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TWO HALVES IN ONE

New York Times, Sunday, December 1, 2013

Author: Alan DerKazarian
Editor: Will Shortz
Alan Derkazarian
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
411/7/20134/12/20160
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
2010100
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.63110

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 cram in the ... more
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 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. Clearly he likes rebuses ... more
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. 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 something had to be going to ... more
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 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 Down
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
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, 5 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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