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New York Times, Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Author:
John Guzzetta
Editor:
Will Shortz
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2010/9/20129/14/20184
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1322453
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1.63100
John Guzzetta

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 69, Blocks: 35 Missing: {GQXZ} Spans: 1 Grid has mirror symmetry. This is puzzle # 8 for Mr. Guzzetta. Jeff Chen's Puzzle of the Week pick. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
John Guzzetta notes:
The PRESERVES, JELLY, and MARMALADE themers are pretty much inflexible. So it was annoying that JAM, the one theme entry that had a ... read more

The PRESERVES, JELLY, and MARMALADE themers are pretty much inflexible. So it was annoying that JAM, the one theme entry that had a few options, always seemed to land on an even letter count (TRAFFIC JAM, PEARL JAM, etc). Thus I had to go with a shorter theme entry (SLOW JAM) which introduces some confusion with 22-Across. But hey, the resulting pattern allowed me to focus on long fill. It was only after I finished that I realized it's a 69-worder.

Any resemblance to a space invader or Disney's Reluctant Dragon is purely coincidental.

I clued 41-Across (EPT) as "family planning brand" but I guess that didn't fly.

Jeff Chen notes:
I liked so much about this puzzle. The theme is nothing to write home about — phrases ending in sweet spreads, i.e. PRESERVES, ... read more

I liked so much about this puzzle. The theme is nothing to write home about — phrases ending in sweet spreads, i.e. PRESERVES, JELLY, JAM, and MARMALADE — but John hid them pretty well using different(ish) meanings. SLOW JAM was my favorite, and MOON JELLY was fun too.

Don't recall LADY MARMALADE? Think of the "Moulin Rouge" soundtrack!

I enjoy seeing constructors push themselves, and John's employment of a mirror-symmetry, 69-word grid is appreciated. All those long slots allowed John to work in EYETEETH, PILASTERS, BERYLLIUM (I was kicking myself for not being able to remember element number 4!), and the curious VOLTE-FACE. I had never heard of VOLTE-FACE, but it's such an interesting word. Plus, that trap of plunking in ABOUT FACE was fun to extract myself from.

Now, I don't particularly like the sets of three black squares in the SW / SE corners; inelegant visuals. Those could have been eliminated by moving SLOW JAM and LADY MARMALADE up a row, which would have also elegantly put exactly two rows of space between each pair of themers. But I can understand why John did it — having as much space between themers as possible usually makes for more flexibility in filling.

And there were a few bits of crossword glue — APAT, IRATER (more irate, yeah?), EPT — but John's original cluing of EPT to the pregnancy test, makes it much better for me (I wonder if Will felt it wasn't a big enough brand?). EPT, as in the opposite of INEPT … yeesh. I imagine some will find that fun, though.

Finally, the cluing made this such an enjoyable Wednesday solve:

  • In business-speak, PIVOTing is code for "having to find a business model once you realize your current one is dog poo."
  • BOISE is a place where you'd need an ID — abbr. for Idaho — to get your mail delivered properly.
  • In the world of middle grade writing, being ORPHANED is the source of many inside jokes. Kind of macabre and an overused trope, but how better to put your main character in a situation where he/she is forced to play the hero role, unable to rely on mom/dad's assistance?

Overall, such a fun Wednesday puzzle, giving me much more of a workout than usual.

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© 2016, The New York TimesNo. 0309 ( 24,228 )
Across
1. Gift from 1-Down : SLED
5. See red? : OWE
8. Took a turn on "Wheel of Fortune" : SPUN
12. "The Hares and the Frogs" writer : AESOP
14. Death ___ : RAY
15. Place where you need an ID to get mail? : BOISE
16. Wildlife refuges : NATUREPRESERVES
19. Robin Hood's target : THERICH
20. Fatigue : TIREOUT
21. Word that becomes its own synonym when its first letter is moved to the end : AYE
22. Curvaceous : SHAPELY
24. Pulls a certain prank on, informally : TPS
25. Translucent sea creature that drifts with the current : MOONJELLY
27. Partner of Simon and Theodore, in cartoons : ALVIN
30. "Dulce et Decorum ___" (Wilfred Owen poem) : EST
31. Jeweler's tool : LOUPE
35. Go on either side of : BOOKEND
37. Kind of turn : HAIRPIN
39. Latin dance in 3/4 time : BOLERO
40. Colorado county or its seat : PUEBLO
41. Capable, jocularly : EPT
42. R&B/soul ballad : SLOWJAM
46. No-goodnik : RAT
47. Author Silverstein : SHEL
49. Crashed ignominiously : ATEIT
50. Beer purchase : CASE
51. "Thinking is the hardest work there is, which is probably the reason why ___ engage in it": Henry Ford : SOFEW
53. Miller who directed "Deadpool" : TIM
54. Readers of the Daily Mirror or the Sun, mainly : BRITS
55. #1 hit of 1975 and 2001 : LADYMARMALADE
58. Prohibition of strip mining, e.g. : ECOLAW
59. More angry : IRATER
60. Roman who originated the phrase "What fools these mortals be" : SENECA
61. Firmly plants : EMBEDS
Down
1. Noted gift giver : SANTA
2. Longtime Vermont senator : LEAHY
3. Woman's name that sounds like two French letters : ESTEE
4. Gloomy : DOUR
5. Like Jane Eyre or Harry Potter : ORPHANED
6. What polemology is the study of : WAR
7. Some canines : EYETEETH
8. Put out : SORE
9. Abrupt realignment of policy priorities : PIVOT
10. Deplete : USEUP
11. Egg containers : NESTS
13. Cons : PRISONERS
15. Fourth element on the periodic table : BERYLLIUM
17. Not an original thought : ECHO
18. Place to set a candle, maybe : SILL
23. Something to go out in? : PJS
25. Karaoke need : MIKE
26. Days long past : YORE
27. Mother figure : ABBESS
28. Legislative oversights : LOOPHOLES
29. Complete reversal : VOLTEFACE
32. Took to task : UPBRAIDED
33. Ornamental columns : PILASTERS
34. Online provider of study guides : ENOTES
36. The Big Easy : NOLA
38. Give ___ on the back : APAT
43. Ontario/Quebec border river : OTTAWA
44. Small dam : WEIR
45. Six-time Nascar champion Johnson : JIMMIE
48. Gave the wrong idea, say : LEDON
50. Shipping unit : CRATE
52. Noah of "Falling Skies" : WYLE
54. Talk, talk, talk : BLAB
56. Bub : MAC
57. Auxiliary group : ARM

Answer summary: 4 unique to this puzzle, 2 debuted here and reused later, 5 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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