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New York Times, Saturday, May 12, 2018

Author:
Alex Eylar
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
311/16/201712/10/20180
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0100101
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.59000
Alex Eylar

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 ... read more

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.) ... read more

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
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
Down
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.

Found bugs or have suggestions?