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New York Times, Thursday, May 8, 2014

Author: Matthew Lees
Editor: Will Shortz
Matthew Lees
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Puzzle of the Week

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 ... more
Matthew Lees notes: 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 ... more
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 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.

JimH notes: This theme has been used before with identical 3-Down and 9-Down answers.
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© 2014, The New York TimesNo. 0508 ( 23,557 )
Across Down
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
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?