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New York Times, Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Author:
Peter Gordon
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
1169/5/198911/10/20190
SunMonTueWedThuFriSatVariety
942241411619
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?