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New York Times, Friday, March 18, 2016

Author:
Michael Wiesenberg
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
54/6/20133/19/20181
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
0100031
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.56000
Michael Wiesenberg

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 66, Blocks: 34 Missing: {JQX} This is puzzle # 4 for Mr. Wiesenberg. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Michael Wiesenberg notes:
A few notes: When I construct a themed puzzle, I start with four or five, sometimes six, theme entries and then find a grid into ... read more

A few notes:

  • When I construct a themed puzzle, I start with four or five, sometimes six, theme entries and then find a grid into which to fit them. When I construct an unthemed puzzle, I start with a grid and fill that.
  • I like to challenge myself with a difficult-to-fill grid, so I choose a grid with a low word count and as few blocks as I can manage (66 and 34 here). I also use as few three-letter words as I can. (The present puzzle has eight.)
  • I use as many long entries as I can, which lowers both the word and block counts.
  • For the fill, I like to use as many entries as I can that have not appeared in puzzles before — I maintain a list that I constantly update when I hear new, unusual, or otherwise fresh words and phrases. As of the beginning of March I had debuted 25 words in three previous NYT puzzles. My list includes, for example, VIDEO ARCADE GAME and LAND SPEED RECORD, which haven't yet appeared in any major crossword puzzle.
  • None of the four 13-letter words in this puzzle has appeared previously in a Times puzzle, in the Shortz era. A few of the shorter entries are also new. I also remove from my list short, obscure words like AEI, ANSA, ARON, AROO, DESE, GSN, MRC, MWF, RANA, RATEL, and SATO.
  • In my puzzles I keep to a minimum words that end in -S, -TION, -TIONS, verb forms that add -ER but do not otherwise rate a discrete dictionary entry, and other bland constructs.
Jeff Chen notes:
Interesting 'stairstack' in the middle of the grid, TRAVEL CHANNEL and SILVER BULLETS = fantastic answers. I was so, so, so stuck on ... read more

Interesting "stairstack" in the middle of the grid, TRAVEL CHANNEL and SILVER BULLETS = fantastic answers. I was so, so, so stuck on LE???RPEA??ON — I felt like that idiot on "Wheel of Fortune" who can't figure out _OE V WADE. (Luckily, that one came easily.) Then I felt like more of an idiot for not knowing one of the more important Prime Ministers of our neighbor to the north, Alaska. Er, Canadia. Canada! Sigh. I'm very glad the clue enticed me to read up on this important Nobel Peace Prize winner — what a role he played in the Suez Crisis.

LESTER PEARSON, former PM of Canadia. Er, Canada.

These stairstack grids live and die by the quality of the stacks in each of the corners. I liked TELEPORTS / SPYWARE the best (LIE AHEAD more neutral than an asset), and that corner was even more impressive because those answers run right into the middle stairstack.

I wasn't quite as impressed with the other corners, as MINICAR felt like it wasn't in common usage (although it is technically "a very small automobile," according to Merriam Webster). FELL OPEN felt like it had untapped potential to be something snazzier, and that corner needed ELOI and the cringeworthy CARERS to hold it together. Oof — not just a made-up sounding -ER ending, but pluralized too.

I did like the SE, with ROE V WADE and STEW OVER and ANSWERS with a delightful clue, [Things in keys] misdirecting me to think about islands. But DYERS unfortunately echoed the unfortunate CARERS.

Finally, I really liked the answer PENCIL PUSHERS — but it's too bad that PENCIL PUSHER was just used last week. There's bound to be repetition of colorful answers in themelesses, but both of them in featured spots, so close together in date ... For us regular solvers, it takes away some of the impact from Michael's grid today.

Some fine, snappy answers, mixed in with some that felt a bit off, like MINICAR and ONE CELL (one-celled more common).

1
M
2
I
3
N
4
I
5
C
6
A
7
R
8
S
9
T
10
R
11
A
12
F
13
E
14
O
N
T
H
E
M
A
15
P
16
I
B
A
N
E
Z
17
I
D
E
A
L
I
Z
E
18
T
A
N
G
L
E
19
R
U
S
T
20
R
E
N
21
O
I
R
22
E
L
K
23
E
S
T
E
24
E
25
C
N
N
26
E
L
O
I
27
L
28
A
29
V
I
E
30
C
R
E
P
E
31
T
32
R
A
V
E
L
C
33
H
A
N
N
E
L
34
L
E
S
T
E
R
P
E
A
R
S
O
N
35
S
I
L
V
E
R
B
U
L
L
E
T
S
36
P
E
E
P
S
37
O
S
L
E
R
38
Y
A
P
S
39
A
S
H
40
S
41
O
42
S
43
A
44
D
45
W
H
O
46
G
R
E
E
47
N
48
S
49
H
O
L
Y
50
A
E
R
51
I
A
L
52
R
O
E
53
V
W
A
D
E
54
R
A
T
T
L
E
55
S
T
E
W
O
V
E
R
56
E
D
S
E
L
S
57
A
N
S
W
E
R
S
© 2016, The New York TimesNo. 0318 ( 24,237 )
Across
1
Subcompact : MINICAR
8
Subject to an air attack : STRAFE
14
Well-known, now : ONTHEMAP
16
Big name in guitars : IBANEZ
17
Put on a pedestal : IDEALIZE
18
Lock horns : TANGLE
19
Fall foliage color : RUST
20
"Girl With a Hoop" painter : RENOIR
22
Banff wildlife : ELK
23
First name in cosmetics : ESTEE
25
Common waiting room viewing : CNN
26
Fictional race of the distant future : ELOI
27
Picasso masterpiece with a French title : LAVIE
30
Cousin of a blintz : CREPE
31
"Hotel Impossible" airer : TRAVELCHANNEL
34
P.M. who won the 1957 Nobel Peace Prize : LESTERPEARSON
35
Miraculous solutions : SILVERBULLETS
36
Friends, in slang : PEEPS
37
Sir William ___, so-called "Father of Modern Medicine" : OSLER
38
Runs off at the mouth : YAPS
39
Guitar-making wood : ASH
40
Post-tragedy comment : SOSAD
45
Common question after a name is dropped : WHO
46
Salad base : GREENS
49
___ war : HOLY
50
Like some warfare : AERIAL
52
Decision debated for decades : ROEVWADE
54
Worrisome engine sound : RATTLE
55
Fret about : STEWOVER
56
Corsairs and Rangers of the 1950s : EDSELS
57
Things in keys : ANSWERS
Down
1
Op art pattern : MOIRE
2
It flows for nearly 2,000 miles in Asia : INDUS
3
Big mushroom producer, in brief : NTEST
4
"___ war": F.D.R. : IHATE
5
Frame from a drawer : CEL
6
"Jake and ___" (comedy web series) : AMIR
7
Give a dynamite finish? : RAZE
8
Form of civil disobedience : SITIN
9
It's a lift : TBAR
10
Bled : RAN
11
Kings' supporters : ANGELENOS
12
Dropped like a jaw : FELLOPEN
13
Book before Daniel : EZEKIEL
15
Office drones : PENCILPUSHERS
21
Amoeba feature : ONECELL
24
Gives a lift : ELATES
26
Lubitsch of old Hollywood : ERNST
28
State : AVER
29
Denoting the style in which one might consider this clue to be written : VERBOSE
30
Sympathetic sorts : CARERS
31
Gets from A to B instantly : TELEPORTS
32
Says one can make it, say : RSVPS
33
Well : HALE
34
Be in store : LIEAHEAD
35
Means of obtaining private information : SPYWARE
39
Name in many van Gogh titles : ARLES
41
"Incredible!" : OHWOW
42
Italian wine : SOAVE
43
Guitar-making wood : ALDER
44
Ones preparing Easter eggs : DYERS
46
Presumption : GALL
47
"___ problem" : NOTA
48
In public : SEEN
51
Ending with Manhattan : ITE
53
Bugs on the road : VWS

Answer summary: 6 unique to this puzzle, 1 debuted here and reused later, 1 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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