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New York Times, Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Author:
Alex Eaton-Salners
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
222/2/20177/11/20191
SunMonTueWedThuFriSatVariety
02549002
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.54230
Alex Eaton-Salners

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 78, Blocks: 50 Missing: {JQWXYZ} This is puzzle # 17 for Mr. Eaton-Salners. Jeff Chen's Puzzle of the Week pick. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Notepad: Each Across answer in this puzzle consists of a word spelled forward and another spelled backward. It's up to you to determine which clue goes with which word.
Alex Eaton-Salners notes:
This puzzle was published pretty quickly. It's been less than a year since I wrote it, and only about nine months since I got the ... read more

This puzzle was published pretty quickly. It's been less than a year since I wrote it, and only about nine months since I got the always thrilling "Crosswords – Yes" email from the editorial crew. Over time, I've noticed that puzzles that depart from common theme types often make it into print much faster than more traditional grids. So if you're looking for speedy publication, my advice is to push the boundaries of originality and novelty!

To build the grid, I started by finding and placing some "long" across entries into a promising configuration. There aren't too many valid English semordnilaps (words that have different meanings when read forwards and backward) with more than five letters, so my options were pretty limited.

Next, I slowly, painfully filled in each section while referencing two different word lists – my normal list and a special one that only contained semordnilaps. As is typical with highly constrained stunt puzzles, I frequently reached dead ends and had to tear up what I'd already created. While filling, I also had to avoid words whose reverse I'd already put somewhere else.

An unfortunate side effect of the paucity of longer semordnilaps was that I had to keep most of the across slots at five letters or fewer. I wanted to incorporate more longer semordnilaps, but it was too constraining on the rest of the fill.

I'm not sure I've ever seen a published NYT puzzle with only ten entries longer than five letters. It would be interesting to know if that's a record. Likewise, XWord Info only tracks puzzles with the longest average word length– I'd be curious to know where this one stacks up against others with a very low average word length.

Jeff Chen notes:
Whoa! I've seen tons of puzzles with backward entries. Puzzles with dual clues. Puzzles with all the across answers having something ... read more

Whoa! I've seen tons of puzzles with backward entries. Puzzles with dual clues. Puzzles with all the across answers having something in common. Puzzles with words reading one thing one way and another thing another way.

But I've never seen anything quite like this. Elements of all of the above stitched together brilliantly.

Such a clever idea to give the solver two clues for each across entry, leaving it up to them to figure out which applies in the forward direction, and which in the reverse. I've seen most of these "emordnilap" words before (emordnilap = palindrome backward), but the notion of clueing both the regular word and its emordnilap is a great out-of-the-box idea.

My solve was much slower than for a regular Tuesday, and my enjoyment flagged through the middle, as the trick got a bit old. But after finishing, I had to sit back and admire the concept and construction. So, so, so difficult to get every single across answer to work this way.

There were plenty of gluey spots, not just ANART EPT SSS REPUT DIALLED, but backward stuff like RETAR. The overall impact was so strong that I was easily able to brush those aside. Heavy crossword glue in the service of a great theme is fine by me.

It's so rare that a puzzle stands out as something entirely new. This is one of them.

Jim Horne notes:
Alex was curious about how this stacks up (down?) to other puzzles with low average word lengths. It just makes the top 10. I ... read more

Alex was curious about how this stacks up (down?) to other puzzles with low average word lengths. It just makes the top 10.

I quickly put together a thumbnail view sorted by word length. It's a little hard to see, but you can get the idea.

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© 2019, The New York TimesNo. 0409 ( 25,354 )

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Across
1
Can opener / Club : BAT
4
Charts / Inbox distraction : MAPS
8
Apple varieties / Trick : SCAM
12
Facts / Somewhat : ATAD
14
Asian sea name / Journalist Logan : ARAL
15
"Silas Marner" pen name / Upholstery fabric : TOILE
16
Dubai dignitary / Winter coat : RIME
17
Colorado feeder / Sacha Baron Cohen character : GILA
18
Espies / Subway stations : SPOTS
19
Call ending a rugby match / Prolific inventor : EDISON
21
Entertainer Marx / Entertainer Winfrey : OPRAH
23
Criticized / Save (from) : DELIVER
25
Cans / Letter flourish : SERIF
27
Fix, as a driveway / Yelp reviewer, e.g. : RATER
29
Ice dancing gold medalist ___ Virtue / Plus : ASSET
31
Ice hockey feint / Squeezed (out) : DEKE
34
Bits of film tape / Film holder : SPOOL
36
Headline? / Snare : TRAP
38
Ancient greeting / Señora Perón : AVE
39
Ram's sch. / Trojan's sch. : USC
40
Exist / Reign denoter : ARE
41
Forever and a day / Genesis maker : SEGA
43
Info, informally / Spirited mount : STEED
45
Beltway insiders / Spill (over) : SLOP
46
Indy player / Summary : RECAP
48
Green / Water from France : NAIVE
50
Fit for a king / Foamy draft : LAGER
52
Guard / It might say "Hello" : NAMETAG
56
Like Oxfords / Sticker : DECAL
58
Aardvark or zebra / Thin layer : LAMINA
59
Arrive, as a cold front / Evenings, informally : SETIN
62
Lionize / Twin : DUAL
64
Go berserk / Some cookware : SNAP
65
Jack of rhyme / Rain blockers : SPRAT
66
Cutting it / Mediterranean island : ABLE
67
Hence / Monster : OGRE
68
Daft / Daze : STUN
69
Elk, for one / Plant in a bog : REED
70
Holy mlle. / Romulans, e.g., in brief : ETS
Down
1
Revealed : BARED
2
"There is ___ in the affairs of men ...": Shak. : ATIDE
3
Sri Lankan tongue : TAMIL
4
Drawing things? : MAGNETS
5
"Exodus" hero : ARI
6
___ Alto, Calif. : PALO
7
Gives a hand? : SLAPS
8
Fallacious reasoner : SOPHIST
9
Union letters : CIO
10
Computer key : ALT
11
Enero, por ejemplo : MES
13
Yen : DESIRE
15
Bygone autocrats : TSARS
20
Egg cells : OVA
22
Not made up : REAL
24
Pose again, as a question : REPUT
26
Not tamed : FERAL
28
Old-time slugger Al : ROSEN
30
Tahitian crop : TARO
31
Perp prosecutors : DAS
32
At any time : EVER
33
Kind of exercise that strengthens the pelvic muscles : KEGEL
35
Indian ___ : OCEAN
37
Effervescence : PEP
42
Early settler of Nova Scotia : ACADIAN
43
Kind of sheet : SPEC
44
Phoned, to Brits : DIALLED
45
Appear to be correct : SEEMSO
47
Salary negotiator : AGENT
49
Annual cable channel prize for Song of the Year or Artist of the Year, in brief : VMA
51
Meteorologist's tool : RADAR
53
Hint of color : TINGE
54
"It's ___, not a science" : ANART
55
Reacts in disbelief, say : GAPES
57
Job for a grease monkey : LUBE
59
Sibilant sound : SSS
60
Competent, jocularly : EPT
61
One-man play about Capote : TRU
63
Draft selection : ALE

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

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