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DOWNRIGHT TRICKY!

New York Times, Sunday, June 29, 2014

Author:
Byron Walden
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
9211/23/200111/18/201814
SunMonTueWedThuFriSatVariety
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ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.59321
Byron Walden

This puzzle:

Rows: 21, Columns: 22 Words: 141, Blocks: 76 Missing: {JQ} This is puzzle # 72 for Mr. Walden. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Byron Walden notes:
This puzzle had two distinct geneses. The first was CHIVALRY IS DEAD, which I had liked as a potential entry for, oh, 7 or 8 years. 14-letter entries can sit on the shelf a long time. At some ... read more

This puzzle had two distinct geneses. The first was CHIVALRY IS DEAD, which I had liked as a potential entry for, oh, 7 or 8 years. 14-letter entries can sit on the shelf a long time. At some point, much more recently, CONSIDER IT DONE caught my eye as another nice 14, and I thought of pairing it with CHIVALRY IS DEAD in a themeless. I think I actually started a grid and then noticed the C.I.D. connection.

The other thing I had in mind for quite some while was that feeling you get solving. You know something is wrong, and then you realize "Oh, it's a rebus!" and then everything starts working properly. I wanted to construct a puzzle where that has to happen twice — first when you think it's a rebus, and then when you realize it isn't. There would have to be a way that the themers were too long to fit, but then ended up somewhere else.

So when the CID part jumped out at me, a bunch of things came together at once. CID and CHIVALRY IS DEAD both got me thinking of knights. And the knight in chess moves like an L, ... "L" CID ... and hence the puzzle. My original title was "Knight Moves," which Matt Gaffney later used for a different gimmick, so I suggested to Will to change it to "Knight Shift." Will's title is probably a clearer hint ... hope you all remembered to look at the title before you started.

I lit onto MADE A DECISION pretty early on, to disguise the DEAD part. Then when I realized that I'VE MADE A DECISION could go in the middle and allow for symmetric placement of my two theme seed entries, I had my basic structure. I was lucky enough to hang a few more L's off the center entry and get some pretty complicated interlock to work out. The roughest section to fill was that little knot around HSIA/AAAA/EVIE. A lot of not-greatness there, but I could live with it. A special THANK U to Alanis, without whom I would have had to rip up the whole thing.

The area that was surprisingly challenging was the bottom of CONSIDER IT DONE. I needed ???DONE but I didn't want DONE in the answer and I had ONE elsewhere, so wanted to avoid using it again. That pretty much left me with CONDONE, making that section rather knotty, especially since I wanted the revealer next door. After all that, I somehow missed the dupe of LEG PAD and PADDED BRA, which I just spotted a couple of days ago. But I guess it never hurts to have a little extra PADding.

Jeff Chen notes:
Nice change of pace today, six theme answers, all three words starting with C I D and 'turning a corner' to create an L-shape. All with the revealer... EL CID! Clever. I'm not sure how many people ... read more

Nice change of pace today, six theme answers, all three words starting with C I D and "turning a corner" to create an L-shape. All with the revealer... EL CID! Clever. I'm not sure how many people know El Cid but he's certainly a historical person of note.

I liked the quirkiness of this one. At first I thought it was a bit out there to have these giant L shapes in the puzzle, especially since they're not symmetrical (see the highlights in the grid below), but I do like seeing things I've never seen before. Perhaps it might have been nice to get more thematic material about EL CID, given how historically important he was? Although, I searched through the wikipedia article and found roughly zero recognizable snippets that could be used as a crossword entry. "Ludriq al-Kanbiyatur" doesn't exactly scream CROSSWORD-WORTHY ENTRY!

As with all of Byron's work, it's well executed. It might seem like this one would be a bit easier than normal given there are only six themers, but the fact that the L-bend is hidden inside another entry (the DEAD in CHIVALRY is DEAD is hidden in IVE MA(DE A D)ECISION, e.g.) makes the construction quite challenging. But Byron finds a nice layout that allows for a lot of snazzy fill in chunks of the puzzle. Note the ICE CUBE / MOSH PIT section up top — beautiful stuff in an area Byron left himself with just one constraint. It all starts with the layout.

It's pretty amazing just how much good fill Byron manages to work in, actually. Often we get Sundays with a single pair of long down entries. Byron gives us I HAD A HUNCH / OFF BALANCE, SALT MINING / SPIKED ACES (not totally sure what those are, but they sound cool — NEWSFLASH: astute reader Martin Herbach tells me they're SPIKEDACES; aha!), even SPARE KEY / SEA HOLLY. And that's just to start! He also works in nice fill in the across direction (kids, don't try this at home). Fitting in MS PAC MAN and PADDED BRA, along with HOG CALLING and BLIND BID, it just doesn't stop. I almost gave this puzzle the POW based on execution and fun solve alone. The expertise shines through here, starting with a smart layout and ending with such care and feeding, balancing strong long fill and the desire to keep ugly short stuff out. It's not perfect (I struggled with the ESTIVATE / AAAA / EVIE section) but overall it's a strong product.

Even some strong clues. [Stoker of fear?] is something I've seen variants of before. I also liked [What might give you a big head?] for AFRO. And my favorite (which took a while to figure out even after putting in the letters was the clue for MANCAVE. It might feel a little tortured to some, given that "coordinates" is a bit of a stretch in order to misdirect, but the XY coordinates have to do with the XY chromosomes males carry, not XY coordinates on a plot. The Facebook "like button" had a nice repurposing for the IKE clue too.

An innovative idea, perhaps with a bit of untapped potential? That's up for debate, but it'd be tough to argue with how well the grid is executed.

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C
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B
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L
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A
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C
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G
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© 2014, The New York TimesNo. 0629 ( 23,609 )
Across
1
It may be cut by an uppercut : CHIN
5
Drink cooler : ICECUBE
12
Map feature : SCALE
17
Nurse : SIP
20
"From Here to Eternity" setting : OAHU
21
Stage-diving locale : MOSHPIT
22
More than willing : EAGER
23
For : PRO
24
Stoker of fear? : BRAM
25
Not flat or sharp : ONPITCH
26
Lay ___ : ANEGG
27
Politician with a like button? : IKE
28
Adorns : BEDECKS
30
Minnesota player, familiarly : VIKE
31
Microwaveable snack : HOTPOCKET
33
Dress that drapes : SARI
34
Hall-of-___ : FAMER
35
Highly desirable to Uncle Sam? : ONEA
36
Wine list heading : REDS
37
Competitor in some county fairs : HOGCALLER
40
Offer to buy unspecified stocks, say : BLINDBID
42
Lean meat source : EMU
44
Shortstop-turned-ESPN analyst Garciaparra : NOMAR
45
"Thanks a ___!" : MIL
46
Stylebook concern : USAGE
49
Area with XY coordinates? : MANCAVE
51
Routine checkup : YEARLYPHYSICAL
57
Desire : ITCH
58
Stay inactive over the summer : ESTIVATE
60
Paris street : RUE
61
Vend : SELL
62
Moderator of the first Obama/McCain and Obama/Romney debates : LEHRER
64
Early Chinese dynasty : HSIA
65
Graph's x-coordinate : ABSCISSA
67
Statement after long deliberation : IVEMADEADECISION
72
Relayed : PASSEDON
75
Son of Aphrodite : EROS
76
Common pool or store posting : NODOGS
80
Word with house or boy : FRAT
81
Type : ILK
82
"The Education of a Golfer" autobiographer : SAMSNEAD
85
What might give you a big head? : AFRO
86
Hollywood and Bollywood, e.g. : FILMINDUSTRIES
89
Material in the hats of Buckingham Palace guards : BEARFUR
91
Byes : TATAS
92
Litter member : PUP
93
Do-nothing : IDLER
95
Grp. battling consumer fraud : BBB
96
1980s video game spinoff : MSPACMAN
100
Drag staple : PADDEDBRA
103
Et ___ : ALII
105
Surf sound : ROAR
106
Ones trapped in boxes of their own making? : MIMES
107
Connecticut Ivy : YALE
109
Southern grocery chain : WINNDIXIE
111
Harry Potter mark : SCAR
112
Downloader's directive : INSTALL
115
Agents' org. : FBI
116
Black ___ : ASINK
117
Post-Weimar period : NAZIERA
119
Terrace farming pioneers : INCA
120
Mantel piece : URN
121
"Walk Away ___" (1966 hit) : RENEE
122
"Absolutely Fabulous," e.g. : BRITCOM
123
"JAG" spinoff : NCIS
124
Fail to keep up : LAG
125
Beyond piqued : ANGRY
126
Allow to continue : CONDONE
127
H.S. proficiency exams : GEDS
Down
1
___ salad : COBB
2
Proverbial speedsters : HARES
3
"That's what my Spidey sense told me" : IHADAHUNCH
4
Quince, e.g. : NUMERO
5
Reassuring reply : IMOK
6
Reasons to say no : CONS
7
Subj. of a thought experiment : ESP
8
Lament about modern men : CHIVALRYISDEAD
9
When computers work : UPTIME
10
Trade cross words : BICKER
11
C4H10O : ETHER
12
European coastal plant once thought to be an aphrodisiac : SEAHOLLY
13
Pachelbel classic, familiarly : CANONIND
14
When Tatum O'Neal won her Oscar : AGETEN
15
Part of a hockey goalie's equipment : LEGPAD
16
"Cogito, ___ sum" : ERGO
17
Ray-finned fishes of the Southwest U.S. : SPIKEDACES
18
Ticked off : IRKED
19
Versifiers : POETS
29
Health care giant with a Tree of Life logo : CIGNA
32
Major African humanitarian concern of the 2000s : CRISISINDARFUR
34
Hollywood setting: Abbr. : FLA
38
Like the contents of many attics : COVEREDINDUST
39
Traitor Aldrich : AMES
40
Nastiness : BILE
41
Tour transport : BUS
42
Actor Jannings : EMIL
43
Chess ending : MATE
45
'80s TV star who later pitched Snickers : MRT
47
Some square dancers : GALS
48
"___ Enchanted" (2004 film) : ELLA
50
1982 holiday country hit by Alabama : CHRISTMASINDIXIE
52
1960s pop singer Sands : EVIE
53
Tiny battery : AAAA
54
Laud : PRAISE
55
LAX, O'Hare and others : HUBS
56
"Of course!" : YESINDEED
59
Grammy-nominated 1998 hit for Alanis Morissette : THANKU
63
New Year's ___ : EVE
66
Bill's partner : COO
68
Jell-O maker : MOLD
69
Actress Moore : DEMI
70
Highland tongue : ERSE
71
"Right away, boss" : CONSIDERITDONE
72
Kaput : PFFT
73
"Celeste Aida," for one : ARIA
74
Enterprise for Morton : SALTMINING
77
Bad way to be caught : OFFBALANCE
78
Eats : GRUB
79
Collect on the surface, in chemistry : SORB
82
Floor : STUN
83
Dadaism pioneer : ARP
84
Up to snuff : ABLE
87
AOL, e.g., for short : ISP
88
Item for a houseguest : SPAREKEY
90
Fast-food chain with the Ultimate Angus sandwich : ARBYS
94
One who drills, fills and bills: Abbr. : DDS
97
Up : ARISEN
98
Directing a shell : COXING
99
Down Easter : MAINER
100
Rogue : PICARO
101
The ___ Mets : AMAZIN
102
Half a star, maybe : RATING
103
Label for pans? : AWFUL
104
House entered near the autumnal equinox : LIBRA
106
"All In" network : MSNBC
108
Spanish hero whose 113-Down is represented enigmatically six times in this puzzle : ELCID
110
___ Torres, four-time Olympic swimming gold medalist : DARA
112
Press : IRON
113
Moniker : NAME
114
Colleen : LASS
118
Green: Prefix : ECO

Answer summary: 22 unique to this puzzle, 3 debuted here and reused later, 2 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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