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New York Times, Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Author: Timothy Polin
Editor: Will Shortz
Timothy Polin
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4612/11/20116/24/20182
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74852002
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1.626130

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 72, Blocks: 34 Missing: {JXZ} Spans: 1 This is puzzle # 12 for Mr. Polin. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Timothy Polin notes: Despite only having three theme answers and a short revealer, constructing this puzzle was actually tough. The difficulty had to ... more
Timothy Polin notes:

Despite only having three theme answers and a short revealer, constructing this puzzle was actually tough. The difficulty had to do with the lengths of the 14-letter entries and the 7-letter revealer. Unless I wanted six cheater squares, the QUEEN and DRONES entries had to go in the 4th and 12th rows (not rows 3 and 13, like usual). Under most circumstances that arrangement wouldn't be an issue, but here it was a problem, because the 7-letter length of the revealer meant that the top and bottom three rows had to be broken up with 3-block stacks in the middle column. Having those stacks then required threading a 9-letter entry down through three theme answers (no way to break it up), which doesn't always work. Luckily, it did this time. One restraint on theme arrangement was that QUEEN had to be on top.

Another difficulty with this grid was the impossibility of increasing the word count while holding the 3-letter words to a reasonable level. I could have added blocks into the corners to boost the word count to 74 or 76, but doing so would also have boosted the 3-letter count to 18 or 22, and made the solve much choppier. You can see how fortunate I was to be able to fill the open corners while still running four longish down answers through them. It was worth staying at 72, I think — especially since the SE corner filled so smoothly.

My initial submission from about 16 months ago, which Will had me rebuild completely, was a train wreck. In order to avoid open corners with stacked 7-letter entries, as well as to be able to break up the central column, I put the revealer in the middle. What's the problem? The number of 3-letter words. There were 26(!) of them, or one-third of the total. This grid is pretty embarrassing ... so bask in my ignominy.

It's interesting to see how quickly a new, topical entry with scrabbly letters becomes mainstream. When this puzzle was accepted in its current form last January, LOUIS C.K. had never been used in the NYT before. In fact, I remember being worried that he wasn't NYT-worthy. A little over a year later, and he's already making his third appearance, despite having seven letters and a weird pattern ending in -SCK.

And finally, you're missing out if you're not intimately familiar with Billy Ocean's CARIBBEAN QUEEN. She's simply awesome...

Jeff Chen notes: Now this is how you execute on a three-themer grid. When the theme density is low, I expect a huge amount of strong fill, at ... more
Jeff Chen notes:

Too bad he didn't stick to his Scrabbly birth name, Louis Székely Now this is how you execute on a three-themer grid. When the theme density is low, I expect a huge amount of strong fill, at least sixish entries to enhance the solving experience. Tim goes above and beyond with three long pieces of fill — EASY CHAIR, IT'S A STEAL, SPONGE BOB — as well as a whole lot of strong 7s: AMSCRAY, FEDORAS, LOUIS CK, SPILL IT, and the BEEHIVE theme revealer. Doing all that with keeping the grid to less than 5 gluey bits = impressive.

The theme isn't complicated, but it's a nice set of entries. I like the touch of WORKERS and DRONES being plural, but QUEEN singular. It's those small touches that add to a theme's elegance.

Tim does a nice job in that difficult SE corner, where DRONES and BEEHIVE heavily constrain that 7x4 chunk. I imagine Tim tried placing the BEEHIVE revealer at the very bottom entry, but that would have been difficult given 55-Down would have had to end in a V. The result is pretty nice, just the obsolete MHO as a blight.

This is another case in which I might advocated for different spacing. Moving CARRIBEAN QUEEN and PREDATOR DRONES toward the center would still allowed for a few rows of spacing between the themers, but it would have also allowed a set of black squares separating DRONES from BEEHIVE. It's a very minor point as we're only discussing how to get rid of the measly MHO, but the OCD constructor in me can't help but wonder if that little dab of glue could have been avoided.

Beautiful clue for ISLETS, which are [Minor keys?] indeed. Good repurposing of a common musical phrase.

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F
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© 2015, The New York TimesNo. 0318 ( 23,871 )
Across Down
1. Hats for Indiana Jones : FEDORAS
8. The Trojans of the Pac-12 : USC
11. Covert ___ : OPS
14. Sitcom installment : EPISODE
15. "No secrets!" : SPILLIT
17. The "3" in "6/3" : DIVISOR
18. Relative of a snowboard : MONOSKI
19. 1984 #1 Billy Ocean hit : CARIBBEANQUEEN
21. Suffix with elephant : INE
22. Insurance co. that received a $182 billion bailout : AIG
23. Research center: Abbr. : INST
24. Saddle-making tools : AWLS
27. Minor keys? : ISLETS
29. Letter after phi : CHI
30. Uncluttered : TIDY
32. Overwhelmed police officer's request : BACKUP
36. Maids, butlers and au pairs : DOMESTICWORKERS
39. Start for some art : CANVAS
40. Rail rider of old : HOBO
41. What makes a cat scat? : ESS
42. Greater Antilles native, once : ARAWAK
44. Real estate reference : PLAT
45. Cut into planks, say : SAWN
48. "... or ___ thought" : SOI
49. Former conductance unit : MHO
51. Aircraft in modern airstrikes : PREDATORDRONES
56. Didn't honor a promise : RENEGED
57. "Get lost!" : AMSCRAY
59. San ___ Fault : ANDREAS
60. Where to find the ends of 19-, 36- and 51-Across : BEEHIVE
61. "___, me!" : YAY
62. Conniving : SLY
63. Par number : STROKES
1. Put quarters in, as a meter : FED
2. "Ben-Hur," for one : EPIC
3. Persnickety performer : DIVA
4. Hades : Greeks :: ___ : Egyptians : OSIRIS
5. Grip enhancer : ROSIN
6. Brick house : ADOBE
7. Tennis's Ana Ivanovic, for one : SERB
8. Inscription on a classic letter box : USMAIL
9. Friend of Squidward on Nickelodeon : SPONGEBOB
10. Deux + trois : CINQ
11. Twin Mary-Kate or Ashley : OLSEN
12. ___ Peak : PIKES
13. Be economical : STINT
16. Comic who said "The meal is not over when I'm full. The meal is over when I hate myself" : LOUISCK
20. Sit back and enjoy it : EASYCHAIR
24. Versatile, electrically : ACDC
25. "That's super crazy!" : WHOA
26. Illustrate : LIMN
27. Tyrannical Amin : IDI
28. Root used to make poi : TARO
30. February Revolution target : TSAR
31. "You can't beat that price!" : ITSASTEAL
33. What a ship's ribs are connected to : KEEL
34. Connect-the-dots bear? : URSA
35. Subtle attention-getter : PSST
37. Boxer Holyfield : EVANDER
38. Stir-fry vessel : WOK
43. Forestlike : WOODSY
44. Something to put on before a shower : PONCHO
45. Output from a showerhead : SPRAY
46. Olympics venue : ARENA
47. Visitor to Neverland : WENDY
49. Rival mascot of the Phillie Phanatic : MRMET
50. Canadian bozo : HOSER
52. A long, long time : AGES
53. Applies gingerly : DABS
54. N.B.A. coach Spoelstra : ERIK
55. With the exception of : SAVE
58. Response from a rubber stamp : YES

Answer summary: 3 unique to this puzzle.

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