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New York Times, Thursday, April 24, 2014

Author:
Stanley Newman
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
245/5/19845/24/20190
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
1832523
ScrabRebusCirclePangramPre‑WS
1.640012
Stanley Newman

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 74, Blocks: 34 Missing: {JQWZ} Spans: 1 This is puzzle # 20 for Mr. Newman. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Stanley Newman notes:
Inspiration this time began with recalling a puzzle I published more than 20 years ago, by the late, immensely talented constructor ... read more

Inspiration this time began with recalling a puzzle I published more than 20 years ago, by the late, immensely talented constructor Elizabeth Wilkinson. All of the clues in her "T PARTY" 15x15 started with the letter T, and there were multiple T-shaped black square patterns. That puzzle got me thinking about clue-restriction themes that would be somewhat more opaque.

After coming up with the fixed-syllable idea, I offered it to Will with his choice of all three-syllable or all four-syllable clues, without having a specific day of the week in mind for it. Will accepted it for a Thursday (which he continues to be non-rebus short of), and chose four syllables.

The fixed-length message didn't leave a lot of flexibility for its placement in the grid. The crucial thing I wanted to take care of first was the Down answer for the X in EXACTLY. FEDEX looked good, and I placed the black squares nearby in such a way as to have as many options for the EDE crossing letters of FEDEX as possible. Then I placed the rest of the blacks, trying to have as low an answer count as possible. I briefly flirted with a 72-answer grid, but couldn't get that to work without answer compromises, so I reworked the grid slightly to the 74 answers finally used.

There were two additional subtle aspects to filling in the grid. First, the puzzle couldn't have any partials requiring fill-in-the-blank clues — how exactly does one pronounce underscores? Having abbreviated clues/answers seemed more of an inelegance than a problem to me, since one does pronounce many common abbreviations as if they were the spelled-out words. Still, I had wanted to avoid abbreviations entirely, and nearly did so — there's only AGCY in the answers and "yr." and "Mrs." in the clues.

Writing the 74 four-syllable clues turned out to be rather slow going, to come out to my satisfaction. Cluing "tough" for a Thursday was extra-tough with this added restriction. Also important to me was to avoid any clues that seemed unnatural or "forced," wanting to keep the theme a surprise for as long as possible. One more special wrinkle I had to watch out for: avoiding words with multiple common syllabifications. That's why my first thought of "Holy mackerel!" for YIPES wouldn't have worked.

Still, the harder clues turned out with all the variety and difficulty that I strive for with my less-restrictive tougher crosswords. Sometimes, that difficulty comes from a lesser-known fact about a well-known thing (like LATEX used for the scratch-off layer of lottery tickets), sometimes from multiple possible answers (at least four five-letter ones for "Colleague of Kirk"), and sometimes forcing you to think about things you know in new ways (like "Hive, in effect" for NEST). I'm pleased to say Will felt the need to totally redo only a dozen or so of my clues.

I hope I succeeded in surprising and pleasing you with this quirky theme.

Jeff Chen notes:
What a workout today. Having the three main theme answers be opaque until the very end made this one play like a quote puzzle. ... read more

What a workout today. Having the three main theme answers be opaque until the very end made this one play like a quote puzzle. Eventually I was able to piece it all together, and afterward, I felt like I had just done ten sets of ten weighted pull-ups.

Okay, five sets of five.

Would you believe three?

Fine, I did the flexed arm hang! But yes, I was drained afterward.

As with most all of his puzzles, Stan does a nice job of laying out this one and filling it with quality. With just three themers, I would expect there to be some snappy longer fill, and Stan doesn't disappoint. LOANER CAR is beautiful, my favorite of the bunch, but LIFEBELTS was also quite nice. I had no idea what a RALLYE was, but it was fun to read up on. Even MCCOY brought back some nice memories of "Star Trek." I would start saying "Dammit Jim (Horne), I'm a writer, not a Javascript coder!" But being from Canada, I think Jim would likely just say, "Eh?" Politely, of course.

And as with Stan's "Saturday Stumpers" in Newsday, he does a great job of avoiding the icky short stuff. AGCY isn't great, nor is HIRER, but if those two are your worst entries, you've done a nice job overall. Good care taken with his construction, as always.

To me, the theme felt somewhat underwhelming, sort of an afterthought to having solved the puzzle. I suppose I could have gone back to marvel at each and every clue having exactly four syllables, but after a quick peek at three or four clues, it seemed to check out. I just wasn't sure why four syllables was significant, or why it was four syllables instead of four-letter words, or 140 characters, or something else with some rationale behind it. Would have been really nice to have some additional layer, some unifying theme revealer to pull it together.

Anyway, a good, hard workout. In closing, my favorite clue = [What takes a stand?] = TBALL = super fun (both TBALL the game and the clue — I may or may not have totally beat my nephew the other day at TBALL and rubbed it in his face). I love the clever repurposing of "taking a stand" here.

1
B
2
O
3
L
4
A
5
A
6
L
7
M
8
A
9
H
10
U
11
L
12
A
13
S
14
E
L
A
L
15
N
O
E
L
16
U
T
I
C
A
17
R
I
T
E
18
G
A
R
B
19
S
A
F
E
S
20
E
V
E
R
21
Y
O
N
E
O
22
F
T
H
E
23
T
E
X
T
I
L
E
24
M
E
L
25
B
26
A
27
S
28
P
A
R
29
S
30
D
E
31
C
E
N
T
32
M
33
A
34
R
35
N
E
36
C
U
37
T
E
38
O
L
G
A
39
C
L
U
E
S
40
H
A
S
E
X
41
A
C
T
L
Y
42
C
O
N
S
43
I
R
A
N
44
M
O
S
E
S
45
O
N
S
T
46
A
R
47
N
O
48
R
A
49
Y
E
A
50
C
E
51
O
52
C
A
N
53
T
54
A
55
T
56
A
57
F
58
O
U
R
S
59
Y
L
L
A
B
L
E
S
60
P
61
E
T
R
I
62
C
O
O
L
63
A
G
E
S
64
A
T
E
A
T
65
A
G
C
Y
66
L
A
N
E
67
C
A
R
L
Y
68
R
A
K
E
69
L
E
S
S
© 2014, The New York TimesNo. 0424 ( 23,543 )
Across
1
Weapon with knots : BOLA
5
Soprano Gluck : ALMA
9
Grass shack dances : HULAS
14
It means "skyward" : ELAL
15
Wassailer's tune : NOEL
16
City near Rome : UTICA
17
Religious act : RITE
18
Distinctive dress : GARB
19
What walls might hide : SAFES
20
The theme, part 1 : EVERYONEOFTHE
23
It may be felt : TEXTILE
24
Gibson or Brooks : MEL
25
Four-yr. degrees : BAS
28
Ends up even : PARS
30
Not too awful : DECENT
32
French department : MARNE
36
Overclever : CUTE
38
Chekhov "Sister" : OLGA
39
The theme, part 2 : CLUESHASEXACTLY
42
Negative points : CONS
43
"Argo" setting : IRAN
44
Tablet smasher : MOSES
45
G.M. option : ONSTAR
47
Mrs. James Joyce : NORA
49
House call, often : YEA
50
Business honcho : CEO
52
Bach choral work : CANTATA
57
The theme, part 3 : FOURSYLLABLES
60
Dish inventor : PETRI
62
"That's fine with me!" : COOL
63
It's a long time : AGES
64
Bothered a lot : ATEAT
65
Bureau, for short : AGCY
66
Track assignment : LANE
67
Singer Simon : CARLY
68
No gentleman : RAKE
69
A reduced state : LESS
Down
1
Hat worn by Che : BERET
2
Shade like khaki : OLIVE
3
Scratch-card layer : LATEX
4
On the lookout : ALERT
5
Luanda's land : ANGOLA
6
Wheels for a while : LOANERCAR
7
Pure and simple : MERE
8
Best-selling Mitch : ALBOM
9
Disco line dance : HUSTLE
10
45th state : UTAH
11
Flotation gear : LIFEBELTS
12
Virtuoso : ACE
13
Finnair rival : SAS
21
"Oh my goodness!" : YIPES
22
Golf cup sponsor : FEDEX
26
Hidden motive : ANGLE
27
Hotel visits : STAYS
29
"Lazy" lady : SUSAN
31
Conan nickname : COCO
32
Colleague of Kirk : MCCOY
33
Using no help : ALONE
34
Attempts to catch : RUNSAFTER
35
Hive, in effect : NEST
37
Break time, perhaps : TENOCLOCK
40
LinkedIn client : HIRER
41
"Spillsaver" brand : AMANA
46
Mental sharpness : ACUITY
48
Public-road race : RALLYE
51
Trash can dweller : OSCAR
53
What takes a stand? : TBALL
54
Food for tadpoles : ALGAE
55
Some freezing temps : TEENS
56
Surefooted beasts : ASSES
58
Demanding test : ORAL
59
Class at a Y : YOGA
60
"12" preceder : PAC
61
Docking info : ETA

Answer summary: 3 unique to this puzzle, 1 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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