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New York Times, Thursday, June 26, 2014

Author:
Pawel Fludzinski
Editor:
Will Shortz
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77/12/20127/19/20171
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1.53000
Pawel Fludzinski

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 72, Blocks: 36 Missing: {FJQVXZ} This is puzzle # 2 for Mr. Fludzinski. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Pawel Fludzinski notes:
The first version of this puzzle was crafted in late 2012. Will said that the puzzle was 'fresh and amusing,' but thought some of the ... read more
The first version of this puzzle was crafted in late 2012. Will said that the puzzle was "fresh and amusing," but thought some of the theme answers and the revealer clue didn't make sense. He encouraged me to try again, which I did in 2013, resulting in a much better set of theme entries. However, this time Will commented that I had far too many 3-letter entries (24) for the puzzle. The final version was submitted in January of this year and accepted, with requested modifications in one corner which were easy to implement.

My submitted thematic clues were far more complicated than those in the published version. I suspect I never did rid the puzzle of the confusion that Will noted early on. My struggle from the very beginning was to find a good way to clue the theme. In my set of clues, the revealer was: "Where to find two-part answers to asterisked clues" (IN BED). Examples of my themed clues were: "*Neared a pesky insect?" (BROACHED), or "*Obstructed a door fastener?" (BLOCKED). My clues were intended to be two part clues leading to an embedded two part answer; however, it gets complicated because the revealer (IN BED) is also part of one of the answers. In hindsight, I don't think any of my variations on this approach ever quite did the job. Indeed, just the effort to explain it here is illustrative of the problem. As a result, Will simplified the theme with the clues as they appear, with a revealer clue of "How breakfast may be served…or how the answers to the eight starred clues should be entered?" The clue for BROACHED became "*___Motel" and for BLOCKED became "*Bit of hair."

I very much appreciated Will's encouragement and editorial changes, which greatly improved my initial attempts. In the end, it is an absolute delight to get my second puzzle published in the NYT. Makes all the effort worthwhile – having trained as a lab scientist long ago, I am used to failed experiments! I follow Lone Watie's advice (from the movie classic "The Outlaw Josie Wales") — "endeavor to persevere". In fact, I am still trying to work ENDEAVORTOPERSEVERE (19) into a puzzle. I did once, cluing it as "Advice to cruciverbalists." Unfortunately, the puzzle was rejected.

Jeff Chen notes:
Clever theme idea, the type of tricky Thursday puzzle I like. Words are 'hidden' IN BED, i.e. there's a ROACH hidden in B(ROACH)ED. I ... read more
Clever theme idea, the type of tricky Thursday puzzle I like. Words are "hidden" IN BED, i.e. there's a ROACH hidden in B(ROACH)ED. I like having that struggle on Thursdays, grasping at straws until you finally cotton to the twist.

I admire the audacious construction. Tough, tough, tough layout today. As soon as I opened up the puzzle I wondered how smooth each of the quadrants was going to be. Each one of those corners looks like it's straight out of a themeless puzzle, and each one turns out to be even harder than filling a themeless grid. Why is that? Each area has a pair of crossing answers, and anytime you fix two crossing answers into place, you're bound to have trouble (or at least sacrifice a little smoothness). The letters around two crossing answers just tend to be tough to work in without making at least a compromise or two.

I was quite impressed by the SW corner. ERENOW is something many constructors avoid like the plague, but if it's the only piece of glue that holds a corner like this together, it's well worth the price. LENNON next to YOKO ONO, worked in as fill around the BROOMED / BROKERED crossing themers? Setting aside the fact that most people say "swept" instead of "broomed," this is a really nice corner. With so many six and seven-letter entries crammed together, this is an outstanding result. Must have taken a lot of time, a lot of trying out different options.

The others suffer a little, though. To be expected. Not ideal to have SOARERS crossing ALERTER, with AMBS kicking off the puzzle. ED MEESE is fine once in a while, but with a couple of ISS / LYS / DSL type entries, it made that corner feel a bit weak.

What a nice revealer, IN BED. If only it had been clued to the fortune cookie game (all fortunes are made more interesting when IN BED is added). And it would have been nice to have IN BED centered. Its position did allow for a piece of good fill like DRUM SET (and its fantastic clue!), but how much more elegant would it have been if IN BED was smack dab in the middle.

So perhaps I would have preferred a puzzle with a more traditional layout? Or adding a pair of blocks to turn it into a 74-word puzzle? Tough to say, since it's difficult to incorporate nine theme answers, especially when some are short (seven letters or less). A little more puzzle flow would have been nice too — having four mini-puzzles can give a feeling of isolation, not having the feng shui of a puzzle that moves like water from start to end. It is a unique layout though, and there's something to be said for trying out new things, giving solvers a grid they haven't seen before. I do like the stretch to innovate.

Beautiful idea. I really enjoyed the moment when I figured out what was going on.

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© 2014, The New York TimesNo. 0626 ( 23,606 )

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Students & seniors
Across
1. U.N. V.I.P.'s : AMBS
5. Eats : HAS
8. Novelist Allende : ISABEL
14. Composer Schifrin : LALO
15. Yellowfin, on a menu : AHI
16. Robust : STURDY
17. *___ Motel : BROACHED
19. Some shots : SERUMS
20. Reacted in horror, say : SCREAMED
22. Hillock : RISE
23. 2008 action thriller with Liam Neeson : TAKEN
24. *Dressing choice : BRANCHED
27. Tornado siren, e.g. : ALERTER
30. Like a fifth wheel : USELESS
31. Homes, colloquially : PADS
32. Campus digs : DORMS
34. Pulitzer-winning biographer Leon : EDEL
35. Inn patron : GUEST
36. "Dear" one : ABBY
40. How breakfast may be served ... or how the answers to the eight starred clues should be entered? : INBED
41. Ending with peek : ABOO
45. Released early : PAROLED
47. Kind of format for some data : TABULAR
49. *Longtime TV weatherman : BROKERED
51. Fit to be tied : IRATE
52. Eight bells, maybe : NOON
53. Imprudent : RECKLESS
56. ___ Quimby (Beverly Cleary heroine) : RAMONA
58. *Divide up : BALLOTED
60. Heretofore : ERENOW
61. Mamie's man : IKE
62. Villainous visage : LEER
63. Aftermarket options : ADDONS
64. Capital of Texas? : TEE
65. Small vortex : EDDY
Down
1. It's between B.C. and Sask. : ALB
2. Cooking wine : MARSALA
3. *Bit of hair : BLOCKED
4. Parasailers, e.g. : SOARERS
5. "You crack me up" : HAHA
6. Kiss interrupter, maybe : AHEM
7. Rod Stewart's "Maggie May," for one : SIDEB
8. Periodical output: Abbr. : ISS
9. "Tristram Shandy" novelist : STERNE
10. Outer ear : AURICLE
11. *Bit of excitement : BRUSHED
12. Reagan cabinet member who was previously counselor to the president : EDMEESE
13. Fleur-de-___ : LYS
18. Bit of dough : CENT
21. Group beaten in a battle of the bands? : DRUMSET
23. Dance genre : TAP
25. Court fig. : ASSTDA
26. Broadband inits. : DSL
28. More out there : EDGIER
29. Habitual drunkard : ROUNDER
33. Yank's foe : REB
36. Manhunt letters : APB
37. Seven Sisters college : BARNARD
38. *Leeway : BROOMED
39. 46-Down's partner : YOKOONO
41. Radiant light around the head : AUREOLE
42. *Like Pisces, in the zodiac : BLASTED
43. Cereal grain : OATSEED
44. Pay dirt : ORE
46. A Beatle : LENNON
48. One, for one : BILL
50. Red ink entry : DEBIT
54. It may be upside-down : CAKE
55. Swiss Surrealist : KLEE
56. Blues rocker Chris : REA
57. Cribside cries : AWS
59. Like pinot grigio : DRY

Answer summary: 4 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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