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New York Times, Thursday, April 14, 2016

Author:
Jason Flinn
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
1410/9/20137/21/20180
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0112505
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.53030
Jason Flinn

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 76, Blocks: 42 Missing: {FJQXZ} This is puzzle # 8 for Mr. Flinn. Jeff Chen's Puzzle of the Week pick. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Jason Flinn notes:
Nice timing for this puzzle to appear with summer just around the corner! I always debate: shaded squares, yes or no? Such hints ... read more

Nice timing for this puzzle to appear with summer just around the corner!

I always debate: shaded squares, yes or no? Such hints can substantially change the difficulty level of the puzzle by giving the game away too early. However, I think the shaded squares work well in this particular puzzle because RUN, the first "water slide" is so non-specific. It should take a little more than one theme answer for the solver to realize that each set of shaded squares represents a type of water course that flows downhill.

I enjoy constructing Thursday puzzles like this one because of the additional challenge of finding a workable grid pattern. There are a lot more constraints here than meet the eye since the theme answers cannot be placed symmetrically. Each answer also injects an extra pair of black squares, where the "water slide" starts. The insight that LAMESTREAM and WATERSLIDES can cross is actually the crux on which a workable gird pattern depends in this puzzle.

Another aspect of constructing that I enjoy is the serendipity that arises when you are building the grid. Often, there can be multiple entries that can be used as fill, but choosing among the various subtle combinations can be fun. For example, in this puzzle:

  • Pairing EPHEMERA with HAIR LOSS (sigh)
  • Having the BROOK in DONNYBROOK run down into a BAYOU
  • Seeing ANN ARBOR (the city where I live) appear in the grid

I wouldn't go out of my way to have any of these occur, but it's fun to integrate them when the possibility arises.

Jeff Chen notes:
Jason builds three WATERSLIDES today, neat river-esque images flowing diagonally. I especially like how he disguised each of the three ... read more

Jason builds three WATERSLIDES today, neat river-esque images flowing diagonally. I especially like how he disguised each of the three bodies of water — a river RUN, a STREAM, and a BROOK — within phrases that hide their meanings.

MR YUK is fairly self-explanatory, yeah?

Impressive execution, especially considering how tough it is to fill a grid around diagonal entries. The center section is masterful — with three long diagonal entries, Jason needed to cross one of them through WATERSLIDES, making that region incredibly constrained. What finesse in there, with nary a drop of glue. And working in BERRA, RITE AID, DREIDEL, along with the end of EPHEMERA and the start of ELON MUSK? Incredibly smooth along with quite a bit of color.

There is a slight price to pay, as the black squares nearly separate the puzzle into distinct chunks. But Jason did leave enough interconnect so that the semi-choked grid flow didn't bother me too much.

Speaking of connection, look at that awesome word MRYUK, which connects two chunks. It's rare to debut a five-letter word, since most all of them have been used ad infinitum, and I often cringe when there is a debut, since it's often a partial or really esoteric. But even though MR YUK wasn't familiar to me, it can be pieced together with some thought. Great a-ha when I finally got it.

I commiserated with Jason on our similar HAIR LOSS, but what a great clue: [It usually reveals more than you want].

Overall, the quality of execution earns Jason the POW! A very tough construction, and Jason pulled it off with just a touch of what some people might grumble at as esoteric: ANOMIE, AEOLUS, ENNEAD, OMOO. It would have been nice to get at least some symmetry in the theme answers, but there is something to be said about the beauty of water's randomness cutting through land that's reflected in today's grid.

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© 2016, The New York TimesNo. 0414 ( 24,264 )

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Across
1
Tablecloth material : LACE
5
Some spoonfuls : DOSES
10
Mull (over) : CHEW
14
"My turn" : IMUP
15
Space ___ : OPERA
16
Naturalization requirement : OATH
17
Mathematician John portrayed in "A Beautiful Mind" : NASH
18
Part of a classical education : LATIN
19
One-named singer born Christa Päffgen : NICO
20
Ziegfeld Follies costumer : ERTE
21
Fowl territory? : CHICKENRUN
23
Societal instability resulting from a breakdown in values : ANOMIE
25
He gave Odysseus a bag of winds : AEOLUS
28
Like traditional media, to some : LAMESTREAM
29
Original airer of "The Office" : BBC
32
Sound from a haunted house : GROAN
33
CVS rival : RITEAID
36
Cannes condiment : SEL
37
Summer amusements ... or a literal description of three answers in this puzzle : WATERSLIDES
40
Employer whose workers don't discuss their jobs much, in short : CIA
42
Top choice in December? : DREIDEL
43
Nighttime irregularity : APNEA
46
___ Clare, ward in Dickens's "Bleak House" : ADA
47
Take the wrong way? : BOOST
51
Free-for-all : DONNYBROOK
53
Small fry : MINNOW
54
Home of the Big House in college football : ANNARBOR
58
Piddling : MERE
59
Atmosphere : VIBE
61
Spacious : ROOMY
62
App purchaser : USER
63
Noodle concoction? : IDEA
64
Home for American alligators : BAYOU
65
Stocking material : SILK
66
Abbr. found on some corporate logos : ESTD
67
Gesture made with the thumb and nose : SNOOK
68
Decryption needs : KEYS
Down
1
Hereditary : LINEAL
2
Site where cuneiform tablets were discovered : AMARNA
3
Made-to-order : CUSTOM
4
Transient things : EPHEMERA
5
Sweet, in Sorrento : DOLCE
6
Hawaiian seafood : OPAH
7
Radio listener grp. : SETI
8
___ Blair, George Orwell's real name : ERIC
9
Decaf choice : SANKA
10
Sarah ___, protagonist of "The Terminator" : CONNOR
11
It usually reveals more than you want : HAIRLOSS
12
Sentence shortener : ETC
13
Question suggesting "Never heard of 'em" : WHO
22
Brain test, briefly : EEG
24
"Oh, really?" : ISIT
26
OPEC member: Abbr. : UAE
27
High-profile gig for a musician, for short : SNL
29
He actually said "I really didn't say everything I said" : BERRA
30
Headquartered : BASED
31
Lashes : CILIA
34
"TRUS___" (2016 political slogan) : TED
35
Checked off the bucket list, say : DID
37
"Care to make it interesting?" : WANNABET
38
"Entourage" actress Mazar : DEBI
39
SpaceX C.E.O. : ELONMUSK
40
Stinker : CAD
41
Angel's payoff, for short : IPO
44
Santa's reindeer, counting Rudolph : ENNEAD
45
Rand popular with the Tea Party : AYN
48
Newborn attire : ONESIE
49
In a bad way : SORELY
50
Moves behind? : TWERKS
52
Put-downs : BARBS
53
Iconic green poison symbol : MRYUK
55
Equine color : ROAN
56
Laddie : BOYO
57
Melville's second novel : OMOO
59
Battle : VIE
60
Subjects of some voting laws : IDS

Answer summary: 4 unique to this puzzle, 2 debuted here and reused later, 1 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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