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New York Times, Thursday, December 5, 2013

Author:
Dan Schoenholz
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
235/5/201012/7/20170
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
10244300
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.64220
Dan Schoenholz

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 76, Blocks: 38 Missing: {JKQX} This is puzzle # 9 for Mr. Schoenholz. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Dan Schoenholz notes:
Jeff Chen (2/23/12) and Elizabeth Gorski (8/18/13) weren't kidding when they wrote about the challenges inherent in constructing a ... read more

Jeff Chen (2/23/12) and Elizabeth Gorski (8/18/13) weren't kidding when they wrote about the challenges inherent in constructing a puzzle with theme answers on the perimeter. After I came up with this theme idea, I struggled for quite a while to find a combination of theme entries that interlocked as necessary and still allowed for decent fill around the central revealer.

It was definitely the most difficult time I've had making a 15 x 15 puzzle, but also the most satisfying when I came up with something that worked, kind of an "aha moment" on steroids. To top it off, Will liked the puzzle enough to accept it, and I'm pleased to be joining the ranks of Thursday constructors as a result. I hope solvers enjoy the CONFUSION!

Will Shortz notes:
How long did it take you to catch on to this puzzle's theme? Since this sort of theme has appeared several times before, maybe not ... read more

How long did it take you to catch on to this puzzle's theme? Since this sort of theme has appeared several times before, maybe not long. The constructor's clue for 16A was "Stick ___ in the water." My assistant, Anna, suggested what you got, which I thought was pretty clever.

Jeff Chen notes:
A clever idea for a theme! CONFUSION parsed as CON FUSION, i.e. requiring the fusion of CON to 10 perimeter answers in order to make ... read more

A clever idea for a theme! CONFUSION parsed as CON FUSION, i.e. requiring the fusion of CON to 10 perimeter answers in order to make sense of their clues. And to top it off, each of the 10 perimeter answers is a word in its own right. Pretty neat.

It's not often that we have puzzles with perimeter theme answers, and there's a reason why. Each corner is difficult to construct in its own right, and it's very difficult to get the fill from one corner to mesh cleanly with that of the other three corners. Toss in a middle entry and you've made your life very, very difficult. I keep on telling myself that I'll never do another one again, but I have a short memory. The eternal optimist in me says "It really isn't so bad, just do it!" And then I mentally disappear from everything else for five days. Clearly I need to go all Memento on myself*.

Dan has his best filling success in the north and south, where he's wisely used black squares to semi-segment these areas for easier filling. As a result, he puts in BATTEN DOWN and IN LA LA LAND while keeping things mostly clean. The south isn't quite as nice (LAR next to TATI) but including NBA DRAFT I think is worth the price. Nice stuff there.

The difficulty level ratchets up in big corners where the perimeter answers don't have a lot of options. I bet Dan came up with a list of possibilities and then figured out what he could intersect in the corners. The fact that the themers cross in the four corners is awfully elegant (cheater squares in the corners make things easier by opening up many more themer options), but it also makes it very difficult to fill those sections cleanly. Dan does a nice job in the NW, with VESPERS something I didn't know but enjoyed looking up.

The SE had me stumped though. ELEAZAR is fair for a Thursday, but PES and ON AN crossing it is unfortunate. Same sort of issue in the SW, with CMI atop RIBBER, with CIEL in close proximity. I can imagine Dan tried dozens if not hundreds of possibilities in these sections, and kudos to him for adding in cheater squares in order to try to make things work better. But man oh man, this type of construction is a bear to keep smooth.

Fun concept and terrific theme; some success and some bumps in the execution.

*NOTE TO SELF: it really isn't so bad, just do it!

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© 2013, The New York TimesNo. 1205 ( 23,403 )
Across
1
Like a satellite dish : CAVE
5
Court disaster? : TEMPT
10
Call or email : TACT
14
Pac-12 team : UTES
15
Like the characters in "Angela's Ashes" : IRISH
16
Vol. 1 of a four-volume encyclopedia, maybe : ATOE
17
Unwind : REST
18
Secure, in a way : BATTENDOWN
20
Criticizes : RAPS
21
Real conclusion? : IST
22
In stitches : SEAMED
23
What a yeanling may grow up to be : EWE
24
Clarke who played the bride of Frankenstein : MAE
25
"O Tannenbaum" subject : FIR
26
Hot blood : IRE
27
Seekers of drug stores? : NARCOS
29
Technical writer's target : ENDUSER
31
Holyfield rival : TYSON
32
Shade of green : PEA
33
Classic Ford : LTD
34
Puzzlement ... or a hint to getting the 10 words on the perimeter of this puzzle : CONFUSION
38
Counterpart of paleo- : NEO
40
Word with wheel or deal : BIG
41
Did some surgery on, as an eye : LASED
45
Coke source : SODACAN
47
King of pop music : CAROLE
48
Early 10th-century year : CMI
49
Fingers : IDS
50
Glimmer : RAY
51
Anatomical foot : PES
52
Kidding type : RIBBER
54
Give a whuppin' : TAN
55
Bric-a-___ : BRAC
56
Out to lunch : INLALALAND
58
Unwind : LAZE
59
Duke, e.g. : PEER
60
Like some errors : FATAL
61
"___ unrelated matter ..." : ONAN
62
Pageant, e.g. : TEST
63
Repentant : TRITE
64
Peace : CORD
Down
1
Simultaneous : CURRENT
2
Eroded : ATEAWAY
3
Evening service : VESPERS
4
Back-of-the-envelope figs. : ESTS
5
Leg bones : TIBIAS
6
Backspace, maybe : ERASE
7
2012 political chant : MITT
8
West Coast setting: Abbr. : PST
9
Locale of long-running Mideast conflict : THESINAI
10
"Voilà!" : TADA
11
Democritus or Leucippus, philosophically : ATOMIST
12
Shrank : COWERED
13
Title seeker : TENDER
19
Napoleon Dynamite, e.g. : NERD
24
One to start? : MONO
25
Charges : FEES
28
___ butter : COCOA
30
Kind of nerve : ULNAR
32
Bulldog-like toy : PUG
35
June event televised by ESPN : NBADRAFT
36
Half-sawbucks : FINS
37
Cosmetics brand : OLAY
38
Name in an envelope : NOMINEE
39
Food : EDIBLES
42
Member of a 2000s TV family : SOPRANO
43
Nephew of Moses : ELEAZAR
44
Be patronizing : DESCEND
45
Call up : SCRIPT
46
Sky: Fr. : CIEL
47
Lightheaded one? : CANDLE
50
Stormed : RANAT
53
One of Homer's greatest creations? : BART
54
"Mon Oncle" star : TATI
55
Tea Party, e.g. : BLOC
57
Choreographer Lubovitch : LAR

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

Found bugs or have suggestions?