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New York Times, Thursday, September 4, 2014

Author: Samuel A. Donaldson
Editor: Will Shortz
Samuel A. Donaldson
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
2810/2/200810/21/20176
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6136516
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1.64120

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 78, Blocks: 34 Missing: {JQWZ} This is puzzle # 15 for Mr. Donaldson. NYT links: Across Lite PDF

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Samuel A. Donaldson notes: When I saw FLIP ONE'S LID in the terrific February 8, 2014, freestyle puzzle from my friends Doug Peterson and Brad Wilber, ... more
Samuel A. Donaldson notes: When I saw FLIP ONE'S LID in the terrific February 8, 2014, freestyle puzzle from my friends Doug Peterson and Brad Wilber, the idea for this puzzle's theme came right away. I was pretty surprised to see from my online research that the theme hadn't been done before. Yes, there have been puzzles where the letters to theme answers are reversed in the grid — heck, there have been puzzles where whole lines and chunks of the grid are to be entered backwards. But none that I found played off of FLIP ONE'S LID and the obvious connection to hats. So I felt the idea was original enough to pursue.

In my first draft, I had "hat" in all of the theme clues, thinking that might be a helpful tip. But all those "hat"s made for awfully boring clues, so that's when I got the idea to be a little more deceptive with the theme clues. I'm glad I tumbled to this, as it's now my favorite aspect of the puzzle.

Looks like my clue writing is getting a little better — this time 42 of my 78 clues (54%) survived unscathed, and another 12 clues (15%) got minor plastic surgery. That means 24 clues (31%) are the original work of Will and his team. I still aspire for better, but I'm pleased with the overall percentage. I'm hopeful that some of the rejected clues were due to space constraints, but I should have been conscious of that myself when writing them. With 78 clues, one can't afford to be loquacious as in constructor notes.

Embarrassing confession: it wasn't until I had printed the puzzle for submission to Will that I realized I had FEZ (not backwards) in the upper-right corner. I even had a clue along the lines of [Shriner hat]! That kind of inconsistency is a rookie mistake, so I'm glad I caught it. The lesson, as always: Zs are sexy sirens, but they'll mess with you more often than not.

Jeff Chen notes: Sam flips his lid today, or more accurately flips his lids. Fun to uncover the crazy REKL??????? pattern and wonder what the heck was ... more
Jeff Chen notes: Sam flips his lid today, or more accurately flips his lids. Fun to uncover the crazy REKL??????? pattern and wonder what the heck was going on. Nice selection of a wide range of headgear, ranging from HELMET to SOMBRERO to ARODEF. Er, FEDORA.

Using short theme entries can be tricky. FEDORA and HELMET are such shorties that they risk getting lost among the fill. That wasn't an issue today since it became clear that there were reversed entries, but it did confuse me that the center across entry, DAYBOOK, wasn't part of the theme. I kept on wondering what type a KOOBYAD was, or what I had entered incorrectly. It would have been nice to have EIPKROP (PORKPIE) in that slot, with a current clue to Heisenberg's headgear in "Breaking Bad," for example. Incorporating one more themer would have been more work and potentially necessitated a little crossword glue, but I think it would have been worth it.

I always like seeing a constructor's personality come through, and maybe Sam's work shines to me in this way because he's one of the first constructors I met in person? The puzzle channeled Sam with OH BOY!, and LLB (Sam's a lawyer specializing in tax law) and even [Atlanta-to-Charleston dir.] was a nice nod to his recent move to GA. But the best is the clue for IRS — "Many Unhappy Returns" indeed! I really enjoy these inside looks.

Pretty nice grid, with just one spot that felt a bit wonky to me. As much as I love MIXOLOGIST, it constrains the west section quite a bit. Along with HELMET and YARMULKE, it forces three glue bits into place: TASSE, A RIDE, ERICK (who?). Perhaps there could be a better combination there with MIXOLOGIST in place, but perhaps a less snazzy entry there could have smoothed things out to better overall effect.

Very fun solve. I tip my tah to you, sir!

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© 2014, The New York TimesNo. 0904 ( 23,676 )
Across Down
1. Sober : CLEAN
6. Improper way to take the SAT : INPEN
11. Not a very big invention : FIB
14. Cash holders : TILLS
15. Many a museum marble : TORSO
16. Stir : ADO
17. Sherlock Holmes accessory : DEERSTALKER
19. Hot ___ : ROD
20. Intense hunger : LUST
21. Part of a Latin 101 conjugation : AMAS
22. Not to term : EARLY
24. "The Raven" start : ONCE
26. Mold, as clay : SHAPE
28. Biker gear : HELMET
31. Siesta shader : SOMBRERO
34. Thumb ___ : ARIDE
35. Loki's brother, in movies : THOR
36. 2nd-yr. student : SOPH
37. Volleyball team count : SIX
38. Appointment holder : DAYBOOK
41. Contend : VIE
42. The economist Adam Smith, for one : SCOT
44. Preprinted gift tag word : FROM
45. Place for playing games : ARENA
47. Orthodox trademark : YARMULKE
49. Sinatra cover : FEDORA
50. Source of the headline "Study Finds Blame Now Fastest Human Reflex," with "The" : ONION
51. Take ___ (sample some) : ASIP
52. Strip locale, informally : VEGAS
54. "Aw, heck!" : NUTS
56. Kellogg's brand since 1970 : EGGO
60. Parlement assent : OUI
61. Go crazy ... or a hint on how to enter five answers in this puzzle : FLIPONESLID
64. Subj. of the book "Many Unhappy Returns" : IRS
65. Small intestine section : ILEUM
66. Softly : PIANO
67. What's the point? : DOT
68. Recipe amts. : TBSPS
69. Slashed conjunction : ANDOR
1. Lower-left keyboard key : CTRL
2. Stead : LIEU
3. Game with horns : ELKS
4. In sum : ALLTOLD
5. Org. whose annual budget is classified : NSA
6. "Who's there?" reply : ITSME
7. Dunn formerly of "S.N.L." : NORA
8. Briefing site : PRESSROOM
9. Atlanta-to-Charleston dir. : ESE
10. Partner's refusal : NODEAR
11. Very distant : FARREMOVED
12. Bedroom poster subject : IDOL
13. Part of a shampoo promise : BODY
18. Dash dial : TACH
23. Black-and-white alerts, briefly : APBS
25. Scholarship criterion, maybe : NEED
27. Lover of Leander, in myth : HERO
28. French cup : TASSE
29. ___ Aybar, 2014 All-Star shortstop on the Angels : ERICK
30. Bartender : MIXOLOGIST
31. "This is exciting!" : OHBOY
32. Offer one's two cents : OPINE
33. Harvester's bundle : SHEAF
35. Oppressive regimes : TYRANNIES
39. Big do : AFRO
40. Byron of "MythBusters" : KARI
43. ___ salad : TUNA
46. Corrals : ROPESIN
48. Outcast, often : MISFIT
49. Part of A.A.A.: Abbr. : ASSN
51. Small parts : ATOMS
52. Like a redeemed coupon : VOID
53. Mark's successor : EURO
55. "___ and away!" : UPUP
57. Big name in trash : GLAD
58. Pop singer Vannelli : GINO
59. Something found in the trash? : ODOR
62. Legal deg. : LLB
63. Evil org. in "The Simpsons Movie" : EPA

Answer summary: 1 unique to this puzzle, 2 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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