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New York Times, Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Author: Gerry Wildenberg
Editor: Will Shortz
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29/23/20144/21/20150
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0020000
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1.45010
Gerry Wildenberg

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 76, Blocks: 38 Missing: {JQVXZ} This is the debut puzzle for Mr. Wildenberg. NYT links: Across Lite PDF

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Gerry Wildenberg notes: Though I've done crossword puzzles sporadically all my life, about four years ago I started doing them a bit more seriously ... more
Gerry Wildenberg notes: Though I've done crossword puzzles sporadically all my life, about four years ago I started doing them a bit more seriously than I had in the past. It didn't take me long to realize that I would never be very good unless I improved my knowledge of rap singers, American Idol winners and European rivers, to mention just a few of my areas of ignorance. Since I was unwilling to study these and diverse other topics, I resigned myself to remaining a mediocre (though slowly improving) solver.

But then, somehow, I discovered the world of crossword construction. This would be a new challenge. So I bought Patrick Berry's book on construction and got started. It wasn't long, feeling a bit discouraged, that I wrote to Patrick noting that he claimed anyone could learn to construct puzzles yet fewer than one hundred NY Times debuts occurred each year while 1000's of his book were selling. Despite my misgivings and rejections, I persisted and soon got some LA Times publications. Today is my NY Times debut. I thank Patrick Berry for his book, Nancy Salomon for her invaluable mentoring, Rick Norris for my first crossword publication, and Will Shortz for putting me in the NY Times.

Today's puzzle is actually the second of mine accepted by Will. The present version seems to have been edited sometime after its acceptance as much of the fill in the NE corner and adjacent areas looks new to me. One word I wish I had been allowed to use is "pgdns" (seldom used keys), which can be found in the singular on your keyboard.

Will Shortz notes: Like almost all puzzles that contain triply-checked letters, like the shaded ones here, this puzzle includes some vocabulary that ... more
Will Shortz notes: Like almost all puzzles that contain triply-checked letters, like the shaded ones here, this puzzle includes some vocabulary that is not as crisp or clean as in puzzles with regular checking. That's just the nature of the beast. I thought this puzzle's theme was cool enough to justify the AAR, the LLD'S, the SSE, the ENS, etc. The grid really doesn't have anything awful, and overall it's about as clean as it can be given the constraints.
Jeff Chen notes: GOLD NUGGETS hidden in the grid today, a neat visual when seen in the print version and pdf. These types of graphics don't occur very ... more
Jeff Chen notes: GOLD NUGGETS hidden in the grid today, a neat visual when seen in the print version and pdf. These types of graphics don't occur very frequently in the NYT crossword, partially because not that many people send things like this in, but also (and maybe more importantly), the NYT's syndication partners can have difficulties reprinting the specialized graphics. Tough business the NYT's in.

This is an audacious debut, not for the faint of heart. It may not look like it's that difficult, but to constrain your grid in six places with those 2x2 sections is a nightmare. Gerry does well to semi-segment them so that he could fill sections one by one, not having to worry too much about one influencing the next. Good use of black squares.

Even then though, each of the six sections carries a compromise. The NW is the closest to rock solid, the nice BOGEYING a real bonus. And I don't mind EWER at all. (Most people call it a pitcher, but an ewer by any other name…) It's a shame that NLERS was necessary to hold everything together. Similar issues arise in each of the six areas. I was especially glad to figure out the theme before hitting the SE, as I wasn't familiar with LLDS or ARLEDGE.

There's some debate whether having each GOLD nugget identically laid out (G in the same position every time, the word going the same way each time) or random orientations is better. The former can be elegant. The latter can be more fun though, especially if the concept is transparent — gives the solver an additional challenge. And from a construction standpoint, given the ultra-heavy constraints, being able to rotate and flip the G-O-L-D letters is a very good thing. I can only imagine how rough the fill might have gotten if each GOLD had been identically oriented.

All in all, a neat visual, forcing some compromises.

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© 2014, The New York TimesNo. 0923 ( 23,695 )
Across Down
1. Drink with a lizard logo : SOBE
5. Big balls : GALAS
10. W.W. I's Battle of the ___ : YSER
14. Winter truck attachment : PLOW
15. Lagoon surrounder : ATOLL
16. Brand of shoes or handbags : ALDO
17. Advantage : EDGE
18. One of the Gabor sisters : MAGDA
19. Exercise on a mat : YOGA
20. Reds and Braves, for short : NLERS
22. Rodeo rope : RIATA
24. Swiss river : AAR
25. Like some home improvement projects, briefly : DIY
26. Actor Claude of "B. J. and the Bear" : AKINS
28. Jazz great named after an Egyptian god : SUNRA
30. Riddle : ENIGMA
32. "Trust me!" : HONEST
33. Home of the University of Nevada : RENO
34. Cooks gently : SIMMERS
38. Valuable finds suggested by the circled letters : GOLDNUGGETS
41. Rascal : SOANDSO
42. Snowman in Disney's "Frozen" : OLAF
45. Scattered : STREWN
48. Like the snow in a shaken snow globe : ASWIRL
50. Rub out : ERASE
51. Makes a harsh sound : BLATS
54. Mahmoud Abbas's grp. : PLO
55. "Ugh, German sausage is the wurst," e.g. : PUN
56. Think optimistically : DREAM
58. Settles (into) : EASES
60. Nothing doing? : IDLE
62. Poet Nash : OGDEN
64. Advanced law degs. : LLDS
65. Stravinsky ballet : AGON
66. Cheddarlike cheese : COLBY
67. Pricey seating option : LOGE
68. Darns, e.g. : SEWS
69. What comes out of an angry person's ears in cartoons : STEAM
70. Sprinted : SPED
1. Big ___ (person who takes a date to a fast-food restaurant, jocularly) : SPENDER
2. Well-established : OLDLINE
3. Barely missing par : BOGEYING
4. Pitcher : EWER
5. Group of whales : GAM
6. Maker of Asteroids and Missile Command : ATARI
7. Access a private account : LOGIN
8. Actors Alan and Robert : ALDAS
9. Blind part : SLAT
10. "We did it!" : YAY
11. Everett ___, player of Mr. Bernstein in "Citizen Kane" : SLOANE
12. Mystery prizes : EDGARS
13. Greet with loud laughter : ROARAT
21. Spade of "The Maltese Falcon" : SAM
23. Hit ___ spot : ASORE
27. Lawrence who co-wrote two of the "Star Wars" films : KASDAN
29. Take out of an overhead bin, say : UNSTOW
31. Stimulates, informally : GOOSES
32. Billy : HEGOAT
35. Red Roof ___ : INN
36. Nasty political accusations : MUD
37. Old British sports cars : MGS
39. Gave a cattle call? : LOWED
40. Twaddle : SLIPSLOP
43. Roone who created "Nightline" and "20/20" : ARLEDGE
44. Obeyed a dentist's directive : FLOSSED
45. Brown-toned photos : SEPIAS
46. Plod : TRUDGE
47. Almost had no stock left : RANLOW
49. NNW's opposite : SSE
51. Sired : BEGOT
52. Soup server : LADLE
53. Itsy-bitsy creature : AMEBA
57. Fabulous birds : ROCS
59. "___ well" : ALLS
61. U.S.N.A. grad: Abbr. : ENS
63. Citi Field team, on scoreboards : NYM

Answer summary: 4 unique to this puzzle, 1 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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