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New York Times, Thursday, May 8, 2014

Author:
Matthew Lees
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
54/10/19965/8/20140
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0101201
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.51000
Matthew Lees

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 74, Blocks: 36 Missing: {JQV} Spans: 2 This is puzzle # 5 for Mr. Lees. Jeff Chen's Puzzle of the Week pick. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Matthew Lees notes:
I've been constructing puzzles since high school (30+ years ago), and treasure a handwritten rejection letter from Eugene Maleska that ... read more

I've been constructing puzzles since high school (30+ years ago), and treasure a handwritten rejection letter from Eugene Maleska that says "Not bad for a neophyte." (That puzzle never saw the light of day, and rightly so.) About 10 of my puzzles have appeared in major publications.

My background is in math and physics, so I've been exposed to and intrigued by paradoxes for a long time. It wasn't anything academic, though, that prompted the puzzle, but a t-shirt I saw that had a playful take on a classic paradox. On the front was written "The back of this shirt is true," and on the back it showed "The front of this shirt is false." It wasn't a major leap to the puzzle concept.

Coming up with the 15-letter entries was fun, and surprisingly easy once I got over an initial hurdle. I had first wanted the two long entries to cross each other in the center square, one vertical and one horizontal, but it soon became clear that this would be a dead end. Well, almost a dead end. I dabbled briefly with having the answer to 32-across be NINEDOWNISTRUE, and the answer to 9-down be THIRTYTWOACROSS, with the additional two words ISFALSE living elsewhere in the puzzle, being placed symmetrically with PARADOX. A rather nice looking grid resulted, but it was such an ungraceful approach to have one of these theme entries be broken into two parts, that I abandoned this path before it got too far along. Every constructor has false starts.

That meant that the 15-letter entries would have to be either both horizontal or both vertical. There weren't many options. Since they each had to total 15 letters, including ISFALSE (7) AND ISTRUE (6), that leaves 8 and 9 letters. With four more letters for the word DOWN, you've got 4 and 5 letters respectively for the clue numbers. For these entries to be located symmetrically in the grid, you're left with NINE and THREE. It rather wrote itself.

All that was left was to find a nice place for the theme word PARADOX and fill the grid.

Jeff Chen notes:
I'm pretty sure the 'Jerry Maguire' line 'You had me at hello' should have been 'You had me a logic problem.' Matthew indeed earns the ... read more

I'm pretty sure the "Jerry Maguire" line "You had me at hello" should have been "You had me a logic problem." Matthew indeed earns the POW with a nice implementation of a typical paradox. Usually seen as THIS STATEMENT IS FALSE, it's made into a crossword-appropriate set of statements, cross-referencing each other. I really like how he got the lengths to work out perfectly, without having to make the statements sound tortured. NINE DOWN IS FALSE and THREE DOWN IS TRUE, that's beautiful stuff.

With just three theme entries today (and one of them only 7 letters long), the puzzle did feel a little light. I was glad then to see Matthew utilize his long answer slots wisely. Check out COWGIRL, UNDERDOG, PA SYSTEM, LOST SOUL, SO AND SO, even X AND Y. It went a long way to making me feel like I was getting my money's worth from the puzzle. I also appreciated that Matthew took care in his fill, leaving us with few enough glue entries that I didn't particularly notice an excess. Now that I look at grid again, I do notice NCO and CTR straight across the top which is unfortunate, but there's really very little ugliness here. He even throws us two X's and a Z without torturing those areas. Nice.

I would complain about SNORERS, but 50% of my household is a SNORER. Ahem. It might be me; not saying. Throw in that my favorite Pokemon is the Snorlax (or as my poor wife calls me, "The Snormax")...

I probably have said too much.

One item that caught my attention is probably something no one else would even consider, so I feel a little silly for bringing it up. A puzzle like this, involving logic and symmetry, to me begs for left-right symmetry. Especially considering all the black squares on the perimeter are already set up that way, just a few blocks could have been switched around to make a mirror symmetry arrangement. Granted, I'm partial to that type of symmetry in the first place, but it felt to me like it would have been spot-on for this exercise in logic.

Another thought that cropped up was that it would have been nice to have this puzzle a bit more complicated, as are many logic puzzles. Then again, the best paradoxes are those that are simply stated.

Finally, I'll end with a great clue: [Places for mobiles] made me think about where people need cell phones, and it took me the longest time to figure out that it wasn't referring to mobile phones but actual mobiles (hanging over many cribs).

Nice fill, really fun theme, a winner in my book. That last statement is indeed not false.

Jim Horne notes:

This theme has been used before with identical 3-Down and 9-Down answers.

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C
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© 2014, The New York TimesNo. 0508 ( 23,557 )
Across
1
Pink-slips : CANS
5
Two- or three-striper, for short : NCO
8
Civic bldgs. : CTRS
12
___ arms : UPIN
13
Bud competitor : COORS
15
Its first capital was Chillicothe, 1803-10 : OHIO
16
Casino staple : KENO
17
"Yellow Submarine" singer : RINGO
18
Sandwich style : WRAP
19
Hit the gym : EXERCISE
21
Many figures of "The Last Judgment" in the Sistine Chapel : ANGELS
23
Narrow-brimmed hat : DERBY
24
Title character played by Sarah Jessica Parker on Broadway : ANNIE
25
Santa Maria is one of them : AZORES
27
David, when taking on Goliath : UNDERDOG
30
Use a divining rod : DOWSE
31
Heyward, Stone or Nelson, as each signed the Declaration of Independence : THOS
32
Rounded projection : LOBE
33
Sea bird : ERN
34
What 3- and 9-Down are an example of : PARADOX
37
Jon Stewart display : WIT
38
Puccini piece : ARIA
40
Rake : ROUE
41
Cessation of breath : APNEA
43
Person without direction : LOSTSOUL
45
What volunteers do : ENLIST
46
Openly disregard : FLOUT
47
Pops : DADAS
48
Jason of the Harry Potter movies : ISAACS
50
Medium for school announcements : PASYSTEM
53
Fourth-largest city in Deutschland : KOLN
54
Hair-raising : EERIE
56
The Ronettes, e.g. : TRIO
57
A.L. or N.L. division : EAST
58
Whiff : SMELL
59
Currency with a 20-cent coin : EURO
60
Specialty : AREA
61
Stratego piece with a monocle : SPY
62
Stalk : REED
Down
1
Salad veggie : CUKE
2
Top : APEX
3
Statement #1 : NINEDOWNISFALSE
4
Bad bedfellows, say : SNORERS
5
Like 4-Down : NOISY
6
Retina feature : CONE
7
Assn. : ORG
8
Lassoing lass : COWGIRL
9
Statement #2 : THREEDOWNISTRUE
10
Mideast currency : RIAL
11
Biscuits and rolls, sometimes : SOPS
13
Places for mobiles : CRIBS
14
Scoundrel : SOANDSO
20
Scoundrel : CREEP
22
Dir. from Providence to Boston : NNE
24
Certain terminal : ANODE
25
"It's ___!" : ADEAL
26
Title role for Antonio Banderas : ZORRO
27
Big name in moving : UHAUL
28
Annual May announcements : OBIES
29
Suggest : GETAT
31
Word after lake or sea : TROUT
35
Piques : AROUSES
36
Familiar axes : XANDY
39
Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthplace : ATLANTA
42
Coat heavily : PLASTER
44
Assn. : SOC
45
Stand in a studio : EASEL
47
___ Double : DAILY
48
Big name in furniture : IKEA
49
Go sky-high : SOAR
50
Some kitchen work, informally : PREP
51
Hibernia : EIRE
52
It may be happy or grumpy : MOOD
55
What dialing 911 may bring : EMS

Answer summary:

Found bugs or have suggestions?