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New York Times, Monday, February 23, 2015

Author: Joel Fagliano
Editor: Will Shortz
Joel Fagliano
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5310/22/20093/16/20173
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12810610223
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1.65351
Puzzle of the Week

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 72, Blocks: 38 Missing: {FKQXZ} This is puzzle # 36 for Mr. Fagliano. Jeff Chen's Puzzle of the Week pick NYT links: Across Lite PDF

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Joel Fagliano notes: Sometimes, the enjoyment in Monday and Tuesday grids can only be found in the theme. With the typical 78-word grid, crossword ... more
Joel Fagliano notes:

Sometimes, the enjoyment in Monday and Tuesday grids can only be found in the theme. With the typical 78-word grid, crossword standbys are bound to make up much of the fill and clues can't get too interesting or novel.

For this reason, I always aim to make my easy puzzles with a low word count. For one thing, it's a fun construction challenge. Getting Monday-level fill in a 72-word grid often takes the exact right arrangement of the themers and black squares, which is the sort of design problem I like (cause I'm weird like that). Luckily, the grid shape I found was still fairly segmented, which allowed me to work on each corner without too much spillover.

But besides being fun to make, the longer vocabulary and lack of three-letter answers allows for interesting words and phrases you wouldn't normally see on a Monday. In turn, those can get fresh (but still easy) clues that test a novice solver's brain in a way they haven't experienced before.

All in all, I'm really proud of how this one came out, and I hope solvers like it too!

Jeff Chen notes: Joel has such an interesting perspective. The construction was SO smooth that I assumed it was a 76 or perhaps a 74-word puzzle. A ... more
Jeff Chen notes:

Joel has such an interesting perspective. The construction was SO smooth that I assumed it was a 76 or perhaps a 74-word puzzle. A 72-word themed puzzle is hard enough to achieve with a few gluey bits, so to nail it with nary a glop is amazing.

My personal style is a little different. I always try to work in six snazzy long downs (unless grid constraints are severe), but that tends to ignore the mid-length 5-, 6-, 7-letter fill, leaning heavily on the short stuff that Joel points out as pretty boring for solvers. I hadn't really considered how important that mid-range stuff is, but I see what he means when I look at fill such as JUNTA, IM SURE, and ACCT NO (which looks really cool in the grid — a nice surprise to have to work at uncovering a Monday entry). I like those entries no matter how they're clued.

The least populous state, West Virginia!

And his approach also gives the solver interesting trivia. Who knew WYOMING was the least populous state? I wouldn't, because my approach to grid design tends to ignore these 7-letter entries. (Also because I get WYOMING and Wisconsin confused.)

Finally, IM GAY brings us a reminder of a momentous event in TV history, Ellen coming out. Great stuff.

I might have liked a third fruit instead of BITTER PILL — if only BITTER PEAR or RANCID BANANA were metaphorical, sigh — but the theme coheres well enough. (I'm afraid the consistently very high quality of Joel's work has me spoiled ugli.)

A great construction, and a Monday puzzle chock full of interesting fill and tidbits.

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© 2015, The New York TimesNo. 0223 ( 23,848 )
Across Down
1. Window material : GLASS
6. Lobster limb : CLAW
10. Cruise ship stop : PORT
14. Gossip spreader : YENTA
15. The ___ Bible : HOLY
16. "This can't be good" : UHOH
17. Actress Fox of the "Transformers" movies : MEGAN
18. What a garage protects : AUTO
19. Use a keyboard : TYPE
20. Online aggregator of movie reviews : ROTTENTOMATOES
23. Where airplane bathrooms are, often : REAR
24. "No doubt in my mind" : IMSURE
25. Neighbor of Niger : CHAD
27. Bank ID : ACCTNO
31. Census form info : RACE
32. Fox's feeling in an Aesop fable : SOURGRAPES
37. Omanis and Saudis : ARABS
39. Hosp. scan : MRI
40. Muse of poetry : ERATO
41. Hard-to-accept consequence : BITTERPILL
44. Horse's gait : TROT
45. Strike out on one's own, as a musician : GOSOLO
46. The "M" of Y.M.C.A. : MENS
47. Heart chamber : ATRIUM
51. Avoid : SHUN
53. Not sit well ... or what eating 20-, 32- or 41-Across might do? : LEAVEABADTASTE
58. Wild about : INTO
59. Exploding star : NOVA
60. Aphrodite or Ares : DEITY
62. Product commonly advertised during football games : BEER
63. Baby's bed : CRIB
64. Postcoup group : JUNTA
65. Teeny : ITSY
66. Finales : ENDS
67. Groundbreaking admission from Ellen in a 1997 sitcom : IMGAY
1. Facility with treadmills and yoga mats : GYM
2. Creepy look : LEER
3. Long-haired feline : ANGORACAT
4. Governor's financial concern : STATEDEBT
5. December list keeper : SANTA
6. Action film star Jackie : CHAN
7. Lummox : LOUT
8. Voice below soprano : ALTO
9. Least populous state : WYOMING
10. Strokes on the green : PUTTS
11. "Silly goose!" : OHYOU
12. Lasso wielder : ROPER
13. "___ things happen" : THESE
21. Historical periods : ERAS
22. Love, to Luigi : AMORE
25. Sidling sea creature : CRAB
26. Mata ___ (W.W. I spy) : HARI
28. Provides free of charge : COMPS
29. Bit of bric-a-brac : CURIO
30. Sing like a bird : TRILL
33. The Getty or the Guggenheim : ARTMUSEUM
34. Subject of advice from Dr. Spock or Dr. Phil : PARENTING
35. Prestigious British boys' school : ETON
36. Drunkards : SOTS
38. "Anyhoo ..." or "As I was saying ..." : SEGUE
42. Word before novel or language : ROMANCE
43. In need of direction : LOST
47. Suspect's story : ALIBI
48. Basic principle : TENET
49. Assigns stars to, say : RATES
50. Ebony's partner : IVORY
52. Pilgrim to Mecca : HADJI
54. "I wasn't ___ yesterday" : BORN
55. Enthusiastic : AVID
56. Pats gently : DABS
57. Jazz legend James : ETTA
61. "What great news!" : YAY

Answer summary: 3 unique to this puzzle, 1 debuted here and reused later, 1 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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