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New York Times, Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Author:
David Phillips
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
207/24/20148/5/20171
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
1021277
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.57000
David Phillips

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 74, Blocks: 40 Missing: {FQX} This is puzzle # 6 for Mr. Phillips. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
David Phillips notes:
This was my second submission to Will and my first acceptance, so it will always hold a special place in my heart. The puzzle began ... read more

This was my second submission to Will and my first acceptance, so it will always hold a special place in my heart.

The puzzle began as part of an actual midterm I made for a DeCal (a program at UC Berkeley that allows undergraduate/graduate students to lead a self-designed course) on how to solve and construct crosswords. After the inimitable David Steinberg encouraged me to send Will some of my work, I thought of using this puzzle.

Well aware of the theme's relative simplicity, I checked XWord Info to see if the same theme had been done previously in the NYT. Indeed, it had! But, wait ... I had added an extra theme wrinkle that Mr. Bessette had not implemented: having the TERMs in the exact center of each entry and not just somewhere in the middle. Awesome! That seemed to me enough of a variation to reprise the theme some five or so years later.

After I had spent more time perfecting the fill (due to the theme density, many of the downs cross two or more themers and were therefore heavily constrained), I sent this off to Will and received an acceptance email in early November of 2013. Sometime in 2014, after learning of Will's new assistant, I happened upon a lovely article detailing Ms. Shechtman's "puzzling origins" and experiences working with Will. In the third paragraph were two of the same theme entries in my puzzle — plus one I had overlooked — and the same added theme wrinkle! At least I now felt qualified enough to utter the tired cliché, "Great minds think alike."

Albert Gleizes

Still, the coincidence got me thinking: Is an idea or product still original if it was fully developed without prior knowledge of a similar, preexisting idea/product? Or, because of this time factor, would the idea be labeled a variation, a reinterpretation, or, worse, a rip-off? Then, to what extent is originality and craft affected by this race to beat others to the punch? Would Albert Gleizes have been a cubist had he known Pablo Picasso would eventually become the major pioneer of the art movement?

Anyhow, this is my long-winded way of saying that IMO an original execution is just as important as an original theme. Though we might try, we can't all start art movements. Even Ralph Waldo Emerson admitted, "All my best thoughts were stolen by the ancients." Sometimes, originality is simply a fresh look at an old idea.

Jeff Chen notes:
Cool layout today, built around longish themers containing TERM smack dab in their middles. MONSTER MOVIE has exactly four letters ... read more

Cool layout today, built around longish themers containing TERM smack dab in their middles. MONSTER MOVIE has exactly four letters before TERM and four after, LATER MAN has two in front and two in back, etc. Nice touch.

A good amount of colorful fill in those big, open corners. A AS IN APPLE, CLOSE LOOK, BAILING OUT, METRO AREA are all snazzy entries, enhancing my solving experience. They're awfully tough to build around, necessitating the ILA, KAN, DEPT, etc. sort of gluey bits. Reasonable trade-off, though.

A traditional Scottish laird

Note how David has placed his six (!) themers in an every-other-row layout, in rows 3, 5, 7, 9, 11, 13. There is so much interaction between the themers that many, many constraints are created. The center is especially crunched, with LAIRD (sort of) interacting with FOUR themers. It works fairly cleanly, although it would have been nice to at least have the option to choose something different than LAIRD. I actually think that entry is pretty interesting, but I imagine it will draw grumbles from "Tuesday solvers."

Generally I advocate for as much space as possible in between themers, but in the special case of high theme density, I often try to squeeze pairs of themers together. Here, I might have tried shoving LATER MAN and MASTERMIND together in rows 3 and 4. Not sure if it would have given friendly letter pairs in the overlap, but it would have let David lay out the skeleton as if he were working with four (very long) themers rather than six.

Rich Norris (editor of the LA Times crossword) has mentioned to me that it takes a lot to overcome his bias against single-word themers. I can see where that comes in today, with UNDETERMINED being not nearly as exciting as MONSTER MOVIE in my eyes. MASTERMIND does have a lot of appeal, but it might have been nice to see more of the DUMB TERMINAL / HIPSTER MUSIC kind of entries.

Finally, great clue for ONE. Curious to figure out if RELATIONS is the longest common word that can be formed by one-point Scrabble tiles.

1
J
2
A
3
R
4
S
5
T
6
A
7
M
8
I
9
M
10
B
11
A
12
C
13
K
14
O
D
I
E
15
I
M
O
16
L
A
L
A
L
A
17
L
A
T
E
18
R
M
A
N
19
A
L
I
S
O
N
20
T
M
Z
21
A
I
R
E
22
R
23
A
N
I
S
24
U
N
D
E
T
E
25
R
M
I
N
E
26
D
27
B
S
A
28
T
A
U
29
A
L
E
30
M
A
S
T
31
E
32
R
33
M
I
N
D
34
P
O
P
35
H
E
I
R
36
L
A
I
R
D
37
S
P
O
T
38
A
T
L
39
B
U
T
T
E
R
40
M
I
L
K
41
M
R
I
42
A
D
E
43
O
N
E
44
M
O
N
45
S
T
E
R
46
M
47
O
48
V
I
E
49
A
G
O
G
50
S
I
L
A
S
51
B
52
E
53
E
54
B
R
O
L
I
55
N
56
M
I
D
T
57
E
R
M
S
58
O
E
U
V
R
E
59
E
V
E
60
W
I
M
P
61
L
A
T
E
L
Y
62
D
E
R
63
W
E
A
N
© 2015, The New York TimesNo. 0317 ( 23,870 )

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Students & seniors
Across
1. Containers in a pantry : JARS
5. Headwear for a Scot : TAM
8. Statement upon returning from a cut-off call : IMBACK
14. "Garfield" barker : ODIE
15. "Well, I'd say ...," in a text : IMO
16. "I can't he-e-ear you!" : LALALA
17. "Catch ya on the flip side" : LATERMAN
19. With 51-Down, "Mad Men" actress : ALISON
20. Celebrity gossip site : TMZ
21. ABC, for "Modern Family" or "Scandal" : AIRER
23. Spanish liqueur : ANIS
24. Up in the air : UNDETERMINED
27. Org. with merit badges : BSA
28. Letter before upsilon : TAU
29. Cousin of mead : ALE
30. Genius : MASTERMIND
34. Top 40 genre : POP
35. Prince, e.g. : HEIR
36. Scottish landowner : LAIRD
37. Catch sight of : SPOT
38. Home of the Braves: Abbr. : ATL
39. Ingredient in some pancake batter : BUTTERMILK
41. Med. diagnostic : MRI
42. "Power" suffix : ADE
43. Scrabble value of every letter in RELATIONS : ONE
44. "Mothra vs. Godzilla," e.g. : MONSTERMOVIE
49. Absolutely enthralled : AGOG
50. Miserly Marner : SILAS
51. Spell-off : BEE
54. Josh who played Dubya in "W." : BROLIN
56. Some tests ... or what's found literally in 17-, 24-, 30-, 39- and 44-Across : MIDTERMS
58. Body of work : OEUVRE
59. Anticipatory night : EVE
60. Wuss : WIMP
61. In recent days : LATELY
62. German article : DER
63. Remove gradually, as from dependence : WEAN
Down
1. What caffeine can give you : JOLT
2. Michelangelo's "The Creation of ___" : ADAM
3. Cracker brand : RITZ
4. "Get it?" : SEE
5. Shy : TIMID
6. Stoudemire of the N.B.A. : AMARE
7. "The Seine at Giverny" artist : MONET
8. Pier grp. : ILA
9. Bernard who wrote "The Natural" : MALAMUD
10. Thin pancakes : BLINI
11. Start of an alphabet book : AASINAPPLE
12. Inspection : CLOSELOOK
13. Clark Kent's boyhood home: Abbr. : KAN
18. Charged : RANAT
22. Strike out, as a batter : RETIRE
24. Gorbachev's land, for short : USSR
25. Vacation time, informally : RANDR
26. Part of U.S.D.A.: Abbr. : DEPT
27. Rescuing financially : BAILINGOUT
30. City plus suburbs : METROAREA
31. Shake off : ELUDE
32. Yelp contributors, essentially : RATERS
33. Sch. with an annual Mystery Hunt : MIT
35. Soccer star Mia : HAMM
37. ___ wave : SINE
39. Barbara Gordon's secret identity, in comics : BATGIRL
40. Dewy, e.g. : MOIST
45. Puzzle out : SOLVE
46. Played charades : MIMED
47. Shade of green : OLIVE
48. Darth ___ of "Star Wars" : VADER
51. See 19-Across : BRIE
52. Actress Stone of "Birdman" : EMMA
53. Disney/Hearst-owned channel : ESPN
54. Arg. neighbor : BOL
55. Marshal at the Battle of Waterloo : NEY
57. "Gross!" : EWW

Answer summary: 4 unique to this puzzle, 3 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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