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New York Times, Saturday, March 26, 2016

Author: Damon Gulczynski
Editor: Will Shortz
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1.65320
Damon J. Gulczynski

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 64, Blocks: 35 Missing: {BGQZ} This is puzzle # 13 for Mr. Gulczynski. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Damon J. Gulczynski notes: I wanted to make a very low word count puzzle, and I picked this grid because it seemed like the most doable option. The ... more
Damon J. Gulczynski notes:

I wanted to make a very low word count puzzle, and I picked this grid because it seemed like the most doable option. The four big clusters of black squares really help the constructor. They are like low word count "training wheels."

I started this puzzle in the northeast with MOMJEANS and then spiraled counterclockwise finishing in the middle. The last 20% of the puzzle took me about ten times as long to finish as the first 80%. The strain is evident with the EAPOE, SATANS, RATINE stack, but overall I can live with it (and E.A. Poe is much more widely used than I first thought).

The lynchpin in the whole thing is MEMORYHOLE, which, to my knowledge, is making its crossword debut. I had MEMORY???? for the longest time and kept cycling through various options (e.g., MEMORYCARD, MEMORYLANE), but couldn't get anything to work right. Then one night I was working on the puzzle listening to Dan Savage's "Savage Lovecast," and a woman called Dan saying she had a one-off affair, asking if she should tell her husband about it. Dan told her that if she thought she would never do it again then she should not tell him and instead she should slide it down her "memory hole." How serendipitous! Who knew marital infidelities could aid the construction of crossword puzzles?

Truth be told, I don't love the super staircase layout of this grid, but as a changeup to the typical long-stack themeless grid I think it works pretty well. Plus, it's got LETHERCRY in it, so I just gave everybody between the ages of 35 and 45 a Hootie and the Blowfish earworm for the day. You're welcome.

Jeff Chen notes: Cool-looking pattern of black squares! I don't personally like seeing too many black squares in a themeless, which triggers my ... more
Jeff Chen notes:

Cool-looking pattern of black squares! I don't personally like seeing too many black squares in a themeless, which triggers my constructor's brain into realizing how much easier any extras (cheaters) make a grid to fill, but Damon strikes a nice balance. The SW to NE diagonal lines are aesthetically pleasing.

WILLA CATHER

My constructor's brain also triggers when it notices long stairsteps of 6-letter entries — that's so tough to do well. It was a pleasant surprise to see the upper half, what with TEX MEX, MEDUSA, LO MEIN, MATHIS all worked in. Yes, it required a STER and the I'm-not-quite-sure-that's-legit TILERS, but those are minor prices for all the great material.

The opposite section didn't come out quite as nicely, what with the DOTERS / SAVERS combination. I don't mind the latter much, since it's perfectly fine as [Life ___], but there aren't many ways you can clue that. In conjunction with TILERS, the trio stands out to me. And check out all the Ss and Es along the diagonal (end of DOTERS, COVENS, RATINE, etc.). That is fine, just not super exciting.

I really like what Damon did with the long answers, even more so given that they're weaved right into these difficult stairsteps of 6s. Great answers in WILLA CATHER (author of "O, Pioneers!") crossing TOTAL IDIOT, and Orwell's MEMORY HOLE concept crossing SATIN SHEETS. All four of them are fantastic.

It's also very tough to "turn the corner" with triple-stacked answers, so Damon does really well with MEANS IT / MOM JEANS / MARMADUKE intersecting SAUCE PANS / INKSTONE / TSETSES. That last one isn't great — usually I hear it as "tsetse flies" — but five out of six is darn good in this arrangement.

And on the other side, LETHER CRY looked bizarre. Took me forever to figure out the parsing, LET HER CRY! Along with IN CAHOOTS, that corner wasn't too shabby.

Two clues you might have missed:

  • [Produces heat?] is a clever way of hinting at DRAWS, "heat" being slang for guns.
  • [Guards on the gridiron] made me think of a noun, i.e. OFFENSIVE LINE or something. Love the misdirect from a lineman to a cornerback, the clue actually getting at the verb, COVERS.
JimH notes: This grid pattern has only been used once before, 18 years ago.
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© 2016, The New York TimesNo. 0326 ( 24,245 )
Across Down
1. Produces heat? : DRAWS
6. Isn't fooling : MEANSIT
13. Contents of a bag behind a mound : ROSIN
14. What some women are waist-high in : MOMJEANS
15. "The Coming of Arthur," e.g. : IDYLL
16. Fictional dog owned by the Winslow family : MARMADUKE
17. Be of the opinion : FEEL
18. Fajitas and such : TEXMEX
19. Winter hours in Kan. : CST
20. Big dip : TOTALIDIOT
22. Gig composition : SETS
23. One with a supporting role : COLUMN
24. "Hop-Frog" author, for short : EAPOE
25. Suburb of San Diego : LAMESA
26. "___ Mistress" (1982 horror film) : SATANS
27. Latin word usually shortened to "c." : CETERA
28. Rough, loosely woven fabric : RATINE
29. Crooner with the 1978 platinum album "You Light Up My Life" : MATHIS
30. Groups usually of 13 : COVENS
31. Unhealthily light : ASHEN
32. Grandparents, often : DOTERS
33. Hip attachment? : STER
34. Mechanism for making things disappear in "1984" : MEMORYHOLE
38. Fraternal patriotic org. : SAR
39. Guards on the gridiron : COVERS
40. Final menu option, maybe : EXIT
41. Like conspirators : INCAHOOTS
43. Street with an office : DELLA
44. 458 and 488 on the road : FERRARIS
45. Listing : ATILT
46. Up a tree : STYMIED
47. Arthur Ashe Courage Award and others : ESPYS
1. Sight after a blizzard : DRIFT
2. What calves may get caught in : RODEO
3. Hitherto : ASYET
4. Pioneering woman in American literature? : WILLACATHER
5. Staple for sketches, for short : SNL
6. Many a West Jordan resident : MORMON
7. Irish revolutionary Robert : EMMET
8. Brand of lemon dish liquid : AJAX
9. Jimbo's sidekick on "South Park" : NED
10. Williams-Sonoma line : SAUCEPANS
11. Calligrapher's grinding mortar : INKSTONE
12. Frightful little suckers : TSETSES
14. You can't go over them : MAXIMA
16. Petrifying figure : MEDUSA
18. Certain home subcontractors : TILERS
21. Alternative to chow fun : LOMEIN
22. Elegant surroundings for kings and queens? : SATINSHEETS
24. Bistro : EATERY
25. 1995 top 10 hit for Hootie & the Blowfish : LETHERCRY
26. Life ___ : SAVERS
27. One of a pair that clicks : CASTANET
28. Whirlybird whirlers : ROTORS
29. Clusters of mountains : MASSIFS
30. Noted 1950s backup band : COMETS
32. Bereft : DEVOID
34. The "me" in "Roger & Me" : MOORE
35. Yellow-flowered primrose : OXLIP
36. Drug company founder of 1876 : LILLY
37. Any of les Nations Unies : ETATS
39. Latte option : CHAI
42. Get ready to fight, maybe : ARM
43. "Lost" actor Daniel ___ Kim : DAE

Answer summary: 4 unique to this puzzle, 1 debuted here and reused later, 1 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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