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New York Times, Thursday, February 19, 2015

Author:
Jason Flinn
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
1410/9/20137/21/20180
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0112505
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.53030
Jason Flinn

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 76, Blocks: 36 Missing: {JQXZ} This is puzzle # 4 for Mr. Flinn. Jeff Chen's Puzzle of the Week pick. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Jason Flinn notes:
As a solver, I really enjoy the variety of Thursdays in the NYT puzzle. So, it's not a big shock to me that 'puzzles with a twist' ... read more

As a solver, I really enjoy the variety of Thursdays in the NYT puzzle. So, it's not a big shock to me that "puzzles with a twist" have become my favorite to construct. In the grid I submitted, I used a highlighter to mark the theme answers. I wonder: does marking the loop squares make this too easy? My feeling is that this puzzle would be a very tough solve without that extra help.

I learned a lot constructing this puzzle. It was surprisingly hard to place the theme answers. Each creates 3-5 triple-checked letters and also requires placing 1 or 2 extra blocks (black squares) in the grid. Even worse, for this type of theme, it's not possible to place the theme answers symmetrically (unless you like downward loops), so each extra block creates another somewhere else in the grid to preserve symmetry.

Despite having a few additional theme possibilities (e.g., DAREDEVIL), I couldn't see a way to get another such entry in the grid. Even with the current set, I was stumped for a while until I saw that I could pair the blocks at the start of PAPER AIRPLANE and ROLLER COASTER with the blocks symmetrically opposite the loop blocks of the other entry.

Jeff Chen notes:
Very, very cool idea. I bet many solvers filled in 'APERA' as a rebus square and wondered who the heck APERANNA SUI was. (I still ... read more

Very, very cool idea. I bet many solvers filled in "APERA" as a rebus square and wondered who the heck APERANNA SUI was. (I still think Aperanna is a nice name.) Following along the loop, especially ROLLER COASTER looping around R (O L L E R C) OASTER, was really fun. And the fact that the resulting answer looks like ROASTER in the grid, a normal word — what a bonus!

Squeal!

P (A P E R) AIRPLANE also is neat, some types of planes able to gracefully execute loop-de-loops. It's not quite as neat as ROLLER COASTER since "PAIRPLANE" is obviously odd in the grid, but still, PAPER AIRPLANE fits nicely with the theme.

I get that a SHOELACE gets tied in a loop, but that themer didn't work quite as well for me. SHOELACEs don't really get tied in vertical loops, do they? I brainstormed a little bit, and could only come up with two other possible themers which might fit the vertical loop motif: STUNT PILOTS, which would look like S (T U N T P I L O) TS, or STUNT MOTORCYCLE. Maybe those are too close to PAPER AIRPLANE though.

These types of puzzles where the themers bend, twist, etc. are usually tough to execute, because of all the extra real estate taken up. So I like that Jason just uses three, and spaces them out nicely. Also very cool to incorporate R CRUMB into that difficult RC???? slot. The fill isn't particularly sparkly — more CATALYTIC and ATYPICAL than the beautiful BITCOIN and FIRE AWAY — but I appreciate the relative grid cleanliness.

Finally, two great clues. I love Greek mythology, so getting ARGUS and the [100-eyed giant of myth] was pleasing. (Although I would have been equally happy with ARGUS Filch, the groundskeeper of Hogwarts.) And [Illegal motion penalty?] thankfully had nothing to do with football (still not over the Seahawks' SB XLIX loss) but cleverly hinted at TILTing a pinball machine.

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© 2015, The New York TimesNo. 0219 ( 23,844 )
Across
1
Put a coat on sloppily, say : DAUB
5
City that supplied granite for Egyptian monuments : ASWAN
10
Theater deg. : MFA
13
Hyatt alternative : OMNI
14
Shot : PHOTO
15
Illegal motion penalty? : TILT
17
Former Washington heavyweight : TAFT
18
"I'm off!" : SEEYA
19
"Casta diva," e.g. : ARIA
20
Hors d'oeuvre staple : CRACKER
22
___ mater (brain part) : PIA
24
Reaction to an exorbitant bill, maybe : EEK
25
Turkey dressing ingredient : ONION
26
Classroom projectile : PAPERAIRPLANE
29
Lisa ___ Presley : MARIE
30
Mandela's org. : ANC
31
Grope clumsily : PAWAT
32
"Game of Thrones" patriarch ___ Stark : NED
34
Disgust : NAUSEATE
36
"Isn't she cu-u-ute?!" : AWW
39
European border : URALS
41
Thirst : YEN
42
Gets inspiration? : BREATHES
45
E.R. test : EEG
48
Plant used in herbal remedies : SENNA
49
América del ___ : SUR
51
What the paths of three answers in this puzzle include : LOOPS
55
___ converter : CATALYTIC
57
Bebé's milk : LECHE
58
And on and on : ETC
59
Rustic expanse : LEA
60
Theme park part : ROLLERCOASTER
62
It may be on the tip of the tongue : SHOELACE
64
100-eyed giant of myth : ARGUS
66
Plague : BANE
67
___-worth : SELF
68
Looks : SEEMS
69
River through Bristol : AVON
70
"Silent Spring" topic, for short : DDT
71
Exercise option : TAEBO
72
Igloo, essentially : DOME
Down
1
Kind of bubble : DOTCOM
2
Archaeological site along the Nile : AMARNA
3
Biased : UNFAIR
4
Digital currency : BITCOIN
5
Vaulted recess : APSE
6
Worker in peak physical condition? : SHERPA
7
Heartache : WOE
8
Anomalous : ATYPICAL
9
Asphyxiation cause : NOAIR
10
N.Y.C. rail org. : MTA
11
"I'll take your questions now" : FIREAWAY
12
Drive off : ALIENATE
16
Rest a bit : TAKETEN
21
Something to make a proposal on? : KNEE
23
Many games nowadays : APPS
27
Chinese-American fashion icon : ANNASUI
28
Pacific port from which Amelia Earhart left on her last and fatal flight : LAE
33
"Ya think?!" : DUH
35
Consumption : USE
36
Certain infection : ABSCESS
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Encircled : WREATHED
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Disappeared, as a trail : WENTCOLD
40
Place to change drivers : RESTAREA
43
Santa ___, Calif. : ANA
44
One way to walk : TALL
46
Actress Raines of "Phantom Lady" : ELLA
47
Sours : GOESBAD
50
"Keep on Truckin'" cartoonist : RCRUMB
52
Book size : OCTAVO
53
Whiz : PHENOM
54
Untroubled : SERENE
56
Vintner's supply : YEAST
61
___ buco : OSSO
63
Pond dweller : EFT
65
"No kidding!" : GEE

Answer summary: 2 unique to this puzzle, 2 debuted here and reused later, 1 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

Found bugs or have suggestions?