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New York Times, Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Author:
Roland Huget
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
123/20/201511/5/20180
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0110028
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1.52012
Roland Huget

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 76, Blocks: 36 Missing: {JQXZ} Spans: 1 This is puzzle # 4 for Mr. Huget. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Roland Huget notes:
This puzzle is a milestone for me, in that it is my first themed puzzle in The New York Times. It was constructed in August of 2015 ... read more

This puzzle is a milestone for me, in that it is my first themed puzzle in The New York Times. It was constructed in August of 2015 and accepted for publication in December.

It has an unusual history. The puzzle was last in a package of four that was mailed off as soon as I completed it. The next day I gave in to my lingering doubts about the answer I chose for 38D and sent off a revision (the version we have before us), along with an explanatory note. I'm sure this kind of thing is not a hit with editors, so now I have a "cooling-off period" for sober re-assessment before I let go of a grid, so that this won't happen again.

The idea for this theme came about during an online brainstorming session. The pattern "element symbol-something" is easy to search for, but doesn't yield many useful results. I was lucky to find symmetric pairs of themers, and also lucky that my first choice for revealer was the right length. I recall regretting that I had to leave TIN SNIPS on the table, but there was no mate for it, and the grid already was getting pretty full of theme squares.

The clue for IRON FENCE (26A - What hath the gardener wrought?) gave me a chuckle. It's there thanks to Will and Joel. It seems that less of my clues are being re-written than in previous published efforts. That's an encouraging sign which I attribute to more practice in solving quality puzzles.

Jeff Chen notes:
Neat idea, two-word themers with a chemical element as the first word, and the second word starting with the appropriate CHEMICAL ... read more

Neat idea, two-word themers with a chemical element as the first word, and the second word starting with the appropriate CHEMICAL SYMBOL. SILVER AGE was a particularly appropriate phrase, and a beautifully colorful one to boot. And I've come across CARBON COPY umpteen times in life, but this is the first time I've realized what a neat feature it has, following Roland's pattern.

COPPER CUPS and IRON FENCE aren't quite as nice; phrases that I wouldn't count as assets if I saw them in a themeless puzzle. If only COPPER's symbol was Mu — I like me a Moscow Mule in a copper mug on hot summer nights.

It's unfortunate that three out of four themers contain two-letter CHEMICAL SYMBOLS … and the last one just has a one-letter symbol. Gives that final one a "which of these is not like the other" feel. I imagine the selection was very limited, and crossword symmetry rules make the choices even fewer. Ah well.

Some fun longer fill; love SUPERMOM and BIG BUCKS. And as a big Harry Potter and Cormoran Strike fan, the only thing better than getting ROWLING in a grid is getting JK ROWLING.

Theme-dense puzzles are always hard to fill, and there's good smattering of crossword glue today. All the crossings are fair, but all the dabs in total felt inelegant to me. A couple of ORU (Oral Roberts University) and ONE A (draft status) are fine. Dipping into the deeper ATRI, SNEE, PSEC, ARA well, along with the old-timey-feeling RIVE, and that's too much for my taste.

No doubt it's tough to work around five longish themers though, and it is good that Roland mostly spread the glue out. The themers are well-spaced out as possible, but there are so many areas where words must interact with at least two themers — no surprise that ATRI sprang up in the middle of the puzzle, in a space sandwiched between IRON FENCE / CHEMICAL SYMBOLS / SILVER AGE.

A very cool idea. If the themers had all been as strong as SILVER AGE — I would have been just as happy if the symbols were anywhere in the second word (not necessarily at the start), so that might have opened up more options — and the grid had been smoother, this would have been POW! material.

1
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P
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M
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F
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P
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B
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C
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A
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B
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K
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W
© 2016, The New York TimesNo. 0830 ( 24,402 )
Across
1
Android purchases : APPS
5
Campfire treat : SMORE
10
Ones coming out : DEBS
14
Lady of the Haus : FRAU
15
Forty ___ and a mule (post-Civil War allotment) : ACRES
16
Like only one prime number : EVEN
17
Flowering plants from Australia : COPPERCUPS
19
End of a movement : CODA
20
Director Kazan : ELIA
21
FICA tax payer : EARNER
23
Sounds from a happy kitty : PURRS
26
What hath the gardener wrought? : IRONFENCE
29
Fake : SHAM
30
Reason for school cancellation : SNOW
31
Makes a big stink : REEKS
32
Region affected by Brexit : EUROPE
34
Sun and Sky org. : WNBA
36
This puzzle's circled letters, for the words that precede them : CHEMICALSYMBOLS
42
Bell town in a Longfellow poem : ATRI
43
Bring under control : REININ
44
Buddy who played Jed Clampett in 1960s TV : EBSEN
48
How M.L.B. games are often broadcast : INHD
50
Part of a family inheritance : GENE
51
Second-greatest period in something's history : SILVERAGE
53
Subside : ABATE
54
Invent : CREATE
55
Contact lens care brand : RENU
57
Had too much, briefly : ODED
58
Antiquated office duplicate : CARBONCOPY
64
Tear apart : RIVE
65
___ sprawl : URBAN
66
Toy with a tail : KITE
67
Ticked (off) : TEED
68
Train track parts : RAILS
69
Barbecue side dish : SLAW
Down
1
Patriots' org. : AFC
2
Old hand : PRO
3
Soft food for babies : PAP
4
Family multitasker : SUPERMOM
5
Bollywood costume : SARI
6
Palin was his running mate : MCCAIN
7
Tulsa sch. named for an evangelist : ORU
8
Gym unit : REP
9
Ruhr Valley city : ESSEN
10
Court order : DECREE
11
Goolagong of tennis : EVONNE
12
Festoon : BEDECK
13
Some drums : SNARES
18
Old Third Ave. trains in New York City : ELS
22
Ski lodge, often : AFRAME
23
Tiny fraction of a min. : PSEC
24
"No way!" : UHUH
25
Steak specification : RARE
27
Best-selling author who was a runner-up for Time's 2007 Person of the Year : ROWLING
28
Completely dominates : OWNS
30
Splinter group : SECT
33
Electric keyboard heard on "I Am the Walrus" : PIANET
35
Admiral who explored the Antarctic : BYRD
37
Vegas resort with a musical name : ARIA
38
Considerable salary to pull down : BIGBUCKS
39
Fit for service : ONEA
40
Dryer screen buildup : LINT
41
Old blade : SNEE
44
Go along with : ESCORT
45
One over an eagle : BIRDIE
46
Something a tank top lacks : SLEEVE
47
Got around : EVADED
49
Kind of supplement : HERBAL
52
Come around again : RECUR
53
Massachusetts' Cape ___ : ANN
56
Stars exist over them : EONS
59
Notre Dame's Parseghian : ARA
60
Ballpark fig. : RBI
61
Tin Man's need : OIL
62
Sch. group : PTA
63
Tree used in bow-making : YEW

Answer summary: 3 unique to this puzzle, 2 debuted here and reused later.

Found bugs or have suggestions?