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New York Times, Saturday, September 20, 2014

Author: Erik Agard
Editor: Will Shortz
Erik Agard
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1.60020

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 70, Blocks: 34 Missing: {BZ} This is puzzle # 3 for Mr. Agard. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Erik Agard notes: if you found this puzzle challenging, then you should really thank mr. shortz, because the one i sent him was a lot harder. my ... more
Erik Agard notes: if you found this puzzle challenging, then you should really thank mr. shortz, because the one i sent him was a lot harder. my favorite clues of will's are [Muscles for some fraternity guys?], [Sportsperson who may take a bow?], and [Macs and such].
Will Shortz notes: The Thursday-Saturday puzzles this week were all created by constructors in their early 20s, part of a new generation of ... more
Will Shortz notes: The Thursday-Saturday puzzles this week were all created by constructors in their early 20s, part of a new generation of puzzlemakers. I don't have any hard figures on constructors' ages, but my gut feeling is that the median age has declined by about 15 years since I started in 1993 — from around 55 then to 40 now. Someone should do a study.
Jeff Chen notes: Erik is THE MAN! How many people would let me play with the pic on their personal constructor's page for my amusement* (Jill Denny's ... more
Jeff Chen notes: Erik is THE MAN! How many people would let me play with the pic on their personal constructor's page for my amusement* (Jill Denny's pic was of Sarah Palin for the longest time)? And after he sent me his notes (in lowercase, as is his wont), he sent me a new set with proper capitalization, in case I had to play by The Man's rules. Well let me tell you, The Man isn't gonna tell me what to do about The Man's notes. Wait...

Loved the mini-theme. CTR is normally a blah abbreviation, a bit of crossword glue needed to stick some great answers together. Using a self-reference in the clue is genius. CTR is at the center of four great answers: ASPECT RATIO, MAGIC TRICKS, LG ELECTRONICS, and PROJECT RUNWAY. I've said before that I'd get tired of mini-themes every weekend, but I love getting clever concepts like this which don't necessitate undue crossword glue. More, please!

A note on cheater squares today. You see the six black Tetris-like tetronimoes? Each one contains a cheater square, a black square that could have been eliminated without changing the word count. I don't mind one pair at all, and two pairs is usually fine. Three is often where my eye for aesthetics tweaks a bit. I actually like the four L-tetronimoes, finding them slightly pleasing, but the two S-tetronimoes in the middle stick out for me. As with most all art, this is a subjective call.

Ah, QUIRRELL! I'm sure this entry will generate discussion, as you either know it or you don't. Given that I've read the series roughly 96.5 times, it was a gimme (although I'll debate whether QUIRRELL actually tried to kill Harry or it was Voldemort acting through the poor professor). No doubt it's an esoteric piece of information, but Harry Potter has gained enough of a place in popular culture that I think it's fine. And even if you disagree with me (and get yourself horcruxed), it's simply one answer within the grid — I appreciate Erik's restraint. I personally would love to see SLUGHORN, CRUCIATUS CURSE, ACCIO, and PATRONUS CHARM in a grid, but I realize most solvers wouldn't care for that. Fie on you, muggles.

Finally, I appreciate Erik's careful choice of his long entries. I was a bit worried when I saw only 12 slots for 8+ letter entries, but check them out (hit the "Analyze" button below to see all the answers listed by length). Every one except UNWIELDY is good to strong, and even UNWIELDY isn't too unwieldy. And Erik adds to his pluses by inserting the language-tasty (but taste-disgusting) CLAMATO into one of the few 7-letter slots. Helps to offset some of the OARERS kind of stuff. Well done.

*I took down the pic of Dick Cheney. I thought it was hilarious, given that he and Erik are diametrically opposed, but my sense of humor is not for everyone.

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© 2014, The New York TimesNo. 0920 ( 23,692 )
Across Down
1. Goes quickly after takeoff? : STREAKS
8. Series of antecedents : LEADUP
14. Professor who tries to kill Harry Potter : QUIRRELL
16. ___ pectoris : ANGINA
17. One not favored : UNDERDOG
18. Randomly distributed : STREWN
19. PBJ filling? : AND
20. 16:9, say : ASPECTRATIO
22. Muscles for some fraternity guys? : DELTS
24. Shake : LOSE
25. Mo. of National Grandparents' Day : SEP
26. Raft : SLEW
27. Height : APEX
29. Viewfinder? : POLL
30. Some nerve! : OPTIC
32. Nobelist Frederick ___, pioneer in radiochemistry : SODDY
33. Fashion series since 2004 : PROJECTRUNWAY
37. Asner's "Elf" role : CLAUS
38. Browning, for one : RIFLE
39. It might be found in a café : LAIT
40. Spanish interrogative : COMO
41. All-nighter, maybe : RAVE
45. Writer Rand : AYN
46. Cold-shoulder : SHUN
48. Mackenzie of "The Facts of Life" : ASTIN
49. Legerdemain : MAGICTRICKS
53. Cooperstown inst. : HOF
54. Words before and after "Am too!" : ARENOT
55. Longest continuous corporate partner of the Olympic Games : COCACOLA
57. Get misty : TEARUP
58. Fall guy? : STUNTMAN
59. Galley slaves, e.g. : OARERS
60. Least abundant : SPAREST
1. Teams : SQUADS
2. Smuggling aid : TUNNEL
3. Judges 14:14 has the only one in the Bible : RIDDLE
4. "Maid of Athens, ___ we part": Byron : ERE
5. Hamlet takes a stab at it : ARRAS
6. Some gym shoes : KEDS
7. Spill : SLOP
8. Holds up : LASTS
9. Word with deux or nous : ENTRE
10. Home of the Unesco World Heritage Site Fatehpur Sikri : AGRA
11. Light refreshment : DIETSODA
12. Hard to handle : UNWIELDY
13. Splendid array : PANOPLY
15. "Life's Good" sloganeer : LGELECTRONICS
21. Sportsperson who may take a bow? : COX
23. Situation that makes a double play impossible : TWOOUT
27. Tucked away : ATE
28. Snap : PIC
29. Dungeons & Dragons attributes : POWERS
31. Wear for the weary : PJS
32. TV inits. since 10/11/75 : SNL
33. Feature of many a McDonald's : PLAYAREA
34. Macs and such : RAINGEAR
35. Part of a crater : RIM
36. Saucer, perhaps : UFO
37. Red juice hybrid : CLAMATO
40. Contemptible sort : CUR
42. In : ATHOME
43. They take bows : VIOLAS
44. Terrible one? : ENFANT
46. Comb : SCOUR
47. Certain address starter : HTTPS
48. Yoga pose : ASANA
50. About : INRE
51. Some Red Cross supplies : COTS
52. Single-serving coffee holder : KCUP
56. Abbr. found at the 56-Down of this puzzle's four longest answers : CTR

Answer summary: 9 unique to this puzzle, 1 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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