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New York Times, Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Author: David Steinberg
Editor: Will Shortz
David Steinberg
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This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 80, Blocks: 38 Missing: none – this is a pangram Spans: 1 This is puzzle # 24 for Mr. Steinberg. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Notepad: The answers to the 13 starred clues follow an unusual two-way progression from 1- to 73-Across. Can you figure out what it is?
David Steinberg notes: I first came up with the idea for this puzzle when I was 14. I had no idea how I was going to go about squeezing thirteen ... more
David Steinberg notes: I first came up with the idea for this puzzle when I was 14. I had no idea how I was going to go about squeezing thirteen symmetrical theme entries in a particular order into a 15 x 15 grid — I wasn't even sure I'd be able to come up with a set of theme entries that would work at all! Anyway, the big breakthrough happened when I discovered JOHN Q for the J to Q arrangement. Unfortunately, I then had to find an entry that fit the D???W letter pattern. The only two entries I could find were DO NOW (either a contrived phrase or an awkward partial) and DEPEW (as in Chauncey Depew, a turn-of-the-century politician). I decided that DO NOW was the lesser of two evils and proceeded to the grid. I soon discovered that CHATTERBOX and KARATE CHOP were the same length, which allowed me to open up the grid a bit more, though I was still dissatisfied with the puzzle, since all the other theme entries were very short and the grid had 82 words.

Fast forward a few months to April 2012, after my 15th birthday. I was playing around with this idea some more and, after a substantial amount of grid wrangling, produced an 80-worder that replaced GET AT with GARMENT DISTRICT (a 15-letter entry). The fill had a few compromises and irksome "duplicates" in the down entries like GOES SOFT, though I was still very happy with how it turned out. After I submitted the puzzle, I noticed that I had absentmindedly clued GARMENT DISTRICT as "Big Apple district with many labels"; "Part of Manhattan's Midtown West" works much better. I also worked on a Z TO A puzzle to complement this one for a little while, though I couldn't come up with a satisfactory Q*J entry (the best I could think of was QZXJ ["Highest scoring Scrabble tiles"], which I felt would permanently mangle Amy Reynaldo's Scowl-o-Meter!).

In all, this puzzle was a lot of fun to construct, and I hope it makes for a fun solve as well!

Jeff Chen notes: Very neat concept today, not sure if I would have ever thought it up: thirteen words in a progression, starting with A, B, C... and ... more
Jeff Chen notes: Very neat concept today, not sure if I would have ever thought it up: thirteen words in a progression, starting with A, B, C... and ending in Z, Y, X, ... (the appropriate letters are highlighted in the answer grid below). Sort of a dual alphabetic progression, the starting letters going forward, the ending letters going backward.

A perfect start to it, A TO Z being the ideal revealer at 1-across. Often times, revealers at 1-across can come across as deflationary, sort of giving away the puzzle even before the solver starts. So I like the way David/Will presented the puzzle. It's not ideal having to read a note even before you begin solving, but I think it was a reasonable solution.

Extremely tough from a construction standpoint. Not only must you incorporate 13 theme answers, but they all have to follow a particular alphabetic constraint. It did feel a little odd that so many starred clues were for short answers, but it would be near impossible to have your themers be the longest answers in a feat like today's.

As with all audacious constructions, signs of stress pop up in the grid. Once you lock in the (slightly made-up feeling) EX-GOV, FONDU, and ICIER, there's the MTGE, GENL, SLUE pile-up in the middle. Not ideal from a smoothness standpoint, but almost necessary given the high constraints.

Another shoot-for-the-moon decision was to use GARMENT DISTRICT instead of another short answer such as GET IT? or GLOAT or even GET. I have a feeling that would have smoothed things out in the west and east (where HIKES and FONDU overlap GARMENT DISTRICT) but it is pretty impressive to have that grid-spanner as a theme entry. Same goes with CHATTERBOX (the more boring CAR WAX, CONVEX, etc. could have eliminated the old-timey ONERS plus ERI, ENORM, ORONO) and KARATE CHOP (KIDNAP, KISS UP, etc.).

All in all, a clever idea and a high-reaching construction with some trade-offs in solving smoothness.

1
A
2
T
3
O
4
Z
5
B
6
A
7
R
8
B
9
G
10
O
11
N
12
E
13
R
14
C
O
D
Y
15
B
B
O
Y
16
O
R
O
N
O
17
I
D
I
G
18
C
H
A
T
19
T
E
R
B
O
X
20
D
O
N
O
21
W
22
O
N
E
R
S
23
E
R
I
24
T
E
25
A
R
26
I
S
27
I
T
M
E
28
H
29
A
30
K
E
E
M
31
E
32
X
G
O
V
33
I
C
I
34
A
35
M
I
D
36
F
O
37
N
38
D
39
U
40
G
A
R
41
M
42
E
N
T
D
I
43
S
T
R
I
C
T
44
H
I
K
E
S
45
G
E
N
L
46
S
O
N
47
I
C
48
I
E
R
49
U
50
R
51
S
I
N
E
52
P
53
I
54
A
N
O
S
55
L
E
A
H
56
O
R
K
57
R
E
58
U
59
S
E
60
J
O
61
H
62
N
63
Q
64
K
A
R
65
A
T
E
C
H
O
66
P
67
L
U
A
U
68
E
N
O
T
E
69
L
E
N
O
70
O
M
N
I
71
D
I
N
E
D
72
A
L
E
X
73
M
E
A
N
© 2014, The New York TimesNo. 0218 ( 23,478 )
Across Down
1. *Everything : ATOZ
5. "Yo mama" joke, e.g. : BARB
9. Hopeless case : GONER
14. Buffalo Bill's surname : CODY
15. *Rap devotee, slangily : BBOY
16. University of Maine locale : ORONO
17. "Gotcha, dude!" : IDIG
18. *One who goes on and on : CHATTERBOX
20. *"What should I ___?" : DONOW
22. Lollapaloozas : ONERS
23. "___ tu" (Verdi aria) : ERI
24. Run like the wind : TEAR
26. "Am I nuts?" : ISITME
28. Former Rocket Olajuwon : HAKEEM
31. *Sarah Palin or Arnold Schwarzenegger, informally : EXGOV
33. "Vous êtes ___" (label on a French map) : ICI
34. In a crowd of : AMID
36. *Dish served with long-handled forks : FONDU
40. *Part of Manhattan's Midtown West : GARMENTDISTRICT
44. *Football snaps : HIKES
45. Robt. E. Lee, e.g. : GENL
46. Like a ___ to me : SON
47. *Less welcoming : ICIER
49. Bearlike : URSINE
52. Yamaha products : PIANOS
55. In-law of Esau : LEAH
56. 1970s-'80s TV planet : ORK
57. Get extra value from, say : REUSE
60. *2002 Denzel Washington drama : JOHNQ
64. *Wood cutter? : KARATECHOP
67. Hawaiian do : LUAU
68. Online line : ENOTE
69. *2014 TV retiree : LENO
70. Marriott alternative : OMNI
71. Supped : DINED
72. James Patterson sleuth Cross : ALEX
73. *Standard deviation deviates from it : MEAN
1. Trip provider? : ACID
2. Hullabaloo : TODO
3. Role in "Thor" : ODIN
4. Fertilized egg : ZYGOTE
5. "Sherlock" and "EastEnders" network : BBC
6. Hate : ABHOR
7. Horse of a certain color : ROAN
8. Small storage unit : BYTE
9. Becomes less strict : GOESSOFT
10. Iceman Bobby : ORR
11. Casino pass? : NOBET
12. Huge, in poetry : ENORM
13. "Chicago" song : ROXIE
19. One of the Palins : TRIG
21. Like some hours : WEE
25. "Walk Like ___" (1963 hit) : AMAN
27. Composer Novello : IVOR
28. Over the estimate : HIGH
29. Healthful berry : ACAI
30. "Star Trek" captain : KIRK
31. What can get you down? : EIDER
32. Marked, as a box : XDIN
35. Loan insured by the F.H.A.: Abbr. : MTGE
37. Not final, legally : NISI
38. Popular pesticide : DCON
39. Reader founder : UTNE
41. Chow ___ : MEIN
42. Accompanied : ESCORTED
43. Pivot on an axis : SLUE
48. Therapist's words : ISEE
50. Rule ending in 1947 : RAJ
51. Yiddish author Aleichem : SHOLOM
52. Moseyed (along) : POKED
53. Ayatollah Khomeini, for one : IRANI
54. Goodyear headquarters : AKRON
55. Sierra ___ : LEONE
58. Pac-12 team : UCLA
59. Children's author Silverstein : SHEL
61. Brit of Fox News : HUME
62. "Peter Pan" dog : NANA
63. Christie's "The Mysterious Mr. ___" : QUIN
65. Supped : ATE
66. Curse : POX

Answer summary: 1 debuted here and reused later.

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