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HOLDUP MAN

New York Times, Sunday, December 7, 2014

Author: Jeff Chen
Editor: Will Shortz
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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 me into taking a ... more
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 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 in its 'genius grant' ... more
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 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 Down
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
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
54. Option in "Hamlet" : NOTTOBE
56. Corroded : ATEAWAYAT
60. Mantra sounds : OMS
61. Idiosyncrasy : TIC
62. Sounds edited out of some audio : UHS
64. Barrett of Pink Floyd : SYD
66. Native ___ : WIT
67. Chinese "way" : TAO
70. Zigs or zags : VEERS
77. April foolers, e.g. : SCAMPS
79. 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
91. 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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