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New York Times, Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Author: Andy Kravis
Editor: Will Shortz
Andy Kravis
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411/3/20137/7/20172
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1.71010

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 76, Blocks: 39 Missing: {JQ} Scrabble average: 1.86 This is puzzle # 2 for Mr. Kravis. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Andy Kravis notes: This was one of the first puzzles I ever constructed, almost three years ago. I'm surprisingly happy with it, though there are some ... more
Andy Kravis notes: This was one of the first puzzles I ever constructed, almost three years ago. I'm surprisingly happy with it, though there are some places where my greenness as a constructor shows.

Firstly, the theme. It's a simple replace-a-letter theme, which I didn't know at the time was a theme type that has been used quite a lot. Specifically, my idea for this puzzle was to take movie titles and replace a letter with X, to humorous effect. I'm actually very pleased with the four theme entries in this puzzle (MARX ATTACKS, A BEAUTIFUL MINX, THE LOVELY BOXES [with Will's idea of a crossword-themed clue], and EAT X-RAY LOVE), since it was very difficult for me to even come up with four symmetrical entries of this type that weren't complete gibberish (for example, FOX A FEW DOLLARS MORE) or uninteresting (SIN CITY could become SIX CITY, but who cares?).

It's a bit inelegant, however, that there's no pattern for which letters get replaced with Xs. I tried to solve that problem by sneaking the revealer X-RATED into the southeast corner of the grid, but the fill turned irreparably sour very fast. In another venue, I might have titled this puzzle "X-Rated Remakes" or "Censored Movies" to make the theme more coherent. Overall, I think the result is funny enough to justify the lack of revealer, and I'm glad Will agreed.

Secondly, the fill. By and large, I think it's pretty clean, but there are some entries that would make me scowl as a solver (I'm looking at you, STAEL, NIM, and RECT). I'm letting myself off the hook for these transgressions since I don't see any obvious ways to improve the fill, and the crossings are all fair.

Finally, I'm pleased at how many of the clues in the final puzzle are mine. I'm especially proud of the clues for DALI [Collaborator with Disney on the film "Destino"] and BETTE DAVIS [Actress with the iconic line "What a dump!"]. There are couple of my clues I wish Will had kept — specifically, I liked my clues for UNFEMININE [Like burping loudly or sitting with one's legs splayed, stereotypically], OLDEST [Like Kevin, among the Jonas Brothers] and the clues for the adjacent TOFU and HAM, which were, respectively, [Vegetarian's source of protein] and [Carnivore's source of protein].

Will Shortz notes: This puzzle, along with Monday's (plus the Tuesday and Thursday puzzles from next week), were used last weekend at the 18th ... more
Will Shortz notes: This puzzle, along with Monday's (plus the Tuesday and Thursday puzzles from next week), were used last weekend at the 18th Westchester Crossword Puzzle Tournament in my hometown of Pleasantville, NY. All the money raised went to a local charity. Andy Kravis took the train up from his home in Manhattan to watch. It's a great experience to watch 60+ people race to solve a puzzle you've constructed! It's also a pleasure for the solvers to meet the constructor in person.
Jeff Chen notes: Movie titles with a single letter changed to X. I kept on thinking I was missing something — the replaced letters spelling ... more
Jeff Chen notes: Movie titles with a single letter changed to X. I kept on thinking I was missing something — the replaced letters spelling something, perhaps — so was glad to read Andy's comments. X-RATED would have been a fun revealer entry, but it would really take a title like he suggested to make it work.

Some fun, kooky resulting answers. I couldn't get through "Eat, Pray, Love" so it was fun to see it razzed with the hilarious wordplay in EAT XRAY LOVE. And how appropriate to change "The Lovely Bones" into THE LOVELY BOXES inside a crossword puzzle. Amusing material.

I like how Andy gives us four nice long downs. All of them are juicy, even the single word LEVITATE shining because 1.) it's a cool word and 2.) gets a great clue. "Get off the ground," i.e. start things up, gets repurposed in a clever way.

Check out the proximity between BETTE DAVIS and LEVITATE though. Generally it's better to stagger long downs to give them more space (like if LEVITATE had been levitated to the top of the grid somehow), as long entries near each other can be difficult to fill cleanly. Andy does well to find DALI to connect these two entries, being able to generally fill cleanly. The plural BRANDTS does stick out a bit in my head though. Even if it were more current, something like MERKELS would still not be super elegant.

I like what Andy did up in the NE corner better, TETHERS both fitting in well and containing common letters to facilitate good fill. Still, the confluence of the two long downs (MAKE SURE and UNFEMININE) and two themers is partially what's forcing the awkward RECT and arbitrary ONE AM. As always, trade-offs.

Nice wordplay today resulting in some fun, kooky movie titles.

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© 2014, The New York TimesNo. 0924 ( 23,696 )
Across Down
1. Bums around : LOAFS
6. Bellini opera : NORMA
11. Night light, perhaps : UFO
14. Shoptalk : ARGOT
15. Weest of wee hours : ONEAM
16. Mint : NEW
17. Film about a Communist invasion? (1996) : MARXATTACKS
19. Enthusiast : FAN
20. Casanova : PLAYBOY
21. Ties down : TETHERS
23. Moroccan headwear : FEZ
25. Line on a baseball : SEAM
26. Film about the woman most likely to catch men's attention? (2001) : ABEAUTIFULMINX
33. Computer mode : SLEEP
34. It's usually between 3 and 5 : PAR
35. Logic game with matchsticks : NIM
36. Battery containing a liquid electrolyte : WETCELL
39. The statue "David" on open-air display in Florence, e.g. : REPLICA
42. Well-suited : APT
43. Take a gander at : EYE
45. Captain and others : RANKS
46. Film about an elegantly made crossword? (2009) : THELOVELYBOXES
51. Collaborator with Disney on the film "Destino" : DALI
52. Add-on charge : FEE
53. First family of Germany, 1969-74 : BRANDTS
56. Licit : ALLOWED
62. Brit's washroom : LAV
63. Film about a romantic dentist's daily routine? (2010) : EATXRAYLOVE
65. Israeli gun : UZI
66. "Delphine" author Madame de ___ : STAEL
67. Fray : RAVEL
68. Lo-___ : RES
69. Absorbent cloth : TERRY
70. 4 x 400-meter relay, e.g. : EVENT
1. Genie's home : LAMP
2. Kind of vaccine : ORAL
3. Site of a famed mausoleum : AGRA
4. Guileful : FOXY
5. Poke holes in : STAB
6. "Hold on a sec" : NOTYET
7. ___ lark : ONA
8. Geom. shape : RECT
9. Confirm : MAKESURE
10. Brewery named after a Dutch river : AMSTEL
11. Like a bass voice or a hairy chest : UNFEMININE
12. "___ not!" : FEAR
13. Dominates, informally : OWNS
18. Vegetarian's protein source : TOFU
22. Son of Noah : HAM
24. Élan : ZIP
26. Beth preceder : ALEPH
27. Actress with the iconic line "What a dump!" : BETTEDAVIS
28. Old trade inits. : EEC
29. Mime : APE
30. Away's partner : FAR
31. Shaving boo-boos : NICKS
32. Holiday associated with 44-Downs, in brief : XMAS
33. Whack : SWAT
37. Get off the ground? : LEVITATE
38. Caustic material : LYE
40. Old hand : PRO
41. Easygoing : LAX
44. See 32-Down : ELF
47. Acronym for linked computers : LAN
48. Like Jackie Jackson, in the Jackson 5 : OLDEST
49. How the swallows returned to San Juan Capistrano : YEARLY
50. Actor Lugosi : BELA
53. Memory of a very busy day, maybe : BLUR
54. Level : RAZE
55. Lead : STAR
57. Instrument for Orpheus : LYRE
58. King Harald's father : OLAV
59. Told, as a yarn : WOVE
60. Level : EVEN
61. Shoulder muscle, for short : DELT
64. Member of the MTV generation, informally : XER

Answer summary: 5 unique to this puzzle, 3 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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