE

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

Found bugs or have suggestions?