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New York Times, Tuesday, July 28, 2015

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

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.

Peter Pettigrew, the man who delivered the Potters to Voldemort. What a poltroon!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.

1
C
2
H
3
A
4
T
5
A
6
T
7
B
8
A
9
T
10
T
11
B
12
A
13
C
E
R
E
14
S
15
C
H
E
C
K
16
E
L
L
17
C
R
I
S
P
18
T
I
G
H
T
19
K
N
I
T
20
P
O
L
T
R
21
O
O
N
22
N
O
N
O
23
B
U
R
R
24
S
25
P
26
R
U
N
G
27
A
28
T
29
T
A
C
K
30
S
T
A
R
T
31
V
E
R
N
E
32
T
H
E
C
R
E
33
E
34
P
35
S
36
I
C
I
37
S
W
I
M
S
38
C
S
I
39
S
H
O
40
T
41
H
O
O
P
S
42
G
43
R
O
S
S
44
R
U
F
U
S
45
G
R
U
N
T
S
46
A
47
A
A
M
A
P
48
F
R
A
S
49
S
T
E
W
50
F
R
E
S
H
51
E
52
T
53
S
54
P
H
I
L
55
I
56
P
57
I
I
I
58
P
I
T
H
S
59
O
O
O
60
R
O
O
S
T
61
S
N
O
O
T
62
T
S
U
63
K
L
U
T
Z
64
G
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.

Found bugs or have suggestions?