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New York Times, Monday, August 29, 2016

Author:
David Steinberg
Editor:
Will Shortz
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David Steinberg

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 78, Blocks: 36 Missing: {QXZ} This is puzzle # 53 for Mr. Steinberg. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
David Steinberg notes:
I constructed this puzzle over spring break. I've recently been trying to come up with themes involving grid art, since I always find ... read more

I constructed this puzzle over spring break. I've recently been trying to come up with themes involving grid art, since I always find it really elegant when I'm solving. The only problem with this approach is that Bruce Haight (aka Mr. Grid Art) has already come up so many of the great grid art designs! A dog? Nope, Bruce did that last February. A school of fish? Nope, he did that one in August 2014. Lightning bolts? Nope, those were part of his and Peter Collins's kite puzzle from March 2014. Anyway, I was so frustrated that I couldn't come up with a new grid art idea that I decided to make an "anti-grid art" puzzle! What could be more anti-grid art than a good old square grid?

Once I started thinking about square things, my mind jumped to Wyoming, which has always looked so boxy to me on the map! If I could somehow build a puzzle about Wyoming, having a standard 15x15 grid could be a cool bonus. Fast forward several hours. By some ginormous stroke of luck, I noticed that four of the most famous landmarks in Wyoming all have the same letter count! So I whipped up a fill and sat down to write the clues. Once the excitement wore off, though, I realized that my theme was kind of boring—who cares about four landmarks in Wyoming anyway?

That's when inspiration struck again. Since all the landmarks were the same length, why not arrange them in their geographically correct positions? A quick look at Google Maps showed me that I was even luckier than I'd thought: The four landmarks I'd picked were all in different parts of the state! So I scrapped my original grid and built the version you see today. I hope you enjoy!

Jeff Chen notes:
I'm so bad with geography, I once mixed up Wisconsin and WYOMING. Maybe this West Coaster will finally keep them straight after today, ... read more

I'm so bad with geography, I once mixed up Wisconsin and WYOMING. Maybe this West Coaster will finally keep them straight after today, a tribute to the "squarest of the 50 states." I doubt I would have correctly identified the state containing OLD FAITHFUL, JACKSON HOLE, DEVILS TOWER, or FORT LARAMIE — nice to learn a little today.

Neat to see the towering DEVILS TOWER run vertically. I couldn't quite remember where I knew that from, but a quick search turned up that it was in "Close Encounters of the Third Kind." If only OLD FAITHFUL had been vertically oriented too, visually representing its eruption!

Brad Wilber recently turned down (very nicely, as always) one of my puzzles, saying it felt like too much of a list; no real zing to the theme. This one had a similar feel to me, the four WYOMING tourist sights something you might read up on in a US History textbook. (It was also kind of odd that YELLOWSTONE was not included, but then I realized that it's actually not fully contained to WYOMING.)

So I was glad to read David's note — that's actually quite neat that he was able to place the four landmarks roughly in correct geographical location. If only the puzzle had been more explicit about that somehow. I have a feeling a ton of people will miss that aspect.

David always puts out nice grids, and this one is no exception. He keeps his bonus fill somewhat short — which helps to make the themers stand out — and incorporated so many interesting words: TEJANO, GLUTEN, NEBULAE, SAMOSA, SPORTY, JENGA, and a bit of colorful stuff in MAN'S MAN, TIME OUT, IM OKAY. Really helped to spice things up. All of that great bonus material, without resorting to really any crossword glue = the mark of a seasoned pro. Excellent gridwork. I've heard some people complain about OVA, saying it's something they only see in crosswords, but it is the plural of "ovum." I'm perfectly fine with it.

WYOMING being the squarest of states makes it a great subject for a crossword! If only it had been a 14 x 16 grid, making it rectangular ... just like WYOMING. Ah well.

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© 2016, The New York TimesNo. 0829 ( 24,401 )
Across
1. Apple computers : IMACS
6. Game with a stack of blocks : JENGA
11. Nevada/Arizona's Hoover ___ : DAM
14. Gold ___ flour : MEDAL
15. Sometimes-bad bacteria : ECOLI
16. Political period : ERA
17. Famous geyser in 39-Across : OLDFAITHFUL
19. Good job for an animal-loving ex-G.I.? : VET
20. Gentle discipline for a misbehaving child : TIMEOUT
21. Hue : TINT
22. Style of music north of the Rio Grande : TEJANO
25. Cosmic clouds : NEBULAE
27. ___ the Terrible : IVAN
28. Preparer of fast food that's "finger-lickin' good" : KFC
31. Catches red-handed : NABS
32. Clic Stic pen maker : BIC
33. Dish of greens : SALAD
35. Inhibit : DETER
38. "Gross!" : ICK
39. Squarest of the 50 states : WYOMING
41. Lab eggs : OVA
42. Where the buoys are? : ATSEA
44. British coins : PENCE
45. Rainy : WET
46. Crew implements : OARS
48. Luau necklace : LEI
49. Money due in Monopoly : RENT
50. Exemplar of masculinity : MANSMAN
53. Like Mustangs and Camaros : SPORTY
55. Sore, as 56-Across : ACHY
56. Parts of the body that may be ripped : MUSCLES
59. Greek "r" : RHO
60. Historic trading post in 39-Across : FORTLARAMIE
64. Note after fa : SOL
65. Topic to debate : ISSUE
66. Boy Scouts squad : TROOP
67. Soil-turning tool : HOE
68. 1990s fitness fad with infomercials : TAEBO
69. Evil animal in "The Lion King" : HYENA
Down
1. Texter's "I think ..." : IMO
2. Brooks of "Spaceballs" : MEL
3. ___ Friend (Facebook option) : ADD
4. Mideast robe : CAFTAN
5. Killed : SLAIN
6. Ballet leap : JETE
7. Canyon phenomenon : ECHO
8. Completely joyless : NOFUN
9. Protein in bread : GLUTEN
10. Not feel well : AIL
11. Noted rock formation in 39-Across : DEVILSTOWER
12. Gladiators' locale : ARENA
13. Nonglossy finish : MATTE
18. "Don't worry, nothing's broken" : IMOKAY
21. Inner ___ (flotation device) : TUBE
22. Lower leg bone : TIBIA
23. Kick out : EVICT
24. Skiing mecca in 39-Across : JACKSONHOLE
26. Boy Scouts award : BADGE
29. Edsel or New Coke, notably : FLOP
30. Animal with a hump : CAMEL
33. Group of gnats : SWARM
34. Have a fancy meal : DINE
36. Wedding or concert : EVENT
37. In very bad condition : RATTY
40. CBS spinoff set in SoCal : NCISLA
43. Eggs over ___ : EASY
47. Stuffed Indian pastry : SAMOSA
49. Set of religious beads : ROSARY
50. Crocodile's home : MARSH
51. Allergy season sound : ACHOO
52. One administering shots, maybe : NURSE
54. Australia's City of Light : PERTH
57. What's left of a ticket after it's used : STUB
58. Queen killed by an asp, familiarly : CLEO
60. Go on snugly : FIT
61. One of the Three Stooges : MOE
62. Lithium-___ battery : ION
63. Energy Star org. : EPA

Answer summary: 2 unique to this puzzle, 1 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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