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New York Times, Friday, May 1, 2015

Author:
David Steinberg
Editor:
Will Shortz
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David Steinberg

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 16 Words: 73, Blocks: 30 Missing: {BQVWXZ} Spans: 7, (2 triple stacks) This is puzzle # 40 for Mr. Steinberg. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
David Steinberg notes:
I constructed this puzzle the summer before junior year, which was less than two years ago but feels like the very distant past. Heck, even ... read more

I constructed this puzzle the summer before junior year, which was less than two years ago but feels like the very distant past. Heck, even yesterday feels like the very distant past when you're a second-semester senior! Speaking of which, Will chose one of my puzzles for a date that's very important to us second-semester seniors: college committal day. Luckily for me, I made my decision a couple weeks ago: I'm going to skip college and become a full-time crossword constructor in my parents' basement . . . not!

I'm very excited to announce that I'll be attending Stanford University this fall as a prospective Computer Science + X major! CS + X is a cross-curricular Stanford program that allows you to major in computer science and an additional field of your choosing, such as linguistics. I plan to continue with crosswords in college, though I also very much look forward to exploring the thousands of new opportunities college has to offer!

Anyway, back to the puzzle. Having solved many crosswords with triple-stacked, quad-stacked, and even quint-stacked 15's, I decided I wanted to try something different. Inspired by Derek Bowman's puzzle with a single triple-stack of 16's, I set out to construct a puzzle with two triple-stacks of 16's. Armed with a smallish list of 16-letter entries and a largish amount of youthful spirit, I was able to come up with two 16-stacks that struck me as particularly lively. I remember discarding numerous other options in which one of the 16's seemed less in-the-language than the others or where there were simply too many ugly short crossings. Even in the final version, I wasn't thrilled with having to use SITU, MNEM, etc., but I felt that the strengths of the stacks outweighed the weaknesses.

I then moved on to the center "connecting" section, which was a challenge because it had to be very open in order to keep the word count below (or at least reasonably close to) Will's limit of 72. I knocked out a pair of black squares in the original pattern, allowing me to use HOT SPRING and the full name JESUS ALOU instead of just HOTS and ALOU. By an amazing stroke of luck, the other long entries that fell into place (LEMON MERINGUE PIE, FEROCIOUS, and ANGEL DUST) ended up being the exact sort I strive to include in nonstunt themelesses!

The short fill turned out quite smoothly, too, with one notable exception: JOTTER. I remember agonizing over JOTTER for the longest time and exploring numerous alternate fills, but the JOTTER fill came out on top every time. So JOTTER it was.

I had a lot of fun with the clues and was pleased to see that many of my originals made the cut. My favorite clue that didn't survive was "It may have a hot bust" for KILN — guess I'll have to save that one for some future indie puzzle!

For now, I hope you enjoy my puzzle. I've since moved on to triple-stacks of 14's, one of which I'm cluing up as you read this!

Jeff Chen notes:
This is a good opportunity to clarify one of Will's Notes. Some folks seem to think that Will has decreed the end of triple stacks, but his ... read more

This is a good opportunity to clarify one of Will's Notes. Some folks seem to think that Will has decreed the end of triple stacks, but his comment was specifically directed to that grid pattern of triple-triple-stacks, which effectively cut the puzzle into three pieces. Grids like today's two triple-stacks — where the solver can easily flow from one subsection to the next — are still fine.

(I bet if someone could come up with a set of triple-triple stacks which didn't segment the grid AND didn't use much glue, Will would consider it.)

The Monte Carlo Casino entertainment complex

David does a nice job with this 2x triple-stack, featuring some great entries. ADRENALINE JUNKIES is so colorful, so snappy. I also love MONTE CARLO CASINO, both for the image of high-rollers in tuxes betting millions of dollars on the turn of one card, as well as the nod to Monte Carlo analysis often performed in statistics and finance. ESCAPE CLAUSES feels so much snazzier than ESCAPE MECHANISMS, but the latter is still workable.

The usual knock on triple-stacks is the quality of the crossing answers. It's nearly impossible to have zero pieces of glue holding everything together (what with all the constraints), but it's pretty darn good to get away with only a prefix and a pluralized ATS in the top. Normally ECARTE feels like a mark of desperation in a grid to me, but it's kind of neat when crossed with MONTE CARLO CASINO.

The bottom is also pretty nice, really just the AKEEM/PEETE crossing making me hitch. Asking for deep golf knowledge is tough for us golf-atheists, and as much as I love Eddie Murphy, I couldn't quite pull out AKEIM from my brain. Aaugh, AKEEM!

A nice amount of vivid entries — 12 by my count — which is very high for a puzzle featuring 16-letter entries. I do still enjoy the visual impact of triple-stacks and other similar wide-open grid patterns, and I look forward to the continued evolution (even more colorful entries; even fewer gluey entries) of this style.

1
E
2
S
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C
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A
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P
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M
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H
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N
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M
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M
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C
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19
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D
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64
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© 2015, The New York TimesNo. 0501 ( 23,915 )
Across
1. They'll help you out : ESCAPEMECHANISMS
17. Riviera hot spot : MONTECARLOCASINO
18. Provider of an A in English? : THESCARLETLETTER
19. Literally, "fool" : SOT
20. Locales for many schools : REEFS
21. Brit in the news : HUME
22. Things going to your head? : HATS
24. Surrey carriage : PRAM
27. Give to a bank, maybe : DONATE
30. Cutthroat : FEROCIOUS
35. Reason for some recalls : ECOLI
36. "A thousand times good night!" speaker : JULIET
37. Indefinite power : NTH
38. Tangy dessert : LEMONMERINGUEPIE
41. "___ Meninas" (Velázquez painting) : LAS
42. Faux fireplace feature : GASLOG
43. Orwellian drudge : PROLE
44. Phencyclidine, colloquially : ANGELDUST
46. Notepad user : JOTTER
47. Refuse at a bar : LEES
48. Transparent piece : PANE
49. Ratchet (up) : DIAL
52. "Coming to America" role : AKEEM
55. White-haired : OLD
58. Many an extreme athlete : ADRENALINEJUNKIE
63. Unit in population statistics : METROPOLITANAREA
64. Simple : EASYTOUNDERSTAND
Down
1. Lifesavers, briefly : EMTS
2. Westminster district : SOHO
3. Big tech review site : CNET
4. @ @ @ : ATS
5. Bench press target, informally : PEC
6. Relative of euchre : ECARTE
7. Stud finders? : MARES
8. First name in mystery : ERLE
9. Start of a score : CLEF
10. Steam source : HOTSPRING
11. ___ tear (knee injury) : ACL
12. Dunsinane disavowal : NAE
13. Connecting strips : ISTHMI
14. The "s" of Lasik : SITU
15. Memory: Prefix : MNEM
16. Cross : SORE
22. Saintly presence : HALO
23. All excited : ATINGLE
25. Nicolas who directed "The Man Who Fell to Earth" : ROEG
26. Not just consider : ACTUPON
27. Street in Hollywood : DELLA
28. Body resting in bed? : OCEAN
29. Noodle request : NOMSG
30. Rolls up : FURLS
31. Female George : ELIOT
32. Stoned : ONPOT
33. Valuable : UTILE
34. Transparent : SHEER
36. Youngest of a baseball trio : JESUSALOU
39. Took home : MADE
40. Crossword designer? : ERTE
45. First name in mystery : ELLERY
46. Preserves preserver : JAMJAR
48. Calvin of the P.G.A. : PEETE
49. Woman in a hard-boiled detective story : DAME
50. Noodle product : IDEA
51. Newspaper section : ARTS
53. Ceramist's need : KILN
54. Lady in "Idylls of the King" : ENID
55. Stew thickener : OKRA
56. Property restriction : LIEN
57. No longer working : DEAD
59. "___ cool!" : NOT
60. V-mail overseer : APO
61. Little ___ : UNS
62. ___ Holman, early basketball great : NAT

Answer summary: 8 unique to this puzzle.

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