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New York Times, Friday, August 15, 2014

Author: Jeff Chen
Editor: Will Shortz
Jeff Chen
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
777/5/201011/26/201745
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2267111768
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.633162
Panama Canal

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 72, Blocks: 34 Missing: {QVWX} This is puzzle # 30 for Mr. Chen. NYT links: Across Lite PDF

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Jeff Chen notes: Two years ago, I was researching the Panama Canal for a book I was writing. My crossword spidey-sense flared when I noticed the canal ... more
Jeff Chen notes: Two years ago, I was researching the Panama Canal for a book I was writing. My crossword spidey-sense flared when I noticed the canal ran nearly diagonally (from NW to SE), connecting the Caribbean Sea to the Pacific Ocean. And those three entries magically intersect in a symmetrical manner! It's almost as if the builders named the canal so that their Easter Egg would eventually be discovered, and a crossword would be made of it. When I found that the 100th anniversary of the canal's opening fell on an upcoming Friday, I couldn't resist building it into a mini-themed puzzle.

Will liked it, proposing to run it on the day before the anniversary (I think so it wouldn't be all over the news already?). I agreed, but earlier this year, I had hesitations, worrying that the low theme density would turn off Thursday solvers.

alternate grid

So I redid the puzzle from scratch (grid shown to the left), brainstorming a few oblique theme entries. MADE THE CUT felt like a fun one, and after a long search, DIAGONALLY (clued to reference J.K. Rowling's DIAGON ALLEY) seemed pretty good too. It took me a few dozen tries over a few weekends to suss out a workable grid. But in the end, I didn't like it as well as the original. Luckily, Will assented to run the puzzle on the day of the 100th anniversary as I had originally intended, with PANAMA CANAL as a mini-themed bonus entry.

I would have preferred PANAMA CANAL as a pure Easter Egg, uncircled and tough to find. (My original clues for CARIBBEAN SEA and PACIFIC OCEAN were [Start/end of a famous passage hidden in today's grid], misdirecting people with the word "passage.") But I've studied crosswords for a couple of years now, and I've realized that a big portion of Will's solvers — perhaps a majority — wouldn't have found it, putting it aside with a feeling of annoyance. Too bad that PANAMA CANAL had to be so blatantly obvious, but I understand the rationale. It's not easy to satisfy a huge range of skill levels and desires within Will's millions of solvers.

Will Shortz notes: I think Jeff intended 16A, A PLAN, to be a bonus theme entry, since it's part of the classic palindrome 'A man, a plan, a canal ... more
Will Shortz notes: I think Jeff intended 16A, A PLAN, to be a bonus theme entry, since it's part of the classic palindrome "A man, a plan, a canal — Panama." Also, 37D, MALARIA, is sort of thematic, since this disease famously plagued the construction of the Panama Canal. But I couldn't think of a way to clue these in reference to the theme that wasn't awkward or that didn't give the theme away. The fact that they didn't have symmetrical theme answers on the other side of the grid was a concern as well. So even though the entries relate to the theme, the puzzle doesn't explicitly say so. They're Easter eggs, of a sort.

One clue note: Jeff's original clue for 48A, RELIEF, was "Marketers spelled it with seven letters ending in an S" — in reference to the old Rolaids catchphrase "How do you spell relief? R-O-L-A-I-D-S". My 22-year old assistant Joel had no idea what this clue meant. Apparently the old Rolaids ad campaign has not stood the test of time. Since I generally like solvers to understand clues, at least after they see the answers, I decided to do something else.

Jeff Chen notes: So sad that my original clue for HAIRLIKE didn't make it in: [Quality of a quality rug?].
1
Z
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A
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P
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© 2014, The New York TimesNo. 0815 ( 23,656 )
Across Down
1. "The Lion King" bird : ZAZU
5. Environmental pollutants, for short : PCBS
9. Easter cake : BABKA
14. Remote : SLIM
15. Writer ___ Stanley Gardner : ERLE
16. "Sounds like ___" : APLAN
17. Staples of Americana : APPLEPIES
19. Iraqi P.M. ___ al-Maliki : NOURI
20. One end of the [circled letters], which opened on 8/15/1914 : CARIBBEANSEA
22. Quanta : AMOUNTS
24. First female athlete on the front of a Wheaties box : RETTON
26. Brew that gets its color from oxidation : REDTEA
27. Capillaceous : HAIRLIKE
29. What a check might be delivered in : CHESS
30. Tribal wear, for short : MOCS
31. Part of the conjugation of "être" : ETES
32. Fiery eruptions : TIRADES
35. Features of many drive-thrus : ATMS
39. Chicago market, with "the" : MERC
40. One with a once-in-a-lifetime experience? : HAJJI
45. Elation : RHAPSODY
47. ___ Wuornos, "Monster" role for which Charlize Theron won an Oscar : AILEEN
48. "Whew!" feeling : RELIEF
49. Was behind : RANLATE
50. The other end of the [circled letters] : PACIFICOCEAN
53. Sonatas have four of them : TIRES
54. What never lets go? : SUPERGLUE
57. Hip place? : ILIUM
58. Second issue? : ABEL
59. Prefix with zone : EURO
60. Gives it up, so to speak : CLAPS
61. N.B.A. coaching great George ___ : KARL
62. Nobel pursuits?: Abbr. : SCIS
1. When doubled, onetime name in Hollywood : ZSA
2. Pinnacle of "The Sound of Music" : ALP
3. Letter number : ZIPCODE
4. Deutsch marks? : UMLAUTS
5. Seed in Mexican cuisine : PEPITA
6. Homie's homes : CRIBS
7. Air bubble : BLEB
8. Zaire's Mobutu ___ Seko : SESE
9. Ad form : BANNER
10. Evangelist : APOSTLE
11. Bird that, curiously, has a yellow breast : BLUETIT
12. Bars in a bar? : KARAOKE
13. Darth Vader's boyhood nickname : ANI
18. ___ Rutherford, the Father of Nuclear Physics : ERNEST
21. Result (from) : ARISE
22. A pop-up has one : ARC
23. So-so : MEH
25. The Legend of Zelda platform, briefly : NES
27. Trite : HOARY
28. Electrical inits. : ACDC
30. Stable role on TV? : MRED
33. "Ta-ta" : IMOFF
34. Boxing souvenir : SHINER
35. Flight board abbr. : ARR
36. Medical product with no conceivable use? : THEPILL
37. Central American danger : MALARIA
38. Enliven : SPICEUP
41. Family-friendly category : ALLAGES
42. TV's Capt. Picard : JEANLUC
43. Fountain feature : JET
44. Suffix with opal : INE
46. They'll rock your world : SEISMS
47. Remote power source : AACELL
49. Rodeo performer : ROPER
51. "Out of Africa" writer Dinesen : ISAK
52. Island sometimes called El Cocodrilo : CUBA
53. Peculiarity : TIC
55. Location of the William Tell legend : URI
56. Lover of Orion, in Greek myth : EOS

Answer summary: 7 unique to this puzzle, 1 debuted here and reused later.

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