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New York Times, Thursday, April 18, 2019

Author:
Alex Eaton-Salners
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
252/2/20179/5/20191
SunMonTueWedThuFriSatVariety
125410003
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.54240
Alex Eaton-Salners

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 74, Blocks: 38 Missing: {QWXZ} This is puzzle # 18 for Mr. Eaton-Salners. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Alex Eaton-Salners notes:
I'm curious to see how this puzzle will be presented in print and in the NYT app. I shaded CATERPILLAR gray in my submission, and I ... read more

I'm curious to see how this puzzle will be presented in print and in the NYT app. I shaded CATERPILLAR gray in my submission, and I hope this feature will be preserved. It's visually appealing for two reasons.

First, the final grid art looks better with a head/body (in gray) to go with the wings (depicted by the connect-the-dots feature). Second, the gray CATERPILLAR also resembles a caterpillar, making its transformation into a butterfly more remarkable.

Unusually, there's almost nothing in common between my first submission and the final grid. Originally, I had CATERPILLAR in the same central vertical slot, but I used right/left symmetry for the grid, which made the pattern on the wings symmetric and much prettier. CATERPILLAR's bottom R intersected METAMORPHOSIS.

Unfortunately, a central vertical theme entry in a puzzle with left-right symmetry requires using either (1) two flanking vertical entries at least as long as the central entry (which both strains the fill and makes it unclear what's thematic and what's not); or (2) a one-letter word somewhere in the middle of the puzzle. I chose the latter.

Given the aesthetic considerations at play. I hoped for an exception to the NYT's prohibition on words less than three letters long. Unfortunately, Will and crew didn't go for:

  1. "I" clued as a one-letter word,
  2. the consecutively-presented phrase YES/I/CAN, or
  3. checking the singleton letter by making it part of the alphabetical list of circled letters.

Reluctantly, I abandoned my dreams of left-right symmetry and looked for options using standard rotational symmetry. After some brainstorming, I found the final configuration of BUTTERFLY and CHRYSALIS symmetrically intersecting CATERPILLAR. Sometimes the crossword gods are kind.

One final note: I'm super bummed that my clue for PANDEMIC didn't survive the editorial process. I clued it as the [best-selling cooperative board game]. If you're into games and looking for something new, I highly recommend it.

Jeff Chen notes:
Liz Gorski used to do so many beautiful 'connect the dots' visual puzzles that Jim wrote a JavaScript function to automatically ... read more

Liz Gorski used to do so many beautiful "connect the dots" visual puzzles that Jim wrote a JavaScript function to automatically connect the circles in alphabetical order and animate the fades: it's called "GorskiDraw." Take a moment and enjoy the pretty picture below.

(Liz has stopped submitting to the NYT, instead focusing on her successful subscription service. Please consider subscribing! It's great to see her entrepreneurship pay off. Makes me consider going that route, too.)

As a solver, I don't usually appreciate fortuitous themer interconnect – at least, I usually appreciate it less than the constructor. But today, I had a moment of admiration when I realized how nicely BUTTERFLY and CHRYSALIS interlocked with CATERPILLAR.

Jim pointed out afterward though that the ordering was odd. Why BUTTERYFLY -> CATERPILLAR -> CHRYSALIS? What are we, Benjamin Button-terfly?

It's a great observation. Hitting BUTTERFLY so early in my solve gave away the game, too.

This could have been fixed by "flipping" the grid on the NW to SE diagonal, so that CATERPILLAR ran horizontally across the middle, with CHRYSALIS in the NE corner (vertically), and BUTTERFLY in the SW corner (also vertically). That would have been perfect.

Connect the dots puzzles are so tough to construct. I had a tough time working with one that didn't have to be symmetrical, and that nearly broke me.

I imagine Alex tweaked his positions over and over, with one side working out but the other not cooperating. Unfortunately, a lop-sided BUTTERFLY … well, it just wouldn't fly, would it? Alex also had the luxury of starting / ending the pattern anywhere – and going either clockwise or counterclockwise – but still, it's no joke.

Overall, the grid is decent. A bit of toughness in entries like AVANTI, BONTON, PINKOES (not PINKOS?), but that's expected in corners as big as the NW / SE. I might have considered putting a black square at the E of ÉCLAIR to facilitate filling, but that would have cut that corner off but good. So I think he made good decisions all around.

It's not Gorski. But it is Gorski-esque.

Jim Horne notes:
There's a technical reason why Will Shortz would choose not to shade the central CATERPILLAR as Mr. Eaton-Salners wanted, at least for ... read more

There's a technical reason why Will Shortz would choose not to shade the central CATERPILLAR as Mr. Eaton-Salners wanted, at least for digital distribution, and it has to do with software limitations.

Shaded squares aren't supported by Across Lite at all. When the NYT uses them, circles are encoded in the grid, and publishers get notified that those circles should be interpreted as shades. That breaks down when grids have both circles and shaded squares.

XWord Info has no such limitation, so we added the shaded squares here to realize the constructor's intention.

1
C
2
A
3
B
4
B
5
A
6
G
7
E
8
G
9
A
10
S
11
B
12
A
13
G
14
O
V
O
I
D
A
L
15
O
F
N
O
T
E
16
P
A
N
D
E
M
I
17
C
18
S
T
A
B
L
E
19
I
N
T
O
N
E
20
A
21
S
P
E
R
22
E
T
O
N
23
B
24
U
T
T
E
R
F
25
L
26
Y
27
S
I
N
28
C
O
S
E
L
L
29
O
E
30
D
31
P
A
Y
E
R
32
S
33
T
34
E
N
O
S
35
U
36
B
37
E
R
S
38
S
P
39
A
40
R
I
G
H
T
41
G
A
T
E
A
42
U
43
I
C
44
E
I
N
45
G
N
C
46
S
47
A
L
A
A
M
48
D
49
J
50
S
51
C
H
52
R
53
Y
S
A
L
I
S
54
F
R
A
T
55
H
A
T
H
A
56
E
57
C
L
A
I
R
58
A
59
R
60
G
Y
L
E
61
R
62
E
D
E
A
G
L
E
63
R
O
O
M
I
E
64
P
I
N
K
O
E
S
65
S
E
A
E
E
L
66
I
N
T
E
N
D
S
© 2019, The New York TimesNo. 0418 ( 25,363 )
Across
1
Head on a plate? : CABBAGE
8
Bloviating type : GASBAG
14
Egg-shaped : OVOIDAL
15
Worth mentioning : OFNOTE
16
Global scare : PANDEMIC
18
Place to go off track? : STABLE
19
Speak at a level pitch : INTONE
20
In accordance with : ASPER
22
King's College of Our Lady of ___ Beside Windsor : ETON
23
Image formed by connecting this puzzle's circled letters from A to N and then back to A : BUTTERFLY
27
Lust, but not love : SIN
28
Sportscaster in the documentary "Telling It Like It Is" : COSELL
29
Ref. work begun by the London Philological Society : OED
31
One taking care of the bill : PAYER
32
Pool parties? : STENOS
35
Modern line at an airport : UBERS
38
Towel provider, often : SPA
40
"You got it!" : RIGHT
41
French bakery offering : GATEAU
43
Strand during a ski trip, say : ICEIN
45
Major seller of health supplements : GNC
46
Peace in the Middle East : SALAAM
48
Keepers of the records? : DJS
51
Where a 17-Down becomes a 23-Across : CHRYSALIS
54
Same-sex union? : FRAT
55
Branch of yoga : HATHA
56
French bakery offering : ECLAIR
58
Diamond pattern : ARGYLE
61
Chief in the Creek War of 1813-14 : REDEAGLE
63
Dormmate : ROOMIE
64
People whose political views are "Communist lite" : PINKOES
65
Anago, at a Japanese restaurant : SEAEEL
66
Has in mind : INTENDS
Down
1
Duplicates : COPIES
2
"Forward!," in Florence : AVANTI
3
Fashionable society : BONTON
4
Raise one's hand for, say : BIDON
5
Port north of the Horn of Africa : ADEN
6
Hand-held console introduced in 1989 : GAMEBOY
7
Teacher of Samuel : ELI
8
John and Mark, for two : GOSPELS
9
Following : AFTER
10
Wolf (down) : SNARF
11
It's always cut short : BOB
12
Part of NATO: Abbr. : ATL
13
Thousand bucks : GEE
17
One that becomes a 51-Across : CATERPILLAR
21
Home of the Rams before 2016: Abbr. : STL
24
Paper clips have lots of them : USES
25
Past the baseline, in tennis : LONG
26
Michelle of "Crazy Rich Asians" : YEOH
28
Spanish word repeated in a welcoming phrase : CASA
30
Something to fall back from: Abbr. : DST
31
___✔ (traveler's convenience) : PRE
33
In good shape : TRIM
34
A in German 101? : EIN
35
Boot brand from Australia : UGG
36
En ___ (with all of a court's judges) : BANC
37
Engrave : ETCH
39
Smoothie flavor : ACAI
42
Its N.Y.S.E. ticker symbol is "X" : USSTEEL
44
Entered carefully : EASEDIN
47
Comment from a hot bath : AAH
48
Sight in a Chinese parade : DRAGON
49
Like Nelson Mandela for 27 years : JAILED
50
Underline, say : STRESS
52
Pay for play : RHYME
53
Bulldog : YALIE
54
Fail to show up as expected : FLAKE
57
Euro division : CENT
58
Married couple? : ARS
59
Sushi garnish : ROE
60
Indian state whose largest city is Vasco da Gama : GOA
62
Lead-in to center : EPI

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

Found bugs or have suggestions?