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New York Times, Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Author:
Matthew E. Paronto and Jeff Chen
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
22/11/20142/25/20142
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
0020000
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.59000
Matthew E. Paronto
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
997/5/20106/13/201960
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
2578172598
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.636212
Jeff Chen

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 74, Blocks: 34 Missing: {QX} Spans: 2 This is the debut puzzle for Mr. Paronto. This is puzzle # 23 for Mr. Chen. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Constructor notes:
MATTHEW: Inspiration for this puzzle came while engaging in one of my favorite activities: list-making. Actually, the list aspect came ... read more

MATTHEW: Inspiration for this puzzle came while engaging in one of my favorite activities: list-making. Actually, the list aspect came later...

I originally tried to make this puzzle solo, but only got so far as the theme answers and a grid that remained mostly unfilled. Some months later, I saw an open invitation from Jeff on one of the crossword blogs to anyone interested in collaborating or just passing an idea by him and getting feedback. So I dusted off my idea, shared it with him, and so began our collaboration.

The first order of business was improving the theme answers. My biggest takeaway from this entire experience is the importance of having a tight, consistent theme, and there was room for improvement in what I had produced. We came up with a modified set of four theme answers (IT DIDN'T WASH, CAME UP DRY, WENT TO PRESS, IN THE FOLD), but still needed a good revealer. We brainstormed some ideas, such as LAUNDRY DAY and LAUNDRY SERVICE, but none of these worked; they were either too obscure or they had been done before. And then Jeff came up with the perfect revealer: LAUNDRY LIST. I really liked this as it tied everything together visually. The theme answers sort of resemble a list. With our improved theme, we proceeded with the grid and the fill, secure in the knowledge we'd knocked it out of the park. Not quite...

The feedback on the original submission was that the first theme answer, IT DIDN'T WASH, wasn't a familiar enough phrase. (In other words, it didn't wash.) Thus, the puzzle was rejected. Jeff suggested I propose an alternative answer that he devised, and as luck would have it, there was renewed interest in the puzzle. After some additional revisions based on Will's request to further tighten theme answer consistency, and an entire reconstruction of the puzzle...success!

Thank you for solving — and reading about — our puzzle!

Jeff Chen notes:
And now for another installment of 'JEFF VS. DAN', where I speed-solve against ACPT champ Dan Feyer on my own puzzles. Because he's ... read more

And now for another installment of "JEFF VS. DAN", where I speed-solve against ACPT champ Dan Feyer on my own puzzles. Because he's spanked me so badly recently, I studied the grid extensively just before solving this time, trying to memorize every single entry. My time: 3:00 even. And that's with me typing in an utter frenzy! Check back into see what times Dan and the other speedsters post at Dan's blog.

Very fun to work with Matthew on this one. He was so pleasant in writing, and equally pleasant when I gave him some feedback. Theme ideas are hard to come by, and often times it's a real strength to know when to let something go. Very few people can do that, moving on to brainstorm further (I typically go through 20ish theme ideas before settling in on something that moves me).

This one was a toughie! We wanted to incorporate WASH DRY PRESS FOLD in that order, use LAUNDRY LIST as a revealer, and have each of the four words in snazzy phrases where the word had a different meaning. Not easy at all. As Matthew mentioned, we originally had a different grid, and Will gave us thoughtful feedback with his rejection. After nodding my head (read: swearing up a storm and perhaps making a mustachioed voodoo doll; I neither confirm nor deny this), we went back to the drawing board. Good thing we did, because Will's intervention forced us to dig harder, and we eventually came up with these themers, which we liked much better than the original set.

One aspect I'll point out in the gridwork: incorporating five long themers is tough, and it becomes even tougher when your middle entry is a "weird" length (13, 11, or 9 letters), which sort of splits the grid in half. Solvers might have minor gripes today, saying we could have cleaned up NEH (yup, ugh!) and SWED (double ugh!) by breaking up OF SORTS and PREPARE with black squares. We tried that, but look where POLIO sits. Turns out that there were few entries that could have worked there, and I just despise OLIO. Personal tick of mine. So we deemed it better to include the nice OF SORTS and exclude the ugsome OLIO. Would you rather have NEH or OLIO? Matter of taste, methinks.

Matthew and I have another collaboration waiting in the wings — he's two for two on submissions to the NYT! A whole lot better than my overall acceptance rate, roughly 33%. And that's a whole lot better than my original acceptance rate, which was roughly 0% (0 for 22). That was a long two+ years (with a very patient editor)...

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© 2014, The New York TimesNo. 0211 ( 23,471 )
Across
1
"___ be my pleasure" : ITD
4
Like some doughnuts : GLAZED
10
Sweets : HON
13
___ culpa : MEA
14
Ford featured on "The Waltons" : MODELA
15
Piano, on a music score : SOFT
16
3, 4 or 5 on a golf hole, typically : PAR
17
Say that neither side benefited : CALLITAWASH
19
"___ stupid question ..." : ASKA
21
Mai ___ : TAI
22
Año starter : ENERO
23
Strand : LEAVEHIGHANDDRY
27
Playwright O'Neill : EUGENE
28
Homer's father on "The Simpsons" : ABE
29
Pilot's announcement, for short : ETA
30
Exert, as energy : SPEND
31
Monopoly square between Connecticut Avenue and St. Charles Place : JAIL
33
Words of estimation : ORSO
34
Start being printed : GOTOPRESS
37
Early Ron Howard role : OPIE
40
Hula dancers shake them : HIPS
41
Edwards or Andrews: Abbr. : USAFB
45
Coffee dispenser : URN
46
___-X : GEN
47
Autonomous part of Ukraine : CRIMEA
48
Join a community again : RETURNTOTHEFOLD
52
F.D.R.'s affliction : POLIO
53
Bank offering with a pct. yield : IRA
54
Season to drink 58-Across : YULE
55
Extensive enumeration ... or what's formed by the ends of 17-, 23-, 34- and 48-Across : LAUNDRYLIST
58
See 54-Across : NOG
59
Shamu, for one : ORCA
60
Be on the precipice : TEETER
61
Pull (on) : TUG
62
Book after Ezra: Abbr. : NEH
63
Reason for an inquisition : HERESY
64
Ave. crossers : STS
Down
1
Stabs : IMPALES
2
Comb into a beehive, e.g. : TEASEUP
3
Hardly a period of enlightenment : DARKAGE
4
Maker of the Yukon S.U.V. : GMC
5
More than dislike : LOATHE
6
Two-time loser to Dwight : ADLAI
7
1983 Woody Allen mockumentary : ZELIG
8
Inventor Whitney : ELI
9
Suited to be a suitor : DATEABLE
10
More than a pack rat : HOARDER
11
In a way : OFSORTS
12
___ degree : NTH
15
Nor. neighbor : SWED
18
Hathaway of "Les Misérables" : ANNE
20
Take an eye for an eye for : AVENGE
24
Within: Prefix : ENDO
25
Unpleasant discoveries in soup : HAIRS
26
Ming of the N.B.A. : YAO
31
31-Across, slangily : JOINT
32
Form of many a modern game : APP
33
Become inflexible : OSSIFY
35
Civil War winning side : THENORTH
36
"You bet!" : SURE
37
Your and my : OUR
38
Make, as a meal : PREPARE
39
Connected with someone : INTOUCH
42
Quantities : AMOUNTS
43
Left a military formation : FELLOUT
44
No-goodniks : BADEGGS
46
Electrical system : GRID
47
Goes after : CHASES
49
Radius neighbor : ULNA
50
Persian Gulf vessel : OILER
51
Too-often repeated : TRITE
55
Chaney of the silents : LON
56
"___-haw!" : YEE
57
Give it a go : TRY

Answer summary: 4 unique to this puzzle, 1 debuted here and reused later.

Found bugs or have suggestions?