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New York Times, Thursday, May 19, 2016

Author:
Morton J. Mendelson
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
35/19/20162/7/20190
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
0001200
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.61000
Morton J. Mendelson

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 72, Blocks: 32 Missing: {QX} Spans: 4 This is the debut puzzle for Mr. Mendelson. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Morton J. Mendelson notes:
When I retired from McGill University, where I had held academic and administrative positions for almost 40 years, I set myself a goal ... read more

When I retired from McGill University, where I had held academic and administrative positions for almost 40 years, I set myself a goal of having a crossword puzzle published in the Sunday NYT. I had never constructed a puzzle before, so as you might expect, my first two efforts at Sunday puzzles didn't make the grade. But crossword construction was as engaging as I had anticipated, and, although I switched to weekday puzzles, I didn't let multiple rejections otherwise deter me. My lucky 13th submission got the nod from Will, as did my 14th, which is the one appearing today.

As a solver, I like the gradual reveal of humorous crossword quips and the change they offer from standard puzzles. I came up with the idea for today's quip while reading a list of cooking metaphors. It took quite a while to get the language right, but I knew I had it when I laughed out loud at my own joke. Unfortunately, the 67-character quip seriously constrained the fill, so compromises led to more names in the puzzle than I would have preferred.

I have to thank Will and Joel for their enormous help and seemingly endless patience. Although they enjoyed my humor, my initial submission was far from acceptable. Many entries fell short, and the middle line of the quip was off-center, a departure from crossword-theme symmetry that was a show stopper. I revised both the grid and the entries — twice. Finally, I submitted two alternatives and, with changes suggested by Joel, we settled on a grid, which I then clued. Given other constructors' comments, I wasn't surprised that quite a number of my clues were changed, in several cases making them more contemporary, but I was pleased that some of them survived and I'm delighted to see my first puzzle in the NYT — my first puzzle published anywhere.

This whole process has convinced me that retirement is a great stage in life for starting something new. It affords the time to develop and hone novel skills, so I'm still hopeful that I will eventually see one of my puzzles in the Sunday NYT.

Jeff Chen notes:
Debut! Morton gives a punny quip, playing on the word PRIME. Nice to tie together a few bits of police slang, the suspect knowing he ... read more

Debut! Morton gives a punny quip, playing on the word PRIME. Nice to tie together a few bits of police slang, the suspect knowing he was COOKED (had been found out) after getting GRILLED (questioned). The link between PRIME SUSPECT and prime rib is a bit tenuous for my taste, but as a whole, it works all right.

How would he mesh with Iron Man and Thor? Hmm...

I'm really impressed by Morton's execution. Working with four grid-spanners (15-letter entries) is tough enough, causing many places where you have to deal with two or more themers. When you throw in a fifth themer, it gets even harder.

Usually I would expect most any constructor to have trouble at the ends of grid-spanners, for example where you have to fill around the beginnings and endings of THE PRIME SUSPECT / KNEW HE WAS COOKED. Today's grid is so tough in those spots — you have to fill three adjacent 7-letter slots, all running vertically through those themers.

I had to do a double-take, amazed that Morton was able to skate by with just minor stuff in the four corners. Only STET, PEE, LAN = very impressive. And the fill is not just passable or neutral, either. There's some nice DOTTED I, HEAVE TO, ACT LIKE, AVENGER entries. Well done.

Quip puzzles have to make me laugh out loud or really think in order to make up for their raw difficulty — so tough when you're basically solving a puzzle with only the down clues — but I was impressed with Morton's construction. Extremely impressive for a first time out of the gate.

1
A
2
J
3
A
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R
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B
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L
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O
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B
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A
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C
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C
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B
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N
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H
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W
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A
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L
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A
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H
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G
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H
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W
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L
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B
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A
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G
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Z
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P
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© 2016, The New York TimesNo. 0519 ( 24,299 )
Across
1
Unlatched, say : AJAR
5
Pollock painting unit : BLOB
9
Vitriolic : ACRID
14
Natural harbor : COVE
15
Fluctuate wildly : YOYO
16
"Muy ___" (Spanish approval) : BUENO
17
Part 1 of a punny quip about a perp's predicament : THEPRIMESUSPECT
20
Chilean-based carrier : LAN
21
The "oven" in "have a bun in the oven" : UTERUS
22
Turing test participant : BOT
23
Depository deposits : INGOTS
25
Out : NOTHOME
28
Quip, part 2 : KNEWHEWASCOOKED
31
Reap : EARN
32
Cap : LID
33
Bruno ___ Prize (astrophysics award) : ROSSI
34
Quip, part 3 : AFTERHE
37
Fall that might cause falls : SLEET
41
Motorist's aid, for short : AAA
42
Emote : GUSH
46
Quip, part 4 : WASGRILLEDBYTHE
50
___ de Saint-Exupéry, author of "The Little Prince" : ANTOINE
51
Titular queen of Castile in a Handel opera : ALMIRA
52
Political leader? : PEE
53
Feature of some gardens : GAZEBO
56
Tyler of "The Lord of the Rings" : LIV
57
End of the quip : POLICEDETECTIVE
61
Bygone name in Chinese politics : ENLAI
62
Gallery on the Thames : TATE
63
Proofer's "oops" : STET
64
Supposes : DEEMS
65
One of two Danish kings : OLAF
66
One who sends things up? : PYRO
Down
1
Ape : ACTLIKE
2
Daughter of Sweeney Todd in the Sondheim musical : JOHANNA
3
Count of Monte Cristo, e.g. : AVENGER
4
Agent, informally : REP
5
Independently : BYITSELF
6
Capital of Togo : LOME
7
___ and terminer (criminal court) : OYER
8
Ship mates : BOSUNS
9
Obliques, e.g. : ABS
10
Part of the Maxwell House logo : CUP
11
Some sneakers : REEBOKS
12
They can be gross : INCOMES
13
Two-part letter : DOTTEDI
18
Pity : RUTH
19
Natl. sports org. : USOC
24
Totally defeat : OWN
26
Rent : TORE
27
Boo-___ : HOO
29
"Few love it unless in themselves," per Lord Chesterfield : WIT
30
"It's ___" ("Let's shake on it") : ADEAL
34
"The Bell of ___" (Longfellow poem) : ATRI
35
"The Facts of Life" actress : RAE
36
Was unhappy (with) : HADABEEF
37
Like phone numbers at meetups : SWAPPED
38
Shortest route around a track : LANEONE
39
One-named Grammy winner for "American Boy," 2008 : ESTELLE
40
Kind of trip : EGO
42
Press room? : GYM
43
One of a pair of Monopoly properties : UTILITY
44
Kennedy in-law : SHRIVER
45
Nautical command : HEAVETO
47
Playwright William : INGE
48
Provoke : LEADTO
49
Trading group, e.g. : BLOC
54
Intense dedication : ZEAL
55
Companion of Butch and Sundance : ETTA
58
"___ Malala" (2013 best-selling autobiography) : IAM
59
Modern prefix with gender : CIS
60
Approx. 5 cc : TSP

Answer summary: 7 unique to this puzzle, 1 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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