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New York Times, Thursday, November 10, 2016

Author: Jonathan M. Kaye and Jeff Chen
Editor: Will Shortz
Jonathan M. Kaye
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
46/30/201611/10/20161
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
0000400
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.70100
Jeff Chen
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
787/5/201012/24/201746
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
2367111768
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.634172

This puzzle:

Rows: 16, Columns: 15 Words: 75, Blocks: 48 Missing: {Q} This is puzzle # 4 for Mr. Kaye. This is puzzle # 61 for Mr. Chen. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Constructor notes: JON: I was stumped trying to find a good revealer answer for this J-HOOK theme. I briefly considered JAY HOOK, the pitcher who ... more
Constructor notes:

JON: I was stumped trying to find a good revealer answer for this J-HOOK theme. I briefly considered JAY HOOK, the pitcher who gave the New York Mets their first franchise win in 1962, but decided that would be too obscure.

Then I remembered a clever Monday NYT puzzle by William I. Johnston from 9/9/2002: the theme involved the letter L, and all of the black squares were arranged in L shapes. What if I did a similar thing for the letter J, and used the "grid art" as the revealer?

To make that concept work with my theme answers, I had to expand the grid to 16x15. But I found the resulting grid very difficult to fill, so Will and Joel suggested the possibility of my bringing in Jeff Chen as a co-constructor. As it happens, I had been looking for an opportunity to collaborate with Jeff, and I jumped at the chance. Jeff was very receptive and a pleasure to work with, and we had a fun back-and-forth deciding on the remaining fill and then brainstorming on the clues.

In case anyone is wondering, the fact that we both have "J" names is just a happy coincidence.

Enjoy!

JEFF: I had been admiring the clever ideas in Jon's previous puzzles, so it was a pleasure to hear from him, asking if I could help with a puzzle grid after several back and forths with Will. Even better, I really liked his idea of Js representing hooks — another of Jon's neat concepts that stick to "one letter per square." It's so hard to innovate while adhering to that convention, but Jon's done it so many times.

Really fun to work with a member of the J club! (I work with Jim Horne and am married to Jill Denny.)

Jeff Chen notes: What a bear of a construction — all those Js + the constraint of every black square chunk having to be J-shaped = BLAAARGH! ... more
Jeff Chen notes:

What a bear of a construction — all those Js + the constraint of every black square chunk having to be J-shaped = BLAAARGH! Thankfully, the engineer in me loved how well the construction process lent itself to a methodical approach:

  • The J blocks on the top and bottom could be shifted side to side into one of two acceptable positions, for a total of four combinations. But one combination resulted a two-letter word, so I eliminated it. OPTIONS: 3.
  • Two J blocks in the center could be flipped 180 degrees. OPTIONS: 2.
  • The first and last themers could be swapped. OPTIONS: 2.
  • The middle themers could be swapped. OPTIONS: 2.

From there, it was a matter of systematically testing each of 3x2x2x2 =24 possibilities. There was something so satisfying about keeping a master list of 24 possibilities, putting checks or Xs by each one as I drilled down to find potential problems with each.

(Man, I'm weird.)

I actually got very far — a full grid — down one path, and I thought it could be fine. But after letting it breathe, I took another look and felt like it just wasn't NYT-worthy — too many ugly bits, and not enough colorful fill.

It took some convincing to really try the layout that you see in the finished puzzle, because I was sure that isolating the first and last Js in the NW / SE corners would be the way to go. (Shows what I know!) With this final layout, I happened to get lucky by figuring out a good option rather quickly in the NE, filling acceptably around that J.

The SW … I constructed something I liked, but I did wonder if Will was going to like it as much. It contained HAPTIC, I FROZE, and AB TONER, all entries I dug. Will, though, wondered if any were common enough to be acceptable, and all three in that one region felt like too much. Even though I did a lot of HAPTICs in engineering and my dad has a (dusty) AB TONER and I love I FROZE as a stage fright line, I could see where he was coming from.

Redoing that little corner was rough. I churned out four options, each with some trade-offs, before Jon had the clever idea of paring the grid back even further than I had considered. I wasn't a fan of AS A SET — seemed like a partial to me — but I agreed that it was better than using something like OENONE, the woman Paris left for Helen.

1
P
2
R
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O
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M
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G
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R
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A
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B
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I
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D
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A
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F
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H
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Y
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B
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O
S
H
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G
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F
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J
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E
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L
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A
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N
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B
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A
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M
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S
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L
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B
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J
O
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B
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R
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O
K
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M
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N
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A
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R
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X
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A
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M
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A
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C
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T
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B
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O
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N
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J
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L
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K
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B
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J
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W
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Z
© 2016, The New York TimesNo. 1110 ( 24,474 )
Across Down
1. Event with a king and queen : PROM
5. Power ___ : GRAB
9. Free : RID
12. Locale of the sculpture "La Bocca della Verità" : ROMA
13. French composer Gabriel : FAURE
14. Actor Jon of "Mad Men" : HAMM
15. Lighter side? : YANG
16. Netflix activity : BINGE
17. It may require gloves, for short : OSHA
18. Getting tons of calls : RINGINGOFFTHEHOOK
21. Fish whose name is a calculator number turned upside down : EEL
22. Jockey with a speeding Citation : ARCARO
23. Hornets and the like : NBATEAMS
28. Alpha dog : LEADER
29. No matter how : BYHOOKORBYCROOK
31. Windy City transportation inits. : CTA
32. "Who, me?" : MOI
33. Dear companion? : NEAR
36. Course coda : EXAM
39. National Dog Day Mo. : AUG
40. "What greater gift than the love of a ___?": Dickens : CAT
42. Wait anxiously : BEONTENTERHOOKS
47. How bedroom furniture is often sold : ASASET
50. Start of a flat, maybe : SLOWLEAK
51. Minimal : BAREST
52. ___ fighter ("Star Wars" vehicle) : TIE
53. 100% : HOOKLINEANDSINKER
59. Plan to leave shortly? : EVAC
60. Writer who said "One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well" : WOOLF
61. Colorful corn balls : TRIX
63. Dairy Queen order : CONE
64. Vex : ANNOY
65. Suggestive : RACY
66. Counterterrorism org. : TSA
67. Jay's place : NEST
68. Covering the waterfront : ATOZ
1. Ask too many questions, say : PRY
2. Word rhyming with "ignore" in "I Am Woman" : ROAR
3. Upscale hotel chain : OMNI
4. Marvel Comics villain : MAGNETO
5. Taxable amount for an investor : GAIN
6. Small step up? : RUNG
7. Old ship constellation : ARGO
8. Mixed stock : BEEFALO
9. Actress Phylicia : RASHAD
10. Words from the fashionably late : IMHERE
11. Key of Pachelbel's Canon : DMAJOR
13. Facility at Quantico : FBILAB
14. Food item often placed in a stack : HOTCAKE
19. Grandpa Walton portrayer : GEER
20. Compound under control by the Kyoto Protocol : FREON
23. Its chimes were the first U.S. registered "sound mark" : NBC
24. Tiny information unit : BYTE
25. Hero in the Trojan War : AJAX
26. "Brah!" : MYMAN
27. Boy or Girl follower : SCOUTS
30. Star in Orion : RIGEL
34. It has much room to grow : ACRE
35. Eastern V.I.P. : RAJA
37. Void : ABSENCE
38. Reagan confidant : MEESE
41. Vowelless interjection : TSK
43. Many a Parliament Hill staffer : OTTAWAN
44. Tell : NOTIFY
45. Doppelgänger : TWIN
46. Record label whose name derives from Greek myth : ELEKTRA
47. The absolute worst : ABJECT
48. 21-gun salutes, e.g. : SALVOS
49. Singer/actress Grande : ARIANA
54. Chances left after Slim left town, in a saying : NONE
55. Barzini and others, in "The Godfather" : DONS
56. Feature of a one-armed bandit : SLOT
57. Part of the "sum" conjugation : ERAT
58. Little Caesar in "Little Caesar" : RICO
62. History's ___ Affair : XYZ

Answer summary: 5 unique to this puzzle, 1 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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