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HOLDUP MAN

New York Times, Sunday, December 7, 2014

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

This puzzle:

Rows: 21, Columns: 21 Words: 140, Blocks: 76 Missing: {JQZ} This is puzzle # 34 for Mr. Chen. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Jeff Chen notes:
My love affair with robotics came on suddenly, like a transistor activating. I hadn't had much exposure to electronics during undergrad, so I was apprehensive when a friend of mine goaded ... read more

My love affair with robotics came on suddenly, like a transistor activating. I hadn't had much exposure to electronics during undergrad, so I was apprehensive when a friend of mine goaded me into taking a higher-level electromechanics class in grad school. It felt nearly impossible at first, but once I figured out how simple a transistor really was (it's basically a tiny electrical switch), the leaps toward building robots came one after another: H-bridge schematic

  • Hooking up four transistors into an "H-bridge" configuration allows you to drive a motor backward and forward using low-voltage logic signals.
  • Two or more motors give you a drive train.
  • Building a chassis on top of a drive train is difficult, but it's more time-consuming than intellectually challenging.
  • Once you have a chassis to mount apparatuses on, you can really make things interesting. Light sensors. Switches to detect contact. Solenoids and motors to move things …
  • ... like WEAPONRY.

Pacific Rim poster

And from there, I became obsessed with robot combat. If "Pacific Rim" had been released back then, I would have marched directly to the local military branch office and demanded to be a Jaeger pilot. (Are you listening to my genius recruiting idea, armed forces?)

Our project first quarter was to build an autonomous robot to play "American Gladiators" — it first had to detect whether it was on offense or defense based on where it was placed in the arena. On offense, your objective was to pick up a foam cube and deposit it into a goal. On defense, you had to protect the goal. There could only be one winner — mano a mano, roboto a roboto. Once the whistle blew, the metal gloves came off. (My team ended in a three-way tie for first, thanks to some last-minute sensor tune-ups and a bit of luck.)

Sir Kill-a-lot, a personal favorite of mine

Oh right, there's a puzzle today. After laying everything out, I couldn't get around the fact that the SE corner required long fill and was highly constrained. At first, all I could work in was ROBOTLIKE, which I later realized sounded silly compared to ROBOTIC. Luckily, ROBOT SUMO 1.) fit in perfectly, making for a nice clean fill, and 2.) was okayed by Will, after I went on and on about what an incredible sport it was, not to mention how great it is in promoting technical education through amazing fun. Thanks to Will for putting up with my crazy interests!

(I thought long and hard about putting RORSCHACH in that ROBOT SUMO slot, but I was worried that people might have trouble with OPERON, which is a basic(ish) concept in biology / genetics but it's certainly not a layman's term. I didn't like the possibility of people ending up with OPERAN / RARSCHACH or OPERUN / RURSCHACH. Not very satisfying when that sort of thing happens.)

Now, back to work on my "Pacific Rim 2" script-in-progress. I'm pretty sure the robot sumo will win in the end, but you should never count out one of the original Titans. Taking all bets ...

Jeff Chen notes:
(Will is in D.C. for the North American Teams Table Tennis Championships, so I (Jeff) thought I'd relate Will's acceptance letter:) 'The MacArthur Foundation missed yet again this year ... read more

(Will is in D.C. for the North American Teams Table Tennis Championships, so I (Jeff) thought I'd relate Will's acceptance letter:)

"The MacArthur Foundation missed yet again this year in its 'genius grant' awards, overlooking your obvious once-in-a-generation — nay, mystical — abilities. It is a true wonder that people do not bow reverently to you as you walk down sidewalks — or may I more accurately say, veritably hover with your angelic beatitude. People will surely recount with misty-eyed fondness where they were the day they finished this puzzle; when they acquired a magical moment in time, surpassing even the births of their offspring."

(Or something like that.)

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© 2014, The New York TimesNo. 1207 ( 23,770 )
Across
1
Mariner's array : MAPS
5
Bubs : MACS
9
"Take ___" (exec's request) : AMEMO
14
Get cracking on : HOPTO
19
"Superfood" used in smoothies : ACAIBERRY
21
Devilfish : MANTA
22
Like some college halls : IVIED
23
*One who's not leading : SUPPORTINGACTOR
25
Broad valleys : DALES
26
Group of jerks : SPASM
27
Excoriates : SCATHES
28
Goes like hotcakes : SELLS
29
*"I have some bad news ..." : BRACEYOURSELF
33
Fish on many a sashimi platter : AHI
35
Bryn ___ : MAWR
39
Yankees teammate of Captain Clutch : AROD
40
Compos mentis : SANE
41
Relieved (of) : RID
42
Bread at a restaurant, typically : FREEBIE
44
ID provider : DMV
47
Conk out : DIE
49
Unrefined material : ORE
50
Muttered commentary : ASIDES
51
Get a cut of : SHAREIN
55
Transplants : GRAFTS
57
Jubilance : GLEE
58
Middle line of many an address: Abbr. : POBOXNO
59
Google statistic : HITS
60
Part of OTOH : OTHER
62
Java holder : URN
63
Two will get you turned around : LEFTS
65
Cereal box abbr. : NETWT
68
Paws : MITTS
69
*Very durable : HEAVYDUTY
71
Bartiromo of Fox Business : MARIA
72
Charmin competitor : SCOTT
73
City in which "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" is set : SALEM
74
Bald spot coverer : SOD
75
Have a loan from : OWETO
76
Charges : FEES
78
Content that's hard for a search engine to access : DEEPWEB
80
All-___ : BRAN
81
Standard of measurement : METRIC
83
F.D.R. purchased the first one of these bonds : SERIESE
84
Sci-fi shooter : RAYGUN
87
Result of a firing : ASH
88
Not pay attention at all : NAP
90
Was idle : SAT
91
Paid at the end, say : RANATAB
92
Big pitcher : ACE
93
U.S. city that becomes another U.S. city if you move the last letter to the front : MESA
96
An eternity : EONS
98
Mother of Eos and Helios : THEA
99
Animal's mouth : MAW
100
*What a massage may relieve : UPPERBACKPAIN
105
Ones with muses : POETS
107
Breather? : AIRTUBE
108
Big Three conference site : YALTA
113
Create, as a canyon : CARVE
114
*Not shirk a difficult task : SHOULDERTHELOAD
117
Warren who wrote "The War of the Roses" : ADLER
118
One with dreads : RASTA
119
Engineers' competition set in a ring : ROBOTSUMO
120
Director Almodóvar : PEDRO
121
Arches in Gothic architecture : OGEES
122
Be a busy beaver? : GNAW
123
Written paeans : ODES
Down
1
Force/acceleration : MASS
2
Small bra specification : ACUP
3
Smurf in red : PAPA
4
Nurses : SIPS
5
French sea : MER
6
It's often left hanging : ART
7
It's been shortening since 1911 : CRISCO
8
Matched up : SYNCED
9
Operatic baritone Pasquale : AMATO
10
___ Picchu (Peruvian high spot) : MACHU
11
Crosses a threshold : ENTERS
12
Greek high spot : MTOSSA
13
Sculling implement : OAR
14
Like some TVs, informally : HIDEF
15
Track, often : OVAL
16
*Comfort provider during difficult times : PILLAROFSTRENGTH
17
Concert souvenir : TEESHIRT
18
Has way too much, briefly : ODS
20
Flame out : BOMB
24
Jocund : GAY
28
Christmas gift holder : SLEIGH
30
Rear : RAISE
31
Is for two? : ARE
32
Armageddon : END
34
Day to beware : IDES
35
Juilliard deg. : MFA
36
MGM motto opener : ARS
37
*Crushing burden : WEIGHTOFTHEWORLD
38
Having special significance : REDLETTER
43
Something handled in a bar : BEERSTEIN
44
Dollop : DAB
45
*Arnold Schwarzenegger, once : MROLYMPIA
46
Perturbed : VEXED
48
She played Joanie on "Joanie Loves Chachi" : ERINMORAN
51
Goes viral, say : SPREADS
52
Puff the Magic Dragon's land : HONALEE
53
Imbues, as with flavor : INFUSES
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Option in "Hamlet" : NOTTOBE
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Corroded : ATEAWAYAT
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Mantra sounds : OMS
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Idiosyncrasy : TIC
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Sounds edited out of some audio : UHS
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Barrett of Pink Floyd : SYD
66
Native ___ : WIT
67
Chinese "way" : TAO
70
Zigs or zags : VEERS
77
April foolers, e.g. : SCAMPS
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Like some bars and blankets : WET
80
"The Godfather" enforcer who "sleeps with the fishes" : BRASI
81
The "m" of "yes'm" : MAAM
82
Deed of derring-do : ESCAPADE
85
Mideast inits. : UAE
86
Org. with the Larry O'Brien Trophy : NBA
89
Vim : PEP
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It contains uracil : RNA
94
"The Little Mermaid" villainess, for one : SEAHAG
95
Melodious : ARIOSE
96
"La Dolce Vita" actress : EKBERG
97
Coordinated gene cluster : OPERON
100
Gestating, after "in" : UTERO
101
Nasty sort : BRUTE
102
Mythological figure hinted at by the answers to the eight starred clues as well as this puzzle's design : ATLAS
103
Something to chew on : CUD
104
Da's opposite : NYET
106
Eternally : EVER
109
"Not to mention ..." : ALSO
110
Forte : LOUD
111
Break : TAME
112
Kerfuffles : ADOS
113
Ceiling : CAP
114
Sign of success? : SRO
115
Scheduling placeholder : TBA
116
"And ___!" : HOW

Answer summary: 11 unique to this puzzle, 1 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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