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New York Times, Thursday, February 20, 2014

Author: Zhouqin Burnikel and Don Gagliardo
Editor: Will Shortz
Zhouqin Burnikel
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
4911/13/201211/17/201717
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
517135342
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.56281
Don Gagliardo
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
1211/13/20129/19/201712
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
3151200
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.58131

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 78, Blocks: 38 Missing: {JQX} This is puzzle # 8 for Ms. Burnikel. This is puzzle # 4 for Mr. Gagliardo. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Constructor notes: ZHOUQIN (C.C.): This idea occurred to me when I put WOODROW in a down slot one day & misread it as the two-word WOOD ROW. ... more
Constructor notes:

ZHOUQIN (C.C.):

This idea occurred to me when I put WOODROW in a down slot one day & misread it as the two-word WOOD ROW. Don did all the hard work on the grid design. I initially used a 5 & 5 & 3 word break on the very top & bottom rows. Simply could not make the grid work, not to mention including a few long downs.

DON:

This idea places a burden on the construction, because we were stuck using lengths of words that must work out to rows and be symmetrically arranged. And then sticking WOOD ROW in the center made it even more difficult.

CC and I share filling and cluing. On a personal note, I was happy to get RUBINSTEIN into the grid. That was on my half of the grid. Way back when I was a senior in high school (1972), Rubinstein came to Cleveland to perform a recital of all Chopin music. I was in heaven, being a Chopin fan and a Rubinstein fan. I was witness to an extraordinary event. Other than that answer, it is not a very exciting grid for us to design, because we both like more complexity, with some longer entries. The theme really limited what we could do.

Jeff Chen notes: WOODROW parsed into WOOD ROW today, i.e. rows of short answers, each of which can follow the word WOOD. Who knew there were so many ... more
Jeff Chen notes: WOODROW parsed into WOOD ROW today, i.e. rows of short answers, each of which can follow the word WOOD. Who knew there were so many words that go with WOOD?

This may seem like an easy construction, given the short theme answers, but it is no mean feat. In some ways, it's actually harder to use short theme answers than long ones. Counterintuitive perhaps, but this sort of arrangement can be very difficult due to crossword norms, both related to integration of long fill.

First, the 78 word maximum. Today's grid would have been a piece of cake if C.C. and Don could have used 82 words. That would have let them break up entries like GOING OVER, PREDATORY, etc. But there's a reason for that 78 word maximum — those types of long entries are a big part of what makes a crossword spicy and interesting. Of all the entries today, my favorites were I DON'T BUY IT, POP DIVA, and RUBINSTEIN (I'm a fan too, Don!). Breaking up those entries would have been a real shame.

Then there's the presentation of said longest answers. Typically, solvers tend to think that the theme of a puzzle is contained within the longest across answers. And for good reason — that is the case 90% of the time! So when there's an anomalous grid like today's, the constructor(s) have to be careful not to mislead the solver. No doubt that the shaded (or circled) entries help distinguish the themers from the non-themers, but I couldn't help wondering what PREDATORY and ORIGINALS had to do with WOOD at first.

Finally, in this type of arrangement, the puzzle's zing is highly dependent on the long down fill, since the theme is basically a "words that can follow X" type of theme. In addition to I DON'T BUY IT and POP DIVA and RUBENSTEIN, CLAY COURT is particularly nice. But GOING OVER seems to me like a missed opportunity. Nine-letter spaces are meant for snazz. I realize that it might not have been possible due to the high constraints today, but that still doesn't keep me from wishing that entry had been something more splashy.

Tough construction challenge today with relatively smooth fill. Good workout.

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© 2014, The New York TimesNo. 0220 ( 23,480 )
Across Down
1. One may follow a long drive : CHIP
5. CNBC topic : STOCK
10. Tidy sum : PILE
14. Subject of the 1994 best seller "The Late Shift" : LENO
15. Scoop : LADLE
16. Flurries : ADOS
17. Big mailer to the over-50 crowd : AARP
18. More than loud : AROAR
19. Building often near a cafeteria : DORM
20. Rapacious : PREDATORY
22. The Golf Channel co-founder, to fans : ARNIE
23. Ones getting a good licking? : ICES
24. Math subgroup : COSET
26. George Washington, for one : CARVER
29. Do the trick : WORK
30. Trash collector : BIN
33. What un desierto lacks : AGUA
34. First-aid kit staple : GAUZE
35. Article in Vogue Paris : UNE
36. Mug, e.g. : ROB
37. First name of a former president ... or, read another way, what each of the shaded lines is : WOODROW
39. Veer off course : YAW
40. "... ___ go!" : ORI
41. Reducing, after "on" : ADIET
42. ___ die : SINE
43. "Phew!" : MAN
44. Empty talk : WIND
45. Patrol boat : CUTTER
47. Dictionary label : SLANG
49. Gossipy Barrett : RONA
50. Cheerios : TATAS
52. Things often left at copy shops : ORIGINALS
57. Kind of place : ONES
58. Dodge : EVADE
59. Rice, for one : CROP
60. "The Grapes of Wrath" figure : OKIE
61. Wyoming's ___ Range : TETON
62. Nude alternative : ECRU
63. Reel in : LAND
64. Origami, e.g. : CRAFT
65. Drop, as pounds : SHED
1. Make some noise : CLAP
2. When repeated, "Amen!" : HEAR
3. Latin phrase on a memo : INRE
4. Pink, e.g. : POPDIVA
5. Laborer on an old roof, maybe : SLATER
6. Island roots : TAROS
7. Body ___ : ODOR
8. French Open feature : CLAYCOURT
9. Flooey lead-in : KER
10. One wearing a collar : PADRE
11. "You failed to convince me" : IDONTBUYIT
12. Petty of "A League of Their Own" : LORI
13. Salinger girl : ESME
21. Hotshot : ACE
22. Out of kilter : ASKEW
25. Ricelike pasta : ORZO
26. Ricochet : CAROM
27. Old shopping locale : AGORA
28. Polish-born musician who was awarded a Presidential Medal of Freedom : RUBINSTEIN
29. Got one's feet wet? : WADED
31. Harebrained : INANE
32. More current : NEWER
34. Reviewing : GOINGOVER
37. Jazz trumpet sounds : WAWAS
38. God with two ravens on his shoulders : ODIN
42. Golf fundamentals : STANCES
45. Convincing, as an argument : COGENT
46. Prefix with brow : UNI
48. Zapped, in a way : LASED
49. Through with : RIDOF
50. Drill, for one : TOOL
51. Paul in the Songwriters Hall of Fame : ANKA
53. Pro ___ : RATA
54. Sole support? : ARCH
55. Tales of old : LORE
56. Source of some carbs : SPUD
58. ...: Abbr. : ETC

Answer summary: 1 unique to this puzzle, 5 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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