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New York Times, Thursday, August 14, 2014

Author: Jason Flinn
Editor: Will Shortz
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Jason Flinn

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 68, Blocks: 43 Missing: {FJKQZ} Spans: 2 This is puzzle # 2 for Mr. Flinn. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Jason Flinn notes: This is my 2nd published puzzle. I'm glad to be back! How are crossword construction and crossword solving similar? First, ... more
Jason Flinn notes: This is my 2nd published puzzle. I'm glad to be back!

How are crossword construction and crossword solving similar?

First, they both allow for great "aha!" moments. I had one such moment when I hit on crossing UNDERPASS and ELEVATED HIGHWAY in the manner used in this puzzle. It got even better when I found another 15-letter word that fit the theme and provided reasonable crossings.

I hope solving this puzzle gives you a similar "aha!" experience. I tried to leave the clues on the theme answers vague enough to enable a mid-solve discovery of the trick underlying the puzzle.

Second, my Achilles' heel in both construction and solving is that I can't spell to save my life. My first submitted grid contained PEROGATIVE, which (I learned) should be spelled PREROGATIVE (d'oh!). Fortunately, I was given a second chance, and I was able to produce the revised grid you see here. I blame growing up in the era of auto-correct for this deficiency.

Anyway, I've always admired the grid art that constructors such as Elizabeth C. Gorski can create. This may not be art, but I did enjoy working some grid "civil engineering" into my puzzle.

Will Shortz notes: As Jason noted, when I first accepted this puzzle last spring, the answer at 16A was PEROG/ATIVE. Perhaps I didn't notice the ... more
Will Shortz notes: As Jason noted, when I first accepted this puzzle last spring, the answer at 16A was PEROG/ATIVE. Perhaps I didn't notice the misspelling because the entry was broken into two parts. Anyway, it wasn't until I came to editing that I thought "Hmm, that doesn't look right." I returned the grid to Jason for a fix — which he managed to do with even better fill than before. I hope the puzzle's trick gives solvers a nice "aha!"
Jeff Chen notes: Fantastic idea. There have been many puzzles where words jump from one place to the next, or go off the edge and 'warp' back to the ... more
Jeff Chen notes: Fantastic idea. There have been many puzzles where words jump from one place to the next, or go off the edge and "warp" back to the other side, but I don't think I've seen an actual underpass like this (which actually looks like an underpass!). Really neat idea. I find it mesmerizing to look at the grid — like watching traffic patterns unfold around a cloverleaf.

It was too bad there wasn't a symmetrical entry to UNDERPASS. That might have made this one of my all-time favorites. Yes, it would be difficult to incorporate an extra themer, but it's definitely doable (assuming you could find something that fits — maybe something to the effect of DOWN AND OUT?). For those of you who don't want the curtain pulled back, skip the next paragraph.

magic trick

At first, it may seem like filling this grid is a magic trick, as you'd have to fill two disparate corners simultaneously through the breaks? But as with many eccentric constructions, it can be broken down into steps to make the process easier. After filling out the middle of the puzzle, you can put together a mini-grid (seen to the left) by squishing the two halves together (leaving the DELI of DELILAH and the ITOR of TRAITOR) and then filling normally. The results can then be transferred back to the original grid.

Finally, a note about three-letter words. Typically Will doesn't allow more than 22 of them except in special cases, because they break up a puzzle's solving flow and can be inelegant. From a construction standpoint, they can also cause problems. Check out all those threes running down the middle of the puzzle. Even though it looks like it should be easy to cleanly fill, it's not, because the number of acceptable three-letter words is limited. In fact, it would likely have been easier to fill this swath cleanly if it was four squares wide, because there are roughly 3x as many acceptable four-letter words than three-letter words!

A beautiful concept, strong enough that I didn't at all mind the blips here and there in the fill.

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© 2014, The New York TimesNo. 0814 ( 23,655 )
Across Down
1. Former Ford full-sizes : LTDS
5. Divide by zero in a computer program, maybe : ERR
8. Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer, e.g. : PALS
12. One who gets a charge out of charging? : SHOPAHOLIC
14. Grassy expanse : LEA
16. Calculated : DELIBERATE
17. Commercial start for Pen : EPI
19. Lovable 650-pound TV character : GENTLEBEN
20. ___-de-Marne (French department) : VAL
22. New Mexico county or its seat : TAOS
23. Service station sign : AIR
24. Display one's guts : DARE
25. Big bird : EMU
26. First mass-production auto company outside the U.S. : CITROEN
30. Mess up : MAR
31. "Just leave!" : LETMEBE
33. Outlier : ANOMALY
35. Epitome of thinness : REED
36. Start of a massive renovation, for short : DEMO
37. Biblical betrayer : DELILAH
40. 37-Across, e.g. : TRAITOR
44. ___ pop (music genre) : EMO
45. Head of Olympus? : OMICRON
47. Open kimono preventer : OBI
48. "I am a man more sinn'd against than sinning" speaker : LEAR
50. It has an analytical writing component, for short : GRE
51. Dug up some dirt? : HOED
52. One of two engineering features depicted in this puzzle : UNDERPASS
54. Czech reformer Jan : HUS
56. Reflexive response to an accusation : IDIDNTDOIT
57. Wordplay, e.g. : WIT
60. Writes briefly : SENDSANOTE
61. One way to see a talk, for short? : ASL
63. Avant-garde : EDGY
64. "___-haw!" : YEE
65. Material used in many high-end chess sets : ONYX
1. Flashback cause, maybe : LSD
2. Rapper whose 2006 album "Doctor's Advocate" was #1 : THEGAME
3. Apportion : DOLEOUT
4. Short drives : SPINS
5. One reason for a 52-Across : ELEVATEDHIGHWAY
6. Withdraw (to) : REPAIR
7. Another reason for a 52-Across : RAILROADTRESTLE
8. Went carefully (over) : PORED
9. One side in college football's Iron Bowl : ALABAMA
10. Like some interpretations : LITERAL
11. Trees, hills and streams, e.g. : SCENERY
13. N.Y.C.-based dance group : ABT
15. Daughter of Loki : HEL
22. Business card abbr. : TEL
26. Green formerly of "The Voice" : CEELO
27. Building component with two flanges : IBEAM
28. Summer time in Buenos Aires : ENERO
29. Another name for Odysseus : NOMAN
32. Hosp. procedure : MRI
34. Reply of mock indignation : MOI
37. Co-star of "The Cannonball Run," 1981 : DELUISE
38. Changed : EMENDED
39. Kind of dock : LOADING
41. "We're not joking about that yet" : TOOSOON
42. Michelle Obama campaign target : OBESITY
43. Relieve : RID
46. Compete without a struggle : CRUISE
49. "I Am Woman" singer : REDDY
51. "I ___ idea" : HADNO
53. Urgent care workers, for short : RNS
55. Org. concerned with pupils : PTA
59. Big ___ (Dallas fair icon) : TEX

Answer summary: 2 unique to this puzzle, 1 debuted here and reused later, 1 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

Found bugs or have suggestions?