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New York Times, Friday, March 20, 2015

Author:
Roland Huget
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
123/20/201511/5/20180
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
0110028
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.52012
Roland Huget

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 66, Blocks: 36 Missing: {FJQVXZ} Grid has both 90- and 180-degree symmetry. This is the debut puzzle for Mr. Huget. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Roland Huget notes:
I am a retired nuclear engineer, and I live in Kitchener, Ontario. I started constructing crosswords in the summer of 2012, in order ... read more

I am a retired nuclear engineer, and I live in Kitchener, Ontario. I started constructing crosswords in the summer of 2012, in order to try out the computer program I wrote for filling a crossword grid. After I debugged the program, instead of moving on to another software project, I stuck with crossword construction. Looking back at my early efforts, I can't believe I actually submitted them.

Since then, there have been many rejections. It's taken a while to learn how to use my tools properly, to improve the wholly inadequate word list I started with, and to get a better feel for the crosswords that appear in top publications like The New York Times. Things started to come together for me in the fall of 2013 and, as I write this, I have sold a handful of puzzles.

This is my debut crossword in The New York Times. I will remember it primarily for that, but also for being the first crossword I sold that didn't require any revisions to the fill. I put this puzzle together in late 2013, after I had taken a break from crossword construction to do some much needed work on my word list. The striking grid layout, with its crossed triple stack 11's, has appeared in The New York Times before.

When I did the construction I had already experienced many rejections, and had not yet sold a single crossword to any publisher. In that circumstance, you have doubts about everything you produce. In particular, I remember wondering about GRANDNEPHEW and OILSEED. They're both not-often-used terms that didn't offer many possibilities for clues. I didn't get my hopes up when I submitted the crossword. I was elated when it was accepted.

I would like to thank Will Shortz for his improvements to the clues. My favorite is 31A: [Event often with gate crashers?] GIANTSLALOM.

Jeff Chen notes:
Debut! Beautiful sets of triples through the middle, GIANT SLALOM / MICKEY MOUSE (as an adjective!) / COMEUPPANCE just delightful. ... read more

Debut! Beautiful sets of triples through the middle, GIANT SLALOM / MICKEY MOUSE (as an adjective!) / COMEUPPANCE just delightful. SMARTY PANTS and MISS MANNERS had a nice echo (said the guy who think spoons don't need to be washed). GRANDNEPHEW seemed a touch arbitrary, but the Augustus / Julius Caesar clue made it work well.

Mickey Mouse is so Mickey Mouse. Er, in a good way.

Visually striking pattern, which I thought I had seen before. If there only were some web site where you could figure out when similar (or identical) grids have been used … Press the "Analyze this puzzle" button (at the very bottom of the page) if you're interested, and scroll down to "Topologically similar grids."

In this sort of arrangement, coming up with intersecting triple-stacks is just the beginning of the quest. I love how open the grid is, how well the solving experience flows through every region. But having both ends of each corner fixed into place by those triple-stacks causes so many constraints. Much, much more difficult than having regions which connect to the rest of the puzzle in just one way.

Roland does well in the SW. I'll always appreciate seeing entries like EUCLID and ATHENA, targeted at the erudite NYT audience. MONARCHY is similar, and also taught me a little bit about Saudi Arabia. All of that with no gluey bits = great stuff.

The NW felt a little rougher to me. Perhaps that's because I got so stuck, I had to cheat to finish. But the unfamiliar EBBETS and SAGER weren't terribly satisfying — didn't feel like answers that I really ought to have known. And while I really like BOOTLEG, NO IDEA, and DOG TAG, BIG YEARS didn't feel strong enough to give me a hit-my-forehead moment of discovery when I revealed that answer. Personal taste.

Finally, a beautiful clue that took me a full day to understand. How on Earth could SNAKED equate to some sort of [Wound]? Maybe it referred to a snakebite? Some dictionary definition #57 of a stabbing that only 16th century British scholars would know? No, it's wound as in "wound around." Now that's a great moment of discovery.

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© 2015, The New York TimesNo. 0320 ( 23,873 )

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Across
1
Writes a Dear John letter, say : ENDSIT
7
Ones taking a bow? : ARROWS
13
Like many movies on file-sharing sites : BOOTLEG
15
Lane in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame : RONNIE
16
Prime times : BIGYEARS
18
Title locale in a 1987 Cheech Marin film : EASTLA
19
It starts in late winter in N.Y.C. : EDT
20
Betray some nervousness : STAMMER
22
"Licensed to ___" (first rap album to reach #1) : ILL
23
Career : TEAR
25
Appetizer served with a two-pronged fork : SNAIL
26
Mayberry moppet : OPIE
27
Songwriter Carole Bayer ___ : SAGER
29
Hosp. workers : DRS
30
Staple of Hindustani music : SITAR
31
Event often with gate crashers? : GIANTSLALOM
34
Not to be taken seriously : MICKEYMOUSE
35
Just deserts : COMEUPPANCE
36
Spaghetti western persona : LONER
37
Chinese dynasty of 2,000 years ago : HAN
38
Tiny, informally : EENSY
42
Model married to David Bowie : IMAN
43
Medicinal shrub : SENNA
45
Natural history museum exhibit, informally : DINO
46
Longtime news inits. : NPR
47
Tin alloys : PEWTERS
49
Word on many fragrance bottles : EAU
50
Who wrote to Ptolemy I "There is no royal road to geometry" : EUCLID
52
So-called "teardrop of India" : SRILANKA
54
Her helmet is shown on West Point's coat of arms : ATHENA
55
Amble : SAUNTER
56
Kind of jar : LEYDEN
57
Break off : SECEDE
Down
1
Reese's field : EBBETS
2
"You got me there" : NOIDEA
3
Private identification? : DOGTAG
4
Dump : STY
5
Saint-Pierre et Miquelon, e.g. : ILES
6
Nature's pacifiers? : TEATS
7
Spinning : AREEL
8
V-8 sound : ROAR
9
Hosp. workers : RNS
10
So as not to wake anyone, say : ONTIPTOE
11
Leader at the Battle of Hastings : WILLIAM
12
Eskimo hunter, at times : SEALER
14
Augustus, to Julius Caesar : GRANDNEPHEW
17
Wisenheimer : SMARTYPANTS
21
Longtime adviser on dos and don'ts : MISSMANNERS
24
Tough course : REGIMEN
26
Canola, e.g. : OILSEED
28
Kitchen tool : RICER
30
Hard stuff : SAUCE
32
When repeated, Thor Heyerdahl book : AKU
33
Chaney of horror : LON
34
Saudi Arabia, for one : MONARCHY
35
Make sense : COMPUTE
36
Hereditary : LINEAL
39
Nothing, in Napoli : NIENTE
40
Wound : SNAKED
41
1983 Lionel Richie hit : YOUARE
43
Body style : SEDAN
44
"Eugene Onegin" highlights : ARIAS
47
Long : PINE
48
Turn on an axis : SLUE
51
Like some lamps : LED
53
Ruling party in Pretoria, for short : ANC

Answer summary: 3 unique to this puzzle, 2 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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