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New York Times, Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Author:
Peter Gordon
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
1109/5/198910/29/20180
SunMonTueWedThuFriSatVariety
839221411619
ScrabRebusCirclePangramPre‑WS
1.5891611
Peter Gordon

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 16 Words: 77, Blocks: 36 Missing: {KQXZ} Spans: 3 This is puzzle # 103 for Mr. Gordon. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Notepad: "A couple of years ago I was the answer to number 1-Down in the New York Times crossword puzzle," says best-selling author 1-Across. "At first I was like 'This is the greatest day of my life.' But then my brother-in-law pointed out that it was a Saturday puzzle," which is the hardest of the week. "The clues are so obscure, no one is supposed to know them. He basically told me that until I'm in the Monday or Tuesday puzzle, I'm [24-, 38- and 52-Across]."
Peter Gordon notes:
Credit for this puzzle's theme goes to my dog. Every day I go for a 35-minute walk with Lulu, a labradoodle who will be 10 in February. Since ... read more

Credit for this puzzle's theme goes to my dog. Every day I go for a 35-minute walk with Lulu, a labradoodle who will be 10 in February. Since she isn't much of a conversationalist, I use that time to listen to podcasts. About a year ago, Stephen J. Dubner, the host of the podcast "Freakonomics Radio," started a new podcast called "Tell Me Something I Don't Know," described as "journalism wrapped in a game-show package." Each episode has some guests, including a real-time fact-checker.

Back in September, I was walking Lulu and listening to "TMSIDK." The fact-checker was A.J. Jacobs. I knew him from his podcast "Twice Removed" and his books, all of which I've read (except for the most recent one, called "It's All Relative," which claims that everyone is a distant cousin of everyone). When I heard what he said about being 1-Down in a crossword (listen at tmsidk.com/, Episode 27, about 2:50 into the episode), I had to stop my walk and replay it. It was a perfect quote for a crossword. I knew it was way too long for a daily puzzle (and it had to be a Monday or Tuesday or else it was no good), but I didn't know if it would be possible to get a portion of it to break up into symmetrical chunks. I wouldn't be able to check until I got home, still a 10-minute walk away. Lulu and I ran the last part of the walk. When I got home, I listened to the quote several times. The money part was the ending, so I started counting backward from the end. When I got to a word break at 16 letters, I thought "Damn! One letter too many!" But I kept counting backward, and after 16 more letters there was another break ... and then after 16 more, another break ... and those three formed a complete thought! It was perfect for a 16x15 grid! The odds of it working out exactly right were so slim, yet it did.

For the grid, the tricky part was keeping it at a Tuesday level with an eight-letter answer at 1-Across. I had to make sure that the words crossing the A.J. initials were drop-dead easy since if you aren't familiar with the name, those letters are essentially unchecked. (Such a blind crossing is known as a "Natick," after the crossing of N.C. WYETH with NATICK in this puzzle.)

I hope my "cousin" A.J. enjoys the puzzle!

Jeff Chen notes:
I was so curious to uncover the person quoted! I'm usually not that obsessed with getting 1-A, happy to leave it blank if I can't get it right ... read more

I was so curious to uncover the person quoted! I'm usually not that obsessed with getting 1-A, happy to leave it blank if I can't get it right away. But today, I was determined to get it. Curious moment when I filled in the last letter … AJ JACOBS sounded so (kind of) familiar.

I stopped solving at that point to go look him up — ah, he wrote "The Year of Living Biblically," which I enjoyed. A quest to live according to the Bible's rules, for a full year? Hilarious!

A fun quote about him being STILL A FIVE LETTER / WORD STARTING WITH / LOS AND ENDING WITH ER. (Were you also confused that JACOBS has six letters? No? Uh, me neither.) Witty quip.

Quote puzzles are tough to make shine, as the entire punch of the puzzle is packed into that one line. This one was okay for me, but it did feel odd that Peter depended on a notepad to make the full quote work. It felt choppy, having to start at the notepad and then jump to the rest of the puzzle. And as neat as it was to break into 16 / 16 /16, the breaks don't come at natural break points (odd to put a break between LETTER and WORD, for example).

I appreciate Peter's attempt to give us more in the bonus fill, leaving his four corners wide open. Some BAY AREA / CAPITAL W, DATABASE, SCOUT CAR helped elevate my solve.

So much of it was more neutral though, like ATOLLS, ERECTS, ASANAS, ODESSA, INSPECT, etc. And MENACER and ABSCESS aren't very pleasant. I would have preferred a more conservative, traditional grid layout, breaking up the top into three across words per row instead of two, and focusing harder on working in more long downs for bonuses.

Novel approach, appropriate to AJ JACOBS. The quote and execution thereof didn't quite work for me, but I liked seeing something different.

Jim Horne notes:
1
A
2
J
3
J
4
A
5
C
6
O
7
B
8
S
9
A
10
B
11
S
12
C
13
E
14
S
15
S
16
P
O
R
T
A
B
L
E
17
B
A
Y
A
R
E
A
18
R
E
S
O
N
A
T
E
19
I
N
S
P
E
C
T
20
L
A
M
21
N
22
A
D
A
23
I
C
R
Y
24
S
25
T
26
I
L
L
A
27
F
I
V
E
L
28
E
T
T
E
R
29
L
A
G
S
30
A
N
A
31
C
A
S
T
32
E
C
O
33
A
34
C
T
35
S
36
P
37
O
I
L
38
W
O
R
39
D
S
T
A
40
R
T
I
N
G
W
41
I
42
T
43
H
44
A
I
S
L
E
45
U
S
S
46
R
Y
E
47
T
48
A
T
A
49
I
50
O
S
51
P
A
P
A
52
L
O
S
A
N
53
D
54
E
N
D
I
55
N
56
G
I
N
E
R
57
A
R
A
B
58
E
A
S
E
59
O
L
E
60
M
E
N
A
61
C
E
R
62
S
63
C
O
U
T
64
C
65
A
66
R
67
E
R
A
S
U
R
E
68
S
A
N
T
I
A
G
O
69
R
O
S
E
R
E
D
70
A
B
S
E
N
T
E
E
© 2017, The New York TimesNo. 1226 ( 24,885 )
Across
1. See blurb : AJJACOBS
9. Sore spot : ABSCESS
16. Convenient to carry : PORTABLE
17. Region around San Francisco : BAYAREA
18. Strike a chord : RESONATE
19. Check for flaws : INSPECT
20. On the ___ (fleeing) : LAM
21. Zilch : NADA
23. Ja Rule hit that includes the lyric "Wash away your tears" : ICRY
24. See blurb : STILLAFIVELETTER
29. Falls behind : LAGS
30. Santa ___ winds : ANA
31. Playbill listing : CAST
32. ___-friendly : ECO
33. Perform in a play : ACT
35. Go bad : SPOIL
38. See blurb : WORDSTARTINGWITH
44. Bridal path : AISLE
45. ___ Enterprise : USS
46. "The Catcher in the ___" : RYE
47. "Later, old chap" : TATA
49. Apple apps use it : IOS
51. One of the Three Bears : PAPA
52. See blurb : LOSANDENDINGINER
57. The "A" of U.A.E. : ARAB
58. Effortlessness : EASE
59. Fútbol cheer : OLE
60. Threatening person : MENACER
62. Military vehicle used for reconnaissance : SCOUTCAR
67. Mark never seen in an online crossword : ERASURE
68. Main city in Chile : SANTIAGO
69. Snow White's sister : ROSERED
70. No-show : ABSENTEE
Down
1. First full month of spring: Abbr. : APR
2. Coffee, slangily : JOE
3. Third-year students: Abbr. : JRS
4. Islands surrounding lagoons : ATOLLS
5. Venice thoroughfare : CANAL
6. Appointer of Sotomayor and Kagan to the Supreme Court : OBAMA
7. Sandwich that's often stuck with toothpicks : BLT
8. Welcomed at the door : SEENIN
9. Tolerate : ABIDE
10. Hackneyed : BANAL
11. Method: Abbr. : SYS
12. Chemical symbol for tungsten : CAPITALW
13. Puts up : ERECTS
14. Like some handshakes and formulas : SECRET
15. Lecherous deity : SATYR
22. "Halt!," to a sailor : AVAST
24. Killed, as a dragon : SLEW
25. Chalupa alternative : TACO
26. Dr. Frankenstein's assistant : IGOR
27. Deadly : FATAL
28. Vaping devices : ECIGS
33. Burmese or Persian : ASIAN
34. The "75" of $1.75: Abbr. : CTS
36. Second-century pope : PIUSI
37. Clip-___ (certain sunglasses) : ONS
39. Collection of information : DATABASE
40. Things used on a bridle path : REINS
41. Neighbor of Afghanistan : IRAN
42. Write using a keyboard : TYPE
43. Get wind of : HEAR
47. Bullfighter : TORERO
48. Yoga positions : ASANAS
50. Ukrainian city on the Black Sea : ODESSA
51. Baking container for a cobbler : PIETIN
52. Debussy work whose title is French for "The Sea" : LAMER
53. Big name in tractors : DEERE
54. Dog-___ (like some well-read books) : EARED
55. Middays : NOONS
56. Butt muscle : GLUTE
61. Mean dog : CUR
63. Hailed vehicle : CAB
64. Burmese or Persian : CAT
65. Birthday card number : AGE
66. ___ v. Wade : ROE

Answer summary: 5 unique to this puzzle, 2 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

Found bugs or have suggestions?