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New York Times, Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Author:
Carl Worth
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutCollabs
13/13/20180
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
0010000
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.61000
Carl Worth

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 80, Blocks: 38 Missing: {QX} This is the debut puzzle for Mr. Worth. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Carl Worth notes:
I've been constructing logic puzzles for a while (see gmpuzzles.com and recent US Puzzle Championships for examples), but crosswords ... read more

I've been constructing logic puzzles for a while (see gmpuzzles.com and recent US Puzzle Championships for examples), but crosswords are entirely new to me. Thanks for your patience while I'm learning, and I hope you enjoyed this puzzle as much as I did.

I started with ESCAPE ROOM---a fun entry that was still unpublished at the time, (but has appeared twice since my puzzle was accepted in August). As a computer programmer, it was natural for me to take the theme the direction I did. Once I struck on the KEY WEST revealer, I was sure this could work.

Little did I know how much effort there is between settling on theme entries and completing a puzzle. I could never have succeeded without the help of an expert mentor. Huge thanks to Craig Kasper for his patience with countless revisions. Craig also deserves credit for suggesting ENTER SANDMAN and teaching me a lot about grid design and evaluating fill.

My first revision of the puzzle was rejected for poor fill, but Will and Joel kindly encouraged me to try again. My second submission still had some unacceptable entries, but primarily concentrated in a single corner. Will had a colleague take a crack at fixing that corner and sent me the result. It was an improvement in every way, so thanks, unnamed colleague!

It's interesting to see the changes the editors made to my clues, (39 of 80 clues were changed). Many of the changes were minor, but every change improved one or more of clarity, specificity, smoothness, appropriate difficulty, or liveliness. Any clunkiness that remains is entirely mine.

One thing I will say about the clues is that if you find a turtle snapping at your finger, don't blame me!

Jeff Chen notes:
Debut! And what a neat concept in KEY WEST = KEYboard keys to the west (left side) of theme answers … and they're all KEYs that ... read more

Debut! And what a neat concept in KEY WEST = KEYboard keys to the west (left side) of theme answers … and they're all KEYs that reside on the WEST side of the KEYboard! SHIFT, CONTROL, ESCAPE –

(sound of record scratching)

ENTER?

Darn it! It was going to be such an elegant theme. Why not use ALT COUNTRY or (shudder) ALT RIGHT?

Oh. ALT and TAB are already in the grid?

Huh.

I can see the allure of "bonus answers," drawing in constructors with their siren song. I didn't personally notice them as a solver though. And I wonder if they detracted from the theme.

Or detracted from the fill. Hard to say for sure without testing, but fixing ALT and TAB into place seems like it'd create problems — problems like the TARO / JURE crossing. Both words could be rough on newer solvers, and crossing them accentuates the issue.

I was impressed with the smooth gridwork, especially from a debut constructor. Granted, it is an 80-word puzzle, two over the usual limit. That's a reason why there wasn't much strong bonus fill besides JAKARTA and AZALEAS. But if Carl had just used his REFUELS and ETHANOL slots a little better, I wouldn't have even noticed the dearth of bonuses, and thus wouldn't have gone searching for a reason why.

If I were Will, I'd allow all newer constructors the freedom to go above 78 words – just as long as they work in enough snazzy bonuses.

I wanted so badly to give this the POW!, as the theme seemed so clever on multiple levels. Bah, ENTER, a pox on you!

Okay, ENTER SANDMAN is a pretty awesome song …

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© 2018, The New York TimesNo. 0313 ( 24,962 )
Across
1. Slightly open : AJAR
5. Overhead : ALOFT
10. Approximately : ORSO
14. What you might do to a turtle that's withdrawn into its shell : POKE
15. Theater, for a Broadway show : VENUE
16. Rod's mate : REEL
17. Change one's approach : SHIFTGEARS
19. Things that bottles and snow-covered mountains have : CAPS
20. Boredom : ENNUI
21. Societal problems : ILLS
23. Some do it through their teeth : LIE
24. Metallica hit with the lyric "Sleep with one eye open" : ENTERSANDMAN
28. Relatives of rhododendrons : AZALEAS
31. Young friend, to a good ol' boy : SON
32. Spanish gentlemen : DONS
33. Unwanted inbox filler : SPAM
36. Devotee of Haile Selassie, informally : RASTA
40. Lead-in to rock or right : ALT
41. Florida island ... or a hint to 17-, 24-, 52- and 65-Across : KEYWEST
43. Soda brand, or its opener : TAB
44. See 53-Down : MAINE
46. Org. seeking life in space : SETI
47. De ___ (legally) : JURE
48. Look through the cross hairs : AIM
50. Gasoline additive : ETHANOL
52. Micromanager : CONTROLFREAK
57. Mine cartload : ORE
58. Soprano's solo : ARIA
59. Frank who performed "Watermelon in Easter Hay" : ZAPPA
63. Product of Yale or Medeco : LOCK
65. Series of puzzles for group solving : ESCAPEROOM
68. Ancient Andean : INCA
69. First name of two of the three Apple co-founders : STEVE
70. Olive or peach : TREE
71. Codger : COOT
72. Big name in kitchen appliances : OSTER
73. Abbr. before a memo recipient's name : ATTN
Down
1. Church recess : APSE
2. Loo : JOHN
3. Similar (to) : AKIN
4. Makes a pit stop, say : REFUELS
5. Part of G.P.A.: Abbr. : AVG
6. Harper who wrote "Go Set a Watchman" : LEE
7. TV studio sign : ONAIR
8. Rolls up, as a flag : FURLS
9. Model S, Model X and Model 3 : TESLAS
10. Tolkien monster : ORC
11. Ruler's domain : REALM
12. Digital photo filter : SEPIA
13. Jimmy of the Daily Planet : OLSEN
18. One of four on a fork, often : TINE
22. Derisive sound : SNORT
25. Zap, in a way : TASE
26. Awards show for top athletes : ESPYS
27. Double-helix molecule : DNA
28. First among men : ADAM
29. Émile who wrote "J'accuse" : ZOLA
30. Opposed to : ANTI
34. Feeling upon meeting an idol : AWE
35. Poetic rhythm : METER
37. Zap, in a way : STUN
38. ___ chips (trendy snack food) : TARO
39. Victim of the first fratricide : ABEL
41. Actress Knightley : KEIRA
42. Something pinned on a map : SITE
45. Singer ___ King Cole : NAT
47. Capital of the world's largest island country : JAKARTA
49. Beyond that : MORESO
51. Mental blur : HAZE
52. Source of a baby's (and parent's) discomfort : COLIC
53. With 44-Across, home of a major Northeast university : ORONO
54. Wafer brand : NECCO
55. Grocery shopping aids : LISTS
56. Side of a gem : FACET
60. Cruise ship stop : PORT
61. Keats or Yeats : POET
62. "You said it!" : AMEN
64. Kit ___ bar : KAT
66. "___ Maria" : AVE
67. Each : PER

Answer summary: 1 unique to this puzzle.

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