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New York Times, Saturday, August 19, 2017

Author: Mark Diehl
Editor: Will Shortz
Mark Diehl
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
6811/11/198412/2/20171
SunMonTueWedThuFriSatVariety
3014719322
ScrabRebusCirclePangrampre-WS
1.570018

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 60, Blocks: 22 Missing: {JQXYZ} Spans: 1 Average word length: 6.77 This is puzzle # 67 for Mr. Diehl. NYT links: Across Lite PDF

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Mark Diehl notes: This puzzle was spawned entirely by the grid. While wandering around XWord Info I noticed there was a section titled 'Most Wide ... more
Mark Diehl notes:

This puzzle was spawned entirely by the grid.

While wandering around XWord Info I noticed there was a section titled "Most Wide Open Grids" and hey I like wide openness, so challenge accepted! I ripped off Sherry O. Blackard's awesome wide open grid from 04/14/07, knocked off the two cheater squares, and tada — all that was needed was a clean fill to set a new NYT record.

Seventeen descending 15-letter entries trials later I stumbled onto a promising fill for the NW quadrant — then only 57 almost acceptable fills of the other quadrants before I had a complete fill I could live with. Submitted it to Will and it was accepted!

Then came the wait for publication followed by another unexpected twist — Will contacted me and asked if he could use it as the final on stage puzzle for the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament in 2016. What could I say but YES (check off bucket list item) and make plans to attend and watch the finals in person. Howard Barkin's dramatic win was the cherry on the top of the whole experience.

As soon as I returned home, I started the whole process again — today's puzzle is a completely different fill of the same grid.

Jeff Chen notes: Mark's byline is one I both look forward to and fear the most. Few constructors tackle giant swaths of white in themelesses, and even ... more
Jeff Chen notes:

Mark's byline is one I both look forward to and fear the most. Few constructors tackle giant swaths of white in themelesses, and even fewer do it without using extra black squares to make things easier on them. (Adding black squares at the beginning and end of DENTAL INSURANCE would make the puzzle much easier to fill, for example.) Mark usually ends up with daunting-looking tracts of white that seem impossible to even break into, much less complete. Perfect for a Saturday puzzle — it's supposed to be the hardest of the week, after all.

Often, puzzles like these require made-up sounding RE-, UN-, -ER, etc. words — unsavory tricks that constructors can use to fill difficult areas. I love that Mark refuses to go there, trying to even include a couple of colorful long entries like PRISON RIOT. With its fantastic clue, playing on joint problems ("joint" = slang for jail), I appreciated it so much as I fought my way through the puzzle.

There was another reason I liked PRISON RIOT even more: because this puzzle is so segmented, with the three sections only connected by two answers apiece, I wanted those two answers apiece to be standouts. Sort of eases the blow when you feel like you've been dead-ended in one of the corners.

DENTAL INSURANCE surprisingly gave me a similar reaction. Usually, I'd think this is a dull entry, but 1.) what a great clue, playing on dental bridges vs. river bridges, and 2.) Mark is a dentist! Cool to get the constructor's little wink.

I didn't care for some of the long answers — OISE RIVER felt forced (usually just "Oise" or "The Oise," yeah?), FIVE LOVE sounded odd (granted, I don't watch that much tennis these days), RESIDING and ARIDNESS were a bit arid. But overall, I love this type of wide-open challenge when I can get at least a few sparkly answers like VALID ID, IF IN DOUBT …, PEAR TARTS, HAM ACTOR. Along with DENTAL INSURANCE and PRISON RIOT and their standout clues, I thought this one turned out well.

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© 2017, The New York TimesNo. 0819 ( 24,756 )
Across Down
1. Like a hermit : ISOLATED
9. Response to a sophomoric comment : GROWUP
15. Score after opening with an ace, informally : FIVELOVE
16. Secret ___ : RECIPE
17. Catch of all catches, of a sort : IDEALMAN
18. Singer of the Wagner aria "Liebestod" : ISOLDE
19. Least cool : NERDIEST
20. Make a feast of : DINEON
21. Looks forward to the next spring? : DOWSES
22. Feature of Namibia and Libya : ARIDNESS
24. Root used in perfumery : ORRIS
25. James ___, 1990-94 New Jersey governor : FLORIO
26. Noodle soup noodle : UDON
27. Joint flare-up? : PRISONRIOT
31. Got some action : BET
32. Method of fishing : SEINING
33. Station that people once looked up to : MIR
34. Goes over the line? : TRESPASSES
36. Company added to the Dow 30 in 2013 : VISA
37. Dr. Brody of "Raiders of the Lost Ark" : MARCUS
38. Draw toward dark : LATEN
39. Scenery chewer : HAMACTOR
42. Grinders, of a sort : MOLARS
43. Tree favored by giraffes : ACACIA
44. Dubonnet or Campari : APERITIF
46. Box at the gym? : LOCKER
47. Bad news on the stock market : NOSEDIVE
48. Part of a record : ARREST
49. Lowdown sneak : CONNIVER
50. Quick shots : SNORTS
51. Many people take them to bed nowadays : EREADERS
1. "Should there be any question ..." : IFINDOUBT
2. Corn on the cob, e.g. : SIDEORDER
3. Replaced, as on a computer : OVERWROTE
4. Shows the way : LEADSIN
5. Force in the Battle of Dunkirk : ALLIES
6. Shakespeare's First and Second Folios, e.g. : TOMES
7. Spacewalks, in NASA lingo : EVAS
8. It covers bridges, typically : DENTALINSURANCE
9. Primitive cooking equipment : GRIDIRONS
10. Situated (in) : RESIDING
11. Alito's predecessor on the Supreme Court : OCONNOR
12. Toon who uses his middle initial : WILEE
13. High styles : UPDOS
14. Ones always banging their heads against things? : PEENS
23. Female factory workers in W.W. II, informally : ROSIES
25. West Coast locale mentioned in "(Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay" : FRISCO
27. Some fruit pastries : PEARTARTS
28. Like store brands vis-à-vis name brands, typically : IMITATIVE
29. Waterway that lent its name to two French departments : OISERIVER
30. Students arriving late? : TRANSFERS
32. Most airheaded : SPACIEST
35. Clam : SMACKER
36. T.S.A. requirement : VALIDID
38. ___ Ochoa, 2017 Golf Hall of Fame inductee : LORENA
39. Papa Bear of the N.F.L. : HALAS
40. Kind of squash : ACORN
41. Photog's lens : MACRO
42. Intervening, at law : MESNE
45. "How ___ are they that have not patience!": Iago : POOR

Answer summary: 7 unique to this puzzle, 6 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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