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TAKEN TO TASK

New York Times, Sunday, October 13, 2013

Author:
Jeff Chen
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
987/5/20105/16/201959
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
2578172498
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.636212
Jeff Chen

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, ... read more

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 ... read more

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
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
Down
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
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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
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Helen Keller brought the first one to the U.S. : AKITA
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First publisher of Hunter S. Thompson's "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" : ROLLINGSTONE
62
It's a challenge : IDAREYOU
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___ 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: 4 unique to this puzzle, 2 debuted here and reused later, 2 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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