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New York Times, Saturday, April 11, 2015

Author:
Martin Ashwood-Smith
Editor:
Will Shortz
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856/5/19914/29/201710
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000246316
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1.520017
Martin Ashwood-Smith

This puzzle:

Rows: 16, Columns: 15 Words: 71, Blocks: 38 Missing: {KQVWZ} Spans: 4, (1 quad stack) This is puzzle # 78 for Mr. Ashwood-Smith. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Martin Ashwood-Smith notes:
Quadstack crosswords (i.e., crosswords with at least one set of quadruple stacked 15s) are still a fairly recent innovation. When such ... read more

Quadstack crosswords (i.e., crosswords with at least one set of quadruple stacked 15s) are still a fairly recent innovation. When such puzzles have been featured in the NYT over past four years or so, they've created some controversy. While many solvers seem to love the challenge and report a great sense of satisfaction when they finally crack the puzzle, other solvers have decidedly more "lukewarm feelings" towards the genre. The latter comes from the perception that the fill, especially in the stack area, is often hard, obscure, and substandard... or maybe all three!

With this in mind, I tried a few years ago to construct a quadstack puzzle, that could theoretically be clued with "easy" Monday-level clues. This was intended merely as a personal exercise, so the one I actually submitted had the usual tough or tricky Friday/Saturday clues.

Now that you've tackled a dreaded NYT Saturday quadstack puzzle, I share with you a version with the identical fill, but unofficially reclued in a manner that I hope less experienced solvers may be able to finish. If you have friends who normally get stumped on the NYT Friday/Saturday puzzles, please ask them have a shot at my "low octane" Monday/Tuesday rendition. I don't think there's very much in the way of obscurity to trip them up!

Also, keen-eyed solvers may notice that this puzzle contains the word BEAT in two of the longer entries: BEATING A RETREAT and HAND-BEATEN. At the time, I offered Will Shortz an alternative: replacing HAND-BEATEN with MOUSE-EATEN. However, Will said that he preferred HAND-BEATEN, and was not overly bothered by the BEAT dupe. So ... if you love the puzzle as it stands now, I'm happy to take full credit. However, if you're bothered even a wee bit by the dupe: it's all Will's fault!

Happy solving!

Jeff Chen notes:
I find big stacks to be visually stunning, but they can often require way too much gloop holding them together, leaving me feeling ... read more

I find big stacks to be visually stunning, but they can often require way too much gloop holding them together, leaving me feeling like I just ate a juicy steak which turned out to be full of gristle. MAS, the stack-master, does a nice job today of putting together four nice grid-spanners with using only OLEAN, SERI, ONE AT, and SSTS to bind them. That might seem like a lot to some, but as far as quad-stacks go, it's actually pretty good.

And although none of the grid-spanners are unbelievably sizzling, SALES ASSISTANTS sure gets a beautiful clue to help it sing. [Counter intelligence?] is so clever, referring to a person working a sales counter.

All the answers are falling into place ...

I also appreciated how much connectivity there is through the puzzle. A few weeks ago, Will made a comment about not accepting any more of a particular grid skeleton because of grid flow issues, and I wholeheartedly agree with that. Here, MAS does a great job of connecting the top, middle, and bottom thirds together with long answers. SONNETEERS and ENCOURAGED are a bit neutral for my taste, but CAR ANTENNA sure sings. TETRIS also plays a nice role in grid flow, plus it has a brilliant clue: [Fitting entertainment at an arcade?] refers to how a player must fit TETRIS blocks together.

I appreciate some Scrabbly letters in a puzzle, especially in one where the construction difficulties are so high. Three Xs and a J add a lot of color. Given all the Scrabbly goodness though, I might have preferred just two Xs, which would have reduced the type of XENO (prefix) and REXES (odd plural) entries. Normally those are too minor to even be mentioned, but since the middle quad-stack already requires a couple of gluey entries, I'd prefer to see the rest of the puzzle err on the side of cleanliness.

Overall, quite a nice construction which (unlike many triple- and quad-stacks) actually adheres to my themeless criteria. Roughly 11 assets - five liabilities + maybe three bonus points for visual impact = a quality themeless.

1
R
2
A
3
J
4
A
5
C
6
E
7
R
8
B
9
I
10
C
11
H
12
E
13
X
14
U
T
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15
M
A
D
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R
A
16
A
X
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17
P
A
T
18
F
R
A
N
T
I
C
19
N
I
N
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E
L
L
21
S
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A
T
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S
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23
E
D
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O
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E
L
I
O
25
T
N
E
S
S
26
I
N
B
27
N
E
T
28
C
E
29
O
30
N
31
O
32
I
N
T
E
33
R
34
E
35
S
36
T
37
L
O
A
N
38
S
39
A
L
T
E
R
N
A
T
E
R
O
U
T
E
S
40
B
E
A
T
I
N
G
A
R
E
T
R
E
A
T
41
S
A
L
E
S
A
S
S
I
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42
N
I
E
43
P
O
G
44
A
R
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C
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P
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L
48
E
A
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E
49
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I
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R
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C
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55
D
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M
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U
P
I
57
S
H
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A
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58
U
59
T
A
X
60
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61
C
A
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62
A
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D
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64
A
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65
Y
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S
© 2015, The New York TimesNo. 0411 ( 23,895 )
Across
1. Rule ending in 1947 : RAJ
4. Sharp : ACERBIC
11. Whammy : HEX
14. Chief John Duncan, e.g. : UTE
15. Port alternative : MADEIRA
16. Jungle swinger? : AXE
17. Opportune : PAT
18. Like many 911 calls : FRANTIC
19. "Under a Glass Bell" writer : NIN
20. Blueprint additions : ELLS
22. Corroborated : ATTESTEDTO
24. Renowned 1920s raider : ELIOTNESS
26. Having five sharps : INB
27. Wind up with : NET
28. Firm cheese? : CEO
30. Borrowing bargains : NOINTERESTLOANS
39. What parades may necessitate : ALTERNATEROUTES
40. Chicken preference? : BEATINGARETREAT
41. Counter intelligence? : SALESASSISTANTS
42. On no occasions, to Nietzsche : NIE
43. 1990s collectible : POG
44. Move like a fly : ARC
46. Respectful appeal : PLEASESIR
52. Meets : RUNSACROSS
55. Daphne du Maurier, e.g. : DAME
56. D.C.-based news inits. : UPI
57. Japanese for "finger pressure" : SHIATSU
59. Word on two Monopoly squares : TAX
60. "Love, ___" (1979 Bel Kaufman novel) : ETC
61. General store? : CANTEEN
62. Cause of a new wrinkle : AGE
63. Female hamster : DOE
64. Flower parts that open to release their contents : ANTHERS
65. It's "sim" in São Paulo : YES
Down
1. Mauritian money : RUPEE
2. One bit : ATALL
3. 54-Down's co-star in "The Forbidden Kingdom" : JETLI
4. Big letters in bowling alleys : AMF
5. One getting the show on the road? : CARANTENNA
6. Computer hookup? : EDATE
7. Checks for letters : RENTS
8. Falls for it : BITES
9. Flag in a garden : IRIS
10. Some xerophiles : CACTI
11. Like some rugs and egg whites : HANDBEATEN
12. Go : EXIT
13. Prefix with phobia : XENO
21. Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Edna St. Vincent Millay, notably : SONNETEERS
23. Buoyed : ENCOURAGED
25. Fitting entertainment at an arcade? : TETRIS
29. Leader for a time? : ONEAT
30. Cops : NABS
31. Allegheny River city : OLEAN
32. Boardwalk cooler : ITALIANICE
33. Sign of destitution : RAGS
34. Headwinds often push them back, briefly : ETAS
35. Bandar ___ Begawan (Brunei's capital) : SERI
36. Guard dog's quarry : TRESPASSER
37. Sources of some state funds : LOTTOS
38. They got grounded after streaking : SSTS
45. He struck Caesar "like a cur" : CASCA
46. Dead-tree : PRINT
47. Antipathetic : LOATH
48. Perfume providing an accent? : ESTEE
49. Food on a stick : SATAY
50. Something to upload or uphold : IMAGE
51. Cats with very fine short fur : REXES
52. Recalled not fondly : RUED
53. Planning : UPTO
54. See 3-Down : CHAN
58. Little ___ : UNS

Answer summary: 4 unique to this puzzle, 3 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

Found bugs or have suggestions?