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New York Times, Thursday, April 14, 2016

Author: Jason Flinn
Editor: Will Shortz
Jason Flinn
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Puzzle of the Week

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

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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 ... more
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 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 ... more
Jeff Chen notes:

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.

1
L
2
A
3
C
4
E
5
D
6
O
7
S
8
E
9
S
10
C
11
H
12
E
13
W
14
I
M
U
P
15
O
P
E
R
A
16
O
A
T
H
17
N
A
S
H
18
L
A
T
I
N
19
N
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C
O
20
E
R
T
E
21
C
H
I
C
K
22
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R
23
A
N
O
M
24
I
E
25
A
E
O
L
26
U
27
S
28
L
A
M
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29
B
30
B
31
C
32
G
R
O
A
N
33
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34
T
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A
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35
D
36
S
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L
37
W
A
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S
L
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38
D
39
E
S
40
C
41
I
A
42
D
R
E
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D
E
L
43
A
P
N
44
E
45
A
46
A
D
A
47
B
O
48
O
49
S
50
T
51
D
O
N
N
Y
52
B
53
M
I
N
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W
54
A
N
N
A
55
R
56
B
57
O
R
58
M
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59
V
60
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61
R
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M
Y
62
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63
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64
B
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65
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67
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68
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© 2016, The New York TimesNo. 0414 ( 24,264 )
Across Down
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
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: 6 unique to this puzzle, 1 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

Found bugs or have suggestions?

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