TOIL AND TROUBLE

New York Times, Sunday, February 2, 2014

Author: Dick Shlakman and Jeff Chen
Editor: Will Shortz
Dick Shlakman
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
22/2/20147/2/20142
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
1001000
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.57010
Jeff Chen
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
577/5/20109/25/201633
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
185481453
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.633112

This puzzle:

Rows: 21, Columns: 21 Words: 140, Blocks: 83 Missing: {JQZ} Grid has mirror symmetry This is the debut puzzle for Mr. Shlakman This is puzzle # 22 for Mr. Chen. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Constructor notes: DICK: If the byline for co-constructors was set in type reflecting the respective contributions of each, my name would be in eight point pica type and Jeff's in 20 point, BOLDED and italicized. I am, at age 74, ... more
Constructor notes: DICK: If the byline for co-constructors was set in type reflecting the respective contributions of each, my name would be in eight point pica type and Jeff's in 20 point, BOLDED and italicized. I am, at age 74, very different from most who construct puzzles accepted by the New York Times. I do not attempt any crosswords or other puzzles except the Sunday NYT and it takes me close to an entire day to get near finishing one. It has been a dream to see my name attached to a Sunday NYT crossword puzzle. (I think it is the same syndrome that causes me to enjoy writing poetry but not reading it.)

I had many theme ideas (none architectural) and no ability whatsoever to take the next step. One Sunday, in checking my many unfilled answers at Rex Parker's blog, I saw a comment from Jeff volunteering to work with newbies. My initial effort ultimately led to the co-construction of a puzzle containing homophones as the theme answers, submitted to, and accepted by Will for a Wednesday publication, but it has not yet been published.

During the course of working with that puzzle, Jeff taught me the most basic of NYT crossword construction requirements, to wit: that theme answers need to be internally very consistent and "tight" (a comment I have heard from Jeff as he has, with considerable grace, declined to co-author virtually every other idea I have submitted to him!), and that the fill must be neat and clean and interesting with as little reliance on "crosswordese" as possible.

My original idea and theme word selections for this puzzle centered on well known expressions first introduced into the English language by Shakespeare. Not "tight enough" opined my new mentor. He suggested we try for such theme content from one play only. He also authored the idea of using Macbeth and working in, as the reveal clue, the reference to the superstition against mentioning the play's name, (which was the subject of a marvelous Canadian TV series called Slings and Arrows, season 2, also shown in the U.S. on Sundance). In our division of labor, we collaborated and contributed equally on the selection of the Macbeth quotes, Jeff did the grid and virtually all of the fill, and I took the lead in, and supplied much of the clues.

Will Shortz notes: This puzzle has everything — a fresh, literary theme, beautifully executed, with a bonus visual element, and a handsome construction to boot. Besides the theme I like DURAN DURAN, POLO SHIRT, IN A KNOT, ... more
Will Shortz notes: This puzzle has everything — a fresh, literary theme, beautifully executed, with a bonus visual element, and a handsome construction to boot. Besides the theme I like DURAN DURAN, POLO SHIRT, IN A KNOT, HEAVE-HO, IONE SKYE, HOT POT, TOODLE-OO, NO HOPE, and THE ROBOT. This should make for a relaxing few hours for most solvers ... or a "relaxing" 6-8 minutes for crossword champion Dan Feyer!
Jeff Chen notes: Thus continues the saga of JEFF VS. DAN, wherein I try my durndest to beat ACPT champ Dan Feyer on a puzzle I wrote. My solving time: 6:39. You'll find Dan's time (and that of the other speedsters) posted at Dan's ... more
Jeff Chen notes: Thus continues the saga of JEFF VS. DAN, wherein I try my durndest to beat ACPT champ Dan Feyer on a puzzle I wrote. My solving time: 6:39. You'll find Dan's time (and that of the other speedsters) posted at Dan's blog. Curious to see how badly he beat me this time. It's been over 30 puzzles now, and I still haven't won. I've even started handicapping it by reviewing all the answers right before I solve. And sometimes I don't even come within a factor of two!

ADDED NOTE: David Plotkin's time (on paper!) = 5:54. Dagnabit! And Dan's time... 3:50. Whoa. Talk about superhuman powers. Someone ought to make him a cape.

Very fun collaborating with Dick on his big debut. He came up with the idea and I helped him refine it. I actually didn't do that much; the credit should go to him. It's tough to come up with clever ideas for a NYT Sunday puzzle.

Ah, the gridwork. Not as much of a challenge as I've encountered in some other constructions, but a toughie nonetheless. There are only six themers, but incorporating the dagger with the M A C B E T H letters made it tricky, forcing us to deploy our black squares quicker than we had desired. This left big open spaces in the NW and NE, and without those cheater squares (the two stair patterns at the top of the grid), it looked pretty hopeless. We debated whether EXERCISERS was legitimate, eventually deciding it was KOSHER, and were glad that it allowed the snazzy BANDOLERO and LITERATI to work.

The other tricky spot sort of snuck up on us. Because of the word count limitations (140 max), we had to incorporate a few long across answers, IONE SKYE notably. It's a nice entry in itself, but boy did it cause problems. Because it crossed three theme answers, there weren't many options there besides IONE SKYE, and once that was fixed into place, KIEL was the best we could do at that spot. Now, I'm a huge fan of James Bond villains and Jaws in particular, but even I don't like having to remember who played him. And having OHO, OOH, OH I, UH OH... that's my fault. Sometimes at a certain point (in this case, maybe 50 attempts), you've done your best.

Ah well, as with most constructions, there will be compromises. I had a great time working on this with Dick, and I welcome anyone who's interested in collaborating (read: allowing me to ride on their coattails as I politely shoot down all their ideas until something fun emerges) to contact me at jeffchen1972 (at) gmail (dot) com.

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© 2014, The New York TimesNo. 23,462
Across Down
1. Turns left : HAWS
5. Ogles offensively : LEERSAT
12. One for the money? : UNUM
16. Actors Ken and Lena : OLINS
18. Gettable : INREACH
19. ___ Foods : WHOLE
20. Cash in : REDEEM
22. Tiny tunneler : TERMITE
23. Big gun : KAHUNA
24. Ones doing aerobics : EXERCISERS
26. Popular British band named after the villain in "Barbarella" : DURANDURAN
28. Sinister señor : BANDOLERO
29. Lacoste offering : POLOSHIRT
30. Soul maker : KIA
31. Channel showing old Hollywood hits : TCM
34. Disposables maker : BIC
35. Modus operandi : HOW
38. Kind of accounting : COST
39. Bistro glassful : EAU
40. Sturdy ones : OAKS
42. Org. using X-rays : TSA
45. Equally, say : INHALF
47. Tangled : INAKNOT
50. Legit : KOSHER
52. Words before and after "my lads" in the United States Merchant Marine anthem : HEAVEHO
54. ___ acid : OLEIC
55. Sides are often alongside them : ENTREES
56. Entry fee? : ANTE
57. "Don't look now ..." : UHOH
59. Bell or shell preceder : TACO
61. Regarding : ASTO
62. Super Bowl successes, for short : TDS
63. Key of Bach's most famous Mass : BMINOR
65. Furniture style of Louis XV : ROCOCO
67. Dupe : CON
68. ___ the Explorer : DORA
70. "That's all folks," for Mel Blanc : EPITAPH
72. Batman : Robin :: Green Hornet : ___ : KATO
74. Strand, somehow : SNOWIN
76. Girl's name meaning "happiness" : FELICIA
77. Squirm : WRITHE
80. John Cusack's co-star in "Say Anything ..." : IONESKYE
82. Dir. of the Missouri between S.D. and Neb. : ESE
83. Like leftovers, often : REHEATED
85. Born : NEE
86. Actor Richard who played Jaws in Bond films : KIEL
87. Some A.L. (but not N.L.) players : DHS
88. It may be indicated with a ring : MOOD
89. More than pique : IRE
90. Too smooth : GLIB
92. Dudley Do-Right's love : NELL
94. Second place? : TENS
95. Part of N.R.A.: Abbr. : ASSN
96. Email button : SEND
98. Erne or tern : SEABIRD
102. Baloney, in Bristol : TOSH
104. Entitle to wear vestments : ORDAIN
106. Headstrong : WILLFUL
107. East Asian stew : HOTPOT
110. "Ta-ta!" : TOODLEOO
112. It may be radical : ION
113. Places where polar bears fish : ICEHOLES
115. They may be sprayed on : TANS
116. HBO competitor : SHO
117. Bill's partner : COO
118. Pro : FOR
119. Major, for example : RANK
120. Poetic rhapsody : ODE
121. Soak (up) : SOP
122. Summer White House setting: Abbr. : EDT
123. "Lady" of the lea : EWE
124. Rocky shout-outs : YOS
1. Biblical peak : HOREB
2. Actress Vega of "Spy Kids" : ALEXA
3. Expand : WIDEN
4. Mortimer of old radio : SNERD
5. Contributors to The Paris Review, e.g. : LITERATI
6. First of 12 in South America : ENERO
7. Muffs : ERRS
8. Band with the 1994 album "Monster" : REM
9. "He" and "she" follower : SAID
10. Not perform as expected : ACTUP
11. Dance popularized by Michael Jackson : THEROBOT
12. "Yep" : UHHUH
13. Iraqi P.M. ___ al-Maliki : NOURI
14. Like one of the arm bones : ULNAR
15. Destined (for) : MEANT
17. Like vino de Rioja : SECO
19. Gobs : WADS
21. Compassion, figuratively : MILKOFHUMANKINDNESS
23. Start of many jokes : KNOCKKNOCKWHOSTHERE
25. Dos x tres : SEIS
27. Latin "others" : ALIA
31. Blue-green : TEAL
32. Part of many an anniversary celebration : CAKE
33. Tax-free bond, for short : MUNI
35. Pair of cymbals in a drum kit : HIHAT
36. Ceaselessly : ONEND
37. Tautological statement of finality : WHATSDONEISDONE
38. Cavs, on a scoreboard : CLE
41. Elbow-bender : SOT
42. Superstitious thespian's name for a work of Shakespeare ... from which 21-, 23-, 37-, 58- and 60-Down all come : THESCOTTISHPLAY
43. Take care of : SEETO
44. Cause of an insurance investigation : ARSON
46. One of 17 on a Monopoly board: Abbr. : AVE
48. What a goner has : NOHOPE
49. Army threats? : OCTOPI
51. Mendoza Mrs. : SRA
53. "___ get it!" : OHI
55. System prefix : ECO
58. A single stroke : ONEFELLSWOOP
60. What the lucky person leads : ACHARMEDLIFE
63. Lively : BRISK
64. Piqued : RILED
65. 500 events : RACES
66. Equipped to row : OARED
69. Have debts : OWE
71. "The Addams Family" nickname : TISH
73. ___ Maria : TIA
74. Rat : SING
75. Carol : NOEL
78. Towel designation : HERS
79. Elysium : EDEN
81. Cry before "haw" : YEE
84. Big stretch? : EON
91. Moccasin decorations : BEADS
93. You might bow your head to receive one : LEI
94. Play about Capote : TRU
95. Famous Titanic victim : ASTOR
97. Zilch : NIL
99. One of "The Honeymooners" : ALICE
100. Drippings appropriately positioned under the circled letters : BLOOD
101. Alternatively : IFNOT
103. "Lo-o-ovely!" : OOH
104. Director Preminger : OTTO
105. You may find a fork in it : ROAD
108. Prefix with -phile : OENO
109. Some reproaches : TSKS
111. Palindromic cry : OHO
114. Intimidate : COW

Answer summary: 7 unique to this puzzle, 1 debuted here and reused later, 1 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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