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SOMETHING IN THE WATER

New York Times, Sunday, April 10, 2016

Author: Randolph Ross
Editor: Will Shortz
Randolph Ross
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Puzzle of the Week

This puzzle:

Rows: 21, Columns: 21 Words: 138, Blocks: 74 Missing: {QZ} This is puzzle # 103 for Mr. Ross. Jeff Chen's Puzzle of the Week pick NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Randolph Ross notes: This puzzle took a few iterations to get it where it was. Placing the various boats, ships, etc above and below the bodies of water was not so easy to do without resorting to lot of junk entries. In my ... more
Randolph Ross notes:

This puzzle took a few iterations to get it where it was. Placing the various boats, ships, etc above and below the bodies of water was not so easy to do without resorting to lot of junk entries.

In my original composition I had THE DEAD SEA with a FLOATER on top of it. If you have ever been there you can actually lie on top of the water because it is so dense. Will saw it as a non-watercraft so FLOATER had to go out. I substituted OILTANKER on top of ARABIAN SEA and worked hard to fill that middle left area with that combination and three long down entries crossing them. The corresponding right middle area with GONDOLA atop GRAND CANAL was also difficult to match up with decent fill.

I started with the UBOAT under the ATLANTIC OCEAN. It's a one-off so I hope that the solvers will get the reason why that's below and not on top of the water.

Looking forward to the responses to this one.

Jeff Chen notes: I love Randy's use of the big 21x21 canvas. Too often, Sunday puzzles feel to me like an overinflated 15x15. The imagery of a GONDOLA sitting on a GRAND CANAL and a RAFT on the COLORADO RIVER is so pretty; a ... more
Jeff Chen notes:

I love Randy's use of the big 21x21 canvas. Too often, Sunday puzzles feel to me like an overinflated 15x15. The imagery of a GONDOLA sitting on a GRAND CANAL and a RAFT on the COLORADO RIVER is so pretty; a wonderful use of the huge space a Sunday puzzle allows for.

GONDOLA floating on the GRAND CANAL — pretty!

This type of puzzle (with pairs of stacked answers) is so tricky to pull off. In a recent one of similar conceit, Jason and I struggled mightily with the grid skeleton, going through dozens of iterations before finally arriving at something workable. Grid symmetry causes a huge problem — for instance, when you place GONDOLA, that forces you to use a symmetrically-placed seven-letter answer (NO TASTE in today's grid). Each time you force a long slot like that, the grid becomes more constrained. Pretty soon, you run into spots which are overly rigid and even impossible.

Randy does help himself by using a few shorter themers — GRAND CANAL and ARABIAN SEA — which helps reduce overlap between themers. But having to work in the long OIL TANKER and another long symmetrically-placed entry is not easy at all. Randy does so well, incorporating the nice STEEL MILL, along with very few dabs of crossword glue. ATMAN is a tough word to remember for me, but it's legit. ONCLE might be a bit deep into French for some, but it's not hard to figure out. And UNDAM … well, there was bound to be minor crossword glue needed to hold that section together.

I love that there's a lone UBOAT hanging out. It would have been nice to get that one at the very end though, tricking the solver by breaking the established pattern.

Knowing how difficult it is to execute on a puzzle like today's, I was extremely impressed by Randy's work. I wish all Sunday constructors would think as big as Randy did, while taking the care to execute on the concept as well as he did — such strong bonus fill (BALALAIKA!) with only a minimum of gluey bits. Loved it.

JimH notes: This is the 42nd NYT Sunday puzzle for the prolific Randolph Ross, and his 103rd overall.
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© 2016, The New York TimesNo. 0410 ( 24,260 )
Across Down
1. "Things aren't so bad!" : CHEERUP
8. Memorable mission : ALAMO
13. Napoleon, for one : PASTRY
19. Head of the army? : LATRINE
20. Jerusalem's province, to the Romans : JUDAEA
21. Role for Julia Louis-Dreyfus : ELAINE
22. Iron Man, e.g. : AVENGER
23. Where a 28-Across was often submerged in W.W. II : ATLANTICOCEAN
25. Prefix with comic : SERIO
26. Chinese leader? : SINO
28. See 23-Across : UBOAT
29. More sound : SANER
30. Global supporter of the arts : UNESCO
33. Retailer ___ Taylor : ANN
34. Kind of PC port : USB
37. Grocery chain since 1926 : IGA
38. See 43-Across : RAFT
39. A or O, e.g. : ALER
41. Ready to be drawn : ONTAP
43. Where you might tour the Grand Canyon in a 38-Across : COLORADORIVER
47. See 50-Across : GONDOLA
49. Young hare : LEVERET
50. Where an Italian tourist might ride in a 47-Across : GRANDCANAL
52. Honkers : GEESE
54. "If I Ruled the World" rapper : NAS
56. Heavy metal venue? : STEELMILL
57. Approximately : ORSO
58. Bars frequented at night : ROOSTS
61. Tiny bit : MITE
62. Not, to a Scot : NAE
63. Saloon sounds : HICS
64. Knock over : ROB
65. Animal that an ailurophobe fears : CAT
66. Unimpressive mount : ASS
67. "So ___" : BEIT
68. Where to find Moscow in the U.S.: Abbr. : IDA
69. 1993 standoff site : WACO
70. Trembling trees : ASPENS
72. Does some grilling : ASKS
73. See 79-Across : OILTANKER
76. Solo pilot? : HAN
77. Vice ___ : VERSA
79. Where a 73-Across sails loaded with fuel : ARABIANSEA
81. See 85-Across : TRAWLER
84. What a vulgarian has : NOTASTE
85. Place for an 81-Across to catch seafood : CHESAPEAKEBAY
90. [Humph!] : SNORT
91. Put one's foot down : STEP
92. Cowpoke's friend : PARD
93. U.K. award : OBE
94. Yearbook sect. : SRS
95. Political writer Matt : BAI
97. École educator : MAITRE
99. Ticked off : CROSS
101. See 105-Across : FERRY
103. First name on the Supreme Court : RUTH
104. Suite spot, say : HOTEL
105. What a 101-Across travels for some urban commuters : NEWYORKHARBOR
111. James Joyce short story in "Dubliners" : EVELINE
113. Self-image? : AVATAR
114. Time to start walking : AGEONE
115. Campaign poster word : REELECT
116. Not quite : HARDLY
117. "Ain't happening" : NOWAY
118. Investigative pieces : EXPOSES
1. Great work of literature : CLASSIC
2. Try : HAVEAGO
3. "But thy ___ summer shall not fade": Shak. : ETERNAL
4. "It's a Wonderful Life" role : ERNIE
5. Attention to detail : RIGOR
6. Article in Le Monde : UNE
7. Sell : PERSUADE
8. They have belts and coats : AUTOS
9. Cholesterol inits. : LDL
10. Top of the minors : AAA
11. Aid in picking sides : MENU
12. Crunchy snack : OATBAR
13. Butter ___ (ice cream flavor) : PECAN
14. Buckets : ALOT
15. It counts as a plate appearance but not as an at-bat, briefly : SAC
16. Trash bag accessory : TIE
17. Retrovirus component : RNA
18. Appetite : YEN
20. Cabinet member who served all eight years under Bill Clinton : JANETRENO
24. Saturn model with a scientific name : ION
27. Awaiting : INFOR
31. Basketball's King James, for one : CAV
32. Cassini of fashion : OLEG
34. Let flow again : UNDAM
35. Lack of compassion : STONINESS
36. Russian relative of a guitar : BALALAIKA
38. Party with glow sticks, maybe : RAVE
40. Stumbles : ERRS
41. Rouen relation : ONCLE
42. Makeshift beds : PALLETS
44. Bread spreads : OLEOS
45. Lawyer's thing : RES
46. Lake that's the source of the Mississippi : ITASCA
47. Banded rock : GNEISS
48. "Waiting for Lefty" playwright : ODETS
51. Hindu soul : ATMAN
52. Metal grates for grilling : GRIDIRONS
53. One-way flight? : ESCALATOR
55. Hide away : STASH
57. Seven U.S. presidents, by birth : OHIOANS
58. Notre Dame football legend : ROCKNE
59. They're blown in the winds : OBOES
60. Tourist attraction on N.Y.C.'s Fifth Ave. : STPATS
64. Charged : RANAT
67. Support for ballet dancers : BARRE
69. Place for a spare tire : WAIST
71. Send into a swoon : ENRAPTURE
74. Lifts up a mountain : TBARS
75. Geom. shape : RECT
77. ___ III, inspiration for Dracula : VLAD
78. Cry of mock horror : EEK
80. "Don't forget about me" : AHEM
82. Set off : APART
83. Announcement at the end of a long car trip : WEREHERE
86. Org. established by President Nixon : EPA
87. "Little piggy" holders : BOOTIES
88. Lack : ABSENCE
89. "Count me in" : YESLETS
91. When repeated, 1968 name in the news : SIRHAN
95. Generic juice flavor : BERRY
96. Scroll holder : ARK
98. Choking on a Life Saver, e.g. : IRONY
99. Fowl language? : CHEEP
100. Rich kid in "Nancy" : ROLLO
101. Young Arab : FOAL
102. Sant' Gria brand : YAGO
105. "I don't think so" : NAH
106. Stowe girl : EVA
107. Card game for two : WAR
108. Financial report abbr. : YTD
109. Opposite of FF : REW
110. Dangerous pet : BOA
112. Aggravate : VEX

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

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