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New York Times, Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Author:
Timothy Polin
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
5112/11/201111/28/20192
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74962302
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.626140
Timothy Polin

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 do ... read more

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 least ... read more

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.

1
F
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© 2015, The New York TimesNo. 0318 ( 23,871 )
Across
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
Down
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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