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DOWN FOR THE COUNT

New York Times, Sunday, December 22, 2019

Author:
Laura Taylor Kinnel
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutCollabs
112/22/20190
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
1000000
RebusCirclePangram
000
Laura Taylor Kinnel

This puzzle:

Rows: 21, Columns: 21 Words: 136, Blocks: 75 Missing: {QZ} Spans: 2 Grid has mirror symmetry. This is the debut puzzle for Ms. Kinnel. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Laura Taylor Kinnel notes:
It's particularly fun to debut on the Sunday before Christmas since my crossword creation habit began exactly a year ago when I decided to make a year-in-review crossword for our annual ... read more

It's particularly fun to debut on the Sunday before Christmas since my crossword creation habit began exactly a year ago when I decided to make a year-in-review crossword for our annual family letter!

In the process of figuring out how to construct that first puzzle, I was thrilled to discover the plentiful online resources for aspiring constructors. I was amazed by the enthusiastic encouragement of beginners from experienced constructors and in Wordplay's How to Make a Crossword Puzzle. Together, the resources and encouragement got me thinking that maybe I could make a publishable crossword. Later, the specific, gently-delivered feedback from Times editors on three rejected submissions helped me know what to focus on improving. (Imagine if educators were to trade the "weeding out" mentality for an "encourage and provide targeted feedback" approach . . . )

This puzzle evolved from the idea of doing something numerical with 39-Across. The happy discovery that its central letter was also the start of 41-Down inspired me to learn the tiny bit of RegEx (thanks, Jim, Jeff, and XWord Info!) needed to find other pairs. Then came the revelation that the words which ended up in the central column could fit there so nicely, and the idea for the block design followed. I had begun working on the fill when one of Jeff's XWord Info notes sparked the idea of leaving out T's. The title came after I'd finished everything else.

About half my clues or lightly edited versions thereof remain. Of these, about a quarter are interesting/original. I like how the editors re-clued 114-Across, 22-Down, and 41-Down for the season! The only clue I was sad to lose, particularly given the timing of the puzzle's appearance, was "Nativity scene?" for 60-Down.

Thanks to my known test solvers, cousin Don and spouse Geoff, and to all — known and unknown — who have helped bring this to fruition!

Jeff Chen notes:
Imagine this nerd's eyes, boinging wide with delight upon uncovering MULTIPLICATIVE INVERSE. Ooh, yeah! Wait. Somehow that's linked to THE THEORY OF RELATIVITY? FOR REAL? We're already at ... read more

Imagine this nerd's eyes, boinging wide with delight upon uncovering MULTIPLICATIVE INVERSE. Ooh, yeah! Wait. Somehow that's linked to THE THEORY OF RELATIVITY? FOR REAL? We're already at MACH SIX and still accelerating! Please be a higher math equation or a new physics discovery, please please please!

Counting the number of Ts in the long phrases?

From two Ts to five Ts?

Anything more? No?

Don't tease me like that!

I did enjoy the shock of the empty grid's arresting visual. Check out all of those Ts, arranged in the shape of a capital pi. Mirror symmetry instead of standard rotational symmetry, and a big X-ish shape in the middle, too? Laura sure knows how to grab my attention. I don't know that it belongs in the Grid Art Hall of Fame, but it's memorable.

It's rare for a constructor to debut on a Sunday, since Sunday 140-word puzzles are maybe an order of magnitude harder to make than a weekday. Then, to go down to only 136 words, upping the difficulty by another factor of 2 or 3? Yikes!

Did you notice that there aren't any other Ts in the grid? That's an elegant touch — one which makes gridwork yet again harder. The inability to work with an ubiquitous letter hamstrings you.

I'd have asked for one more revision, given the excess of ATMAN FAIRE PULLA AMO ERNE and on and on. Going down to 136 words does allow for the inclusion of some great extra bonuses — ABSCISSA, AIRWAVES, GO BROKE, LIVES A LIVE, O HENRY, ON A JAG are delights, and the list keeps on going! — but the overall tradeoff left the grid with an unpolished feel. Breaking up ROGER FEDERER and DELIVERY ROOM would have been a shame but would allow for a better overall result.

I'd have loved something more with those Ts, some sort of Mad Hatteresque tea party. There have been several crosswords playing on black square shapes, including typography marks, a raft of Ls, "Utah" blocks, and a weekday implementation of Ts. I'm sure there's room for more. The best ones give the solver an amazing insight, whereas T-totaling isn't a big enough payoff for a Sunday puzzle.

Overall, though, I'm impressed with Laura's audacious vision for the puzzle. I hope solvers appreciate how incredibly difficult Laura's task was.

Jim Horne notes:

RegEx can indeed be helpful. Here are some words with exactly three, four, or five Ts.

Click [Show instructions] on our Finder page for some helpful RegEx web links.

1
L
2
C
3
D
4
A
5
L
6
E
7
L
8
O
9
P
10
N
11
A
12
W
13
O
R
E
14
S
15
S
C
A
L
16
P
17
M
I
N
S
18
K
19
R
O
B
E
20
M
U
L
T
21
I
P
L
I
C
A
22
T
I
V
E
I
N
23
V
E
R
S
E
24
B
L
O
U
S
E
25
R
A
G
W
E
E
D
26
E
C
H
E
C
K
27
A
L
U
N
S
E
28
R
29
P
E
O
N
S
30
M
E
R
M
A
I
D
31
R
E
S
32
U
33
R
I
34
A
35
V
A
36
S
S
A
37
D
R
E
38
W
39
T
E
E
T
40
O
41
T
42
A
L
E
R
43
S
44
P
O
S
Y
45
I
S
D
O
46
N
E
47
M
A
C
H
S
I
X
48
A
49
R
E
N
A
S
50
U
S
C
51
G
52
N
U
R
S
E
53
G
I
R
L
54
P
55
O
56
R
K
C
H
O
57
P
58
L
E
E
59
P
A
S
S
E
60
D
61
G
62
O
63
A
M
O
64
B
A
65
B
I
E
S
66
R
U
S
67
E
E
K
68
S
A
G
69
A
70
B
R
I
O
71
A
L
M
72
S
73
I
L
S
A
74
T
H
E
T
75
H
E
O
R
Y
76
O
77
F
78
R
E
L
A
T
79
I
V
I
T
Y
80
E
A
R
M
A
R
K
S
81
N
O
E
82
A
I
R
W
A
V
E
S
83
F
A
I
R
E
84
M
A
U
L
85
S
86
N
O
O
N
E
87
O
88
H
E
N
R
Y
89
F
O
R
R
E
A
90
L
91
S
N
A
R
92
F
93
S
94
N
O
D
95
P
A
R
R
96
A
M
E
97
S
98
Y
O
N
99
A
M
E
100
N
101
T
U
T
T
I
102
F
R
U
T
T
103
I
104
E
R
N
E
105
J
A
R
O
106
M
I
R
107
O
V
I
N
E
108
A
L
109
A
M
O
D
E
110
A
G
E
N
D
E
R
111
N
A
V
E
L
112
G
L
A
M
O
U
R
113
G
E
R
A
L
D
S
114
S
L
E
D
S
115
S
E
S
A
M
E
S
© 2019, The New York TimesNo. 1222 ( 25,611 )
Across
1
TV screen inits. : LCD
4
Steinful : ALE
7
Cut (off) : LOP
10
"Nope" : NAW
13
Lucky strikes? : ORES
15
Massage target : SCALP
17
Capital of Belarus : MINSK
19
Spa amenity : ROBE
20
1/x, for x : MULTIPLICATIVEINVERSE
24
Top type : BLOUSE
25
Hay fever irritant : RAGWEED
26
Online payment option : ECHECK
27
Record holder for the most Indianapolis 500 laps led (644) : ALUNSER
29
Lowly workers : PEONS
30
Mythical being depicted in bronze in Copenhagen Harbor : MERMAID
31
Followers of dos : RES
32
Home of the N.C.A.A.'s Rhody the Ram, for short : URI
34
Director DuVernay : AVA
36
Govt. org. often impersonated on scam calls : SSA
37
Picked a card : DREW
39
Abstainers ... or the central column's answers vis-à-vis 20-, 39-, 74- and 101-Across, respectively : TEETOTALERS
44
One in a pocketful : POSY
45
Has finished : ISDONE
47
Speed that would enable a 23-minute D.C.-to-L.A. flight : MACHSIX
48
Where fans are often placed on high? : ARENAS
50
Org. whose academy's motto in English is "The sea yields to knowledge" : USCG
52
One who might give you a shot : NURSE
53
Miss : GIRL
54
Food that Marge Simpson once served with "a whisper of MSG" : PORKCHOP
58
Big name in denim : LEE
59
Collected $200, say : PASSEDGO
63
"Te ___" : AMO
64
Former superstore chain selling diapers and strollers : BABIESRUS
67
"Egads!" : EEK
68
Quite a tale : SAGA
70
Spirit : BRIO
71
Charitable offering : ALMS
73
Film character who says "Kiss me as if it were the last time" : ILSA
74
It postulates a space-time fabric : THETHEORYOFRELATIVITY
80
Congressional budget directives : EARMARKS
81
San Francisco's ___ Valley : NOE
82
Radio medium : AIRWAVES
83
Renaissance-themed festival : FAIRE
84
Tears to pieces : MAULS
86
Who once had all 10 of the top 10 Billboard hits simultaneously : NOONE
87
"The Gift of the Magi" author : OHENRY
89
"Seriously?" : FORREAL
91
Gobbles (down) : SNARFS
94
Doze (off) : NOD
95
Mr. Incredible's actual surname : PARR
96
College town of George Washington Carver : AMES
98
Hither's partner : YON
99
"Absolutely!" : AMEN
101
Little Richard hit with "the most inspired rock lyric ever recorded," per Rolling Stone : TUTTIFRUTTI
104
Sea eagle : ERNE
105
Many-time N.H.L. All-Star Jagr : JAROMIR
107
Sheepish : OVINE
108
Fashionable : ALAMODE
110
Nonbinary identity : AGENDER
111
Focus of an egoist's gaze : NAVEL
112
Magazine with annual Women of the Year Awards : GLAMOUR
113
President Ford and others : GERALDS
114
Traditional, if bulky, presents in Santa's bag : SLEDS
115
Opening words? : SESAMES
Down
1
Super Bowl trophy eponym : LOMBARDI
2
Deep-fried doughy treats : CRULLERS
3
Picked nits : DELOUSED
4
___ tear (athlete's injury) : ACL
5
Thieves' place : LAIR
6
Yosemite attraction : ELCAPITAN
7
Hides one's true nature : LIVESALIE
8
Group with the 2012 chart-topping album "Up All Night," to fans : ONED
9
Ψ : PSI
10
"Why do you ask?" response : NOREASON
11
The 1 in (1,2), in math : ABSCISSA
12
Work times, typically : WEEKDAYS
14
Phaser setting : STUN
15
Admiral Graf ___ (German W.W. II ship) : SPEE
16
Leaf (through) : PAGE
17
Bearing : MIEN
18
One might be taken in protest : KNEE
19
Longtime NPR host Diane : REHM
21
Satellite inhabited continuously since 2000: Abbr. : ISS
22
Complement of turtledoves in a Christmas song : TWO
23
Obsolescent TV companion : VCR
28
Paris's ___ La Fayette : RUE
30
Disfigure : MAR
33
___ sleep : REM
35
Perturb : VEX
38
"The Caine Mutiny" author : WOUK
39
End of some school names, for short : TECH
40
Orbicularis ___ (eyelid-closing muscle) : OCULI
41
"We ___ Kings" : THREE
42
What fools might make of themselves : ASSES
43
"Je ne ___ quoi" : SAIS
44
Joint winner of FIFA's Player of the Century award in 2000 : PELE
46
Top-level foreign policy grp. : NSC
49
Monopoly quartet: Abbr. : RRS
51
Fold : GOBROKE
53
Fuel line : GASMAIN
54
Wallop : PASTE
55
1935 Triple Crown winner : OMAHA
56
Top-ranked professional tennis player for a record 237 consecutive weeks : ROGERFEDERER
57
Ark contents : PAIRS
59
___ fast one : PULLA
60
Labor day setting? : DELIVERYROOM
61
"Beau ___" : GESTE
62
Signs off on : OKAYS
65
"I tell ya!" : BOY
66
Charlotte of "The Facts of Life" : RAE
69
Universal self, in Hinduism : ATMAN
70
Preserves something? : BERRY
72
Houston A.L.'ers : STROS
73
Trump who wrote 2017's "Raising Trump" : IVANA
75
Tiny margin of victory : HAIR
76
When one usually goes through customs : ONARRIVAL
77
Purple pool ball : FOUR
78
Brushed up on : RELEARNED
79
Lucky ticket holder's cry : IWON
84
Famed Chicago steakhouse : MORTONS
85
A couple of Bible books : SAMUELS
87
Completely unrestrained : ONAJAG
88
Tribute : HOMAGE
89
Swollen, as a lip : FAT
90
Drain, as blood : LET
92
Swiss dish : FONDUE
93
Derisive expressions : SNEERS
95
Runs smoothly : PURRS
97
They can't do without does : STAGS
100
Prefix for a polygon with 140° interior angles : NONA
101
Headed for overtime : TIED
102
A short rest, so to speak : FIVE
103
He: Lat. : ILLE
104
Top female baby name of 2014-18 : EMMA
106
Year that Michelangelo's "The Crucifixion of St. Peter" was completed : MDL
109
Things the Energizer bunny may need : AAS

Answer summary: 9 unique to this puzzle, 6 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

Found bugs or have suggestions?