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New York Times, Thursday, April 17, 2014

Author:
Mary Lou Guizzo and Jeff Chen
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
244/17/20143/6/201913
SunMonTueWedThuFriSatVariety
31153641
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.61440
Mary Lou Guizzo
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
977/5/20104/8/201959
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
2578172398
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.636212
Jeff Chen

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 74, Blocks: 44 Missing: {BQVZ} Grid has mirror symmetry. This is the debut puzzle for Ms. Guizzo. This is puzzle # 27 for Mr. Chen. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Constructor notes:
MARY LOU: Gary Cee's May 29, 2013 puzzle (HAT in HAND, JUST in CASE, etc.) sparked some ideas and I emailed Jeff. He had mentored me ... read more

MARY LOU: Gary Cee's May 29, 2013 puzzle (HAT in HAND, JUST in CASE, etc.) sparked some ideas and I emailed Jeff. He had mentored me for several months by this point and we'd had one other puzzle accepted by the NYT (which has yet to run!). Jeff had been thinking of a similar type puzzle with 'through/thru' phrases. I researched phrases, we batted ideas back and forth on which to use and what the revealer should be. Jeff did the grid design and we worked on the fill and cluing together.

I thought it quite appropriate that astronomer, TYCHO Brahe, ended up in the same corner with PAID through THE NOSE. He lost part of his nose in a duel and wore an artificial one for the rest of his life.

If you have some crossword theme ideas and need a mentor, I cannot say enough good things about Jeff — he is very talented, patient, encouraging, prompt in corresponding, a fount of good advice, open to other points of view and a genius at grid design. Nancy Salomon also mentored me through several early puzzles and I appreciate her generosity and advice as well. Crossfire software has definitely been an asset as has the xwordinfo.com site developed by Jim Horne and maintained by Jeff and Jim.

I am a Specialist in Blood Banking (SBB). My hobbies include photography, reading, bicycling, hiking, and swimming. I like a Marcel Proust quote which I thought applicable to photography and puzzling, "The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes." Both hobbies have given me fresh and different perspectives. As Will Shortz has noted, solving and constructing puzzles are two different skills. Constructing has given me a real appreciation for those who create(d) puzzles, especially prior to the days of software and databases, not to mention those who make their living in the crossword world.

Jeff Chen notes:
It's a real pleasure to work with Mary Lou. One aspect I really like about her is that she understands how many theme ideas it takes ... read more

It's a real pleasure to work with Mary Lou. One aspect I really like about her is that she understands how many theme ideas it takes to yield a single half-decent one. Too often when people approach me with a concept, we find out it's been done before, or it's too loosey-goosey, whatever, and they don't continue to brainstorm. Not ML! I find it takes at least ten thoughts to produce one quasi-workable theme, and even then, development of said theme takes time (and may not work out in the end). I'm glad she sticks through the arduous process.

This puzzle was a bear to put together, and we went through many iterations. People might say left-right (or "mirror") symmetry is becoming my shtick, and I do admit to liking the visual appeal. Most often I need to incorporate blocks in the center of the puzzle, which by nature either take on a smile or a frown, and who doesn't like seeing a nice friendly face right in the middle of their grid? (Don't answer that.)

Theme development alone on this one was very tricky. ML came up with a long list of workable phrase, and we wanted to narrow it down to a consistent set of at least four. Even then, the puzzle didn't feel heavy enough until we came across the idea of adding THINK / THROUGH, a double hint to the themers.

And then the grid work. Tortuous! Every time you work with crossing answers, you heavily constrain your grid. One set of (fixed) crossing answers is easy-peasy. Two is no bother. Three gets a little tricky. Four... groan. You might think, why do those goofballs need so many black squares up there? You'll answer you own question if you try to position those four sets of crossing themers within a 15x grid (and tear your hair out in the process).

Then to the bottom section. I wasn't wild about sectioning the grid in two (the edges of the smile sort of split the grid) but we didn't have many options for layout in those side regions. Keeping the four themers as separate as possible helped us fill relatively smoothly, so it was a trade-off we were willing to make. We did consider splitting some of the entries like CHESS GAME and OUTHOUSES to get rid of uglies like ETE, ASA, EST (ick!) but it surprisingly turned out to only reduce the ick factor slightly. So we decided to accept a tiny bit more ugly stuff to incorporate those nice I AM SO DEAD type answers. Honestly, it's too many glue-type entries in general, but I thought the overall concept was neat enough to be okay with it.

Finally, two notes interesting to me. First, I'm sure there will be people who gripe about DUROC because it's a word they don't know. But why not look it up and learn something? There's a giant swath through the Midwest who would likely argue with you cotton-pickin' city-slickers (pretty sure that's what Midwesterners say). Second, check out the "cross" made out of black squares at the top center. Typically I don't like to do this as it makes the grid feel too "filled-in" with black squares, but in this case, I thought it was a nice echo to the shape of the themers (highlighted in blue/red below).

1
G
2
O
3
O
4
N
5
J
6
O
7
T
8
E
9
A
10
C
11
H
12
A
M
N
O
13
T
14
A
W
E
15
T
Y
C
H
O
16
W
A
L
S
H
17
R
E
X
18
H
E
R
O
S
19
P
R
O
W
E
20
S
S
21
T
22
S
E
L
I
O
T
23
W
E
N
T
24
P
A
I
D
25
A
R
I
26
A
27
S
E
N
D
28
C
29
O
30
T
T
O
N
Y
31
I
L
O
S
32
T
33
I
34
T
35
H
U
H
36
O
K
E
37
M
U
S
38
H
A
Y
39
E
T
E
40
F
A
S
41
T
O
N
E
42
E
M
P
43
S
H
O
44
T
45
T
H
I
N
K
46
R
O
S
E
47
S
O
H
O
48
T
49
A
C
E
50
D
U
R
O
C
51
G
U
E
R
R
52
E
53
C
A
N
A
D
A
54
A
S
A
55
O
L
56
D
57
P
58
R
O
S
59
N
E
S
60
M
E
R
61
T
H
R
O
U
G
H
62
K
A
T
63
E
S
T
64
I
T
E
M
S
65
S
D
S
© 2014, The New York TimesNo. 0417 ( 23,536 )
Across
1
Mob muscle : GOON
5
Little bit : JOT
8
A pop : EACH
12
"You know nothing about me" : AMNOT
14
Open-mouthed state : AWE
15
Astronomer ___ Brahe : TYCHO
16
"America's Most Wanted" host John : WALSH
17
"Toy Story" character : REX
18
Subway fare? : HEROS
19
Superior skill : PROWESS
21
Pioneer in New Criticism : TSELIOT
23
With 13-Down, blew one's stack : WENT
24
With 15-Down, spent way too much money for something : PAID
25
Song that may be performed with supertitles : ARIA
27
Turn on : SEND
28
Soft and light : COTTONY
31
"That put me over the edge!" : ILOSTIT
35
"What?!" : HUH
36
"Fine and dandy," in old slang : OKE
37
Symbols for statistical means : MUS
38
What pitchforks pitch : HAY
39
Summer in Québec : ETE
40
Slick trick : FASTONE
42
H.R.E. part: Abbr. : EMP
43
With 30-Down, hit dead-on : SHOT
45
With 61-Across, carefully consider ... or a clue to this puzzle's theme : THINK
46
With 32-Down, followed a career ladder : ROSE
47
Not ___ (meh) : SOHOT
49
Big club? : ACE
50
Hardy hog breed : DUROC
51
Opposite of paix : GUERRE
53
World powerhouse in curling : CANADA
54
Botanist Gray : ASA
55
Seasoned veterans : OLDPROS
59
Wii forerunner, for short : NES
60
Debussy's "La ___" : MER
61
See 45-Across : THROUGH
62
Kit ___ bar : KAT
63
Winter D.C. setting : EST
64
Bullet points : ITEMS
65
'60s campus org. : SDS
Down
1
Stare with an open mouth : GAWP
2
Palestinian nominee for Best Foreign Language Film of 2013 : OMAR
3
Simmering : ONLOW
4
"Easy peasy" : NOSWEAT
5
Throws off balance : JARS
6
"I ___ you" : OWE
7
Emoticon medium : TEXT
8
They're usually heavier at night : EYELIDS
9
Stinging : ACRID
10
Toy train sound : CHOO
11
Human in "Alien," e.g. : HOST
13
See 23-Across : THEROOF
15
See 24-Across : THENOSE
20
Can't do well : STINKAT
22
Go caving : SPELUNK
26
Wife of Muhammad : AYESHA
27
French writer de Beauvoir : SIMONE
28
Metaphor for diplomacy : CHESSGAME
29
Heads for the woods? : OUTHOUSES
30
See 43-Across : THEHEART
32
See 46-Across : THERANKS
33
"My parents are going to kill me!" : IAMSODEAD
34
Pigeonholes, in a way : TYPECASTS
41
Little jerk : TIC
44
A.L. East squad : TOR
46
Go quickly : RUN
48
Go quickly : TROT
50
Go quickly : DASH
52
Pre-coll. years : ELHI
53
Teeth : COGS
56
"The 5,000 Fingers of ___" (1953 Seuss film) : DRT
57
"The Purloined Letter" writer : POE
58
Main ingredient in pirates' grog : RUM

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

Found bugs or have suggestions?