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TWO HALVES IN ONE

New York Times, Sunday, December 1, 2013

Author:
Alan DerKazarian
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
511/7/20131/13/20180
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
2010101
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.61110
Alan DerKazarian

This puzzle:

Rows: 21, Columns: 21 Words: 140, Blocks: 77 Missing: {JQZ} This is puzzle # 2 for Mr. DerKazarian. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Alan DerKazarian notes:
I knew I wanted to make a rebus puzzle using 'Back in Black' so I started by experimenting with some 15x15 grids. None of these really worked, however, as there just wasn't enough room to ... read more

I knew I wanted to make a rebus puzzle using "Back in Black" so I started by experimenting with some 15x15 grids. None of these really worked, however, as there just wasn't enough room to cram in the revealer and a bunch of theme answers, so I started thinking bigger! I'm not sure how I came upon the idea of bisecting the grid into two halves and using the BACK rebus to allow the solver to jump across the divide, but it worked beautifully, allowing for some lengthy BACK answers and for the shock value of a puzzle divided in two. I'm sure some solvers were thinking, "Well, how the hell is this going to work?"

Anyway, the puzzle was brutally hard to fill in 140 words or less and there ended up being a lot of funky looking black patterns all over the place. Will said he liked the theme but "would I like to have another go at the fill?" I was having the same problems on the second attempt when suddenly I had an epiphany. "You idiot! The words before and after BACK don't count as two words. It's all one word!" I was trying to make a puzzle with 132 words, not 140. Once I realized I could let Crossword Compiler tell me my puzzle was 148 words instead of 140, it made all the difference in the world.

One quick note on what is sure to be the most questioned answer, DENTALCARIES. First, it really made that section hum; I wouldn't have used it if I didn't have to. Second, if you go to Wikipedia and search for "tooth decay" you come to an article where the main heading is "dental caries." That was good enough for me. I was still worried about it, though, but it seems it was good enough for Will, too.

Will Shortz notes:
This is Alan's second crossword for the Times — his last one being the memorable [ONE-ARMED] BANDITS, [TWO-BIT] CROOKS, [THREE-CARD] MONTE, and [FOUR-WAY] STOP puzzle on Nov. 7. ... read more

This is Alan's second crossword for the Times — his last one being the memorable [ONE-ARMED] BANDITS, [TWO-BIT] CROOKS, [THREE-CARD] MONTE, and [FOUR-WAY] STOP puzzle on Nov. 7. Clearly he likes rebuses ... and breaking the "rules"! This puzzle turned out beautifully, I think. I don't know how solvers will indicate the four BACKs in the grid. I guess you'll just have to use your imagination.

Jeff Chen notes:
What an impressive concept and execution for Alan's debut Sunday NYT. A visually stunning puzzle; seeing that giant dividing line down the center of the puzzle gave me a smile. I knew ... read more

What an impressive concept and execution for Alan's debut Sunday NYT. A visually stunning puzzle; seeing that giant dividing line down the center of the puzzle gave me a smile. I knew something had to be going to to connect the two halves, and I couldn't wait to find out what it was.

GREAT DIVIDE makes for a perfect theme entry, and fortuitously it's the same length as BACK IN BLACK. That's pretty cool! I would have fanboy squeed if those two entries were more related, like if AC/DC had a song called the GREAT DIVIDE. I suppose that would have been asking for too much. Plus, no one wants to hear me go "SQUEE!".

When I first uncovered the trick, I thought it was pretty cool. It was hard to keep track of where the four BACK squares were though, which took away a tiny bit of solving pleasure for me. It would have been really nice if there was a way to distinguish the crossing points. Perhaps flattening the diagonal somehow at those points? A way to write in "BACK" somewhere? Not sure.

But then I realized that Alan crossed his theme answers (TURNS BACK THE CLOCK intersects HUMPBACK WHALE, WONT BACK DOWN intersects THERE AND BACK AGAIN) and I marveled at it. It's hard to intersect themers like that, and to do it in four different locations is really cool. Even more impressive that the fill didn't really suffer around those four crossing locations!

DENTAL CARIES ... glad that Alan already addressed that. Ahem. Generally there are limited long fill spaces in a grid, and it pays to take full advantage of them. Yes, there are some great entries in that region, notably MENTAL NOTE and MOTOR POOL, but DENTAL CARIES is a bit of a It Who Shall Not Be Named entry. Ah, Sunday grids are so, so, so hard to put together.

Speaking of difficult, hopefully solvers either got on the TPAIN train or really know their geography in PEEDEE. Yikes!

An ambitious Sunday debut, hope to see more mind-bending puzzles from Alan.

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© 2013, The New York TimesNo. 1201 ( 23,399 )
Across
1
Shot from a gun : BBS
4
Hummus, e.g. : DIP
7
One-named rapper with a hyphen in his name : TPAIN
12
C2H5OH : ETHANOL
19
"Yuck!" : EEW
20
Disney deer : ENA
21
Company named for a volcano : AETNA
22
Ones with bouquets, maybe : SUITORS
23
Actress ___ Dawn Chong : RAE
24
Aught : NIL
25
Subject for the philosopher Heidegger : BEING
26
Dressed with elaborate care : PREENED
27
Passage from life to death : GREATDIVIDE
30
Scorecard column : WINS
31
Unwritten reminder : MENTALNOTE
32
Wedges, e.g. : SHOES
34
Sources of feta and ricotta cheese : EWES
38
Biological ring : AREOLE
39
Round trip ... or the subtitle of "The Hobbit" : THEREANDBACKAGAIN
42
"This I Promise You" band : NSYNC
43
Neptune's home : SEA
44
Brewer's oven : OAST
45
"Really?" : THATSO
46
Fins : ABES
48
Aquatic singer : HUMPBACKWHALE
50
Camp treats : SMORES
53
Astronomical datum : MASS
54
20-Across, e.g. : DOE
55
Nutritional std. : RDA
58
Eponym of Warsaw's airport : CHOPIN
59
Numismatic classification : FINE
60
Private gatherings : CONCLAVES
63
Having macadamias or pecans, say : NUTTED
64
Part of E.S.L.: Abbr. : ENG
65
Word with holy or sacred : COW
66
Sweats : LABORS
67
Met one's potential : BLOSSOMED
69
Old capital of Europe : BONN
70
Cat also known as the dwarf leopard : OCELOT
71
51-Down unit : CAR
72
YouTube posting, for short : VID
73
Firm (up) : TONE
74
Basketball play : SCREEN
75
Inexpensive reprint, maybe : PAPERBACKBOOK
79
Ocean menace : MAKO
80
Less prudish : LOOSER
82
Deuteronomy contents : LAWS
83
German Expressionist Otto : DIX
84
Sin city : SODOM
89
2005 nominee for Best Picture : BROKEBACKMOUNTAIN
92
Name on some European stamps : ESPANA
93
"Do the Right Thing" pizzeria : SALS
94
Where the wild things are? : WOODS
95
Steeply discounted product, maybe : LOSSLEADER
97
Distort : WARP
98
1980 hard rock album that went 22x platinum ... or a hint to how to cross this puzzle's 27-Across : BACKINBLACK
99
University in Lewiston, N.Y. : NIAGARA
103
Speculate, say : OPINE
105
Cadenza or Forte maker : KIA
106
Terre in the mer : ILE
107
Some badges : IDCARDS
108
Trademarks : LOGOS
109
Not a reduction: Abbr. : ENL
110
South of Spain? : SUR
111
Anne Bradstreet, for one : POETESS
112
Lane in Hollywood : DIANE
113
Fa-la connector : SOL
114
Conan's network : TBS
Down
1
Director with three Best Foreign Film Oscars : BERGMAN
2
Messengers, e.g. : BEARERS
3
Todd of Broadway : SWEENEY
4
Tooth decay, to professionals : DENTALCARIES
5
Not going anywhere? : INIDLE
6
Michael or Sarah : PALIN
7
Daughter on "Bewitched" : TABITHA
8
The Carolinas' ___ River : PEEDEE
9
End in ___ : ATIE
10
Comfort or country follower : INN
11
Badger : NAG
12
Seen : ESPIED
13
Revisits an earlier time : TURNSBACKTHECLOCK
14
Speeds : HIES
15
Tucked away : ATE
16
Prefix with smoker : NON
17
What a picker may pick : ORE
18
"Purple haze" : LSD
28
Lots : ATON
29
Plebiscites : VOTES
30
Stands one's ground : WONTBACKDOWN
32
Clothing lines : SEAMS
33
Metal fastener : HASP
34
Yves's "even" : EGAL
35
Amphibious rodent : WATERVOLE
36
Autobahn hazard : EIS
37
With 60-Down, carnival treat : SNO
40
Stir : ROUSE
41
It might be heard when a light bulb goes on : AHA
43
Parisian possessive : SES
47
Try very hard : BENDOVERBACKWARDS
48
Remain undecided : HANG
49
Korean money : WON
50
Coach with two Super Bowl championships : SHULA
51
Collection of vehicles available to personnel : MOTORPOOL
52
Makes a choice : OPTS
53
Look after : MIND
56
Three-time N.B.A. All-Star Williams : DERON
57
Part of P.D.A.: Abbr. : ASST
58
Jim Cramer's network : CNBC
59
Cause of an audio squeal : FEEDBACKLOOP
60
See 37-Down : CONE
61
It's caught by a stick on a field : LACROSSEBALL
62
Busy as ___ : ABEE
65
Go pfft, with "out" : CONK
68
Yuri's "peace" : MIR
69
Publicize : BOOST
73
Atlas index listings : TOWNS
74
One was blown in Ellington's band : SAX
76
Quizzes : ASKS
77
Presentation opening? : PEE
78
Dial-up unit : BAUD
79
European capital on the Svisloch River : MINSK
80
Scale abbr. : LBS
81
___ pro nobis : ORA
83
Bishop's place : DIOCESE
85
Libran stone : OPAL
86
Arp or Duchamp : DADAIST
87
Lowest bid in bridge : ONECLUB
88
Buoys, e.g. : MARKERS
90
Mire : MORASS
91
Support group since 1951 : ALANON
92
Cause of weather weirdness : ELNINO
96
Dickens villain : SIKES
97
Goods : WARE
98
Nickname for Georgia's capital : BIGA
99
Small amount of drink : NIP
100
Oath-taking phrase : IDO
101
___-high : ACE
102
"Little Caesar" weapon : GAT
103
Superseded : OLD
104
Dish made from a root : POI

Answer summary: 12 unique to this puzzle, 4 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

Found bugs or have suggestions?