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FOR MOTHER

New York Times, Sunday, May 11, 2014

Author: Peter A. Collins
Editor: Will Shortz
Peter A. Collins
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This puzzle:

Rows: 21, Columns: 21 Words: 138, Blocks: 84 Missing: {Q} Grid is asymmetric Minimum word length: 2 There are unchecked squares This is puzzle # 79 for Mr. Collins. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Peter A. Collins notes: First of all, happy Mother's Day to all the mothers out there. I'd like to dedicate this puzzle to my grandmother. My mom passed away several years ago, but her mom is still going strong. Grandma will be ... more
Peter A. Collins notes: First of all, happy Mother's Day to all the mothers out there. I'd like to dedicate this puzzle to my grandmother. My mom passed away several years ago, but her mom is still going strong. Grandma will be 104 next month. She's a little frail, but sharp as a tack (even though she's never done a crossword puzzle in her life). In fact, she's one of the few people still around who were alive when the first crossword was published in 1913. For all I know, she could've babysat Bernice Gordon. She was born when Taft was president, she was nearly two when the Titanic sank — but she still hasn't seen the Cubs win the World Series.

This puzzle has a bit of history behind it, too. The first version I submitted had the same (more or less) grid design — my intention was for a cross-stitched kind of vibe, with the big M-O-M running diagonally through the grid. But aside from the grid art, the only themed answers in that one were the last two Down entries — MOTHERS and DAY (where MITTENS and DAY are in this version). It was a low word-count (132) puzzle that I intended to feel like a themeless. I think it had some really nice long entries. It got nixed due to the paucity of themed material. After that, I let it sit for a year and a half. I dragged it back out this winter and upped the themed entries, putting in a whole bunch of "mothers" all clued as "Mother ___", as in the current version. However, I also included a couple of other themed entries, both clued as "Ma ___" (BARKER and RAINEY). Will said I was getting closer, but because of that inconsistency (which I chose to look at as "variety") and a bit of iffy fill, I was asked to do a rewrite. Then another. Then another. Then another. Counting the "themeless" version as number one, what you're looking at is version six. As I told Will, luckily I enjoy the process as well as the product.

Who can plan things like having the clue for RODMAN immediately precede the clue for KOREA? Serendipity is a wonderful thing, as well as a wonderful word.

Did you notice that the grid has near-symmetry? In order to be fully symmetric, the blocks would've had to spell M-O-W. Maybe I'll save that for my John Deere tribute puzzle.

Finally, it's a bit unfortunate to have PUTTING ON WEIGHT, MATURATION, and LAUGH LINES in a Mother's Day puzzle, but please — DON'T START IN ON ME!

Jeff Chen notes: Pete's comments always make me laugh. Neat to hear this time though about his grandmother — what staying power! A perfect puzzle for her (and mothers out there everywhere). I'm a sucker for puzzles with ... more
Jeff Chen notes: Pete's comments always make me laugh. Neat to hear this time though about his grandmother — what staying power! A perfect puzzle for her (and mothers out there everywhere).

I'm a sucker for puzzles with visuals. Black square visuals tend to be my favorite because they stand out so much more than circles or shaded squares or connected rebus squares. They can be difficult to work with though, because standard crossword rules don't give a lot of freedom. So I like how Pete flaunts convention, incorporating both two and ONE letter words into his puzzle... or are they really one letter words? (See the red highlights below!) Very clever implementation. That alone gave me a smile.

I can see how Will would balk at low theme density. I've often wondered about trying to construct themelesses in the 21x size, but I've come to realize that I personally get bored solving a 21x unless there's a nice theme or a gimmick I really like. Strong long fill is important to holding my attention, but by itself it's not enough for me in a 21x. Personal preference.

So even though Pete had added themage, I still felt like this was a little light. It would have been great to have some long entry like Mother OF THE BRIDE or Mother JONES MAGAZINE or something, but then you get into partial territory, where the themers don't hold together by themselves. So I'm not sure what a better solution would have been.

It did confuse me a little to see such nice long answers and consider how/if they were related to the theme. As Pete mentioned, I was wondering what he was trying to say with LAUGH LINES, PUTTING ON WEIGHT, MATURATION, etc. (insert sound of nervous laughter here) He said it, not me! If only Pete had found a way to tie all those uber-long entries into the theme, I would have absolutely loved this one.

The M O M black square patterns might look straightforward, but there's a lot of finesse that goes into them. They also eat up a lot of the black square allotment, forcing wide-open white spaces in the grid (to keep to the maximum word count of 140). I loved a lot of the mid-range fill (JOE BIDEN and his self-parodying ways = hilarious, DREW BREES, I'M SO SURE, HAY BALE), and the glue-type entries (ISSY, EERO, OVOLO) weren't too bad. A nice construction given the constraints.

Happy Mother's Day! And no, you haven't put on any weight at all.

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© 2014, The New York TimesNo. 0511 ( 23,560 )
Across Down
1. Diamond cover : TARP
5. Some Arizonans : HOPI
9. Sultan's charge : HAREM
14. Mother ___ : JONES
19. Calypso staple : STEELDRUM
21. Pull together : UNITE
22. Quarter-rounded molding : OVOLO
23. Agents in blood clotting : PLATELETS
24. I.Q. test developer : BINET
25. Minute : EENSY
26. Part of A.P.R.: Abbr. : PCT
27. Archaeologist's discovery : TOMB
29. New Orleans Saint who was the Super Bowl XLIV M.V.P. : DREWBREES
33. ___ Disraeli, author of "Curiosities of Literature" : ISAAC
35. Like seven Nolan Ryan games : NOHIT
36. "No kidding!" : OH
38. Element #2's symbol : HE
39. Rodent that burrows near streams : NUTRIA
41. Prince Harry, for one : REDHEAD
45. Some West Coast wines : NAPAS
47. Resented : GRUDGED
49. Mother ___ : TERESA
50. Joel and Jennifer : GREYS
51. Opposite of 'neath : OER
52. Start the growing season : SOW
54. With 58-Down, four-time destination for 56-Down : NORTH
55. Simple storage unit on a farm : POLEBARN
57. Abbreviation between two names : AKA
60. Bert's mystery-solving twin : NAN
62. Eye cover for the naive? : WOOL
63. The original "It" girl : CLARABOW
64. What's good in Jerusalem? : TOV
65. Lock : TRESS
67. ID digits : SSN
68. Mother ___ : LODE
69. Michael Collins's org. : IRA
70. Mother ___ : SHIP
71. Circular parts? : ADS
74. Bank of Israel : LEUMI
75. Vintner's prefix : OEN
76. 800, say : TOLLFREE
78. Cuba libre ingredient : COLA
81. End of a pickoff : TAG
82. D.C. player : NAT
83. "Survivor" tactic : ALLIANCE
84. Really went for : ATEUP
86. Sharks' and Jets' org. : NHL
88. Needle-nosed fish : GAR
90. Montemezzi opera "L'Amore dei ___ Re" : TRE
91. Mother ___ : TONGUE
93. Pot pusher's vehicle? : TEACART
98. Literally, "lion dog" : SHIHTZU
100. Second of six? : SHORTI
101. Dorothy's aunt : EM
103. 2001 Spielberg sci-fi film : AI
104. Greases : LARDS
106. "The Age of Anxiety" poet : AUDEN
107. Not accidental : MEANT
109. Pointed fence stakes : PALISADES
113. Wager of war against Parthia : NERO
114. Trident alternative : ORBIT
115. Téa of "The Family Man" : LEONI
116. What unicorns don't do : EXIST
118. Not said expressly : INDICATED
121. Prodded : URGED
122. Stick in a school desk : RULER
123. Smithsonian artifacts : AMERICANA
124. Mother ___ : GOOSE
125. Spread out : SPLAY
126. Cataract location : LENS
127. Paris suburb on the Seine : ISSY
1. Recipe amt. : TSP
2. Braves, on a sports ticker : ATL
3. End the growing season : REAP
4. Purina purveyor : PETCO
5. "Good" cholesterol, for short : HDL
6. Some freighter cargo : ORE
7. Backsliding, to a dieter : PUTTINGONWEIGHT
8. "Yeah, right!" : IMSOSURE
9. Mother ___ : HUBBARD
10. Singer DiFranco : ANI
11. Zest : RIND
12. Forever, in verse : ETERN
13. Astronomical sighting : METEOR
14. Politician who appeared as himself on NBC's "Parks and Recreation" : JOEBIDEN
15. Topples : OVERTHROWS
16. Abstainer's choice : NONE
17. Ultimate word of an ultimatum : ELSE
18. Kikkoman sauces : SOYS
20. Umpire's cry : LET
28. Coming of age : MATURATION
30. Hone : WHET
31. Khan's clan : MONGOLS
32. Goof around : MESSABOUT
34. Coffin nail : CIG
37. Former chief justice Stone : HARLAN
38. Bucolic bundle : HAYBALE
40. 1950s political monogram : AES
42. Architect Saarinen : EERO
43. Regarding : ASTO
44. Wonka inventor : DAHL
46. Kind of review : PEER
48. Words to one who's about to go off : DONTSTARTINONME
53. Subject of a Pittsburgh art museum : WARHOL
55. Windows boxes? : PCS
56. Seven-time N.B.A. rebounding champ, 1992-98 : RODMAN
58. See 54-Across : KOREA
59. Pushing the envelope, say : AVANTGARDE
61. Actor Sam of "The Horse Whisperer" : NEILL
66. Bowler's bane : SPLIT
71. Education secretary Duncan : ARNE
72. Last month: Abbr. : DEC
73. "What'd I tell you?" : SEE
74. Most people don't think they're funny : LAUGHLINES
77. Game for which Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday were once dealers : FARO
78. Jazz musicians : CATS
79. Then again, in text messages : OTOH
80. Filmmaker Riefenstahl : LENI
85. Table : PUTASIDE
87. Former defense secretary Aspin : LES
89. Through road : ARTERIAL
92. Pound of poetry : EZRA
94. "Now I remember!" : AHA
95. Mother ___ : COUNTRY
96. Some kiss-and-tell books : MEMOIRS
97. They don't have fingers : MITTENS
99. Milk dispensers : UDDERS
102. "Much obliged," in Montréal : MERCI
103. Baker and Brookner : ANITAS
105. Make more alluring : SEXUP
108. Simple counters : ABACI
109. Advertise : PLUG
110. Sleek, informally : AERO
111. Target's target, e.g. : LOGO
112. Flowerpot spot : SILL
117. Body on a map : SEA
119. Cozy room : DEN
120. "Happy Mother's ___!" : DAY

Answer summary: 10 unique to this puzzle, 1 debuted here and reused later, 8 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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