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MAKING A FAST BUCK

New York Times, Sunday, December 24, 2017

Author: Mary Lou Guizzo and Jeff Chen
Editor: Will Shortz
Mary Lou Guizzo
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
214/17/20142/14/201810
SunMonTueWedThuFriSatVariety
31141641
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.61230
Jeff Chen
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
807/5/20101/31/201848
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
2467121768
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.634182

This puzzle:

Rows: 21, Columns: 21 Words: 140, Blocks: 85 Missing: none. Grid has mirror symmetry. This is puzzle # 20 for Ms. Guizzo. This is puzzle # 78 for Mr. Chen. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Constructor notes: MARY LOU: I originally contacted Jeff in November of last year about a reindeer themed Christmas puzzle with a dot to dot picture. We kicked many ideas back and forth. I mentioned the original eight reindeer as ... more
Constructor notes:

MARY LOU: I originally contacted Jeff in November of last year about a reindeer themed Christmas puzzle with a dot to dot picture. We kicked many ideas back and forth. I mentioned the original eight reindeer as theme possibilities and Jeff suggested RUDOLPH THE RED NOSED REINDEER which breaks into 13/13. He went off in one direction with the eight reindeer and I came up with the attached grid. We submitted both ideas to Will and heard back favorably from Joel on both grids but the picture grid having the edge. We were given the go-ahead to proceed with the fill and cluing.

Jeff did the grid reconstruction. It was quite a challenge, given the 26 fixed points of the picture (Joel mentioned that it felt incomplete without the Z) as well as the theme entries, to work clean fill around. About two months and numerous emails later we got word that the puzzle was in the queue.

I'm very excited to have another Christmas puzzle as well as a Sunday grid in the NYT. Many thanks to Jeff, Will, Joel and Sam for assistance in bringing this puzzle to press. I hope you enjoyed your solving experience.

Jeff Chen notes: For years and years, Liz Gorski had been doing wonderful Xmas dot-to-dot Sunday puzzles for the NYT. It had been a while, so Mary Lou and I decided to try to carry on the tradition. But what shape to make? ... more
Jeff Chen notes:

For years and years, Liz Gorski had been doing wonderful Xmas dot-to-dot Sunday puzzles for the NYT. It had been a while, so Mary Lou and I decided to try to carry on the tradition.

But what shape to make? We threw out a bunch of ideas, and the one that stuck was RUDOLPH prancing through the skies, with his RED nose lit up. Easy-peasy, right?

Um … no. We needed to flesh out the idea with some themers, and ML found a nice split of THE MOST FAMOUS / REINDEER OF ALL. Along with some other assorted RUDOLPH-related answers, it felt like the grid wouldn't be so bad to construct.

Wrong!

So very, very wrong.

Like, miserably wrong.

Grinch-level wrong.

Just testing out different arrangements of where to start the path took forever, as we kept having to adjust the position of every single circled letter. And then sometimes one felt like it might be amenable … except for some stupid little corner. I probably restarted the process 50 times before hitting on the current arrangement.

But it just got harder from there. The biggest problem was that it's really hard to make a 140-word Sunday puzzle, period, and it's much harder to do it when every region of your grid is constrained. Sure, we could shift around letters a little bit here and there, but then they'd get in the way of the themers, or they'd make RUDOLPH look like he was limping, etc.

I should have studied Liz's work more carefully — in most of her dot-to-dots, she did well to spread out her letters through the grid in such a way that they didn't interact with the themers, or she used much fewer than 26 dots.

Live and learn. Given how much frustration and sleeplessness it caused me, I doubt I'll ever make another dot-to-dot. (Unless it just has two dots. Anyone have ideas for a LINE theme?)

Happy holidays!

JimH notes: The Elizabeth Gorski year-end connect-the-dots puzzles is the greatest tradition in NYT crosswords. Liz is caught up in her own delightful weekly puzzles now, so Mary Lou and Jeff have taken up the tradition, at least ... more
JimH notes:

The Elizabeth Gorski year-end connect-the-dots puzzles is the greatest tradition in NYT crosswords. Liz is caught up in her own delightful weekly puzzles now, so Mary Lou and Jeff have taken up the tradition, at least for this year.

It seems like a good time for a Liz Gorski Year-End Visual Crossword Retrospective. Her year-end puzzles include:

There's more write-on-the-grid creativity on our Visual Puzzles page.

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A
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RED
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B
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H
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K
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M
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A
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C
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G
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A
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© 2017, The New York TimesNo. 1224 ( 24,883 )
Across Down
1. Speedway brand : STP
4. West Indies native : CARIB
9. Bounds along : LOPES
14. "Just a ___!" : SEC
17. Drain opening : HOLE
19. Chip away at : ERODE
20. Symbol of the National Audubon Society : EGRET
21. Colorado tributary : GILA
22. Plot device in "The Shining" that has significance when spelled backward : REDRUM
23. Restaurant chain founded by the Raffel brothers (hence the name) : ARBYS
24. Elevator choice : FLOOR
25. Turns briefly? : REVS
26. Some Carnaval performances : SAMBAS
28. Called from the cote : BLEATED
30. Telephotos, e.g. : IMAGES
32. Ancient Greek : HELLENE
34. Male that might be in a rut? : ELK
35. Stymies : IMPEDES
37. Relative of a birch : ALDER
38. College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa : COE
39. Country singer Crystal : GAYLE
40. Screwy : CRAZY
43. Pitch : EIGHTYSIX
46. One of the Wayans brothers : DAMON
50. Wine: Prefix : OENO
51. Christmas ___ : TREE
52. Prince, e.g. : HEIR
54. A, in Austria : EINE
55. Base supporting a statue : PLINTH
57. Branded baby carriers : SNUGLIS
61. Symbols on 10 state flags : EAGLES
63. They might be thrown around in a rodeo : LASSOES
65. Digitally endorse : ESIGN
66. Sleigh bell sounds : JINGLES
67. Terminate : AXE
68. "___ God" (psalm words) : OMY
69. Chemistry exam? : ASSAY
70. Skin art, informally : INK
71. Descartes's conclusion : IAM
72. Clear : NET
73. Yule sound? : LONGU
75. ___ guerre : NOMDE
77. Range grp. : NRA
78. With 80-Across, one of TV's Property Brothers : DREW
80. See 78-Across : SCOTT
82. "Really!" : NOLIE
83. Spotted : SEEN
84. Nicholas, e.g. : SAINT
86. Give a ring? : PROPOSE
88. Hallmark.com suggestion : ECARD
90. Divan : SOFA
92. "___ welcome!" : YOURE
93. Cow poke? : PROD
94. Avoid a bogey, barely : SAVEPAR
97. Neighbor of a bishop: Abbr. : KNT
98. Souped-up cars : HOTRODS
102. Mahershala ___, Oscar winner for "Moonlight" : ALI
103. One of the record industry's former Big Four : EMI
104. Carpenter's aid : LATHE
106. Hypotheticals : IFS
107. "Just kidding!" : NOT
108. Airer of "Christmas in Rockefeller Center" : NBC
109. Sanctuary : OASIS
111. "Hey ___" (1963 #1 hit) : PAULA
113. Mobile home: Abbr. : ALA
114. Actress Audrey of "Amélie" : TAUTOU
117. Animal on Scotland's coat of arms : UNICORN
119. Kind of cabinet : LIQUOR
122. Written history : ANNALS
123. Who's depicted in this puzzle when the circled letters are connected from A to Z and back to A : RUDOLPH
124. Games of chance : LOTTOS
125. Prison part : YARD
126. Sorts, as chicks : SEXES
127. Downsize? : CROP
1. Tears to smithereens : SHREDS
2. It's read from a scroll : TORAH
3. Large column of smoke : PLUME
4. Terminated : CEASED
5. Opposite of dep. : ARR
6. Heists : ROBBERIES
7. Description of rustic life : IDYL
8. Importune : BESEECH
9. It moves a cursor back : LEFTKEY
10. Body check? : OGLE
11. Whiz kids : PRODIGIES
12. Want ad abbr. : EEO
13. Having streaks : STRIPY
14. W.W. II ordeal at Leningrad : SIEGE
15. Notably nonunionized workers : ELVES
16. Mama of song : CASS
18. Decorates brilliantly : EMBLAZONS
21. One of a dozen good things? : GRADEAEGG
27. Friend : ALLY
29. Oodles : ALOT
31. Vulcan mind ___ : MELD
33. Beginning to do well? : NEER
36. Kind of skirt : MAXI
40. "Fanfare for the Common Man" composer : COPLAND
41. Hair straighteners : RELAXERS
42. Licorice-flavored brew : ANISETEA
44. Singer with a #1 hit about 123-Across : GENEAUTRY
45. Feature depicted in the upper left of this puzzle : SHINYNOSE
47. Hatmaker : MILLINER
48. Like van Gogh, in later life : ONEEARED
49. Les ___, "WKRP in Cincinnati" news director : NESSMAN
51. With 53-Down, 123-Across, in song : THEMOSTFAMOUS
53. See 51-Down : REINDEEROFALL
56. One of many in a Swiss Army knife : TOOL
58. Letters on some Navy carriers : USS
59. Infantry members, briefly : GIS
60. Alternative to J.F.K. : LGA
62. 1990s tennis great Huber : ANKE
64. Align : SYNC
66. First name at Woodstock : JIMI
74. Political org. since 1854 : GOP
76. Shout of approval : OLE
79. Three ___ Men : WISE
81. Didn't hedge one's bets : TOOKASIDE
82. Starting point for an annual flight : NORTHPOLE
83. ___ City (Baghdad suburb) : SADR
85. "In your dreams!" : NOPE
87. Result of a sack on third and long, maybe : PUNT
89. Bunks in barracks : COTS
91. "Brava!" elicitor : ARIA
93. Punxsutawney prognosticator : PHIL
94. Deliverer of Christmas packages : SANTA
95. Capital whose name ends in its state's postal code : ALBANY
96. Cousin of an alpaca : VICUNA
99. Functioning robotically : ONAUTO
100. Repetitive bit of computer code : DOLOOP
101. A-listers : STARS
104. Boy in "A Charlie Brown Christmas" : LINUS
105. Tombstone marshals : EARPS
110. California's Big ___ : SUR
112. Durham sch. : UNH
115. Roofing material : TAR
116. ___ Father Christmas : OLD
118. Crew member : COX
120. Games org. : IOC
121. Fiscal year part: Abbr. : QTR

Answer summary: 11 unique to this puzzle, 4 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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