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New York Times, Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Author:
Ed Sessa
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
379/10/200710/16/20180
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
4967452
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.64251
Edward Sessa

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 78, Blocks: 36 Missing: {JQVZ} This is puzzle # 26 for Mr. Sessa. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Edward Sessa notes:
I think one would have had to be a teenager or adult during the '60s to really appreciate how much a game-changer 'The Twist' was to ... read more

I think one would have had to be a teenager or adult during the '60s to really appreciate how much a game-changer "The Twist" was to American song/dance culture. The puzzle happened only because Chubby Checker had a serendipitous letter-match in "nineteen sixty." I wish I had been able to lift a circled phrase from the original song but had to settle for words from Checker's song a year later. Just a straightforward puzzle with a little twist.

Will Shortz notes:
Anytime a puzzle contains triply-checked letters, like the circled ones here, there are likely to be compromises in the fill. The ... read more

Anytime a puzzle contains triply-checked letters, like the circled ones here, there are likely to be compromises in the fill. The middle section of this grid has more unappealing entries than I like — especially CES, SDS, NLERS, ALAI, ASTA, SNO, and DAL. So the question becomes ... is the "aha" strong enough to outweigh the puzzle's weaknesses? In this case, obviously, I thought the answer was yes.

Jeff Chen notes:
What a nice visual, a twist-related lyric 'twisting' down the center of the puzzle. Makes for a pretty picture and also gives a lift ... read more

What a nice visual, a twist-related lyric "twisting" down the center of the puzzle. Makes for a pretty picture and also gives a lift to hear that catchy line running through my head.

What does Will mean by "triply-checked"? Ah, the dreaded diagonal. Constructors typically avoid working with diagonal entries, because they quickly constrain all the regions they run through. A short diagonal entry isn't that tough to work with, but start increasing the length and the difficulty level quickly escalates. Ed does a nice job of isolating his twisting entry through the use of 1.) black squares, 2.) spreading his themers as far away as possible, and 3.) using a 78-word puzzle.

The black squares are such a helpful factor. Check out the blocks separating the E O N of COME ON. If those hadn't been there, Ed would have had to find words that are "triply-checked" i.e. they have to work with the diagonal, the horizontal, and the vertical words. No fun. The fact that the themers are pushed to the sides and thus only minimally interact with the "twist" is also helpful. Finally, going up to the max of 78 words allows Ed to deploy a whole lot of black squares throughout the middle of the puzzle, reducing the "triply-checked" areas.

Anytime there are few long theme entries — this one only has two which take up long slots — you'll need to incorporate long fill. I like the ones Ed selects; sparkly indeed. It was sort of neat that WALL SOCKET and POWER STRIP were related, although it made me wonder if I was missing something, i.e. was CHUBBY CHECKER's original job an electrician? (Perhaps it's that he electrified the world?) POWER STRIP does unfortunately constrain that west section, making for the awkward CLEW and A REED. I tried modeling that to see if it was easy to clean up, and it was not. Perhaps an alternate piece of fill to POWER STRIP could have made it smoother?

But all in all, a fantastic visual impact which I'm sure will have high resonance to those who witnessed the CHUBBY CHECKER craze firsthand. Even for those of us who didn't, I found it a fun way to learn a bit more about that period in American music.

1
L
2
O
3
B
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D
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A
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C
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H
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A
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S
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C
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R
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A
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G
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A
M
O
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U
P
H
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D
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H
E
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M
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M
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B
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C
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A
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B
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N
E
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M
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D
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A
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C
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C
E
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N
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A
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S
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W
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A
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K
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E
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T
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A
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D
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S
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P
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P
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C
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P
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G
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K
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W
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S
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P
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X
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F
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D
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U
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K
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A
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R
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E
D
S
© 2014, The New York TimesNo. 0909 ( 23,681 )

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Across
1
Easy toss : LOB
4
Country getaways, in Russia : DACHAS
10
Cliff feature : CRAG
14
Start of a Latin trio : AMO
15
Support, as a principle : UPHOLD
16
Subject of Dante's "Inferno" : HELL
17
Behavioral quirks : MANNERISMS
19
Together, in France : UNIE
20
Oven button : BROIL
21
These, to Thérèse : CES
22
Addis ___, Ethiopia : ABABA
23
Sub commander of fiction : NEMO
25
Home to James Joyce : DUBLIN
26
Bow (to) : ACCEDE
29
Smartly attired : NATTY
31
See 39-Across : SALT
32
Electricity source : WALLSOCKET
37
Thin as ___ : AREED
39
With 31-Across, natural flavor enhancer : SEA
40
Noted performing whale : SHAMU
41
Electricity source : POWERSTRIP
44
Environmental activist Brockovich : ERIN
45
Many babysitters : NANAS
46
Pepsi competitor : RCCOLA
48
Round a certain corner in Monopoly : PASSGO
51
Brought (along) : TOOK
52
"No" voters : ANTIS
53
Number often given to a maitre d' : TWO
55
Brown-toned photo : SEPIA
59
River to 16-Across : STYX
60
Class outings : FIELDTRIPS
62
Pinball infraction : TILT
63
Open, as a letter : UNSEAL
64
Pond fish : KOI
65
___-deucey : ACEY
66
Noisy like a clunker : RATTLY
67
Hollywood's Harris and Helms : EDS
Down
1
Very soft fleece source : LAMB
2
Poet Khayyám : OMAR
3
Cher's son Chaz : BONO
4
Crossed swords : DUELED
5
Mo. when Shakespeare was born : APR
6
TV's "___ and the Man" : CHICO
7
Cheat, in slang : HOSE
8
Old-fashioned charity : ALMS
9
Onetime New Left org. : SDS
10
Starter of a dance craze in 18-Down : CHUBBYCHECKER
11
Kidney-related : RENAL
12
"I was home watching TV," e.g. : ALIBI
13
Gather bit by bit : GLEAN
18
See 10-Down : NINETEENSIXTY
22
BMWs, but not BMXs : AUTOS
24
Kitten call : MEW
25
The shakes, with "the" : DTS
26
Rush order : ASAP
27
Dear one, Italian-style : CARO
28
Discovery in a British mystery : CLEW
29
Reds and Pirates, for short : NLERS
30
Jai ___ : ALAI
33
Dog of 1930s-'40s mysteries : ASTA
34
Corn syrup brand : KARO
35
Jannings who won the first Best Actor Oscar : EMIL
36
___ roll (sushi offering) : TUNA
38
Proceeds like a boring meeting : DRAGS
42
___-Caps (movie candy) : SNO
43
For, in a debate : PRO
47
Like a mistake that's going to hurt you : COSTLY
48
Lasagna or linguine : PASTA
49
Three Stooges bit : ANTIC
50
Fashion sense : STYLE
51
Apartment rental sign : TOLET
53
Turner who sang "The Best," 1989 : TINA
54
Last part of the country to report election returns, usually, with "the" : WEST
56
Highway : PIKE
57
"Mini" music player : IPOD
58
How used goods are often sold : ASIS
60
Lab's coat : FUR
61
The Cowboys, on a scoreboard : DAL

Answer summary: 3 unique to this puzzle.

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