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New York Times, Thursday, August 28, 2014

Author:
Ned White
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
251/16/20109/11/20191
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
1206259
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.58020
Ned White
Bra sale

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 72, Blocks: 33 Missing: {JKQXZ} This is puzzle # 11 for Mr. White. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Ned White notes:
This theme seemed fairly straightforward to me, and it gave me my chance at last to allude to Ward Cleaver, perhaps frustrating ... read more

This theme seemed fairly straightforward to me, and it gave me my chance at last to allude to Ward Cleaver, perhaps frustrating younger solvers who may have only a vague awareness of who he was and how he helped guide my generation.

I'm one of those 6% in Patrick Merrell's recent survey who does puzzles by hand, so I poked around and found a preexisting Times grid with the right letter count in theme answers going across, then flipped it 90 degrees, tweaked it a bit, and slapped DOWNWARDS in the center. Darn the luck, I couldn't make it work! So I split it into DOWN and WARD with a central block, and other words started to fill in very nicely.

At 27-Across, with N _ P_ _ W _ locked in from three theme answers, NEPHEWS is the only possible fill (according to databases), interestingly enough. I think it's a pretty cool word here, and I love Will's only slightly misdirective clue for it. I'm much less proud of 31-Across RECUE and the 52-Down partial E FOR, and will labor in the future to keep these wince-able words at bay. Patience!

This is my first themed puzzle for the Times, and I honestly believed it was Tuesday-ish, but no, Will figured it better for today, with the advantage that it was time for a Thursday puzzle without rebuses.

There's been some chatter about which puzzles are harder to make — themed or themeless — and I can say from experience that a publishable themed puzzle is much harder for me. But I hope to keep at it, with focus on early to mid-week theme ideas. Thanks, all.

Will Shortz notes:
Is BRA SALE (63A) a legitimate crossword entry? Is it a 'thing'? I debated a long time about this, ultimately deciding it sneaked by. ... read more

Is BRA SALE (63A) a legitimate crossword entry? Is it a "thing"? I debated a long time about this, ultimately deciding it sneaked by. Sometimes a good clue can salvage a weak entry, and I thought this one made the answer work.

Jeff Chen notes:
This one's bound to be divisive, some people loving these definitional puzzles, some people hating them. I appreciate Ned's extra ... read more

This one's bound to be divisive, some people loving these definitional puzzles, some people hating them. I appreciate Ned's extra layer here — DOWN WARDs oriented downward — a fun play on word WARD.

This type of definitional puzzle used to be prevalent, most often four definitions of a common word like BROWN. I personally enjoy them immensely when the grid entries read as in-the-language phrases, which adds such an elegance to the theme. For instance, PRISON WING is an entry I wouldn't hesitate to use in filling one of my own puzzles. It's hard to find enough in-the-language phrases that fit a theme like this!

The knock on these types of puzzles is that often the theme entries read as stilted, a dictionary definition. Entering ACTRESS SELA can be sort of like homework, a bit like summarizing an Wikipedia entry in an loosey-goosey way. The fact that it could be a number of things like AUTHOR WARD or CSI:NY STAR or TV STAR SELA makes it less elegant in my book.

I have a lot of admiration for constructors still working in graph paper (or Excel). On one hand it strikes me as Luddite behavior — if you use a computer, why not use software? — but how many constructors would have come up with BRA SALE if it hadn't already been in their word list? On the other hand, a software-assisted approach would have allowed evaluating many more grid patterns and black square positions, in order to eliminate the E FOR and RECUE kind of stuff Ned mentioned. Not a clear answer for me which is better; I appreciate the variety of approaches.

1
A
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D
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© 2014, The New York TimesNo. 0828 ( 23,669 )

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Across
1
Much of Brides magazine : ADPAGES
8
Wall St. operator : ARB
11
[as per the original] : SIC
14
In the general vicinity : NEARISH
15
Toscanini, for one : MAESTRO
17
Kitschy quality : NOTASTE
18
Cornered : INATRAP
19
Bust ___ (laugh hard) : ARIB
20
Retailer owned by Gap : OLDNAVY
22
"We Three Kings of Orient Are," e.g. : NOEL
23
Part of a spiral galaxy farthest from the center : OUTERARM
27
Ones who cry uncle? : NEPHEWS
31
Feed a line to again : RECUE
32
1960s TV's Cousin ___ : ITT
34
Stable color : ROAN
35
Query for clarification : ISNTIT
36
Adolf Hitler, e.g., according to a 1983 hoax : DIARIST
38
Depression Era architectural movement : MODERNE
39
Exit : EGRESS
40
H2O, to a tot : WAWA
41
What makes a top stop? : ESS
42
Manage : SEETO
43
Pretenses : FACADES
45
Diner or sleeper : TRAINCAR
47
Party request : RSVP
50
Rot : TWADDLE
53
Where most of Russia is : ASIA
54
Something not seen on a nudist, maybe : TANLINE
57
Compensates for : OFFSETS
59
Approval for un hombre : SISENOR
60
1920s-'30s Ford output : MODELAS
61
Parabola, for one : ARC
62
Some washers : GES
63
Event at Victoria's Secret or Nordstrom : BRASALE
Down
1
Boutros-Ghali's successor as U.N. chief : ANNAN
2
Golden, in Guadalajara : DEORO
3
21-/40-Down to a doctor : PATIENTAREA
4
Good for planting : ARABLE
5
Yanks : GIS
6
This, in Tijuana : ESTO
7
Writer/illustrator Silverstein : SHEL
8
Nearly perfect : AMINUS
9
Attacked : RANAT
10
21-/40-Down on 1950s-'60s TV : BEAVERSDAD
11
Orchestra section: Abbr. : STR
12
Something a fund manager may manage, for short : IRA
13
Lift : COP
16
Disposable cup material : STYRENE
21
With 40-Down, how rain falls ... or a literal description of the answers to the four theme clues : DOWN
24
21-/40-Down in Hollywood : ACTRESSSELA
25
Trashes : RUINS
26
Rations (out) : METES
28
21-/40-Down to a penologist : PRISONWING
29
Carriage puller, in rural dialect : HOSS
30
Not fast : EAT
32
Clarification lead-in : IDEST
33
"Easy there, ___" : TIGER
35
Los Angeles's U.S.S. ___ Museum : IOWA
37
Give an alias : RETITLE
38
Bud : MAC
40
See 21-Down : WARD
43
Certain soundboard knobs : FADERS
44
Wipes out : ERASES
46
Dugout, for one : CANOE
48
Key : VITAL
49
Out : PASSE
51
Bausch & ___ (eye-care brand) : LOMB
52
___ effort : EFOR
54
Screening org. : TSA
55
It's mostly nitrogen : AIR
56
Presidential advisory grp. : NSC
58
Rx overseer : FDA

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

Found bugs or have suggestions?