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New York Times, Friday, February 12, 2016

Author:
Brandon Hensley
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
35/1/20142/12/20160
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
0000120
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.71100
Brandon Hensley

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 72, Blocks: 33 Missing: {JQX} This is puzzle # 3 for Mr. Hensley. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Brandon Hensley notes:
In case it isn't obvious, this puzzle's seed was Goldilocks zone. I'm more than a little biased as an astrophysicist, but I really ... read more

In case it isn't obvious, this puzzle's seed was Goldilocks zone. I'm more than a little biased as an astrophysicist, but I really like how it captures science creating new words. We have only been able to find exoplanets at all for about two decades, and we are only just now beginning to discover distant worlds that may support life by having liquid water on their surface. To do so, planets have to be just the right distance from their parent star so they're not too hot or not too cold. Hence, Goldilocks zone.

(I actually study interstellar dust grains, so not exoplanets directly. However, those dust grains are what coagulate in protoplanetary disks to eventually form planets! I spend my time thinking about how those little dust grains affect light coming from distant parts of our Galaxy or even other galaxies, as well as the light emitted by those dust grains themselves.)

This puzzle started out as a 68-worder with the northeast and southwest as you see them today. Despite being a bit closed off from the rest of the puzzle, the remaining two corners were very uncooperative. Eventually I broke up two crossing sevens in each corner into two pairs of threes, upping my word count to 72 and my three letter word count from 12 to 20. However, this allowed me to get in "locavore" and "Buzzfeed" without much strain. Worth it? Hope so.

I really dislike the sexist overtones in cluing "goddess" as "bombshell" and was disappointed to realize it was in fact one of the two clues I submitted (the other being a straight mythology clue). Ugh, sorry about that. If I were to redo the puzzle, I'd also pass on the entry "go crazy," colloquial as it may be. Language matters.

I am very proud of my clue "Butt end?" for "tees" (spelled out letter; haters gonna hate) and like the somewhat kooky LL and OO beginnings of the first two downs. I wish I could take credit for the brilliant "Casting director?" clue, but that goes to Will and Joel. I hope you found things you liked, too!

Jeff Chen notes:
It can be quite a challenge to feature 14-letter entries in a themeless — the black square at one end chokes down your grid ... read more

It can be quite a challenge to feature 14-letter entries in a themeless — the black square at one end chokes down your grid flexibility — so it was really cool to see GOLDILOCKS ZONE. What a neat term! Even though it'll probably be new to many people (I hadn't heard of it even after taking some recreational astronomy), it's such a colorful description that makes sense. What else would you call a region where you're neither too close nor too far away from your home star, thus making it "just right" for life?

PETE ROSE, IN A DAZE

CRY YOUR EYES OUT … I like that one too, but the crossword convention of using the formal ONES instead of YOUR has been beaten into me over the years. I actually prefer YOUR as it sounds more colloquial and friendly to me, but it was a bit odd to see it in a feature entry today.

Interesting grid layout, sort of spiral nebular in appearance — perfect to go along with GOLDILOCKS ZONE. (It's neat to see Brandon's astrophysics voice shine through!) It does make the grid feel somewhat choked, with each corner operating a little too independently for my taste. A good rule of thumb is that if adding in a black square completely segments a grid, that's not good. Here, changing the L of GOLDILOCKS into a black square separates the NW from the rest of the grid. That choked-off flow can be bad for solvers — I got stuck in the SE — but it makes construction easier, as you can (more or less) fill each corner in isolation.

Those big SW and NE corners are daunting. I almost love what Brandon did in the upper right, what with PETE ROSE, ODYSSEYS, AENEID, GODDESS, IN A DAZE — man, that's impressive! But it's tough to execute on 4x8 regions, and PILSENER … that seems like it should be PILSNER to me, and the extra E helps a little too much with the favorable vowel-consonant alternation. Perhaps I've seen too many Pilsner Urquell commercials.

Some fresh entries overcoming the small smattering of gluey bits in [Play the HOB] (?) and LOI, for an entertaining solve.

1
L
2
O
3
C
4
A
5
V
6
O
7
R
8
E
9
H
10
I
11
P
12
P
13
O
14
L
O
A
D
E
D
U
P
15
A
E
N
E
I
D
16
A
L
S
O
R
A
N
S
17
N
E
A
T
L
Y
18
M
O
I
19
B
Y
E
20
G
O
D
D
E
S
S
21
A
N
N
22
E
23
L
O
U
24
A
R
E
S
25
G
O
L
26
D
27
I
28
L
O
C
K
29
S
Z
O
N
E
30
M
I
D
A
I
R
31
K
E
S
E
Y
32
A
33
S
34
T
35
D
A
B
36
A
37
L
I
38
E
R
S
39
C
O
R
40
D
S
41
O
42
O
Z
I
N
43
G
44
C
R
Y
Y
O
45
U
R
E
Y
E
S
O
46
U
47
T
48
I
C
A
N
49
H
E
D
50
O
R
E
51
S
52
D
E
C
A
53
T
U
R
54
M
55
B
56
A
57
B
E
N
58
E
R
A
S
E
R
59
H
E
A
T
60
W
A
V
E
61
N
E
S
T
E
A
62
O
N
E
O
W
N
E
R
63
T
R
E
Y
S
64
B
U
Z
Z
F
E
E
D
© 2016, The New York TimesNo. 0212 ( 24,202 )

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Students & seniors
Across
1
One inclined to patronize a farmer's market : LOCAVORE
9
Cetacean's closest relative : HIPPO
14
Ready for a road trip, say : LOADEDUP
15
Old epic recounting wanderings : AENEID
16
Ones who don't take a seat? : ALSORANS
17
With precision : NEATLY
18
Reply of feigned surprise : MOI
19
It leads to early advancement : BYE
20
Bombshell : GODDESS
21
Longtime Princess Royal : ANNE
23
Bega with the hit "Mambo No. 5" : LOU
24
"Wrath of the Titans" antagonist : ARES
25
Region around a star "just right" for habitable planets : GOLDILOCKSZONE
30
Like some jet refuelings : MIDAIR
31
"Sometimes a Great Notion" novelist, 1964 : KESEY
32
Puerto Rico is on it year-round, for short : AST
35
Little bit : DAB
36
Subject of a museum in Louisville, Ky. : ALI
38
24/7/365 facilities : ERS
39
Alternative to chinos : CORDS
41
Moving like 43-Down : OOZING
44
Have a bawl : CRYYOUREYESOUT
48
Words of confidence : ICAN
49
"I knew a man Bojangles and ___ dance for you ..." (1968 song lyric) : HED
50
They're not refined : ORES
52
Naval hero with five U.S. counties named for him : DECATUR
54
Asset in climbing the corp. ladder : MBA
57
Big ___ : BEN
58
Means of getting the word out? : ERASER
59
When many fans come out : HEATWAVE
61
Beverage brand with three leaves in its logo : NESTEA
62
Used car selling point : ONEOWNER
63
Long hoops shots : TREYS
64
Presenter of many listicles : BUZZFEED
Down
1
A baby one is called a cria : LLAMA
2
Major Taiwanese export : OOLONG
3
House of cards? : CASINO
4
Bother : ADO
5
Hop, skip or jump : VERB
6
Jazz singer whose surname came from pig Latin : ODAY
7
Tolkien character : RUNE
8
They're longer than singles, briefly : EPS
9
Give attention : HEED
10
Flabbergasted : INADAZE
11
Appropriately named Reds legend : PETEROSE
12
Brew named for a Czech city : PILSENER
13
Long, trying trips : ODYSSEYS
15
Aimée of film : ANOUK
20
"Knock yourself out" : GOCRAZY
22
Cabinetry material : ELM
23
Rule, in Rennes : LOI
26
Possible response to "Huh-uh!" : DIDSO
27
Mount with the Cave of Zeus : IDA
28
September honoree : LABORER
29
Potato ___ : SKINS
32
The discovery of penicillin, e.g. : ACCIDENT
33
Casting director? : SORCERER
34
Act the judge : TRYACASE
37
Cover for someone, say : LIE
40
Bourbons, e.g. : DYNASTY
42
Time magazine's "scholarly Everest," for short : OED
43
Oil or honey : GOO
45
2009 and '13 sci-fi role for Zoë Saldana : UHURA
46
Refined : URBANE
47
Boob tube : TEEVEE
51
Bergen dummy : SNERD
53
Butt end? : TEES
54
Where to look for starters : MENU
55
"Love Is Just a Four-Letter Word" singer : BAEZ
56
Complete : ATOZ
59
Play ___ (be disruptive) : HOB
60
Conservation org. with a panda logo : WWF

Answer summary: 4 unique to this puzzle.

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