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New York Times, Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Author: Ruth Bloomfield Margolin
Editor: Will Shortz
Ruth B. Margolin
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72/26/20148/20/20170
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ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.48100

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 76, Blocks: 38 Missing: {FJQWYZ} This is puzzle # 3 for Ms. Margolin. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Ruth B. Margolin notes: Naive constructor wanders unknowingly into the quicksand of a tricky-to-implement perimeter theme. Whichever path she takes, ... more
Ruth B. Margolin notes:

Naive constructor wanders unknowingly into the quicksand of a tricky-to-implement perimeter theme. Whichever path she takes, the theme idea leads to murky fill. Will responds in a manner that is simultaneously encouraging (i.e. he likes the theme) and discouraging (i.e. he says that perhaps it can't be done), and the constructor flails around for a bit, gasping for good fill, wearing down Will's admirable patience, until finally emerging safe and sound and published.

I know that you've read that story in these notes before. I am clearly not the first to discover that a puzzle with perimeter theme answers is really hard to fill! Having fixed letters all around the perimeter severely limits the options for words that can fill in the rest of the puzzle. I just didn't know that when I began this project, and it seemed like such a good idea. Will clued me in after my umpteenth revision attempt, and I think he probably wanted me to throw in the towel.

But a few months later, I couldn't help trying again. Will then brought in an expert, Frank Longo, to consult, and Frank offered some suggestions (Thank you, Frank!), some of which you see in the puzzle's northeast. At the end of it all, Will gave it his approval, and here we are. The story has a happy ending!

Jeff Chen notes: 'Perimeter puzzles' rely on a revealer to makes sense of the answers around the edges. SUBMERGED didn't make sense to me at first ... more
Jeff Chen notes:

"Perimeter puzzles" rely on a revealer to makes sense of the answers around the edges. SUBMERGED didn't make sense to me at first — shouldn't that mean two "sub" answers will merge, i.e. cross? But upon further thought, SUBMERGED instructs the solver to "merge SUB with what's in the entry." Interesting concept!

That one at the very bottom — that's a subLIME! (groan)

Ruth did a good job selecting theme answers, choosing ones that looked perfectly normal in the grid — not to mention, ones that intersect so nicely in the four corners! I stared at the very first square for the longest time, wonder how LIME could make sense for [Lofty in thought or manner]. I do like limes, but are they really lofty? Finally figuring that out was lime. Er, (sub)LIME.

I had a head-scratching moment upon uncovering (sub)URBAN and (sub)TRACT, as those didn't "merge" with another theme answer. And then I kicked myself, remembering that SUBMERGED just meant "add SUB." Dang it!

Ruth is absolutely right, perimeter puzzles are notoriously difficult to fill well, given the constraint of having two crossing "themers" in the corners (I swore them off after my last one). I was very pleased with Ruth's execution in the lower right — SASHIMI along with not a drop of crossword glue? Beautiful work, especially given the degree of difficulty.

The lower left is more typical in terms of the liabilities seen in perimeter puzzles. ALIENEE is a valid word, but I don't know how many (non-lawyer) solvers will clap at this one. Along with IN ME and (the very minor) EST, it's got a few flaws.

Perimeter puzzles are also notorious for making it difficult to work in great long fill. With all the constraints already placed on the grid, it's so tough to take advantage of those long slots. TEA HOUSE is quite nice, but PANELIST to me is more neutral, as are BETAMAX, SLEEVES, ESSENES, etc.

I like when struggle suddenly flips to a moment of discovery, so I liked the concept. There were a few more dabs of crossword glue than I like, but that's part of the nature of this theme style.

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© 2016, The New York TimesNo. 0224 ( 24,214 )
Across Down
1. Lofty in thought or manner : SUBLIME
5. Like the area between city and farm : SUBURBAN
10. Puts down by force : SUBDUES
14. Apple originally marketed to schools : EMAC
15. Blackmore's Doone : LORNA
16. M.I.T. part: Abbr. : INST
17. M.I.T. part: Abbr. : TECH
18. Make impure : TAINT
19. City on the Arno : PISA
20. S.U.V. named for a lake : TAHOE
22. Football legend Amos Alonzo ___ : STAGG
24. Number of states that border the Mississippi : TEN
25. Composer of music "as ignorable as it is interesting" : ENO
26. D-Day vessels, for short : LSTS
28. With all judges present : ENBANC
30. Greet, as the new year : RINGIN
32. Popular Bach piece for the lute : BOURREE
33. Twinings in London is one : TEAHOUSE
36. Super Bowl highlights, to many : ADS
37. Goes underwater ... or a hint to the answers on the perimeter of this puzzle : SUBMERGES
40. "Six-pack" muscles : ABS
42. Talent show judge, often : PANELIST
45. LP protectors : SLEEVES
48. Bow respectfully : SALAAM
50. Fruitcake fruit : CITRON
51. Eartha who sang "C'est Si Bon" : KITT
53. Mani-pedi spot : SPA
54. Mens ___ (criminal intent) : REA
55. "Star Wars" droid, informally : ARTOO
57. Upper reaches of space : ETHER
59. "You've Got a Friend ___" : INME
61. Yoga posture : ASANA
63. Diva ___ Te Kanawa : KIRI
64. Wasabi ___ (bar snack) : PEAS
65. Politico lampooned by Fey : PALIN
66. Sign to heed : OMEN
67. Underlying theme : SUBTEXT
68. Take away : SUBTRACT
69. Become less intense : SUBSIDE
1. Renter from a renter : SUBLETTER
2. "This is no joke!" : IMEANIT
3. Speed of sound : MACHONE
4. Guitar amp effect : ECHO
5. Extreme: Abbr. : ULT
6. Comedians' shindig : ROAST
7. Yanks' allies in W.W. I and II : BRITS
8. Visitor to Siam, on stage and film : ANNA
9. "Explorer" channel : NATGEO
10. Stock market fluctuation : DIP
11. Acrobat's wear : UNITARD
12. Dead Sea Scrolls sect : ESSENES
13. Meat of the matter : SUBSTANCE
21. College benefactor Yale : ELIHU
23. Serengeti antelope : GNU
27. Hoity-toity sort : SNOB
29. Rio's land, to natives : BRASIL
31. Thigh-slapper : GASSER
32. Capital on the Aare : BERN
34. World Series game sextet : UMPS
35. Triton's domain : SEA
38. Tale of adventure : GEST
39. Send over the moon : ELATE
40. Property recipient, in law : ALIENEE
41. Loser to VHS : BETAMAX
43. Sushi bar option : SASHIMI
44. Like the pointed end of a pencil : TAPERED
45. The "2" in the formula for water, e.g. : SUBSCRIPT
46. U.S. broadcaster overseas : VOA
47. Totally absorbed : ENRAPT
49. U.S.S. Nautilus, for one : SUBMARINE
51. Eucalyptus-munching animal : KOALA
52. Column style : IONIC
56. Central figure in a Mussorgsky opera : TSAR
58. Ring stoppages, for short : TKOS
60. Guinness suffix : EST
62. Formicide's target : ANT

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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