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New York Times, Saturday, August 30, 2014

Author:
David Steinberg
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
906/16/201112/28/201817
SunMonTueWedThuFriSatVariety
66681130212
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.645163
David Steinberg

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 72, Blocks: 29 Missing: none – this is a pangram. Grid has super symmetry. This is puzzle # 31 for Mr. Steinberg. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
David Steinberg notes:
I constructed this crossword in October 2012, which is right around the time Matt Jones challenged constructors to incorporate the ... read more

I constructed this crossword in October 2012, which is right around the time Matt Jones challenged constructors to incorporate the entry ZZZQUIL into their grids. Just for kicks, I threw ON A DARE into the grid at 40-Down, though ZZZQUIL is the type of entry I would have gravitated toward regardless!

The grid pattern I chose for this stunt is pretty common, though it's actually surprisingly challenging to work with. Since the longest entries are just 7 letters (and shorter entries are typically less exciting to editors), it's important to put extra effort into making the 7-letter entries as lively as possible. However, using too many lively 7-letter entries often leads to iffy shorter fill; therefore, as I discovered, the key to working with this grid is striking a balance.

The most frustrating part about this grid is that one corner almost always ends up being less exciting because of the constraints posed by the other three that have already been filled. In this grid, the least exciting corner was the upper right, though I was pleased to be able to squeeze in GO-GO BAR, GANGSTA, and BASS ALE. As usual, Will did an excellent job of editing my clues — I especially love the ingenious "Piece of trash?" for JUNK ART!

Since my themeless puzzles tend to engender strong reactions on crossword blogs, I thought I'd say a few words about why I build puzzles the way I do. One thing I feel is missing from many puzzles these days is modern references, which I personally strive to include a smattering of in my themeless grids. I understand that some solvers dislike such references, but I also realize that the New York Times crossword has a broad audience that is becoming increasingly younger. All things considered, I try to include a mixture of younger references (such as IPAD APP) and older ones (such as GO-GO BAR) to appeal to solvers of all ages. I understand that I can't please everyone, so my goal is to have at least some entries that will be particularly meaningful to each age group and to make the rest of the fill age-neutral, where possible. I hope you enjoy this puzzle!

Jeff Chen notes:
Years ago, Eugene Maleska was known for eschewing brand names, going so far as to clue OREO as [Mountain: Comb. form]. I'm glad that ... read more

Years ago, Eugene Maleska was known for eschewing brand names, going so far as to clue OREO as [Mountain: Comb. form]. I'm glad that Will broke that rule to allow for a wider range of entries from all walks of life. But it raises a question I've been thinking about: what belongs (and doesn't belong) in the NYT crossword?

This is a tough question I'll likely continue wrestling with for years, but one criteria I'm mulling over is "Would you see the entry in the pages of the NYT?" As with any endeavor, I think it's important to focus on one's (warning, annoying business school term ahead) market differentiation. The LA Times puzzle is a different beast for a more conservative audience, Matt Gaffney's genius metas play to a specific type of uber-solver, and the indie puzzles draw a crowd that's young and hip like I pretend to be.

Many will disagree with me, saying this criteria is irrelevant, but it does help me understand why I love JUNK ART and IPAD ADD as entries, and am plus/minus on ZZZQUIL. The former entries are both snazzy and feel like they're taken right out of the Sunday Styles and Business sections, respectively. Spot on. No doubt ZZZQUIL is a fun entry because of the high Scrabble score, but it feels like something that belongs more in an indie puzzle. NYQUIL is a big business for Vicks, so I think that's fair game. Will ZZZQUIL stand the test of time and make it big, or will future solvers look back and ask what the heck ZZZQUIL was? I'm not sure, but I'd lean toward the latter.

On a different note, I really appreciate David's wise-beyond-his-years approach to make a wide range of solvers happy. With millions of customers, you're never going to satisfy all of them, but his effort to play to as many as possible is well-considered. I'd personally prefer to get a little something out of each puzzle, rather than have some puzzles be right on target for me / some puzzles fall completely out of my interest zone.

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© 2014, The New York TimesNo. 0830 ( 23,671 )
Across
1. ___ Street, London's onetime equivalent to New York's Wall Street : LOMBARD
8. Lurid nightspot : GOGOBAR
15. Synthetic purplish colorant : AZOBLUE
16. Took too many courses? : OVERATE
17. Vicks product : ZZZQUIL
18. Rap type : GANGSTA
19. Assn. with a "100 Years ... 100 Movies" list : AFI
20. Bygone Acura : INTEGRA
22. Non-Roman Caesar : SID
23. Have a dependency : RELY
25. "Would you look at that!" : GOLLY
26. Musical title character who "made us feel alive again" : MAME
27. What the Sup. Court interprets : USLAW
29. "___ in '56" (old campaign button) : IKE
30. Plantation machine : BALER
31. Hid : STASHED
33. Sybill Trelawney, in the Harry Potter books : SEERESS
35. Gorp, e.g. : MIX
36. Like some projects, for short : DIY
37. Mesh with : FITINTO
41. Piece of trash? : JUNKART
45. Slightly ahead : UPONE
46. "___ man can tether time or tide": Burns : NAE
48. Tim Tebow, in college football : GATOR
49. "Sweet" girl of song : JANE
50. Ones with issues? : PAPAS
52. Person holding many positions : YOGI
53. Ox- tail? : IDE
54. Trattoria specification : ALDENTE
56. Key holder? : MAP
57. Mercury's winged sandals : TALARIA
59. Outlook alternative : AOLMAIL
61. Parasite : SPONGER
62. Cash in a country bar : ROSANNE
63. Parallel bars? : UPCCODE
64. Onetime "Lifts and separates" sloganeer : PLAYTEX
Down
1. "The Raising of ___" (Rembrandt painting) : LAZARUS
2. Annual heavy metal tour : OZZFEST
3. Big name in browsers : MOZILLA
4. Popular chip flavor : BBQ
5. Parisian possessive : ALUI
6. Kicking oneself for : RUING
7. Trapezius neighbor : DELTOID
8. Welders' wear : GOGGLES
9. Egg maker : OVARY
10. Rowlands of "A Woman Under the Influence" : GENA
11. Assn. : ORG
12. Beverage with a triangular logo : BASSALE
13. Occasionally : ATTIMES
14. Kindles, e.g. : READERS
21. Pride : lion :: gang : ___ : ELK
24. Bleeth of "Baywatch" : YASMINE
26. Avon competitor : MARYKAY
28. "Do I have to?," for one : WHINE
30. Extraterrestrial, e.g. : BEING
32. Abbr. on a business card : EXT
34. URL ender : EDU
37. Japanese electronics giant : FUJITSU
38. Download from Apple : IPADAPP
39. "Funky Cold Medina" rapper : TONELOC
40. Not entirely of one's own volition, say : ONADARE
41. "Cloud Shepherd" sculptor : JEANARP
42. Ferocious Flea fighter, in cartoons : ATOMANT
43. Producer of a hair-raising experience? : ROGAINE
44. Certain movie house : TRIPLEX
47. Aldous Huxley's "___ and Essence" : APE
50. Worked with : PLIED
51. Common comedian's prop : STOOL
54. Best Picture before "12 Years a Slave" : ARGO
55. Wife of Albert Einstein : ELSA
58. Party concerned with civil rights, briefly : ANC
60. "If I ___ ..." : MAY

Answer summary: 4 unique to this puzzle, 5 debuted here and reused later.

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