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New York Times, Saturday, August 23, 2014

Author:
Timothy Polin
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
5012/11/20118/8/20192
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
74962202
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.626140
Timothy Polin

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 78, Blocks: 34 Missing: {JKV} This is puzzle # 7 for Mr. Polin. Jeff Chen's Puzzle of the Week pick. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Timothy Polin notes:
Many crosswords have themes involving a uniform feature of some or all of the clues (length or starting letter or spelled-out message, ... read more

Many crosswords have themes involving a uniform feature of some or all of the clues (length or starting letter or spelled-out message, e.g.). As a rule, these clue-based themes tend to be ornamental. Solvers need not discover them in order to finish the puzzle; oftentimes they don't even notice such themes unless they're specifically pointed out.

I thought it would be fun to try to build a crossword with the opposite approach: the solver would have to discern the clues' thematic feature *before* she could make progress. Each clue would be a microcosm of the overarching theme, and deciphering just one small riddle from anywhere within the grid would allow the solver to unlock the whole thing. A kind of fractal puzzle, if you will.

There were two requirements of the deleted letter. In the first place, it had to be very common. The deleted letter also needed to allow the revealer to be clued like everything else, so that the theme would be embedded within the cluing itself. When I saw that "hint" would reduce to "hit," and that the revealer could be written as though it were a four-part song, I settled on N. Because of its frequent usage in consonants clusters N worked out well.

The major difficulty of construction was that unless an entry was an everyday noun or verb, it was unlikely that it would clue satisfactorily. Entries such as QUASI, LOSES IT and AXON were all chosen specifically for their tricky possibilities. I scrapped a previous grid pattern and its half-clued fill when it got to a point where both ROSE RED and CERISE were necessary and I couldn't figured out how to clue them without repeating the same word containing N.

The usual thank yous and kudos go out to Will Shortz and his unheralded band of behind-the-scenes assistants. Changing my POET clue from [Date, e.g.] to [Doe, e.g.] is so, so cunning. Their ERSATZ clue is beautiful, and is one of my favorites.

*N.B. Ashish Vengsarkar and Narayan Venkatasubramanyan pulled off a similar (and brilliant) theme with TEN ORS back on December 6, 2008. In his Wordplay notes Mr. Vengsarkar mentions the difficult time he had persuading Will to accept the puzzle. As this puzzle encountered no such resistance, I owe them a debt of gratitude. I hope this puzzle in some small way measures up.

Will Shortz notes:
Big props to Frank Longo for helping me edit this puzzle, which jointly took us many, many hours. More than half of the clues are ... read more

Big props to Frank Longo for helping me edit this puzzle, which jointly took us many, many hours. More than half of the clues are editorial changes. Our goal was to write clues that sound as normal as possible. Most of them, I think, turned out pretty well. And the ones that don't sound normal (like "Umber at the opera," "Sci-fi character remembered for her large bus," and especially "Program that asks 'Are we aloe?,' e.g.") show a wacky humor. I know some solvers will hate this — it's not a crossword, blah, blah, blah — but once in a while, it's nice to shake things up.

Jeff Chen notes:
Loved this. Just loved it. Not at all what I expect out of a Saturday puzzle, but I love that too (that's saying a lot, coming from a ... read more

Loved this. Just loved it. Not at all what I expect out of a Saturday puzzle, but I love that too (that's saying a lot, coming from a man who greatly values his routines). I went through the clues once and wrote in exactly zero answers. Momentary freak-out. I almost punted, but I'm so glad I didn't. Enough of the clues sounded odd that something seemed up. There had to be a trick. A Thursday-ish trick on a Saturday! Each clue is indeed missing the letter N (sometimes more than once), producing some great confusion and fun. Big thumbs up.

As Will noted, my favorites were the ones which seemed perfectly normal. [Dramatic cry from people who get subbed] for example made me think about LEAVE ME IN or PLAY ME or something, but it's actually [Dramatic cry from people who get sNubbed]. That's fantastic misdirection. Same goes for the like of [Be-___] which really is [BeN-___].

I did like some of the wacky clues too, like the one for LEIA. But some of them were weaker than others, and a few of those lesser ones gave away the trick for me a little too easily. If each one of the clues had been perfectly normal sounding, I might have added this one to my short list for all-time favorites. Additionally, I wonder if running it on a Saturday was a good thing? I loved the change-up, but I think Will's right about some people grousing about missing out on their Saturday workout.

[Cagey parts, e.g.] to [CagNey parts, e.g.]. [Covert, maybe] to [CoNvert, maybe]. [Covered with slug mud] to [Covered with sluNg mud]. And [Refusal from a boy lass] to [Refusal from a bonny lass]. Dang, I had so much fun solving this well-constructed gem.

1
A
2
M
3
B
4
I
5
T
6
F
7
O
8
U
9
L
10
B
11
E
12
D
13
S
14
P
E
A
C
E
15
A
D
Z
E
16
A
R
I
A
17
E
A
C
H
C
18
L
U
E
I
N
19
P
S
S
T
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X
T
C
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S
A
C
22
T
23
A
T
A
M
I
24
F
A
25
D
26
P
E
27
P
28
S
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S
I
T
A
R
30
E
R
R
O
31
L
32
T
H
E
33
P
U
Z
Z
L
E
34
S
E
A
G
O
35
D
36
A
T
O
N
E
37
P
E
T
38
S
U
39
L
L
I
E
D
40
S
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T
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Y
43
M
E
D
E
A
44
T
E
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M
P
E
R
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I
47
S
48
M
I
S
S
I
N
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G
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R
O
L
E
S
51
Q
U
A
S
I
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A
X
O
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N
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B
I
T
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T
I
N
C
T
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S
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A
A
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A
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T
E
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A
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E
T
T
U
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T
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H
64
E
L
E
T
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T
E
R
N
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S
O
R
E
67
A
U
D
I
68
O
W
N
E
D
69
T
R
A
S
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T
R
U
E
71
P
A
D
D
Y
© 2014, The New York TimesNo. 0823 ( 23,664 )
Across
1
Rage : AMBIT
6
Hardly ice outside : FOUL
10
Places for sprigs : BEDS
14
Quiet parter? : PEACE
15
Pie cutter's tool : ADZE
16
Umber at the opera : ARIA
17
First part of a hit for this crossword : EACHCLUEIN
19
Relative of "Hey, ma" : PSST
20
Arc's target, maybe : XTC
21
Plat pouch : SAC
22
Easter floor mat : TATAMI
24
Pog or Pogs, formerly : FAD
26
Lives : PEPS
29
Bad member to pick? : SITAR
30
Fly of film : ERROL
32
Hit, part 2 : THEPUZZLE
34
Olympia with a watery realm : SEAGOD
36
Perform peace : ATONE
37
Fried with four legs : PET
38
Covered with slug mud : SULLIED
40
Sorters' quarters : STY
43
Dramatically scored sorceress : MEDEA
44
Ager : TEMPER
46
Hit, part 3 : ISMISSING
50
Cagey parts, e.g. : ROLES
51
Early : QUASI
52
Part of a euro : AXON
54
Tige, say : BIT
55
Adds a little toe to : TINCTS
57
Like a great bod : AAA
59
Bled for a social affair, perhaps : TEA
61
Dramatic cry from people who get subbed : ETTU
62
Last part of the hit : THELETTERN
66
Caker, for example : SORE
67
Car whose logo is liked? : AUDI
68
Ever lost to : OWNED
69
Starts of some chorus lies : TRAS
70
Eve : TRUE
71
Chia growth area? : PADDY
Down
1
Crow : APEX
2
Vegas would love this type of world : MEATFREE
3
Casio game : BACCARAT
4
Kat's "I" : ICH
5
Slag for sleuths : TECS
6
Product made by Moe : FAUCET
7
Kid of poetic work : ODE
8
Arm from a Mideast lad : UZI
9
Did a baker's job : LENT
10
Covert, maybe : BAPTIZE
11
Margarie might be described thus : ERSATZ
12
Grad's opposite : DISMAL
13
Gere of "Gulliver's Travels" : SATIRE
18
User's circuit : LAP
23
I pieces : ASUNDER
25
You might board yours at the keel if you take a cruise : DOG
27
Wig of the old Greek army : PHALANX
28
Program that asks "Are we aloe?," for short : SETI
30
Metal worker's claim? : ESP
31
Abruptly becomes violet : LOSESIT
33
Doe, e.g. : POET
35
Bombs without bags : DUDS
39
Sci-fi character remembered for her large bus : LEIA
40
Strad part that becomes frayed : SPLITEND
41
Wet like a seesaw : TEETERED
42
Spas that last 52 wks. : YRS
43
Bugled strokes : MISCUES
45
Deadly gag : MOB
46
Mesa prerequisite : IQTEST
47
Guy who may offer a girl a rig : SUITOR
48
Mystical chat : MANTRA
49
H.L. player : GOALIE
53
Refusal from a boy lass : NAE
56
"Ow!" : STAT
58
O : ATOP
60
Murray who's highly raked : ANDY
63
Be-___ : HUR
64
Ed of some school addresses : EDU
65
Old rival of America : TWA

Answer summary: 5 unique to this puzzle, 2 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

Found bugs or have suggestions?