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New York Times, Saturday, May 12, 2018

Author: Alex Eylar
Editor: Will Shortz
Alex Eylar
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211/16/20175/12/20180
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0000101
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1.59000

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 66, Blocks: 36 Missing: {JQX} Grid has both 90- and 180-degree symmetry. This is puzzle # 2 for Mr. Eylar. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Alex Eylar notes: This puzzle was my Mount Everest. That enormous swath of whitespace in the center was the ultimate challenge — I can't even ... more
Alex Eylar notes:

This puzzle was my Mount Everest. That enormous swath of whitespace in the center was the ultimate challenge — I can't even count the number of minutes I spent watching my crossword software automatically fill it in, while I ate some pasta.

That's what I didn't know about making crossword puzzles: it requires a LOT of effort and battery power for the computer to do all the work. As the ultimate cruel joke, I actually had to reach under my desk at one point and fetch the power cable, to charge my computer and prevent it from succumbing to sheer exhaustion.

Somehow, the puzzle came together (I'm not sure when; I left to play GTA for a while), and the end result is this beautiful piece of crosswording for which I obviously deserve the credit. Accolades are accepted, in both written and monetary form, thank you.

Jeff Chen notes: Few constructors would have the guts to tackle something like the middle of this grid. (I've tried and gone down in flames.) ... more
Jeff Chen notes:

Few constructors would have the guts to tackle something like the middle of this grid. (I've tried and gone down in flames.) Jaw-droppingly huge! My mouth hung open even further when I uncovered the super-snazzy CEMENT SHOES and FALSE BOTTOM. Whoa! Huge swaths never contain stuff this good.

HORSE HOCKEY wasn't immediately familiar to me, but I vaguely remember Col. Sherman Potter saying it? Maybe I'll try it out in real life and see what people say.

I don't mind a little SOO glue to hold a giant section together. But FENSTER and BELEM are bizarre entries I'm more used to seeing in a region like this (and used to being annoyed by). Overall though, I thought they were worth the price of working in such great CEMENT SHOES / FALSE BOTTOM answers.

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times …

Note how smartly Alex segmented his four corners so that they didn't have much interaction with the middle. It's clever – there's enough interconnect that it didn't completely mess with my solving flow, but it still gave Alex enough flexibility to fill each corner with further goodness. I think just as long as there are at least two entries connecting one subsection to the rest of the puzzle, the solving flow is passable. Important to not strand the solver.

The corners aren't nearly as big as the middle, but they're not cakewalks to construct, either. I thought Alex did best in the NE, with LOWLIFES, HOEDOWN, SOFTIE, TWEEZE, and a very minor EER to pay.

Pretty decent results everywhere else, too. OCEANO and OROIDE are heavy costs for ANOMALY and MNEMONIC, but overall, a good set of trade-offs.

I'm not a fan of choking down gloopy entries like BELEM, but I realize that they're usually necessary for puzzles like this. I like seeing this type once in a while, so I'm okay with it.

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© 2018, The New York TimesNo. 0512 ( 25,022 )
Across Down
1. Husky relatives : AKITAS
7. Like a virgin : CHASTE
13. Title setting for Shakespeare : VERONA
14. Event with fiddling : HOEDOWN
15. Here and there : AROUND
16. Riffraff : LOWLIFES
17. With 18-Across, desires : LONGS
18. See 17-Across : FOR
19. See 54-Across : MOTEL
20. Response to a burn or a pun : OUCH
21. Jack ___ : FROST
23. Girth : SIZE
24. Dismissive turndown : NAH
25. They may hold the solution : BEAKERS
27. Profit chaser? : EER
28. The last pair you'll ever wear? : CEMENTSHOES
31. Where the magician hides the rabbit : FALSEBOTTOM
33. Embarrassments for news agencies : RETRACTIONS
35. Attained : GOT
38. Who once described puritanism as "the haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy" : MENCKEN
39. Contents of une fontaine : EAU
41. Not just passes : ACES
43. Piled leaves : RAKED
44. Despot exiled in 1979 : AMIN
45. Bobby who co-founded the Black Panthers : SEALE
47. Co-star of the "Thin Man" films : LOY
48. Idiots : CLODS
49. Something the Netherlands has but Belgium doesn't? : CAPITALN
51. Certain religious proselytizer, informally : MOONIE
52. Pattern breaker : ANOMALY
53. Faux gold : OROIDE
54. With 19-Across, spot for a tryst : NOTELL
55. Measure of military alertness : DEFCON
1. Place of eternal happiness : AVALON
2. Beat someone? : KEROUAC
3. Cooking title : IRONCHEF
4. "Too bad!" : TOUGH
5. Jamaica's St. ___ Bay : ANNS
6. Bummed : SAD
7. Image on every carton of Ben & Jerry's ice cream : COW
8. Lead : HELM
9. "Ciao" : ADIOS
10. Pushover : SOFTIE
11. Pull one's hair out? : TWEEZE
12. Eve who wrote "The Vagina Monologues" : ENSLER
14. "Balderdash!" : HORSEHOCKEY
16. Recalls : LOOKSBACKON
18. Letter closing from one brother to another : FRATERNALLY
21. Window: Ger. : FENSTER
22. Brought (out) : TROTTED
25. Brazilian city at the mouth of the Amazon : BELEM
26. Take root : SETIN
29. Nick, e.g. : MAR
30. ___ Canals : SOO
32. "Thirty days hath September ...," e.g. : MNEMONIC
34. Tied the knot : SAIDIDO
35. Container that's almost always red : GASCAN
36. About 71% of la Tierra : OCEANO
37. What "I" am, in a kid's song : TEAPOT
40. Invisible : UNSEEN
42. Say nasty things about : SLIME
44. How shy people may stand : ALOOF
46. Bibliography abbr. : ETAL
48. Common ___ : CORE
50. Word before and after "in" : ALL
51. Reddit V.I.P., for short : MOD

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

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