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New York Times, Saturday, May 13, 2017

Author:
Jeff Chen
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
977/5/20104/8/201959
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
2578172398
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.636212
Jeff Chen

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 68, Blocks: 34 Missing: {JQX} Spans: 3, (1 triple stack) This is puzzle # 69 for Mr. Chen. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Jeff Chen notes:
I always wanted to try my hand at a triple-stack. They're often filled with gluey crossing answers, not a surprise considering how ... read more

I always wanted to try my hand at a triple-stack. They're often filled with gluey crossing answers, not a surprise considering how many triplets of letters must be worked around. It was a (mostly) fun process of attempting this grid over and over — and over and over — and over and over — to generate a stack that had both some sizzle and a high degree of cleanliness.

Ah, there was SPILE. As a "Hunger Games" lover, it didn't occur to me at first that SPILE might be esoteric. I would have paid whatever it cost to send in that SPILE Katniss and Peeta (when they needed to tap a tree to avoid dying of thirst.)

Okay, I admit it. I'm odd.

Triple-stacks often don't have many long crossing answers, or when they do, those crossing answers can be on the dry side. So I worked hard to stick with friendly and flexible letter combinations, like ANE (that became CANDY CANE), EAT (EATS RIGHT), ELD (ELDER WAND).

I can just hear the sci-fi/fantasy haters going off again about that last one, but ELDER WAND is at least made up of two real words, so non-Harry Potter fans (pagans!) ought to at least be able to infer it.

Really though, if you don't know what the ELDER WAND is ... you poor muggle. Now, if I had worked in ANTIOCH PEVERELL (the wandmaker who created the ELDER WAND), that would have been stupefy-level awesome. I mean … unfair and undesirable. Ahem. Yes, that's surely what I meant.

Jeff Chen notes:
I've always favored the generalist's approach. It's hurt me in some areas, like in business, where 90%+ of C-suite (CEO, CFO, CTO, ... read more

I've always favored the generalist's approach. It's hurt me in some areas, like in business, where 90%+ of C-suite (CEO, CFO, CTO, etc.) want specialists, and deep specialists at that. But I feel strongly that expanding one's boundaries is important to personal development and leads to better deliverables, even in the areas in which you might specialize.

My annoying philosophical discussion aside, I enjoy a challenge. It's tough to get three great 15-letter answers stacked atop each other while not compromising in short fill. I loved RARE STAMP DEALER, and all those common letters felt like they'd make for easier construction. And it was a stroke of luck that I happened upon the combination of I BELIEVE I CAN FLY, which is often played for CINDERELLA TEAMS (I'm a sucker for basketball stories, especially underdogs).

It was more a stroke of relief, given how many other 15-letter entries I tried below RARE STAMP DEALER. I saved several dozen versions and discarded probably hundreds more.

The one hesitation I had was in BOOBOISIE, which was the only possibility given the rough ISIE ending I had backed myself into. I had heard the term before and thought it was hilarious (a take-off on "bourgeoisie"), but I wondered if it might come off as condescending. Thankfully, I could attribute it to Mencken (as I giggled about it to myself).

Huge props to Will and Joel for the USED CARS clue, which I didn't get at first. "… old and tired" as in tired = having tires. Ha!

I originally wanted TRICK / KNEE to be even trickier, with KNEE getting no clue. Probably would have been too evil to get an unexpected Thursday-ish trick in a themeless puzzle though. Ah well.

I probably won't do any more triple-stacks now — what a great learning experience, but there are so many other themeless layouts I'd like to try out and learn from. Hope you enjoyed the solve!

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© 2017, The New York TimesNo. 0513 ( 24,658 )
Across
1
Tiny cheese sandwiches, of a sort : RITZBITS
9
A thread winds around it : SCREW
14
Nest-raiding insect : AMAZONANT
16
Surrender : WAIVE
17
Computer icon, e.g. : PICTOGRAM
18
Paid to play : ANTED
19
Pro's opposite, in slang : NOOB
20
Places frequented by Dorian Gray : OPIUMDENS
22
Dish made from 7-Down : POI
24
Nonnative plant? : SPY
25
Ironman race, briefly : TRI
28
Existing : INESSE
32
Threw : CAST
36
One likely to have a large collection of albums : RARESTAMPDEALER
39
Grammy-winning R. Kelly hit of 1996 : IBELIEVEICANFLY
40
They're often upsetting : CINDERELLATEAMS
41
See 25-Down : KNEE
42
Flowers named after the Greek word for "star" : ASTERS
43
Went nowhere : SAT
44
Abbr. by a blinking light : REC
46
___ Yantra (sacred Hindu diagram formed by nine interlocking triangles) : SRI
48
Stumble out of the gate, say : SLOWSTART
54
What ":" can mean : ISTO
57
Teachers of karma : LAMAS
58
High-quality window composition : LEADGLASS
61
Sphere : ARENA
62
"Wag the Dog" co-star, 1997 : ANNEHECHE
63
Bat around : BANDY
64
"No need to elaborate" : IGETTHAT
Down
1
Strike : RAP
2
Declaration after looking at one's cards : IMIN
3
___ stand : TACO
4
Band with the gold-certified albums "Tres Hombres" and "El Loco" : ZZTOP
5
Ignorant middle class, per H. L. Mencken : BOOBOISIE
6
Fortune Global 500 bank : ING
7
Ingredient in 22-Across : TARO
8
Take a shot : SNAP
9
Inundate : SWAMP
10
Christmas decoration : CANDYCANE
11
Quinceañera, for 15-year-old girls : RITE
12
Neither up nor down : EVEN
13
Joins : WEDS
15
"Eww, stop!" : TMI
21
They're old and tired : USEDCARS
23
Work together : INTERACT
25
With 41-Across, one bending unexpectedly? : TRICK
26
1994 Peace Prize sharer : RABIN
27
Woman's name meaning "peace" : IRENE
29
Some wasp nest sites : EAVES
30
Rid of impurities : SMELT
31
Tree-tapping spigot : SPILE
33
Some sporty Italian wheels : ALFAS
34
"The Simpsons" aunt : SELMA
35
Meeting on the DL : TRYST
37
Powerful tool for Dumbledore : ELDERWAND
38
Follows a healthful diet : EATSRIGHT
45
Try : ESSAY
47
___ of Langerhans (part of the pancreas) : ISLET
48
Cut of meat : SLAB
49
Boris Pasternak heroine : LARA
50
Parting of the clouds, maybe : OMEN
51
After : ALA
52
Baroque artist Guido : RENI
53
Strong, sharp smell : TANG
55
Instrument with a needle, for short : TACH
56
Plant watcher, for short : OSHA
59
River that forms part of the England/Wales boundary : DEE
60
Collected works : SET

Answer summary: 7 unique to this puzzle, 3 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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