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New York Times, Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Author: Roland Huget
Editor: Will Shortz
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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 ... more
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 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 ... more
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 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.

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© 2016, The New York TimesNo. 0830 ( 24,402 )
Across Down
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
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?