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New York Times, Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Author: Peter Gordon
Editor: Will Shortz
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Peter Gordon

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 72, Blocks: 40 Missing: {FQWX} Spans: 2 Grid has mirror symmetry. This is puzzle # 106 for Mr. Gordon. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Peter Gordon notes: The idea for this puzzle came while solving Andrew Ries's 'Stagger Sessions,' a 20-crossword EP. In one puzzle, ELBA is clued like ... more
Peter Gordon notes:

The idea for this puzzle came while solving Andrew Ries's "Stagger Sessions," a 20-crossword EP. In one puzzle, ELBA is clued like so:

[Idris who's a counterargument to John Donne's "no man is an island" bit]

I immediately noticed that NO MAN IS AN ISLAND is 15 letters, and thought if I could come up with some other men whose names were islands, I might have a theme. All I found were CUBA GOODING JR., BRET EASTON ELLIS, DOCK ELLIS (an All-Star pitcher who supposedly threw a no-hitter while on LSD), and the fashion designer PERRY ELLIS. The ELLIS names didn't work with the other theme lengths of 9, 13, and 15, so I thought this theme wouldn't work. But then I realized I could make it a left-right symmetric puzzle, and the grid worked nicely with just 72 words.

I contacted Andrew Ries to make sure he was okay with me adapting his clue into an entire puzzle. He said that he had had the same idea seven years ago, and had CECIL RHODES and JOHN IRELAND on his list, but not CUBA GOODING JR. He said JOHN IRELAND had the problem of repeating LAND with NO MAN IS AN ISLAND, and back then IDRIS ELBA was not nearly as famous as he is now, so he scrapped the idea and ended up incorporating it into the ELBA clue. He gave me the go-ahead for my theme, and here we are.

Jeff Chen notes: Great idea, NO MAN IS AN ISLAND refuted by CUBA GOODING JR, IDRIS ELBA, and … BRET EASTON ELLIS. I was only vaguely familiar ... more
Jeff Chen notes:

Great idea, NO MAN IS AN ISLAND refuted by CUBA GOODING JR, IDRIS ELBA, and … BRET EASTON ELLIS. I was only vaguely familiar with that last one, but most best-selling authors ought to be crossworthy, yeah?

He also felt out of place because no one refers to ELLIS Island as just Ellis (do they?), whereas CUBA and ELBA are islands on their own. Sometimes it's tough to find enough examples to flesh out a crossword theme, and you have to accept some not-quite-ideal themers.

As Peter said, mirror symmetry is sometimes a lifesaver. The constraints are weird – it works, as long as all your themers are odd in length, or you have one pair matched by length + two that are odd-numbered in length. But that matched pair can't be too long!

It's a very specific set of constraints, but when it works, it works.

You can also do some neat things, like split up PERRY / ELLIS, as it's 5 / 5. I might have preferred that, myself.

I haven't been crazy about Peter's recent low-word-count grids recently, as they introduce too many compromises for an early-week puzzle. Today's grid felt much stronger, the openness allowing for such goodies as BRAZILIANS and GRIZABELLA. Along with TEABAGS / SANGRIA + PLUG-INS, this was a lot of great material to keep solvers going.

A couple of entries did make me pause:

  • GDANSK might be tough for newer solvers, but the crossing answers felt fair. And that GD- start is interesting.
  • CRUDITY made me hitch – isn't it usually "crudeness"? CRUDITE, as in the French appetizer, might have been more up my alley, but it's probably more foreign (yes, pun intended) to less-experienced solvers.
  • HD TV SET also felt slightly off. The SET felt like a tag-on.

But overall, a nice grid. Going down to 72 words can make a good change of pace, as long as the result is smooth, which today's was.

1
D
2
E
3
P
4
P
5
T
6
I
7
L
8
E
9
S
10
S
11
K
12
I
13
D
14
A
C
R
E
15
E
R
I
C
A
16
E
I
R
E
17
B
R
E
T
18
E
A
S
T
O
N
19
E
L
L
I
S
20
S
U
P
E
R
B
21
G
D
A
N
S
K
22
M
A
23
T
24
H
R
E
25
C
26
U
27
B
A
G
O
28
O
D
I
N
29
G
30
J
31
R
32
G
A
R
R
33
S
E
R
T
A
34
R
A
Y
35
S
36
O
L
G
A
37
C
C
V
38
I
K
E
A
39
D
I
E
Z
40
C
L
A
S
41
P
42
Z
E
S
T
43
I
44
D
R
I
S
E
L
45
B
A
46
S
47
I
48
D
L
E
U
P
49
T
U
R
B
50
I
51
N
52
E
53
I
C
R
I
E
D
54
G
O
E
S
O
N
55
N
O
M
A
N
I
56
S
57
A
58
N
I
S
L
A
N
D
59
A
N
O
N
60
T
E
N
O
N
61
L
A
C
E
62
I
S
M
S
63
Y
E
A
R
S
64
A
C
E
D
© 2018, The New York TimesNo. 0424 ( 25,004 )
Across Down
1. Johnny of "Chocolat" and "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" : DEPP
5. Pieces in the game Rummikub : TILES
10. Lose control on ice, say : SKID
14. Unit for surveyors : ACRE
15. "Fear of Flying" author Jong : ERICA
16. Dubliner's home : EIRE
17. Author of "American Psycho" : BRETEASTONELLIS
20. Magnificent : SUPERB
21. Polish seaport : GDANSK
22. Yoga surface : MAT
24. Charlemagne's domain: Abbr. : HRE
25. "Jerry Maguire" Oscar winner : CUBAGOODINGJR
32. Teri with a big "Tootsie" role : GARR
33. Company with numbered sheep plush toys : SERTA
34. Southernmost team in the American League : RAYS
36. Eldest of Chekhov's "Three Sisters" : OLGA
37. The year 205 : CCV
38. Furniture superstore : IKEA
39. Dos x 5 : DIEZ
40. Bracelet fastener : CLASP
42. Piquancy : ZEST
43. Star of "Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom" : IDRISELBA
46. Approach furtively, with "to" : SIDLEUP
49. Machine that produces power : TURBINE
53. Patti Page song that begins "It was winter when you told me you were leaving" : ICRIED
54. Continues : GOESON
55. John Donne quote disproved by 17-, 25- and 43-Across? : NOMANISANISLAND
59. Ever's partner : ANON
60. Mortise's partner : TENON
61. 13th-anniversary gift : LACE
62. Belief systems : ISMS
63. What birthday cake candles represent : YEARS
64. Passed with flying colors : ACED
1. Brylcreem amounts : DABS
2. Stationery color : ECRU
3. Ready for surgery : PREP
4. Sessions of Congress : PETE
5. They're likely to get into hot water : TEABAGS
6. Form letters? : IRS
7. Hammered : LIT
8. Green: Prefix : ECO
9. Drink made with red wine and fruit : SANGRIA
10. Emmy winner Ward : SELA
11. Oven for pottery : KILN
12. Apt name for an ophthalmologist : IRIS
13. Rolltop, e.g. : DESK
18. Humor columnist Bombeck : ERMA
19. Genesis garden : EDEN
23. Pedal attachment on a racing bike : TOECLIP
24. Modern hotel room item : HDTVSET
25. Colombian city that hosted the 1971 Pan American Games : CALI
26. Impulse : URGE
27. Largest group of Portuguese speakers : BRAZILIANS
28. Menaces of the deep : ORCAS
29. "Memory" singer in "Cats" : GRIZABELLA
30. Hunky-dory : JAKE
31. Deli loaves : RYES
32. One of two words added to the Pledge of Allegiance in 1954 : GOD
35. Wasn't a straphanger : SAT
40. Primitiveness : CRUDITY
41. Software add-ons that offer extra features : PLUGINS
44. Paula who wrote "It Ain't All About the Cookin'" : DEEN
45. Some sibs : BROS
46. Egyptian peninsula : SINAI
47. Mao and Xi, in China : ICONS
48. She might check for a fever with her hand : DRMOM
50. Fashion designer Mizrahi : ISAAC
51. Time being : NONCE
52. Over and done : ENDED
56. Visualize : SEE
57. Santa ___, Calif. : ANA
58. Negative conjunction : NOR

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

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