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New York Times, Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Author:
Caleb Emmons
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
66/21/20127/28/20150
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
1011300
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.72110

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 78, Blocks: 42 Missing: {DJQXY} This is puzzle # 6 for Mr. Emmons. Jeff Chen's Puzzle of the Week pick. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Caleb Emmons notes:
I'd like to dedicate this puzzle to Matt Ginsberg, Wei-Hwa Huang, and all my fellow word-rankers. Thanks! I have no qualms about ... read more

I'd like to dedicate this puzzle to Matt Ginsberg, Wei-Hwa Huang, and all my fellow word-rankers. Thanks!

I have no qualms about having computer assistance with filling grids; this crossword is an extreme example. Unlike most constrained-letter crosswords (that simply require creating a sublist, then using standard software), this puzzle presented a tougher problem: it would need 10 sublists, and then a program that could select which sublist to use based on the position of the slot being filled. So, it was a good excuse to write my own grid-filler.

Even after my program was functional, it was still nearly impossible to find worthwhile fill. I became convinced the theme had to be A, E, I, O, U, and sometimes Y. Finally, after days of searching, I had hashed out a reasonable grid and sent it off to Will. Luckily, Will liked the idea, but, unluckily, he did not like the Ys. It was a dark day when it became clear I would have to either give up, or start fresh.

After mourning my old grid, I went back to basics with black-square placement. I analyzed the word-length distributions on each of the 10 sublists. After examining lots of old Monday grids, I settled on the diagonal band through the middle. A band going NE to SW was preferable because letters occur in the same position (beginning, middle, or end) in the Across and Down words.

Filling proceeded over many iterations: Adjust starting position… tweak minimum word score…. blacklist a word…. nudge a cheater square… I would get a promising fill, then rip out the entire eastern half and re-fill… rip out the northern half … rip out the western half...

Eventually, I was happy enough to send it off, and now I hope you're enjoying the result!

Jeff Chen notes:
I love a gimmick puzzle, and I especially love 'em when I can't see 'em coming. It was a blast to arrive at AEIOU and realize that ... read more

I love a gimmick puzzle, and I especially love 'em when I can't see 'em coming. It was a blast to arrive at AEIOU and realize that rows one, six, and 11 only had As as vowels, rows two, seven, and 12 only had Es, etc. Really nice job to keep that hidden until the very end.

I only had two minor pauses which made me think something tricky was going on, which is saying a lot about Caleb's craftsmanship:

1. Caleb's a strong enough constructor that I hitched slightly at the ACH / TKT northern region, because it's a small, unconstrained chunk that should be fillable with nary a gluey bit. But sometimes a constructor has a great clue for CHECK, or loves baseball and wants to put in AT BAT, so I shrugged and quickly moved on.
2. I paused a second time at POLTROON, staring at that odd-looking word, but then I decided I liked its craziness.

Stunt puzzles not only usually have telltale gluey bits galore, but they often lack colorful fill. Not a problem today. I love what Caleb did with TIGHT KNIT, THE CREEPS, and SHOT HOOPS, all zingy entries … which happen to be thematic, what with their use of only one vowel! Sneaking a KLUTZ down at the very bottom was also nice. Great word in itself, and it so nicely only has the single U.

The grid is a bit segmented for my taste — those two stairsteps nearly slicing the puzzle into three sections — but I can understand how that would make the construction job much easier to handle. An incredibly difficult task can be made into simply a very difficult one, if you can break it down into smaller pieces.

And I'm with Caleb re: computer-assistance. I respect the opinion that construction by hand is an incredible talent, but I find it similar to arguing that people should forgo computers and stick to typewriters. Why turn down modern assistance if it helps make a better product?

Overall, a neat idea and a very strong execution. This is one that will stick with me.

Jim Horne notes:

A remarkable achievement. I'm impressed.

 1C 2H 3A 4T 5A 6T 7B 8A 9T 10T 11B 12A 13C E R E 14S 15C H E C K 16E L L 17C R I S P 18T I G H T 19K N I T 20P O L T R 21O O N 22N O N O 23B U R R 24S 25P 26R U N G 27A 28T 29T A C K 30S T A R T 31V E R N E 32T H E C R E 33E 34P 35S 36I C I 37S W I M S 38C S I 39S H O 40T 41H O O P S 42G 43R O S S 44R U F U S 45G R U N T S 46A 47A A M A P 48F R A S 49S T E W 50F R E S H 51E 52T 53S 54P H I L 55I 56P 57I I I 58P I T H S 59O O O 60R O O S T 61S N O O T 62T S U 63K L U T Z 64G N U S
© 2015, The New York TimesNo. 0728 ( 24,003 )
Across
1. Schmooze : CHAT
5. Chance for getting a hit : ATBAT
10. Not yet posted, on a sked : TBA
13. Dwarf planet between Mars and Jupiter : CERES
15. Chess player's warning : CHECK
16. 90-degree turn : ELL
17. Like autumn air or a fresh apple : CRISP
18. Close, as a community : TIGHTKNIT
20. Utter coward : POLTROON
22. Playing with matches, e.g. : NONO
23. Aaron who was vice president under Jefferson : BURR
24. Released, as from jail : SPRUNG
27. "Sic 'em!" : ATTACK
30. Kickoff : START
31. Jules who wrote "Around the World in 80 Days" : VERNE
32. Shudder-inducing feeling : THECREEPS
36. Here, in Arles : ICI
37. Does the crawl or butterfly : SWIMS
38. CBS show set in Vegas : CSI
39. Played some b-ball : SHOTHOOPS
42. 144 : GROSS
44. Singer/songwriter Wainwright : RUFUS
45. Lowly soldiers : GRUNTS
46. Car club freebie : AAAMAP
48. Monks' titles : FRAS
49. Meat, potato and vegetable dish : STEW
50. Sudden floods : FRESHETS
54. King who led Spain into the Thirty Years' War : PHILIPIII
58. Essential parts : PITHS
59. Tic-tac-toe winner : OOO
60. Henhouse perch : ROOST
61. Snobbish sort : SNOOT
62. Nashville sch. : TSU
63. Unlikely juggler : KLUTZ
64. Wildebeests : GNUS
Down
1. Letters on a Soyuz rocket : CCCP
2. One who may be a lifesaver : HERO
3. Seed cover : ARIL
4. Nuclear treaty provision : TESTBAN
5. Person with lines : ACTOR
6. Slender : THIN
7. Say "Ple-e-ease ...," say : BEG
8. Berliner's exclamation : ACH
9. Traveler's purchase: Abbr. : TKT
10. Dovetail joint part : TENON
11. Rapper's jewelry : BLING
12. Choir voice : ALTO
14. Neaten, with "up" : SPRUCE
19. Rockne of Notre Dame fame : KNUTE
21. Mork's planet : ORK
24. Parts of goblets : STEMS
25. Moneyed campaign orgs. : PACS
26. Grammar sch. basics : RRR
27. Hertz rival : AVIS
28. Silicon Valley field, for short : TECH
29. Peter, Paul & Mary, e.g. : TRIO
30. Sends : SHIPS
32. Aussie gambling game with coins : TWOUP
33. "Micro" or "macro" subj. : ECON
34. Call in place of a nudge : PSST
35. Make a sibilant sound : SISS
37. Living room piece : SOFA
40. Fish with a net : TRAWL
41. Fan noise : HUM
42. Understands : GRASPS
43. In a hurry : RUSHING
45. Ph.D. program applicant's hurdle : GRE
46. Companion of Aramis and Porthos : ATHOS
47. Noteworthy features of rows 1-5, 6-10 and 11-15, in that order : AEIOU
48. Lang who directed "Metropolis" : FRITZ
49. Bleach target : SPOT
50. Hand ball? : FIST
51. School on the Thames : ETON
52. "Wherefore art ___ Romeo?" : THOU
53. Retired jets, for short : SSTS
55. Bother : IRK
56. D.C. insider : POL
57. Promissory note : IOU

Answer summary: 3 unique to this puzzle, 1 debuted here and reused later, 3 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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