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New York Times, Monday, February 20, 2017

Author: Ed Stein and Paula Gamache
Editor: Will Shortz
Ed Stein
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
87/28/19802/20/20174
SunMonTueWedThuFriSatVariety
12220001
ScrabRebusCirclePangrampre-WS
1.510001
Paula Gamache
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
1075/21/20023/8/20174
SunMonTueWedThuFriSatVariety
81318151217618
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.58431

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 78, Blocks: 34 Missing: {KQX} This is puzzle # 8 for Mr. Stein. This is puzzle # 106 for Ms. Gamache. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Constructor notes: ED: This is the fifth puzzle I and Paula Gamache have collaborated on successfully – and the second puzzle created for a ... more
Constructor notes:

ED: This is the fifth puzzle I and Paula Gamache have collaborated on successfully – and the second puzzle created for a special day of the year: this one, Presidents Day – and April Fools' Day. If you want to construct a puzzle with a "holiday" theme, better make sure it's never been done before.

Our concept was "presidential trivia" where we'd start each theme clue with "the only president that…" Paula checked years of Presidents Day puzzles. We had a shot.

Next task: gathering pairs of presidents according to numbers of letters in their last name. And then how many could be jammed symmetrically into a 15X puzzle grid. We were able to squeeze eight presidential names — or four pairs — into that one puzzle with the fill holding it all together.

The theme clues had to be biographical nuggets, unique and interesting, so that the solver didn't know them right away. Not like "the only president with a 9' x 4' bathtub in the White House." TAFT. (Too easy.) Or "the only president to lose his wife and his mother on the same day." T. ROOSEVELT (Too grim.) Each, we felt, should be an interesting little fact, that the solver might say, "Gee, I didn't know that."

Also, just because you have a viable theme for your puzzle, don't take the fill for granted. The fill answers have to be a good complement to the rest of the puzzle and not be boring or trite.

Our puzzle didn't get accepted the first submission. We ended up submitting more presidential clues (back to the history books) and a whole new fill before it was accepted.

Unless you're dead, never say die.

Jeff Chen notes: President's Day extravaganza, featuring eight POTUSes and interesting trivia. I had heard some before, like BUCHANAN the lifelong ... more
Jeff Chen notes:

President's Day extravaganza, featuring eight POTUSes and interesting trivia. I had heard some before, like BUCHANAN the lifelong bachelor, and TAFT who went on to become Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. And I think we've all heard enough about OBAMA's birthplace.

But there were a few good ones in there, especially ROOSEVELT climbing the Matterhorn. Appropriate for the Rough Rider!

It took me a while to read the long FORD clue, but I liked that one a lot. (He became VP when Agnew resigned, and then President when Nixon stepped down.)

And HARRISON's grandfather was also President? Yes — William Henry Harrison. I suppose the clue could have been written for the latter or the former.

On that note, I would have liked something pulling all the trivia together. The tidbits were interesting, but as a whole, it felt scattershot. Each and every POTUS has something quirky about him or his Presidency, so focusing the trivia around hobbies, political careers, families, etc. would have been great.

Although none of the themers are long, check out how many there are (highlighted below). Such high theme density almost always makes for a tough grid making challenge. Ed and Paula wisely spend many of their black squares in the middle, separating HARRISON / OBAMA / TYLER / BUCHANAN, and the results in the center are smooth.

But without many other black squares to deploy, they're forced to work with relatively big swaths of white in the corners. Some entries like INTERIM and STATION are good, and I like OZONE HOLE and MACADAMIA (yum!). But ORGANDY, TRALEE, WYNN, SMEW, make for more aggregated toughness than I think a Monday puzzle ought to have.

And the south suffers in terms of short fill, with ATIE, ADDN, LTD, LLCS. Those last two are fine, in common business usage, but as a whole, that little south section felt heavy with crossword glue, especially also considering SMEW and CLEO (do people really call Cleopatra that?).

Some trivia I'm glad I learned, but it would have been nice to get an organizing principle to rationalize why these eight Presidents were chosen.

Note to self: OBAMA at 44-Across — POTUSes at their appropriate number — would have been cool!

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© 2017, The New York TimesNo. 0220 ( 24,576 )
Across Down
1. Sunrise : DAWN
5. Musial in the Baseball Hall of Fame : STAN
9. High in the air : ALOFT
14. Soil-related prefix : AGRO
15. Diva's solo : ARIA
16. Stubble remover : RAZOR
17. Only president to scale the Matterhorn : ROOSEVELT
19. Love, to Lorenzo : AMORE
20. Temporary : INTERIM
21. Fine, thin cotton fabric : ORGANDY
23. Bill ___, the Science Guy : NYE
24. Cheer (for) : ROOT
26. Women's stockings : HOSE
27. Only president whose grandfather was also president : HARRISON
29. Move like a bunny : HOP
32. Space streakers : COMETS
35. Moms : MAS
36. Had on : WORE
37. Only president born outside the continental United States : OBAMA
38. Bo or Checkers : DOG
39. Only president to have 15 children : TYLER
40. Photos, informally : PICS
41. Make a quick note of, with "down" : JOT
42. Writer Hemingway : ERNEST
43. Airport pickup driver's info : ETA
44. Only president to be a lifelong bachelor : BUCHANAN
46. Mend, as socks : DARN
48. Cheerleader's cheer : YELL
49. Lead-in to historic : PRE
52. Washington's Union ___ : STATION
55. TV ratings name : NIELSEN
57. Former Afghan leader Karzai : HAMID
58. Only president to be married in the White House : CLEVELAND
60. Submit a tax return online : EFILE
61. End in ___ (require overtime) : ATIE
62. Marc Antony's lover, informally : CLEO
63. Sports figures? : STATS
64. Building annex: Abbr. : ADDN
65. Eurasian duck : SMEW
1. "Mack the Knife" singer Bobby : DARIN
2. Excruciating pain : AGONY
3. Worked on an essay or novel : WROTE
4. Scent picker-upper : NOSE
5. Redeemers : SAVIORS
6. Sign of an earthquake : TREMOR
7. Be sick : AIL
8. Defense alliance since 1949, for short : NATO
9. Catherine of ___ : ARAGON
10. Tibetan priests : LAMAS
11. Seasonal thinning in the atmosphere over Antarctica : OZONEHOLE
12. Only president to serve as both vice president and president without being elected to either office : FORD
13. Card that just beats a deuce : TREY
18. Printing mistakes : ERRATA
22. Greek P's : RHOS
25. Dalton who played 007 : TIMOTHY
27. ___ and haws : HEMS
28. Give in to gravity : SAG
30. Iron and tin sources : ORES
31. Saucy : PERT
32. Deal (with) : COPE
33. Last words? : OBIT
34. Nut from Hawaii : MACADAMIA
36. Vegas casino developer Steve : WYNN
38. Bespectacled Disney dwarf : DOC
39. Tourist destination in County Kerry, Ireland : TRALEE
41. Roman goddess, protector of women and marriage : JUNO
42. Jazz up : ENLIVEN
44. Wedding figures : BRIDES
45. Epic poem starting with the flight from Troy : AENEID
47. Slanted : ATILT
49. Sacred song : PSALM
50. Soprano Fleming : RENEE
51. Fund, as a university chair : ENDOW
52. Tom Jones's "___ a Lady" : SHES
53. Only president to administer the oath of office to two other presidents : TAFT
54. March Madness org. : NCAA
56. Legal entities for partnerships: Abbr. : LLCS
59. Inc., overseas : LTD

Answer summary:

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