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New York Times, Saturday, July 21, 2018

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

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 65, Blocks: 27 Missing: {JQWZ} Spans: 9, (2 quad stacks) Grid has mirror symmetry. This is puzzle # 14 for Mr. Flinn. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Jason Flinn notes:
When I was making this puzzle, I tried a couple of new things. First, I emphasized freshness and quality for the grid-spanners in the ... read more

When I was making this puzzle, I tried a couple of new things. First, I emphasized freshness and quality for the grid-spanners in the stacks. What I like about the result is that most stack spanners are either new appearances or fun entries like "There's no I in team." What I don't like is that the crossing entries are weaker than what I would have preferred: you usually don't get a free lunch in crossword construction.

Second, I wanted to see if using left-right mirror symmetry instead of regular crossword symmetry would make constructing the quad stacks easier. Answer: not really. It does let the two stack sections have different shapes (what I'm calling the open block of white squares at the top/bottom of the grid), but mirror symmetry constrains each possible shape a lot. This symmetry also puts a lot of pressure in the middle. You can see that I needed a ninth grid spanner to hold everything together, and this wound up being a weak-ish entry.

I've been taking a break from crosswords for a while due to general business in my life. However, it's really fun to have a puzzle appear, and hopefully, this will get me motivated to finish up some of my half-done puzzles.

Jeff Chen notes:
Ah, quad stacks. By now, we expect serious trade-offs in such a crazily difficult construction. The question is, does the pizzazz in ... read more

Ah, quad stacks. By now, we expect serious trade-offs in such a crazily difficult construction. The question is, does the pizzazz in the long entries make up for the wince-worthy globs of glue?

Today, I say yes. All too often, quad stacks need to rely heavily on common letters, boring answers, or head-scratching phrases. But out of nine grid-spanners, I'd say four are fantastic, and five are solid if not flashy. STRING ORCHESTRA over THERES NO I IN TEAM is a great way to headline your puzzle!

(I used to play cello in an orchestra, and I'd always try to hide in the back corner at the last stand, away from the audience. That way, all my wrong notes and out of tune-ness would be overwhelmed. Good thing we were all a team!)

Ah, ONDES, I learned ye through crosswords. Weirdly, it was kind of fun to plug it in without a single crossing letter.

People sometimes ask me how I can possibly do the toughest crosswords. Repetition often allows for immediate fill-ins like this.

See: NEROLI. ELAM. SORA.

I appreciated how wide-open Jason kept his grid. Stringing ROCKETTES through that bottom quad was delightful.

REDEPOSIT up top ... not so much.

The lone head-shaking moment was the XKE / KTEL square. A friend recently told me that in his generation – an OLDER GENERATION – the XKE was super popular, in everyone's consciousness. Perhaps it was the same way for KTEL?

Every eye-popping grid like this will come with some sort of compromises. Overall, I enjoyed the solving experience — the quality of the grid-spanners and the novelty of the wide-openness helped me overcome the rough patches.

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© 2018, The New York TimesNo. 0721 ( 25,092 )
Across
1
Performers taking bows onstage? : STRINGORCHESTRA
16
Saw around a locker room? : THERESNOIINTEAM
17
Picked individually : ORDEREDALACARTE
18
Does another walk-through of something : GOESOVERITAGAIN
19
Informal agreement : YEP
20
Start of the name of many a French band : LES
21
Time to buy back-to-school supplies: Abbr. : AUG
22
Something tanned at a tanning salon, informally : BOD
23
One-eyed god : ODIN
25
"Ooh-la-la!" : SEXY
27
Plus : ALSO
29
Cherry or raspberry : RED
32
Pioneering infomercial company : KTEL
35
Fit the bill : SUITEDONESNEEDS
40
Good name for a model? : KIT
41
Big name in casualwear : LACOSTE
42
It can cover a lot of ground : SOD
43
Road divider : FORK
44
They may be bummed : CIGS
46
Sports org. since 1916 : PGA
48
Come to know : LEARN
50
Bamboozled : HAD
53
Speaks honestly and forthrightly : TELLSITLIKEITIS
57
What keeps you going when everything seems lost : REASONTOBELIEVE
58
AARP base : OLDERGENERATION
59
Factors in some work reviews : PEERASSESSMENTS
Down
1
Low-end smoke : STOGY
2
Spasm : THROE
3
Try again, with a bounced check : REDEPOSIT
4
Inflames : IRES
5
Common perfume oil : NEROLI
6
International group whose leaders meet once a year : GSEVEN
7
French waves : ONDES
8
Not just laugh : ROAR
9
20 lashes, maybe? : CILIA
10
Break : HIATUS
11
Put behind bars : ENCAGE
12
Unaccompanied : STAG
13
Large storage units : TERABYTES
14
What gears in a gear assembly have : RATIO
15
Add to the bill, perhaps : AMEND
24
Sign of the times? : DOT
26
Classic Jaguar : XKE
27
Pose : ASK
28
Parisian pronoun : LUI
29
Line for a show in New York? : ROCKETTES
30
Musician Brian : ENO
31
Characterizes : DESCRIBES
33
Shogunate capital : EDO
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Cause of some flashbacks, for short : LSD
36
___ rating system (chess standard) : ELO
37
Angels : DARLINGS
38
No-goodniks : STINKERS
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Blood-typing abbr. : NEG
43
Meriting more Pinocchios : FALSER
45
Like most Iranians : SHIITE
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Noted Obama portrayer : PEELE
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Big name in air fresheners : GLADE
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Unaccompanied : ALONE
51
Enjoyed a traditional family dinner : ATEIN
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Rough piece of land? : DIVOT
53
De ___ (excessive) : TROP
54
Marsh bird : SORA
55
Ancient land located in what is now southwest Iran : ELAM
56
State couple: Abbr. : SENS

Answer summary: 7 unique to this puzzle, 2 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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