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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
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
244/17/20143/6/201913
SunMonTueWedThuFriSatVariety
31153641
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.61440
Mary Lou Guizzo
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
1027/5/20108/29/201961
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
2678182698
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.637222
Jeff Chen

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 ... read more

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. ... read more

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!

Jim Horne 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 ... read more

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.

1
S
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P
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C
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A
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B
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L
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H
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G
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F
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A
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B
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A
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B
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A
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D
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I
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M
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H
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L
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N
E
34
E
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K
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I
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M
P
E
D
E
S
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A
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D
E
R
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C
O
E
39
G
A
Y
L
E
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C
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R
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A
Z
Y
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E
I
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G
H
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Y
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S
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D
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M
48
O
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N
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O
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N
O
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T
R
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H
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P
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T
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G
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A
G
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L
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S
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N
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J
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A
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O
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Y
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A
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A
Y
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K
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N
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L
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G
U
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N
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N
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D
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W
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C
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N
O
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P
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P
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C
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F
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A
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Y
O
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P
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D
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S
95
A
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V
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P
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K
N
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H
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R
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O
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D
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S
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A
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L
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N
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N
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P
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A
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C
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L
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Q
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A
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L
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Y
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S
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X
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C
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© 2017, The New York TimesNo. 1224 ( 24,883 )
Across
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
Down
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.

Found bugs or have suggestions?