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New York Times, Friday, June 26, 2015

Author:
Erin Rhode
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
26/26/20157/2/20160
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0000011
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.42000
Erin Rhode

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 72, Blocks: 32 Missing: {FJQXZ} Spans: 3 This is the debut puzzle for Ms. Rhode. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Erin Rhode notes:
It's been on my bucket list to construct a crossword for the New York Times for a few years. In fact, in 2013, I made it a New Year's ... read more

It's been on my bucket list to construct a crossword for the New York Times for a few years. In fact, in 2013, I made it a New Year's resolution to figure out how to submit a grid and possibly get one accepted... only then my MIT Mystery Hunt team won the event in January of 2013, which gave us the dubious prize of spending our 2013 writing the 2014 Hunt. And bonus for me, I got to be the director of the whole thing, which meant no time for trying to construct one measly crossword when I had so many other puzzle writing responsibilities on my plate that year [my favorite being the one where I dressed up like a bee to perform a bunch of songs bee-capella]. But in a weird way, I did achieve my New Year's resolution that year via my hunt teammate, Kevin Der, who convinced Will to let him use the New York Times puzzle to hide a Mystery Hunt answer. [Incidentally, crossword origami really should be more of a thing than it is.]

Once we had finished with the 2014 Mystery Hunt, I slept for about a month and then decided it was time to get back to that dream of constructing a puzzle for the Times myself, and I went about asking Kevin for advice, which was invaluable. Around this same time, the crossword blogosphere seemed to blow up around the topic of female constructors... particularly female themeless constructors.

So, obviously, I decided that my only option was to tackle a themeless. And if I could give it a bit of a feminist flavor, all the better. And thus my first seed entry, MANSPLAIN, was dropped into an empty grid at 1-across.

The other seed entry that I was deadset on including was SORRY I'M NOT SORRY, inspired by my friend Laura. This phrase called to me only after I had made the stack in the upper left, and the combination of that one 15 letter entry and the MANSPLAIN/I'M AT A LOSS/LUSITANIA stack more or less led me to the grid shape, with two other 15s spanning the grid. NASAL CONSONANTS aren't super flashy and IS IT GOING TO RAIN? isn't going to knock anyone's socks off, but I quite liked that HAVE IT ALL, with its female empowerment overtones, was able to slide next to CONSONANTS.

And SALT SPRAY, HIT A NERVE, and ONE PLAYER made up a pretty nice triple stack in the bottom right, buoyed by SWEET PEA. (Incidentally, have you ever tried to use SALT SPRAY? I have, and it just turned my hair into a sticky mess, with very little in the way of waves. The bottle lied.) TAKE A LOOK (at my first NYT crossword!) and PUP TENT closed out the long entries I liked — plus the bonus of the U BOAT clue sitting atop the LUSITANIA clue. I normally don't like cross-referenced clues, but when the clues are adjacent, I don't mind.

A few bits of crosswordese snuck their way in: DANAE, STERE, ODESA, BINET, OYER... ugh. I took German in high school, so ALTE and EIN don't bother me nearly as much as they might bother some people. I'm pleased to see that Will left the two references to my home state in the clues, (Minneapolis to Duluth and Senator Franken), but was sorry to see "They're high in Manhattan" for RENTS go. Will actually kept the majority of my clues — including the one where I snuck my first name into the puzzle, but his trivia for RARE and "Space race?" for EWOKS were definite improvements.

In general, I don't love the center of this grid and don't love the aforementioned crosswordese, but for the rest of my life, I will get to say that I debuted MANSPLAIN in the New York Times crossword, and that is a pretty awesome claim to fame.

For those keeping tabs on the "women writing themelesses" phenomenon, I wrote this one with a hybrid approach of by hand and onelook and grep. I could have used some more mature software, but that just seemed too easy.

Also, 31-across was a complete freak accident and I have no idea how that happened. But that one's for you, Dad. Happy belated Father's Day!

Jeff Chen notes:
Debut! Enjoyable puzzle featuring three strong grid-spanners. I've never used SORRY IM NOT SORRY — or actually heard it used ... read more

Debut! Enjoyable puzzle featuring three strong grid-spanners. I've never used SORRY IM NOT SORRY — or actually heard it used — but that means little, as I'm comically unhip. It Bings well, anyway. (Wait — Bing isn't what the cool kids use these days? But they pay you to use the service ...)

Man, horse, snake ... a little something for everyone!

Puzzles featuring three or more grid-spanners usually don't contain many other long answers, so I appreciated seeing a whole bunch more; ten more answers of 8+ letters. Thirteen total long slots is a good starting point, and you'd hope to convert at least ten of them into colorful answers.

So how does Erin do? HAVE IT ALL is simple yet zippy, same with IM AT A LOSS and SALT SPRAY. LUSITANIA and STIPENDS don't do much for me, but I'm sure there will be WWI historians who disagree. Erin adds in a few mid-length goodies in PUP TENT and BB GUNS … and the awesome PROTEAN, a word I'm hoping to use more often. What a struggle to suss it out, and what a neat a-ha moment when I realized the word referred to Proteus, the shape-shifter of Greek myth.

Overall, I'd say the puzzle has about 12 assets. Pretty good. And just a few liabilities, the short kind of NNE, EIN, ALERS stuff; pretty overlookable, and an impressive performance from a debut constructor.

I would have liked a little more puzzle flow, as my solve chunked down into three separate sections: the left, the middle, and the right. Makes it easier to construct, but proteanizing a few black squares would have helped make the puzzle feel more cohesive.

(Proteus is turning over in his grave.)

These days, the competition for themeless slots is incredibly high — much higher than for any other type of puzzle — so it's all that more impressive that Erin broke in the hard way. Looking forward to more from her.

1
M
2
A
3
N
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S
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P
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L
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A
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I
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© 2015, The New York TimesNo. 0626 ( 23,971 )
Across
1. Patronizingly point out, in modern lingo : MANSPLAIN
10. Earring parts : POSTS
15. "You got me" : IMATALOSS
16. Source of doom for the 17-Across : UBOAT
17. See 16-Across : LUSITANIA
18. Famous stutterer : PORKY
19. Memo letters : ASAP
20. Intersected : MET
21. Firewood unit : STERE
22. First name on the Supreme Court : ELENA
24. Dorothy in "The Wizard of Oz" : GALE
26. Jaw : YAP
28. "Erin Burnett OutFront" channel : CNN
29. Element in Pyrex : BORON
30. Outstanding, in hip-hop : ILL
31. ___ Island : RHODE
33. Psychologist Alfred who invented the intelligence test : BINET
34. Low on the range : MOO
35. Prince in "Frozen" : HANS
36. Patron saint of chastity : AGNES
37. Winter drifter : SNOW
38. O.R. staples : IVS
39. Advertises : PLUGS
40. Space race? : EWOKS
41. Prefix with Latin : NEO
42. Monopoly card data : RENTS
43. Something that might smell fishy : NET
44. Brahms's "___ Deutsches Requiem" : EIN
45. About : ORSO
46. City south of Kyiv : ODESA
48. Food items in shells : TARTS
50. Led : RAN
52. Restaurant request : TOGO
54. Mother of Perseus : DANAE
55. Product that puts waves in the hair : SALTSPRAY
57. Super- : ULTRA
58. Touched on something touchy : HITANERVE
59. Elizabeth of "Avengers: Age of Ultron" : OLSEN
60. Like solitaire games : ONEPLAYER
Down
1. Kunis of "Black Swan" : MILA
2. Tickle : AMUSE
3. "m" and "n" : NASALCONSONANTS
4. Grant allowances : STIPENDS
5. First lady before Betty : PAT
6. Spitting image in the Andes? : LLAMA
7. The best : AONE
8. "Should I take an umbrella or not?" : ISITGOINGTORAIN
9. Metadata collector, for short : NSA
10. Scout's shelter : PUPTENT
11. High wind : OBOE
12. Non-apology apology : SORRYIMNOTSORRY
13. "Check this out" : TAKEALOOK
14. Pen without ink? : STY
21. Cherry plum relatives : SLOES
23. Minneapolis-to-Duluth dir. : NNE
25. James of "Gunsmoke" : ARNESS
27. Does fieldwork? : PLOWS
29. Pistols with spring-air action : BBGUNS
31. Locale of some Swiss banks : RHINE
32. What many career women strive to do : HAVEITALL
36. A's and O's : ALERS
37. Honey : SWEETPEA
39. Frequently changing : PROTEAN
40. Consummate : END
46. Available : ONTAP
47. Sweetener source : AGAVE
49. Like years evenly divisible by four that are not leap years : RARE
51. ___ Sprachen (ancient languages: Ger.) : ALTE
53. ___ and terminer (high criminal court) : OYER
54. The White Stripes, e.g. : DUO
55. HBO alternative : SHO
56. Former gig for Sen. Franken : SNL

Answer summary: 7 unique to this puzzle, 2 debuted here and reused later.

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