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New York Times, Saturday, December 31, 2016

Author:
Jeff Chen
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
967/5/20103/17/201958
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
2568172398
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.636202
Jeff Chen

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 66, Blocks: 34 Missing: {FJKQXZ} This is puzzle # 64 for Mr. Chen. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Jeff Chen notes:
In my first career as a mechanical engineer, we used to tell our clients that they could have two of the following three things: ... read more

In my first career as a mechanical engineer, we used to tell our clients that they could have two of the following three things:

  1. Good
  2. Fast
  3. Cheap

It's not possible to achieve all three, but that didn't stop certain clients from demanding them all. Some of us engineers were fond of telling them sure, if you have to have all three, why don't we just make your product out of UNOBTAINIUM?

Our business folks weren't too hot about that response. We sure thought it was funny, though.

Jeff Chen notes:
I had queried Brad Wilber at the Chronicle of Higher Education with a list of made-up compounds in fantasy: UNOBTAINIUM, KRYPTONITE, ... read more

I had queried Brad Wilber at the Chronicle of Higher Education with a list of made-up compounds in fantasy: UNOBTAINIUM, KRYPTONITE, DILITHIUM, ICE NINE, MITHRIL. He said it was too much of a list puzzle (imagine that!) for him, but UNOBTAINIUM would sure make a great themeless seed.

I don't make many themelesses these days since everybody and their brother submits a ton of them to Will. Plus, I think it's a much more interesting challenge to come up with a great theme. But when I heard NERD CULTURE in an audio book, I quickly counted it out (stupid compulsive constructor's brain, just let me listen to the book already!) — 11 letters, the same as UNOBTAINIUM! Felt like a mini-theme I could get behind.

Unfortunately, 11 letters is a terrible length to work with in a themeless. It's so stubborn, forcing placement of certain black squares right off the bat, draining flexibility. I tested dozens of possibilities, all of them leading to some dead-end or requiring 70+ words (that's not a very interesting construction challenge to me), before finally arriving at what you see.

I wasn't thrilled about three middle entries — PERSIANS, CADENCE, SANCTION, but each felt like there was possibility for good cluing. SANCTION, for example, is a word that can mean one thing … or its opposite. (I clued it as [Approve … or prohibit].)

The upper right took hundreds of tries before I finally felt that the result was sparkly and clean enough ... with one hesitation, anyway: I love ASCII ART, and it fits great with the NERD CULTURE mini-theme, but would solvers struggle with the SIRENIA (it's the order containing manatees) crossing? I love that SIRENIA term, derived from the Sirens of Greek myth. Hopefully, people who don't know ASCII can think about the term "Animalia" and get the -IA ending that way.

My original clue for ANACONDA was [Sir Mix-a-Lot's "don't want none / Unless you got buns, hon"]. I was pretty sure Will wouldn't be able to use it for the NYT audience. But I had to try.

Shout at to BRAD at 26-Across! Thanks so much for the idea.

Jim Horne notes:
This is Mr. Chen's 17th NYT crossword in 2016. Others in double digits are David Steinberg (12), Zhouqin Burnikel (12), Patrick Berry ... read more

This is Mr. Chen's 17th NYT crossword in 2016. Others in double digits are David Steinberg (12), Zhouqin Burnikel (12), Patrick Berry (11), and Timothy Polin (10). Here's the breakdown by year.

1
S
2
P
3
O
4
T
5
W
6
E
7
L
8
D
9
S
10
P
11
A
12
T
13
H
E
R
B
A
R
I
A
14
H
A
R
S
H
15
A
L
S
O
R
A
N
S
16
V
E
N
I
C
E
17
W
H
I
N
E
S
18
S
I
R
E
N
I
A
19
L
A
N
E
20
U
21
P
22
C
A
R
D
23
T
I
N
24
M
I
S
25
C
R
E
A
N
T
26
B
R
A
D
27
N
E
R
D
C
U
28
L
T
U
R
E
29
H
30
A
31
G
32
U
E
33
S
E
T
34
A
U
N
T
S
35
U
N
O
B
T
36
A
I
N
I
37
U
M
38
L
A
G
S
39
B
A
C
O
N
B
40
I
41
T
42
S
43
A
C
E
44
L
I
N
E
N
S
45
C
A
T
46
H
47
H
O
T
48
R
O
D
S
49
C
50
H
E
R
R
Y
51
O
N
T
A
P
E
52
P
53
A
R
A
D
R
O
P
54
O
D
E
T
S
55
I
B
E
L
I
E
V
E
56
P
A
R
E
57
N
O
W
O
N
D
E
R
© 2016, The New York TimesNo. 1231 ( 24,525 )
Across
1
Join, as two pieces of metal by application of heat and pressure : SPOTWELD
9
Scrap : SPAT
13
Preservers of plant specimens : HERBARIA
14
Glaring : HARSH
15
People on the wrong end of a landslide : ALSORANS
16
Vivaldi's birthplace : VENICE
17
Says "But I don't wanna!," say : WHINES
18
Manatee's order, whose name comes from Greek myth : SIRENIA
19
Part of a basketball court : LANE
20
Exposed part of a deal : UPCARD
23
Oscar composition, mostly : TIN
24
Bad actor : MISCREANT
26
Boy's name that's a hardware item : BRAD
27
Cosplay and fanfic are parts of it : NERDCULTURE
29
Peace Palace locale, with "The" : HAGUE
33
A 43-Across may end one : SET
34
Some next of kin : AUNTS
35
Hypothetical miracle material : UNOBTAINIUM
38
Live-streaming problems : LAGS
39
Strips to pieces? : BACONBITS
43
Court coup : ACE
44
Pottery Barn stock : LINENS
45
___ lab (place for an angiogram) : CATH
47
Speedsters : HOTRODS
49
Manhattan topper : CHERRY
51
Like evidence gathered in some stings : ONTAPE
52
Delivery of supplies by air, in a way : PARADROP
54
"Golden Boy" writer : ODETS
55
"To the best of my recollection ..." : IBELIEVE
56
Decorticate : PARE
57
"Hardly a surprise" : NOWONDER
Down
1
Nice thing after getting the cold shoulder? : SHAWL
2
The "P" of P. G. Wodehouse : PELHAM
3
Noble Italian family name shared by three popes : ORSINI
4
Alternatives to rumps : TBONES
5
Enamel finish? : WARE
6
Part of a not-so-clean slate : ERASURE
7
Justin who directed "Star Trek Beyond" : LIN
8
Analogues of circuit solicitors, informally : DAS
9
Not around the bend : SANE
10
Publishing order : PRINTRUN
11
An emoticon is a simple form of it : ASCIIART
12
Chain of seven countries : THEANDES
14
A maverick doesn't follow it : HERD
16
Knowledge of fine arts : VIRTU
18
Approve : SANCTION
21
Losing side in the Battle of Marathon, 490 B.C. : PERSIANS
22
Beat : CADENCE
25
Website with "The Next Big Thing" videos : CNET
26
One of about 3,412 in a kW-h : BTU
28
Term of endearment : LAMB
29
Circus ring? : HULAHOOP
30
1997 adventure/horror film that takes place in the Amazon : ANACONDA
31
Pistol : GOGETTER
32
The TV network in "Network" : UBS
36
Stomach : ABIDE
37
Turn loose? : UNSCREW
40
Stuck at a lodge, say : ICEDIN
41
Besmirched : TARRED
42
Gave it the old college try : STROVE
44
Removes as superfluous : LOPS
46
Hopped up : HYPER
48
Gauge : RATE
50
Dome light? : HALO
52
One standing in an alley : PIN
53
Classification system used in some banks : ABO

Answer summary: 7 unique to this puzzle, 2 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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