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New York Times, Saturday, April 5, 2014

Author:
Ashton Anderson and James Mulhern
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
1111/16/20096/23/20176
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
0100073
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.62000
Ashton Anderson
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
2411/16/20096/23/20176
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
012001011
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.60000
James Mulhern

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 72, Blocks: 27 Missing: {JQ} This is puzzle # 7 for Mr. Anderson. This is puzzle # 4 for Mr. Mulhern. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Constructor notes:
Ashton: A quick intro: I'm a Ph.D. student in computer science. James and I met during our undergrads at McGill, where he first ... read more

Ashton:

A quick intro: I'm a Ph.D. student in computer science. James and I met during our undergrads at McGill, where he first introduced me to crosswords, and, later, to the idea of constructing them. I never thought I'd be a "crossword person," but it has turned out to be a weirdly perfect combination of many things I love (language, pattern, misdirection, etc.). I think of constructing as a craft, or a minor form of art, and it makes for a great creative outlet for me.

When James and I collaborate, I usually start off with the first corner (seeded with an entry from James), then pass it off to James who fills in the opposite corner (seeded with one of my entries), and we try to design the grid so that the 3rd and 4th corners can then be finished simultaneously. This is because I'm a hopeless puzzle perfectionist and love the freedom of the first corner (but my solo output is mostly a folder full of first corners), whereas James is much better at making shrewd compromises to squeeze great corners out of constrained situations — I open, he closes.

I did the top half of the puzzle (seeded by LEGALIZE IT) and James did the bottom (seeded by SHE SAID YES, although I was thinking of the ecstatic phrase). I'm especially excited about this one because it has a lot of answers that feel very "us," like I GOT YOU, MAKE BANK, DUCHAMP, and PATTYCAKE.

James:

Despite almost ruining our friendship (PEELINGS led to a heated debate), it was a blast making this puzzle. Ashton's NE corner, in particular, is a beaut, with LEGALIZE IT crossing REEFER, and my favorite clue, [Drive to drink, e.g.] for the super-fun PRIMAL URGE.

Speaking of cluing, our cluing method for our collaborations involves each of us writing a set of clues without talking to each other, then brainstorming as we merge them. That way, we get two perspectives — that is, assuming we don't have the same clue... and that Ashton manages to finish his (3+ months to write clues is not unusual for him!).

And finally, a huge thank you to Will for agreeing to run this puzzle today. I reached out to him a few weeks back about the possibility of having it in the paper on the day I propose to Kate, my one, and he graciously agreed. 58-Across will be a keepsake for life.

Jeff Chen notes:
Good Saturday workout, with a huge number of fresh, up-to-date entries. It's really neat to see a themeless puzzle obviously put ... read more

Good Saturday workout, with a huge number of fresh, up-to-date entries. It's really neat to see a themeless puzzle obviously put together by constructors of Gen Y, hopefully bringing in more younger solvers into the NYT fold.

Some wonderful long entries, PRIMAL URGE and MAKE BANK my favorite. Colorful phrases that jump off the page are hard to beat. LEGALIZE IT also does a nice job touching on the national debate around marijuana, which is legal here in Washington State. FYI, it's odd to be running around Greenlake (a beautiful 2.8 mi loop in the heart of Seattle) and get a big whiff of pot smoke. Sometimes from another runner!

The older generation of solvers might not be as into this puzzle as others, as it could argued that it doesn't have a "classic" feel. One aspect of that is the test of time, which I'm not sure LEGALIZE IT or SHE SAID YES (the song) will pass (congrats, James!). Another is that there's so much material geared toward "feeling fresh" that it might overwhelm. I like new entries as much as anyone, but seeing LEGALIZE IT, REEFER, and SEX SYMBOL all together felt like a tad too much testosterone flowing through the grid. Could just be me, also reading too much into some of the clues.

Heck though, even if you agree with me, a great thing about a daily puzzle with a large number of constructors is the huge variety. It's a reasonable bet that there will be a more female-oriented puzzle in the near future, if that's your taste. FYI, Amy Reynaldo started a great dialogue about male/female constructors well worth reading.

Take a look at that fantastic SE corner (count me as a huge fan of ANATOLIA and the Seven Wonder of the Ancient World). That area is a beautiful piece of work, what with PATTY CAKE, LUCKY ME, MAKE BANK integrated all without a single blemish. I'd hope all themeless puzzles aspire to that level of quality. It's rare to see such snazziness without at least one ugly entry.

As far as the overall construction, the long entries are beautiful. All twelve of them are good to great, and LUCKY ME is such a beautiful choice for a seven-letter entry. It all does come at a price though, with the handful of NES, FER, ABAB, ETERNE, AYLA to hold everything together. While that seems like such a small number of entries, there's so much competition in themelesses these days that I did notice them as I solved.

Finally, a beautiful clue for the difficult LEE. At first glance it would seem simple to clue, yes? But it's been used so many times, finding something interesting and not overused is tough. Trivia-related clues can be hit or miss, but I really enjoyed learning something I didn't know about General Lee.

ADDED NOTE: James's girlfriend... SHE SAID YES! Okay, forgot what I said about the staying power of that entry. Congrats, James!

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© 2014, The New York TimesNo. 0405 ( 23,524 )
Across
1
"That's crazy, dude!" : WHOA
5
Drive to drink, e.g. : PRIMALURGE
15
It's best to stay out of its way : HARM
16
Debut Peter Tosh album, and a rallying cry for pot smokers : LEGALIZEIT
17
Scheme for the start of a sonnet : ABAB
18
Opinion leader? : IDOBELIEVE
19
Pioneer of New Journalism : TALESE
21
"r u there?," e.g. : TEXT
22
Unpolished pro? : FER
23
Stationary : INERT
24
Cro-Magnon orphan of literature : AYLA
25
Head turner : REIN
26
Rihanna or Sharon Stone : SEXSYMBOL
28
Big name in late-night TV : LORNE
29
See 25-Down : IRA
30
Dandy : LULU
31
Ripped : CUT
32
U.S. Open champion whose last name is a toy : TOMKITE
34
Artist and chess player who said "While all artists are not chess players, all chess players are artists" : DUCHAMP
38
The end? : IST
39
It takes time to cure : PORK
40
McDonald's denial : NAE
41
The end : DEATH
44
It involves hand-to-hand coordination : PATTYCAKE
46
Souls : ONES
47
Wish-Bone alternative : KENS
48
Lodging portmanteau : MOTEL
49
1967 Calder Trophy winner at age 18 : ORR
50
___ Epstein, baseball V.I.P. known as "Boy Wonder" : THEO
51
Last name in "Star Wars" : KENOBI
52
Singer with the 1996 triple-platinum album "Tidal" : FIONAAPPLE
55
Panache : ELAN
56
Where Jason Kidd played college hoops : UCBERKELEY
57
Rap's ___ Yang Twins : YING
58
1996 Rhett Akins country hit : SHESAIDYES
59
Store whose shoe department has its own ZIP code (10022-SHOE) : SAKS
Down
1
"Yes?" : WHATISIT
2
Certain chili : HABANERO
3
Third degree for a third degree? : ORALEXAM
4
One may prefer them to blondes : AMBERS
5
Bit of ballet instruction : PLIE
6
Like Tickle Me Elmo : RED
7
"My treat" : IGOTYOU
8
Parent company? : MABELL
9
Internet traffic statistics company : ALEXA
10
Pleasant cadence : LILT
11
Strong arm : UZI
12
Joint : REEFER
13
Buckle : GIVEIN
14
Forever in the past? : ETERNE
20
Up-to-date : STYLISH
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Like some seamen : ABLE
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With 29-Across, nest egg choice : ROTH
27
Cockerdoodle, e.g. : MUTT
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"Oh goody!" : LUCKYME
31
Clipped : CURT
33
Young foxes : KITS
34
Certain gumdrops : DOTS
35
It was home to two Wonders of the Ancient World : ANATOLIA
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Earn a load of money, in modern lingo : MAKEBANK
37
Some kitchen detritus : PEELINGS
39
Impressive range : PANOPLY
41
Tool : DOOFUS
42
Fortify : ENRICH
43
Oxygen user : AEROBE
44
Imitated chicks : PEEPED
45
Carnival items served with chili : CONEYS
47
Yellow-brown shade : KHAKI
50
Fictional home five miles from Jonesboro : TARA
51
A through G : KEYS
53
Duck Hunt platform, briefly : NES
54
Historical figure a.k.a. Marse Robert : LEE

Answer summary: 9 unique to this puzzle, 1 debuted here and reused later, 1 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

Found bugs or have suggestions?