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New York Times, Saturday, September 15, 2018

Author:
David Liben-Nowell
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
123/25/20046/23/20194
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
1012341
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.57111
David Liben-Nowell

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 72, Blocks: 28 Missing: {Z} Spans: 2 This is puzzle # 11 for Mr. Liben-Nowell. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
David Liben-Nowell notes:
This puzzle is one of the success stories of the editing process, so I owe extra thanks to Will for this one, for having both high ... read more

This puzzle is one of the success stories of the editing process, so I owe extra thanks to Will for this one, for having both high standards and patience with constructors.

Back in 2015, I'd built a puzzle around the same pair of 15-letter seeds (which may speak a little to their pairing: I was starting to write this puzzle just as Obergefell v. Hodges was being decided — plus I'm a computer science faculty member, so I was particularly drawn to the second of the two long entries). I had managed to include a bunch of other longer entries that I liked a lot (SPARKPLUG, HARPER LEE, ITS SO EASY, ...), but, as the rejection note from Will and Joel said, there were too many ugly short entries that "start to add up after a while to make for unpleasant solving." That's always a tendency that I have to fight when I'm filling puzzles: I tend to overvalue what I consider to be awesome long entries and fail to pay enough attention to the costly short junk that they induce.

I got similar feedback from some other editors at other venues, and so, begrudgingly, I put the puzzle away in my (overstuffed) filing drawer of rejections.

But I kept finding myself compelled by this pair of 15s, and so I pulled it back out a couple of years later. In short, I moved a couple of black squares around, refilled again from scratch, reclued it all, and submitted a new version. A good portion of the NW corner (my favorite portion of the 2015 version) stayed intact from attempt #1 to attempt #2, and OVINES survived (but migrated in the grid); save those pieces and the 15s, everything else was brand new.

And here's the result. Hope you enjoy it — and, even if you don't, I hope you appreciate that the version you didn't see was a lot worse!

Jim Horne notes:
How much I love a Saturday crossword depends on a couple of factors largely outside the control of the constructor or editor. The ... read more

How much I love a Saturday crossword depends on a couple of factors largely outside the control of the constructor or editor. The first criterion is whether I can finish, chiefly affected by the overlap of things the puzzle thinks are worth knowing and things I happen to know. The second is how amused I am by the clues, which says more about my sense of humor than anything else.

What makes today's puzzles satisfying (so, yes, I finished and with an amused smile) is that several common words get nicely diverting clues that at first seem impossible but nicely click into place. I know nothing about college football in 1890, but with a couple of letters in place, "Something STATE" seemed likely, leaving four letters to fill in. Utah or Iowa feels less probable than OHIO. I know little about Islam, but the first letter J pointed right away to JERUSALEM. I speak no Farsi, but STAN seems obvious. I don't play Risk, but SIAM fell easily. That's three fun facts I learned from one puzzle.

SELF-DRIVING CARS is a topical entry. "M" or "Z" is an impressive clue for MOVIE. The Edison clues are fun. Senate coverage isn't DOME at all, but TOGA. ASPS are cousins of garter snakes.

The equation x + 0 = x is indeed an AXIOM. Mathematics (also science, technology, etc.) depends on accepting such things on faith. If one of the famed Peano axioms is found to be untrue, your iPhone will suddenly stop working. If you have a Galaxy, it will catch fire.

Jeff Chen notes:
When I started doing themelesses, it was all about the entries. A couple of sizzling ones like SELF DRIVING CARS were what drove (see ... read more

When I started doing themelesses, it was all about the entries. A couple of sizzling ones like SELF DRIVING CARS were what drove (see what I did there) my final impression.

These days, it's more and more the cleverness of the clues. I came away entertained today, even though there weren't that many entries I could point out as marquee – just PIPSQUEAK, SAME-SEX MARRIAGE, CLEAN SLATE. It was all about the great clues, showing off such wickedly brilliant wordplay. My favorite was "reproductive system" repurposed for MIMEOGRAPH.

Themelesses built around grid-spanning entries typically don't have much real estate left over for much else. And it's usually difficult to convert the limited number of longish slots into great entries, due to rigid grid inflexibility. TAKE STEPS isn't going to win any awards, for example. It's so critical that your grid-spanners seriously sparkle, since they're likely among the few that will.

I've heard some constructors muse about creating themelesses with zero feature entries that shine on their own, but which allow for fantastically clever clues. I wouldn't go that far – I wouldn't want a themeless loaded with TAKE STEPS or even MIMEOGRAPHs, for example – but I can understand the notion.

1
C
2
A
3
M
4
P
5
U
6
S
7
M
8
A
9
P
10
P
11
A
12
S
13
T
14
A
15
O
H
I
O
S
T
A
T
E
16
A
X
I
O
M
17
S
A
M
E
S
E
X
M
A
18
R
R
I
A
G
E
19
A
B
E
20
T
A
E
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R
A
I
N
M
A
N
22
O
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R
E
L
S
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E
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G
A
G
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R
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O
G
U
E
S
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Y
29
E
O
H
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C
31
E
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O
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A
P
R
I
L
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J
E
R
U
S
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A
L
E
M
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S
T
A
N
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S
P
L
I
T
38
G
E
R
E
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P
I
P
S
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Q
U
E
A
K
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A
G
A
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N
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S
C
H
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R
I
G
S
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O
V
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N
E
S
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O
C
T
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H
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I
R
E
E
S
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I
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M
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A
F
O
O
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L
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N
A
N
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L
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G
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A
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S
E
L
F
D
R
I
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V
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G
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C
A
R
S
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M
O
V
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E
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F
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N
G
E
R
T
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P
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S
W
A
T
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T
A
K
E
S
T
E
P
S
© 2018, The New York TimesNo. 0915 ( 25,148 )

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Across
1
Admissions might give one away : CAMPUSMAP
10
Order at an osteria : PASTA
15
Winner of the inaugural College Football Playoff : OHIOSTATE
16
x + 0 = x, e.g. : AXIOM
17
Equal rights subject : SAMESEXMARRIAGE
19
Homer's father : ABE
20
3-Down inventor's inits. : TAE
21
Best Picture after "The Last Emperor" : RAINMAN
22
Fear-inducing phrase : ORELSE
25
Word with reel or rule : GAG
26
Scamps : ROGUES
28
Actress Michelle of "Crazy Rich Asians" : YEOH
30
One showing firm leadership? : CEO
33
Early major-league game setting : APRIL
34
Destination of Muhammad in his Night Journey : JERUSALEM
36
Persian for "place of" : STAN
37
Skedaddle : SPLIT
38
"Dr. T and the Women" star, 2000 : GERE
39
Squirt : PIPSQUEAK
41
Over : AGAIN
42
Conference member: Abbr. : SCH
43
Fixes : RIGS
44
Wool sources : OVINES
45
Late major-league game setting: Abbr. : OCT
46
Those needing onboarding : HIREES
48
"D'oh!" : IMAFOOL
52
British grandma : NAN
53
EWR alternative : LGA
56
Auto-mated things? : SELFDRIVINGCARS
59
"M" or "Z" : MOVIE
60
Print source : FINGERTIP
61
Thwacks : SWATS
62
Progress : TAKESTEPS
Down
1
Thing: Sp. : COSA
2
Literary character likened to a "mute, maned sea-lion" : AHAB
3
Reproductive system? : MIMEOGRAPH
4
"Star Wars: The Last Jedi" pilot : POE
5
Company whose headquarters were built from its own product : USSTEEL
6
Unbelievable bargains : STEALS
7
Ceilings : MAXES
8
Site of some credit card skimming, for short : ATM
9
Flavor of some eau de vie : PEAR
10
Lepers : PARIAHS
11
Canceling : AXING
12
Neighbor of India and China on a Risk board : SIAM
13
Senate coverage? : TOGA
14
"Yes, exactly!" : AMEN
18
Fricassee relative : RAGOUT
23
Pompeii, e.g. : RUINS
24
Narrow margin : EYELASH
26
Says harsh words? : RASPS
27
The "o" of Verizon's Fios : OPTIC
29
N.B.A. coach Spoelstra : ERIK
30
New year, metaphorically : CLEANSLATE
31
Like a howl at night : EERIE
32
Howls at night, maybe : OMENS
34
Relative of a .png file : JPEG
35
College Station player : AGGIE
37
One looking for a hand : SUITOR
40
Scanned smartphone graphics : QRCODES
41
Requites : AVENGES
44
Like most of the Home Depot logo : ORANGE
45
"Come ___!" : OFFIT
47
Permanently : ININK
48
Ideologies : ISMS
49
"Got milk?" : MEOW
50
Part of 20-Across : ALVA
51
Ride : LIFT
54
Purchase : GRIP
55
Cousins of garters : ASPS
57
Through : VIA
58
L.C.D. forerunner : CRT

Answer summary: 3 unique to this puzzle, 2 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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