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New York Times, Friday, March 10, 2017

Author: Pawel Fludzinski
Editor: Will Shortz
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77/12/20127/19/20171
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1.53000
Pawel Fludzinski

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 70, Blocks: 27 Missing: {JQXZ} This is puzzle # 6 for Mr. Fludzinski. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Pawel Fludzinski notes: This puzzle is my first themeless in the New York Times. A humbling experience — the bar is very high. Without theme ... more
Pawel Fludzinski notes:

This puzzle is my first themeless in the New York Times. A humbling experience — the bar is very high. Without theme entries to "excuse" possible deficiencies in the grid, there is little tolerance for "glue" (or whatever your preferred euphemism is for poor entries).

I constructed this puzzle around four seed entries: DUMPSTERFIRE, VITRUVIANMAN, SETOFPIPES and GAMETHEORY — all interesting entries that hadn't been used before. I was pleased that the NW and SE corners had reasonable stacks. However, as with any puzzle, once I looked at it again a few months after submission, there were several entries I wish I could've avoided — ACAN, TAPPER and INIGO come to mind, not to mention COSTUMER.

I was also pleased to see that approx 2/3 of my clues survived directly or in a closely related fashion. One clue that did not survive amongst the seed entries was for 41-Across (VITRUVIANMAN). My original clue was "Da Vinci's canon of proportions" — which in hindsight, was far too obscure.

As always, my thanks to Will and Joel for their help.

Finally, as a "still learning" constructor, XWord Info has been invaluable, and a shout-out to Jeff Chen for his rapid responses and counsel to questions like "what do you think of ___ as an entry?" Thanks, Jeff.

Jeff Chen notes: Twelve-letter answers are the bane of themeless constructors (along with 13s and 14s). Black squares are so precious in themelesses, ... more
Jeff Chen notes:

Twelve-letter answers are the bane of themeless constructors (along with 13s and 14s). Black squares are so precious in themelesses, and when you have to deploy six of them immediately, you sacrifice flexibility from the get-go.

Love DUMPSTER FIRE and VITRUVIAN MAN! (I built a themeless around VITRUVIAN MAN years ago, but I had so much trouble with the grid that I abandoned it. Stupid 12-letter entries.)

Another grid design element of note today: the big upper right and lower left corners. It's rare for constructors to try anything quad-stacked, even eight-letter answers, because they're so darn hard to make both smooth and sizzling. I thought Pavel did a nice job getting both of these relatively smooth — just STE and ACAN as prices to pay — but neither corner shined for me. I do like HABANEROs and IN STEREO, but nothing else stood out.

A common issue for these big quad-stacks; you tend to either get smooth or sizzling, but not both.

As a huge fan of John Nash, I loved GAME THEORY in the bottom stack. ARE WE ALONE was nice too, at least for us cosmic ponderers. There were some prices to pay in AGAS and ETERNE, but I enjoyed GAME THEORY so much that this corner would have turned out great in my eyes …

… except that I had already experienced ETOILE in the upper left corner. ETOILE (deep French) and ETERNE (only in poetry) aren't exactly related, but they felt like similar enough dabs of crossword glue — containing so many friendly letters for constructors — that having both didn't seem elegant. Ah well. GAME THEORY is still a game-changing entry for this solver.

TITRATOR … back in my day, we had to do all our titrations by hand. You kids have it easy with your mechanical TITRATORs, grumble grumble.

Overall, there was too much crossword glue for my taste — along with the aforementioned, there was ECU / SESS, TO TEN, the dreaded arbitrary EEE shoe spec, OLEO / KIP etc. (Though as a huge "Princess Bride" fan, I don't mind INIGO at all!) But that's one of the side effects of featuring 12-letter entries. Rarely easy, as those buggers can propagate problems all throughout a grid.

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© 2017, The New York TimesNo. 0310 ( 24,594 )
Across Down
1. Powerful singer's asset, informally : SETOFPIPES
11. Prophet in the Book of Mormon : LEHI
15. Gelato alternative : ITALIANICE
16. Like ___ of worms : ACAN
17. Pioneer in heliocentric theory : COPERNICUS
18. Fishing floats : BOBS
19. Baht : Thailand :: ___ : Laos : KIP
20. +, $ or @ : SIGN
21. Observed visiting : SEENAT
23. Imperial sticks, say : OLEO
25. San Francisco's ___ Tower : COIT
27. Dismal turnout : NOONE
28. End of a letter : SERIF
30. Backstage Broadway worker : COSTUMER
32. Unmitigated disaster, in slang : DUMPSTERFIRE
35. Jeanne d'Arc, e.g.: Abbr. : STE
38. Raptors' home: Abbr. : TOR
39. Shoebox spec : EEE
40. Second-in-command at a corp. : COO
41. Leonardo da Vinci drawing featuring superimposed body positions : VITRUVIANMAN
45. Very light : ETHEREAL
46. They roll in : TIDES
50. Erie or Miami : TRIBE
51. D.C. tourist destination : MALL
54. Senate majority leader who succeeded Dole : LOTT
55. The house of Versace? : LACASA
57. Vanquish : ROUT
59. Bucolic expanse : LEA
60. Having a scrap : ATIT
61. John Nash's field of mathematics : GAMETHEORY
64. Narrow margin : NOSE
65. A question of cosmology : AREWEALONE
66. Mime and puppetry, e.g. : ARTS
67. Went door to door? : SIDESWIPED
1. Twisted types : SICKOS
2. Cannes star : ETOILE
3. CNN newsman Jake : TAPPER
4. Copa Mundial cry : OLE
5. You may visit a lot of them before Christmas : FIRS
6. Kind of attack : PANIC
7. Covent Garden architect Jones : INIGO
8. Spreads out in a park? : PICNICS
9. Euro forerunner : ECU
10. Time in therapy, e.g.: Abbr. : SESS
11. Shia who's not a Muslim : LABEOUF
12. Cost-effective : ECONOMIC
13. Cayenne's hotter cousin : HABANERO
14. Like much FM radio : INSTEREO
22. Implore : ENTREAT
24. Human appendage? : OID
26. "Count ___" (calming advice) : TOTEN
29. They're traded in the Chicago Board of Trade : FUTURES
31. Feel : SEEM
33. Affect : MOVE
34. Hector's father : PRIAM
35. 2015 Literature Nobelist Alexievich : SVETLANA
36. Certain chemistry lab apparatus : TITRATOR
37. Immanuel Kant, for one : ETHICIST
42. Purchase incentives : REBATES
43. In a 6-Down : ALARMED
44. It's nothing : NIL
47. Bit of computer programming executed repeatedly : DOLOOP
48. Perpetual, poetically : ETERNE
49. Didn't take off : STAYED
52. "Brigadoon" composer : LOEWE
53. Theorbos, e.g. : LUTES
56. Ottoman chiefs : AGAS
58. Soften : THAW
62. Cardinals' home: Abbr. : ARI
63. "My God!," as cried by Jesus : ELI

Answer summary: 6 unique to this puzzle, 2 debuted here and reused later, 2 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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