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New York Times, Thursday, March 12, 2015

Author: Ellen Leuschner and Jeff Chen
Editor: Will Shortz
Ellen Leuschner
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
87/11/201110/23/20167
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
3210200
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.53010
Jeff Chen
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
847/5/20105/30/201849
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
2467151778
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.634192

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 78, Blocks: 39 Missing: {JKQZ} This is puzzle # 5 for Ms. Leuschner. This is puzzle # 37 for Mr. Chen. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Constructor notes: After a year-long hiatus from constructing crossword puzzles, I decided I was ready to try again. I had an idea, but I was not ... more
Constructor notes:

After a year-long hiatus from constructing crossword puzzles, I decided I was ready to try again. I had an idea, but I was not confident enough to proceed on my own. I introduced myself to Jeff in July 2013 and asked him to help. Thankfully, he was up to the challenge.

I remember riding a roller coaster at Silver Dollar City a long (long) time ago. At one point in the ride, everyone yells "Fire in the hole!" before taking a plunge. That *has* to be where the idea came from. Otherwise, I don't know where my brain got it.

One of Jeff's best suggestions was to have the "holes" segregated from the rest of the black squares in the grid. I think it makes for a better representation. Jeff did a lot of the heavy lifting on this one, and I couldn't find any reason to change what he created.

The clues received their usual editor's touch, and my favorite (new) clue is for 19-Across: [Response that has a nice ring to it?] IDO! It's so hard to come up with new ways to clue entries that appear so frequently.

Thanks again, Jeff, for the collaboration. And thanks, Will, for publishing our puzzle.

Jeff Chen notes: Ellen approached me with this idea, and I thought it had a lot of promise. I wasn't at all sure that we could 1.) find enough '___ ... more
Jeff Chen notes:

Ellen approached me with this idea, and I thought it had a lot of promise. I wasn't at all sure that we could 1.) find enough "___ FIRE" and "FIRE ___" entries, and 2.) arrange them in pairs so that the surrounding fill wouldn't be compromised. Especially difficult given that we wanted the "holes" to not be connected to any other black squares.

The los tart of letter writing. Er, lost art.

If there's anything that drives me, it's a challenge. So I enjoyed working with Ellen to figure out if this was feasible. A key factor was using varying lengths — not just all ???? FIRE and FIRE ???? entries, for example — so that we had a large enough pool of words to choose from. Then it was "just" a matter of trying out hundreds of combinations and black square arrangements to make it work.

Spending so many of our black squares around those two "holes" meant that the NW and SE had to be giant, wide-open spaces if we were to keep to the 78 word max. Fun challenge, and not too difficult if you're okay with a few pieces of Thursday-ish toughies.

Speaking of that, we originally targeted a Thursday-ish puzzle, but Will thought it would be neat to run it as a Monday, replete with a fire visual in each hole. Nice idea, and well worth taking a jackhammer to the NW and SE sections to redo them completely so they'd be Monday-easy. We could have increased the word count past 78 to make it a whole lot easier on ourselves, but 1.) I like a challenge and 2.) I'm stubbornly moronic. Not easy to fill those huge chunks of space without relying on non-Monday bits of crossword glue.

I was glad that Will ended up changing it back to a Thursday, where I think it really belongs.

1
L
2
O
3
L
4
I
5
T
6
A
7
M
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A
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W
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S
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15
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B
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V
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M
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FIRE
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FIRE
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© 2015, The New York TimesNo. 0312 ( 23,865 )
Across Down
1. 1962 Kubrick film : LOLITA
7. Gullets : MAWS
11. Medical theaters, for short : ORS
14. What juice may come out of? : ANODES
15. Traction control : GRIP
16. Certain sci-fi fighter : BOT
17. Lowly worker : VASSAL
18. Big African exporter of gold : MALI
19. Response that has a nice ring to it? : IDO
20. Couldn't turn away, say : STARED
22. Jewel case display unit : CDTOWER
24. Risks disaster : PLAYSWITHFIRE
26. Illegal place to park : FIRELANE
27. Things with rings ... that may be ringing : EARS
28. Rat-a-tat-tat : GUNFIRE
29. Stinging insects : FIREANTS
30. Inter : ENTOMB
33. Inter ___ (European soccer powerhouse) : MILAN
36. Things you don't want on your license: Abbr. : PTS
37. Island in the Aegean : IOS
39. New Jersey's Fort ___ : DIX
40. Great ___ : APE
43. Actor Ed : ASNER
45. Real imp : TERROR
47. Start shooting : OPENFIRE
50. Many a calendar beefcake : FIREMAN
52. "Heaven's ___ vault, / Studded with stars unutterably bright": Shelley : EBON
53. Impossible to fail : SUREFIRE
54. Warning before a detonation ... and a hint to 16 of this puzzle's answers : FIREINTHEHOLE
57. Goes on Safari, say : BROWSES
60. Double doubles? : HOMERS
61. Ripley-esque : ODD
62. Impulse transmitter : AXON
64. One working for Kansas or Alabama : ROADIE
66. Paris's ___ de Rome : RUE
67. Excitement : LIFE
68. Valuable violins, for short : STRADS
69. Ludd from whom Luddites got their name : NED
70. Grammy-winning James : ETTA
71. "Most definitely!" : YESYES
1. Head : LAV
2. Diagonally : ONASLANT
3. Letter writing and sentence diagramming, it's said : LOSTARTS
4. "Yep, sounds about right!" : IDSAYSO
5. Races : TEARS
6. Loads : ASLEW
7. Big inits. in Las Vegas : MGM
8. Scorpion or tick : ARACHNID
9. Metaphor for quick-spreading success : WILDFIRE
10. British W.W. II plane : SPITFIRE
11. "Star Wars" name : OBIWAN
12. Woodchuck or chinchilla : RODENT
13. Caches : STORES
21. Jab or jibe : DIG
23. Pearl S. Buck heroine : OLAN
24. Tiniest complaint : PEEP
25. Belly : TUM
31. Failure : MISFIRE
32. Feature of a big outdoor party : BONFIRE
34. Like a hearth : FIRELIT
35. Emergency tool for breaking down doors : FIREAXE
38. Like Havarti cheese : SEMISOFT
40. Annual April celebration : ARBORDAY
41. Relaxing in a cabana chair, maybe : POOLSIDE
42. Seashore flier : ERNE
43. With a clean slate : ANEW
44. Hotfooted it : RAN
46. Considers further, in a way : REHEARS
47. Marvel supervillain Norman ___ a.k.a. the Green Goblin : OSBORN
48. Indiana rival : PURDUE
49. Lost some ground : ERODED
51. Kind of power : NTH
55. Tot's rocker : HORSY
56. Act like an amateur? : EMOTE
58. Chapter 11 event, maybe : FIRESALE
59. Building safety feature : FIREEXIT
63. Org. supporting Common Core : NEA
65. Slaloming shape : ESS

Answer summary: 3 unique to this puzzle.

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