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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
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3210200
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.53010
Ellen Leuschner
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
907/5/201010/11/201852
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
2467172088
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.634192
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 what 'tricks' will fly ... more
Constructor notes:

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 forth and back and forth, ... more
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 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 Down
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
124. Tech grad: Abbr. : ENGR
125. Gets fixed : SETS
126. Parisian possessive : SES
127. "Maid in Manhattan" star, informally : JLO
128. Rx signers : MDS
129. General ___ chicken : TSOS
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
7. Eve who wrote "The Vagina Monologues" : ENSLER
8. Mounted : GOTONTO
9. - : GOHOME
10. Test ___ : BAN
11. Beginning of an attorney's ending : IREST
12. Like four of the eight planets : GASEOUS
13. Subjects of apprenticeships : TRADES
14. Superman, e.g. : HERO
15. - : THETIGER
16. Rough position? : LIE
17. 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
33. Cut (off) : LOP
37. April second? : PEE
44. Center of activity : LOCUS
45. Physicist Ohm : GEORG
47. Virgil, for Dante : GUIDE
48. Queen of mystery : ELLERY
50. Flightless bird : RHEA
52. Org. with the motto "Not for self but for country" : USNAVY
53. Battle of the Alamo, e.g. : SIEGE
54. "For ___" (store sign around Father's Day) : HIM
55. California's Santa ___ River : ANA
56. I.C.U. worker : LPN
57. - : HALFEMPTY
58. Most feeble : FRAILEST
61. - : ISITMEMOREX
62. Map part : LEGEND
63. "Life ___ Highway" : ISA
64. One given the velvet rope treatment, for short : VIP
65. Sigmoid shape : ESS
67. Get in line : QUEUE
68. Kind of question : YESNO
74. Kernel keepers : COBS
76. Prefix with -form : AERI
77. Crabby : IRRITABLE
78. Female with a beard : NANNYGOAT
80. - : YOURLIFE
81. Stone who co-created "South Park" : MATT
82. Cousins of clarinets : OBOES
84. Little houses on the prairie : LOGCABINS
85. Indie band whose name means, literally, "I have it" : YOLATENGO
86. Brace : BUTTRESS
87. Anaïs Nin and Franz Kafka, notably : DIARISTS
89. Straight shooters? : DEADEYES
90. Family members : MOBSTERS
93. Please, to a Puritan : PRITHEE
96. Sommelier : STEWARD
99. Angles : SLANTS
100. Baseball family name : ALOU
101. Pompom wielder's cries : RAHS
103. Sulking : INAPET
106. 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.

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