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CHANGE OF HEART

New York Times, Thursday, September 11, 2014

Author: Patrick Blindauer
Editor: Will Shortz
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Patrick Blindauer
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This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 84, Blocks: 47 Missing: {JQZ} This is puzzle # 53 for Mr. Blindauer. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Notepad: This crossword was the most-discussed puzzle at Lollapuzzoola 7, a tournament held on August 9 in New York City. The event was directed by Brian Cimmet and Patrick Blindauer. Hint: The title is key to solving the puzzle. Time limit: 45 minutes.
Patrick Blindauer notes: As the blurb on this crossword says, it was used during the most recent 'Lollapuzzoola' tournament in NYC, which I cohost ... more
Patrick Blindauer notes: As the blurb on this crossword says, it was used during the most recent "Lollapuzzoola" tournament in NYC, which I cohost with Brian Cimmet. It was our dreaded Puzzle 4, meant to be the trickiest puzzle of the day (like Puzzle 5 at the ACPT), though looking at the standings just now, I see that Andrew Feist solved it perfectly in 6:45. Nicely done, Andrew! Some got stumped until they were allowed to use their Google tickets (our sanctioned method of "cheating"), and some solved it but put two letters in each of the key squares, which we had decided to count as incorrect (sorry!). Also, two solvers had an odd advantage: they chose to compete in our Downs Only Division for the day, so they didn't have the Across clues to throw them off. As such, Joon Pahk solved the puzzle correctly with only the Down clues in 4:41. Wowza. If anyone had noticed this and done some lateral thinking, it might've been a big help in deciphering the puzzle's diabolical secrets. Special thanks to Will for his support of the tourney these past 7 years and for sharing my puzzle with a much wider audience.

Next year's 'Zoola is already scheduled for 8/8/15, so save the date and join us for a day of cruciverbial silliness in a church basement on the Upper West Side (or in our At-Home Division through the magic of the internet). Most of the puzzles aren't nearly this cruel, I swear!

Will Shortz notes: This year's Lollapuzzoola tournament was the first one I've missed in its seven-year history. On the day it was held, I was flying ... more
Will Shortz notes: This year's Lollapuzzoola tournament was the first one I've missed in its seven-year history. On the day it was held, I was flying to London for the World Puzzle Championship. Patrick and Brian visited me before the tournament to borrow some supplies, though, and they told me about some of the cool things they had scheduled, including this. I asked if I could run it in the Times. But for when? It didn't feel wacky enough for a Sunday variety puzzle, or open enough gridwise for a Saturday. So I scheduled it for a Thursday (today), which is typically the hardest theme day. I know this hybrid of a crossword/variety puzzle is not to everyone's taste. I'm prepared for the "hate" comments! Still, solvers who love this will probably really love it, so I think it's worth running.

BTW, I changed a few of the tournament clues to make them slightly easier and less trivia-oriented than the originals. For example, not all solvers may know that "Pinky or The Brain, e.g." (Patrick's clue at 1A) is a MOUSE, or that "Guitarist Saul Hudson of Guns N' Roses, familiarly" (28D) is SLASH. These would have been stumbling blocks for many solvers. So I tweaked the puzzle here and there (not much) to make it more accessible.

Meanwhile, I'm just happy to introduce Lollapuzzoola to a wider audience.

Jeff Chen notes: It's rare for a NYT weekday puzzle to have a title, and this one was not only necessary but a perfect description. What a great theme ... more
Jeff Chen notes: It's rare for a NYT weekday puzzle to have a title, and this one was not only necessary but a perfect description. What a great theme concept, the middle letter of each across entry modified, thus given a CHANGE OF HEART. Patrick is one of the few constructors out there that pushes the boundaries like this. Even if the puzzle wasn't to your taste, I'd find it hard to deny that this one will be remembered. Trying out crazy new things is great for the crossword art form.

I stumbled upon the effectiveness of the "downs-only" approach once I figured out what was going on, but my solve of 20+ minutes makes Joon's sub-5 that much more awe-inspiring. I struggled mightily with the G of GERARDO, eventually guessing BERARDO. It would have been fantastic if the across entries could only have been one possible (wrong) thing, as that would have given some measure of "checking" each square, but to even achieve this level of what Patrick did is pretty incredible.

Frankly, I have no idea how he did it. The constraint of each across entry having to possibly be a different but equally valid word seems so constraining. It's a bit easier in that he's gone up to 84 words, thus being able to use shorter word lengths. But even then, to find such gems as TAKES PART / TAKE APART and FIREWATER / FIRE EATER is impressive. A quick software program to sort through a word list to find appropriate pairs could help there, but when you extend this constraint to the entire puzzle — wow, what an undertaking!

Finally, I find it so neat to hear about the collaboration and support Will and Patrick both mention. Will could have easily have said that Lollapuzzoola is a competitor to his ACPT so he'd prefer not to plug it, but he went out of his way to help publicize it to the enormous NYT audience. The thing I like best about the great majority of the crossword community is its exhibition of uplifting, positive qualities, and this exemplifies it to a tee.

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© 2014, The New York TimesNo. 0911 ( 23,683 )
Across Down
1. Computer purchase : MOUSE
6. "Much ___ About Nothing" : ADO
9. Rooster's roost : PERCH
14. Canadian pop singer Lavigne : AVRIL
15. Hawaii's Mauna ___ : LOA
16. Pretty person : CUTIE
17. Dismantle : TAKEAPART
19. Goody two-shoes : PRUDE
20. Hum follower : VEE
21. Stomach muscles : ABS
23. Brazilian baker? : SOL
24. Further to the right on a number line : GREATER
27. Yellow-centered bloomer : ASTER
30. Archaic "Curses!" : FIE
31. Fish oil source : COD
32. Sticky stuff : GOO
33. Reading material, for short : LIT
34. It can be saved or cured : BACON
36. Leader of the pack? : ALPHA
40. Simon & Garfunkel's "I ___ Rock" : AMA
41. False show : ACT
42. Gives a thumbs-up : OKS
44. Repair : FIX
45. Under attack : BESET
47. Starsky's partner : HUTCH
49. President between James and Andrew, briefly : ABE
50. First state: Abbr. : DEL
52. Excellent drivers often break it : PAR
53. Supernatural being : GOD
54. Rely on : TRUST
56. Piece of office equipment : STAPLER
59. "Adios!" : BYE
60. Tier : ROW
62. "___ Joey" (Sinatra film) : PAL
63. Deduce logically : INFER
66. Sideshow performer : FIREEATER
71. "I have no idea!" : GOTME
72. Slew : TON
73. Georgia campus : EMORY
74. Priest of ancient Gaul : DRUID
75. Exclamation of discovery : AHA
76. Perez of film : ROSIE
1. Pin cushion? : MAT
2. Some germ cells : OVA
3. Sturdy tree in the beech family : OAK
4. Filter in the kitchen : SIEVE
5. Cow in Borden ads : ELSIE
6. ___ broche (cooked on a skewer) : ALA
7. "Rico Suave" rapper : GERARDO
8. Swear words? : OATH
9. "Angel dust" : PCP
10. U.K. locale : EUR
11. Spring (from) : ARISE
12. Autumnal quaff : CIDER
13. Command to a canine : HEEL
18. Friskies eater : PETCAT
22. Moderate decline in prices : SAG
24. "Johnny B. ___" : GOODE
25. Label anew : RETAG
26. "Planet of the Apes" planet [spoiler alert!] : EARTH
28. / : SLASH
29. Cambodia's Lon ___ : NOL
30. Exerciser's enemy : FLAB
34. They may be drawn before bedtime : BATHS
35. Tune for nine : NONET
37. Sufficiently old : OFAGE
38. Float like a helicopter : HOVER
39. Brought down, as a tree : AXED
43. Abrasion : SCRAPE
46. Partner of Dreyer : EDY
48. Improvement : UPSWING
51. Item in an env. : LTR
54. Pavarotti or Caruso : TENOR
55. Evoking the past : RETRO
57. Rapunzel's prison : TOWER
58. "Me ___ Patricio" ("I am called Patrick") : LLAMO
59. Cowboy's home, familiarly : BIGD
61. Old Spice alternative : AFTA
64. London-based record company : EMI
65. Word before Sox or Wings : RED
67. Cell stuff : RNA
68. ___-Mex : TEX
69. "___ tu" (Verdi aria) : ERI
70. Manhattan part : RYE

Answer summary: 1 unique to this puzzle, 1 debuted here and reused later.

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