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New York Times, Saturday, December 31, 2016

Author: Jeff Chen
Editor: Will Shortz
Jeff Chen
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
767/5/201011/14/201745
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
2167111768
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.633152

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: ... more
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:

  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, ... more
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, 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.

JimH notes: 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 Down
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
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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