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New York Times, Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Author: Sam Buchbinder
Editor: Will Shortz
Sam Buchbinder
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
48/19/201410/4/20160
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
0130000
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.62020
If I only had a brain...

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 76, Blocks: 38 Missing: {J} Spans: 4 This is the debut puzzle for Mr. Buchbinder NYT links: Across Lite PDF

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Sam Buchbinder notes: Hello! I am very excited to be debuting my first published crossword. I'm 28 years old, and I've been trying my hand at ... more
Sam Buchbinder notes: Hello!

I am very excited to be debuting my first published crossword. I'm 28 years old, and I've been trying my hand at construction for the past three years. I teach History to amazing High School students at 10X225 in the Bronx, and they know very well about my crosswording habits. My wife, Kim, supports the addiction as well. The cat, Charlie, enjoys sitting on my computer while I attempt to construct. I began constructing after going to see Will Shortz at a Times Talk. I told my friend Pete about it, and we sat down in a coffee shop with some graph paper and tried to come up with a puzzle, figure out the grids, etc. Since then, I've submitted several puzzles, and this is my first one accepted!

As for the puzzle, I am actually at a loss for where it came from. It clicked that in the Wizard of Oz each of the three characters was searching for something at the end of the Yellow Brick Road. I wanted to play off of that "search" idea, and so I looked for phrases that each ended in the things each character was searching for. Originally, HEROINE, which crosses down the middle with DOROTHY was not going to be a theme answer, as it would have to fit through three theme answers. However, after working through some words, I realized that HEROINE would fit, and it would cross with DOROTHY. Pretty cool.

The difficulties in the fill came in the northeast, center and southeastern portions of the grid. It took a few re-writes to get some of the three-letter fill to be better. The center was very tough since it was restricted by multiple theme answers. My favorite answers in the puzzle are GROUPONS, KLUTZY and CLASSISM. As a history teacher, the Wizard of Oz is often seen as an allegory for the Populist movement, which was partially a fight by farmers against the wealthy big business owners. So, I appreciated that CLASSISM ended up in the puzzle.

Finally, I found out that the Wizard of Oz premiered in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin, where I went to camp for ten years of my childhood.

All told, I've very excited for the puzzle, and hope everyone enjoys!

Will Shortz notes: This Tuesday-level puzzle is timed to coincide (as closely as possible) to the 75th anniversary of 'The Wizard of Oz,' which will ... more
Will Shortz notes: This Tuesday-level puzzle is timed to coincide (as closely as possible) to the 75th anniversary of "The Wizard of Oz," which will be next Monday. The intersection of HEROINE (23D) through three theme entries is particularly elegant. The circled O-Z in the lower-right is a nice touch, too.
Jeff Chen notes: Debut! And such a fun one. I love the ambition. Working with four grid-spanning themers is hard, as that necessitates a lot of down ... more
Jeff Chen notes: Debut! And such a fun one. I love the ambition. Working with four grid-spanning themers is hard, as that necessitates a lot of down entries crossing two themers. To add in two interlocking 7's (DOROTHY and HEROINE) plus OZ is reaching for the stars.

Loved the OZ reveal and how it's at the end of the YELLOW BRICK ROAD. Hard to believe that no one's thought of executing this theme like Sam did.

As with most audacious constructions, there are trade-offs. Good thing I had vaguely heard of ZAC Efron (a person I follow on Twitter is obsessed with him), because the Z of ENZI is not at all inferable. There are a few more spots that felt pretty crunchy to me, but that's bound to happen with these layer upon layers of constraints. I was actually surprised to see that there weren't more glue entries necessary.

Take the NE and SW corners, for example. Because Sam had to deploy so many of his black squares around the center of the grid, he was forced into using big, wide-open corners. And for a first construction, they're not too shabby. GROUPONS is a fresh entry (although we'll see how long Groupon stays in business). CGI and SSNS are perfectly fine by themselves, but amassed with ENID and ARA makes for a bit of inelegance. Tough to fill these themeless-like spaces with quality and smoothness.

Finally, what a nice SE corner. Not easy at all, considering OZ sits diagonally and Sam had no flexibility in YELLOW BRICK ROAD's placement. To work in KLUTZY is not at all klutzy.

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© 2014, The New York TimesNo. 0819 ( 23,660 )
Across Down
1. Olympics awards : MEDALS
7. Nabs : CAPTURES
15. Actress Mayim of "The Big Bang Theory" : BIALIK
16. Deals buyable via a tap on an app : GROUPONS
17. IBM's Watson, essentially : ARTIFICIALBRAIN
19. "What did I tell you?" : SEE
20. "___ Carter III" (Lil Wayne 3x platinum album) : THA
21. Finishes : ENDS
22. Put down, as an uprising : QUASH
24. Smooching on the street, e.g., briefly : PDA
26. Embolden oneself : GETUPTHECOURAGE
33. Cookie ingredient in dirt cake : OREO
34. Tin Man's worry : RUST
35. Corn Pops competitor : KIX
36. "Leaving ___ Vegas" : LAS
37. 23-Down of a classic L. Frank Baum novel : DOROTHY
40. "So ___ heard" : IVE
41. Communication used at Gallaudet University, for short : ASL
42. Yours, in Tours : ATOI
43. Declare : AVER
44. Dear : NEARTOONESHEART
49. Take advantage of : USE
50. Key key on a keyboard : ENTER
51. Stick with a knife : STAB
54. Actor Efron of "Neighbors" : ZAC
55. Beats by ___ (popular headphone brand) : DRE
58. Path taken by 37-Across to find the ends of 17-, 26- and 44-Across in [circled letters] : YELLOWBRICKROAD
64. Unaided vision, with "the" : NAKEDEYE
65. Ham-handed : KLUTZY
66. Charge of the 1% against Occupy Wall Street : CLASSISM
67. Feels : SENSES
1. Degs. held by Romney and Bush : MBAS
2. The Emerald Isle : EIRE
3. Possible outcome of an eHarmony match : DATE
4. 2001 Will Smith biopic : ALI
5. Boost : LIFTUP
6. Top of a mountain? : SKIHAT
7. Film special FX : CGI
8. Southern constellation : ARA
9. David Axelrod or Karl Rove, for short : POL
10. Rubber ducky locale : TUB
11. Erect : UPREAR
12. Horse hue : ROAN
13. City west of Tulsa : ENID
14. Figs. with two hyphens : SSNS
18. "Cold, hard" money : CASH
22. Quid pro ___ : QUO
23. See 37-Across : HEROINE
24. Fancy-schmancy : POSH
25. Responsibility : DUTY
26. Israel's ___ Heights : GOLAN
27. Clear : ERASE
28. Electric car company : TESLA
29. Abbreviate : CUT
30. ___ Goldsman, Oscar-winning screenwriter of "A Beautiful Mind" : AKIVA
31. Donor : GIVER
32. Apply, as force : EXERT
37. "___ what I'm talkin' 'bout!" : DATS
38. Plains tribe : OTOE
39. Friend of Pooh : ROO
43. ___ Lingus : AER
45. What Stolichnaya is sold in : RUBLES
46. Wyoming senator Mike : ENZI
47. Library area : STACKS
48. Jeer : HECKLE
51. Match up : SYNC
52. Green-blue : TEAL
53. ___-Seltzer : ALKA
55. i's and j's have them : DOTS
56. Bulldoze : RAZE
57. Ben & Jerry's alternative : EDYS
59. Some serious hosp. cases : ODS
60. Fifth-century Chinese dynasty : WEI
61. Fly-___ (close passes by plane) : BYS
62. "Losing My Religion" band : REM
63. Jog : RUN

Answer summary: 5 unique to this puzzle, 1 debuted here and reused later, 2 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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