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New York Times, Thursday, February 27, 2014

Author: Stanley Newman
Editor: Will Shortz
Stanley Newman
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
235/5/19849/13/20160
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
1832513
ScrabRebusCirclePangrampre-WS
1.640012

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 72, Blocks: 39 Missing: {JQX} This is puzzle # 19 for Mr. Newman. NYT links: Across Lite PDF

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Stanley Newman notes: Inspiration for this puzzle came from my 30-year-old son Marc (whom Will bounced on his knee at my home about 27 years ago), who ... more
Stanley Newman notes: Inspiration for this puzzle came from my 30-year-old son Marc (whom Will bounced on his knee at my home about 27 years ago), who sells items on eBay for his London office-salvage business. One of his recent items was a plaque with the theme message, for which only the original WE'LL needed to be changed to WE WILL to break perfectly. By dumb luck, Will was short of non-rebus Thursdays, so it appears today only 19 days after he OK'd it.

I clue puzzles hard by having as many "new" clues as possible, requiring some thought and reasoning to solve, rather than ones that can be solved at sight by solvers with good memories. Most of the new factual clues here come from Internet research, such as 52A, 63A, 8D and 34D.

An added requirement to my harder clues is that only general knowledge should be required to understand them, even if the fact itself isn't well-known. For example, anyone from New York should know that AMAZIN (14A) is associated with the Mets, so it shouldn't be surprising that a website all about the Mets is called Amazin' Avenue.

One other clue nicety here that might not be obvious: a factual balance between new pop culture (like 18A, 55A), older (40A, 25D), and historical (42A, 10D). I made sure that all my factual references could be quickly and authoritatively verified with Google, and passed that info along to Will with the puzzle.

While some of my new clues for uncapitalized answers also come from Web research ("Time-stretching" for 41D SLO-MO came from a Wikipedia article), I can often think of something fresh by just letting my mind wander. That's where I got 56A and 1D, for instance.

Will is obviously on-board with all of this thinking, since he kept about 75% of my clues, including all the ones cited above.

In the 1,000+ crosswords I've constructed and the 5,000+ I've edited (for the New York newspaper Newsday and Puzzle Social) since adopting Crossword Compiler in 2000, I've found that with careful grid patterning it's never necessary to use obscurities, even for wide-open grids such as the 72-worder here. This sometimes requires that I check Google News and Google Books, to be sure that words I think are in common current use actually are. I look forward to the day where this fussiness will be standard procedure for constructors, so we can finally bid the OLEOs, OLIOs and ANILs of crosswordese an unfond farewell.

Anyone wishing to throw bouquets or stones at me, or a constructor wishing to learn more about my "crud-free" approach to puzzlemaking, is welcome to contact me through my website.

Jeff Chen notes: Quote puzzles have an incredible ability to draw out strong reactions from solvers, some people loving them, some people calling for ... more
Jeff Chen notes: Quote puzzles have an incredible ability to draw out strong reactions from solvers, some people loving them, some people calling for the guillotine. Well, I say haters gonna hate, solvers gonna solve. Not totally sure what that means, but it sounds catchy.

A veteran of the crossword world steps in for his first NYT puzzle in quite some time. Stan edits the Newsday crossword, and often comes up with the hardest puzzle each week, his "Saturday Stumper." I wrote one Stumper for him and tried to race Dan Feyer on it. But Stan had upped the difficulty so much, I barely solved it, having to guess in a few places (chalk up another victory to Dan; no surprise).

The quote today is amusing, although I found it slightly too easy in that I was able to guess the quip with a lot of blanks still out. And these days quote puzzles have become a bit overdone, requiring a truly hilarious or surprising quote in order to make it stand out. I did like today's, but I didn't personally find it to be something I'd tweet. Look at me, joining the 20th century! (Twitter: @JeffChenWrites)

I found the grid very interesting, though. Very unusual to see three black squares stacked in each of the corners. These "cheater squares" are a bit unsightly, but they are necessary when putting a 13 (or 14) letter entry in rows 3 and 13. Doing this does let Stan spread out his four theme entries so that it's easier to make a low word-count grid (72). And there is something visually cool about seeing those rectangular blocks. Perhaps it's just the novelty of it, but they started to grow on me. I wouldn't want them very often but to see them once in a while is a nice change of pace (just like a quote puzzle!).

One trademark of Stan's "Saturday Stumpers" is that he's very careful to avoid easy-to-answer three letter entries like SST, ESE, etc. And true to form, look at the care he's put into this grid: very few subpar entries. Maybe REDRAFT is the least appealing piece of fill? And not a single three-letter entry is a stinker. That's very good work. Granted, there isn't much with a "wow" factor, perhaps SODA POP or PEAPODS as the snappiest entries. But that's what often comes with a tight, clean grid.

I appreciate both ends of the spectrum: Stan's ultra-clean but not as snazzy approach on one end, and other constructors' wildly fresh but with a necessary sprinkling of crosswordese on the other.

Will Shortz notes: While I have the greatest respect for Stan, both as an editor and a person, I don't completely agree with his puzzle philosophy. ... more
Will Shortz notes: While I have the greatest respect for Stan, both as an editor and a person, I don't completely agree with his puzzle philosophy. Specifically, I don't think crosswords have to avoid all difficult words. A crossword consists of two parts, apart from any theme — the grid and the clues. In my opinion the challenge can come from either part. Completing an interesting difficult answer can be just as rewarding to the solver as solving an interesting difficult clue.

By an "interesting difficult" answer I don't mean an insect genus or a 50-mile-long river in Russia. I mean something that's stimulating, amusing and/or useful to know. Honest people can disagree about what words meet this criterion. But presumably someone who likes crosswords also likes learning words and exploring the richness of the English language. This means that crosswords don't need to be limited to the 10,000-20,000 most common words — which can get overused besides.

Another problem with Stan's philosophy is that it can lead to blandness of vocabulary and overcaution in themes. I don't judge a puzzle by its worst entries. I judge it by its overall effect. An ambitious theme may require compromises. A great entry or combination of entries may require compromises. I think average solvers judge a puzzle on its balance. I do, too.

So I admire Stan's "fussiness" and attention to using only common vocabulary. I'm happy to publish crosswords of this sort. I just don't think every crossword has to be like this.

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© 2014, The New York TimesNo. 0227 ( 23,487 )
Across Down
1. Pretty hard to find : SCARCE
7. Front : FACADE
13. Orville Wright or Neil Armstrong : OHIOAN
14. ___ Avenue (Mets' community website) : AMAZIN
15. Sign at a neighborhood bar, part 1 : DONTTALKABOUT
17. Spars : MASTS
18. Server of Duff Beer to Homer Simpson : MOE
19. Dry Idea alternative : ARRID
21. Big, clumsy guy : APE
22. Indeed : YEA
23. Quite a bit : PLENTY
24. Part 2 of the sign : YOURSELFWE
28. Crowd drawer, often : SALE
29. Severely consternate : APPALL
30. Go up, up, up : SOAR
32. Made the first move : LED
33. Play a round : GOLF
35. General Motors subsidiary : OPEL
37. Artist known as either Jean or Hans : ARP
40. Gatsby-era hairstyles : BOBS
42. Some Coleridge colleagues : ODISTS
46. Accommodate, as passengers : SEAT
48. Part 3 of the sign : WILLDOTHAT
50. Folly : IDIOCY
52. Alliance HQ'd near the White House : OAS
53. Key molecule for protein synthesis : RNA
54. Fire : ARDOR
55. Adams of "American Hustle" : AMY
56. Prone to beefing : WHINY
58. End of the sign : AFTERYOULEAVE
61. Epicurean explorer : FOODIE
62. "Anything Goes" composer : PORTER
63. U.S.O. Care Package recipients : TROOPS
64. Coldly determined : STEELY
1. Redundant-sounding refreshment : SODAPOP
2. Formed, as schoolyard teams, say : CHOSEUP
3. "Hit 'em where they ___" : AINT
4. Turns bad : ROTS
5. Subject of many a viral video : CAT
6. Hardest substance in the human body : ENAMEL
7. Forgery : FAKE
8. Org. offering group practice membership : AMA
9. Ring of rebels : CABAL
10. Columbus stopping point of 1493 : AZORES
11. Active when the sun shines : DIURNAL
12. Provide, as a right : ENTITLE
16. Slacks off : LOAFS
17. Pre-Columbian civilization : MAYA
20. Like some blonds : DYED
22. Blond : YELLOWY
23. Staple of Chinese cuisine : PEAPODS
25. Many a tune in "The Sting" : RAG
26. Challenging employer for a maid : SLOB
27. Seek to espouse : WOO
31. Second version : REDO
34. Patriot Act enforcer : FBI
36. Fiction course, for short : LIT
37. Locale of three Summer Olympics : ASIA
38. Second version : REDRAFT
39. Purchased : PAIDFOR
41. Time-stretching effect : SLOMO
43. Contract : SHRIVEL
44. Suede source : TANNERY
45. Canine command : STAY
47. Overdone : TOOTOO
49. Easy hoops shots : LAYUPS
51. Belief : CREDO
55. All those in favor : AYES
56. Used to be : WERE
57. "In time we ___ that which we often fear": Shak. : HATE
59. Cut in the direction of the grain : RIP
60. Christie's offering : LOT

Answer summary: 5 unique to this puzzle, 1 debuted here and reused later, 1 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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