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New York Times, Friday, December 4, 2015

Author: Martin Ashwood-Smith
Editor: Will Shortz
Martin Ashwood-Smith
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
856/5/19914/29/201710
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000246316
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1.520017

This puzzle:

Rows: 16, Columns: 15 Words: 69, Blocks: 36 Missing: {JKQVWZ} Spans: 6, (1 quad stack) This is puzzle # 80 for Mr. Ashwood-Smith. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Martin Ashwood-Smith notes: The quad stack crossword that you see here is unique in my history of constructions in this genre, because of the relative ... more
Martin Ashwood-Smith notes:

The quad stack crossword that you see here is unique in my history of constructions in this genre, because of the relative speed which which it came together. The saga started with receipt of a rejection from Will of a different puzzle, due to one particular spanning 15 that he did not particularly like. Once I realized that the earlier submission was not salvageable, I set forth to create a different one with the same general architecture.

After fixing a cup of coffee and staring at a blank wall for half an hour, I suddenly remembered that the great Merl Reagle had published a triple stack 15x15 in Dell Champion Crosswords, with the creative but easier to handle DAYTON TENNESSEE (famous for the Scopes "Monkey Trial"). I e-mailed Merl that I was going to "steal" his entry if he was OK with it, and he shot back "Knock yourself out!"

Long story short. About 7 hours later, I had a half-decent grid, and after a further 8 hours, it was sufficiently polished that I felt it could be sent to Will first thing in the morning. Let me emphasize that quads typically take me several weeks to build, involving much trial and error, and there are many that go nowhere for months. Anyhow, when Will got back to me, he basically liked it but challenged me to remove one of the long down words (LISSOMENESS) and several of the short words. Several more hours of work (plus two cheater squares) later, I had the final version which I hope you'll agree raised the overall quality another notch or two.

Ending on a bittersweet note, I reminded Merl of his "stolen" entry in the last phone conversation we had, about a week before his tragic death. With his trademark chuckle, he said that he was looking forward to it, and then we moved to a more technical discussion of how to create stacks. I am so sorry that Merl never had a chance to see the final product.

Jeff Chen notes: MAS gives us a colorful selection of entries in the quad-stack, CELESTIAL EMPIRE my favorite. I should have known that one, being ... more
Jeff Chen notes:

MAS gives us a colorful selection of entries in the quad-stack, CELESTIAL EMPIRE my favorite. I should have known that one, being Taiwanese and all, but it's such a snappy answer I really wanted to look it up. (It was in use during the 19th century.) And I CAN SEE FOR MILES is such a catchy song.

I CAN SEE FOR MILES

I also liked APPLIED RESEARCH, although I would have preferred a more colorful clue, i.e. how Jaeger manned robots were born from APPLIED RESEARCH. (My grasp of reality is tenuous.) I'm glad DAYTON TENNESSEE (population less than 10K) got clued with respect to the Scopes Monkey Trial, which makes it gridworthy in my eyes.

I've appreciated MAS's efforts to make his fill cleaner on these wide-open grids, which is no mean feat. Given how tough these constructions are, limiting the gluey bits to things like CTR, ISE, SHA, SNO, RTES is impressive. I'm always mixed on INO (Greek mythology) and APIS (Egyptian mythology) since they're not nearly as recognizable as Zeus/Hera/Isis/Ra, but if the crossings are fair, this mythology-lover tends to look the other way.

I've also appreciated his efforts to create flow, using a ton of white space to connect all areas of the grid. It's fantastic to get entries like LONG STEMMED and DETOX DIETS running straight through the stack. One of the knocks I have on puzzles built on grid-spanning entries is that there's often not much else besides those long entries. Not today!

I was so impressed by the sheer feat of construction and eye-popping visual impact … until I hit THREE TENS. Now, I'm not usually one to judge a grid by its weakest entry, but this one left a sour taste in my mouth. I researched it to see if THREE TENS was some special holding like a Dead Man's Hand or Pocket Aces, so badly wanting to turn up something, anything that would redeem the entry. But, no. If it had been some tiny arbitrary entry off in a corner, that would have been one thing. But THREE TENS is essential to the stack.

Still, an entertaining solve.

1
F
2
A
3
L
4
L
5
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P
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8
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9
L
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I
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15
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C
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A
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M
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25
B
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36
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37
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38
D
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Y
T
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39
S
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G
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© 2015, The New York TimesNo. 1204 ( 24,132 )
Across Down
1. Big drop of water : FALLS
6. Putting out a lot : PROLIFIC
14. Superman, for one : ALIEN
15. Axe in a bathroom : DEODORANT
16. One showing resolution? : COMPUTERMONITOR
18. "Any ideas?" : THOUGHTS
19. Some British autos : MGS
20. It's delivered freshly : SASS
21. School in development? : ROE
22. Lead-in to "la la" : SHA
24. Where tequila originated: Abbr. : MEX
25. Start of a protest : BUT
27. B.C. setting : PST
30. Focus of industrial science : APPLIEDRESEARCH
36. Old nickname for China : CELESTIALEMPIRE
37. The Who's only U.S. top 10 hit : ICANSEEFORMILES
38. Scopes Trial city : DAYTONTENNESSEE
39. Lead-in to Balls or Caps : SNO
40. Enterprise letters : USS
41. Wander : GAD
42. "On Point" broadcaster : NPR
44. Sharp as a bowling ball : DIM
45. Enormous, informally : MEGA
49. Contents of some pockets : AIR
51. Opposite of a shaggy-dog story : ONELINER
53. Hardware manager : OPERATINGSYSTEM
57. Hoarders' disorders : RATSNESTS
58. Candy counter eponym : REESE
59. Immoderate behavior : EXCESSES
60. Made a bad call : ERRED
1. The right stuff? : FACTS
2. Coming or going acknowledgment : ALOHA
3. Line at the Oscars : LIMOS
4. Hare constellation : LEPUS
5. Figure-hugging : SNUG
6. Taken alone : PERSE
7. DVD trailer? : ROM
8. 2004-11 Lakers forward : ODOM
9. Like some roses and wineglasses : LONGSTEMMED
10. Partiers on March 17 : IRISH
11. Broad and then some : FAT
12. Rescuer of Odysseus : INO
13. Snapper on a field: Abbr. : CTR
15. Trendy cleanses : DETOXDIETS
17. Pretty good poker hand : THREETENS
23. Taxing times : APRILS
24. Their state song is a waltz : MISSOURIANS
25. Property : BELONGINGS
26. Handles online : USERNAMES
28. Cliffside detritus : SCREE
29. ___ days (now) : THESE
30. Vinegar and others : ACIDS
31. Praline ingredient : PECAN
32. Take selfish advantage of : PLAYON
33. Quitting time? : LENT
34. Actor Spall of "Life of Pi" : RAFE
35. Egyptian bull god : APIS
43. Diagram grammatically : PARSE
44. Inadvisable behavior : DONTS
45. Skinflint : MISER
46. Rap response : ENTER
47. Featherbrains : GEESE
48. Piece-keeping? : ARMED
50. Map lines: Abbr. : RTES
52. Strings of yore : LYRE
53. Rock band? : ORE
54. Time of wide-ranging stability : PAX
55. It can reduce a sentence : ETC
56. Final finale in Britain? : ISE

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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