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FOR MOTHER

New York Times, Sunday, May 11, 2014

Author:
Peter A. Collins
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
1085/2/20064/7/201912
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612253614105
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1.565313
Peter A. Collins

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. ... read more

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 ... read more

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
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
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Trident alternative : ORBIT
115
Téa of "The Family Man" : LEONI
116
What unicorns don't do : EXIST
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Not said expressly : INDICATED
121
Prodded : URGED
122
Stick in a school desk : RULER
123
Smithsonian artifacts : AMERICANA
124
Mother ___ : GOOSE
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Spread out : SPLAY
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Cataract location : LENS
127
Paris suburb on the Seine : ISSY
Down
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
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Mother ___ : HUBBARD
10
Singer DiFranco : ANI
11
Zest : RIND
12
Forever, in verse : ETERN
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Astronomical sighting : METEOR
14
Politician who appeared as himself on NBC's "Parks and Recreation" : JOEBIDEN
15
Topples : OVERTHROWS
16
Abstainer's choice : NONE
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Ultimate word of an ultimatum : ELSE
18
Kikkoman sauces : SOYS
20
Umpire's cry : LET
28
Coming of age : MATURATION
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Hone : WHET
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Khan's clan : MONGOLS
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Goof around : MESSABOUT
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Coffin nail : CIG
37
Former chief justice Stone : HARLAN
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Bucolic bundle : HAYBALE
40
1950s political monogram : AES
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Architect Saarinen : EERO
43
Regarding : ASTO
44
Wonka inventor : DAHL
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Kind of review : PEER
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Words to one who's about to go off : DONTSTARTINONME
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Subject of a Pittsburgh art museum : WARHOL
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Windows boxes? : PCS
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Seven-time N.B.A. rebounding champ, 1992-98 : RODMAN
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See 54-Across : KOREA
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Pushing the envelope, say : AVANTGARDE
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Actor Sam of "The Horse Whisperer" : NEILL
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Bowler's bane : SPLIT
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Education secretary Duncan : ARNE
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Last month: Abbr. : DEC
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"What'd I tell you?" : SEE
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Most people don't think they're funny : LAUGHLINES
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Game for which Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday were once dealers : FARO
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Jazz musicians : CATS
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Then again, in text messages : OTOH
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Filmmaker Riefenstahl : LENI
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Table : PUTASIDE
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Former defense secretary Aspin : LES
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Through road : ARTERIAL
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Pound of poetry : EZRA
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"Now I remember!" : AHA
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Mother ___ : COUNTRY
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Some kiss-and-tell books : MEMOIRS
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They don't have fingers : MITTENS
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Milk dispensers : UDDERS
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"Much obliged," in Montréal : MERCI
103
Baker and Brookner : ANITAS
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Make more alluring : SEXUP
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Simple counters : ABACI
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Advertise : PLUG
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Sleek, informally : AERO
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Target's target, e.g. : LOGO
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Flowerpot spot : SILL
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Body on a map : SEA
119
Cozy room : DEN
120
"Happy Mother's ___!" : DAY

Answer summary: 9 unique to this puzzle, 2 debuted here and reused later, 8 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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