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New York Times, Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Author:
George Barany and John D. Child
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
101/22/200611/11/201710
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
2010322
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.55120
George Barany
TotalDebutCollabs
13/21/20171
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
0010000
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.61010
John D. Child

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 76, Blocks: 34 Missing: {JQX} Spans: 5 This is puzzle # 9 for Mr. Barany. This is the debut puzzle for Mr. Child. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Constructor notes:
GEORGE: John started working on this puzzle in April 2015 but got sidetracked by the earthquake in Nepal later that month. In early ... read more

GEORGE: John started working on this puzzle in April 2015 but got sidetracked by the earthquake in Nepal later that month. In early summer, he sent me a prototype to ask for help. I was sure that all five tastes could be incorporated into 15-letter theme answers and made a new grid. We worked through eight or nine versions of that and sent the puzzle to a few people to test solve in late summer 2015. With their feedback we reworked the grid again and iterated fill changes through another half-dozen versions to what you see today. Submitted September 2015 and accepted in December of that year.

We were pleased to find a sweet spot for the revealer, TASTE, crossing two theme answers. It's nice to see that our clues for SCENE and OUTIE are in the final version, and we especially enjoyed Will and Joel's clue for PURE MATHEMATICS. Ours was {Goldbach's conjecture, e.g.}.

JOHN: In October of 2014 I made a puzzle and asked on a crossword discussion blog for testers. I got a gratifying number of very helpful comments, including a long email from George packed with suggestions and information and including a link to xwordinfo.com. (Jeff: my subscription is George's fault: when I saw my own puzzle in the "Analyze view" I was hooked.) George has been my mentor since then, and I owe the opportunity to appear in the Times today to him and his group of crossword friends.

Jeff Chen notes:
The five taste sensations get spread through themers: SALTY, SOUR, BITTER, SWEET, and UMAMI. I've found that UMAMI isn't as well-known ... read more

The five taste sensations get spread through themers: SALTY, SOUR, BITTER, SWEET, and UMAMI. I've found that UMAMI isn't as well-known as I would have thought, but way back in school I did only learn about the four basic tastes. (UMAMI is Japanese, meaning roughly "savory.")

I learned the four tastes in a particular order, which I would have liked to see reflected in the themers: SWEET always came first, followed by SOUR, BITTER, SALTY. But that's not a strict ordering, so I don't mind the mixed-up order of the themers too much.

Impressive gridwork, considering that there are five 15-letter answers — rarely an easy task. In virtually every area of the grid, the down answers have to work through two themers, sometimes even three (UPTURNS, CHIMNEY, RIVIERA). So much inflexibility; so difficult to not have at least one section that's problematic.

I wonder if George and John started with the order of themers I mentioned, but realized that switching some of them around would produce better fill? If that's the case, I think that's a great decision, because the fill is so remarkably smooth for such rough constraints. Sure, there's the minor REL, ORA, ALTE, and the head-scratching IM MEAN (has anyone ever heard this uttered in real life?). But that's much, much less than I would have expected from a puzzle featuring five grid-spanning themers. Well done.

Overall, I wish there were something more playful to the theme. I'm not sure how else you could incorporate the five tastes into phrases, besides spreading them through themers like this. The first four tastes are easy — SWEET JESUS! for example — but UMAMI muddies the picture.

"There's no accounting for taste" feels just so, so ripe for wordplay! Accounting puns, anyone? Perhaps SWEET JESUS! or SOUR GRAPES or BITTER END or SALTY LANGUAGE could somehow be tied to accountants and audits? Maybe?

Maybe not, but this finance geek sure enjoys thinking about the possibilities.

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© 2017, The New York TimesNo. 0321 ( 24,605 )
Across
1
Work like Dürer : ETCH
5
Peter or Paul, but not Mary : TSAR
9
Bath fixture : BASIN
14
Lilting melodies : AIRS
15
Concerning, to a lawyer : INRE
16
Musical with the song "Don't Cry for Me Argentina" : EVITA
17
Trick football play : STATUEOFLIBERTY
20
___ bark beetle : ELM
21
One side of a debate : PRO
22
Dude, Jamaica-style : MON
23
Office staple since the 1980s : DESKTOPCOMPUTER
30
Birth control method, for short : IUD
31
Peach or plum : HUE
32
Descartes's "therefore" : ERGO
33
Super Bowl-winning QB Bart : STARR
36
Bollywood soundtrack instrument : SITAR
38
"... man ___ mouse? : ORA
39
High-ranking British Parliament member : CABINETMINISTER
42
Doctors' org. : AMA
43
Something one shouldn't make in public : SCENE
44
Lifesavers for cops and sailors : VESTS
45
Disposable lighters and pens : BICS
47
The mark of Zorro : ZEE
48
You, abroad : SIE
49
Floor warning : SLIPPERYWHENWET
55
Good noise from an engine : HUM
56
Sarcastic laugh sound : HAR
57
Green govt. group : EPA
58
Study at a college that doesn't have applications? : PUREMATHEMATICS
64
Seize without legal authority : USURP
65
Listening device : WIRE
66
Ink stain : BLOT
67
Pool contents? : GENES
68
Newspaper essay : OPED
69
Old one, in Oldenburg : ALTE
Down
1
Alleviated : EASED
2
Duke or dame : TITLE
3
Pulls an all-nighter, say : CRAMS
4
"The buck stops here" prez : HST
5
Bar on a car : TIEROD
6
Be a busybody : SNOOP
7
Pound sound : ARF
8
Family member: Abbr. : REL
9
Genre for Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker : BEBOP
10
Way or means : AVENUE
11
Paul McCartney, for one : SIR
12
Onetime telecommunications conglomerate, for short : ITT
13
Opposing vote : NAY
18
Bullish trends : UPTURNS
19
Bully's boast : IMMEAN
24
Dame ___ Te Kanawa : KIRI
25
Entrance for Santa : CHIMNEY
26
Navel formation? : OUTIE
27
Moves briskly : TROTS
28
White heron : EGRET
29
Surf sounds : ROARS
33
Signs of healing : SCABS
34
Native of southern India or northern Sri Lanka : TAMIL
35
You can count on them : ABACI
36
It's no bull : STEER
37
Nice location : RIVIERA
40
Itchy condition : ECZEMA
41
Out in public : SEEN
46
Baseball or basketball : SPHERE
48
Humiliated : SHAMED
50
Basketball inflaters : PUMPS
51
Invitation heading : WHERE
52
"Mack the Knife" composer : WEILL
53
Disney World theme park : EPCOT
54
It's often unaccounted for ... or a hint to this puzzle's circled letters : TASTE
58
Short-haired dog : PUG
59
Play for a patsy : USE
60
7,485 performances, for Broadway's original "Cats" : RUN
61
Noah count? : TWO
62
With it : HIP
63
[No info yet] : TBA

Answer summary: 4 unique to this puzzle, 1 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

Found bugs or have suggestions?