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New York Times, Saturday, March 31, 2018

Author:
Kevin G. Der
Editor:
Will Shortz
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403/12/200710/13/20182
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122124118
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1.65865
Kevin G. Der

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 72, Blocks: 33 Missing: {JQX} This is puzzle # 39 for Mr. Der. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Kevin G. Der notes:
It's unclear to me how difficult it will be for solvers to grasp the theme, but I think two things will help: the clue for 19-A pins ... read more

It's unclear to me how difficult it will be for solvers to grasp the theme, but I think two things will help: the clue for 19-A pins the answer fairly directly, and each section has answers going down or across in the normal direction which serve as toeholds. To make these toeholds more gettable, the clues are quite straightforward for a Saturday puzzle, and otherwise I suspect the puzzle would be near impossible to complete. Some of the more oblique clues were changed in the interest of solvability — for example, "Carnival offerings" for STATEROOMS and "One imagining a better future for herself" for DREAMER. Once the theme is revealed, keeping track of which rows and columns are reversed and entering those words backwards adds a twist to the typical themeless experience.

According to my notes, this puzzle sets my personal record for length in the queue — it was accepted in the summer of 2014 at the same time as the puzzle that ran on October 15, 2015. I think it's typical for creators of all types to look back on old work and wish for a lot of changes. That's the case here. In terms of grid design, I would have preferred having four theme entries going in each of the possible directions, but the pair of length 13 makes this difficult because they necessarily intersect the other pair. The 13's also necessitate a quad stack in the corners which can be mitigated with three sections, but which results in a high word count. I'm also not sure why I chose stacks of seven in each corner rather than eight and six, which I suspect could have resulted in a livelier grid.

Jeff Chen notes:
I imagine that some people will LOVE this puzzle and some will HATE it. We've had some puzzles where some entries are reversed. We've ... read more

I imagine that some people will LOVE this puzzle and some will HATE it. We've had some puzzles where some entries are reversed. We've even had some where every other row is reversed. I don't think I've ever seen one where every other row AND every other column are reversed. Talk about melting the minds of solvers everywhere!

I liked most of the thematic material. ONE WAY STREETS was a good descriptor of the puzzle. GOING IN ALL DIRECTIONS, too. TOTAL GRIDLOCK, though — don't all crosswords exhibit total gridlock? Interlock and all, yeah? I love it as a phrase, but I don't think it does a good job describing the conceit.

Okay, maybe there was TOTAL GRIDLOCK in my head as I tried nearly in vain to even crack open one corner of the puzzle.

Some awesome fill: HOT ZONE, STATEROOMS, DEMITASSES. And not much gluey fill for the level of construction difficulty, just some minor ROBO IDNO dings. If it hadn't been for the cringey ETUI, I would have given Kevin a gold star for near-impeccable craftsmanship. He has written his own software, so it's easier for him to automate rule-breaking grids like this, but it's still impressive.

I understand Will's decision to run this on a Saturday. I had a few brain eruptions during the solving process, gray matter leaking out my ears. Kevin delights in making puzzles that are harder than the hardest of hardies, so I think he wildly succeeded in today.

It's such a neat and creative rule-breaker that I would have preferred to get it on a Thursday, with the clues GREATLY eased up. It would have made for a delightful a-ha moment, such a tricky delight. And that way, I would have gotten the themeless I've come to expect on Saturdays. Give me my hard themeless challenge!

I worry that some (many? most?) solvers will just give up on this one and not appreciate the great idea and strong execution here. Puzzles are meant to be taken on as a challenge and ultimately solved — not meant to beat the solver senseless and leave him/her to bleed. I probably would have given up if I didn't want to write about every single NYT puzzle. Just too darn hard by a long shot.

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© 2018, The New York TimesNo. 0331 ( 24,980 )

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Students & seniors
Across
1
Insects of the species Myrmica rubra : REDANTS
8
Kitchen scrubbers : SOSPADS
15
"What are my other choices? There are none" : IHAVETO
16
Food flavorer that's not supposed to be eaten : BAYLEAF
17
Try to hit with : THROWAT
18
"My treat" : ITSONME
19
Most crosstown thoroughfares in Manhattan ... with a hint to this puzzle's theme : ONEWAYSTREETS
21
___ Daily News (paper since 1878) : YALE
22
Employers of masseurs : SPAS
25
Jeweler's creation : INSET
29
Start of some futuristic toy names : ROBO
33
Short while? : THO
34
Fed : TMAN
35
With 41-Across, proceeding willy-nilly : GOINGINALL
38
Awakening : AROUSAL
40
Subject for immigration legislation : DREAMER
41
See 35-Across : DIRECTIONS
43
Back on the job? : ABET
44
Hang time, to a snowboarder : AIR
45
Like plays about plays, say : META
46
Physicist's proposal : MODEL
47
Headdress decoration : BEAD
49
Sparkle : ELAN
52
Nightmarish Manhattan traffic situation ... or a possible title for this puzzle : TOTALGRIDLOCK
60
Progress : INROADS
62
Access, as a computer network : LOGINTO
63
Place of danger : HOTZONE
64
Yogurt topping : GRANOLA
65
Goes against a proposal : VOTESNO
66
Chamomile alternative : SAGETEA
Down
1
Johnny nicknamed "The Godfather of Rhythm and Blues" : OTIS
2
Comparison word : THAN
3
Actor McGregor : EWAN
4
Profess : AVOW
5
Started to cry, with "up" : TEARED
6
___ alcohol : ETHYL
7
Lady ___, first female member of the British Parliament : ASTOR
8
Yanks' foes : REBS
9
Woman with a title : DAME
10
Artist with the 7x platinum album "A Day Without Rain" : ENYA
11
Emulates Lady Macbeth : PLOTS
12
Small coffee cups : DEMITASSES
13
Morsel a horse'll eat : OAT
14
Provisos : IFS
20
Banks on a runway : TYRA
23
Holden's younger sister in "The Catcher in the Rye" : PHOEBE
24
Slow and stately compositions : LARGOS
25
Aquafina competitor : DASANI
26
Realm of Queen Lucy the Valiant : NARNIA
27
Private ship cabins : STATEROOMS
28
Needle case : ETUI
30
"___ idea!" : IDNO
31
Frequent tweeter : BIRD
32
The "I" of Constantine I? : EGO
35
Fancy collar material : LACE
36
Poker giveaway : TELL
37
Turkey club? : NATO
39
Peaks: Abbr. : MTS
42
Tolled : RANG
46
What bicyclists might ride in : TANDEM
48
Hooch : BOOZE
50
Ancient shopping place : AGORA
51
Reading unit : LITRE
53
___ law : TORT
54
Part of A.D. : ANNO
55
Bridal wear : VEIL
56
Bank annoyance : LINE
57
Rush-rush : GOGO
58
Pepsi, e.g. : COLA
59
Kind of vaccine : SALK
60
Honey ___ (Post cereal) : OHS
61
Get into : DON

Answer summary: 4 unique to this puzzle, 2 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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