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New York Times, Thursday, November 10, 2016

Author:
Jonathan M. Kaye and Jeff Chen
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
56/30/20167/24/20181
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
0010400
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.76100
Jonathan M. Kaye
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
967/5/20103/17/201958
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
2568172398
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.636202
Jeff Chen

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 gave ... read more

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! ... read more

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
3
O
4
M
5
G
6
R
7
A
8
B
9
R
10
I
11
D
12
R
O
M
A
13
F
A
U
R
E
14
H
A
M
M
15
Y
A
N
G
16
B
I
N
G
E
17
O
S
H
A
18
R
I
N
19
G
I
N
G
O
F
20
F
T
H
E
J
21
E
E
L
22
A
R
C
A
R
O
23
N
24
B
25
A
T
E
A
26
M
27
S
28
L
E
A
D
E
R
29
B
Y
J
O
R
B
Y
C
30
R
O
O
K
31
C
T
A
32
M
O
I
33
N
E
34
A
35
R
36
E
X
37
A
38
M
39
A
U
G
40
C
A
41
T
42
B
E
43
O
N
T
E
44
N
45
T
46
E
R
J
S
47
A
48
S
49
A
S
E
T
50
S
L
O
W
L
E
A
K
51
B
A
R
E
S
T
52
T
I
E
53
J
L
I
N
E
A
54
N
55
D
56
S
I
N
K
57
E
58
R
59
E
V
A
C
60
W
O
O
L
F
61
T
R
I
62
X
63
C
O
N
E
64
A
N
N
O
Y
65
R
A
C
Y
66
T
S
A
67
N
E
S
T
68
A
T
O
Z
© 2016, The New York TimesNo. 1110 ( 24,474 )
Across
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
Down
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: 4 unique to this puzzle, 1 debuted here and reused later, 1 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

Found bugs or have suggestions?