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New York Times, Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Author:
Jeff Stillman
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
51/28/20145/22/20180
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
0032000
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.53010
Jeff Stillman

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 78, Blocks: 36 Missing: {KQVXZ} This is puzzle # 5 for Mr. Stillman. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Jeff Stillman notes:
I had always wanted to try to make a picture puzzle, so I brainstormed images that could be done with a very small amount of dots to ... read more

I had always wanted to try to make a picture puzzle, so I brainstormed images that could be done with a very small amount of dots to be connected. BIG DIPPER or LITTLE DIPPER was one of the first ideas I hit upon, though it was harder than you would think to get that asymmetric constellation positioned just right! I went with BIG DIPPER for the friendlier 9-letter count, along with its fellow 9-letter partners URSA MAJOR/GREAT BEAR.

I originally rounded it out with NORTH POLE, as in that's where you would always see the BIG DIPPER, but Will and Joel didn't think that was as strong a connection. Also, I had presented the themers in what I thought was a logical, sequential order (and all horizontal) but that presentation cluttered the grid, made for some yucky fill, and gave me triple black squares in the northwest and southwest corners.

Joel and Will suggested NORTH STAR, as in that's what the BIG DIPPER points to. That caused me to abandon the horizontal lineup and go to a pinwheel design of the grid, which improved the fill and cleaned up the blackness. I still had some ugly fill in the northwest until David Steinberg offered a very elegant solution of moving a couple of black squares.

What I'm curious to know from the solving community is how obvious the circles were as far as being in the shape of the Big Dipper in the unsolved grid. Since I started with that image, it always leaped out at me, but did others process it immediately? Our stargazing ancestors picked this pattern out of the sky (twice!), so maybe it's hardwired in our brains regardless of whether it appears in a cluster of stars or a grid of squares!

Jeff Chen notes:
Definitely check out the link Jim listed in his comment (below). That STAR rebus puzzle is stuck in my head, one of the cleverest of ... read more

Definitely check out the link Jim listed in his comment (below). That STAR rebus puzzle is stuck in my head, one of the cleverest of Sundays that got me hooked into the NY Times crossword.

I liked seeing the concept again, although the impact was lessened for me since I remember that STAR rebus puzzle so vividly. The perils of having a long memory! I bet most solvers won't have seen it, and will thus have a much bigger a-ha moment.

The BIG DIPPER is part of URSA MAJOR, the GREAT BEAR? Wha ... ? Huh. Apparently, it is! How is it that I never knew this? (Probably because I spent most of my childhood watching "Gilligan's Island." Fun fact, Mr. Howell's teddy bear was named Teddy.)

Jeff packs in a ton of thematic material, the NORTH STAR rounding things out. Now that one felt much more solid than URSA MAJOR. Yes, the BIG DIPPER seems to be a part of the GREAT BEAR, but that's more an incidental curiosity. I learned to find the NORTH STAR using the BIG DIPPER as a guide, linking them forever in my head.

I think I would have been happier with just BIG DIPPER and NORTH STAR, plus the visual. That would have also allowed for smoother fill, along with a more accurate representation of the BIG DIPPER. It looks kind of … skewed. Like it got shoved into a 15x15 box.

It may not seem so difficult to drop in seven extra letters to form the visual, but it's actually a (great) bear. So much flexibility taken away from that middle section, when you have to work around fixed letters! And if you shift a letter even one square, the visual starts to look all wonky. Not a surprise to get a bunch of odd entries in RONDEL, ORBIS, SERE, and a potentially lethal crossing in ESO BESO / ARABY. Oof.

A good concept even the second time around, and I understand the desire to toss in URSA MAJOR / GREAT BEAR to help bulk out the theme. It's a tough call – without them, some solvers might have considered the puzzle thin.

Jim Horne notes:

Our Visual Puzzles page collects grids you draw on. The earliest is this STAR rebus from 1996.

1
C
2
O
3
D
4
A
5
I
6
D
7
E
8
S
9
B
10
A
11
B
12
E
13
L
14
L
A
I
R
15
N
O
M
E
16
I
N
U
R
E
17
U
R
S
A
18
M
A
J
O
R
19
G
O
T
A
T
20
E
S
O
B
E
S
O
21
G
22
O
D
D
E
S
S
23
B
Y
T
E
24
T
E
R
I
25
N
E
G
26
G
27
E
E
28
C
29
H
E
30
S
P
31
E
E
D
O
32
A
R
Y
33
A
34
N
35
O
N
36
D
O
P
E
37
L
A
S
S
O
38
L
A
O
39
E
N
40
O
41
L
42
A
43
E
R
44
R
A
N
D
45
R
Y
D
E
R
46
T
47
R
48
E
A
T
Y
49
T
O
50
P
51
O
O
F
52
W
O
N
53
H
E
54
S
S
55
E
56
L
57
O
N
58
E
N
M
59
A
S
S
E
60
S
C
O
R
N
61
E
62
D
63
E
D
I
C
T
64
G
65
R
E
A
T
B
E
A
R
66
T
E
T
R
A
67
E
A
R
N
68
I
L
S
A
69
S
L
Y
E
R
70
L
Y
E
S
71
S
L
E
W
© 2018, The New York TimesNo. 0522 ( 25,032 )
Across
1. Sonata finale : CODA
5. Fateful day : IDES
9. Noted tower setting : BABEL
14. Villain's hangout : LAIR
15. City on the Seward Peninsula : NOME
16. Habituate : INURE
17. Constellation next to Draco : URSAMAJOR
19. Subtly suggested : GOTAT
20. 1962 Paul Anka hit : ESOBESO
21. Widely adored woman : GODDESS
23. Part of a gig : BYTE
24. Garr of "Tootsie" : TERI
25. Original of an old photo, informally : NEG
26. "You don't say!" : GEE
28. 2008 Benicio Del Toro title role : CHE
30. Diminutive swimsuit : SPEEDO
32. Indo-___ languages : ARYAN
35. Hopped up : ONDOPE
37. Calf catcher : LASSO
38. Language that becomes the name of where it's spoken if you add an "s" : LAO
39. ___ Gay, 1945 bomber : ENOLA
43. Gofer's assignment : ERRAND
45. U-Haul alternative : RYDER
46. Part of NATO : TREATY
49. Outdo : TOP
51. Gut-punch reaction : OOF
52. Took the cake : WON
53. Dame Myra of piano fame : HESS
55. SpaceX founder Musk : ELON
58. How lemmings migrate : ENMASSE
60. Held in contempt : SCORNED
63. Authoritative command : EDICT
64. Another term for 17-Across : GREATBEAR
66. Prefix with -hydrozoline : TETRA
67. Make, as an income : EARN
68. "Casablanca" role : ILSA
69. More foxy : SLYER
70. Drain decloggers : LYES
71. Dispatched, as a dragon : SLEW
Down
1. What this is for 1-Down : CLUE
2. Galley equipment : OARS
3. Doesn't mind : DISOBEYS
4. Sheik's land, in poetry : ARABY
5. "Just hang on!" : INASEC
6. Martial arts school : DOJO
7. Music genre with confessional lyrics : EMO
8. Twilled fabric : SERGE
9. Part of 17-Across ... and what the circles from A to G depict : BIGDIPPER
10. Give ___ of approval : ANOD
11. Compound in synthetic rubber : BUTENE
12. Wiped clean : ERASED
13. "Come on already!" : LETSGO
18. Assembled : MET
22. Approximately : ORSO
24. Lease signatories : TENANTS
26. Hoedown partner : GAL
27. Victorian ___ : ERA
29. Hi, on Hispaniola : HOLA
31. Start of a decision-making process : EENY
33. What landlubbers don't like to be : ASEA
34. Thing located in the night sky by extending a line from circle F past circle G : NORTHSTAR
36. Numbskull : DODO
40. Former co-host of "The View" : ODONNELL
41. Zodiac constellation : LEO
42. Lab warning? : ARF
44. Bakery loaves : RYES
46. Responsibility for a social media manager : TWEETS
47. 14-line verse with only two rhyme sounds : RONDEL
48. Antagonism : ENMITY
50. Flavorers of some pies and ice cream : PECANS
54. Jason of "I Love You, Man" : SEGEL
56. Auction grouping : LOT
57. Caesar's world? : ORBIS
59. Real estate unit : ACRE
60. Dried up : SERE
61. Heart's-___ (pansy) : EASE
62. Tournament director's responsibility : DRAW
65. Laser output : RAY

Answer summary: 2 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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