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New York Times, Monday, April 7, 2014

Author:
Douglas Taillon
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutCollabs
14/7/20140
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
0100000
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.65000

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 78, Blocks: 43 Missing: {X} Spans: 2 This is the debut puzzle for Mr. Taillon. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Douglas Taillon notes:
I live in Cornwall, Ontario, Canada, a bordertown to northern New York. When I was a teenager, my friends and I went through a ... read more

I live in Cornwall, Ontario, Canada, a bordertown to northern New York.

When I was a teenager, my friends and I went through a phase of trying to outdo each other by inserting big words at random into our conversation. To avoid embarrassment, I studied the dictionary in search of words I could impress people with and became interested in words and their origins. Around this time I started doing crossword puzzles and years later wondered how the puzzles were made (did the words go in first or the black squares...?).

I get by with a little help from my friends. I get lots of help from my friend Ray Bryant. Ray is from Oxford, England (his PhD stands for Posthole Digger) and is my go-to clue man. When someone told his wife that Ray seemed outspoken, her response was, "Not by anyone I know." Yet when I would come up with a clue having too many words, Ray would ask me, in typical British form, "How does this novel end?"

When constructing this puzzle, I thought the black squares would look nice arranged as a '2' in the centre of the grid. This added to the challenge of creating the four 'main highways' surrounding it with 2-related words (double, second, twin, two). I find the more words you put in a grid, the more it turns into cement, and becomes "as unyielding as the grave." (Song of Solomon 8:6, New World Translation 2013 Revision)

I would like to thank Will for the "second helping" suggestion for which Ray came up with a simple one-word clue, showing that less really can be more. Anyway, I'm at a "loss for words" to describe how thrilled I am to have this puzzle published.

Jeff Chen notes:
What a cool pattern of black squares! It's not often that an early-week puzzle strays outside of typical grid constructions, so I ... read more

What a cool pattern of black squares! It's not often that an early-week puzzle strays outside of typical grid constructions, so I perked up when I saw the highly unusual grid. It wasn't until I finished that I noticed the middle black squares are actually part of the theme — it forms a giant number two! Very cool.

The theme itself didn't wow me, as it's not hard to find phrases with DOUBLE, SECOND, TWO, and TWIN, but the layout I went back to review because of how unique it was. It's not often that we get intersecting answers, especially early in the week, and this puzzle goes one step further by intersecting all four themers. It's a pretty cool feat. Douglas is assisted by the fact that the key words can be moved around within the themers (only DOUBLE and SECOND actually intersect, while the other themers intersect at more flexible points) but it still produces a great visual effect.

To me, this puzzle was an interesting combination of early-week theme plus late-week fill. I found my solve a little unsettling I went so darn slow (for a Monday). It's not often on a Monday that you have to figure out that JANUS was a god with many FACES, for example. The overall effect for me was one of inconsistency — I enjoyed the puzzle, but I think I would have absolutely loved it with a high—five, bang-up POW! if it had either a more subtle theme or fill more accessible to early-week solvers.

Given how much is going on in the grid, with the theme answers and the central black squares effectively touching every part of the grid, it's pretty impressive that Douglas's fill is generally very nice (using later-week criteria). It's rare that I like to see AT NO any time of the week, and there are a few ROBT and SOO kind of things, but otherwise, I'd be happy to see AQABA and ALIF and even TORERO on a Wed or Thursday.

A very impressive debut; hoping to see more from Douglas. It's a rare constructor that can create a completely novel grid shape, even rarer to see one who can fill said grid with such goodness. I'm looking forward to Douglas trying his hand at a Thursday-level theme with an equally impressive Thursday-ish fill.

Jim Horne notes:

Even though the 2 is formed out of blocks, the grid still has normal crossword symmetry. Almost exactly ten years ago, Patrick Merrell used circles.

 1P 2A 3I 4R 5W 6E 7B 8D 9U 10A 11L 12A N N O 13S H R U 14G 15A N T E 16D O U B 17L E O R N O 18T H I N G 19R U S T I C 20S O O 21T O O 22E K E 23R O 24B 25E 26D R 27S 28J A N U S 29Y E N 30T 31A 32H 33O 34P E 35D O E 36T R O U P 37E 38A N A R 39C H Y 40S W O O N E D 41T U S S L E 42R H O 43Z E R O 44S T E E L 45A I S 46L E 47Y A P 48H A H A 49A 50R 51M 52S 53A 54G 55V I 56A 57O P 58A Q U E 59T W I 60N E N G 61I 62N E P L A N E 63U R G E 64G E N U S 65I B I S 66D Y A D 67S A T 68F A C E
© 2014, The New York TimesNo. 0407 ( 23,526 )

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Across
1
Couple : PAIR
5
Spider's production : WEB
8
Having a couple of elements : DUAL
12
___ Domini : ANNO
13
"Hell if I know" gesture : SHRUG
15
Initial money for the pot : ANTE
16
High-stakes wager : DOUBLEORNOTHING
19
Simple country person : RUSTIC
20
___ Canals, Michigan/Ontario separator : SOO
21
Overly : TOO
22
___ out a living : EKE
23
Kimono, e.g. : ROBE
26
Medical practitioners: Abbr. : DRS
28
See 68-Across : JANUS
29
Gossipy sort : YENTA
32
Arkansas town where Bill Clinton was born : HOPE
35
Female deer : DOE
36
Traveling performers : TROUPE
38
Complete lawlessness : ANARCHY
40
Fainted, as in rapture : SWOONED
41
Small fight : TUSSLE
42
Letter after pi : RHO
43
One minus one : ZERO
44
Stainless ___ : STEEL
45
One of a couple in a 767 : AISLE
47
Jabber : YAP
48
"You are so-o-o funny" : HAHA
49
A sleeve covers it : ARM
52
Droop : SAG
55
By way of : VIA
57
Impossible to see through : OPAQUE
59
Boeing 767, for one : TWINENGINEPLANE
63
Encourage : URGE
64
Canis, for dogs : GENUS
65
66
67
Used a chair : SAT
68
One of a couple for the Roman god 28-Across : FACE
Down
1
2
Actress Aimée : ANOUK
3
Occupied, as a restroom : INUSE
4
Gen. ___ E. Lee : ROBT
5
First of a journalist's five W's : WHO
6
Flub : ERR
7
Hot dog holders : BUNS
8
"Zip-a-Dee-Doo- ___" : DAH
9
The "U" of B.T.U. : UNIT
10
"... ___ cost to you!" : ATNO
11
Toy brick maker : LEGO
13
More, at a meal : SECONDHELPING
14
Someone who's so nice you almost want to smack him : GOODYTWOSHOES
17
Old Italian money : LIRA
18
24
Floating marker for a sailor : BUOY
25
WNW's opposite : ESE
27
Nap : SNOOZE
28
Article of sports attire with a number : JERSEY
30
Something to whistle : TUNE
31
Mimic : APER
32
33
Burden : ONUS
34
Future's opposite : PAST
37
Old name for Tokyo : EDO
39
Split with an ax : CLEAVE
40
Actor LaBeouf : SHIA
42
46
Northern Scandinavian : LAPP
49
Jordanian port : AQABA
50
Like Old Norse writing : RUNIC
51
Reagan attorney general Edwin : MEESE
52
Macho guy : STUD
53
Wonky : AWRY
54
Prefix with watt : GIGA
56
Puts on years : AGES
58
First Arabic letter : ALIF
60
Beatty of "Superman" : NED
61
All ___ day's work : INA
62
Pecan or cashew : NUT