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New York Times, Thursday, January 9, 2020

Author:
Alex Eaton-Salners
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
352/2/20173/26/20202
SunMonTueWedThuFriSatVariety
127614113
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.54250
Alex Eaton-Salners

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 72, Blocks: 41 Missing: {FQVXZ} Grid has mirror symmetry. This is puzzle # 30 for Mr. Eaton-Salners. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Alex Eaton-Salners notes:
This tribute to 'T' took tremendous toil. Thankfully, tallying the terms that T triggers/terminates transcends trifles. The textual ... read more

This tribute to "T" took tremendous toil. Thankfully, tallying the terms that T triggers/terminates transcends trifles. The textual tightness that "T" traces transfers terrifically too. Therefore, T's tailor-made to tie together this theme (tentatively titled "Tee Time").

Tossing the T's, (t)ROU(t)/(t)ROU transforms to twin trigrams. Traditionally taboo, today's thematic tenet terms this twosome tolerable. Torpedoing this tradition tends to trouble "team tetchy" (though this transcriber thinks that truculence tiresome).

Trigrams tend to triteness. Typically, tackling ten to twelve trigrams thoroughly taints the thrill. Truncating the thematic terms, today's trigramatic tetrad trounces that trend.

Tricky Thursday themes that thrill through tough-to-twig techniques take twice (to tenfold) the time to tack together. Though taxing, this task's terribly tempting to try (thirteen through today!). Translating twisty Thursday turns to text takes tenaciousness. Transporting thinkers to temporary titillation — that's the true test. The thornier the territory, the tastier to tackle.

This Thursday trade thrives through technology: tightening the theme, throwing together the template, tweaking the terms, tailoring the textual tips. Thunderous thanks to the trailblazing techies tendering terrific tools to transform this titanic task to tractability. Though these tools trim the tedium, turning them to trenchant Toledos takes tireless training.

Jeff Chen notes:
Long ago, the 'Four T Puzzle' hooked me on physical puzzles that require clever manipulation. It's so satisfying when after a long ... read more

Long ago, the "Four T Puzzle" hooked me on physical puzzles that require clever manipulation. It's so satisfying when after a long period of intense study and logical reasoning, you finally crack an elegant stumper. (It's less satisfying when you crack the darn thing with a hammer, but there's still something to be said for that.) If you don't know about Chris Ramsay's YouTube channel, it should be the next URL you check out. Heck, stop reading and go there right now; he's way more interesting than me!

The "Four T Puzzle" is my go-to when someone exhibits a seed of interest in logic, craftsmanship, and/or puzzles. It broke my mind when I first experienced it, blowing up my entire sense of dignity. I had never seen something so elegantly breaking the rules I had assumed, showing that sometimes solving a problem takes a dramatic shift in mindset.

Alex gave himself a major challenge with this construction, fitting in his four black Ts while requiring EVERY SINGLE ANSWER that abutted one (or two!) of them to use said T. I've seen plenty of puzzles like this — I made one a few years ago — but this goes above and beyond. As a constructor, I love experiencing a puzzle where I can't quite figure out how I'd make it. I'll be studying this for days; so many interesting two-T entries like TUGBOAT, TRAP SET, TRUE DAT, just TO START. I doubt I could TOP THAT.

I'm studying it all again, and I'm even more impressed than before. Twelve entries that needed to work with two of the black Ts? And 24 more that have to work with one T? That's such a ridiculous level of difficulty, like attempting a 720 triple tail whip on a dirt bike — without shoes! Or feet! I'd be impressed even if Alex had wiped out. Far from it. Given the severe constraints, it's a fine result.

I wanted to give it the POW! because it's so crazy, so incredibly audacious. So why didn't I?

  1. My solving experience was tainted by the oddballs SOROCCO, TOULON, HOISTER, ONE REEL, SUDSES, PRERIGS. Some (all?) are worth knowing, but as a whole, it left a bad taste.
  2. One of the NYT's production people, one of the best solvers in the world, didn't get what was going on. If she couldn't grok the concept, how many others would be left sending angry emails (not to me, no not to me, please!)

Overall, wonderful execution on a concept that made my constructor's eyes pop out of my head, Looney Tunes-style. Hilarious observations by Alex, too. I couldn't get the solver in me to set aside all his hitches, unfortunately.

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© 2020, The New York TimesNo. 0109 ( 25,629 )
Across
1
I.T. support desk service : PCHELP
7
"Down goes Frazier!" caller : COSELL
13
Heated house for chicks : BROODER
14
Like Looney Tunes, theatrically : ONEREEL
16
Jane Eyre or Wonder Woman : HEROINE
17
Spicy : PICANTE
18
More than some : ALOT
19
Characteristic : TRAIT
21
Cook and Curry : TIMS
22
Spanish boy's name related to the sixth month of the year : JUNOT
24
Baby in a rare birth : TRIPLET
26
They leave in the spring : TREES
27
Clarifying phrase : IDEST
28
Harbor sight : TUGBOAT
29
Letter in the last third of the NATO alphabet : TANGO
30
Couches : SETTEES
32
Capital of the U.S. for 54 days in 1784 : TRENTON
34
Plus : AND
35
Meditation mantras : OMS
36
Not interpret correctly : MISREAD
40
Indonesian money : RUPIAHS
44
How tied N.F.L. games are resolved, for short : INOT
45
Common sport fish : TROUT
47
Pants, slangily : TROU
48
Bit of foppish attire : ASCOT
50
Drum kit, by another name : TRAPSET
52
Not so brave and determined : TIMID
53
Brave and determined : STOUT
54
"You'll never beat my score!" : TOPTHAT
55
Lock : TRESS
56
Shakespeare contemporary : MARLOWE
58
Comedian Jimmy : DURANTE
60
Longtime "Today" forecaster : ALROKER
61
Amusing incongruities : IRONIES
62
Friendless : LONELY
63
Make like : ENDEAR
Down
1
When an opera's musical themes may be established : PRELUDE
2
Bit of headwear that often has jewels : CORONET
3
Cry at night : HOOT
4
Mince words? : EDIT
5
Annual winter/spring observance : LENT
6
Sets up ahead of time, in jargon : PRERIGS
7
What some say God is to them : COPILOT
8
"Leave this to me" : ONIT
9
Religious group : SECT
10
Part of the conjugation of the Latin "esse" : ERAT
11
Permissive : LENIENT
12
Captive's plea : LETMEGO
13
Spicy Indian fritters : BHAJIS
15
Textbook unit : LESSON
20
P.D. alert : APB
23
"For one thing ..." : TOSTART
24
"Indeed!," colloquially : TRUEDAT
25
Remove forcefully : TEAROUT
26
Go from one place to another : TRANSIT
31
Principle : TENET
33
Lure : TEMPT
36
Oppressive atmosphere : MIASMA
37
Get with the program? : INSTALL
38
Texas city on the Mexican border : SOCORRO
39
Window dressing : DRAPERY
40
"Midnight's Children" novelist, 1981 : RUSHDIE
41
First country to establish Christianity as its state religion : ARMENIA
42
Sailor vis-à-vis a sail : HOISTER
43
Lathers up : SUDSES
46
Go (for) : OPT
49
French port on the Mediterranean : TOULON
50
Tool with a pointed blade : TROWEL
51
Large beverage dispenser : TEAURN
52
Capital of Albania : TIRANE
57
Drag : TOKE
59
Stepped : TROD

Answer summary: 5 unique to this puzzle, 2 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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