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SPLIT ENDS

New York Times, Sunday, February 15, 2015

Author:
Ellen Leuschner and Jeff Chen
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
87/11/201110/23/20167
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
3210200
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.53010
Ellen Leuschner
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
957/5/20102/14/201957
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
2468172398
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.636202
Jeff Chen

This puzzle:

Rows: 21, Columns: 21 Words: 140, Blocks: 81 Missing: {KZ} Grid has mirror symmetry. This is puzzle # 4 for Ms. Leuschner. This is puzzle # 36 for Mr. Chen. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Constructor notes:
ELLEN: I enjoy working with Jeff Chen immensely. It is always fun to brainstorm ideas, and I appreciate Jeff's willingness to help other constructors. Sometimes it's hard to know ... read more

ELLEN:

I say, the lady AND the tiger! Ha.

I enjoy working with Jeff Chen immensely. It is always fun to brainstorm ideas, and I appreciate Jeff's willingness to help other constructors. Sometimes it's hard to know what "tricks" will fly with an editor. Having a seasoned constructor help navigate the crossword world is a huge benefit. Two heads and all that. Plus, it's more exciting to share success with someone else.

The starting point for this puzzle was Patrick Berry's puzzle from March 9, 2008. Mr. Berry's puzzle was a little too complicated for my brain, but the idea of having answers branch in two directions led us to the "decision tree." Jeff ultimately built the grid skeleton for this puzzle. Thank goodness. It was quite a challenge, but in a good way. We only have seven theme entries, but they sure take up a lot of space. I kept trying to shove in one more with GIVE ME LIBERTY OR GIVE ME DEATH, but it just wasn't reasonable to do so. From idea conception to submission, this puzzle took around three months.

If you haven't read Stockton's THE LADY OR THE TIGER, you can find the entire text online. It's a quick read, and a great short story.

I have (too) many hobbies, but creating crossword puzzles is the only one that makes me any money. Let's see ... $ computer software + website and newspaper subscriptions + (books used in research * n) = well, maybe not a huge profit, but I think I'll keep at it anyway.

My sister's birthday is tomorrow, so Happy Birthday, Paula!

Jeff Chen notes:
Ellen has such patience with me. I think it's important to brainstorm dozens, perhaps hundreds of ideas in order to come up with something I feel is really NYT-worthy. We went back and ... read more

Ellen has such patience with me. I think it's important to brainstorm dozens, perhaps hundreds of ideas in order to come up with something I feel is really NYT-worthy. We went back and forth and back and forth, trying to come up with a few good Sunday ideas, and each time, a promising idea came up just shy, or we decided that it just wasn't good enough. Weeks, maybe months of headbanging.

But when Ellen proposed this little idea in a short email, I felt sure there was something to it. I worried we wouldn't be able to come up with enough instances that fit the pattern perfectly, but Ellen came back shortly with a promising list. Turns out a computer science background and some query skills comes in handy! I added a few more, we finalized the selection, and off we went.

The grid design was incredibly challenging, and it looked like it was going to be a bear to fill, given all the crossing constraints. We originally tried using standard crossword symmetry, but all the theme answers branching downward made that very difficult. (It might have been possible if we didn't have the theme answers in symmetrical locations, but that felt inelegant.) Mirror symmetry made the layout much more feasible, and also let us place the themers (at least their first halves) in spots of symmetry.

But after putting together a draft skeleton, we weren't sure it was going to fly, given all the crossing constraints. I took a tenuous pass at filling one tiny little section to see if the entire thing was feasible, and after maybe ten hours and many hundreds of hairs pulled out, I emerged victorious. Ka-ching!

Then Ellen politely mentioned that I had entered IS IT REAL, not IS IT LIVE. Into the circular file.

Several dozen iterations later, passing the file back and forth, going cross-eyed with frustration, we emerged from the long, dark tunnel. At revision 43j, it's not the most work I've put into a single puzzle, but it's pretty close.

A really fun time working with Ellen; hopefully the solving experience amuses people!

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© 2015, The New York TimesNo. 0215 ( 23,840 )
Across
1
"Everyone who's anyone is attending!" : BETHERE
8
Shoot for the moon : GOBIG
13
Much-anthologized Frank R. Stockton short story : THELADY
20
Herald, as a new year : USHERIN
21
Mitchell heroine : OHARA
22
One calling it quits : RETIREE
23
Is a rat : SQUEALS
24
Chimes, e.g. : TONES
25
Short thing for a diva : ARIETTA
26
Big ___ : SUR
27
Rarely : SELDOM
29
Long John Silver, for one : SEADOG
31
Not standard: Abbr. : IRR
32
Word with coffee or water : TABLE
34
Bird that's also the name of an Irish river : ERNE
35
Sped : TORE
36
Canon competitor : EPSON
38
Cookies with a "Golden" variety : OREOS
39
Slowing, in music: Abbr. : RIT
40
Audible pauses : UMS
41
Knot again : RETIE
42
Miranda warning receiver, informally : PERP
43
Remote button with "+" and "-" : VOL
45
Govt. construction overseer : GSA
46
Founded, on city signs : ESTD
47
Word before "I didn't know that!" : GEE
49
Heavy metal band? : ORE
51
Some fraternity men : NUS
54
Proverbial matter of perspective : HALFFULL
59
John who played Harold in the "Harold & Kumar" films : CHO
60
Question asked in classic 1970s ads : ISITLIVE
66
Jeopardized : INPERIL
67
Ask : QUERY
69
Greek goddess of vengeance : NEMESIS
70
Like Lake Mead or Lake Powell : MANMADE
71
Strunk and White topic : USAGE
72
They're of no concern to cougars : AGEGAPS
73
"M*A*S*H" role : PIERCE
75
Cry from a damsel in distress : SAVEME
77
Part of I.M.F.: Abbr. : INTL
79
Stickup line : YOURMONEY
83
Just : ONLY
86
Laughed harshly : BRAYED
88
Overstress : BELABOR
89
Foe of Mr. Fantastic in the comics : DRDOOM
91
Reception vessel : URN
92
Some samples : SIPS
94
Figure skater Midori : ITO
95
"Now it makes sense!" : ISEE
97
Mop & ___ : GLO
98
Frontier sheriff's badge : TINSTAR
100
In the style of : AFTER
102
Whistleblower's target? : TAXICAB
104
"Bye for now," in textspeak : TTYL
105
Rummage (through) : RIFLE
107
No longer hungry : SATED
109
D.C. club : NATS
110
Indian music : RAGA
111
Langston Hughes poem : ITOO
112
William ___, British general in the Revolutionary War : HOWE
113
Assist, as an outlaw : ABET
114
Colored like ink in "Love's Labour's Lost" : EBON
115
Song by the Clash on Rolling Stone's "500 Greatest Songs of All Time" list : SHOULDISTAY
119
Material for many a ski lodge : PINE
120
Part of an Adirondack chair : SLAT
121
___ Conference : TED
122
Command to Fido : BEG
123
Before : ERE
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Tech grad: Abbr. : ENGR
125
Gets fixed : SETS
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Parisian possessive : SES
127
"Maid in Manhattan" star, informally : JLO
128
Rx signers : MDS
129
General ___ chicken : TSOS
Down
1
Dot on a transit map : BUSSTOP
2
- : BESQUARE
3
Cartoonist who wrote the caption "Well, if I called the wrong number, why did you answer the phone?" : THURBER
4
Titter sound : HEE
5
Backspaces, say : ERASES
6
Incense : RILE
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Eve who wrote "The Vagina Monologues" : ENSLER
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Mounted : GOTONTO
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- : GOHOME
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Test ___ : BAN
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Beginning of an attorney's ending : IREST
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Like four of the eight planets : GASEOUS
13
Subjects of apprenticeships : TRADES
14
Superman, e.g. : HERO
15
- : THETIGER
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Rough position? : LIE
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Ones in the oil field? : ARTISTS
18
Historic filer for bankruptcy in 2013 : DETROIT
19
Was lovesick, say : YEARNED
28
Blather : DRIVEL
30
___ Exchange : ARMANI
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Cut (off) : LOP
37
April second? : PEE
44
Center of activity : LOCUS
45
Physicist Ohm : GEORG
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Virgil, for Dante : GUIDE
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Queen of mystery : ELLERY
50
Flightless bird : RHEA
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Org. with the motto "Not for self but for country" : USNAVY
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Battle of the Alamo, e.g. : SIEGE
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"For ___" (store sign around Father's Day) : HIM
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California's Santa ___ River : ANA
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I.C.U. worker : LPN
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- : HALFEMPTY
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Most feeble : FRAILEST
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- : ISITMEMOREX
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Map part : LEGEND
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"Life ___ Highway" : ISA
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One given the velvet rope treatment, for short : VIP
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Sigmoid shape : ESS
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Get in line : QUEUE
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Kind of question : YESNO
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Kernel keepers : COBS
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Prefix with -form : AERI
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Crabby : IRRITABLE
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Female with a beard : NANNYGOAT
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- : YOURLIFE
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Stone who co-created "South Park" : MATT
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Cousins of clarinets : OBOES
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Little houses on the prairie : LOGCABINS
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Indie band whose name means, literally, "I have it" : YOLATENGO
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Brace : BUTTRESS
87
Anaïs Nin and Franz Kafka, notably : DIARISTS
89
Straight shooters? : DEADEYES
90
Family members : MOBSTERS
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Please, to a Puritan : PRITHEE
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Sommelier : STEWARD
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Angles : SLANTS
100
Baseball family name : ALOU
101
Pompom wielder's cries : RAHS
103
Sulking : INAPET
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Things found in a pyramid : FOODS
108
Sacred symbol : TOTEM
116
___ Library (Austin, Tex., attraction) : LBJ
117
Atl. Coast state : DEL
118
- : SHOULDIGO

Answer summary: 10 unique to this puzzle, 3 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

Found bugs or have suggestions?