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New York Times, Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Author: James Tuttle
Editor: Will Shortz
James Tuttle
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This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 78, Blocks: 38 Missing: {JQVXZ} This is puzzle # 5 for Mr. Tuttle. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
James Tuttle notes: This puzzle was among my first ever constructed, back in 2010. Its first iteration included BANKNOTE, FIELDWORK, and OVERHAND ... more
James Tuttle notes: This puzzle was among my first ever constructed, back in 2010. Its first iteration included BANKNOTE, FIELDWORK, and OVERHAND among seven theme entries and the revealer was the plural BOOKENDS. The construction featured elegantly crossing theme entries and had the revealer located in the southwest of the grid. Ultimately the grid proved to be too difficult to fill reasonably, and so it was back to square one.

Round #2 scaled things back to 6 theme entries. The revealer was slightly modified to BOOKEND, and placed in the center of the grid. I submitted this grid and was pleased to learn that Will liked the puzzle enough to publish it, contingent upon my willingness to fix it up a bit. DOUBLEDATE, wouldn't fly since DOUBLE BOOK would be the only verb among nouns, and thus presented a nasty inconsistency. Back to the drawing board again.

For Round #3, SCHOOLWORK replaced DOUBLEDATE to allow for consistency and the grid changed considerably. Wasn't too happy to have to rely on fill like YEGG, SSTS, and AMAT. However MASSE and DETROIT being amid the grid soothed the concerns of this pool-playing Michigander. Hope you enjoyed it.

Jeff Chen notes: 'Both words can follow X' type theme today. Impressive that James manages to fit seven themers into one grid. For a theme type that's ... more
Jeff Chen notes: "Both words can follow X" type theme today. Impressive that James manages to fit seven themers into one grid. For a theme type that's heading toward being overdone, it's important to stretch for something extra, so it's great that James took the extra step.

For a long time, "word that can follow X" themes were commonplace, but they've fallen out of favor as crosswords have evolved. "Both words can follow X" were the new innovation to keep the idea fresh, but as with all art forms, crosswords must evolve or risk getting stale.

James does really well to pick in-the-language phrases. Sometimes with this type of theme, the entries sound forced… because they are. Luckily, there are so many words that can follow BOOK that it gives James the flexibility to come up with several good entries. OPEN SOURCE is a nice, modern term (I wasn't sure if SOURCE BOOK was an actual thing, but Google says yes), and FLIP PHONEs are coming back. Retro. Chic. Everyone's soon going to be envious of my Motorola Razr. Just wait, you'll see.

With seven themers, there are bound to be strains on the grid, but James manages to keep things relatively clean. Using a modified pinwheel arrangement (and stuffing two themers each into the NE and SW corners) keeps all the themers largely separated, allowing for more flexibility. The stacked themers are pretty nice in the NE, only A DOG and SLO to slow things down. That's nice work given the heavy constraints up there.

The SW doesn't come out quite as nice, with OON sandwiched between MATCHPLAY and SCHOOLWORK. Most times when you have two themers directly atop one another like this, it's hard to escape with 100% cleanliness. A NOSE and SKAT along with RTS is not ideal. I wonder if moving some black squares down there would have helped — the 3/6/4 word lengths in rows 14/15 add to that south region's difficult level. Perhaps flip-flopping black squares to create 4/5/4 word lengths would have made for cleaner fill.

Overall though, I appreciated the effort to stretch the boundaries of a well-known theme type. And for such heavy constraints, James did a nice job selecting strong themers and wrangling the fill. I was especially happy to see MASSE (a billiards trick shot where you curve the cue ball's path through spin) and its fun clue, given that I used to play four hours of pool a day in college. What can I say, applying English was a lot more fun than studying English.

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© 2014, The New York TimesNo. 0527 ( 23,576 )
Across Down
1. Centers : HUBS
5. Greetings from Oahu : ALOHAS
11. Carrier in the Star Alliance : SAS
14. Amo, amas, ___ ... : AMAT
15. Actor Radcliffe : DANIEL
16. The Cowboys of the Big 12 Conf. : OSU
17. Kemo ___ : SABE
18. *Like software that can be freely used and altered : OPENSOURCE
20. One with whom your safe is not safe : YEGG
22. Veiled vow? : IDO
23. Wineglass feature : STEM
24. Walk about : AMBLE
26. *Samsung or LG product : FLIPPHONE
28. Aleve alternative : TYLENOL
30. Flew the coop : LEFT
31. Museum docent's offering : TOUR
32. F.B.I. file, e.g. : DOSSIER
36. Prez on a fiver : ABE
37. Shelf prop ... or a hint to both parts of the answers to the six starred clues : BOOKEND
38. ___-toothed : GAP
41. More cheerful around the holidays, say : MERRIER
42. Ask, as a question : POSE
43. Bog fuel : PEAT
45. Tiger's home : DETROIT
47. *Tournament competition : MATCHPLAY
51. Fanta and Sprite : SODAS
52. One of a pair in a fast-food logo : ARCH
53. Suffix with bass : OON
54. Nimble : SPRY
55. *Class assignments : SCHOOLWORK
58. Many, many moons : AEON
61. Go out with : SEE
62. Cinco de Mayo celebration : FIESTA
63. Get under control : TAME
64. Windy City transports : ELS
65. "Bambi" setting : FOREST
66. Start of a conclusion : ERGO
1. Owns : HAS
2. Thurman of "Kill Bill" : UMA
3. *Like many a heartthrob's eyes : BABYBLUE
4. Pittsburgh pro : STEELER
5. Sick as ___ : ADOG
6. Drink like 5-Down : LAP
7. Baseball great Buck : ONEIL
8. Language that gave us "guru" and "pundit" : HINDI
9. "The Tortoise and the Hare" storyteller : AESOP
10. ___-mo : SLO
11. A bit : SORTOF
12. Mountain climber's climb : ASCENT
13. "Guys and Dolls" song whose title follows "Call a lawyer and ..." : SUEME
19. One who walks down the aisle : USHER
21. Brig. ___ : GEN
24. Lead-in to girl : ATTA
25. Rebuke to an eavesdropper, for short : MYOB
26. Speed away, with "it" : FLOOR
27. Made a case : PLED
29. Skunk's defense : ODOR
33. Word with bunny or bum : SKI
34. Run-down : SEEDY
35. About : INRE
37. "Little Women" woman : BETH
38. *Company whose logo includes the winged foot of Mercury : GOODYEAR
39. Home to the Himalayas : ASIA
40. Strokes ... or ones getting stroked : PETS
41. Full of swagger, say : MACHO
42. Divide appropriately : PRORATE
43. Mail carrier's charge : PARCEL
44. Makes a lasting impression? : ETCHES
46. Dosage amt. : TSP
47. Shot for those who have mastered English? : MASSE
48. Vaccine target : POLIO
49. Let down : LOWER
50. Win by ___ : ANOSE
54. 32-card game : SKAT
56. On leave : OFF
57. Some football linemen: Abbr. : RTS
59. "Wow!," in textspeak : OMG
60. Prefix with colonial : NEO

Answer summary: 1 unique to this puzzle, 2 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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