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New York Times, Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Author:
Alex Vratsanos
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
176/13/20115/23/20193
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3142313
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.60040
Alex Vratsanos

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 74, Blocks: 38 Missing: {FXZ} This is puzzle # 7 for Mr. Vratsanos. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Alex Vratsanos notes:
This puzzle was inspired by Matt Gaffney's Orca-nominated 'At the Present Time,' which used the traditional 5th, 10th, 15th, etc. ... read more

This puzzle was inspired by Matt Gaffney's Orca-nominated "At the Present Time," which used the traditional 5th, 10th, 15th, etc. anniversary gifts in the clues numbered 5, 10, 15, etc. Thinking of that puzzle as I ate lunch at the University of Delaware in April 2013, it struck me that chemical elements and lining up their atomic numbers with the clue numbers might work just as well.

Before I left the dining hall, I had come up with the grid you see now. I received excellent feedback on it from George Barany and his team, and was thrilled when Will accepted it last June 30. If you've enjoyed it, you may also enjoy this unpublished puzzle by Charles Deber, which has a few of the same theme entries.

Will put a very nice spin on the revealer clue, my original one being "With 38-Down, property of the first part of the starred entries that matches that of the clue." As for the fill, my favorites are YOU LOSE (I like Will's new clue), I'M SAD (ditto), ONE WOOD, JEOPARDY, SQUIRES, and PHDS (another great clue). Thanks, Will!

Jeff Chen notes:
A very nicely constructed grid today. I remember a few years ago when Alex first contacted me, one of my big points of feedback was to ... read more

A very nicely constructed grid today. I remember a few years ago when Alex first contacted me, one of my big points of feedback was to be more careful about the quality of his grid fill. He had some interesting ideas, but too often there were too many unappealing entries which as a whole left a bad taste. It's fantastic to see how far he's come, especially considering today's grid is no easy construction.

The theme today is a little difficult to get, considering the long revealer clue. ATOMIC / NUMBER, which is the number of protons an element contains, is used to clue in four entries: CARBON COPY is at 6 down, and carbon's atomic number is 6. NEON LIGHTS is at 10 down, and NEON's atomic number is 10. Get it?

Alex ran this theme by me a few months ago, and I liked the overall construction — not an easy task to get four long themers at specific numbers — but I asked him, why those four elements? Just because they were ones possible to make four snappy phrases out of? And although it was kind of neat that the ATOMIC NUMBER matched up with the four entries, even after taking years of chemistry in both high school and college, I couldn't recall the atomic number of copper to save my life. So the idea didn't appeal to me all that much.

That said, I do appreciate the experimentation. Other constructors have used the across/down numbers within entries before, including one I found particularly ingenious, but Alex takes it a step further and uses those numbers for a different purpose. The concept didn't quite tickle me, but I'm sure some chemistry lovers will dig it.

I really liked the care Alex took in filling the grid today. He could have sat back and tried something simpler given that he already had quite a few long entries, but look at all the nice sevens: YOU LOSE, INHALER, TEST LAB, HOLED UP. Rich Norris at the LAT gave me very useful feedback a few years ago, that he prizes multiple-word phrases within themeless puzzles (as well as for long fill in themed puzzled), and I've taken that to heart. Certain one-worders like NIBLETS are really nice too, but in general, those two-word phrases have so much more potential than single words. Of course there are exceptions (I like SPINNER much better than ONE WOOD since most people call the club a driver), but it's a nice rule of thumb.

As with any difficult construction, there will be compromises here and there, but Alex does a nice job keeping these to a minimum. Ideally the lesser stuff would be spread out so it's not as noticeable, so it's too bad that MSN, PPS, DHS, all go straight across the bottom. I found it well worth, though, it in order to get those nice big chunks in the SW and NE corners.

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© 2014, The New York TimesNo. 0326 ( 23,514 )
Across
1
"Foucault's Pendulum" author : ECO
4
Legendary predator of elephants : ROC
7
Entertainers at many 49-Downs, for short : DJS
10
Super Mario Bros. console, for short : NES
13
Jobs offering : MAC
14
Stop ___ dime : ONA
15
Radio station listener's call-in, perhaps : REQUEST
17
Asthmatic's device : INHALER
19
"Checkmate!" : YOULOSE
20
Experiment site : TESTLAB
21
Alternative to dice : SPINNER
22
1952 Winter Olympics host : OSLO
23
___ Sea, waters depleted by irrigation projects : ARAL
24
"Spider-Man" director Sam : RAIMI
27
Abalone shell lining : NACRE
30
"___ all good" : ITS
33
Politico Hatch of 54-Down : ORRIN
34
Clumsy sorts : CLODS
35
Pick up : GET
36
Holey plastic shoe : CROC
37
Off one's rocker : LOOPY
38
Drag racers' org. : NHRA
39
"The Wizard of Oz" locale: Abbr. : KAN
40
Absorb, as gravy : SOPUP
41
___-Grain : NUTRI
42
"Dee-lish!" : YUM
43
Bonnie's partner : CLYDE
44
:-( : IMSAD
45
"... ___ in Kalamazoo" : AGAL
47
Eldest Stark child on "Game of Thrones" : ROBB
49
Australia's Port ___ Bay : PHILLIP
52
In hiding : HOLEDUP
56
Team leader of song : RUDOLPH
57
Retired academics : EMERITI
58
Tee-shot club : ONEWOOD
59
Well-put : APT
60
Vintner's vessel : VAT
61
I.S.P. with a butterfly logo : MSN
62
After-afterthought on a letter: Abbr. : PPS
63
Many aging A.L. sluggers : DHS
64
___ moment : AHA
Down
1
Send out : EMIT
2
One of man's three legs, in the riddle of the Sphinx : CANE
3
Protest singer Phil : OCHS
4
Arrives, as fog : ROLLSIN
5
N.B.A. great in Icy Hot commercials : ONEAL
6
*Typist's duplicate of old : CARBONCOPY
7
Prohibitionists : DRYS
8
Game show with the theme music "Think!" : JEOPARDY
9
Knights' attendants : SQUIRES
10
*They're big on Broadway : NEONLIGHTS
11
"To be," to Brutus : ESSE
12
Suffix with slick : STER
16
Radius neighbor : ULNA
18
With 38-Down, property of the first part of the answer to each starred clue (appropriately positioned in the grid) : ATOMIC
24
First sports movie to win Best Picture : ROCKY
25
Pianist Claudio : ARRAU
26
*Medieval device with spikes : IRONMAIDEN
28
One way to read : ALOUD
29
*Anti-Civil War Northerner : COPPERHEAD
31
___ firma : TERRA
32
Unflashy : STAID
37
Kid's post-haircut treat, maybe : LOLLIPOP
38
See 18-Down : NUMBER
40
Bit of surf in surf and turf : SCALLOP
41
Green Giant canned corn : NIBLETS
46
Radiant look : GLOW
48
Zip : OOMPH
49
Gym ball? : PROM
50
Barbaric sorts : HUNS
51
Nth degrees? : PHDS
53
Demanding sort : DIVA
54
See 33-Across : UTAH
55
Gyro bread : PITA

Answer summary: 1 unique to this puzzle, 2 debuted here and reused later, 2 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

Found bugs or have suggestions?