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New York Times, Saturday, June 6, 2015

Author:
Jason Flinn
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
1410/9/20137/21/20180
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0112505
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.53030
Jason Flinn

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 70, Blocks: 35 Missing: {JXZ} This is puzzle # 5 for Mr. Flinn. Jeff Chen's Puzzle of the Week pick. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Jason Flinn notes:
When submitting this puzzle I was aiming for a Thursday, but I suspect that the overall difficulty of uncovering the trick moved the ... read more

When submitting this puzzle I was aiming for a Thursday, but I suspect that the overall difficulty of uncovering the trick moved the puzzle later in the week. Hopefully, the shaded squares will clue solvers into the fact that there is something unusual going on.

The idea for this puzzle started with that trick, of course, and the trick itself forced a lot of the grid design. I wanted to center the mirror(s) on a diagonal. It would have been awkward to start or stop a reflected entry on a mirror square, so I could not start a mirror in the top left corner or end one in the bottom right. Using a single mirror would have required a 14x14 or 16x16 grid, so I settled on the two-mirror design in the puzzle.

Next, I wanted to embed some hints for the solver in the grid. I went through a few possibilities (e.g. NARCISSUS) but SNOW WHITE and EVIL QUEEN kind of jumped right out once I considered the MIRROR MIRROR on the diagonal. As a bonus, the convenient equal word length let the entries fit nicely in opposite corners. The grid was getting pretty constrained at that point, so DWARFS didn't make it into the final product (though SEVEN remains with a non-theme clue).

Filling the center was hard, but not for the reason you might imagine. The MIRRORs are no more constraining than fixing a particular answer in the grid. However, all the reflected answers are at least 5 letters long and they intersect with each other, making this, in effect, a pretty open section.

Jeff Chen notes:
Wow. Just wow. I love when a puzzle surprises me. I got the entire SNOW WHITE corner in my first pass, so filled in MIRROR MIRROR ... read more

Wow. Just wow.

I love when a puzzle surprises me. I got the entire SNOW WHITE corner in my first pass, so filled in MIRROR MIRROR without hesitation. In my second pass I got the EVIL QUEEN corner without much difficulty. Just a mini-themed themeless, with MIRROR MIRROR sitting in the diagonal = nothing to write home about, right?

Mirror mirror, in the grid ... how the #$%#? did Jason do what he did?

But that central swath remained oddly blank. I had IM OUT and NOIRE plunked in at 1-D and 2-D, but nothing else would fit. Finally, I wondered if MIRROR MIRROR was contributing to my confusion. [Small tower on a castle] had to be TURRET — maybe it fit in the mirror spot, 18-A?

Then came one of the best a-ha moments in recent memory. NOIRE doesn't go straight down, it doesn't start at the reflected position … it reflects along the MIRROR, as if it were a ray of light bouncing off! Same with TURRET reflecting at the second R, same with IM OUT reflecting at the M … same with ALL THE ENTRIES HITTING MIRROR MIRROR. EVERY ONE OF THEM.

Now, some people may scoff at this tour de force, but when a handful of words turn at a 90 degree angle, the surrounding fill gets harder. When you have this constraint all along a full corridor — that's dozens of tough intersections to work through — it's an absolute gem to only need OF MAN. Otherwise, it's so clean and colorful, working in THE MASTERS and Erik ESTRADA and a PRISON RIOT.

And to do this in a 70-word puzzle? Amazing. Check out the bottom left corner, which stacks four long answers atop each other. Sure, you can complain about EEE, but this is a wonderful corner pulled off with a tough constraint. Constructors usually never stack four long words (8+ letters) atop each other for good reason — areas like this are nearly impossible to get both colorful and clean. Jason does a nice job with both of them.

The concept did make me think that MIRROR MIRROR might be even better if 1-D and 14-A started with the same sequence, so they were truly "mirrored." But even this is a sign that the puzzle did its job plus a whole lot more, spurring me on to think about it well after I finished solving.

Bravo, one of my favorites this year.

1
I
2
N
3
T
4
S
5
E
6
V
7
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8
L
9
Q
10
U
11
E
12
E
13
N
14
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15
M
A
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A
P
L
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Y
16
W
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17
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L
A
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D
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18
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19
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21
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22
G
E
23
S
A
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24
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T
O
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S
25
T
26
S
E
27
V
28
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29
N
30
P
31
R
32
I
S
O
N
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T
H
33
D
I
V
A
34
A
O
K
35
F
Y
I
36
E
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W
38
E
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B
E
G
40
D
U
E
41
S
42
O
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F
M
A
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T
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R
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48
L
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B
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D
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A
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T
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L
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P
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G
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© 2015, The New York TimesNo. 0606 ( 23,951 )
Across
1
Some safety stats: Abbr. : INTS
5
She queried a magic object named twice in this puzzle's shaded squares : EVILQUEEN
14
Black cats and comets : OMENS
15
Vied (for) : MADEAPLAY
16
Hang in the balance? : WEIGH
17
1980-83 Stanley Cup winners : ISLANDERS
18
Rivet : ENGROSS
20
Cuttlefish feature : TENTACLE
21
Less than : SHORTOF
23
Didn't budge : SAT
24
Impassive : STONY
26
1992 Prince song or its peak position in Billboard : SEVEN
30
Stir stir : PRISONRIOT
33
Tempestuous talent : DIVA
34
In good order : AOK
35
Header on many a forwarded email : FYI
36
She may give you the coat off her back : EWE
39
Press for change? : BEG
40
Annual charge : DUES
42
Darwin's "The Descent ___" : OFMAN
45
Step up : STAIR
47
Parts of one's inheritance : TRAITS
48
Pol. affiliation of British P.M. William Gladstone : LIB
50
Implores : ENTREATS
53
Go from here to there instantly : TELEPORT
57
Lecture : SERMON
59
Heavy, durable china : IRONSTONE
61
Lorenzo's love : AMORE
62
Winning line : TICTACTOE
63
Former Yankee skipper in the Hall of Fame : TORRE
64
Answer provided by the magic object named twice in the shaded squares : SNOWWHITE
65
Bygone sticker : SNEE
Down
1
Poker player's words of concession : IMOUT
2
Bête ___ : NOIRE
3
Small tower on a castle : TURRET
4
Third class on the Titanic : STEERAGE
5
Former Big Four record company : EMI
6
Like Russia, of all countries : VASTEST
7
Having a day off : IDLE
8
Tends (toward) : LEANS
9
Longtime sponsor of the Socceroos national soccer team : QANTAS
10
Given the latest : UPDATED
11
Monthly bill: Abbr. : ELEC
12
English title : EARL
13
Business page heading : NYSE
14
Not be settled with : OWE
19
Many an "I Ching" user : TAOIST
22
Tailor's measurement : GIRTH
25
Annual Augusta event : THEMASTERS
27
Mood : VIBE
28
Continually : EVER
29
Hounds or badgers : NAGS
30
Launch locations : PADS
31
Thrash : ROUT
32
International company with an acronymic name : IKEA
37
John with the 1984 #1 hit "Missing You" : WAITE
38
Latino star once named one of "The 10 sexiest bachelors in the world" by People magazine : ESTRADA
41
Wrong start? : SILENTW
43
Words of reassurance : FRETNOT
44
Speeding (along) : TEARING
46
Shop tool : RIPSAW
49
Mess up : BOTCH
51
Certain bulb component : DIODE
52
Man: Prefix : ANDRO
53
Small songbirds : TITS
54
Home of the Lia Fáil : ERIN
55
Unhinged : LOCO
56
Pita-like bread : ROTI
58
Former G.M. make : GEO
60
Having a large footprint? : EEE

Answer summary: 3 unique to this puzzle, 1 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

Found bugs or have suggestions?