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New York Times, Thursday, June 15, 2017

Author:
Richard F. Mausser
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
36/19/20136/6/20180
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0002100
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1.72000
Richard F. Mausser

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 ... read more

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 cleanly." 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, (dirty) ... read more

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.

1
J
2
O
3
K
4
E
5
H
6
A
7
M
8
M
9
S
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L
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I
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A
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R
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O
P
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L
15
E
M
A
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L
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I
N
C
A
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B
E
L
T
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H
A
R
R
Y
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P
S
A
T
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L
O
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R
E
T
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A
S
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W
I
T
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S
Y
N
E
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E
I
N
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A
D
A
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M
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T
A
G
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L
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A
U
N
D
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R
Y
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N
A
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M
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R
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R
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E
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B
R
I
A
R
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S
T
R
O
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I
D
E
A
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T
E
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S
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H
O
W
I
N
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C
H
E
R
I
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O
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P
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P
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O
P
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N
E
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K
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M
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A
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L
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O
W
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N
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Y
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T
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M
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A
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D
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S
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T
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H
E
D
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D
O
Z
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E
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N
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P
O
O
P
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S
O
U
S
E
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E
X
I
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T
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O
J
A
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S
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L
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W
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M
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L
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K
© 2017, The New York TimesNo. 0615 ( 24,691 )
Across
1
*Bit of blue humor : DIRTYJOKE
5
Old beer with the ad line "From the land of sky blue waters" : HAMMS
10
*No-good con man : DIRTYLIAR
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 : DIRTYHARRY
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 : DIRTYLAUNDRY
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 : DIRTYWORD
65
Intersected : MET
66
*Stink eye : DIRTYLOOK
Down
1
*Unpleasant task that "someone has to do" : DIRTYJOB
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 : DIRTYMARTINI
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 : DIRTYRAT
21
Cousin, e.g.: Abbr. : REL
22
Very, informally : WAY
23
Extended a greeting : SAIDHI
26
Berth place : MARINA
27
*Underhanded stratagem : DIRTYTRICK
29
2000s Japanese P.M. : ABE
30
B&O and others: Abbr. : RRS
32
*Ill-gotten gains : DIRTYMONEY
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 : DIRTYPICTURE
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: 9 unique to this puzzle.

Found bugs or have suggestions?