It looks like you're using an Ad Blocker. Please consider supporting our site by purchasing an account.
Puzzle of the Week

STELLAR WORK

New York Times, Sunday, May 1, 2016

Author: Joel Fagliano and Byron Walden
Editor: Will Shortz
Joel Fagliano
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
5410/22/20097/16/20173
SunMonTueWedThuFriSatVariety
12810610224
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.65351
Byron Walden
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
8411/23/20014/9/201711
SunMonTueWedThuFriSatVariety
801192567
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.59321

This puzzle:

Rows: 21, Columns: 21 Words: 130, Blocks: 70 Missing: {QXZ} This is puzzle # 48 for Mr. Fagliano. This is puzzle # 80 for Mr. Walden. Jeff Chen's Puzzle of the Week pick NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Constructor notes: BYRON: The idea for the puzzle was Joel's. I was psyched when he asked me to collaborate on it, because I like puzzles which play with crossword conventions, and I am a big fan of Joel's puzzles generally. For ... more
Constructor notes:

BYRON: The idea for the puzzle was Joel's. I was psyched when he asked me to collaborate on it, because I like puzzles which play with crossword conventions, and I am a big fan of Joel's puzzles generally. For an easy puzzle, you want the structure of the theme to be evident right away. For a trickier puzzle, you want the revelation to come right at, or possibly just after the end. For this one, I envisioned the typical solver getting it somewhere in the middle, maybe just past halfway through. Too soon, and it becomes just a slightly odd themeless. Too late, and the joy of the joke gets washed away. Hopefully, we found the right mix.

JOEL: Had a ton of fun putting this together with Byron. One thing we debated in the theme stage was whether a clue like "*Search party?" for ED MCMAHON was fair game — after all, it completely eliminates the quote marks used in the show "Star Search," not to mention the space between "Star" and "Search". We agreed it might be a little cheap, but that hopefully it would add an extra "aha" layer for the solver.

We both favor wide-open grid patterns and constructing challenges, so our styles meshed pretty well when it came time to fill the grid. I've always felt that Byron is one of the best themeless constructors, so the task of working on a Sunday with him with big chunky corners like this was very cool. In the end, I think we kept the compromises to a relative minimum while working in some nice longer fill, but I'll be interested to read how solvers felt.

Jeff Chen notes: The first thing I noticed was that a incredibly wide-open grid, so I checked how many words it was. When I counted only 130 words, a nearly record-breaking stat, I worried. Joel and Byron are two of the best in ... more
Jeff Chen notes:

The first thing I noticed was that a incredibly wide-open grid, so I checked how many words it was. When I counted only 130 words, a nearly record-breaking stat, I worried. Joel and Byron are two of the best in the business, but people can't just pull off the impossible. Even they would have to resort to plenty of crossword glue, making for a clunky solve.

STARZ ... or *Z!

I didn't get very far very fast in my solve. I kept on looking for a revealer to help me figure out why answers were starred. It got frustrating when I couldn't break into so many of the huge swaths of white space.

But the click finally happened ... and what a click! The starred clues aren't really starred … they represent the word STAR. (STAR)Z is a CABLE CHANNEL, for example, and (STAR)ted talks = BROKERED A SETTLEMENT. Great concept. I remember similar-ish theme ideas, but this one felt fresh.

Even better, all of their theme answers were phrases in the language. Sometimes with themes like this, you might see things like EMCEE MCMAHON (instead of the normal ED MCMAHON) — entries sounding like dictionary definitions. I love that Joel and Byron took the care to make their entire grid appear as if it were just a normal crossword.

And the theme clues! Each one looked so normal that they kept me totally in the dark. My favorite was [*Z, for one], which made me think about a letter, a chemical symbol, a physics particle. STARZ to *Z is brilliant.

Finally, to do all that in 130 words … just astounding. Sometimes I hem and haw about some of Byron's entries sounding made up, but only OPERA CRITIC sounded a bit funny (are there such specialists these days?). RUBY SLIPPER, UNION STRIKE, NADERISM (think Ralph Nader), all great stuff.

PAUL PIERCE will be tough for some, but the crossings were chosen with care to make him gettable. And what a great story: a top prospect falling all the way to the number 10 pick of the 1998 draft, then dedicating his career to making all the GMs who passed him up rue their decision (almost all of them did).

There was one rough patch I didn't care for: the NE corner, with its concentration of SPEE/SMEE and the GARRET/FAROESE crossing. I couldn't actually finish the puzzle because of that corner. But I can overlook one small region because of all the goodness Joel and Byron worked in.

1
F
2
O
3
R
4
A
5
G
6
E
7
T
8
O
9
R
10
I
11
D
12
I
13
S
14
G
15
U
16
S
17
T
18
S
19
A
M
U
L
E
T
20
P
A
W
E
D
21
O
C
E
A
N
M
A
P
22
C
A
B
L
E
C
23
H
A
N
N
E
L
24
D
E
R
R
I
E
R
E
25
T
H
Y
26
M
U
G
G
L
E
27
S
28
F
A
R
O
E
S
E
29
S
A
S
30
H
31
P
O
L
I
O
32
R
I
33
P
O
P
E
N
34
L
O
35
K
I
36
P
E
A
37
L
38
R
I
G
H
T
S
39
I
40
D
41
E
42
U
43
N
I
T
E
D
44
A
I
R
L
I
45
N
E
S
46
T
K
O
S
47
T
A
P
E
N
A
D
E
S
48
C
E
D
A
49
R
50
G
R
I
S
T
51
E
M
P
L
O
Y
E
R
52
D
E
A
53
N
I
54
C
E
I
D
E
A
55
P
I
E
56
C
57
I
E
N
T
58
O
59
L
U
R
K
60
B
R
61
O
62
K
63
E
64
R
E
D
A
S
E
T
65
T
L
E
M
E
66
N
67
T
68
P
U
M
A
69
O
D
E
S
S
A
70
E
I
71
N
72
N
73
A
74
D
E
R
I
S
75
M
76
A
F
T
77
K
78
E
79
R
80
O
81
S
E
N
E
82
A
V
E
R
T
83
H
O
84
M
I
E
85
G
E
T
A
N
E
D
G
E
86
M
I
R
A
87
R
O
M
E
88
O
A
N
D
J
U
L
I
E
T
89
E
D
M
C
90
M
91
A
92
H
O
N
93
S
U
M
P
94
A
S
A
N
95
R
O
D
E
N
T
96
S
97
T
E
A
98
M
S
99
H
G
100
T
101
V
102
H
103
A
104
L
I
D
E
S
105
E
L
106
A
S
T
I
C
107
H
I
E
108
E
G
O
T
I
S
T
109
S
110
A
C
T
I
N
G
111
C
112
A
113
R
E
E
R
114
M
R
M
I
S
T
E
R
115
S
E
E
M
S
116
O
C
U
L
U
S
117
P
O
A
C
H
E
R
S
118
H
Y
P
E
119
S
T
E
P
P
E
© 2016, The New York TimesNo. 0501 ( 24,281 )
Across Down
1. Grass and such : FORAGE
7. Lifesavers, e.g. : TORI
11. Turns off : DISGUSTS
19. Source of good fortune : AMULET
20. Tried to open, as a pet door : PAWED
21. Seaman's aid : OCEANMAP
22. *Z, for one : CABLECHANNEL
24. Behind : DERRIERE
25. "O grave, where is ___ victory?": I Corinthians : THY
26. Neither wizards nor witches, in Harry Potter books : MUGGLES
28. Language descended from Old Norse : FAROESE
29. Tiara accompaniment : SASH
31. Subject of the 1954 Nobel Prize in Medicine : POLIO
32. Eagerly unwrap : RIPOPEN
34. God whose name sounds like a word meaning "understated" : LOKI
36. Take its toll? : PEAL
38. *Board : RIGHTSIDE
42. *Alliance member : UNITEDAIRLINES
46. They may result in title changes, for short : TKOS
47. Dips made with olives, capers and anchovies : TAPENADES
48. Fragrant wood : CEDAR
50. Grain to crush : GRIST
51. Background check runner, maybe : EMPLOYER
52. Government org. in "Breaking Bad" : DEA
53. "Oh, that's clever!" : NICEIDEA
55. Something to be divvied up : PIE
56. Hundred, in Honduras : CIENTO
59. Stand in the shadows : LURK
60. *Ted talks, say : BROKEREDASETTLEMENT
68. Reebok rival : PUMA
69. Texas city in the movie "Friday Night Lights" : ODESSA
70. Bonn one : EIN
72. Pro-consumer ideology : NADERISM
76. In back : AFT
77. Jet fuel, mainly : KEROSENE
82. Stave off : AVERT
83. Good friend, informally : HOMIE
85. Find some advantage : GETANEDGE
86. Red giant in the constellation Cetus : MIRA
87. *Crossed pair : ROMEOANDJULIET
89. *Search party : EDMCMAHON
93. Drainage pit : SUMP
94. ___ example : ASAN
95. Owl's prey : RODENTS
97. Browns and Blues : TEAMS
99. "House Hunters" network : HGTV
102. Bromine and fluorine compounds : HALIDES
105. Kind of band : ELASTIC
107. Move it : HIE
108. Boastful types : EGOTISTS
110. *Let's hope : ACTINGCAREER
114. Group with the 1985 #1 hit "Broken Wings" : MRMISTER
115. "___ about right" : SEEMS
116. Eyelike opening, in architecture : OCULUS
117. Ones breaking game rules? : POACHERS
118. Big buildup : HYPE
119. "Great" Eurasian region : STEPPE
1. Almanac fodder : FACTS
2. Home of the daily World-Herald : OMAHA
3. Clicker for Dorothy : RUBYSLIPPER
4. Tie word : ALL
5. "Well, fancy that!" : GEE
6. Abbr. that can be written with an ampersand : ETC
7. The casino in "Casino" : TANGIERS
8. Soccer goof : OWNGOAL
9. Kite adjunct : REEL
10. Goldbrick : IDLER
11. The Pentagon inits. : DOD
12. Crystalline weather phenomenon : ICEFOG
13. "___ of Heaven! too gentle to be human" (line from Shelley's "Epipsychidion") : SERAPH
14. Unlofty loft : GARRET
15. Labor pain : UNIONSTRIKE
16. Pirate's mate, in literature and film : SMEE
17. Besmirches : TARS
18. German vice admiral killed in W.W. I's Battle of the Falklands : SPEE
20. Celtic who was the M.V.P. of the 2008 N.B.A. Finals : PAULPIERCE
23. Kaiser Permanente offering : HMO
27. Begat : SIRED
30. W, for one : HOTEL
31. March 14, to math lovers : PIDAY
33. Fibonacci or Galileo : PISAN
35. Casino offering, derived from the Latin for "five each" : KENO
37. Revenue source for Fish and Wildlife departments : LICENSEFEES
39. Jocular disclaimer : IKID
40. Spoonful, say : DOSE
41. "Cómo ___ usted?" : ESTA
42. Sch. whose mascot is Paydirt Pete : UTEP
43. Coastal desert of southern Africa : NAMIB
44. Fruity drink : ADE
45. Tops in handwriting, say : NEATEST
49. Small stream : RILL
50. Wheat ___ : GERM
52. What sharpshooters take : DEADAIM
54. Prompt : CUE
57. Vow that's mostly vowels : IDO
58. When golden goals happen in the N.H.L. : OTS
61. Arts page contributor : OPERACRITIC
62. Novelist Vonnegut : KURT
63. Big Four record co. that broke up in 2012 : EMI
64. Headlong or headstrong : RASH
65. Striven : TAKENPAINS
66. What rugged individualists seldom admit to : NEEDINGHELP
67. Light shade : TINGE
71. Classic hair removal brand : NEET
72. Reputation : NAME
73. Gung-ho : AVID
74. Skin: Suffix : DERM
75. Numbskull : MORON
78. Posting at JFK or DFW : ETD
79. Eastern royals : RAJAS
80. Heavy load : ONUS
81. Pause word in Psalms : SELAH
84. Scam with three cards : MONTE
85. Information on a sports ticket : GAMETIME
88. Exceed : OUTSTEP
90. Fashionable : MODISH
91. Latin carol word : ADESTE
92. Prynne of "The Scarlet Letter" : HESTER
96. Question mark's key-mate : SLASH
98. "Charlie's Angels" director, 2000 : MCG
100. Keep occupied : TIEUP
101. One of 1,288 in the book of Numbers : VERSE
102. Biodiesel fuel source : HEMP
103. Prefix with ecology or chemical : AGRO
104. ___ Linda, Calif. : LOMA
106. ___-deucy : ACEY
109. Some 112-Down retakers: Abbr. : SRS
111. Tan neighbor, on calculators : COS
112. Exam with a Science Reasoning section : ACT
113. Wish undone : RUE

Answer summary: 17 unique to this puzzle, 1 debuted here and reused later, 1 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

Found bugs or have suggestions?