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New York Times, Friday, March 6, 2015

Author:
David Phillips
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
207/24/20148/5/20171
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1021277
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.57000
David Phillips

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 70, Blocks: 29 Missing: {JQV} This is puzzle # 5 for Mr. Phillips. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
David Phillips notes:
Before submitting crosswords to the NYT and other venues, I tried filling a number of what I call 'practice grids' to empirically find ... read more

Before submitting crosswords to the NYT and other venues, I tried filling a number of what I call "practice grids" to empirically find the limits of my fill capabilities. Many of these practice grids still (rightly so) remain unclued and unsubmitted mostly because my early fill attempts were not up to par. Despite the "wasted" effort, this practice served as a valuable learning tool and helped form the foundation for one of my personal constructing mantras: YAHOO (which I'm using as the backronym You Always Have Other Options). A revision can be as simple as a cheater square or as involved as a total revamp; regardless of the way one finds it, great fill always waits for those resourceful enough to seek it out.

Today's puzzle, a revamp of one of my "practice grids," serves as a nice example of YAHOO. In my "practice grid," I tried to fill the black square pattern in this grid to mixed results. After some analysis, I felt that the fill was a bit heavy with proper names and crosswordese-y stuff, e.g. TARTE, O-CEL-O, NEN, LEONORE etc.; however, I did like the stack in the NE corner and used it as a starting point for another iteration. It was at this point that I added two symmetrical cheater squares to (1) help eliminate LEONORE and (2) segment the grid just a skosh to allow for a little more fill flexibility.

If the filled NW section, particularly GAHAN, NESS, and the dreaded EMAGS (inelegant in the singular and just plain awkward in the plural), of that iteration had not bugged me so much, you would have likely solved this second grid. However, even after submitting that version and receiving Will's acceptance email, I still tinkered with the NW until I eventually found the fill you see in the published version. Incidentally, this new NW, which contained the word ONES, also meant that I needed to scour for a new SE (since the SE section in the previous version had the entry ONE AM). Fortunately, because I was only dealing with triple 8 stacks, that section wasn't too difficult to rework.

Looking back, the SW section, in particular SML, ABOU, and MEDI, stands out as a slight sore thumb, but I hope my extra efforts in other parts of the puzzle still make for a delightful solve.

Lastly, in case you're curious, Will/Joel didn't really change many of the clues this time around. I counted at least forty clues that went completely unchanged and only eleven new clues that went in a totally different direction from my original submission. Not all of the unchanged clues are "originals," but I will gladly take credit for 15A, 16A, 17A, the 33A/12D combo, 37A, 4D, 14D, and 46D. However, IMO, Will/Joel take the cake with 25D's clue. Until next time, YAHOO(ooohoooh)!

Jeff Chen notes:
Some beautiful clues today: [Upper cut?] is perfect for PRIME RIB, playing on 'upper' as 'higher quality.' TENURE is a form of ... read more

Some beautiful clues today:

  • [Upper cut?] is perfect for PRIME RIB, playing on "upper" as "higher quality."
  • TENURE is a form of [Fire safety?], in that getting TENURE gives you keeps you from getting fired.
  • PET NAMES are indeed [Love handles?], when you think about "handles" as another word for "nicknames."
  • [Part of the Hollywood crowd?] had me stumped for the longest time. Perfect way to brighten up EXTRA, an otherwise neutral word.

It's rare that we get quite so much fun wordplay in a themeless. Much appreciated.

Beam me up a good deal, Scotty!

Construction involves so many trade-offs. The NW and SE regions run the risk of stranding the solver, since they both have just one way in. But it's precisely this quality that makes construction easier.

Take the SE, where the MUTT / TRESS region doesn't have to connect to anything above. That may seem like a minor issue, but it's not. If even one square opened above it (i.e. the black square between TOME and MEDAL were changed to a white square), the difficulty level goes up by a factor of maybe two. It's a tough call — as a constructor you want both 1.) the solver not to get stranded and 2.) the fill to be sparkly and clean. Those two goals are often diametrically opposed.

Given the difficulty level of having more wide-open sections with two ways in, it's easy to see why the SW region had some of the rockiest bits. It's a beautiful triple-stack (if only the PRICELINE Negotiator had been invoked) but having to connect to the rest of the puzzle in two directions forces ABOU up above and MEDI / SML below.

The difficulty level makes me really admire David's construction in the NE. Having to fill the triple stack of LIZ TAYLOR / ATARI CORP / SYCAMORES such that it connected around with both the EYE COLOR and the DOTARD regions is admirable. Excellent construction work.

1
A
2
F
3
C
4
S
5
O
6
U
7
T
8
H
9
T
10
O
11
K
12
L
13
A
14
S
15
M
A
R
I
N
A
R
A
16
S
A
N
I
T
Y
17
P
R
I
M
E
R
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B
18
P
R
O
Z
A
C
19
L
I
M
O
S
20
T
I
21
N
22
E
X
T
R
A
23
E
S
P
N
24
D
O
T
A
25
R
D
26
A
I
M
27
T
E
N
U
R
E
28
T
Y
C
O
29
S
30
P
31
R
32
A
W
L
33
E
Y
E
34
C
O
L
O
R
35
I
R
O
B
O
T
36
N
O
M
O
R
E
37
D
I
N
O
S
A
38
U
39
R
40
T
W
E
R
P
S
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E
C
R
U
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C
R
E
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P
E
S
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S
E
E
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C
O
N
C
U
R
46
M
47
U
48
T
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T
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A
L
A
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M
O
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S
E
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L
E
M
U
R
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L
I
G
E
R
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S
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I
T
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S
A
D
A
T
E
58
A
N
A
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E
M
59
P
E
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N
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M
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60
D
E
N
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A
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61
T
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S
© 2015, The New York TimesNo. 0306 ( 23,859 )
Across
1
Colts' division, for short : AFCSOUTH
9
"Murder in the Kitchen" writer : TOKLAS
15
Dip for mozzarella sticks : MARINARA
16
"A cozy lie," per Susan Sontag : SANITY
17
Upper cut? : PRIMERIB
18
Paxil alternative : PROZAC
19
Line at a movie premiere, maybe : LIMOS
20
Fancy food container : TIN
22
Part of the Hollywood crowd? : EXTRA
23
FiveThirtyEight owner : ESPN
24
Senile sort : DOTARD
26
Fire starter? : AIM
27
Fire safety? : TENURE
28
Toy company acquired by Mattel in 1997 : TYCO
29
Urban phenomenon : SPRAWL
33
Violet, for 12-Down : EYECOLOR
35
Classic work of fiction that popularized the Three Laws : IROBOT
36
"That's enough!" : NOMORE
37
One unable to adapt : DINOSAUR
40
Squirts : TWERPS
41
Almond-ish hue : ECRU
42
Bistro orders : CREPES
44
Lead (out) : SEE
45
Be in harmony : CONCUR
46
Labradoodle, e.g. : MUTT
50
Budget alternative : ALAMO
52
In place : SET
53
King Julien of the "Madagascar" films, e.g. : LEMUR
54
Crosses in a zoo : LIGERS
56
"I'll see you then!" : ITSADATE
58
Garland of old : ANADEM
59
Love handles? : PETNAMES
60
First of the five stages of grief : DENIAL
61
Schwarzenegger movie with an oxymoronic title : TRUELIES
Down
1
Enough : AMPLE
2
Actress Anna of "Mom" : FARIS
3
Form ringlets in : CRIMP
4
Bespectacled chipmunk : SIMON
5
Register space : ONES
6
Grp. once led by Nasser : UAR
7
Moon photographed by Voyager 2 in 1989 : TRITON
8
Regular : HABITUE
9
Unit of volume: Abbr. : TSP
10
Stroked : OARED
11
Washington's first secretary of war : KNOX
12
"Success is a great deodorant" speaker, informally : LIZTAYLOR
13
Onetime 2600 Jr. maker : ATARICORP
14
Divine trees in the "Book of the Dead" : SYCAMORES
21
Hardly : NARY
24
Fast-food chain with the slogan "Unfreshing believable" : DELTACO
25
Come again? : REENTER
27
Pairings : TWOS
28
"Personally ..." : TOME
29
Alternative to soup at a restaurant : SIDESALAD
30
Expedia competitor : PRICELINE
31
Former Air America radio host : RONREAGAN
32
"___ Ben Adhem" : ABOU
34
Daunts : COWS
38
Some Bronze Age artifacts : URNS
39
It often says "Thank You" : RECEIPT
43
It helps when you get down to the short strokes : PUTTER
45
Jazz fusion artist with an "Elektric Band" : COREA
46
It's an honor : MEDAL
47
Supposed "fifth taste" : UMAMI
48
Alexander the Great, to Aristotle : TUTEE
49
Lock : TRESS
51
Start to care? : MEDI
53
Bike ___ : LANE
55
Letters on some racks : SML
57
Bassist Cook of Creedence Clearwater Revival : STU

Answer summary: 2 unique to this puzzle.

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