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New York Times, Friday, April 1, 2016

Author: Peter Gordon
Editor: Will Shortz
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Peter Gordon
Puzzle of the Week

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 72, Blocks: 34 Missing: {JQVX} Spans: 4 This is puzzle # 97 for Mr. Gordon. Jeff Chen's Puzzle of the Week pick. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Peter Gordon notes: Having gone 13 years without writing a New York Times crossword, I was quite surprised when Will Shortz contacted me and asked me ... more
Peter Gordon notes:

Having gone 13 years without writing a New York Times crossword, I was quite surprised when Will Shortz contacted me and asked me to write one. After he revealed the reason, I was shocked. Perhaps I'm being a little harsh, but I think the newspaper executives who made this decision are being shortsighted and that the paper will lose many subscribers. Puzzle editors love symmetry, and Will said that since I wrote the first crossword under his editorship, he thought having me write the last one as well would make for a nice balance. You can imagine my eagerness at accepting the challenge.

After just a few minutes, I came up with the idea of breaking the news to the readers in the puzzle itself. Playing around with the phrasing for several hours, though, led to nothing that worked with symmetric lengths other than DUETOBUDGETCUTS, THENEWYORKTIMES, CROSSWORDPUZZLE, with no final line. Realizing that maybe I could write the penultimate puzzle, instead of the last one, was the key. If Will had something really special to run the final day, then my puzzle would work perfectly for the second-to-last day. Luckily, Will said he had just gotten a really special puzzle, so I played around some more and came up with WILLENDTOMORROW.

Figuring that this puzzle would be scrutinized closely, I wanted to keep the word count as low as a themeless, with no more than 72 words. Once I placed the four 15s in the grid I looked for problem areas. Only the ZZ of PUZZLE looked problematic, but that area ended up working just fine. Looking back at it now, months after I wrote it, my least favorite answers are EEN, RRS, and USS. Since it's a 72-worder with 60 theme squares, I can live with a few three-letter clunkers.

During the months between when I wrote this and when it was published, I was sworn to secrecy. According to some insiders who have seen tomorrow's puzzle and given some hints about it in some private puzzle-based chatrooms, it has a quintuple stack of 15s, is a double pangram, has 52 words with just 17 black squares, and all the answers are common with no partials, foreign words, or Roman numerals. You'll have to wait until tomorrow to see if you can trust everything you read on the Internet.

P.S. If you're interested, I have a subscription superhard crossword called Fireball Crosswords and a Kickstarter campaign going on right now for a not-so-hard news-based crossword.

Jeff Chen notes: An excellent construction from Peter, one of the best in the business. How fitting that he was chosen to tackle the penultimate NYT ... more
Jeff Chen notes:

An excellent construction from Peter, one of the best in the business. How fitting that he was chosen to tackle the penultimate NYT puzzle. I'm still in shock at the announcement buried within the grid. I suppose all good things must come to an end at some point.

CLOISONNE work — pretty!

Peter's puzzles tend to be a tad heavy on proper nouns for my taste, especially ones that some might consider esoteric. But this one is all good — Issa RAE was unfamiliar to me, but the crossings are all fair, and including "The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl" in the clue made me want to check that out.

Peter tackles a tough 72-word grid even though he has four 15-letter themers. That theme density is tough enough in a 78-word grid! He uses his black squares very wisely, breaking up the grid such that no one subsection requires him to fill a gigantic white space. There's not one area that shines brilliantly for me, but spreading out the goodies — BROCADE, CLOISONNE, RIOT ACT, OCEANARIA — left me with a great impression.

Along with virtually no gluey bits — maybe just a USS, and that is pretty much fine — it's very well executed. A fitting penultimate puzzle. Tomorrow's is utterly jaw-dropping — Peter forgot to mention that it has one final extraordinary layer: it only uses four letters in the entire grid: R, U, S, and E.

(Before you email me with angry protests, check out the first letters of each sentence in Peter's commentary.)

JimH notes: All good things must end but I, for one, am sad to see NYT Crosswords wrap up. At least I'll now have time to work on my table tennis game.
1
O
2
R
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A
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L
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B
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S
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F
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T
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M
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A
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C
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D
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B
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G
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P
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Y
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U
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D
O
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G
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S
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C
A
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B
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A
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T
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E
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N
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W
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R
K
T
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M
E
S
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I
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N
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R
A
E
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T
A
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P
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C
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W
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D
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P
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U
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E
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© 2016, The New York TimesNo. 0401 ( 24,251 )
Across Down
1. Sister brand of Scope : ORALB
6. Like blackjack hands with an ace counted as 11 : SOFT
10. Feature of a modern zoo : MOAT
14. Athlete who uses steroids : DOPER
15. Decorative enamelware : CLOISONNE
17. With 34-, 40- and 60-Across, a somber message for our loyal fans : DUETOBUDGETCUTS
19. Led astray : SEDUCED
20. Agrostologists' study : GRASSES
21. Bud : PAL
22. "Whoopee!" : YAY
23. Letters before Kitty Hawk : USS
26. Feet, in slang : DOGS
29. Fruit with yellow skin : CASABA
34. See 17-Across : THENEWYORKTIMES
37. The Gaels of collegiate sports : IONA
38. Actress Issa ___ of "The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl" : RAE
39. Shield from the elements : TARP
40. See 17-Across : CROSSWORDPUZZLE
45. Make less flat : AERATE
46. You might put stock in it : SOUP
47. Gloaming, to a sonneteer : EEN
48. 2 letters : ABC
50. Pennsylvania and others: Abbr. : RRS
52. Inability to sense smells : ANOSMIA
56. Vigorous reprimand : RIOTACT
60. See 17-Across : WILLENDTOMORROW
62. Large marine fish tanks : OCEANARIA
63. Cardio option : TAEBO
64. "___ Darkness Fall" (L. Sprague de Camp novel) : LEST
65. Chew (out) : REAM
66. Collects a DNA sample from, say : SWABS
1. Parimutuel calculation : ODDS
2. Marquis de Sade, e.g. : ROUE
3. Made like : APED
4. Pause : LETUP
5. Fancy fabric : BROCADE
6. Long-range guided missile : SCUD
7. "___ New Hampshire" (state song) : OLD
8. Not clear : FOGGY
9. Closet organizer : TIERACK
10. Comfy footwear : MOCS
11. Responsibility : ONUS
12. Play money? : ANTE
13. 1980 Oscar nominee directed by Roman Polanski : TESS
16. Patronize, as a hotel : STAYAT
18. Later in the text : BELOW
23. Capital of the Roman province of Africa : UTICA
24. Coast : SHORE
25. "Sí" man? : SENOR
27. Sandwich topped with tzatziki sauce : GYRO
28. Goes up, up, up : SOARS
30. ___ bath : SITZ
31. Blow away : AMAZE
32. Comedian who married Joyce Mathews in 1941, divorced her in 1947 and married her again in 1949 "because she reminded me of my first wife" : BERLE
33. Winter X Games host city : ASPEN
35. Curiosity org. : NASA
36. Overhaul : REDO
41. Thing with a filament : STAMEN
42. Online course : WEBINAR
43. Holiday a month before Passover : PURIM
44. Pulls out : UPROOTS
49. Military group : CADRE
51. Drinker's bender? : STRAW
52. Taking unauthorized R&R : AWOL
53. "Good going!" : NICE
54. Shouts of support : OLES
55. Crib part : SLAT
56. Go here and there : ROAM
57. Bay or gray follower : AREA
58. His .366 lifetime batting average is the best ever : COBB
59. Yahtzee category : TWOS
61. Quinceañera invitee : TIA

Answer summary: 2 unique to this puzzle, 1 debuted here and reused later, 1 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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