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New York Times, Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Author:
Alex Boisvert and Jeff Chen
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
115/29/20063/23/20162
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
0124310
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.58211
Alex Boisvert
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
1047/5/201011/27/201963
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
2678192798
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.637242
Jeff Chen

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 72, Blocks: 38 Missing: {JQZ} Spans: 1 This is puzzle # 11 for Mr. Boisvert. This is puzzle # 50 for Mr. Chen. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Constructor notes:
I've always been impressed by Alex. I first encountered his work when I got tired of formatting my NYT crossword submissions by hand. ... read more

I've always been impressed by Alex. I first encountered his work when I got tired of formatting my NYT crossword submissions by hand. It was such a relief to find his "puz2pdf" app, making my crossword life a lot easier. Another of his programs helps search for themers fitting the "both words can follow X" theme type.

The latter program made me curious — could he somehow write code to find answers where "all THREE words can follow X"? I'm a little tired of the "both words can follow X" trope, but I thought it would be really neat if we could up the ante.

Turns out it was a trivial task for him. We tried a few different key words, and when we hit upon "time," the list was long enough that it felt like we could mine it for good answers. Alex was rightfully skeptical when I mentioned how much I liked LONG LOST FATHER as an entry, but a little soap opera research (it's such a common trope) made us both happy with it. The grid work did take us a LONG (time). Apparently FATHER (time) is taking his toll on me. Now, to make up for LOST (time) ...

A lot of fun to work with Alex on this! Now, who's going to be the first to find an "all FOUR words follow X" theme …

Jeff Chen notes:
What you see is a complete redo of the grid Will accepted a few years ago. Alex and I could only make the original work with the ... read more

What you see is a complete redo of the grid Will accepted a few years ago. Alex and I could only make the original work with the awkward A KNEE ("take a knee" to end a football game), and although it bugged the heck out of me, it was the best we could do in that region.

I was really hoping she would win the Hunger Games (sorry, Katniss)

Several years passed, and I got to thinking about different grid structures, new ways of laying out theme-dense puzzles. This one came to mind, and it seemed like an interesting challenge — could we redo it for better color and cleanliness? After working through a few possible skeletons, we both liked what was going on here. It unfortunately required OPE to hold it together, and it's rarely good to start out the filling process with something gluey right from the get-go. But it looked so promising otherwise that we decided to go ahead with it.

We did end up with one region, the west, where we couldn't get around something like A HIT or A HAT. But we felt that overall, the price of those minor gluey bits was well worth an open, 72-word grid, with bonus material like LOVE HOTEL, TATTOO ART, TURN TAIL, etc.

Some clue notes:

  • Tiny RUE is by far my favorite "Hunger Games" character. So well-written!
  • We clued SCRAM as "Make like a tree and get outta here!", a quote from Biff in "Back to the Future." Will probably made the right decision to adjust that one.
  • Being a mechanical engineer, PAWLS is obvious to me (a little part that acts as a one-way valve for a rotational component). Apologies to those who saw [Parts of ratchets] and wondered 1.) what PAWLS were and 2.) then wondered what ratchets were after I tried to explain.
  • For those of you who don't know that an ACE is worth four points in bridge hand-evaluation systems, shame on you. Okay, okay, some experts actually value it at more than four points, because of its nature as a "control" or a "first-round stopper" or … okay, okay, I'll shut up now.
1
W
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A
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S
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T
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E
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M
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M
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S
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O
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S
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A
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N
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X
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Y
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B
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D
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V
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S
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H
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P
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G
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F
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H
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F
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K
© 2016, The New York TimesNo. 0323 ( 24,242 )

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Across
1
Fritter away : WASTE
6
Strongman player on "The A-Team" : MRT
9
Spanish ___ : MOSS
13
It preceded "Eleven," "Twelve" and "Thirteen" on the big screen : OCEANS
15
Slip in a pot : IOU
16
It becomes its own synonym when "cap" is added in front : ABLE
17
*Speedy shipping option : NEXTDAYAIR
19
Hollywood's Ken or Lena : OLIN
20
Have confidence in : TRUST
21
International airport near Tokyo : NARITA
23
*Romantic comedy featuring two members of the Brat Pack : ABOUTLASTNIGHT
26
A person's soul mate : THEONE
27
Pink-slip : CAN
28
Odin sacrificed one for wisdom : EYE
29
Percentages and such : DATA
30
Like much car chase footage : AERIAL
33
*Going back to square one : STARTINGALLOVER
39
Hand-played drum : TOMTOM
40
Presley's "___ Las Vegas" : VIVA
41
HBO rival : SHO
44
Uncover, poetically : OPE
45
Bishop and knight : PIECES
47
*Recurring soap opera plot device : LONGLOSTFATHER
51
"Hold on, I just might have a good solution ..." : UNLESS
52
"Care to explain?" : HOWSO
53
Desktop pic : ICON
54
Minuet meter ... or a description of the answers to the starred clues? : TRIPLETIME
59
Converse : CHAT
60
"___ Mutual Friend" : OUR
61
Heavy hitter : SLEDGE
62
Life span of a star : EONS
63
One end of a rainbow : RED
64
Something to take a nip from : FLASK
Down
1
Came out on top : WON
2
Bridge four-pointer : ACE
3
Congress : SEX
4
Decorative ink : TATTOOART
5
Evasive maneuver : ENDRUN
6
Sporty Mazda : MIATA
7
French king : ROI
8
Beat a hasty retreat : TURNTAIL
9
Native Kiwis : MAORI
10
Necessitate : OBLIGE
11
Like the toves in "Jabberwocky" : SLITHY
12
Half of Congress : SENATE
14
Brown, in a way : SAUTE
18
Fashion inits. : YSL
22
Historical record : ANNAL
23
At the drop of ___ : AHAT
24
Testing stage : BETA
25
"Make like a tree and leave!" : SCRAM
26
Gridiron successes, for short : TDS
30
Chips in a pot : ANTES
31
I : EGO
32
Where couples may register under assumed names : LOVEHOTEL
34
Obnoxious sorts : TOOLS
35
Charlatan, of a sort : IMPOSTOR
36
Smoking cigars, e.g. : VICE
37
It becomes its own synonym when "for" is added in front : EVER
38
Dorm V.I.P.s : RAS
41
Gated water channel : SLUICE
42
Bigwig : HONCHO
43
Checked out : ONLOAN
45
Parts of ratchets : PAWLS
46
Reflexive pronoun : ITSELF
48
Ladies' counterparts : GENTS
49
Position for Cal Ripken Jr. : THIRD
50
Snappy dresser : FOP
55
Young competitor in "The Hunger Games" : RUE
56
Mrs. McKinley : IDA
57
Booker T.'s backup : MGS
58
"Oh, no!" : EEK

Answer summary: 5 unique to this puzzle, 1 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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