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New York Times, Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Author:
Zachary Spitz and Diane Roseman
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
511/18/20152/21/20182
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
0012101
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.63200
Zachary Spitz
TotalDebutCollabs
14/11/20171
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
0010000
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.57000
Diane Roseman

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 72, Blocks: 38 Missing: {FJQX} Spans: 2 This is puzzle # 2 for Mr. Spitz. This is the debut puzzle for Ms. Roseman. Jeff Chen's Puzzle of the Week pick. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Constructor notes:
Happy Passover! It's so exciting to share a byline with my oldest son, Zachary. This is my first and his second puzzle published in ... read more

Happy Passover!

It's so exciting to share a byline with my oldest son, Zachary. This is my first and his second puzzle published in the Times, and Zach has a few more that have been accepted for future publication. While both our names are on the byline, Zach should get almost all of the credit — it was my theme idea, but the puzzle would never have been created without his guidance and hard work.

The whole family was involved — my husband Steven helped by writing a computer program to spit out all of the possible country combinations (guineabissaudiarabia anyone??), and Zach's three younger siblings all helped along the way with the fill and clues. Maybe someday we'll get a puzzle accepted with the whole "Spitz/Roseman Family" credited!

The idea for this puzzle came to me almost seven years ago — I was taking a crossword puzzle construction class (yes, there are such things!) through the Cambridge Adult Education Program — with the accomplished puzzler Brendan Emmett Quigley. The class was filled with smart, motivated people, and I was very intimidated — they made it look so easy.

The goal of the class was to come up with a puzzle theme and then work on the fill together, and hopefully, submit it to the New York Times by the end of the class. My theme wasn't chosen, though, and I wasn't motivated enough to work on it all by myself once the class was over. So it sat for many years until Zach got interested in puzzles and I begged him for help. We first submitted it almost two years ago, and it was rejected. But before Zach went off for his second year of college he looked at it again and resubmitted it, and it was accepted. Patience was rewarded, for sure.

I first started doing puzzles with my grandfather David Heller, who was a soft-spoken man but showed me a very different side as we sat and did the Sunday puzzle together and he (not so) quietly cursed Eugene T. Maleska. My mother and sister have long been puzzle-doing companions, and Zach also benefits from the rabid Scrabble players on his father's side of the family — they are a ruthless bunch.

In our immediate family, the daily puzzle is divided among various family members — and some of the most amusing fights in the house have happened when Ella, our youngest, has come home from school and saw that someone added words to "her" puzzle day — amusing for the parents, at least! Once everyone has smartphones, I gather they'll be solving alone in front of screens, which seems a little sad. Some families have beach houses or real estate fortunes to pass down, but ours has the love of words, and has lots of fun playing with them together.

Enjoy!

Jeff Chen notes:
UNITED NATIONS used as rationale to smash two countries together. I've seen this theme type before — my wife and I even did a ... read more

UNITED NATIONS used as rationale to smash two countries together. I've seen this theme type before — my wife and I even did a puzzle like this years ago, also using country pairs — but the added touches of 1.) UNITED NATIONS as a revealer and 2.) country pairs *generally* near to each other were great.

I particularly liked SWITZERLANDORRA. Not only does it roll off the tongue as a portmanteau, but the two countries are nearly adjacent (separated by France). It would have been perfect if there had been abutting countries sharing this type of letter overlap, but that would be too perfect.

If only country namers had been crossword fans …

I also liked how easy PAKISTANZANIA was to say. This one wasn't quite as good, though, since the two countries are from different continents. But I liked tying them together through the Indian Ocean.

NICARAGUATEMALA … it's great that they're so geographically close, but the portmanteau was much harder to pronounce. But it still works, especially given that [Central American bloc?] works so well.

I appreciated Zachary and Diane's efforts to work extras into the fill. I expect at least a pair of long bonus entries in a four-themer puzzle, and to get more than that is great. Love SIGN HERE and LENTANDO (I played in orchestras for 20+ years). LAST NAME is pretty good. STONERS was funny with its [High achievers?] wordplay. GAZE INTO was more neutral for me — add-a-preposition is rarely exciting — but tying it to a crystal ball was fun.

Short fill was strong, too. Some early-week solvers might have a tough time with AKIO Morita and AKIRA Kurosawa, but both are crossworthy. AKIO Morita might be more on the cusp, but thankfully all the crossings are straightforward.

The only dabs of crossword glue were the minor ENC and the less minor OLIO. Nice work, especially considering they went all the way down to 72 words, making it possible to include nice mid-length fill like DOMINOS, WOE IS ME, HOLIDAY, GENTILE.

So neat to hear about crosswords engrossing an entire family — ARE YOU LISTENING, TESS AND JAKE CHEN? I was already leaning toward giving this one the POW!, and that put it over the edge.

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© 2017, The New York TimesNo. 0411 ( 24,626 )

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Across
1
Something to make before blowing out the birthday candles : WISH
5
Staple of Greek cuisine : LAMB
9
All-knowing sort : SWAMI
14
___ Morita, co-founder of Sony : AKIO
15
___ vera : ALOE
16
Kind of bond in chemistry : IONIC
17
What Thoreau lived in at Walden Pond : SECLUSION
19
Romance or horror : GENRE
20
Indian Ocean bloc? : PAKISTANZANIA
22
Hibernation station : DEN
23
Measurements of 60-Acrosses : PHS
24
Central American bloc? : NICARAGUATEMALA
33
"I'm cool with that" : OKAY
34
Brother in an order : MONK
35
Steel support for concrete : REBAR
36
Letter insert: Abbr. : ENC
37
Non-Jew : GENTILE
39
Bill who popularizes science : NYE
40
Many, colloquially : LOTSA
42
Land of Donegal and Dingle Bay : EIRE
43
Paula of "Paula's Home Cooking" : DEEN
44
Western European bloc? : SWITZERLANDORRA
47
Multivolume ref. : OED
48
Scottish cap : TAM
49
Organization founded in 1945 ... or a literal description of 20-, 24- and 44-Across? : UNITEDNATIONS
56
2008 movie with the line "I will find you, and I will kill you" : TAKEN
58
Softening-up words before a request : BEANANGEL
59
Prevent, as disaster : AVERT
60
Alkali neutralizer : ACID
61
Mishmash : OLIO
62
___ profundo (lowest vocal range) : BASSO
63
Motto for a modern risk-taker, for short : YOLO
64
Email folder : SENT
Down
1
Insect with a hanging nest : WASP
2
Furnishings retailer with gigantic stores : IKEA
3
"Awesome!" : SICK
4
Office-closing time : HOLIDAY
5
What phone books are alphabetized by : LASTNAME
6
Inter ___ : ALIA
7
Apollo program destination : MOON
8
Mercedes-___ : BENZ
9
Words next to a dotted line : SIGNHERE
10
Cry of lament : WOEISME
11
Elsa's younger sister in "Frozen" : ANNA
12
Russian space station : MIR
13
Diamonds, slangily : ICE
18
___ interface : USER
21
Fitting : APT
24
Christmas carols : NOELS
25
"You didn't have to tell me" : IKNOW
26
Plants with needles : CACTI
27
Dead duck : GONER
28
"___ next time!" : UNTIL
29
Director Kurosawa : AKIRA
30
Li'l ___ : ABNER
31
Sauce, cheese or noodles, in lasagna : LAYER
32
Gladiatorial combat site : ARENA
37
Examine, as a crystal ball : GAZEINTO
38
Gradually slowing, in music : LENTANDO
41
High achievers? : STONERS
43
Pizza company with a game piece logo : DOMINOS
45
Summer setting in D.C. : EDT
46
Spreadsheet figures : DATA
49
Island instruments, for short : UKES
50
Website with the heading "Recently Viewed Items" : EBAY
51
Style of the Chrysler Building, informally : DECO
52
It gets hit on the head : NAIL
53
Eye amorously : OGLE
54
Ruhr refusal : NEIN
55
Opening on a schedule : SLOT
56
Precursor of Diet Coke : TAB
57
Director DuVernay of "Selma" : AVA

Answer summary: 4 unique to this puzzle, 1 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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