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New York Times, Thursday, March 21, 2019

Author:
Christopher Adams
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
37/3/20187/28/20190
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
1010100
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.56100
Christopher Adams

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 74, Blocks: 35 Missing: {BJQZ} Spans: 1 Grid has mirror symmetry. This is puzzle # 2 for Mr. Adams. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Christopher Adams notes:
This is my second NYT puzzle, and it was made about when my first NYT was published. And like that puzzle, this one utilizes ... read more

This is my second NYT puzzle, and it was made about when my first NYT was published. And like that puzzle, this one utilizes left/right symmetry, again because of the lengths of the theme answers. But as an indie constructor, I enjoy doing unconventional things to get themes to work, and I'm always pleased when they do.

The hardest part of this one, by far, was fitting FACE/OFF in. Because it's an even length answer, I couldn't run it horizontally, and so it had to go in the center column. And the left/right symmetry meant having two answers of (at minimum) eight letters flank it and intersect with whatever entry went through the slash. It took lots of trial and error to get it to work, but I'm pleased with the result. That said, the shape of the center largely forced the rest of the grid, including making 7-Down six spaces long (more on this in a bit). I could have broken the top two rows up into three answers each, but I try to avoid too many shorter answers when possible, and I'm pleased with how these corners came out.

That said, I am a bit conflicted about 7-Down. As clued, it's a perfectly reasonable answer, in that it is unquestionably a third-person pronoun. Many people will see no problem with this clue/answer combo and move on without a second thought. But some people won't. I, for one, had some reservations about it then, and I don't think I'd use this answer if I were making this puzzle today. When the puzzle was accepted, Will et al. agreed with me that this was a clue to handle delicately. After all, as a pronoun, it's restrictive and (needlessly) excludes non-binary people, and has largely been supplanted by the singular they anyway.

There was a fair bit of discussion on how to address such concerns without being awkwardly worded, overly wordy, or calling too much attention to the answer; in the end, we agreed that the clue as written would work best for the previously mentioned reason that the clue works without distracting from the rest of the puzzle. Still, even though it's not discussed in the clue, I'm glad that Will et al. took the time to discuss this issue carefully and consider multiple viewpoints and suggestions.

Jeff Chen notes:
Even having seen SLASHER FILM used in a crossword in the same way, I still appreciated today's theme. I liked that Chris found three ... read more

Even having seen SLASHER FILM used in a crossword in the same way, I still appreciated today's theme. I liked that Chris found three solid movies that used slashes in their titles. It took a while to recall that FACE/OFF indeed contained a slash, but it triggered a funny thought: that ridiculous flick (about two guys who trade faces) was the very definition of a SLASHER FILM.

Perfect use of mirror symmetry. It's a constructor's nightmare to come up with a clever concept, only to discover that the themer lengths don't match up. 15, 11, 11 ... 8? Groan, bang head, curse at Crucivera (the god of crosswords)!

Then the constructor's a-ha … wait for it, wait for it … the 11's can match vertically, with the 8 vertically in the center! That's divine intervention right there. All praise Crucivera!

Did you get Chris's explanation about the 8 presenting a challenge? It's much different than with normal symmetry since, with mirror symmetry, there's no way to break up the answers on either side of the 8 (you'd create 1-letter words).

It gets even trickier considering you need to work around another fixed constraint: a crossing themer in AM/FM. But Chris is a skilled constructor, well up to the challenge. I wondered if DR ROMANO had staying power, but what else in that stack would someone hitch on? To top it off with RED FLAG running through the stack is a bonus.

Hardly a dab of crossword glue, too. Such care taken throughout the grid. Longtime solvers might roll their eyes at AREOLAE and LOESS (HIE too, perhaps), but despite their potential foreign feeling for some solvers, they have merit as real words.

Fun clue for RETINA. I often wish I were the holder of many (ice cream) cones. I suppose my optical cone cells will have to do.

If there had been more novelty for me — if my OCD brain hadn't immediately remembered the 2013 puzzle — this would have been my POW! A tidy theme, tight set of three examples, a fun wordplay revealer, and great craftsmanship.

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© 2019, The New York TimesNo. 0321 ( 25,335 )
Across
1
Happening after doors open on Black Friday : MADDASH
8
Draw : ATTRACT
15
Colorful circles : AREOLAE
16
Ronan of "Lady Bird" : SAOIRSE
17
1982 movie starring Julie Andrews : VICTOR/VICTORIA
19
Elicited with difficulty : TEASEDOUT
20
Some mortgage adjustments, in brief : REFIS
23
Run, old-style : HIE
24
Skeletons in the closet, so to speak : PASTS
28
To be, overseas : ETRE
29
Tighten (up) : TENSE
31
Money holder : CLIP
32
Swimmer Ian who won three gold medals in the 2000 Olympics : THORPE
34
Japanese floor mat : TATAMI
36
Helpful people to know : INS
37
Warning sign : REDFLAG
41
Triple ___ : SEC
42
Collegiate basketball competition, for short : NIT
43
Like Natalie Portman, by birth : ISRAELI
44
It ended during the Napoleonic Wars: Abbr. : HRE
45
Kind of switch : AC/DC
47
Label owned by Sony Music : RCA
48
Good earth : LOESS
50
Formerly : NEE
51
Its second ed. contains about 59 million words : OED
52
Miss the mark : ERR
53
1% alternative : SKIM
55
Like many radios : AM/FM
57
A long way off : AFAR
60
Common sign-off : XOXO
61
Source of the word "kiwi" : MAORI
62
River draining 11 countries : NILE
63
8:00-9:00 p.m. in prime time, e.g. : SLOT
64
Deduce : INFER
65
Down in the dumps : GLUM
66
Go down, in a way : WANE
67
Like many A.T.M.s : NOFEE
68
Primetime ___ : EMMY
Down
1
Western Conference player, informally : MAV
2
Shapiro of public radio : ARI
3
World AIDS Day mo. : DEC
4
More eccentric : DOTTIER
5
Soothing succulents : ALOES
6
1986 #1 Starship hit with the lyric "I'll never find another girl like you" : SARA
7
Third-person pronoun : HE/SHE
8
Parenthesized comments : ASIDES
9
Food truck offering, maybe : TACO
10
Figure, as a sum : TOTUP
11
It may be read to the rowdy : RIOTACT
12
Sheet music abbr. : ARR
13
Hit CBS series with three spinoffs : CSI
14
Spill the ___ (dish out gossip) : TEA
18
Line on a leaf : VEIN
20
Holder of many cones : RETINA
21
Like some cuisines : ETHNIC
22
2008 movie starring Michael Sheen and Frank Langella : FROST/NIXON
25
Movie with graphic violence ... or what 17-Across, 22-Down or 39-Down each is? : SLASHERFILM
26
Some board game equipment : TIMERS
27
Jazzes (up) : SPICES
29
Souvenir shop purchases : TEES
30
List shortcut : ETAL
33
Information on a ticket : PRICE
35
Light on one's feet : AGILE
38
"ER" role for Paul McCrane : DRROMANO
39
1997 movie starring John Travolta and Nicolas Cage : FACE/OFF
40
Like many pipes nowadays : LEADFREE
46
Knock down : DEMOTE
49
Like butterscotch : ORANGE
53
Annual Austin festival, for short : SXSW
54
___ nut : KOLA
55
Dictator deposed in 1979 : AMIN
56
Swampland, e.g. : MIRE
58
Many a university donor, informally : ALUM
59
"Ratatouille" rat : REMY

Answer summary: 7 unique to this puzzle.

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