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New York Times, Thursday, June 15, 2017

Author: Richard F. Mausser
Editor: Will Shortz
Richard F. Mausser
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26/19/20136/15/20170
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1.67000

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 76, Blocks: 41 Missing: {FQV} Grid has mirror symmetry This is puzzle # 2 for Mr. Mausser. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Richard F. Mausser notes: When my muse first dropped this 'dirty' little idea on me several years ago, it was presented as more of a challenge than an ... more
Richard F. Mausser notes:

When my muse first dropped this "dirty" little idea on me several years ago, it was presented as more of a challenge than an opportunity. Almost an "I dare you to try and fit 13 theme entries into a 15 x 15 grid!"

So started a steady cycle of submissions, rejections, and complete rewrites. At one point in the process, Joel even commented that "the massive amount of theme material might make this too tough to construct in a clean way." With the 50th anniversary date looming, it finally occurred to me that using mirror symmetry might provide less constraining grid designs. My next submission came back with "almost a yes," and after a few more tweaks, my work on this one was finally over.

This puzzle was by far the most difficult and time consuming of my limited work to date. The challenge was not so much a matter of selecting good fill, but more a function of finding "any" fill that might work. The statistician in me points out that only ten words in the final grid do not contribute at least one letter to a theme entry. Squeezing in all the theme material also required 9 of the 13 entries to intersect with each other in some fashion. So while "glue" like SLYS, RRS, OPP and OPE were less than optimal, I am content knowing I considered countless alternative options.

For those who want to keep score, other "dirty words" used in earlier failed submissions included: POLITICS, LANGUAGE, DANCING, SHAME, MIND, RICE, POOL and DOG.

Fast forward to this week: I was very pleasantly surprised to see the puzzle run on a Thursday, the actual anniversary date of the movie. I felt my accepted submission was geared to earlier in the week. But Will and Joel appropriately took the cluing up a notch, while still leaving the spirit of most of my original clues intact. If I had a choice to reclaim one clue, it would be "Carrie Underwood hit that includes Ajax as a lyric" for "Dirty" LAUNDRY.

Many thanks to Will and Joel for their steady and patient advice. I hope the gimmick doesn't reveal itself too early, and that solvers enjoy the end result.

Postscript: If pressured, I might admit that the answer to 57-down was intended to subliminally influence the opinion of certain NYT crossword reviewers. (You might notice that multiple other words could have been used instead.) With news this week of Adam West's passing, I would rather dedicate both the clue and the answer to his memory.

Jeff Chen notes: Who would have guessed that there are 12 phrases having DIRTY as a first word? Some cool finds like (dirty) RAT, (dirty) LIAR, ... more
Jeff Chen notes:

Who would have guessed that there are 12 phrases having DIRTY as a first word? Some cool finds like (dirty) RAT, (dirty) LIAR, (dirty) MARTINI helping to play on THE DIRTY DOZEN. I've highlighted the twelve "dirty" entries below to help them stand out. Neat that they're symmetrical!

Some of the theme answers worked better than others for me. (dirty) JOB, yes! (dirty) WORD, hmm ... passable. (dirty) LAUNDRY, yes! (dirty) MONEY … okay, but not as great as (dirty) HARRY. Granted that Richard needed 12 phrases to pull this one off, I thought he did well overall with the theme, especially considering that he found 12 that could be worked in symmetrically.

So much inflexibility in the grid. I had a feeling something odd was going on when I started the puzzle with OPE crossing OPEL. Not a great result, but also not unexpected, considering JOKE and JOB were fixed firmly into place.

SLYS and RIRE quickly followed. Hmm.

And those two lower corners. With THE DIRTY DOZEN creating an inflexible ceiling, and WORD and LOOK creating inflexible floors, it wasn't a surprise to get TOJO (I like seeing him in crosswords about as much as I do NAZI), OJAI, HOAR, and then SZELL crossing LPNS, which doesn't seem fair to me. No bueno for the poor solvers who don't know their former conductors (and shouldn't have to).

I bet changing the placements of WORD and LOOK could have helped; moving them up one row, switching them, etc. A tough set of constraints to work with, but also a lot of possibilities in where those 12 short answers could go.

But I did appreciate some nice fill in INSTANT WIN and KELLY GREEN, even LORETTA SWIT (although I did wonder for a second if (dirty) LORETTA SWIT was a thing). Helped to make up for some of the flaws in the short fill.

Overall, a nice idea that would have played better earlier in the week — I like something more tricky out of a Thursday puzzle.

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© 2017, The New York TimesNo. 0615 ( 24,691 )
Across Down
1. *Bit of blue humor : JOKE
5. Old beer with the ad line "From the land of sky blue waters" : HAMMS
10. *No-good con man : LIAR
14. European sister brand of Buick : OPEL
15. Something in a drafts folder : EMAIL
16. Sun god worshiper : INCA
17. Wallop : BELT
18. *Clint Eastwood title role : HARRY
19. It has a 25-min. no-calculator section : PSAT
20. She had a "major" role on "M*A*S*H" : LORETTASWIT
23. End of a song at a New Year's Eve party : SYNE
24. One, overseas : EIN
25. Race leader? : ADAM
27. Identify : TAG
28. *Secrets that would be embarrassing to reveal : LAUNDRY
31. What several characters in "Coming Home" came home from, informally : NAM
33. To laugh, in Lyon : RIRE
35. ___ patch : BRIAR
36. Minute Maid Park player, for short : STRO
37. Brainstorm : IDEATE
39. Welcome at the door : SHOWIN
41. Suisse sweetheart : CHERI
42. Versus: Abbr. : OPP
45. Weigh in, say : OPINE
46. They're all in the family : KIN
47. He sang (but did not write) "I Write the Songs" : MANILOW
50. One who's second to vote, usually : NAY
51. They get punched : TIMECARDS
53. Hit movie released on June 15, 1967 ... with a hint to this puzzle's theme : THEDIRTYDOZEN
57. Lowdown : POOP
58. W. C. Fields persona : SOUSE
59. Sign with an arrow : EXIT
61. California tourist destination : OJAI
62. Comparatively peeved : SORER
63. Some hosp. staffers : LPNS
64. *Something that might be bleeped : WORD
65. Intersected : MET
66. *Stink eye : LOOK
1. *Unpleasant task that "someone has to do" : JOB
2. Expose, in verse : OPE
3. Color much worn on St. Patrick's Day : KELLYGREEN
4. John with five Grammys : ELTON
5. Giggle : HEHE
6. Dilettante : AMATEUR
7. *Gin, vermouth and olive juice concoction : MARTINI
8. Kind of warning : MIRANDA
9. Stallone and Stone : SLYS
10. Fatty acid, e.g. : LIPID
11. Like some scratch-off lottery tickets : INSTANTWIN
12. Signature Obama measure, for short : ACA
13. *Lowdown scoundrel : RAT
21. Cousin, e.g.: Abbr. : REL
22. Very, informally : WAY
23. Extended a greeting : SAIDHI
26. Berth place : MARINA
27. *Underhanded stratagem : TRICK
29. 2000s Japanese P.M. : ABE
30. B&O and others: Abbr. : RRS
32. *Ill-gotten gains : MONEY
34. It's used to pick things up : EAR
36. Conciliatory gift : SOP
38. Pusillanimous : TIMID
40. Quaint greeting to a lady or gent : HOWDO
42. Like many early schoolhouses : ONEROOM
43. *X-rated film : PICTURE
44. Jungle gym, for one : PLAYSET
48. Not quite right : AMISS
49. "Cheeseburger, large fries and a root beer," e.g. : ORDER
51. Not so hot : TEPID
52. Former Cleveland Orchestra conductor George : SZELL
53. Axis leader : TOJO
54. Winter frost : HOAR
55. Fair : EXPO
56. El ___ (weather phenomenon) : NINO
57. "Wham!" : POW
60. "You should know better!" : TSK

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

Found bugs or have suggestions?