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TAKEN TO TASK

New York Times, Sunday, October 13, 2013

Author: Jeff Chen
Editor: Will Shortz
Jeff Chen
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
707/5/20105/29/201741
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2064111667
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.633132

This puzzle:

Rows: 21, Columns: 21 Words: 140, Blocks: 76 Missing: {QZ} Grid is asymmetric This is puzzle # 19 for Mr. Chen. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Notepad: In the print version of this puzzle, the square after 43-Across is a black circle rather than a black square.
Will Shortz notes: This is one of my favorite Sunday puzzles in a while. The "reveal" along the center diagonal is wonderful. Besides the theme, I especially like the entries DODO BIRD, CAR KEYS, MEAT PIE, GET AHEAD, ON THE WAY, ALGER HISS, IT'S HOT, and I DARE YOU. That's a lot of great stuff!
Jeff Chen notes: This puzzle was a long time in the making, over two years. So many people helped me with feedback and collaboration: Ian Livengood, Doug Peterson, Jim Horne, Kevin Der, and Joon Pahk. Joon in particular hit upon ... more
Jeff Chen notes: This puzzle was a long time in the making, over two years. So many people helped me with feedback and collaboration: Ian Livengood, Doug Peterson, Jim Horne, Kevin Der, and Joon Pahk. Joon in particular hit upon BOULDER COLORADO which was the final piece of the puzzle. I have to say, the puzzle constructor community is awesome, some of the most intelligent, funny, and nice people I've ever had the pleasure being around. Plus, they know how to have a good time (what happens at the ACPT stays at the ACPT).

(mostly a lot of drinking, laughing, and nerd talk)

I originally had a cutesy cluing scheme, i.e. MISSION IMPOSSIBLE = "Puzzle subject's least favorite TV series?" with SISYPHUS hidden, for the solver to find. But I really like what Will has done with it. At first I was worried that people wouldn't quite get the theme without the explicit "puzzle subject" cluing, but now I see it as poor Sisyphus surrounded by these rock-related terms, stuck in the middle of nightmarish limbo. And I love what Will did with the circles around SISYPHUS. Much more elegant than the kind of notepad note/word search approach I was thinking.

Even when I had all the theme answers in place, the grid was a bear. For a while I thought that this construction had defeated me, but after three dozen rearrangements and 35 punts, I finally came upon a pattern of black squares that seemed like it might just work. In order to incorporate the kinds of long fill Will mentioned (thanks for the nice words, Will!) I ended up having to place more cheater squares than I would have liked—three pairs feels like too many to me—but the resulting blockiness seemed like a reasonable compromise.

I tried my best to incorporate snazzy long fill and clean short fill, but not matter how hard I fought, not matter how many dozens of hours I spent trying hundreds of options, I couldn't figure a way around INSTR. I finally convinced myself that if a flaw in woven goods is a tribute to Athena (showing that no one is as perfect as her), a flaw in a crossword is an offering to the crossword deity OOXTEPLERNON, Rex Parker's nemesis (see "Some helpful vocabulary" at the bottom of the page).

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© 2013, The New York TimesNo. 1013 ( 23,350 )
Across Down
1. Treats, as a bow : ROSINS
7. Org. for lab safety? : ASPCA
12. Inits. for cinephiles : TMC
15. QB datum : INT
18. G. P. ___ (early book publisher) : PUTNAM
19. Layered : TIERED
20. Refined resource : OIL
21. Name-dropper's word? : NEE
22. Movie franchise since 1996 : MISSIONIMPOSSIBLE
25. Crosswords, e.g., in the 1920s : FAD
26. Like bourbon barrels : OAKEN
27. Grp. with a caduceus : AMA
28. Metaphor for obsolescence : DODOBIRD
30. Setting for "Mork & Mindy" : BOULDERCOLORADO
35. Kind of raid : PANTY
36. Playing : ONTV
37. Rideshare rides : VANS
38. Whistle-blowers? : LOTHARIOS
40. One of three stars in the Summer Triangle : DENEB
42. One of a race in Middle-earth : ENT
43. Painter's deg. : MFA
45. Caroline du Sud, e.g. : ETAT
46. Publisher's entreaty : RENEW
48. Some wraps : SHAWLS
50. Sonata starters : CARKEYS
53. Plant whose seed is sold as a health food product : CHIA
55. Twin of Jacob : ESAU
56. Actress Sorvino : MIRA
57. Cat's resting place, maybe : LAP
58. "Gilligan's Island" castaway : MARYANN
61. When doubled, a sad sound effect : WAH
62. No longer exists : ISNT
63. "Be My Yoko ___" (Barenaked Ladies single) : ONO
64. When doubled, a hit song of 1965 and 1989 : IKO
65. Porter : REDCAP
67. '50s duds : EDSELS
69. Carry or iron follower : ONS
70. Bupkis : NIL
71. Overcast : GRAY
72. AARP concern : IRA
73. Pub offering : MEATPIE
75. NATO member?: Abbr. : ATL
76. Pub offerings : ALES
77. Not even close : AFAR
78. Eponym of a Southern "-ville" : ASHE
79. Sport using xisteras : JAIALAI
81. Word with solar or sound : SYSTEM
83. Bide one's time : SITBY
86. Beverages in bowls : NOGS
87. Apple variety : NANO
88. Jaw : YAK
90. Doozy : BEAUT
92. Went off? : DIGRESSED
95. Isle where Macbeth is buried : IONA
96. Film bit : ALGA
97. Score abbr. : INSTR
98. Violation of the first and second laws of thermodynamics : PERPETUALMOTION
103. Achieve : GETAHEAD
105. Just what the doc ordered? : RXS
106. Go cold turkey : CEASE
107. That, in Tabasco : ESO
108. Underdog's saying : ITSANUPHILLBATTLE
114. Personal digits: Abbr. : SSN
115. ___ the Eagle (a Muppet) : SAM
116. Date for New Year's Day : ONEONE
117. Barely get : EKEOUT
118. Kicker's prop : TEE
119. Draft org. : SSS
120. Paintball mementos : WELTS
121. Animal with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame : LASSIE
1. Tach readout : RPM
2. "Bien sûr!" : OUI
3. Some map lines: Abbr. : STS
4. Feared red state : INSOLVENCY
5. Nymph of Greek myth : NAIAD
6. Fire sign : SMOKE
7. Intention : AIM
8. Floral components : SEPALS
9. Teaser : PROMO
10. ___ Millan a k a the Dog Whisperer : CESAR
11. Some teasers : ADS
12. Additionally : TOBOOT
13. In the 70s, say : MILD
14. Shakespeare heroine : CLEOPATRA
15. Computer programming problem : INFINITELOOP
16. In the vicinity of : NEARTO
17. Singer Pendergrass and others : TEDDYS
19. Jalopies : TINCANS
23. Daredevil's asset : NERVE
24. "... and ___ it again!" : IDDO
29. Sharon's predecessor : BARAK
30. Beachgoer's pride, informally : BOD
31. Doozy : ONER
32. ___ Independent Press Awards : UTNE
33. In transit : ONTHEWAY
34. [sigh] : ALAS
39. Cold-blooded : HEARTLESS
41. Joy of TV : BEHAR
43. [air kiss] : MWAH
44. Something you might get shot for? : FLU
47. Red or white vessel : WINEGLASS
49. "It can't wait!" : ASAP
50. Place where many screens may be set : CINEMA
51. "___ Voices" (best-selling New Age album) : YANNI
52. Imagine, informally : SPOSE
54. Peace Nobelist Sakharov : ANDREI
56. Much mail to mags : MSS
58. Rapper Nicki : MINAJ
59. Helen Keller brought the first one to the U.S. : AKITA
60. First publisher of Hunter S. Thompson's "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" : ROLLINGSTONE
62. It's a challenge : IDAREYOU
66. ___ in cat : CAS
67. Proof-ending word : ERAT
68. Hindu title of respect : SAHIB
72. Hypothetical words : IFSO
74. Little confabs : TETEATETES
76. Red Scare target : ALGERHISS
77. Philosopher Rand : AYN
80. Main line : AORTA
81. ___ City (Baghdad area) : SADR
82. Hand holder : MANACLE
84. "Eat, Pray, Love" locale : BALI
85. "Worst car of the millennium," per "Car Talk" : YUGO
87. "___ hand?" : NEEDA
89. Onetime Krypton resident : KALEL
91. Lick : TAN
92. Brief : DIGEST
93. Actually : INESSE
94. Fits : SPASMS
95. Sweater's line? : ITSHOT
99. Trim : PRUNE
100. Discharge : EXPEL
101. Normand of the silents : MABEL
102. Stomping grounds for Godzilla : OSAKA
104. H H H H : ETAS
109. "It can't wait!" : NOW
110. Prevailing party : INS
111. Talking-___ : TOS
112. French pronoun : LUI
113. Tours summer : ETE

Answer summary: 5 unique to this puzzle, 1 debuted here and reused later, 2 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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