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New York Times, Saturday, June 3, 2017

Author: Roland Huget
Editor: Will Shortz
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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 ... more
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 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 ... more
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 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 Down
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
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
37. Turpentine is distilled from it : PINESAP
38. Philippine strongman ___ Duterte : RODRIGO
39. 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.

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