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New York Times, Thursday, September 18, 2014

Author: Joel Fagliano
Editor: Will Shortz
Joel Fagliano
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1.65351
Puzzle of the Week

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 16 Words: 81, Blocks: 40 Missing: {FHJZ} This is puzzle # 31 for Mr. Fagliano. Jeff Chen's Puzzle of the Week pick NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Will Shortz notes: Years ago my friend Evie Eysenburg, one of the New York Times crossword testers, was at Bloomingdale's buying something. The clerk had to ... more
Will Shortz notes: Years ago my friend Evie Eysenburg, one of the New York Times crossword testers, was at Bloomingdale's buying something. The clerk had to call the credit department to verify Evie's information. For clarification the clerk spelled Evie's last name "E as in 'eye," Y as in 'you,' "S as in 'sea' ..." — which left the person in the credit department going "Wha-a-a-at??!" She and I have been laughing about this ever since.

After I told this story to Joel, he and I tried to think of a name in which every letter could have a confusing "clarification." He cleverly turned the result into a Thursday theme.

Joel Fagliano notes: As Will explained in his note, this theme came from a story he told me one day while we were editing a puzzle. My constructor brain, always ... more
Joel Fagliano notes: As Will explained in his note, this theme came from a story he told me one day while we were editing a puzzle. My constructor brain, always whirring in the background, quickly went to work on how this could become a theme.

As for the fill, I have mixed feelings about including answers like KIMYE and YOLO. On the one hand, they're fresh four and five-letter entries, which are pretty difficult to find. Also, they reflect a bit of my personality — they skew young and I'm a young constructor. On the other hand, they might not stand the test of time (slang from the early 2000's that may have seemed hip to include then, like DA BOMB, seem sort of silly in a puzzle now). And they sort of hint at a fascination my generation has with including ephemeral pop culture in puzzles that I don't particularly ascribe to. Working for Will, I've seen a couple puzzles recently with themes built around Candy Crush, the popular app. My feeling is, this might be a fun reference for some current solvers, but someone doing this in a book years from now will most likely have forgotten about/never heard of this game, and it won't be a satisfying solve. Overall, I think it's about finding a balance between entertaining today's solvers with modern references but still crafting a puzzle that will be enjoyable 10 years from now.

Jeff Chen notes: Loved this concept. I could totally see the confusion on the poor person's face as CASEY unhelpfully spelled his name. Reading Will's comment ... more
Jeff Chen notes: Loved this concept. I could totally see the confusion on the poor person's face as CASEY unhelpfully spelled his name. Reading Will's comment made it even funnier. Big thumbs up.

And the execution is incredibly well done. With five themers plus two short reveals, I'd normally expect some compromises in the fill. It would have been nice to get one pair of long themers in, but I appreciate that he's taken advantage of the 6's and 7's, filling them with such good stuff as ANY DAY, MISSUS, and my favorite, EPSILON with its microeconomics clue. One of my old MBA profs (also a crossword fan) frequents the same coffee shop as me, and I'm going to have to admit that I needed the E to drop it in. Sigh, all the stuff I've forgotten.

Another notable feature of this puzzle is the "fresh fill." As a younger constructor (Joel recently graduated from Pomona), I really appreciate his restraint in tossing in stuff I've never heard of. When it's just KIMYE and YOLO (according to a kid I work with, it stands for "Yo oaf, love ouchies!" — something said before punching the receiver in the arm as hard as possible), I enjoy learning these things. Although sometimes they kind of hurt.

Great clues, too. The one for ALLEYS is fantastic.

I always try to point out stuff I loved as well as stuff I thought could use improvement. Hmm. It would have been nice if CASEY and QRCIU were in more elegant locations. Perhaps pushed all the way to the top and bottom? But that's awfully minor. Those two answers are symmetrically placed, and I bet Joel did this so that the Q in IQS wouldn't be something awkward. ??Q is a tough pattern to fill, after all. Perhaps a touch more puzzle flow? Taking out the black square below NYT would have made the puzzle slightly less partitioned (and closer to the usual 78-word maximum). Would have also allowed for one pair of longer fill entries, but it would have also made the puzzle harder to fill cleanly.

So overall, a great idea, nearly impeccable execution, just nits to pick if I look hard. One of my favorite Thursdays in recent memory.

1
B
2
I
3
T
4
E
5
A
6
S
7
I
8
A
9
N
10
M
11
A
12
M
13
A
14
S
15
L
O
O
P
16
C
A
S
E
Y
17
A
G
A
V
E
18
O
W
N
S
19
A
L
E
R
T
20
R
A
M
O
N
21
C
A
S
I
22
N
C
U
E
23
A
L
I
B
I
S
24
L
A
I
T
25
A
26
A
S
I
N
A
R
E
27
C
28
O
29
R
O
N
A
E
30
L
I
O
N
S
31
A
R
E
N
A
32
K
I
L
N
33
T
34
A
35
G
36
S
37
N
Y
U
38
S
39
A
40
S
I
N
S
E
41
A
42
U
N
O
43
E
X
P
44
O
45
R
O
M
E
46
M
47
U
R
A
L
48
R
49
A
I
N
Y
50
I
51
M
I
T
A
T
E
52
E
53
A
54
S
I
N
E
Y
E
55
N
I
C
E
56
A
L
L
E
Y
S
57
Y
A
S
I
N
58
Y
59
O
60
U
61
S
T
A
N
D
62
I
63
A
M
B
S
64
S
O
B
S
65
Y
E
N
T
A
66
Q
R
C
I
U
67
I
L
I
E
68
A
R
T
S
Y
69
S
C
A
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S
70
L
O
T
S
© 2014, The New York TimesNo. 0918 ( 23,690 )
Across Down
1. Spicy quality : BITE
5. Like more than a third of U.S. immigrants nowadays : ASIAN
10. Female motorcyclists, in biker slang : MAMAS
15. Airport shuttle route, commonly : LOOP
16. Man trying to clarify the spelling of his name in 21-, 25-, 38-, 52- and 57-Across : CASEY
17. Tequila source : AGAVE
18. Takes responsibility for : OWNS
19. Sound of an incoming text, e.g. : ALERT
20. Martin Sheen's real first name : RAMON
21. Unhelpful spelling clarification #1 : CASINCUE
23. Outs : ALIBIS
24. Bébé's need : LAIT
25. Spelling clarification #2 : AASINARE
27. Circles around the sun : CORONAE
30. Team that last won an N.F.L. championship in 1957 : LIONS
31. Place often named after a corporation : ARENA
32. Firing locale : KILN
33. Nicknames : TAGS
37. Sch. whose team is the Violets : NYU
38. Spelling clarification #3 : SASINSEA
42. Nearly nada : UNO
43. Fair : EXPO
45. Setting for "Gladiator" : ROME
46. "The Last Supper," e.g. : MURAL
48. Not fair : RAINY
50. Copy : IMITATE
52. Spelling clarification #4 : EASINEYE
55. "Ooh-la-la!" : NICE
56. Places where you can hear a pin drop? : ALLEYS
57. Spelling clarification #5 : YASINYOU
61. Courtroom fixture : STAND
62. Rhythmic feet : IAMBS
64. Sp-[gasp]-speaks like th-[sniffle]-this : SOBS
65. Busybody : YENTA
66. What the listener might think 16-Across's name is? : QRCIU
67. "Would ___ to you?" : ILIE
68. Like many indie films : ARTSY
69. Beats it : SCATS
70. A whole bunch : LOTS
1. Blue Dog Democrats, e.g. : BLOC
2. One of 14 in the Big Ten : IOWA
3. A whole bunch : TONS
4. Elasticity symbol, in economics : EPSILON
5. Tree in a giraffe's diet : ACACIA
6. General reception? : SALUTE
7. "Hmm ... is that so!" : ISEE
8. ___ Lingus : AER
9. W.S.J. alternative : NYT
10. "The Old Man and the Sea" fish : MARLIN
11. Con : AGAINST
12. Tree-dwelling snake : MAMBA
13. To have, in Toulouse : AVOIR
14. Meaning : SENSE
22. Some sitters : NANAS
23. Together : ASONE
25. Dress style : ALINE
26. Feels bad : AILS
27. Support staff : CANE
28. African antelope : ORYX
29. Go for additional service : REUP
32. Celebrity couple portmanteau : KIMYE
34. Air : AURA
35. Part of a black cloud : GNAT
36. It's always underfoot : SOLE
39. First sign : ARIES
40. PlayStation maker : SONY
41. Friends of Firenze : AMICI
44. Situates : ORIENTS
47. Something set in a place setting : UTENSIL
49. Soon : ANYDAY
50. Soon : INABIT
51. Wife, informally : MISSUS
52. College softball? : EASYA
53. Tailor, say : ALTER
54. Pitch : SLANT
57. Song that was a hit for a spell in the 1970s? : YMCA
58. Modern acronym suggesting "seize the day" : YOLO
59. Life lines? : OBIT
60. Exercises : USES
62. Geniuses' prides : IQS
63. Chip shot's path : ARC

Answer summary: 7 unique to this puzzle.

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