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New York Times, Friday, March 14, 2014

Author: Alan Olschwang
Editor: Will Shortz
Alan Olschwang
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1.56101

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 70, Blocks: 32 Missing: {FJQZ} Spans: 8, (1 triple stack) This is puzzle # 10 for Mr. Olschwang. NYT links: Across Lite PDF

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Alan Olschwang notes: I have been creating puzzles since 1994. This is my 10th Times puzzle. Most have been of today's type, a non-themed (Friday or ... more
Alan Olschwang notes: I have been creating puzzles since 1994. This is my 10th Times puzzle. Most have been of today's type, a non-themed (Friday or Saturday) puzzle. While trying to create this type of puzzle can be fun, it can also be very frustrating. Of course, the software does much of the work, but the difficulty lies in avoiding unacceptable entries. Where there are a number of long entries in a 15 by 15 puzzle, particularly ones that appear in adjacent rows or columns (in this case three 15 letter entries running down the center of the puzzle), the options for other entries may become quite limited.

I continue to be amazed by some of the published Friday and Saturday Times puzzles as I attempt to solve them. I know from experience just how hard it is to put together a good puzzle of this type. Periodically, I will decide that it is time for me to work on a new one. More often than not, there be one or more areas where I will need to use an entry that is not very good. Often it's a three letter entry. At this point, I may scrub the puzzle. But that doesn't stop me from trying again. When I am not working on one of these puzzles, I am always on the lookout for new long, particularly 15 letter, entries. Where I can get three of these to go together well or place five or six good ones in a grid, I may have the start of a good non-themed puzzle.

In my years of puzzle writing, I've had more than 4,000 puzzles published, including crosswords and more than 30 other types of word puzzles. I'm four years into full retirement from my legal career and create puzzles to stay young. If you like this puzzle, please check out my eBook of puzzles book on the free Puzzazz app.

Jeff Chen notes: An impressive number of grid-spanners in today's construction, the likes I haven't seen for quite a while. Not just a triple-stack ... more
Jeff Chen notes: An impressive number of grid-spanners in today's construction, the likes I haven't seen for quite a while. Not just a triple-stack going down the center, but two more in the down direction plus three more in across. Eight 15's in one themeless — that's pretty cool to see.

Typically with this many grid-spanning entries, some (or more than some) are just so-so, but Alan has picked some beauties. ANDROMEDA STRAIN didn't come easy due to its opaque clue, but wow, what a nice entry. And all three in the triple-stack are really nice. I didn't know THE NOONDAY DEVIL and when I tried to research it, only a few links came up. Perhaps I'm missing a cult classic? In any case, by my count, seven out of eight winners is a great slugging percentage.

As with most themeless puzzles highlighting lots of 15's, there will be a good number of shorter entries. I typically gloss over the four and five-letter stuff, but the threes sometimes stick in my craw, and with 24, they did seem to be ubiquitous. Not that any of them are terrible, but as a whole, I IN plus MDL and others made the puzzle feel slightly shaky at points. The clues for many of the shorties were awfully hard, so overall it made the entire puzzle a real challenge for me.

I really appreciated that Alan didn't stop just at the eight 15's, but integrated two very nice eights (BBC RADIO and THE SLOTS), plus IN THE WILD and PHASING IN. Because he was at 70 words, Alan could have split up one of those pairs to make a 72-word puzzle, but I like the added zing of the long fill.

Finally, with any triple stack, the crossing answers are bound to have some rocky places. Really only ROTOS was troubling for me — anytime you have to use "Old" or "outdated" in a clue it's a sign that maybe the entry isn't so good — but Alan does give us a pretty cool construction; three grid-spanners intersecting a triple-stack is no mean feat.

All in all, a puzzle that stretches for an ambitious goal, paying the price of a good handful of not-great filler material. I admire the strive to do something which pushes the boundaries. And a big congrats to Alan for hitting his 10th NYT puzzle, which qualifies him for our list of most published constructors.

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© 2014, The New York TimesNo. 0314 ( 23,502 )
Across Down
1. Did some above-average work : GOTAB
6. Doesn't just tear up : SOBS
10. One way to get the beat going? : CPR
13. Master, in Mysore : SAHIB
14. Hostiles : ENEMY
16. "Well, well, well!" : OHO
17. He may be trying to unload crates : USEDCARSALESMAN
20. "Am ___ France?": King Lear : IIN
21. Jeans reinforcer : RIVET
22. They're easily fleeced : SAPS
23. Chinese dish eponym : TSO
24. See 39-Across : AMICI
25. Magazine industry's equivalent of a Pulitzer : ELLIE
27. Not nixed : OKD
29. Composition of some wreaths : CONES
31. Living or dead follower : END
32. Yom Kippur War setting : SINAI
34. Dam designer: Abbr. : ENGR
35. Vet : EXGI
36. Mutating, highly resistant microbe : ANDROMEDASTRAIN
39. Lang. in which "friends" is 24-Across : ITAL
40. Start of an intermission? : ENTR
41. Boo Boo Bear's co-creator : HANNA
42. "___ name I love" ("America" lyric) : THY
43. Shop spinner : LATHE
44. Campus letter : ETA
45. Fence alternative : HEDGE
47. Old paper parts : ROTOS
49. Monitor option, for short : LCD
52. "___ back!" : WERE
53. Kind of training done by music majors : AURAL
54. The shorter you are? : YER
55. Tend to work without a net : LIVEDANGEROUSLY
58. He proclaimed "I shook up the world" : ALI
59. Gervasi who directed 2012's "Hitchcock" : SACHA
60. Shake in an opera house : TRILL
61. Year Charles IX was born : MDL
62. Rectangular paving stone : SETT
63. Unlikely bruiser : SISSY
1. Test pilot's protection : GSUIT
2. Mecca or Medina : OASIS
3. 1985 Ralph McInerny novel : THENOONDAYDEVIL
4. Support : AID
5. Longtime airer of "Any Questions?" : BBCRADIO
6. Place for a delivery : SERVICEENTRANCE
7. Withdrawing words : ONSECONDTHOUGHT
8. Withdrawing : BEATINGARETREAT
9. Range of sizes, briefly : SML
10. Mathematics branch associated with fractals : COMPLEXANALYSIS
11. Establishing by degrees : PHASINGIN
12. Jockey Turcotte : RON
15. Many nods : YESES
18. Biathlon need : AIM
19. Cádiz condiment : SAL
26. Twin Cities suburb : EDINA
28. Jazz player Malone : KARL
30. Places for quick operations, briefly : ERS
32. Speaks to Shakespeare? : SAITH
33. Not domestically : INTHEWILD
35. "In principio ___ Verbum" : ERAT
37. "Tell ___ story" : MEA
38. Things to play with matches? : THESLOTS
43. Its natives are called Loiners : LEEDS
46. Master's seeker's hurdle, briefly : GRE
48. Shell accessory : OAR
50. Holders of many selfies : CELLS
51. With no sparkle : DRYLY
55. Flight for someone 8-Down : LAM
56. Small power sources : AAS
57. The Rams of the A-10 Conf. : URI

Answer summary: 5 unique to this puzzle, 2 debuted here and reused later.

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