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New York Times, Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Author:
Stu Ockman
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
132/2/20125/8/20190
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
0004603
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.56220
Stu Ockman

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 76, Blocks: 35 Missing: {JQVX} Spans: 2 This is puzzle # 11 for Mr. Ockman. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Stu Ockman notes:
I can't believe we pulled this one off. Another example of a good idea turned into an even better puzzle with the help of Will and the ... read more

I can't believe we pulled this one off. Another example of a good idea turned into an even better puzzle with the help of Will and the crew. The original submittal had one and two letter words. But, I was hopeful that the overarching idea would be important enough to allow them (after all, they've appeared in NY Times grids before). I even made sure there were no unchecked squares by providing clues for each of these outliers. Here are the clues for the one-letter words, something you don't see every day:

16A, Me, myself and ___ :: I

58A, Special ___ :: K

12D, Fork in the road :: Y

61D, The scarlet letter:: A

It turns out that even a single one or two letter word was a puzzle killer, and I had four of each. Still, Joel volunteered that it was a ‘cute idea' so I stumbled around looking for a better grid. Four tries later, I arrived at another version. Per Joel, it was "more promising … However, it would need a symmetrical counterpart that's thematic for Will to say yes on this one." A symmetrical counterpart; how do you come up with a thematic 15-letter phrase? Is there a search engine I haven't heard about? I was pretty sure this one was toast. Fortunately, I was able to MAKE CONNECTIONS and clean up the fill. The reward was a nice note from Will:

"The theme is unusual, and the fill now is relatively clean. So ... the answer is yes."

Jeff Chen notes:
Beautifully eye-catching pattern! There have been very few puzzles that have sectioned off the grid into two (or more) separate ... read more

Beautifully eye-catching pattern! There have been very few puzzles that have sectioned off the grid into two (or more) separate pieces, and the best ones have a deliberate and clever reason for doing so. I liked the idea behind this one, THE TIES THAT BIND explaining that there are four types of "tie" that serve to sort of connect the two subsections. MAKE CONNECTIONS isn't that snazzy of an entry — most people say "network" — but it does the job to reinforce THE TIES THAT BIND.

Oof, the fill. Oof, I repeat. Let's study one corner and figure out what happened.

The SW stood out for me, with STORERS an awkward word taking up valuable real estate, along with RATA (hard to clue in any other way besides [Pro ___]), a prefix in DYS, ORI partial, and not just ESSO but a second gas brand, AMOCO — this one (mostly) bygone.

FAR CRY felt partialish, but I can give that a pass. ACCT NO is something I see on documents, so okay by me although not great.

As a constructor, you have to be brave to put YECH in your own puzzle.

Why so much, so concentrated? The CO of CORD does fix some things into place. The bigger issue is that the 6x4 space is already tough to fill on its own — I try to find ways of avoiding big spaces like this — and when you run a long themer through it AND fix two other letters into place, you're asking for trouble.

I don't see a good way to fix it, though. There are already so many 3-letter words in the puzzle, making the solve feel choppy, that the usual solutions — moving the black squares under ORI to the left or adding black cheater squares — would make that problem even worse.

I did like some fill — HUMOR ME and LEOTARD in particular.

It's an innovative concept, but I'm not sure it's possible to execute it elegantly enough to live up to NYT standards. I did appreciate reading Stu's thoughts, and how hard they worked in a valiant attempt to get there.

Will Shortz notes:
Will Shortz posted a correction at nytimes.com reproduced here: SPECIAL POST — Lots of complaints about the answer LENE ... read more

Will Shortz posted a correction at nytimes.com reproduced here:

SPECIAL POST — Lots of complaints about the answer LENE (16-Across — "Voiceless consonant like "b" or "p") in today's crossword.

In short, those who wrote in are right: It's a poor answer, and the clue is wrong to boot. Here's what happened:

In the late stages of editing, we noticed that the grid contained both CRIERS (5D) and FAR CRY (53A). While this doesn't officially break my rule about duplications, which I can discuss sometime, it seemed inelegant. The simplest "fix" was to change CRIERS to PLIERS, making PLAY and LENE reading across. LENE is an old bit of crosswordese, used 90 times in the Times crossword before I became the editor, usually clued as "Unaspirated" or "Unaspirated consonant."

Because I figured few solvers today know what LENE means (the last dictionary it seems to have appeared in is Webster's Second New International in 1934, where it was already labeled "rare"), I decided to spell it out with examples. Unfortunately, the example "b" is wrong. That is a voiced consonant, not a voiceless one.

In retrospect, as the commenter Byron suggested at Crosswordfiend.com, I should have left the semi-duplication FAR CRY/CRIERS as it was. That would have been preferable to the obscure and ugly LENE.

The online version of the puzzle has now been restored to CRIERS/CLAY/RENE, which all future solvers will see. Of course, nothing can be done now about the print version of the puzzle. A correction on the clue error should appear shortly.

1
H
2
A
3
N
4
S
5
G
6
I
7
Z
8
M
9
O
10
P
11
L
12
A
13
Y
14
U
T
A
H
15
O
N
I
O
N
16
L
E
N
E
17
M
A
K
E
18
C
O
N
N
E
C
19
T
I
O
N
S
20
O
B
E
R
O
N
21
D
I
E
T
E
D
22
R
O
D
E
O
23
T
24
E
25
A
26
C
R
A
T
E
27
M
I
L
E
28
P
U
L
L
29
A
30
S
R
T
A
31
E
L
Y
32
O
R
E
I
L
L
33
Y
34
D
E
R
35
W
I
S
36
E
T
A
37
D
38
Y
39
S
40
L
E
D
41
A
W
A
Y
42
W
43
A
44
S
45
R
A
T
46
A
47
R
A
D
I
I
48
T
A
M
P
49
A
M
O
C
50
O
51
Y
O
S
52
R
H
Y
M
E
53
F
A
R
C
R
54
Y
55
G
O
E
S
O
N
56
T
H
E
T
I
E
57
S
58
T
59
H
A
T
B
I
N
D
60
E
A
R
N
61
C
H
A
I
R
62
E
D
I
E
63
E
S
S
O
64
H
O
N
E
Y
65
S
E
A
R
© 2018, The New York TimesNo. 0207 ( 24,928 )
Across
1
Prince in "Frozen" : HANS
5
Doohickey : GIZMO
10
DVD remote button : PLAY
14
Home of the historic Desolation Canyon : UTAH
15
Hamburger helper? : ONION
16
Voiceless consonant like "b" or "p" : LENE
17
Network : MAKECONNECTIONS
20
Fairy king in "A Midsummer Night's Dream" : OBERON
21
Started to downsize? : DIETED
22
Event at which spectators may sit on straw bales : RODEO
23
Afternoon gathering : TEA
26
Jalopy : CRATE
27
A miss is as good as one, they say : MILE
28
Words with "fast one" or "muscle" : PULLA
30
Mlle., over the Pyrénées : SRTA
31
"Tarzan" actor Ron : ELY
32
Radar of "M*A*S*H" : OREILLY
34
Wagner's "___ Fliegende Holländer" : DER
35
Where the Ringling Bros. circus began: Abbr. : WIS
36
H, on a fraternity house : ETA
37
Start to function? : DYS
40
Ushered out : LEDAWAY
42
"Time ___ ..." : WAS
45
Pro ___ : RATA
47
Ulnae neighbors : RADII
48
Pack (down) : TAMP
49
Classic gas brand with a red, white, blue and black logo : AMOCO
51
Bros' hellos : YOS
52
Fun, for one : RHYME
53
Very different thing (from) : FARCRY
55
Continues : GOESON
56
Shared beliefs ... like this puzzle's circled four-letter words? : THETIESTHATBIND
60
Bring home : EARN
61
Board runner : CHAIR
62
Sedgwick of Warhol films : EDIE
63
Old "Happy Motoring" brand : ESSO
64
Food sweetener : HONEY
65
Blacken, in a way : SEAR
Down
1
"Just try it" : HUMORME
2
Seething : ATABOIL
3
Sans clothing : NAKEDLY
4
Whitfield of "The Real Housewives of Atlanta" : SHEREE
5
Mob henchman : GOON
6
Bucolic hotel : INN
7
Certain red wine, informally : ZIN
8
"Calvin and Hobbes" bully : MOE
9
How a lot of music got sold in the 1990s and early 2000s : ONCD
10
Electrician's tool : PLIERS
11
Ballerina's wear : LEOTARD
12
Actress Bening : ANNETTE
13
Marriage agreement? : YESDEAR
18
Whisper sweet nothings : COO
19
Nervous twitch : TIC
23
What the "Mardi" of Mardi Gras means : TUESDAY
24
___ Lilly (Fortune 500 company) : ELI
25
Actor who played Grandpa Munster : ALLEWIS
28
Inquisitive one : PRIER
29
Asia's ___ Mountains : ALTAI
32
Fly-by-night sort? : OWL
33
"Huzzah!" : YAY
37
Involuntary soldier : DRAFTEE
38
Some keyboards and motorcycles : YAMAHAS
39
Warehouse workers : STORERS
41
Ballyhoo : ADO
42
Edge of a road : WAYSIDE
43
Major component of Windex : AMMONIA
44
High roller : SPENDER
46
Bank ID: Abbr. : ACCTNO
48
Ancient city on the Nile : THEBES
50
"Either she goes ___ go!" : ORI
52
Spoil : ROT
54
"Ick!" : YECH
55
Personal aide to Selina Meyer on "Veep" : GARY
57
Starz competitor, for short : SHO
58
Color of coffee ice cream : TAN
59
Rush : HIE

Answer summary: 1 unique to this puzzle, 2 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

Found bugs or have suggestions?