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New York Times, Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Author: Ruth B. Margolin
Editor: Will Shortz
Ruth B. Margolin
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62/26/20146/22/20170
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Puzzle of the Week

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

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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 ... more
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, 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 ... more
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 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 )
Across Down
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
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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