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New York Times, Thursday, August 2, 2018

Author:
Xan Vongsathorn
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
95/15/20098/2/20180
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
2000412
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.65420
Xan Vongsathorn

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 78, Blocks: 44 Missing: {JQXZ} This is puzzle # 9 for Mr. Vongsathorn. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Xan Vongsathorn notes:
This puzzle has a long history. I originally submitted it in 2011, and it was accepted shortly after. It got lost in the stack, and a ... read more

This puzzle has a long history. I originally submitted it in 2011, and it was accepted shortly after. It got lost in the stack, and a few years passed. It almost ran in late 2014, but at the last minute, a test solver realized that Andrew Reynolds had written a similar puzzle which ran on April 1, 2014. Rather than running two similar puzzles in the same year, mine was pushed back to now.

Of course, I was less than happy about this chain of events at the time. But 2018-Xan is a whole different person than 2011-Xan, and 2018-Xan is thrilled he gets to enjoy the publication of a crossword puzzle he didn't even have to write. Plus, we get a nice opportunity to compare two independent versions of the same idea. Andrew's puzzle is fantastic.

For me, coming up with a crossword theme is a systematic exercise. My basic goal is to surprise people in some way, especially seasoned solvers accustomed to seeing the same tropes over and over. One approach is to consider an assumption that solvers make, enumerate a few ways that assumption might be violated, and then see if you can think of a thematic justification for each violation.

In this case, I was brainstorming ways to sneak an extra layer of meaning into the idea of a circled letter. (Another puzzle from the same brainstorming session can be found here). For no particular reason, circles are commonly used to draw attention to letters in crosswords. So common that we normally don't think about the circle itself as carrying any meaning; it could just as well be a diamond, or gray shading. But here, the circles form the edges of coins, and what do coins do? They flip. It was a nice idea that also gave me the opportunity to push harder on the boundary of double-cluing.

Seven years ago, after this somehow possible puzzle, I had the bold feeling that if you gave me two words, and I thought long and hard enough, more often than not I could come up with a single clue that worked for both of them. Many theme answers in the present puzzle make this task deliberately hard. I was motivated by the idea that it is more surprising and satisfying to discover two answers that differ by only one letter but have hugely different meanings, covered by a single clue parsed in two very different ways.

Overall, I would say the resulting double clues are "better than you'd expect, but not quite good enough." With the benefit of seven years of hindsight, I would dial the ambition of the theme answers back a bit!

Jeff Chen notes:
COIN / FLIPS, pointing to 'Schrödinger' squares that can be either H or T, with equal validity. There was another one riffing on this ... read more

COIN / FLIPS, pointing to "Schrödinger" squares that can be either H or T, with equal validity. There was another one riffing on this four years ago — my memory is long, so, unfortunately, I recalled it immediately. But I'm an oddity. I think four years is long enough to wait before echoing the same idea.

One thing I liked a lot about Xan's execution: a couple of great finds that use a funny change in spacing. At first, I couldn't figure out what the heck a TIT LIST was (admit it, you had the same thought I did). No, it's a TITLIST, as in a sports champion! Both could eliminate you, in a way.

And HEAT RAY / TEA TRAY was a neat find, both of them carrying something that might burn. That's a real stretch to include both answers, but there's something curiously awesome about the kooky connection.

I also enjoyed HIP / HOP and TIP / TOP. Not sure I would have ever thought of "breaking records" to link the two ("breaking" is slang for a dance style within HIP / HOP).

And TA TA / HA HA as an "interjection heard upon breaking up"? I had to think about that for a while, but I admire the creativity. TA TA = saying bye after breaking up with a partner, and HA HA = breaking up, as in laughing.

I usually want Schrödingers to have a clue that's spot-on for both entries. [Yearning] as both WISTFUL and WISHFUL is a perfect example of that. HIPSTER vs. TIPSTER is on the other side of the coin (wah wah), as [One in the know] is much more a TIPSTER than a HIPSTER. (We have a ton of HIPSTERs in Seattle, and a majority of them are doofuses.)

But Xan forced me to rethink my criteria – at first, I thought most of his pairings were way too much of a stretch. But heck, I admire his out-of-the-box thinking. Feels like he's created something innovative and ground-breaking. Not much higher of a compliment I can pay.

Jim Horne notes:

For the answers below the grid here, we've randomly chosen to use H for the Across words, and T for the Down ones.

1
F
2
I
3
S
4
K
5
S
6
HT
7
O
8
C
9
K
10
HT
11
A
12
HT
13
A
14
I
S
L
E
15
K
I
T
E
D
16
E
C
O
N
17
S
L
A
V
18
I
N
T
E
L
19
A
L
O
T
20
HT
I
T
L
21
I
S
T
22
A
23
S
T
U
T
E
24
P
E
A
R
L
25
S
26
O
N
A
R
27
R
I
O
28
L
A
G
G
A
29
R
30
D
31
HT
32
I
33
P
34
S
P
35
L
I
T
36
Y
U
A
37
N
38
O
L
E
39
H
E
A
V
E
40
HT
41
O
42
S
T
Y
43
P
L
O
44
W
45
D
E
N
I
M
46
HT
E
E
47
S
N
I
48
C
49
K
E
R
50
P
A
51
W
52
S
H
I
N
S
53
S
H
E
54
A
55
F
56
B
57
A
58
S
HT
E
S
59
S
T
A
B
I
L
60
E
61
A
S
I
F
62
S
63
HT
64
A
K
E
65
C
O
I
N
66
T
H
R
U
67
E
I
D
E
R
68
A
L
P
O
69
H
E
E
L
70
S
C
O
W
S
71
M
I
S
S
© 2018, The New York TimesNo. 0802 ( 25,104 )
Across
1
11-time All-Star Carlton : FISK
5
___ value : SHOCK
10
Interjection heard when breaking up : HAHA
14
Bikini, e.g. : ISLE
15
Passed, as bad checks : KITED
16
Short course in supply and demand? : ECON
17
Dalmatian or Croatian : SLAV
18
Gathering of spies? : INTEL
19
Tons : ALOT
20
Many people may be eliminated by one : HITLIST
22
Perceptive : ASTUTE
24
Shade of white : PEARL
25
Submarine equipment : SONAR
27
What Christ the Redeemer overlooks, for short : RIO
28
Dawdler : LAGGARD
31
With 31-Down, breaking records, maybe : HIP
34
Skedaddle : SPLIT
36
Chinese money : YUAN
38
Ring cry : OLE
39
Cry aboard a frigate : HEAVEHO
42
Farm enclosure : STY
43
Winter truck attachment : PLOW
45
Overalls material : DENIM
46
Giggle syllable : HEE
47
Go "heh-heh" : SNICKER
50
Manhandle : PAW
52
They go up to the knees : SHINS
53
Bunch of papers : SHEAF
56
Wallops : BASHES
59
Abstract sculpture : STABILE
61
"Puh-lease!" : ASIF
62
An investor might want to get a fair one : SHAKE
65
With 55-Down, actions that can be performed nine times in this puzzle without affecting any of the clues? : COIN
66
Drive-___ : THRU
67
Falling down in a pillow fight? : EIDER
68
Dog food brand : ALPO
69
Cad : HEEL
70
Trash boats : SCOWS
71
Bad shot : MISS
Down
1
Something at the end of the hook? : FIST
2
Long Island airport town : ISLIP
3
Schedule : SLATE
4
Bulletproof vest material : KEVLAR
5
Place for a mogul : SKISLOPE
6
Slight coloring : TINT
7
A giant among Giants : OTT
8
Average mark : CEE
9
"Constant Craving" Grammy winner : KDLANG
10
Carrier of something that might burn : TEATRAY
11
Noted First Amendment advocate, for short : ACLU
12
It's a blast : TOOT
13
Pot grower? : ANTE
21
Like Samuel Beckett : IRISH
23
Give a little bit : SAG
25
Cake servings for dieters : SLIVERS
26
Like many Quaker products : OATEN
29
It can take root in wet places : RUST
30
Line on a contract : DATE
31
See 31-Across : TOP
32
Afflictions : ILLS
33
Lowly worker : PEON
35
Weighed down : LADEN
37
Dec. 31 : NYE
40
Ones in the know : TIPSTERS
41
Home to TD Ameritrade : OMAHA
44
Yearning : WISTFUL
48
Revolutionary symbol : CHE
49
The x's of xoxo : KISSES
51
Video blogger's aid : WEBCAM
54
Garlicky sauce : AIOLI
55
See 65-Across : FLIPS
56
Wet bar locale? : BATH
57
1975 Wimbledon winner : ASHE
58
What to call a king : SIRE
59
Distort : SKEW
60
Space chimp of 1961 : ENOS
63
Evidence of a little spasm : TIC
64
Rumpus : ADO

Answer summary: 2 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

Found bugs or have suggestions?