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New York Times, Friday, February 14, 2014

Author: Bruce Haight
Editor: Will Shortz
Bruce Haight
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2995320
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1.56022

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 70, Blocks: 32 Missing: {JWXZ} Spans: 2 Grid has both 90- and 180-degree symmetry This is puzzle # 2 for Mr. Haight. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Bruce Haight notes: This is only my second published puzzle — I was introduced to crossword construction by Pete Collins, who coincidentally ... more
Bruce Haight notes: This is only my second published puzzle — I was introduced to crossword construction by Pete Collins, who coincidentally authored the puzzle from two days ago. Thanks Pete! I've also been inspired by Manny Nosowsky — a surgeon who published his first puzzle at age 59 (like me) and went on to become a legend in the crossword industry.

My original submission for this puzzle had ITS GOOD PR for one of the entries, clued as "This will help our image". I rather liked that one myself, but Will felt it seemed "made up" as a phrase. He liked the rest though, and I was able to repair the defect with surprisingly little impact on the rest of the grid.

If I squint real hard this puzzle grid looks like a diamond ring to me, with four prongs holding the main stone (imagination needed here) and some smaller baguettes in a swirl pattern — perfect for POPS THE QUESTION. Is anyone buying it?

Jeff Chen notes: Nice Valentine's Day mini-theme today. I wouldn't want mini-themes in every one of my themelesses, but I really enjoy them when the ... more
Jeff Chen notes: Nice Valentine's Day mini-theme today. I wouldn't want mini-themes in every one of my themelesses, but I really enjoy them when the occasionally pop up. A themeless with a WORLD DOMINATION flavor was one of my recent favorites.

Interesting layout today, many more three-letter words than usual (20). Typically I start to notice a proliferation of them in a themeless when I get to maybe 12-15, so they did bother me a little. Well, the natural ones like YET and CAT remained invisible, while the ITA ITO OPA kind of stuff stuck out. In my own themeless constructions, I hardly ever work with more than 12 of them, but today's puzzle makes me think I ought to experiment.

Why? Along with the extra three-letter words comes a lot of space for longer fill. Not only do we get the usual stacks in each corner, but a couple of nice longer phrases in the middle: KEEP IT UP, LAKE POET (I just learned this, so it felt awesome to plug right in), ON PATROL, PUPPETEER. Yeah, I'm going to have to do some experimentation. Thanks for the push, Bruce!

I did have a bit of trouble in certain sections, EASTON/ITO/EPI notably, and I wondered if something could be done to make the grid easier to work with. I love the aesthetics of it, wide-open with a free-floating windmill, but the fact that there is so much interconnect makes filling tough. I dinked around to see if repositioning a few black squares could help clean up the fill. The grid I came up with would segment things more, making each individual quadrant easier to fill since it has much less interconnect. But even though it reduces the number of three-letter words to 16, the pattern looks uglier to me. Would the hit to the visual appeal be worth some cleaner fill? Hard to say.

Happy World Domination Day!

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© 2014, The New York TimesNo. 0214 ( 23,474 )
Across Down
1. Bivouac, maybe : ARMYCAMP
9. Presses : URGES
14. Classic parental advice to bored children : READABOOK
16. Needle : TAUNT
17. Line of suits? : PINSTRIPE
18. 1970s NBC courtroom drama : THEDA
19. Tacoma-to-Spokane dir. : ENE
20. Lupin of fiction : ARSENE
22. Scheming : SLY
23. ___ finger : LADYS
26. Bond phrase : ATPAR
27. 20-Across, e.g., informally : TEC
28. Gramps, to Günter : OPA
30. Wise : HIP
31. Standard offspring : ESSO
32. Wordsworth or Coleridge : LAKEPOET
35. String bean's opposite : FATSO
36. Phrase from Virgil appropriate for Valentine's Day : LOVECONQUERSALL
38. Favorites : IDOLS
39. Handy work in a theater? : PUPPETRY
40. Gifts of flowers : LEIS
41. Carly ___ Jepsen, singer with the 2012 album "Kiss" : RAE
42. Yamaguchi's 1992 Olympics rival : ITO
43. Agent of psychedelic therapy : LSD
44. Unhinged : NUTSO
46. Pig leader? : SNOUT
50. Spanish name suffix : ITA
51. Dr. Seuss title character : YERTLE
53. Liquor letters : VSO
54. ___ Vedra Beach, Fla. : PONTE
56. Entrepreneur who's well-supplied? : OILTYCOON
59. Full-length : UNCUT
60. Going nowhere : LOITERING
61. Cold forecast : TEENS
62. "Clever thinking!" : NEATIDEA
1. Adrien of cosmetics : ARPEL
2. Valuable chess piece, to Juan Carlos : REINA
3. Like horses : MANED
4. P.G.A. stat : YDS
5. Cool ___ : CAT
6. Magical opener : ABRA
7. Fate personified, in mythology : MOIRA
8. Delivers a romantic Valentine's Day surprise, maybe : POPSTHEQUESTION
9. Total : UTTER
10. Root word? : RAH
11. TV listings info : GUESTSTAR
12. Forever : ENDLESSLY
13. Informal goodbye : STAYCOOL
15. "Don't stop now!" : KEEPITUP
21. Quiet break : NAP
24. Sticks figures? : YOKELS
25. Building materials? : SPECS
29. Base letters : APO
31. Home of Lafayette College : EASTON
32. It was used to make the first compass : LODESTONE
33. Dodger's talent : AVOIDANCE
34. Policing an area : ONPATROL
35. Broods : FRETS
36. Fictional island with a small population : LILLIPUT
37. Prefix with -graph : EPI
41. Paris's ___ La Fayette : RUE
44. Some U.N. votes : NYETS
45. Skateboarding trick used to leap over obstacles : OLLIE
47. Like Humpty Dumpty : OVOID
48. Me.-to-Fla. route : USONE
49. The Friendly Islands : TONGA
52. First name in blues : ETTA
55. Wine container : TUN
57. "All the same ..." : YET
58. ___ de guerre : CRI

Answer summary: 3 unique to this puzzle, 4 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

Found bugs or have suggestions?