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New York Times, Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Author: Emanuel Ax and Brad Wilber
Editor: Will Shortz
Emanuel Ax
TotalDebutCollabs
14/19/20171
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0001000
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.59000
Brad Wilber
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
512/19/200510/21/201725
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
001201434
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.60001

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 71, Blocks: 37 Missing: {XZ} Grid is asymmetric This is the debut puzzle for Mr. Ax This is puzzle # 50 for Mr. Wilber. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Notepad: CELEBRITY CROSSWORD
To mark the 75th anniversary of the New York Times crossword, which debuted in 1942, we are publishing a series of puzzles co-created by famous people who solve the Times crossword, working together with regular Times puzzle contributors.

This collaboration is by the Grammy-winning classical pianist Emanuel Ax, who also teaches at the Juilliard School, working with Brad Wilber, a reference librarian at Houghton College in upstate New York. This is Brad's 50th puzzle for The Times.

The celebrity collaborations will continue periodically through the year.

More information about the making of today's puzzle appears in the Times's daily crossword column (nytimes.com/column/wordplay).
Constructor notes: AX: I have been a passionate devotee of the Times puzzle for more years than I can count. When I travel, the daily puzzle is one ... more
Constructor notes:

AX: I have been a passionate devotee of the Times puzzle for more years than I can count. When I travel, the daily puzzle is one of the things that makes me feel close to home. I am also very happy that my children seem to have caught the bug, and are far better than me at solving. Getting to try to make one for the great Will Shortz has been a true highlight for me, and I am grateful to Brad for his expertise, inspiration and patience.

WILBER: I minored in applied piano at college, and I'm still occasionally a church player, though when Will paired me with Mr. Ax ("call me Manny") he was only aware that I had a general classical music bent. I wanted a theme with some musical component, if possible, and once we sketched out a decent idea, Will and Joel had the brainstorm of the visual grid element and deftly tweaked the roster of theme entries to allow them to cross, thus clearing the middle.

Another frequent collaborator of mine, Doug Peterson, lent a hand with the nitty-gritty of grid design. Manny himself ably put crowning touches on the puzzle fill (including the revealer) and was game to do an even split of the clues. (I counseled against RUNS at 16A as a duplication of a theme entry, but I see it's back and I get it - TUNS or DUNS is not exactly commonplace.) After years of solving, Manny showed a nice affinity for New York Times style, I think - my favorites are 1A, 23A, 32A, 53D.

We worked over e-mail and by telephone, sometimes from wherever he was performing (Brahms concerto no. 2 in Milwaukee, Beethoven concerto no. 2 in Detroit, etc.), and more recently from his home as he was premiering the HK Gruber concerto with the New York Philharmonic.

Given my puzzle bylines over the last several years, you might correctly surmise that I derive lots of satisfaction from co-authoring, and this was one I won't soon forget. Beyond the joys of connecting with Manny and his enthusiasm, it's a special way for me to mark my 50th appearance in the Times, as Will mentions in his intro.

Jeff Chen notes: Love, love, love that Emanuel Ax and Brad teamed up to make a crossword related so closely to their lives! Visuals in crosswords can ... more
Jeff Chen notes:

Love, love, love that Emanuel Ax and Brad teamed up to make a crossword related so closely to their lives! Visuals in crosswords can be so much fun — the musical eighth note made of black squares delighted me. It has been done before (Liz is a violist!), but it's still neat.

"Words that can follow X" puzzles have fallen by the wayside, so if you're going to go down that well-worn road, I think it's important to do something above and beyond. The musical note visual helped in that regard.

Having NOTE as a revealer (SOUR NOTE, MASH NOTE, HIGH NOTE, HALF NOTE) was a let-down though. I like to work a little for my a-ha moment, especially in a mid-week puzzle — no spoon-feeding! I'm not sure what would have been better, but something like HINT clued with a reference to the musical note?

I loved QUAKER GUN, what an evocative term! DAYMARE too. GRETA GARBO, MANGIA (Italian for "eat!"), ANECDOTAL, even PLAY AREA clued cheekily toward Ax's profession = so much great bonus fill! Almost felt like a themeless puzzle in that regard.

Prices to pay for these goodies, though. I don't mind a little ENE RONS UNAS LEROI SASE; generally minor and forgettable. But the upper left and lower right corners ended up giving the puzzle a rough-around-the-edges feel. It is difficult to fill around crossing themers — the starts of WHISKEY SOUR and MONSTER MASH combine to create inflexibility up in the NW — but A CENT + ERE I + LE ROI makes for an inelegant start to the puzzle.

Same for the end — A FATE + N CAR + the tough HALLO and AGLET…

(I usually would employ cheater squares (a black square at the R of RHODE or first A of AFATE to smooth these sections out). But some constructors much prefer a cleaner, more stark look to a puzzle.)

But overall, so neat that two musically-driven people came up with something so related to them.

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© 2017, The New York TimesNo. 0419 ( 24,634 )
Across Down
1. BBQ platter side : SLAW
5. Two-faced god : JANUS
10. Shade of blue : AQUA
14. Low-___ : TECH
15. "___ the Law" (Steven Seagal picture) : ABOVE
16. Worries for Great Depression banks : RUNS
17. "Fly ___ spurn thee ..." : Shelley : EREI
18. Olympic gymnast Strug : KERRI
19. ___ Dillon, lead role on "Gunsmoke" : MATT
20. Classic song with the lyric "Whatever happened to my Transylvania twist?" : MONSTERMASH
23. Gold in a pond? : KOI
24. Early capital of Alaska : SITKA
25. Troubling reverie : DAYMARE
27. Landscaping tool : EDGER
29. Flips through, as TV channels : SURFS
32. What the keys are to a pianist? : PLAYAREA
35. Trattoria order? : MANGIA
36. Hamilton biographer Chernow and others : RONS
37. Suffix with acetyl : ENE
38. Negates : ANNULS
39. Just make : EKEOUT
41. Holder of encumbered property : LIENEE
42. Andean animal with expensive wool : VICUNA
43. Mo. of Thomas Jefferson's birthday : APR
44. "La Cage aux Folles" enterprise : DRAGSHOW
48. One side of a longstanding feud : SHIA
52. Prefix with classical : NEO
54. Like some magicians' assistants, apparently : SAWEDINHALF
56. Feedbag bits : OATS
58. Eight-year Clinton cabinet member : RENO
59. Eyelashes : CILIA
60. 1917 dethronee : TSAR
61. Mystery writer Nevada ___ : BARR
62. Shoelace tip : AGLET
63. Slippery swimmers : EELS
64. Soulful Redding : OTIS
65. ___ Island Red (fowl type) : RHODE
1. Comes (from) : STEMS
2. One who was wished a long life, in old French cheers : LEROI
3. F. Scott Fitzgerald's "Two for ___" : ACENT
4. Drink often garnished with a cherry : WHISKEYSOUR
5. Hunky-dory : JAKE
6. Scottish city that lent its name to a cattle breed : ABERDEEN
7. Best Picture loser to "Kramer vs. Kramer" : NORMARAE
8. Tanning element, informally : UVRAY
9. It's measured by the Richter scale : SEISM
10. What a radius is part of : ARM
11. Log painted deceptively to look like a cannon : QUAKERGUN
12. "Do ___ others ..." : UNTO
13. Italian wine town : ASTI
21. Cry before curtsying or taking a bow : TADA
22. Tipples circumspectly : HASANIP
26. Exercise-induced euphoria : RUNNERSHIGH
28. Famously reclusive Hollywood legend : GRETAGARBO
30. "___ and Forget" (classic humor piece by James Thurber) : FILE
31. Autograph collector's enclosure, for short : SASE
32. Earlier: Abbr. : PREV
33. Shape-shifter of Norse mythology : LOKI
34. Not statistically based, as evidence : ANECDOTAL
35. Nyasaland, today : MALAWI
40. Some, in Seville : UNAS
45. Worry about, informally : SWEAT
46. Artist ___ de Toulouse-Lautrec : HENRI
47. They could be represented by a cartoonist's wavy lines : ODORS
49. Salutation among Winnie-the-Pooh and friends : HALLO
50. Words before "so sue me" : ILIED
51. ___ worse than death : AFATE
52. Word that can follow the ends of 20- and 54-Across and 4- and 26-Down : NOTE
53. What pros handle things with : EASE
55. Nascar Hall of Fame locale: Abbr. : NCAR
57. Some SAT takers: Abbr. : SRS

Answer summary: 3 unique to this puzzle.

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