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New York Times, Monday, April 7, 2014

Author: Douglas Taillon
Editor: Will Shortz
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14/7/20140
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Douglas Taillon

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 ... more
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 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 ... more
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 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.

JimH 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.
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© 2014, The New York TimesNo. 0407 ( 23,526 )
Across Down
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. Wading bird : IBIS
66. Couple : DYAD
67. Used a chair : SAT
68. One of a couple for the Roman god 28-Across : FACE
1. San Diego baseballer : PADRE
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. Matador : TORERO
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. Broadbrim, for one : HAT
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. Stadium cheer : RAH
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

Answer summary:

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