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New York Times, Saturday, September 27, 2014

Author:
Martin Ashwood-Smith and George Barany
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
866/5/19913/29/201910
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
000246416
ScrabRebusCirclePangramPre‑WS
1.520017
Martin Ashwood-Smith
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
101/22/200611/11/201710
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
2010322
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.55120
George Barany

This puzzle:

Rows: 16, Columns: 15 Words: 69, Blocks: 36 Missing: {QXZ} Spans: 4, (1 quad stack) This is puzzle # 77 for Mr. Ashwood-Smith. This is puzzle # 5 for Mr. Barany. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Constructor notes:
'Can we talk?' We would love to tell you that JOAN RIVERS was the seed entry for this crossword. However, if you look at our ... read more

"Can we talk?" original grid

We would love to tell you that JOAN RIVERS was the seed entry for this crossword. However, if you look at our initial (and never submitted) version of this puzzle, the long down entry in the tenth column was originally THE_SHIVERS ("What a haunted house may give you"). Here is how this puzzle evolved:

In June 2014, the two of us started collaborating on some original strategies to create novel quad stacks with fewer obscurities and fresher entries than are common for this genre — a story that will have to be told in another place at another time. The present grid, the sixth that we decided had enough promise to pursue seriously, started to emerge toward the end of July. An immediate concern was that the customary request from a trucker to interrupt an ongoing CB radio conversation is most commonly reported as BREAKER, BREAKER ONE NINER. After some discussion, we decided to try what we thought was a neat rule-breaking trick, putting the first word (BREAKER) at 1-Across, and having the 15-letter BREAKER ONE NINER cross-referenced.

However, once we started cluing this grid, we realized that "Words from a good buddy" worked equally well whether or not the answer grid had one or two BREAKERS. Therefore, we decided to redo the northwest corner and remove a black square that had previously been needed to accommodate BREAKER, and as long as we were at this, continue to try to improve other portions of the puzzle. Thus, we also removed a second symmetrically placed black square in the southeast corner and tried to remedy the inadvertent inclusion of two phrases both starting with STAGE.

In the midst of the aforementioned rework, we noticed that JOAN RIVERS could fit in nicely — this was weeks before she checked into a Manhattan clinic for a minor medical procedure, and wound up having her final life battle headlining the tabloid and mainstream media in print and on on the air. Thus, our inclusion of the late comedienne in our puzzle is a complete coincidence. Nevertheless, the day after she died, which was a little over two weeks after we submitted the puzzle, we heard back from Will Shortz, who mentioned that due to 15-Down he might run the puzzle soon. The terrific and unusual eight-line clue for 15-Down, along with many other fine, fair clues, were written by Will. In all, well over half of the clues in the puzzle are Will's, invariably for the better. We do hope that solvers, regardless of any earlier notions about quad stacks, enjoy working through this puzzle.

Will Shortz notes:
I accepted this puzzle only recently, but decided to run it quickly because of the recent death of 15D. Not that it mattered, but the ... read more

I accepted this puzzle only recently, but decided to run it quickly because of the recent death of 15D. Not that it mattered, but the puzzle just felt more timely this way. I love the quad-stacks besides, some of the best work on this sort I've yet seen.

Jeff Chen notes:
Five things I think I think: (with a nod to the great Peter King) 1.) What a lively quartet of stacked answers. I CALL EM AS I SEE ... read more

Five things I think I think: (with a nod to the great Peter King)

1.) What a lively quartet of stacked answers. I CALL EM AS I SEE EM is not only sparkly, but it looks so crazy as ICALLEMASISEEEM. I wasn't sure what BREAKER ONE NINER meant, but it sure sounds like fun CB lingo. And I don't mind ONE'S phrases, which tend to get a bad rap.

2.) Upon further Googling, I wonder if BREAKER ONE NINER is flawed. BREAKER ONE NINE appears to be quite common (BREAKER used to start a transmission, ONE NINE referring to channel 19), but not BREAKER ONE NINER. Perhaps the difference might seem small, but I wonder if it's a huge difference in the CB community. MAS and Jim both remember it as NINER though (and MAS tells me saying NINER helped with clarity), so I'm inclined to believe that some CBer ought to get on Wikipedia and change the entry.

3.) I love how MAS and George have left 16 slots open for 8+ letter entries. Love to see that sort of structure in a themeless skeleton, as longer entries have more potential to be snazzy. That's not easy to do with a quad-stack taking up a lot of your real estate. Nice use of triple-eights in the NW and SE corners. I would count DELAWARE and SENESCENCE and MEANINGLESS as only neutral, not positive, but that's still a pretty good number of snappy entries.

4.) A touch too much glue for my taste. I think stunt puzzles deserve more leeway with regards to crossword glue, as they have such potential to push the boundaries. But I've seen enough quad-stacks that I'm not as willing to extend those liberties anymore, at least not to the same degree as before. Some entries like SCH and YEO and GPS are reasonable. Add in A MERE, the odd BEGEM, the forgotten ELIAN, the esoteric ERICK, etc., and it's a lot for me.

5.) I haven't been so stumped by a clue in ages. [Mideast pops?] as ABBA? I can almost always figure these out with enough Googling, but I sat with this one for a full three days before asking Will for the answer. I like the drive for originality in the clue, but I think it would have been so much better if "Mideast pops" was a real thing, like "Boston Pops" or "ice pops" is. Much better to me was the question-marked clue [Smoke without fire?] playing on "where there's smoke, there's fire." Beautiful clue for an even better answer.

1
I
2
B
3
E
4
F
5
O
6
R
7
E
8
E
9
F
10
L
11
U
12
K
13
E
14
D
E
L
A
W
A
R
E
15
J
O
I
N
E
D
16
S
E
A
L
S
K
I
N
17
O
U
T
I
N
G
18
A
B
B
A
19
E
C
I
20
G
A
R
E
T
T
E
21
Y
E
O
22
K
E
E
N
23
R
24
E
25
B
26
S
27
T
R
28
U
29
M
30
B
31
A
32
I
33
C
A
L
L
E
34
M
35
A
S
I
S
36
E
E
E
M
37
N
A
T
I
O
N
A
L
A
V
E
R
A
G
E
38
B
R
E
A
K
E
R
O
N
E
N
I
N
E
R
39
I
N
O
N
E
S
S
P
A
R
E
T
I
M
E
40
G
E
N
41
S
C
H
42
S
T
U
N
43
E
A
44
S
45
T
46
G
47
P
48
S
49
T
50
O
51
P
52
T
53
E
N
L
I
S
54
T
55
P
L
I
E
56
A
R
A
B
I
C
57
E
A
R
58
P
I
E
C
E
59
W
E
C
A
R
E
60
G
R
O
A
N
S
A
T
61
S
N
A
R
E
62
E
S
P
R
E
S
S
O
© 2014, The New York TimesNo. 0927 ( 23,699 )
Across
1
Start of a weird infraction? : IBEFOREE
9
Sushi offering : FLUKE
14
First Indian tribe to sign a treaty with the U.S. government : DELAWARE
15
Hand in hand : JOINED
16
Eskimo wear : SEALSKIN
17
Hike, e.g. : OUTING
18
Mideast pops? : ABBA
19
Smoke without fire? : ECIGARETTE
21
Naval petty off. : YEO
22
What was once cool? : KEEN
23
Gray figures? : REBS
27
One-man Broadway hit of 1989 : TRU
29
Only one U.S. prez has had one : MBA
32
Straight talker's slangy phrase : ICALLEMASISEEEM
37
Country standard : NATIONALAVERAGE
38
Words from a good buddy : BREAKERONENINER
39
On the side : INONESSPARETIME
40
X or Y preceder : GEN
41
Site of class struggles?: Abbr. : SCH
42
Floor : STUN
43
One N.B.A. All-Star Game team : EAST
46
One telling you where to get off, for short? : GPS
49
High ranking? : TOPTENLIST
55
Introductory ballet instruction : PLIE
56
Whence the word "alcohol" : ARABIC
57
Listen here! : EARPIECE
59
Words of support from an organization : WECARE
60
Reacts to, as a nagging request : GROANSAT
61
Game keeper? : SNARE
62
Tiramisu ingredient : ESPRESSO
Down
1
Guesstimate opening : IDSAY
2
Deep-sea explorer William : BEEBE
3
Explain : ELABORATEON
4
Beginning of a seasonal refrain : FALA
5
Hurtful outbursts? : OWS
6
Playboy : RAKE
7
Shortstop Aybar who was a 2011 Gold Glove winner : ERICK
8
Start of an elimination : EENIE
9
Time that little Susie is woken in the 1957 hit "Wake Up Little Susie" : FOUR
10
Lo-cal : LITE
11
Military group : UNIT
12
Canterbury's home : KENT
13
Beat by a whisker : EDGE
15
Who said "I have a wonderful psychiatrist that I see maybe once a year, because I don't need it. It all comes out onstage" : JOANRIVERS
20
Easily passes : GETSANA
24
Name in 2000 headlines : ELIAN
25
Mates : BLOKES
26
Old age : SENESCENCE
28
Early online forum : USENET
29
Inane : MEANINGLESS
30
Spangle, say : BEGEM
31
"___ trifle!" : AMERE
32
Having much at stake : INBIG
33
___ asada : CARNE
34
Parade V.I.P. : MARSHAL
35
Cockeyed : ALOP
36
Song that ends "O dolcezze perdute! O speranze d'amor, d'amor, d'amor!" : ERITU
44
Challenge for defenders : SIEGE
45
Bygone royalty : TSARS
47
Measures of one's writing? : PICAS
48
Mind : SEETO
49
Shooters : TAWS
50
Israeli conductor Daniel : OREN
51
Rain forest rodent : PACA
52
Aid in an uphill climb : TBAR
53
Country name pronounced by natives in two syllables : EIRE
54
Atlantic City resort, informally, with "the" : TROP
55
Common cleaning scent : PINE
58
Hole number : PAR

Answer summary: 5 unique to this puzzle, 1 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

Found bugs or have suggestions?