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A CENTURY OF SONG

New York Times, Sunday, April 23, 2017

Author:
Olivia Mitra Framke
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
24/23/20178/26/20180
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2000000
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021
Olivia Mitra Framke
Horse Head

This puzzle:

Rows: 21, Columns: 21 Words: 140, Blocks: 71 Missing: {X} This is the debut puzzle for Ms. Framke. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Notepad: When this puzzle is done, draw a line connecting the 11 circled letters, starting and ending in square #28, so as to spell a phrase related to the puzzle's theme.
Olivia Mitra Framke notes:
I am so grateful and amazed that my first published crossword is with the New York Times... and on a Sunday no less. What a place to start! It was during my college years at Vassar that ... read more

I am so grateful and amazed that my first published crossword is with the New York Times... and on a Sunday no less. What a place to start!

It was during my college years at Vassar that I really got into crosswords, not on campus, but when I'd visit home. It became a ritual that my dad would hoard the Times Magazines so that we could do the Sunday puzzles together when I returned. We'd take turns, and each time I'd try to "crack" the theme before he did. In the beginning, I didn't have a chance at finishing one on my own, but I did so many that soon I was getting the themes before my dad even got a chance to look at them.

Solving Elizabeth Gorski's 2013 Secretariat puzzle was a turning point for me. I was completely floored by her ingenuity and wanted to know exactly how she pulled off such a cool trick. So I started looking into what it takes to make crosswords and made a few for fun.

Three years later, I found myself with a lot of time on my hands after finishing grad school. I started to wonder about the world of crossword publication and got in touch with Nancy Salomon, who kindly gave me a crash course in puzzle construction. I learned so much from her, and there is simply no way I would be here without her tough love and incredible patience. With her help, I went from struggling to find the right construction software to having this puzzle accepted by Will in just under six weeks. It's been one hell of a ride.

I'm very proud of today's puzzle, which honors one of my all-time favorite musicians. The grid went through many iterations, but once I decided on using a phrase as the connection points for the image (instead of alphabetical connectors), it started to come together. I hope you like it!!

Jeff Chen notes:
Homage to a jazz great, near what would have been ELLA's 100th birthday. I'm a huge jazz fan, having played in jazz bands for 20 years in my youth; neat to see Ella honored. Love ... read more

Homage to a jazz great, near what would have been ELLA's 100th birthday. I'm a huge jazz fan, having played in jazz bands for 20 years in my youth; neat to see Ella honored.

Love that I SING LIKE I FEEL quote — perfect for someone known for her soulfulness, right up there with Nina Simone. If you haven't listened to her HOW HIGH THE MOON rendition, it's well worth a listen. A TISKET A TASKET is not one of my favorites, but it did help make her a star.

A shame that IT DON'T MEAN A THING didn't make the cut. One of her best performances.

Tribute puzzles can feel like a Wikipedia page, a dry listing of factoids, so I liked the QUEEN OF JAZZ crown visual. I wasn't familiar with this nickname, though — and LADY ELLA was only vaguely familiar — so that took away some of the impact for me.

I used to think that dot-to-dot puzzles weren't that hard to make … until I constructed one (coming out later this year). Turns out they're devilish, especially if you need exact placements of certain letters.

It wouldn't be hard to build around the letters if the crown were the only factor, but they all must interact with so many themers.

As if that wasn't hard enough, Will's max of 140 words means that you have to build the entire grid using fairly long entries!

Take the upper middle region. ABEET, SIA, OF NO, RESNAP aren't great. But with ELLA, the E O F hanging out in that section, and the long words like CONSUMER, it's hard to avoid using gluey bits. (If it were allowable, going up to 142 words could have helped, maybe by placing a black square at the S of CONSUMER.)

I did wince at ACETAL crossing AGHA and NUI crossing NUIT. Both should be gettable for regular crossword solvers, but it's these kind of things that potentially turn solvers away from crosswords. (If I had a nickel for every time I've heard "I have to know WHAT?")

Overall, Olivia does pretty well with this Herculean task — quite a way to make one's debut!

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© 2017, The New York TimesNo. 0423 ( 24,638 )
Across
1
Italian relatives : MAMMAS
7
Part of the earth : CRUST
12
___ Coast, scenic area near Capri : AMALFI
18
Brutish sort : GORILLA
19
"Dallas" actress ___ J. Wilson : SHEREE
20
Mermaids' home in Neverland : LAGOON
21
1938 #1 hit for 68-/70-Across, which was inspired by a nursery rhyme : ATISKETATASKET
23
Listless feelings : ENNUIS
24
Many August births : LEOS
25
Popular pairing with steak au poivre : CABERNET
26
Charm : BEGUILE
27
And the following: Abbr. : ETSEQ
29
Longbow wood : YEW
30
Detached : ALOOF
32
One for the plus column : ASSET
33
Congestion site : SINUS
35
Wyatt of the Old West : EARP
37
Extremely loud, in music : FFF
39
Soft drink brand : DADS
40
Love interest for Anastasia in "Anastasia" : DIMITRI
42
___ Reports : CONSUMER
45
Suffix with sheep or hawk : ISH
48
Vintner's cask : TUN
49
Old car named for an explorer : DESOTO
51
Elder Lannister son on "Game of Thrones" : JAIME
53
Stone Age relics : NEOLITHS
56
Piñata smasher, maybe : NINO
57
"___ parvis magna" ("Greatness from small beginnings": Lat.) : SIC
58
H.S. big shots : SRS
60
Talk endlessly to : JAWAT
61
Act like : APE
63
Illustrator software maker : ADOBE
65
Kama ___ : SUTRA
67
For grades 1-12, briefly : ELHI
68
With 70-Across, nickname for a celebrated performer born on April 25, 1917 : LADY
70
See 68-Across : ELLA
71
Dreary : GRAY
72
Dog whose tail curls over the back : SPITZ
74
Great Lakes natives : ERIES
76
Sister of Helios and Selene : EOS
77
Polish coin : ZLOTY
78
Promising action on a fishing line : TUG
79
Picks out of a lineup, informally : IDS
81
Letter-shaped fastener : TNUT
83
Button on the bottom of a multipage form : CONTINUE
85
Ring : PHONE
87
Frank : HOTDOG
89
Rapa ___ (locale of many monoliths) : NUI
90
Sports team V.I.P.s : GMS
91
Set piece? : TVCAMERA
93
Natural history museum sights : FOSSILS
96
Turkish title : AGHA
98
Road offense, for short : DUI
99
The hots : LUST
100
Bluish shades : TEALS
103
Green who was a four-time vocal coach on "The Voice" : CEELO
105
Question asked while extending the hand, maybe : TRUCE
108
Reassuring touch : PAT
110
Fixture on a fishing dock : SCALE
112
One state symbol of Massachusetts : ELMTREE
114
Introduces slowly : PHASESIN
117
Record label that looks like the name of a radio station : KTEL
118
Lao-tzu follower : TAOIST
119
Notable quote by 68-/70-Across : ISINGLIKEIFEEL
121
Set oneself right, in a way : ATONED
122
Five Pillars of Islam, e.g. : TENETS
123
"Bonehead" and "numbskull," e.g. : INSULTS
124
Solitudinarians : LONERS
125
State representatives? : STARS
126
Ride and Field : SALLYS
Down
1
Sacred choral works : MOTETS
2
Melodic passages : ARIOSI
3
Accidentally hit "reply all" on, say : MISSEND
4
Jan. inits. : MLK
5
"Smart" one : ALEC
6
Skewered Asian dish : SATAY
7
Arctic food fish : CHAR
8
Close again, as a purse : RESNAP
9
"Family Matters" ubernerd : URKEL
10
Manage : SEETO
11
Winter celebration abroad : TET
12
Sheltered at sea : ALEE
13
Japanese comic style : MANGA
14
Mass recitation : AGNUSDEI
15
Repeated collaborator with 68-/70-Across : LOUISARMSTRONG
16
Thwarted : FOILED
17
Maps of Alaska and Hawaii, often : INSETS
18
Big blow : GALE
19
Flight attendant : STEWARD
22
Red as ___ : ABEET
26
Close buds : BFFS
28
"Enough already!" : QUITIT
31
Be ___ use : OFNO
34
Unlikely book club recommendation : SMUT
36
Edith Piaf's "Non, Je Ne Regrette ___" : RIEN
38
Name on a blimp : FUJI
41
Gets some air : INHALES
42
___ Nast (magazine publisher) : CONDE
43
Good name for an Irish carpenter? : OTOOLE
44
Bubs : MACS
45
For laughs : INJEST
46
Arctic young 'un : SEALPUP
47
Signature tune of 68-/70-Across : HOWHIGHTHEMOON
50
One-named singer with the 2016 #1 hit "Cheap Thrills" : SIA
52
Slip in a book : ERRATUM
54
Café additive : LAIT
55
Trade jabs (with) : SPAR
57
Flavors : SEASONS
59
Approve : SAYYES
62
Hollywood job title : EDITOR
64
Freedom Caucus, e.g. : BLOC
66
Wrinkly fruit : UGLI
69
Gossipmonger : YENTA
73
Portion of a penny : ZINC
75
Where Nice is en France : SUD
77
Tough draws in the game Bananagrams : ZTILES
80
No fun, as a party : DEAD
82
Vegan staple : TOFU
84
Van Gogh's "Le Café de ___" : NUIT
86
Beverage sponsor of the old "Little Orphan Annie" radio show : OVALTINE
87
One in line? : HEIR
88
Biblical quartet : GOSPELS
92
Silence : MUTE
94
East German secret police : STASI
95
Quantity of toys on Santa's sleigh : SACKFUL
96
Perfumer's liquid : ACETAL
97
Summer piazza treat : GELATO
99
Near ringer : LEANER
101
Nowadays : LATELY
102
Occurrences in the 30s, say : SLEETS
104
Skating champ Brian : ORSER
106
Sore : UPSET
107
Setting for a fine meal : CHINA
109
Polynesian carvings : TIKIS
111
Bracket shapes : ELLS
113
Takeoff figs. : ETDS
115
Three-stripers: Abbr. : SGTS
116
Singer with the 1984 hit "99 Luftballons" : NENA
119
Part of T.G.I.F. : ITS
120
Cuba or Catalina: Abbr. : ISL

Answer summary: 2 unique to this puzzle.

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