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New York Times, Monday, February 15, 2016

Author:
David J. Kahn
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
1813/15/199412/12/20185
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
4451224571326
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.5514211
David J. Kahn

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 16 Words: 83, Blocks: 40 Missing: {JZ} This is puzzle # 163 for Mr. Kahn. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
David J. Kahn notes:
My 'connection' to presidents goes back to the time in the late 90's when Bill Clinton, who's a big crosswords fan, talked about one of my ... read more

My "connection" to presidents goes back to the time in the late 90's when Bill Clinton, who's a big crosswords fan, talked about one of my Sunday NYT puzzles at a White House conference on technology and the Internet. Since then, I've written several president-themed puzzles, including one to commemorate the opening of the Clinton Presidential Library in 2004. And my latest book of (40) puzzles, "White House Crosswords", came out a few months ago.

Word ladder-themed puzzles have been done before but this puzzle is a little different by adding a third president between the top and bottom ones. I was about to stop there but OVAL OFFICE and POCKET VETO interlocked nicely with POLK and FORD respectively. I then needed two other parallel Down answers, which took a lot longer to come up with. But sometimes you just get lucky.

Jeff Chen notes:
Word ladder to commemorate Presidents' Day, POLK to TAFT to FORD. I was hoping there would be a natural progression, i.e. President #11 to #22 ... read more

Word ladder to commemorate Presidents' Day, POLK to TAFT to FORD. I was hoping there would be a natural progression, i.e. President #11 to #22 to #33 or something, but it goes from #11 to #27 to ... #38? Ah well, that would have been asking for a lot.

"Young Hickory"? POLK got the shaft when nicknames were handed out

A word ladder with 11 steps creates all sorts of constraints on a grid. You might think: all those little short words, what's the big deal? But check out how many down entries cross two rungs of the ladder — every single one of the middle(-ish) ones. That's a ton of inflexibility foisted upon one grid. I'm impressed that David got that swath configured with only a smattering of AERO and ATILT. That's nice work!

I can totally see the allure of the beautiful OVAL OFFICE / LEGISLATOR set of parallel downs. I usually don't like when a grid has some random fill which feels theme-ish, as that makes it feel watered down and unintentional, but there's so much presidential material packed in today that I enjoyed the effect . And that corner is so nice — I don't mind ECO at all, since it has many ways it can be clued (including author Umberto), and Gen XER works too.

The opposite corner perfectly demonstrates the difficulty that symmetry imposes on a constructor. That SE is already tough to fill, and when you try to shove in POCKET VETO, you're bound to need some glue to hold the section together. PQR is so, so ugly, a random run of letters. ITER is one of those old-school Maleskan bits, and crossing ALIF makes it hard to justify, especially for a Monday. Oof, that's not good at all.

Ideally, I would have liked more elegance in the grid, TAFT smack dab in the middle of the grid at the very least. And it would have been stunning to get some sort of natural order — can you imagine how cool it would have been if President #11 had been at 11-Across, President #22 at 22-Across, etc.? But still, it was fun to get so much Presidential feel.

1
P
2
O
3
L
4
K
5
A
6
M
7
T
8
S
9
B
10
E
11
L
12
I
13
E
14
D
15
O
V
E
N
16
P
O
R
K
17
E
V
O
L
V
E
18
I
A
G
O
19
P
L
A
Y
20
R
E
U
S
E
S
21
S
L
I
T
22
E
A
S
E
23
I
N
24
P
A
R
K
25
E
O
S
26
D
A
R
K
27
C
A
28
S
E
29
F
L
30
A
I
L
S
31
D
A
R
T
32
P
33
Q
34
R
35
F
A
W
N
S
36
W
E
N
D
Y
37
O
U
I
38
T
I
T
L
E
39
D
A
F
T
40
L
41
A
C
E
D
42
E
C
O
43
T
44
H
E
F
T
45
P
I
C
K
S
46
X
E
R
47
T
A
F
T
48
G
A
S
K
E
T
49
A
E
R
O
50
T
A
R
T
51
T
I
52
S
53
T
54
O
55
R
T
56
R
E
57
L
A
T
E
58
A
V
O
W
59
I
D
O
I
60
D
O
61
E
B
O
N
62
L
E
N
O
63
D
I
A
L
E
D
64
F
O
R
T
65
I
T
E
R
66
Y
E
N
T
A
S
67
T
O
S
S
68
F
O
R
D
© 2016, The New York TimesNo. 0215 ( 24,205 )
Across
1
President after Tyler : POLK
5
Quantities: Abbr. : AMTS
9
Contradicted : BELIED
15
Microwave, e.g. : OVEN
16
Excess spending by Congress : PORK
17
Change over time : EVOLVE
18
"Othello" villain : IAGO
19
Opposite of work : PLAY
20
Doesn't just throw away : REUSES
21
Cut with a knife : SLIT
22
Enter gradually : EASEIN
24
New York's Washington Square ___ : PARK
25
Canon camera brand : EOS
26
___ horse (surprise candidate) : DARK
27
Job for a sleuth : CASE
29
Swings wildly : FLAILS
31
Blowgun ammunition : DART
32
Letters between O and S : PQR
35
Young deer : FAWNS
36
"Peter Pan" girl : WENDY
37
Yes, to Yves : OUI
38
President-elect, e.g. : TITLE
39
Touched in the head : DAFT
40
Like sneakers and corsets : LACED
42
Earth-friendly prefix : ECO
43
Stealing : THEFT
45
Nominates : PICKS
46
Gen ___ (boomer's child) : XER
47
President after Roosevelt : TAFT
48
Blow a ___ (lose one's temper) : GASKET
49
Prefix with dynamic : AERO
50
Mini-pie : TART
51
"___ well" (George Washington's last words) : TIS
53
Legal wrong : TORT
56
Tell : RELATE
58
Swear to : AVOW
59
Chorus after "Who wants ice cream?" : IDOIDO
61
Black, to a bard : EBON
62
Former late-night host Jay : LENO
63
Used a rotary phone : DIALED
64
Baltimore's ___ McHenry : FORT
65
Roman road : ITER
66
Gossipy types : YENTAS
67
Chuck : TOSS
68
President after Nixon : FORD
Down
1
Composure : POISE
2
President's workplace : OVALOFFICE
3
Senator or representative : LEGISLATOR
4
End of one's rope? : KNOT
5
Takes to a higher court : APPEALS
6
Grinding teeth : MOLARS
7
Cal ___, Dean's "East of Eden" role : TRASK
8
Terrier type : SKYE
9
St. ___ (dog) : BERNARD
10
Adam's madam : EVE
11
Jeweler's magnifying glass : LOUPE
12
"Casablanca" woman : ILSA
13
For all time : EVER
14
2-Down fixture : DESK
23
Quitter's words : ICANT
26
Breakfast alcove : DINETTE
28
Coif creator : STYLIST
30
Shoemaker's tool : AWL
31
Like a magician's hands : DEFT
32
President's option for an unwanted bill : POCKETVETO
33
Participant at a presidential press conference, say : QUESTIONER
34
Clear (of) : RID
36
Float, as an aroma : WAFT
38
Home for G. W. Bush : TEX
39
Daniel who wrote "Robinson Crusoe" : DEFOE
41
Comic strip cry of dismay : ACK
44
Famous London department store : HARRODS
45
Mom and dad : PARENTS
48
Swamp critters : GATORS
49
Slanted : ATILT
50
Off-limits : TABOO
52
Zorro's weapon : SWORD
53
Neat : TIDY
54
"Garfield" dog : ODIE
55
Horse color : ROAN
57
Liberals, with "the" : LEFT
58
A, in Arabic : ALIF
60
Anti-trafficking org. : DEA

Answer summary: 2 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

Found bugs or have suggestions?