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DOING A DOUBLE TAKE

New York Times, Sunday, December 15, 2019

Author:
Christina Iverson and Jeff Chen
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
37/30/20191/1/20202
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
1011000
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.54110
Christina Iverson
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
1087/5/20102/11/202067
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
2779202898
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.638252
Jeff Chen

This puzzle:

Rows: 21, Columns: 21 Words: 143, Blocks: 81 Missing: {JQ} Grid has mirror symmetry. This is puzzle # 2 for Ms. Iverson. This is puzzle # 105 for Mr. Chen. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Will Shortz notes:
Christina Iverson of Ames, Iowa, is a stay-at-home mom with an almost-2-year-old and a child on the way. She started solving puzzles only in the summer of 2018. She found it was an easily ... read more

Christina Iverson of Ames, Iowa, is a stay-at-home mom with an almost-2-year-old and a child on the way. She started solving puzzles only in the summer of 2018. She found it was an easily interrupted activity when her baby was constantly waking up in the evenings. Also, "Crosswords met my need for something more intellectually stimulating than reading ‘Goodnight Moon.' " Soon she made it a goal to have a puzzle published in The Times.

Her collaborator, Jeff Chen, is a writer and professional crossword constructor in Seattle. They met through Jeff's daily column on the website XWord Info.

Constructor notes:
CHRISTINA: I feel I can't take much credit for this one. It was the fourth collaboration I did with Jeff, and the first Sunday grid we've done. The theme idea was Jeff's, during a really ... read more

CHRISTINA: I feel I can't take much credit for this one. It was the fourth collaboration I did with Jeff, and the first Sunday grid we've done. The theme idea was Jeff's, during a really long brainstorming session over email (easily over a hundred emails). Because of all the constraints and the mirror symmetry, the grid skeleton was a real challenge to make with fewer than 143 words (3 more than the typical max). I took many stabs at it, but Jeff came up with this one.

This was one of my first times filling a Sunday grid, and it was a beast! I couldn't believe how hard it is to fill a grid like this without any duplicates. Just when we thought we had a version we liked, we'd catch another one. Verbs like "run "and "eat" pop up in so many phrases, and with different tenses, they can be hard to catch.

Jeff and I have different methods of filling a grid, and I learned a lot from his style. He is highly methodical, and holds off on decision making until looking at every possible way to fill each section. I feel very lucky to have gotten the chance to work with him.

JEFF: Christina is being modest. An idea that comes out of a deep brainstorming session belongs to both people, 50/50. I often tell budding constructors that volume is an important factor in coming up with a good crossword theme, maybe one out of 20 concepts being a decent starting point.

Note that I said "starting point," not "idea." I find that the best constructors are the ones willing to work through difficulties and put in the time to let that seed of an idea grow into something crossworthy, and Christina is a perfect example.

Jeff Chen notes:
A-HA, GOTCHA JEFF! You always snootily points out the flaws in others' work, and look at today's grid! AMTS, BSA, HST, MAI, MER, SASE, SYS, XIS. That's not clean! I THOUGHT YOU WERE A ... read more

A-HA, GOTCHA JEFF! You always snootily points out the flaws in others' work, and look at today's grid! AMTS, BSA, HST, MAI, MER, SASE, SYS, XIS. That's not clean! I THOUGHT YOU WERE A STICKLER FOR CLEANLINESS IN GRIDS, WISEGUY!

It's a fine point, sir. (I say "sir" with confidence, as 99.72% of my outspoken haters are mansplainers. Also, "sir" is best said using air quotes.) Even though this count of gluey bits is lower than the NYT Sunday average, eight is usually too high for me, even if they are all minor.

It doesn't even seem like the grid would be that hard to build, right? Three long entries, plus six pairs of shorter ones? Any doofus could build that grid! However, having six pairs of short entries means that you have to spend a ton of your black squares separating them. We had to deploy so many precious black squares separating LEVITES and MOUSSES (on both sides), for example.

Well, fine. Couldn't you have gone to a higher word count, like you often chide constructors about?

Will and Joel were kind to let us push up to 143 words, three higher than the max. It is true that we could have gone higher, but that would have meant taking out some goodies, like NO PEEKING, REDDITORS, GEE WHIZ, PINE LOG, etc. It's only rare constructors who can make a 144 word puzzle feel interesting.

Hopefully Christina and I landed on a decent balance of color and cleanliness, and that the theme makes it all worth it. It'll be interesting to see how many people write in with comments like LET ME EXPLAIN EXACTLY WHY PITCHY DOESN'T MEAN EITHER "CONCISE AND TO THE POINT" OR "DESIROUS" YOU FRICKIN MORONIC "SIR"!

(PITCHY without the C of CASTOR = PITHY, and PITCHY without the P of POLLUX = ITCHY)

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© 2019, The New York TimesNo. 1215 ( 25,604 )
Across
1
Sandwich with an apostrophe in its name : POBOY
6
Last-minute eBay bidders : SNIPERS
13
___ Speaker : MADAM
18
Family written about by Margaret Mitchell : OHARAS
20
Laureate : HONOREE
21
California city whose name translates to "the table" : LAMESA
22
Concise and to the point : PITHY
23
Improvement : UPGRADE
24
Desirous : ITCHY
25
Word with coin or ring : TOSS
26
Enclosure for a slush pile, for short : SASE
28
Salsa and guacamole : DIPS
30
Foe of the Jedi : SITH
31
Boor : OAF
32
This puzzle's subjects, by another name : THEGEMINI
36
Beats by ___ (audio brand) : DRE
37
For now : PROTEM
41
One of 24 : KARAT
42
Group running a celeb's social media accounts, say : PRTEAM
46
"My ___" : TREAT
47
Fragrant item in a fireplace : PINELOG
49
Doorway : ENTRY
50
What violence might lead to : RRATING
52
Political figure on whom Snowball is based in "Animal Farm" : TROTSKY
54
Hitting close to home? : TRIPLING
57
Pattern on a barber pole : STRIPING
61
Shade : HUE
62
Word before rip or slip : LET
63
F.D.R.'s last veep : HST
66
Boatload : TON
67
Youngest animal in the Hundred Acre Wood : ROO
68
Daily cable show that's covered Hollywood since 1991 : ENEWS
71
Part of a parade float on New Year's Day : ROSEPETAL
74
Send over the moon : ELATE
76
Duties imposed : LEVIES
78
Airer of "Arrow" and "iZombie" : THECW
79
Party notifications sent with a click : EVITES
81
Members of un monastère : FRERES
82
"Well, golly!" : GEEWHIZ
84
Maximally mannered : NICEST
85
"None for me, thanks" : IMCOOL
87
Brain, slangily : NOODLE
89
Cry just before the birthday guest arrives at a surprise party : HIDE
92
Juniors, to their fathers : NAMESAKES
96
Tingling, in a way : NUMB
100
Tousles, as hair : MUSSES
103
Muscat native : OMANI
104
Bog growths : MOSSES
107
Bit of off-road equipment : MUDTIRE
108
Where Orange County is, in brief : SOCAL
109
Something with many variables to consider : ALGEBRA
110
Chow down on, biblically : EATOF
112
Judea and Sheba, in the Bible : LANDS
114
Warehouse stacks : BOXES
118
Relating to theft on the high seas : PIRATIC
122
Some South Africans : BOERS
127
French schoolteacher : MAITRE
128
Interval known as "the devil in music" on account of its unsettling sound : TRITONE
129
Title role played by Hilary Swank in a 2009 biopic : AMELIA
130
"Alas ..." : ITSSAD
131
Good thing to find on a boat : SEALEGS
132
Agreeable response to a parental order : YESMOM
Down
1
Can opener : POPTOP
2
Company that introduced Etch A Sketch : OHIOART
3
Takes the plate in place of : BATSFOR
4
World of Warcraft enemies : ORCS
5
"Boo-___!" : YAH
6
"Quiet, you!" : SHUSH
7
Admonishment before Christmas morning : NOPEEKING
8
Dutch banking giant : ING
9
"___ supuesto!" (Spanish "Of course!") : POR
10
Presidential time : ERA
11
Contributors to "the front page of the internet" : REDDITORS
12
Welcome, as a guest : SEEIN
13
___ tai : MAI
14
Tsps. or tbsps. : AMTS
15
George W. Bush's nickname for himself, with "the" : DECIDER
16
Where to set your butts down : ASHTRAY
17
Pandemonium : MAYHEM
19
___ admin : SYS
21
Retro-cool music purchases : LPS
27
Producer of bills : ATM
29
When repeated, "Cheerio!" : PIP
33
The Jets, but not the Giants : GANG
34
Lead-in to long : ERE
35
Drink with a straw : MALT
38
Hatcher of "Lois & Clark" : TERI
39
Lawman at the O.K. Corral : EARP
40
In the slightest : ATALL
43
What amber comes from : RESIN
44
Cleaning up the mess, for short? : ONKP
45
Texter's "ciao" : TTYL
47
Certain bean or horse : PINTO
48
"___ run!" : GOTTA
51
Levels : TIERS
53
Provocative poster : TROLL
54
Keeper of the books? : SHELF
55
One who fixes flats? : TUNER
56
One of Chaucer's pilgrims : REEVE
58
Hot under the collar : IRATE
59
Things students take : NOTES
60
"Whither thou ___ ..." : GOEST
63
Mischievous titter : HEHE
64
Erupt : SPEW
65
Fortune 500 category, informally : TECH
69
Most sinewy : WIRIEST
70
Florist's cutting : STEM
72
Weather phenomenon whose double lights were said to represent this puzzle's subjects : STELMOSFIRE
73
Baseball double play, in slang ... or a hint to understanding the 12 Across answers that have circles : TWINKILLING
74
Like a "mwa-ha-ha" laugh : EVIL
75
Freedom : LICENSE
77
Abbr. on a keyboard key : ESC
80
Derrière : END
82
India's smallest state : GOA
83
Orange Sesame Street monster : ZOE
86
It's a start : ONSET
88
Founder of the Ottoman Empire : OSMAN
89
"That's odd ..." : HMM
90
Chits inits. : IOU
91
Wet firecracker, e.g. : DUD
93
Genre akin to goth : EMO
94
___ fly : SAC
95
Finish of three U.S. state names : ANA
97
Flash drive port : USB
98
The big eau : MER
99
Org. that began welcoming girls in 2019 : BSA
101
California's ___ National Forest : SIERRA
102
Wiped : ERASED
105
Seasoning in a yellow-and-blue tin : OLDBAY
106
Disgusting, quaintly : UGSOME
111
Picks, with "for" : OPTS
113
Near impossibilities on par-5 holes : ACES
114
Fig. watched by some dieters : BMI
115
Bit in a feedbag : OAT
116
Some fraternity row letters : XIS
117
G.R.E. administrator : ETS
119
Coastal inlet : RIA
120
"The pond": Abbr. : ATL
121
Here's the kicker! : TOE
123
Marks out : XES
124
Its seeds whirl to the ground : ELM
125
Hit 2011 animated movie : RIO
126
Pusher of green eggs and ham : SAM

Answer summary: 10 unique to this puzzle, 5 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

Found bugs or have suggestions?

See NYT Crosswords for info.