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New York Times, Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Author:
Ruth B. Margolin
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
102/26/20145/26/20190
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4013200
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1.50100
Ruth B. Margolin

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 74, Blocks: 36 Missing: {JQXZ} Spans: 2 This is the debut puzzle for Ms. Margolin. Jeff Chen's Puzzle of the Week pick. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Ruth B. Margolin notes:
I am quite excited to have my first puzzle published, and what began as a lark has become an engaging hobby. I solve the puzzle daily, ... read more

I am quite excited to have my first puzzle published, and what began as a lark has become an engaging hobby. I solve the puzzle daily, and occasionally a puzzle takes a particular approach to playing with language that gives me an "I can do that!" feeling and sends me off in search of words and puns that fit my concept.

I no longer remember any particular puzzle that sparked the word-play part of my brain and led me to create this one, adding IST to familiar words. The challenge of course, was that the addition of IST had to change the meaning of the word entirely. There's no humor in changing "violin" to "violinist."

So to the word lists. I pored through lists of words containing IST, mentally subtracting the IST to find those words that could then be built into phrases that had the potential to win a chuckle once the IST was put back in. So from "cubist" to "cub" to "cub reporter" to CUBIST REPORTER.

I think my favorite answer has to be SLEEPER CELLISTS. Having played in the wind section of orchestras throughout my youth, I know what it is to count many dozens of measures of rests before an entrance, trying to maintain concentration, while the string players played without pause. It always seemed possible that someone might one day fall asleep, but I never thought it would be the cellists!

I was pleased with the phrases I was able to create, and even more pleased that Will (finally!) liked them, too. (I don't think I have to confess here just how many of my submissions have not made the grade...)

So now that I've met Will's standards and made my debut, am I a strict constructionIST?

Jeff Chen notes:
Beautiful debut puzzle today, absolutely loved it. I'm not sure I've ever seen a debut I've liked quite this much, given its fun ... read more

Beautiful debut puzzle today, absolutely loved it. I'm not sure I've ever seen a debut I've liked quite this much, given its fun theme, excellent long fill, and not a lot of glue-y crosswordese. I had to look it over a few times to make sure I was indeed seeing a new name. Super impressive, Ruth!

First, the theme. At surface level, it's a basic "add a letter sequence" concept, nothing new there. But each time the IST is added, it changes the meaning of the base word completely, i.e. CUB to CUBIST, and in a funny. STARK to STARKIST is just genius, especially given how snazzy the base phrase, STARK NAKED, is.

Often with "wacky phrase" themes, I find myself not super amused by one or more of them, but today, each one worked really well for me. Perhaps it helped that in my 20 years of playing cello, I sat in the very back of the orchestra, sleeping my way through rehearsals (I was that guy who always came in too early before the rests were over). Some might not find SLEEPER CELLISTS as amusing, but it was spot on for me. And the base phrases are all so solid: CUB REPORTERS, POMPOUS ASS, STARK NAKED, SLEEPER CELLS. Wonderful. Yes, two nouns are plural while one is singular, but that almost seemed too nit-picky to even mention.

Then we come to the fill. Typically a debut contains not as much long fill as I like to see. But CREDIT RISK is fantastic (I love business terms, so sue me), and MAIN STREET hits in the same way. Then Ruth works in EURASIA, CALYPSO, GUEVARA, and even SKI CAP, taking advantage of her 6's and 7's, which often don't get used to their full potential.

Given the nice long stuff, I'd expect some compromises in the shorter. But not only does Ruth keep it to some measley ESE, OR A, MSGS stuff, she works in 6x3 regions at the north and south, giving us the juicy NASSAU and SEANCE. Most constructors avoid that 6x3 arrangement, preferring to stick with 5x3 because that slight widening from five to six often makes for a rougher filling challenge. No problems today, just smooth sailing.

An extremely pleasurable solve for me, and an equally pleasurable time writing up my comments. This is a fantastic example of why I really like the "open call for anyone who wants to construct" policy. Looking forward to more from Ruth.

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© 2014, The New York TimesNo. 0226 ( 23,486 )

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Across
1
Fare in "blankets" : PIGS
5
Do the Wright thing? : AVIATE
11
Half-___ (coffee order) : CAF
14
In a frenzy : AMOK
15
Bahamas cruise stop : NASSAU
16
South American cruise stop, for short : RIO
17
Journalists covering abstract art? : CUBISTREPORTERS
20
Coriander, for one : SPICE
21
Cry with a fist pump : YES
22
Hill staffers : AIDES
23
"Mob Wives" star Big ___ : ANG
25
Aim high : ASPIRE
26
Help from a jerk? : POMPOUSASSIST
32
"... cup ___ cone?" : ORA
33
Model plane, e.g. : REPLICA
34
Like steak tartare : RAW
37
Letters on a radial : PSI
38
Sheer curtain fabric : VOILE
39
Medium for short-lived sculptures : ICE
40
Ages and ages : EON
41
Typists' copies, once : CARBONS
43
___-devil : SHE
44
Canned tuna without mayo? : STARKISTNAKED
47
The Scourge of God : ATTILA
49
Like one texting :-( : SAD
50
Ill-humored : SURLY
51
Shell carries it : GAS
54
Jump the shark, e.g. : IDIOM
58
Narcoleptics with string instruments? : SLEEPERCELLISTS
61
Toledo-to-Pittsburgh dir. : ESE
62
Holding-hands-in-the-dark event : SEANCE
63
Gutter problem : CLOG
64
Mike Tyson facial feature, for short : TAT
65
Guinness Book superlative : OLDEST
66
Equipment miniature golf players don't need : TEES
Down
1
"Super" campaign orgs. : PACS
2
"You can stop trying to wake me now!" : IMUP
3
Desert that occasionally gets snow : GOBI
4
Winter topper : SKICAP
5
Hobby farm denizen : ANT
6
"Results may ___" : VARY
7
"Oh, O.K." : ISEE
8
Hieroglyphics creatures : ASPS
9
Chinese "way" : TAO
10
"1984" superstate : EURASIA
11
One unable to get a loan, say : CREDITRISK
12
TV station, e.g. : AIRER
13
Bob who directed "Cabaret" : FOSSE
18
Mister in a sombrero : SENOR
19
They're often off the books : TIPS
24
Compadre of Castro : GUEVARA
25
Mountaineering attempts : ASCENTS
26
World leader with an eponymous "mobile" : POPE
27
Guesstimate words : ORSO
28
Where to find the only stoplight in a small town, typically : MAINSTREET
29
Picnic utensil : SPORK
30
It's best when it's airtight : ALIBI
31
Towers on farms : SILOS
35
Hurt : ACHE
36
Pull up dandelions and crab grass : WEED
41
Harry Belafonte genre : CALYPSO
42
It carries a shell : SNAIL
45
Flooring option : TILE
46
One needing detox : ADDICT
47
It's a plus : ASSET
48
Tornado Alley city : TULSA
51
Mortarboard tosser : GRAD
52
___ cream : ACNE
53
Jiffies : SECS
55
Castaway site : ISLE
56
Siouan speaker : OTOE
57
Txts, e.g. : MSGS
59
Symbol of slipperiness : EEL
60
Net judge's call : LET

Answer summary: 5 unique to this puzzle, 2 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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