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New York Times, Saturday, June 3, 2017

Author:
Roland Huget
Editor:
Will Shortz
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123/20/201511/5/20180
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0110028
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1.52012
Roland Huget

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 62, Blocks: 32 Missing: {JKQX} Grid has super symmetry. This is puzzle # 7 for Mr. Huget. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Roland Huget notes:
This puzzle was constructed in September 2016 and accepted for publication in December. This grid layout has appeared in The New York ... read more

This puzzle was constructed in September 2016 and accepted for publication in December. This grid layout has appeared in The New York Times before and I have always been struck by its pleasing symmetry and intimidating look.

In my first attempt at this grid I used my homemade grid filler, but it had difficulty with the open quadrants. Fills were hard to come by, which hindered progress, and meant that fewer fill possibilities came under consideration than I would have liked. The resulting puzzle, while a good effort, fell short of the mark.

In September 2016 I purchased a commercial grid filler and was impressed with how well it handled this grid. The puzzle we have before us was constructed using that tool. I went on to construct several more open grids using my new toy, some of which have been accepted for publication.

I have found that the two grid fillers complement each other well. When I don't have to deal with large open areas, I use both. In fact, I often prefer my old grid filler when seeking to fill areas that have pre-placed letters.

This puzzle was constructed in five stages – the small center, followed by each of the quadrants in turn. The center was quick and easy, and I decided to include scrabbly letters there because I knew the rest of the grid would offer little or no flexibility in that regard. The quadrants, of course, were more difficult and took more time. In the end I was surprised that the time it took to fill this grid was not significantly greater than that of a typical grid.

My favorite clues are the ones for ALFREDO (47A – Saucy name?) and AIR HORN (6D – Bleachers blaster).

Jeff Chen notes:
My constructor's spidey sense tingles when I see huge open white spaces like these. Gigantic chunks, roughly 7x7, can't consistently ... read more

My constructor's spidey sense tingles when I see huge open white spaces like these. Gigantic chunks, roughly 7x7, can't consistently be filled with entries that are both sparkly and smooth. I girded myself for a solving experience filled with made-up sounding -ER, -EST, RE- words, plus a bunch of esotery.

What an immensely pleasant surprise in the NE corner, then! There isn't anything that shines except IRON MAN (I love me my superheroes), but so many of those seven-letter entries are fine. PIRATES and ARACHNE are nice, THISTLE, BATTLES, and CONCISE too.

Okay, the PACA is iffy, but it is a real animal, so I can let that one slide. ENSURER was the only real sticking point for me — I plunked in INSURER, sure that it was correct. But with just a single made-up-feeling entry, this corner was a standout, as compared to other wide-open puzzles.

The SE demonstrates the typical trade-off constructors must make with these types of big corners. It's so smooth, only PRIE needed as crossword glue to hold it together. But nothing much stands out to me. And it does feel heavy with names that can't take clever clues. Yes, RODRIGO Duterte is (unfortunately) crossworthy, but you're never going to have a playful clue for him. Similar issue for Robert Cavelier de LA SALLE and PETULA Clark.

The SW suffered the most, I thought. It had the most snazzy stuff — I love TIM RICE's lyrics, and BAD DEBT and WEENIE are great entries that could have taken imaginative clues — but RAMADAS (open-sided shelters?) felt 1.) esoteric and 2.) like a constructor's crutch, what with that friendly vowel-consonant alternation.

Oh, and UNALERT … oof. It does appear in some dictionaries, I guess. Along with the ARECIBO / TIM RICE crossing, which is probably unfair to many solvers ... double oof.

Along with the lack of interlock — notice how all too easy it is to describe the puzzle in terms of four quadrants — this isn't my favorite style of themeless. Still, it did provide a good Saturday workout, and the change of pace every once in a while is welcome. And that top right corner turned out well for this type of puzzle!

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© 2017, The New York TimesNo. 0603 ( 24,679 )
Across
1
Horizontal pieces covering joints, in architecture : FASCIAS
8
Team that last won the World Series in 1979 : PIRATES
15
Ancient Greek land that fought Sparta : ARCADIA
16
Weaver of Greek mythology : ARACHNE
17
Some farm machinery : REAPERS
18
To the point : CONCISE
19
Personae non gratae : PARIAHS
20
Gets in on the game : ANTESUP
21
Must pay : OWESTO
22
Often-repeated line : MANTRA
23
Cup holders : SAUCERS
25
Things you must choose, it's said : BATTLES
26
Sort : TYPE
27
Lose-lose : NOWIN
29
Spanish muralist José María ___ : SERT
30
Infrequent ending for URLs : BIZ
31
Sign of age : RUST
35
Part of a watch that holds the face's glass cover : BEZEL
37
___-dieu : PRIE
41
Like hippies, by nature : ANTIWAR
43
Thickening agent in cookery : TAPIOCA
45
Seriously hurt : MAIMED
46
Recipient of a Mailer-Daemon notice : SENDER
47
Saucy name? : ALFREDO
49
Eventually : LATERON
50
Gives meaning to : DEFINES
51
Slippery : ELUSIVE
52
Puerto Rican home to the Western Hemisphere's largest radio telescope : ARECIBO
53
Open to everyone : ALLAGES
54
Sides of blocks : STREETS
55
Corpus Christi, e.g. : SEAPORT
Down
1
Shooter's target in soccer : FARPOST
2
Passage between buildings : AREAWAY
3
Gather with difficulty : SCAREUP
4
"Understand?" : CAPISCE
5
Brainstorm : IDEATE
6
Bleachers blaster : AIRHORN
7
Unwelcome comeback : SASS
8
Amazon rodent : PACA
9
Athlete among athletes : IRONMAN
10
Harangue : RANTAT
11
Décor features : ACCENTS
12
Heraldic emblem of Scotland : THISTLE
13
Guarantor : ENSURER
14
Overlook, as a fault : SEEPAST
24
Not wasted : SOBER
25
"L'Arlésienne" suite composer, 1872 : BIZET
28
1975 Best Musical, with "The" : WIZ
31
Open-sided shelters : RAMADAS
32
Distracted, maybe : UNALERT
33
More severe : STIFFER
34
"Evita" lyricist : TIMRICE
35
It may be a write-off : BADDEBT
36
Mississippi River explorer : LASALLE
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Turpentine is distilled from it : PINESAP
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Philippine strongman ___ Duterte : RODRIGO
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Become slippery, in a way : ICEOVER
40
Heartfelt : EARNEST
42
Kind of roast : WEENIE
44
Singer Clark : PETULA
48
Baja bears : OSOS
49
Places where black-eyed Susans grow : LEAS

Answer summary: 2 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

Found bugs or have suggestions?