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# New York Times, Friday, March 6, 2015

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

## 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 ... more
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 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 ... more
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 [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.

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.

 1A 2F 3C 4S 5O 6U 7T 8H 9T 10O 11K 12L 13A 14S 15M A R I N A R A 16S A N I T Y 17P R I M E R I B 18P R O Z A C 19L I M O S 20T I 21N 22E X T R A 23E S P N 24D O T A 25R D 26A I M 27T E N U R E 28T Y C O 29S 30P 31R 32A W L 33E Y E 34C O L O R 35I R O B O T 36N O M O R E 37D I N O S A 38U 39R 40T W E R P S 41E C R U 42C R E 43P E S 44S E E 45C O N C U R 46M 47U 48T 49T 50A L A 51M O 52S E T 53L E M U R 54L I G E R 55S 56I T 57S A D A T E 58A N A D E M 59P E T N A M E S 60D E N I A L 61T R U E L I E S
© 2015, The New York TimesNo. 0306 ( 23,859 )
 Across Down 1. Colts' division, for short : AFCSOUTH9. "Murder in the Kitchen" writer : TOKLAS15. Dip for mozzarella sticks : MARINARA16. "A cozy lie," per Susan Sontag : SANITY17. Upper cut? : PRIMERIB18. Paxil alternative : PROZAC19. Line at a movie premiere, maybe : LIMOS20. Fancy food container : TIN22. Part of the Hollywood crowd? : EXTRA23. FiveThirtyEight owner : ESPN24. Senile sort : DOTARD26. Fire starter? : AIM27. Fire safety? : TENURE28. Toy company acquired by Mattel in 1997 : TYCO29. Urban phenomenon : SPRAWL33. Violet, for 12-Down : EYECOLOR35. Classic work of fiction that popularized the Three Laws : IROBOT36. "That's enough!" : NOMORE37. One unable to adapt : DINOSAUR40. Squirts : TWERPS41. Almond-ish hue : ECRU42. Bistro orders : CREPES44. Lead (out) : SEE45. Be in harmony : CONCUR46. Labradoodle, e.g. : MUTT50. Budget alternative : ALAMO52. In place : SET53. King Julien of the "Madagascar" films, e.g. : LEMUR54. Crosses in a zoo : LIGERS56. "I'll see you then!" : ITSADATE58. Garland of old : ANADEM59. Love handles? : PETNAMES60. First of the five stages of grief : DENIAL61. Schwarzenegger movie with an oxymoronic title : TRUELIES 1. Enough : AMPLE2. Actress Anna of "Mom" : FARIS3. Form ringlets in : CRIMP4. Bespectacled chipmunk : SIMON5. Register space : ONES6. Grp. once led by Nasser : UAR7. Moon photographed by Voyager 2 in 1989 : TRITON8. Regular : HABITUE9. Unit of volume: Abbr. : TSP10. Stroked : OARED11. Washington's first secretary of war : KNOX12. "Success is a great deodorant" speaker, informally : LIZTAYLOR13. Onetime 2600 Jr. maker : ATARICORP14. Divine trees in the "Book of the Dead" : SYCAMORES21. Hardly : NARY24. Fast-food chain with the slogan "Unfreshing believable" : DELTACO25. Come again? : REENTER27. Pairings : TWOS28. "Personally ..." : TOME29. Alternative to soup at a restaurant : SIDESALAD30. Expedia competitor : PRICELINE31. Former Air America radio host : RONREAGAN32. "___ Ben Adhem" : ABOU34. Daunts : COWS38. Some Bronze Age artifacts : URNS39. It often says "Thank You" : RECEIPT43. It helps when you get down to the short strokes : PUTTER45. Jazz fusion artist with an "Elektric Band" : COREA46. It's an honor : MEDAL47. Supposed "fifth taste" : UMAMI48. Alexander the Great, to Aristotle : TUTEE49. Lock : TRESS51. Start to care? : MEDI53. Bike ___ : LANE55. Letters on some racks : SML57. Bassist Cook of Creedence Clearwater Revival : STU

Answer summary: 2 unique to this puzzle.

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