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New York Times, Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Author: Sande Milton and Jeff Chen
Editor: Will Shortz
Sande Milton
TotalDebutCollabs
15/30/20181
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
0001000
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.58000
Jeff Chen
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
857/5/20106/28/201849
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
2467151878
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.634192

This puzzle:

Rows: 13, Columns: 17 Words: 75, Blocks: 39 Missing: {FQW} Grid has mirror symmetry. This is the debut puzzle for Mr. Milton. This is puzzle # 84 for Mr. Chen. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Constructor notes: SANDE: It's a real thrill to publish my first NYT puzzle. I've been solving these things for over 60 years, first cutting my teeth on the NY Post, then ... more
Constructor notes:

SANDE: It's a real thrill to publish my first NYT puzzle. I've been solving these things for over 60 years, first cutting my teeth on the NY Post, then graduating to the Times, in the days when an ANOA would paddle his PROA to a STOA in GOA. The puzzles have changed so much since then. Used to be that if you could find a word hidden away in an old edition of the OED, Britannica or Gray's Anatomy, it was "legal." No brand names, no hip expressions were allowed.

I submitted two puzzles in 1972 when Will Weng was the editor. The daily had a bad word in it, BULTACO (a Spanish motorcycle). I knew the word wasn't legal, but I was hoping that Mr. Weng wouldn't notice it: fat chance!

Decades later, after retiring as a faculty member at Florida State, I brought an idea for a Sunday puzzle to Nancy Salomon, through cruciverb.com. She passed me along to Jeff, and we're now collaborating on our third puzzle. My advice to solvers considering trying their lot at construction: if you love waiting for Fridays and Saturdays, you'll find that constructing your own is like having the hardest Saturday you've ever faced, open and challenging you — all day long. There's nothing like it. But I do recommend working with an experienced constructor: you have a lot more to learn than you think.

This puzzle was a pleasure to work on because the Scrabble theme opened up so many possibilities. The theme is multi-layered. First, there are four racks of mixed-up "tiles," which when solved announce the flow of the game: PLAYERS ARRANGE JUMBLED LETTERS. Second, there's bag of mixed "tiles" (anagrams) in the center section. Finally, the two reveal clues tell you that it's a SCRABBLE game and that there's a MIXED BAG in the middle. So much going on!

Jeff Chen notes: Sande comes up with some of the most creative ideas of any of my collaborators. I liked his initial concept of doing something Scrabble-related in a ... more
Jeff Chen notes:

Sande comes up with some of the most creative ideas of any of my collaborators. I liked his initial concept of doing something Scrabble-related in a crossword. Having four "racks" around a scrabble board, plus a "bag" made out of black squares (look at the center of the grid again!)? That was pretty good.

Then he came up with the idea of TILES inside the bag, mixed up into STILE and ISLET. Even better!

But I felt like we had to have Scrabble-esque words in the four racks, not what he proposed: any four seven-letter words that would help us produce good fill. I worried that this would kill the idea. Ah well, lots of ideas need to die a natural death.

Then he came back with PLAYERS ANAGRAM JUMBLED LETTERS. Oh so perfect! Now it was just a matter of working up a grid skeleton.

Nothing good by revision 10. Tricky lengths to work with, considering we had to build around that central "bag."

Revision 30? Still flailing.

Somewhere around 50, things started to look up.

Back down by rev 60.

Finally, I thought, what if we punted on a 15x15 grid? 16x15 or 14x16 is no problem for the NYT, but those didn't help. Finally, I tested out a weird 13x17 on a lark and bingo! It all fell into place.

After 40 more revisions.

Thankfully, Will thought he could bend some rules to the get the odd shape to work with his syndication partners. What a relief! Revision number 101, clued and filed as final.

The sight of a single Scrabble TILE will fill me with Pavlovian shudders from now on.

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© 2018, The New York TimesNo. 0530 ( 25,040 )
Across Down
1. Loose ones sink ships, in a saying : LIPS
5. Transparent sheet used for overlays : ACETATE
12. Approach shot in golf : CHIP
16. Gooey vegetable : OKRA
17. Bolivian president Evo : MORALES
18. Pealed : RANG
19. Alternative to Sky UK, with "the" : BEEB
20. Rack #1: AELPRSY : PLAYERS
21. Shamu, e.g. : ORCA
22. Iconic theater in Harlem : APOLLO
24. Foul atmosphere : MIASMA
26. ___ Marie, singer of the 1985 hit "Lovergirl" : TEENA
28. Features of many wedding cakes : TIERS
29. Odometer button : RESET
32. Key : ISLET
34. Yawners, in sports : ROMPS
38. Like diamonds from a mine : UNCUT
39. Subway entry : STILE
40. Historic walled city of Spain : AVILA
41. Dance studio fixture : BARRE
42. Game pieces in 31-Down : TILES
43. Connecting point : NEXUS
44. Iraq's main port : BASRA
46. Turn down : NIX
47. Shrek's relatives : OGRES
48. Priestly attire : ALB
49. 34, for each row, column and main diagonal in a 4x4 magic square : SUM
51. Lead-in to screening : PRE
52. Summer hours: Abbr. : DST
54. Dig : GIBE
56. Rack #3: BDEJLMU : JUMBLED
60. Irish Rose's love : ABIE
61. The Runnin' Rebels of the N.C.A.A. : UNLV
62. 50 from Calif. to Md., e.g. : USROUTE
63. Dreamy state : HAZE
64. Miracle Met Tommie : AGEE
65. Business end of a wasp : STINGER
66. Specs printed on a toy box : AGES
1. High ball : LOB
2. Retail giant in furniture : IKEA
3. Get-ready work : PREP
4. Some counterintelligence targets : SABOTEURS
5. Sufficient : AMPLE
6. Mayflower Pilgrim, e.g. : COLONIST
7. Procter & Gamble detergent : ERA
8. Scotland's longest river : TAY
9. It has a head and hops : ALE
10. Danger for homeowners : TERMITES
11. Big name in nail polish : ESSIE
12. Go to the opposite side : CROSSOVER
13. Injure : HARM
14. ___ Trail (path in the Andes) : INCA
15. Org. with a lot of links on its website : PGA
23. Rack #4: EELRSTT : LETTERS
25. Rack #2: AAEGNRR : ARRANGE
27. Actor Sean of "The Lord of the Rings" : ASTIN
28. Message system superseded by fax : TELEX
29. Chafe : RUB
30. Allowing to happen : ENABLING
31. Game described by this puzzle's four racks : SCRABBLE
33. 1953 Leslie Caron title role : LILI
35. Assortment ... or a description of 32-, 39- and 42-Across? : MIXEDBAG
36. XXL, e.g. : PLUSSIZE
37. Carrier to Stockholm : SAS
45. How some beef is served : AUJUS
47. "Atten-shun!," e.g. : ORDER
48. Water, in Oaxaca : AGUA
50. It's compulsory : MUST
51. Pistol ___ (Oklahoma State's mascot) : PETE
53. Links things : TEES
55. First lady : EVE
57. It can see right through you, in brief : MRI
58. Nice, in Nice : BON
59. Car nut : LUG
60. "I caught you!" : AHA

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

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