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New York Times, Thursday, September 7, 2017

 Author: Alex Eaton-Salners Editor: Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
92/2/20175/28/20180
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0111600
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.55100

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 76, Blocks: 37 Missing: {JQXZ} This is puzzle # 3 for Mr. Eaton-Salners. NYT links: Across Lite PDF

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Alex Eaton-Salners notes: The key to constructing this puzzle was finding workable downs for the left-hand side of the grid. Having the acrosses in ... more
Alex Eaton-Salners notes:

The key to constructing this puzzle was finding workable downs for the left-hand side of the grid. Having the acrosses in alphabetical order requires that those words (ABC, CHILL, and MOSSY) monotonically increase in alphabetosity (uh, that's a thing...trust me).

With those three words chosen, I used manual trial and error to select workable alphabetically correct starts for each of the acrosses (i.e., fixing in place one to three of the starting letters for each word) while also coming up with a grid structure that supported some good fill. Similar to the left-hand side of the grid, deploying contiguous vertical blocks (i.e., the ones next to 8-Down and 60-Down) means that the neighboring letters must be in alphabetical order (i.e., the AB of ABLUSH and all of STY).

The Utah block at the top of the grid enables relative freedom for the NE corner in light of the constraint of having ABC at 1-Down. Without those two cheater squares, the neighboring down word would need to start with ABC, ACC, BBC, or BCC (if no cheater square is used) or BC or CC (with a single cheater square). Instead, I just needed a word that starts with AB (a much easier constraint to fill around). This freedom was especially important because the black square under 7-Down (REC) was fixed in place by its symmetry to the one above 60-Down (STY).

Interestingly, my first iteration of an alphabetical order puzzle had 78 words including three across answers in each row at the top and bottom of the grid, which made construction very difficult. The resulting grid strain also made the fill pretty blah. Going down to 76 words (and more importantly reducing the number of words in the top and bottom rows) made things both easier and better (a rare combination!).

Jeff Chen notes: Ah, that feeling of having given up on an idea years ago, deeming it impossible … only to see another constructor make it ... more
Jeff Chen notes:

Ah, that feeling of having given up on an idea years ago, deeming it impossible … only to see another constructor make it happen. Impressive construction today, Alex putting all the across answers in alphabetical, or ABC, order.

I had been working with a grid containing exactly 26 across answers, one for each letter of the alphabet, but no matter how long I flailed away, it just wasn't happening. I like Alex's approach, which is much less constrained than the one I had been taking, making it actually doable.

I wasn't hot on ABC as a revealer, because 1.) ABC order is not as strong as ALPHABETICAL order and 2.) it came at the beginning of the grid, giving away the game early. In mine, I was planning on using THE ALPHABET SONG, which would come at a better location for a revealer. But like my overall approach, that also proved impossible to execute on.

Impressive that Alex finished the grid with not nearly as much crossword glue as I would have expected from this set of constraints. Yes, there did feel a lot when I solved — ESS, CRTS, HOI, HEE, COL, BBL, and more — but think about how difficult it is to fix so many letters into place, all throughout the grid. It's true that some letters could be shifted, i.e. from C to D or from R to S, while still maintaining alphabetical order. But a single move like that will affect the rest of the puzzle, forcing a cascade of changes.

And to work in some great bonuses! EVILDOER, I ADORE IT, LUCASARTS, BOOYAH! Well done there.

As a constructor, I was wowed — Alex's note about 76 words being easier than 78 words was particularly interesting to me. As a solver though, the effect was less impactful, especially for a Thursday puzzle, where I expect to work harder for a bigger a-ha moment.

 1A 2R 3B 4I 5T 6E 7R 8A 9S 10T 11E 12R 13S 14B E B R A V E 15B O O Y A H 16C A L O R I C 17C L A U D I A 18C O L 19C O U R T I N G 20C 21R 22T S 23D 24R I E S T 25E S S 26H O I 27H O O T 28H O 29T 30I L L 31S E E Y O 32U 33I 34N 35U 36P 37L E T T E R A 38L 39I 40V E O N E 41L O S E 42L 43U C A S A R T S 44M 45C 46A 47M E D O 48M I T 49M 50O 51N 52O L 53D P R O 54O S L O 55O V E 56R B I D S 57R 58V S 59S A M O A N S 60S E E K 61I 62N 63G 64S T E W I E 65T I N A F E Y 66Y E A R N S 67Y T T R I U M
© 2017, The New York TimesNo. 0907 ( 24,775 )
 Across Down 1. One who settles arguments : ARBITER8. Late bloomers : ASTERS14. "Stay strong!" : BEBRAVE15. "Awesome!" : BOOYAH16. Like some information on food labels : CALORIC17. Lady Bird Johnson's real given name : CLAUDIA18. Newspaper unit: Abbr. : COL19. Plying with wine and roses, say : COURTING20. Old TV screens, for short : CRTS23. Like Nevada among all U.S. states : DRIEST25. Non-P.C. suffix : ESS26. ___ polloi : HOI27. Laugh riot : HOOT28. Heading for the fence? : HOT30. "Ta-ta for now!" : ILLSEEYOU33. ___ to one's ears : INUP37. Scarlet stigma : LETTERA38. Fish that's being reeled in : LIVEONE41. Hit the top in Tetris, e.g. : LOSE42. Maker of Star Wars and Indiana Jones video games : LUCASARTS44. Longtime record label for Elton John and Mary J. Blige : MCA47. "Love ___" (Beatles song) : MEDO48. Sch. on the bank of the Charles River : MIT49. Kingston dude : MON52. Veteran : OLDPRO54. Capital of the Land of the Midnight Sun : OSLO55. Optimistic bridge calls : OVERBIDS57. They're parked in parks : RVS59. People who might greet you by saying "Talofa, afio mai!" ("Hello, welcome!") : SAMOANS60. Word in many a personal ad : SEEKING64. Brian's pal on "Family Guy" : STEWIE65. Former "Weekend Update" co-anchor : TINAFEY66. Hungers (for) : YEARNS67. Its atomic number is 39 : YTTRIUM 1. Kind of order ... or a hint to this puzzle's unusual construction : ABC2. Stephen of "V for Vendetta" : REA3. OPEC units: Abbr. : BBL4. Classic Camaros : IROCS5. Tropical tuber : TARO6. "Nothing is easier than to denounce the ___; nothing is more difficult than to understand him": Dostoyevsky : EVILDOER7. Boom box button : REC8. Visibly embarrassed : ABLUSH9. Reach, as an altitude : SOARTO10. Push : TOUT11. Singer Gormé : EYDIE12. Comes down : RAINS13. Retrieves, as balls : SHAGS17. British runner Sebastian : COE19. ___ Gaston, first African-American manager to win a World Series : CITO20. "Just relax!" : CHILL21. Loggers' contest : ROLEO22. Isn't on the level : TILTS24. Queen, for one : ROYAL27. Bit of a giggle : HEE29. "___ yellow ribbon ..." : TIEA31. Modern educational acronym : STEM32. Something you feel in your gut? : ULCER34. Things most people follow : NORMS35. Word before "Yesterday" in a Tony Bennett hit and "Tomorrow" in a Sammy Kaye hit : UNTIL36. Green sauce : PESTO39. "That's simply lovely!" : IADOREIT40. Brandy label letters : VSO43. Ones calling people out? : UMPS45. Lead singer of Nirvana : COBAIN46. Flared dresses : ALINES49. Old-fashioned : MOSSY50. Almost circular : OVATE51. Setting of Hercules' first labor : NEMEA53. License to drill, for short? : DDS54. Schindler with a list : OSKAR56. "Hey there, tiger!" : ROWR58. Let it all out : VENT60. Barnyard adjunct : STY61. "___ Ruled the World" (1996 Nas hit) : IFI62. Opposite of old, in Oldenburg : NEU63. It might precede a shower : GYM

Answer summary: 4 unique to this puzzle, 2 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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