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New York Times, Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Author:
Roy Leban
Editor:
Will Shortz
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139/16/20026/9/20150
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1.60101
Roy Leban

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 78, Blocks: 36 Missing: {JQVZ} Spans: 1 This is puzzle # 13 for Mr. Leban. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Notepad: The five Across answers with only years for clues are the five most recent members of a particular category.
Roy Leban notes:
Many people in the puzzle world know me as the founder of puzzle technology company Puzzazz. Of course, I solve the NYT crossword ... read more

Many people in the puzzle world know me as the founder of puzzle technology company Puzzazz. Of course, I solve the NYT crossword every day in Puzzazz (I used to solve in pen). What some of you may not know is that I've been a puzzle creator as long as I've been a software developer, and this is my 13th New York Times crossword. I'm also the author of four books of Logic Crosswords, a contributor to Cryptic All-Stars, and editor of Mike Selinker's Killer Cryptics, David Steinberg's colorful Chromatics Crosswords, and The Year of Puzzles, all available in Puzzazz. I also recently came out with The Librarian's Almanaq, a paper puzzle book, which is, ironically, one of the very few puzzle books that can't be in Puzzazz — you have to tear the book apart to solve it.

American Pharoah, just the 12th Triple Crown winner

I got the idea for this puzzle right after the Kentucky Derby. AMERICAN PHAROAH is a great name with an unusual spelling, and it's 15 letters long, something cruciverbalists notice. We count letters in everything! I thought of the idea of a Triple Crown puzzle, with three 15-letter winners. I had no idea how few winners there had been over the years, and it turns out that there are no others with 15-letter names. But then I noticed that the names of the previous 4 winners had nice symmetry — two 11's and two 8's, and American Pharoah could go in the middle. A puzzle with the last five winners felt very elegant. I checked if I could get a nice fill, and I could. Now American Pharoah just had to win two more times. After the Preakness, I contacted Will and pitched it to run right after the Belmont Stakes, if (and only if) American Pharoah won. He liked the idea but wanted a better fill. I ended up reworking the grid from scratch, and clued it for Tuesday difficulty.

Fingers crossed, I sent in the final grid and clues almost a week before the race. If American Pharoah didn't win, it would all be wasted. Since you're reading this, you know the gamble was worth it. Thanks, Will, for taking the gamble with me.

When I comment on others' puzzles on Wordplay, I list my favorite entries and clues. So here goes the same for my own puzzle, and I'll provide a little extra background.

My favorite non-theme entries are WOMBAT, KEROUAC, NEW YORK, GNOMES, TOM CLANCY, MIKADO, and EAMES. You'll notice these are mostly long. In filling the grid, I focused on two things — interesting long entries and a really nice upper left corner, to get solvers off on a good footing — this was extra important because none of the theme entries intersects that top left section. I also dislike partials, so spent extra time avoiding them.

Some clue notes:

  • [Marsupial that looks like a small bear] for WOMBAT — I like the extra information that makes the clue seem a bit harder than it is, and a snappy clue for 1A is always important
  • [Mrs. en français] for MME — I like the fact that the clue is in French yet perfectly clear. I also learned that the language français is not capitalized.
  • [W.W. II foe] and cross-references for AXIS, ALLY, and USSR. I put AXIS and ALLY adjacent for the cluing opportunity; USSR was just a nice coincidence that I didn't have connected in the clues I submitted
  • For WAR, I also considered a clue based on War Admiral, but I felt it detracted from the puzzle; I like Will's sly reference to Man o' War
  • [1 1 1] for ONES — boy is it hard to come up with a fresh clue for an entry that the NYT has allowed 684 times before
  • [Sch. in Terre Haute, Ames or Pocatello] — This was inspired by the dispute over who owns the rights to the initials USC (Southern Cal or South Carolina); for the record, there's also a school in Normal, Illinois
  • [88 or 98 of autodom] — Will's clue, nice
  • [Eponymous chair designer] — I've always loved the groundbreaking work of Charles and Ray Eames. We have one of their chairs, a 40-year-old "Aluminum Group" one, not the eponymous lounge chair that most people know.
Will Shortz notes:
Roy constructed this puzzle shortly after American Pharoah won the Preakness in May. We had an understanding: If American Pharoah wins ... read more

Roy constructed this puzzle shortly after American Pharoah won the Preakness in May. We had an understanding: If American Pharoah wins the Belmont (and, thus, the Triple Crown) on June 6, I will then rush the puzzle into print. If not, his beautiful work will go to waste.

In a sense, Roy had a $300 paycheck riding on the outcome!

Fortunately, American Pharoah did win. The race took place on Saturday evening. I edited and typeset the puzzle on Sunday morning. The testers solved it and got me their comments by afternoon. I polished the clues. Ellen Ripstein went to the Times on Sunday night to prepare the files in all the formats for both print and online. Et voilà! Done with time to spare.

Conceivably, we could have rushed the puzzle into print on Monday, bumping the puzzle that was already scheduled then. But the Times crossword now appears in so many formats that a last-minute swap isn't easy. There would have been a serious chance for a screw-up somewhere besides. So Tuesday was safer, and the puzzle's theme and fill felt more Tuesdayish anyway.

A couple of notes on the clues:

  • While the puzzle has no specific mention of the "reveal," the Triple Crown, the clues for 22A ("Home of the Belmont Stakes") and 10D ("Louisville and Baltimore") do suggest all three legs of the title. I was pleased with that.
  • For 1D, WAR, I debated a long time about using the clue "___ Admiral," referring to the Triple Crown winner of 1937. I finally decided not to, as that would have muddied the theme. But I did include a backhanded reference to War Admiral's sire, and a great racehorse in its own right, with the ship reference "Man-o'-___."
  • One other semi-thematic clue was "Infield, for one" (AREA), referring to the interior part of a racetrack.

Altogether I think this turned out well. Thank you, Roy (and American Pharoah)!

The previously scheduled June 9 puzzle will now appear on June 30 instead.

Jeff Chen notes:
Even though I know little about horse racing, I enjoyed this puzzle. Fortuitous that the five Triple Crown winners fit so nice and ... read more

Even though I know little about horse racing, I enjoyed this puzzle. Fortuitous that the five Triple Crown winners fit so nice and symmetrically into a crossword grid! And it's clear to me how much effort Roy put into the grid — nice and smooth, with hardly a blip during my solve. Polished and professional, with quite a few long entries to add (dare I say it?) puzzazz.

I also appreciated the subtle touch of the indirect hints that Will mentioned. If those clues like [Man-o'-___] had specifically been tied to the theme, they would have felt asymmetrical and inelegant to me. This way they're Easter eggs; fun to uncover if you look hard enough.

I was amazed what a coincidence this all was ... until I read up on the Triple Crown and realized that there have been 12 winners, not just five. My lack of knowledge in this subject led me to believe that Roy had made an unbelievable finding, all five winners from history fitting so perfectly in a crossword to form a complete set. And in hindsight, I probably should have read the notepad note, which explicitly spelled it out!

Ah well, it is a consistent set — the most recent five winners. I won't let my ignorance whirlaway my enjoyment of the puzzle.

1
W
2
O
3
M
4
B
5
A
6
T
7
M
8
M
9
E
10
C
11
O
12
S
13
T
14
A
P
O
L
L
O
15
A
A
S
16
I
N
C
A
17
R
E
D
E
E
M
18
C
I
T
19
A
T
I
O
N
20
A
R
C
21
H
22
N
E
W
Y
O
R
K
23
S
24
E
25
A
T
T
L
E
26
S
L
E
W
27
N
E
E
28
A
X
I
S
29
A
L
L
Y
30
U
S
S
R
31
G
A
D
32
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N
G
E
33
S
34
P
A
35
A
M
E
36
R
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C
A
N
37
P
H
A
R
38
O
39
A
40
H
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D
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Y
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D
O
O
M
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M
R
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M
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U
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S
S
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A
E
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O
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O
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I
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S
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E
C
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A
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K
E
R
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O
U
A
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D
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56
A
F
F
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M
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D
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G
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A
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D
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D
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65
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© 2015, The New York TimesNo. 0609 ( 23,954 )
Across
1. Marsupial that looks like a small bear : WOMBAT
7. Mrs. en français : MME
10. Price : COST
14. Much-discussed program of the 1960s-'70s : APOLLO
15. Smallish batteries : AAS
16. ___ Empire : INCA
17. Cash in : REDEEM
18. [1948] : CITATION
20. St. Louis landmark : ARCH
22. Home of the Belmont Stakes : NEWYORK
23. [1977] : SEATTLESLEW
27. Formerly : NEE
28. W.W. II foe : AXIS
29. See 30-Across : ALLY
30. One 29-Across of the U.S. in W.W. II : USSR
31. Flit (about) : GAD
32. "Picnic" playwright : INGE
33. Place to be pampered : SPA
35. [2015] : AMERICANPHAROAH
41. Money-saving way to make repairs, for short : DIY
42. Inevitable ruin : DOOM
43. Hosp. diagnostic : MRI
44. Tousle, as the hair : MUSS
47. Commercial prefix with postale : AERO
48. 1 1 1 : ONES
49. Sch. in Terre Haute, Ames or Pocatello : ISU
50. [1973] : SECRETARIAT
53. "On the Road" novelist : KEROUAC
55. Descriptive of some undesirable consequences : DIRE
56. [1978] : AFFIRMED
58. Nullify : NEGATE
62. Contest with lightsabers : DUEL
63. End of a university's domain : EDU
64. Garden figures : GNOMES
65. 88 or 98 of autodom : OLDS
66. "Get my point?" : SEE
67. December shopping mall figures : SANTAS
Down
1. Man-o'-___ (old battleship) : WAR
2. Uncover, poetically : OPE
3. Cool in the mid-1960s : MOD
4. Meadow sounds : BLEATS
5. A serious one might be red : ALERT
6. "Patriot Games" novelist : TOMCLANCY
7. Bub : MAC
8. For the most part : MAINLY
9. First name at the cosmetics counter : ESTEE
10. Louisville or Baltimore : CITY
11. They might make you cry : ONIONS
12. Numbers on the board : SCORES
13. Petroleum ship : TANKER
19. "Isn't she cute?!" : AWW
21. Hägar's wife, in the comics : HELGA
23. Many a Viking tale : SAGA
24. Final, for one : EXAM
25. Congressional staffer : AIDE
26. Thin : SLENDER
30. Onetime Mideast grp. : UAR
32. Roman trio : III
33. Events for the police blotter : SHOOTINGS
34. Spray in the kitchen : PAM
36. Hwys. : RDS
37. Studied, with "over" : PORED
38. Upscale chain hotel : OMNI
39. Infield, for one : AREA
40. Pulitzer Prize category: Abbr. : HIST
44. Gilbert and Sullivan operetta, with "The" : MIKADO
45. Worth having : USEFUL
46. Browsed, as the Internet : SURFED
47. Consent, as to a request : ACCEDE
48. ___ Trail : OREGON
50. California's Big ___ : SUR
51. Eponymous chair designer : EAMES
52. Sports venue : ARENA
54. De-squeaks : OILS
57. Like many payments on the first of the month : DUE
59. Qty. : AMT
60. Word with black or blended : TEA
61. Curve of a sort : ESS

Answer summary: 2 unique to this puzzle, 1 debuted here and reused later.

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