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New York Times, Thursday, September 28, 2017

Author: Joe Krozel
Editor: Will Shortz
Joe Krozel
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This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 68, Blocks: 47 Missing: none – this is a pangram Spans: 2 Grid is asymmetric There are unchecked squares This is puzzle # 85 for Mr. Krozel. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Notepad: Two letters of the alphabet are missing from the main, connected portion of the completed grid. What are they? The answer goes, appropriately, at 35-Across.
Joe Krozel notes: I was pondering ways to revisit my NYT puzzle from Friday 1/27/2012 and add a new twist, AND I decided there were other tricks I ... more
Joe Krozel notes:

I was pondering ways to revisit my NYT puzzle from Friday 1/27/2012 and add a new twist, AND I decided there were other tricks I could play with the central grid entry engulfed by black squares. It must have been a flashback to my childhood — reading a riddle book and asking my mother to explain the answer to "What are kids' two favorite letters of the alphabet?" — which brought 35-A under consideration. Suddenly it occurred to me that there was one particular enclosure (44-D) which made absolute sense for 35-A and the theme magically fell out of the sky. From there, the main challenge would be to get the grid art just right.

Grid art puzzles are always very tricky to make. A 15x15 grid is already pretty low-res to begin with. Add to that a requirement of word interconnectivity, and suddenly the grid art is pushed away from the walls ... into a 9x9 central space. I made at least six grid depictions that looked an awful lot like dogs and horses until I settled upon the current, rather neckless design. So, I'll probably get battered in the solver reviews for not getting it perfect.

One last perspective on the grid art: those black square stacks on the sides and bottom depict the ends of bats of six individuals waiting for their turn with the PINATA. Wasn't that enough of a visual hint?

Jeff Chen notes: Love the visual, a PINATA filled with CANDY. So cool how the black squares also form the string that hangs the PINATA from the ... more
Jeff Chen notes:

Love the visual, a PINATA filled with CANDY. So cool how the black squares also form the string that hangs the PINATA from the ceiling! Beautiful concept.

I didn't understand the notepad at first, but then it became clear that C and Y weren't present in the rest of the grid. Huh.

Why include this extra layer, instead of leaving it be simply with CANDY in the PINATA, I wondered? I suppose there ought to be some extra way of figuring out what's in the PINATA, since CANDY doesn't have any crossing answers. But this felt like an inelegant way to do it. Would have been incredible to increase the center of the PINATA to three rows, for instance, filling it with NERDS, ROLOS, PEZ, etc. Maybe not possible, but fun to think about.

(I love discussing puzzles with Jim — fascinating to hear him explain why he found the C AND Y gimmick so satisfying! Puzzles are subjective, no doubt.)

The grid art applies so many constraints that Joe was forced to fill themeless-esque big swaths of white space. Nice work in the NW, EQUITABLE / MULTIPLEX / TOTEM POLE making for a strong triple-stack. I TEN (I-10) isn't great, nor is INS, but those aren't that bad.

The only section I thought suffered was the south, with RKO, KTEL, OEDS (plural?). Again, none of these are terrible, but all three clumped up shines a spotlight on them. Not a surprise though, given that PINATA constrains it on the right and AMBER ALE on the left, making for a construction challenge in that biggish section.

GO JUMP IN THE LAKE, ULTIMATE FRISBEE (although it's technically just called Ultimate now), TRIVIA GAMES, GET GOING (although a minor dupe in GO / GOING) = great stuff to keep solvers entertained. Overall, a reasonable balance between snazziness and cleanliness.

Fantastic concept, great visual. If CANDY had been hinted at in a way I found to be more clever, and this ran on a Tuesday or Wednesday with adjusted clues (anyone else feel frustrated with the incredibly difficult cluing for all those short words?), it would have been an easy POW! pick for me.

JimH notes: I enjoyed this one more than Jeff did. I found the gimmick to be clever and satisfying. See more Grid Art here. Mr. Krozel is responsible a number of cleverly creative grids. Click here to see them all.
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© 2017, The New York TimesNo. 0928 ( 24,796 )
Across Down
1. Fair : EQUITABLE
10. Hale ___, House majority leader of the 1970s : BOGGS
15. Regal Entertainment Group facility : MULTIPLEX
16. "Get ___, you two!" : AROOM
17. Hierarchical structure, metaphorically : TOTEMPOLE
18. "Fighting man from head to toe" : GIJOE
19. Cave-___ (mining hazards) : INS
20. What naphthalene is distilled from : TAR
21. Mild cheese : GOUDA
22. Where some bills originate, for short : ATM
24. Letters on a cartoon stick : TNT
25. First name in "wabbit" hunting : ELMER
26. Org. with millions of members HQ'd in Fairfax, Va. : NRA
27. Consumes too much, informally : ODS
28. Agent, for short : REP
29. Historical ___ : SITE
31. Stock opportunity, in brief : IPO
34. Well-planed : EVEN
35. Likely contents of a 44-Down : CANDY
36. Nibble (on) : GNAW
37. Connector of English stories : LIFT
38. French 101 verb : ETRE
39. No Triple Crown winner ever : MARE
40. Exhaust : USEUP
45. Comparison word : THAN
46. Enliven, with "up" : GIN
47. Kind of scheme : PONZI
48. Shaver's option : GEL
49. Word repeated in "What's ___ is ___" : PAST
50. "Eat up!" : DIGIN
51. Bullring shouts : OLES
53. Light brown brew : AMBERALE
55. Hard, pungent cheese : ASIAGO
57. Melania Trump ___ Knauss : NEE
58. "Hooked on Classics" label : KTEL
59. Some toy trucks : TONKAS
60. Lao-___ : TSE
61. Library references, briefly : OEDS
62. San ___, Tex. : ANGELO
1. Defib user : EMT
2. Where: Lat. : QUO
3. Widely played sport developed at Amherst College in the 1960s : ULTIMATEFRISBEE
4. Cross-country route, informally : ITEN
5. Popular beige work boots, colloquially : TIMS
6. Silicon Valley product : APP
7. Trashed : BLOTTO
8. University founder ___ Stanford : LELAND
9. Wields : EXERTS
10. Supermarket assistant : BAGGER
11. Brooks Robinson was one : ORIOLE
12. "Take a hike!" : GOJUMPINTHELAKE
13. "Johnny B. ___" (Chuck Berry hit) : GOODE
14. Lipstick problem : SMEAR
22. New Hampshire's Saint ___ College : ANSELM
23. Home version of "Jeopardy!" and others : TRIVIAGAMES
30. Agreement : ENTENTE
32. Law office worker : PARALEGAL
33. Actor Wilson : OWEN
36. "Move it!" : GETGOING
40. Software vendor's recommendation : UPDATE
41. In need of laundering : SOILED
42. Marx collaborator : ENGELS
43. Israeli gun : UZI
44. Party item depicted in the middle of this puzzle's grid : PINATA
49. What dogs do in lieu of sweating : PANT
52. Middlin' : SOSO
54. Old-time film studio : RKO
56. Royal wish, once : SON

Answer summary: 3 unique to this puzzle, 2 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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