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New York Times, Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Author:
Evan Birnholz
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
810/3/201310/23/20150
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
0001124
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.69100
Evan Birnholz

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 78, Blocks: 36 Missing: {QX} This is puzzle # 3 for Mr. Birnholz. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Evan Birnholz notes:
When I built the original version of this puzzle in late July of 2012, I was only a couple of weeks away from getting married and ... read more

When I built the original version of this puzzle in late July of 2012, I was only a couple of weeks away from getting married and starting grad school. I figured that I would be too busy during the school year to keep building puzzles, so I tried to finish it as soon as I could. Unfortunately, I was not satisfied with the resulting fill by the time September rolled around, and I put the puzzle away for nearly a year before revising and submitting it. I highly advise against that, since there are so many talented constructors out there and there's always a risk that one of them will swoop in and take that idea from you before you get the chance.

I'm glad that no one beat me to the punch on this one. To me, the phrase I HAVE NO CLUE is a really good mantra for the entire concept of crosswords. Anyone who has ever tried solving a puzzle has probably uttered or thought those words after getting stumped by a tricky clue, so I wanted to build a literal theme on that idea. And to my knowledge, this is the first time that phrase appears as an answer in a major crossword — to say nothing of the phrase HELL IF I KNOW, which I thought would be just sassy enough that the Times might change it to HECK IF I KNOW.

One other note: Will changed a few of my letters in the space between 34- and 45-Across. I did not agree with the revision. You can see my original fill in that section — I'm biased because I'm a big basketball fan and think that Carmelo Anthony's nickname 'MELO is a fun entry, though now I wish I had submitted this fill in the first place. Regardless, I do have a lot of respect for Will as an editor and I'm very appreciative that he decided to run one of my puzzles so soon after my last one. He and I had a good conversation via e-mail about that small section and I'm glad that he has always been receptive to hearing constructor feedback. In the end, it's a small section of the grid and I'm still very excited to see my work in the Times.

Jeff Chen notes:
Fantastic revealer today, one that made me Wish I Thought of That (WITT). I HAVE NO CLUE is such a nice in-the-language phrase which ... read more

Fantastic revealer today, one that made me Wish I Thought of That (WITT). I HAVE NO CLUE is such a nice in-the-language phrase which 1.) describes a quiet shrug and 2.) gives a perfect reason for leaving the themers unclued. I think this puzzle could have been done simply as all the themers unclued, i.e. "phrases which are equivalent to someone being left speechless," but the revealer is spot on and adds a great level of cleverness.

Evan's part of a new generation of constructors, bringing us into the digital age with freshies like GCHAT. It's rare that constructors can turn a five-letter entry into something cool, but this totally qualifies in my book. I don't personally use The Gchat (like The Google) because I find it hard to concentrate on anything when IMs are popping up. There's also the little reason that it scares me. I don't like my computer talking to me, thank you very much.

I had a little hitch during my solve in that I and ME were repeated in a 2/2/1 pattern, making it feel a bit uneven. Nitpicky, but I was left wondering if there weren't other appropriate phrases that didn't use either, or if it would have been better to leave out one of the I phrases (so it was a 1/2/1 pattern), or if all of the themers used I instead of ME.

HELL IF I KNOW sure is great though, reminding me of the old nugget, "What do you get when you cross a pachyderm and a rhinoceros?"*

Plenty of juicy fill, the JET SET, POKEMON (I may or may not have a stuffed Psyduck), STONE AGE, GET EVEN, even HEY YOU stuff really nice, adding a lot to my solve. It's offset by a modicum of partials and OTO/OTOS and ERI TU and MUS, but overall, the fill enhanced my solving experience. Good trade-off.

*Elephino.

Don't worry, I'm not quitting my day job.

1
C
2
H
3
E
4
G
5
R
6
A
7
M
8
S
9
E
10
P
11
S
12
O
13
M
14
H
E
M
15
C
E
L
I
A
16
R
O
U
T
E
17
A
Y
E
18
H
E
L
L
I
19
F
I
K
N
O
W
20
M
Y
R
21
I
A
D
22
D
A
T
E
S
23
P
O
I
N
T
24
I
25
M
S
T
U
M
P
26
E
27
D
28
S
U
L
K
29
A
D
I
O
S
30
O
O
Z
E
31
S
32
H
R
E
D
33
I
N
T
R
A
34
G
35
A
36
S
37
B
E
A
T
38
S
39
M
E
40
S
A
D
41
O
U
T
42
G
O
43
E
L
U
D
44
E
45
O
T
O
E
46
A
47
E
R
O
S
48
D
49
E
50
A
51
R
52
D
O
N
T
53
A
S
K
M
E
54
F
I
R
M
A
55
E
E
R
I
E
56
J
E
T
S
E
T
57
I
58
H
A
V
E
N
O
59
C
60
L
U
E
61
A
C
T
62
R
O
G
E
T
63
U
P
E
N
D
64
T
H
E
65
K
E
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N
E
66
T
A
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K
S
67
Z
E
D
© 2014, The New York TimesNo. 0305 ( 23,493 )
Across
1
Beret-sporting rebel, familiarly : CHE
4
Nutrition label units : GRAMS
9
Town with an eponymous derby : EPSOM
14
Bottom line? : HEM
15
Cuban salsa singer Cruz : CELIA
16
Wide receiver's pattern : ROUTE
17
Assent on the Hill : AYE
18
- : HELLIFIKNOW
20
More than a lot : MYRIAD
22
eHarmony users' hopes : DATES
23
Graph marking : POINT
24
- : IMSTUMPED
28
Act the sore loser, say : SULK
29
"Ciao, amigo!" : ADIOS
30
Move like the Blob : OOZE
31
Render unreadable, in a way : SHRED
33
Prefix with mural : INTRA
34
Many a noble element : GAS
37
- : BEATSME
40
Bummed out : SAD
41
Money spent : OUTGO
43
Avoid, as a tag : ELUDE
45
Siouan tribesman : OTOE
46
Flying machines, quaintly : AEROS
48
Letter starter : DEAR
52
- : DONTASKME
54
Terra ___ : FIRMA
55
Like "Goosebumps" tales : EERIE
56
High-flying socialites : JETSET
57
Phrase that defines (and describes) 18-, 24-, 37- and 52-Across : IHAVENOCLUE
61
Create some drama : ACT
62
Reference work next to Bartlett's, maybe : ROGET
63
Flip : UPEND
64
Not just "a" : THE
65
Nancy Drew creator Carolyn : KEENE
66
Aquaria : TANKS
67
Last letter in "Boz" : ZED
Down
1
Trophy winners : CHAMPS
2
"Psst!" : HEYYOU
3
"Kick it up a notch" TV chef : EMERIL
4
Popular instant-messaging app : GCHAT
5
One of two in an English horn : REED
6
What a gimel means on a dreidel : ALL
7
"Cool" amount : MIL
8
Dictated, as a parent might : SAIDSO
9
Aria title that means "It was you" : ERITU
10
Late 1990s fad : POKEMON
11
They have umbras and penumbras : SUNSPOTS
12
Ear-related prefix : OTO
13
Sound from an Abyssinian : MEW
19
Domino often played? : FATS
21
Tattoo parlor supply : INKS
24
It may be bounced off someone : IDEA
25
Like half of all congressional elections : MIDTERM
26
Cornell of Cornell University : EZRA
27
Out of juice : DEAD
29
Word often abbreviated to its middle letter, in texts : ARE
32
"Game of Thrones" network : HBO
33
Roadside bomb, briefly : IED
34
Tasty : GOOD
35
Prefix with pilot : AUTO
36
Fred and Barney's time : STONEAGE
38
Plum relative : SLOE
39
Conservatory student's maj. : MUS
42
Exact revenge : GETEVEN
44
Mark one's words? : EDIT
46
Words clarifying a spelling : ASIN
47
Barely make : EKEOUT
49
Like Splenda vis-à-vis sugar : ERSATZ
50
Don of "Trading Places" : AMECHE
51
Squealed on, with "out" : RATTED
53
Glacial ridge : ARETE
54
Satellite broadcasts : FEEDS
56
Kind of mail or bond : JUNK
57
Rub the wrong way : IRK
58
Furrow maker : HOE
59
Pro that may be replaced by TurboTax : CPA
60
"Total Recall" director Wiseman : LEN

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

Found bugs or have suggestions?