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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?