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New York Times, Thursday, July 24, 2014

Author:
David Phillips
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
207/24/20148/5/20171
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1021277
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.57000
David Phillips

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 72, Blocks: 40 Missing: {JMQXZ} This is the debut puzzle for Mr. Phillips. Jeff Chen's Puzzle of the Week pick. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
David Phillips notes:
Hello fellow xword(info)ers. Glad to make your acquaintance. I hope today's offering didn't rough you up too badly. =) The direct ... read more

Hello fellow xword(info)ers. Glad to make your acquaintance. I hope today's offering didn't rough you up too badly. =)

The direct inspiration for this puzzle was David Pringle's 2005 NYT April Fool's Day puzzle, but I'm sure other constructors' work seeped into my brain cells without my knowing. (Despite some similarities, this puzzle's conception dates before Mr. Steinberg's ERASE R'S puzzle.) My intent was to create a metaphorical yin to Mr. Pringle's yang: instead of using black squares posing as white squares, I would use white squares masquerading as black squares. The Rolling Stones hit "Paint It Black" seemed like a rockin' way to execute this idea.

To successfully pull off the illusion, I would need to make solvers think the newly "added" black squares could actually be black squares. This forced some immediate restrictions: (1) theme answers could not occupy rows/columns 1, 2, 3, 13, 14, or 15 and (2) theme answers needed to have the word "IT" preceded and followed by at least 3 letters. Furthermore, I knew that repeating the letter string "IT"/"TI" in any entry other than the theme entries would be confusing/inelegant, and thus made it a priority to avoid such.

After I had found a nice collection of theme answers and tried placing some, I soon discovered that placing all themers in the across direction severely limited *real* black square placement in the grid's center. Since my revealer was a devious length of 12 letters, I needed as much flexibility in black square placement as I could get. Hence, the pinwheel arrangement.

Filling the NW/SE center portions of the grid was also fairly tricky, but, once they went down, I was sure the puzzle would make it.

Fare thee well for now, brave solvers. But, beware the perilous puzzles that lie ahead! [insert evil laugh]

Jeff Chen notes:
It took me a long time to figure out what was going on here, but what a neat moment when it clicked. I didn't know the song PAINT IT ... read more

It took me a long time to figure out what was going on here, but what a neat moment when it clicked. I didn't know the song PAINT IT BLACK, but that didn't take away too much from my solving experience. Once I got over that hump of figuring out the first IT themer, it all fell into place. Great concept.

I couldn't visualize how David put this together! So I reconstructed his puzzle skeleton, which helped me understand much better. It's actually a 72-word grid with crossing themers, a really tough puzzle to pull off. To get this to work, and on a debut puzzle no less... super impressive.

I might have liked the revealer to be placed in the horizontal direction, which is easy to do by "flipping" the puzzle about a line from the NW to the SE (any crossword can be flipped like this and still have all the answers read correctly). For me, it would have been so nice to have the puzzle flipped like this, so that the revealer had been in the usual location. I'm so used to having most revealers running horizontally, located somewhere around the bottom of the puzzle. I'm such a creature of habit.

When I construct, I always look for the most constrained and/or biggest chunk of space I need to fill. Notice how the north and south, with their 6x3 chunks and the themers bordering them, stick out? That's where I'd typically start filling, as they'd be among the hardest parts to fill, if not the hardest. The rest of the puzzle is quite smooth, darn impressive given the 72-word nature of it and the crossing themers, so it was a bit unfortunate that ECARTE reared its ugly head right off the bat, and in the south we get SDI (which Will has mentioned that he's on the verge of not allowing anymore), OSH, TAVI, and the crossing I got wrong, PETER TOSH / SOLANO. I expect to not get a lot of pop music references, but I'm from California and hadn't heard of SOLANO. I don't think I'll be the only solver to have issues there.

All in all, an impressive debut. Great idea and pretty darn good execution.

Jim Horne notes:
from Shakespeare in Love: Philip Henslowe: Mr. Fennyman, allow me to explain about the theatre business. The natural condition is ... read more

from Shakespeare in Love:
Philip Henslowe: Mr. Fennyman, allow me to explain about the theatre business. The natural condition is one of insurmountable obstacles on the road to imminent disaster.
Hugh Fennyman: So what do we do?
Henslowe: Nothing. Strangely enough, it all turns out well.
Fennyman: How?
Henslowe: I don't know. It's a mystery.

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© 2014, The New York TimesNo. 0724 ( 23,634 )

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Across
1
Bunch : SLEW
5
Game similar to euchre : ECARTE
11
"Arsenal of democracy" prez : FDR
14
Auto datum : YEAR
15
Credit card lure : NOFEES
16
___ Highway, classic New York-to-San Francisco route : LEE
17
Area in front of a chancel : NAVE
18
Linoleum alternative : CARPET
19
Place of rest : INN
20
"Looky here!" : CHECKITOUT
23
Nabokov novel after "Lolita" : PNIN
24
Mario ___ (Nintendo racing series) : KART
27
A series of "insurmountable obstacles on the road to imminent disaster," per Tom Stoppard : THEATRE
29
Flight setting : STAIRCASE
34
Helmet part : VISOR
35
Greater part of Turkey : ANATOLIA
37
Sound a hot dog makes? : PANT
38
End of a fairy's wand : STAR
40
Outwit, in a way : ELUDE
42
Goose : gaggle :: ___ : knot : TOAD
45
Wedding feature, in two different senses : BAND
47
Interrupts, as a broadcast : CUTSINTO
50
South Australian exports : OPALS
52
Chosen people : SELECTEES
54
Overlook, as someone's flaws : GETPAST
56
___ notes : CRIB
58
Writer Philip : ROTH
59
Not worry about something annoying : LETITSLIDE
65
Choler : IRE
66
California county between San Francisco and Sacramento : SOLANO
69
Similar : AKIN
70
"No ___!" : SIR
71
Digs deeply : DELVES
72
Small price to pay : CENT
73
Kind of fever : HAY
74
Prophet on the Sistine Chapel ceiling : ISAIAH
75
Evil "Get Smart" organization : KAOS
Down
1
In ___ with : SYNC
2
Genesis matriarch : LEAH
3
Place for a wasp's nest : EAVE
4
Hit 2012 Disney film : WRECKITRALPH
5
Went around : ENCIRCLED
6
Men's formalwear feature : COATTAIL
7
Picked locks? : AFRO
8
Good or bad name : REPUTE
9
Means of enforcement, metaphorically : TEETH
10
It's just a guess: Abbr. : EST
11
Pebbles, e.g. : FLINTSTONE
12
"GoodFellas" co-star : DENIRO
13
Jeremy of "The Avengers" : RENNER
21
Corn syrup brand : KARO
23
1966 Rolling Stones hit ... or an instruction to be followed four times in this puzzle : PAINTITBLACK
28
"Casino Royale" Bond girl ___ Green : EVA
29
KLM competitor : SAS
30
Big bang maker : TNT
31
Remote power source, maybe : AAABATTERY
33
Booze : SAUCE
37
One of the Wailers of Bob Marley and the Wailers : PETERTOSH
41
Don Quixote's love : DULCINEA
43
Took in : ATE
44
Tango twosome? : DOS
46
Org. for which Edward Snowden once worked : NSA
48
"Hard" or "soft" subjects: Abbr. : SCIS
50
Beastly : OGRISH
51
Bradley University site : PEORIA
52
Stanley Kowalski's woman : STELLA
55
Dark-skinned fruit : SLOES
60
Rikki-tikki-___ : TAVI
62
Furniture megastore : IKEA
63
11-Down pet : DINO
64
Middle-earth creatures : ENTS
66
Reagan's Star Wars program: Abbr. : SDI

Answer summary: 3 unique to this puzzle, 2 debuted here and reused later, 2 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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