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New York Times, Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Author: Dan Schoenholz
Editor: Will Shortz
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Dan Schoenholz

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 78, Blocks: 38 Missing: {BQZ} This is puzzle # 21 for Mr. Schoenholz. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Dan Schoenholz notes: This is my second attempt at a puzzle with perimeter answers. My first one required a lot of dodgy fill, and was difficult ... more
Dan Schoenholz notes:

This is my second attempt at a puzzle with perimeter answers. My first one required a lot of dodgy fill, and was difficult enough to construct that I vowed never to try THAT again. But then I had the idea for today's puzzle.

Happily, when I sat down to construct this one, the fill came together pretty well. While it's hinted at in the revealer, it's not explicitly stated that each of the films referenced in the puzzle was nominated for a Best Picture Academy Award. Given that, as well as the need for symmetry and to have four corners where the first and/or last letters of the answers were the same, I didn't have a lot of wiggle room to try different configurations/answers. The three themers in the main body of the puzzle layered on additional constraints. Despite all that, the fill in the final product isn't bad, IMO, with only a few entries I wish I could have eliminated (KTS, ITA and IMET, you know who you are . . . )

One other tricky aspect of this puzzle was cluing. I wanted the clues to be independent of the films and their subjects: but since many of the theme movies were biopics, I couldn't pull it off. For example, how do you clue "Patton" in a way that doesn't relate to General Patton? How do you clue Amadeus without referencing Mozart? It doesn't work, unfortunately.

In any case, I hope solvers enjoy the puzzle enough to give it two thumbs up!

Jeff Chen notes: PICTURE / FRAME telling us that all perimeter answers are motion PICTUREs. At first I felt like the revealer was inelegant, placed ... more
Jeff Chen notes:

PICTURE / FRAME telling us that all perimeter answers are motion PICTUREs. At first I felt like the revealer was inelegant, placed into odd locations with no symmetry, but I liked Dan's effort to save that by using the ACADEMY to balance everything out.

Great gridwork. It's so hard to build around perimeter themers, since they immediately make the four corners so inflexible. At first I thought Dan had a ton of freedom in choosing from hundreds of single-word movies out there, but reading his notes (about how each of the perimeter movies are Best Picture nominees) made me realize how little flexibility he really had. Most any pair of crossing perimeter answers in a corner means trouble, and having such a limited set can mean trouble.

But that NW came out so strong, kicked off by AVATAR and AMADEUS, including the nice VARIETAL / ANGELINA / REDDIT. There aren't any fantastic multi-word entries like IT'S A GIRL, but given the ultra-tough constraint of having AVATAR / AMADEUS fixed into place in a big space, I can only imagine how much time Dan spent working through that corner, restarting when he hit even the most minor of crossword glue. Now this is the way to start a puzzle!

The SE wasn't quite as nice, given the I MET partial and HITHERTO (although the lawyers in the solving audience might disagree with me), but it's still very smooth. I'm so resigned to seeing two or three ugly bits like I MET in a corner of perimeter puzzles — to get such effortless-seeming results was a great and pleasant surprise.

Perimeter puzzles also often show signs of strain as the constructor tries to merge everything in the middle, but Dan also does well here. Keeping his NW and SE corners big and wide-open means he can spend a bunch of black squares in the middle of the puzzle, helping him knit the four corners together more easily. RENA was the only head-scratcher for me, but she is a soap star, and all the crosses are fair.

Been a while since we had a perimeter theme, and usually it's pretty apparent what's going on because of all the crossword glue needed to hold the thing together. Really nice craftsmanship from Dan today.

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© 2016, The New York TimesNo. 0914 ( 24,417 )
Across Down
1. Gamer's representation : AVATAR
7. "We choose to go to the moon" speech giver, informally : JFK
10. Wines said to go well with steak : REDS
14. Make do : MANAGE
15. Granola morsel : OAT
16. Emollient source : ALOE
17. Wrangled : ARGUED
18. Words on a pink cigar band : ITSAGIRL
20. Losing effort? : DIET
21. Cacophony : DIN
23. "Money talks," e.g. : MAXIM
24. Fish that may be jellied or smoked : EEL
25. With 36-Across, what this puzzle features, literally : PICTURE
28. Give ___ go : ITA
29. Gas or water : UTILITY
31. College player, e.g. : NONPRO
33. Yemeni capital : SANAA
34. A vital sign : PULSE
35. "Wee" fellow : LAD
36. See 25-Across : FRAME
38. Japanese masked drama : NOH
41. Respected tribesman : ELDER
43. Faux money : SCRIP
45. Appear gradually, on film : FADEIN
47. It occurs twice in "chalk talk" : SILENTL
49. Miracle-___ (garden care brand) : GRO
50. Organization that honored those referenced in the 25-/36-Across, with "the" : ACADEMY
52. "Bingo!" : AHA
53. Angels' instruments : HARPS
55. Camcorder brand : RCA
56. "How ___ Your Mother" : IMET
57. En route : ONTHEWAY
60. "O tempora! O mores!" orator : CICERO
62. Whole bunch : SCAD
63. The whole shebang : ALL
64. Willing to try : OPENTO
65. ___ Trueheart, Dick Tracy's sweetheart : TESS
66. Bit of hope, in an expression : RAY
67. U.S. general who was a pentathlete in the 1912 Olympics : PATTON
1. Mozart's middle name : AMADEUS
2. Wine from a single type of grape : VARIETAL
3. Jolie of "Maleficent" : ANGELINA
4. Ready to snap, maybe : TAUT
5. Match.com datum : AGE
6. Website with "Ask Me Anything" interviews : REDDIT
7. Like some custody or tax returns : JOINT
8. Budgetary excess : FAT
9. Jewelers' purity measures: Abbr. : KTS
10. Ravi Shankar's music : RAGA
11. Magic potion : ELIXIR
12. Triangular chip : DORITO
13. March locale of note : SELMA
19. Cries from a flock : AMENS
22. Very standoffish : ICY
25. Actress Zadora : PIA
26. "One," in a coin motto : UNUM
27. Auditioner's hope : ROLE
30. Put on, as cargo : LADED
32. 2016 running mate : PENCE
34. 72, on many courses : PAR
36. Savings acct. protector : FDIC
37. Sofer of "General Hospital" : RENA
39. The jaguar on a Jaguar's hood, e.g. : ORNAMENT
40. Thus far : HITHERTO
42. Paper for a pad : LEASE
43. Like a fox : SLY
44. It's smaller than a company : PLATOON
45. New Caledonia is a territory of it : FRANCE
46. Major vessels : AORTAS
47. Brief time, in brief : SEC
48. Sgt. Friday's introduction : IMACOP
49. Quickie Halloween costume : GHOST
51. In a deadpan manner : DRYLY
54. Degs. for many professors : PHDS
56. "Law & Order: SVU" co-star : ICET
58. Subject of 12/8/1941 headlines : WAR
59. Reminiscent of : ALA
61. Bitter brew, briefly : IPA

Answer summary:

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