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New York Times, Thursday, June 14, 2018

Author: Joe Krozel
Editor: Will Shortz
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877/7/20066/14/201815
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1.48057
Joe Krozel

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 16 Words: 81, Blocks: 44 Missing: {FJQXZ} This is puzzle # 87 for Mr. Krozel. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Joe Krozel notes: Anyone who solved my NYT puzzle from Sunday 1/18/2015 knows that I like to add new features to traditional constructs like word ladders. ... more
Joe Krozel notes:

Anyone who solved my NYT puzzle from Sunday 1/18/2015 knows that I like to add new features to traditional constructs like word ladders. Curiously, though, the current puzzle idea came about when I wasn't actively seeking candidates for a word ladder; the concept 1-A + 44-A + 78-A was mentioned on the news one day, and the daydreaming half of my brain immediately noticed how easily 1-A could transform to 44-A. Suddenly, the analytical half of my brain engaged itself with the challenge of getting from 44-A to 78-A. No real difficulties there except for avoiding repeat words and proper nouns. (Meanwhile … I sometimes wonder what vital information I might be missing all the time when daydreaming along with the news).

The puzzle construction challenge was to lay out eleven four-letter words on successively lower rows of a 15x15 grid. I added the constraint of forbidding any non-thematic Across entries from being four letters long. The thematic content was spread out left-center-right to minimize the impact on the Down entries. So, the grid layout alone offered good chances of acquiring lively surrounding fill. In the end, I was especially happy that the longest entries were lively … and mostly unused before.

A few months after this puzzle was accepted, David Kahn had an NYT puzzle published (on 8/30/2017) involving a similar theme: a word ladder consisting of nine five-letter words with a thematic element at the halfway point. I was happy for David's success, but I thought it meant that my own puzzle would probably stay on hold for about a decade. Fortunately, that wasn't the case. I'm guessing that stylistic differences — including the absence of clues for the ladder words — provided enough freshness to receive a normal publication date.

Jeff Chen notes: Word ladder, from ROLL to CALL to VOTE. That's a fun concept, linking these words in an interesting way. This might have been better as ... more
Jeff Chen notes:

Word ladder, from ROLL to CALL to VOTE. That's a fun concept, linking these words in an interesting way.

This might have been better as a straight-up word ladder (like in a Penny Press word games magazine), not as a crossword puzzle. Word ladders have been done to death in crosswords, so you have to do something amazing to make them stand out.

I get that Will simply wants to make Thursday puzzles harder than Wednesday puzzles. But it was SO much work to uncover the unclued steps of the word ladder, and for such little payoff.

I would have given up halfway through if I didn't feel obsessed with completing the puzzle every day.

I did appreciate Joe's efforts to try to snazz up the solving experience, working in great bonuses like ROYAL BLOOD, AERIAL PHOTO, CHOKE COLLAR, LOVERS LEAP – that's great stuff! But it wasn't enough to get past 1.) all the crossword glue necessary to hold all those short themers together, or 2.) the mismatch between how hard it was to fill in the rungs of the ladder and how little of an a-ha moment there was.

JimH notes: Hmmm. I thought this one was fun.
1
R
2
O
3
L
4
L
5
A
6
B
7
S
8
T
9
V
10
V
11
C
12
R
13
E
G
G
O
14
S
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P
O
L
16
L
17
A
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H
A
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E
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W
19
R
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Y
A
20
L
B
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O
O
D
21
L
E
T
T
E
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R
I
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P
A
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P
A
L
25
M
26
B
E
A
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S
30
A
31
W
32
A
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O
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W
36
L
E
T
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O
A
T
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C
A
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M
39
A
40
E
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41
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A
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43
S
44
C
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45
C
E
N
T
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46
C
H
O
K
E
47
C
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L
A
48
R
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M
A
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50
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U
51
M
E
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52
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B
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54
A
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55
A
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R
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M
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A
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E
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M
A
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59
E
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M
E
N
61
S
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63
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64
A
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L
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O
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69
A
P
70
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L
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A
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71
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73
H
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D
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76
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© 2018, The New York TimesNo. 0614 ( 25,055 )
Across Down
1. With 44- and 76-Across, way to put legislators on record ... or the start, middle and end of a word ladder : ROLL
5. Some six-packs : ABS
8. Dual-purpose viewing equipment : TVVCR
13. Toasted breakfast items : EGGOS
15. Second word in the word ladder : POLL
17. Talk show host/actress Tyler : AISHA
18. Nudge : ELBOW
19. Nice genealogical find : ROYALBLOOD
21. Start to instigate? : LETTERI
23. Third word ... : PALL
24. Fourth word ... : PALM
26. Wild ones : BEASTS
30. Watches for : AWAITS
34. Barn youngster : OWLET
37. Multigrain component : OAT
38. Fifth word ... : CALM
39. Many a postcard picture : AERIALPHOTO
42. Author Bates and musician Guthrie : ARLOS
44. Sixth word ... : CALL
45. 100, in Italy : CENTO
46. Tight restraint : CHOKECOLLAR
49. Seventh word ... : MALL
50. Note in a poker pot : IOU
51. Free-for-all : MELEE
52. Sacred birds of Egypt : IBISES
54. Bright star of Aquila : ALTAIR
56. Eighth word ... : MALE
58. Ninth word ... : MATE
60. Criminal intent, at law : MENSREA
65. Promontory with a tragic romantic story connected to it : LOVERSLEAP
70. Free of drugs : CLEAN
71. First in a line of Russian autocrats : IVANI
72. Tenth word ... : MOTE
73. Possessed, in the Bible : HADST
74. Classic fantasy game, informally : DANDD
75. Homer's neighbor : NED
76. End of the word ladder : VOTE
1. Part of a film archive : REEL
2. Spend a long time checking out? : OGLE
3. Pride parade letters : LGBT
4. Heist take : LOOT
5. Earth Day month : APRIL
6. Rude response from the bleachers : BOO
7. Skilled at deception : SLY
8. Mobile workstation : TABLETPC
9. Vacation home : VILLA
10. Brandy letters : VSO
11. Comic Margaret : CHO
12. "Groovy," updated : RAD
14. Tidied up, in a way : SWEPT
16. Place for a grandchild, maybe : LAP
20. Pigeonhole : LABEL
22. Tabula ___ : RASA
25. Mood around the office : MORALE
27. Part of A.S.A.P. : SOONAS
28. Say what someone naughty did : TATTLE
29. Bar fixtures : STOOLS
30. Gum arabic source : ACACIA
31. Source of multicolored Maos : WARHOL
32. With full strength : ALLOUT
33. "How are you?" response : IMOK
35. Artist de Kooning : WILLEM
36. ___ land : LALA
40. E.P.A. subject: Abbr. : ECOL
41. Powerful engine, informally : HEMI
43. Like the western Great Plains, climatewise : SEMIARID
47. Breath mint brand : CERTS
48. Tick off : RILE
53. Yank from the game : BENCH
55. Change : AMEND
57. Superexcited : AMPED
59. Common street name : ELM
61. Pole, for one : SLAV
62. Overhaul : REDO
63. Only direction not in a state name : EAST
64. Pot part : ANTE
65. Pot part : LID
66. Inventory at a fertility clinic : OVA
67. Ryder rental : VAN
68. Lo-o-ong stretch : EON
69. Took the cake? : ATE

Answer summary: 4 unique to this puzzle, 1 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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