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TOIL AND TROUBLE

New York Times, Sunday, February 2, 2014

Author:
Dick Shlakman and Jeff Chen
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
22/2/20147/2/20142
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
1001000
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.57010
Dick Shlakman
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
1027/5/20108/29/201961
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
2678182698
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.637222
Jeff Chen

This puzzle:

Rows: 21, Columns: 21 Words: 140, Blocks: 83 Missing: {JQZ} Grid has mirror symmetry. This is the debut puzzle for Mr. Shlakman. This is puzzle # 22 for Mr. Chen. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Constructor notes:
Dick: If the byline for co-constructors was set in type reflecting the respective contributions of each, my name would be in eight point pica type and Jeff's in 20 point, BOLDED and ... read more

Dick:

If the byline for co-constructors was set in type reflecting the respective contributions of each, my name would be in eight point pica type and Jeff's in 20 point, BOLDED and italicized. I am, at age 74, very different from most who construct puzzles accepted by the New York Times. I do not attempt any crosswords or other puzzles except the Sunday NYT and it takes me close to an entire day to get near finishing one. It has been a dream to see my name attached to a Sunday NYT crossword puzzle. (I think it is the same syndrome that causes me to enjoy writing poetry but not reading it.)

I had many theme ideas (none architectural) and no ability whatsoever to take the next step. One Sunday, in checking my many unfilled answers at Rex Parker's blog, I saw a comment from Jeff volunteering to work with newbies. My initial effort ultimately led to the co-construction of a puzzle containing homophones as the theme answers, submitted to, and accepted by Will for a Wednesday publication, but it has not yet been published.

During the course of working with that puzzle, Jeff taught me the most basic of NYT crossword construction requirements, to wit: that theme answers need to be internally very consistent and "tight" (a comment I have heard from Jeff as he has, with considerable grace, declined to co-author virtually every other idea I have submitted to him!), and that the fill must be neat and clean and interesting with as little reliance on "crosswordese" as possible.

My original idea and theme word selections for this puzzle centered on well known expressions first introduced into the English language by Shakespeare. Not "tight enough" opined my new mentor. He suggested we try for such theme content from one play only. He also authored the idea of using Macbeth and working in, as the reveal clue, the reference to the superstition against mentioning the play's name, (which was the subject of a marvelous Canadian TV series called Slings and Arrows, season 2, also shown in the U.S. on Sundance). In our division of labor, we collaborated and contributed equally on the selection of the Macbeth quotes, Jeff did the grid and virtually all of the fill, and I took the lead in, and supplied much of the clues.

Will Shortz notes:
This puzzle has everything — a fresh, literary theme, beautifully executed, with a bonus visual element, and a handsome construction to boot. Besides the theme I like DURAN DURAN, ... read more

This puzzle has everything — a fresh, literary theme, beautifully executed, with a bonus visual element, and a handsome construction to boot. Besides the theme I like DURAN DURAN, POLO SHIRT, IN A KNOT, HEAVE-HO, IONE SKYE, HOT POT, TOODLE-OO, NO HOPE, and THE ROBOT. This should make for a relaxing few hours for most solvers ... or a "relaxing" 6-8 minutes for crossword champion Dan Feyer!

Jeff Chen notes:
Thus continues the saga of JEFF VS. DAN, wherein I try my durndest to beat ACPT champ Dan Feyer on a puzzle I wrote. My solving time: 6:39. You'll find Dan's time (and that of the other ... read more

Thus continues the saga of JEFF VS. DAN, wherein I try my durndest to beat ACPT champ Dan Feyer on a puzzle I wrote. My solving time: 6:39. You'll find Dan's time (and that of the other speedsters) posted at Dan's blog. Curious to see how badly he beat me this time. It's been over 30 puzzles now, and I still haven't won. I've even started handicapping it by reviewing all the answers right before I solve. And sometimes I don't even come within a factor of two!

ADDED NOTE: David Plotkin's time (on paper!) = 5:54. Dagnabit! And Dan's time... 3:50. Whoa. Talk about superhuman powers. Someone ought to make him a cape.

Very fun collaborating with Dick on his big debut. He came up with the idea and I helped him refine it. I actually didn't do that much; the credit should go to him. It's tough to come up with clever ideas for a NYT Sunday puzzle.

Ah, the gridwork. Not as much of a challenge as I've encountered in some other constructions, but a toughie nonetheless. There are only six themers, but incorporating the dagger with the M A C B E T H letters made it tricky, forcing us to deploy our black squares quicker than we had desired. This left big open spaces in the NW and NE, and without those cheater squares (the two stair patterns at the top of the grid), it looked pretty hopeless. We debated whether EXERCISERS was legitimate, eventually deciding it was KOSHER, and were glad that it allowed the snazzy BANDOLERO and LITERATI to work.

The other tricky spot sort of snuck up on us. Because of the word count limitations (140 max), we had to incorporate a few long across answers, IONE SKYE notably. It's a nice entry in itself, but boy did it cause problems. Because it crossed three theme answers, there weren't many options there besides IONE SKYE, and once that was fixed into place, KIEL was the best we could do at that spot. Now, I'm a huge fan of James Bond villains and Jaws in particular, but even I don't like having to remember who played him. And having OHO, OOH, OH I, UH OH... that's my fault. Sometimes at a certain point (in this case, maybe 50 attempts), you've done your best.

Ah well, as with most constructions, there will be compromises. I had a great time working on this with Dick, and I welcome anyone who's interested in collaborating (read: allowing me to ride on their coattails as I politely shoot down all their ideas until something fun emerges) to contact me at jeffchen1972 (at) gmail (dot) com.

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© 2014, The New York TimesNo. 0202 ( 23,462 )
Across
1
Turns left : HAWS
5
Ogles offensively : LEERSAT
12
One for the money? : UNUM
16
Actors Ken and Lena : OLINS
18
Gettable : INREACH
19
___ Foods : WHOLE
20
Cash in : REDEEM
22
Tiny tunneler : TERMITE
23
Big gun : KAHUNA
24
Ones doing aerobics : EXERCISERS
26
Popular British band named after the villain in "Barbarella" : DURANDURAN
28
Sinister señor : BANDOLERO
29
Lacoste offering : POLOSHIRT
30
Soul maker : KIA
31
Channel showing old Hollywood hits : TCM
34
Disposables maker : BIC
35
Modus operandi : HOW
38
Kind of accounting : COST
39
Bistro glassful : EAU
40
Sturdy ones : OAKS
42
Org. using X-rays : TSA
45
Equally, say : INHALF
47
Tangled : INAKNOT
50
Legit : KOSHER
52
Words before and after "my lads" in the United States Merchant Marine anthem : HEAVEHO
54
___ acid : OLEIC
55
Sides are often alongside them : ENTREES
56
Entry fee? : ANTE
57
"Don't look now ..." : UHOH
59
Bell or shell preceder : TACO
61
Regarding : ASTO
62
Super Bowl successes, for short : TDS
63
Key of Bach's most famous Mass : BMINOR
65
Furniture style of Louis XV : ROCOCO
67
Dupe : CON
68
___ the Explorer : DORA
70
"That's all folks," for Mel Blanc : EPITAPH
72
Batman : Robin :: Green Hornet : ___ : KATO
74
Strand, somehow : SNOWIN
76
Girl's name meaning "happiness" : FELICIA
77
Squirm : WRITHE
80
John Cusack's co-star in "Say Anything ..." : IONESKYE
82
Dir. of the Missouri between S.D. and Neb. : ESE
83
Like leftovers, often : REHEATED
85
Born : NEE
86
Actor Richard who played Jaws in Bond films : KIEL
87
Some A.L. (but not N.L.) players : DHS
88
It may be indicated with a ring : MOOD
89
More than pique : IRE
90
Too smooth : GLIB
92
Dudley Do-Right's love : NELL
94
Second place? : TENS
95
Part of N.R.A.: Abbr. : ASSN
96
Email button : SEND
98
Erne or tern : SEABIRD
102
Baloney, in Bristol : TOSH
104
Entitle to wear vestments : ORDAIN
106
Headstrong : WILLFUL
107
East Asian stew : HOTPOT
110
"Ta-ta!" : TOODLEOO
112
It may be radical : ION
113
Places where polar bears fish : ICEHOLES
115
They may be sprayed on : TANS
116
HBO competitor : SHO
117
Bill's partner : COO
118
Pro : FOR
119
Major, for example : RANK
120
Poetic rhapsody : ODE
121
Soak (up) : SOP
122
Summer White House setting: Abbr. : EDT
123
"Lady" of the lea : EWE
124
Rocky shout-outs : YOS
Down
1
Biblical peak : HOREB
2
Actress Vega of "Spy Kids" : ALEXA
3
Expand : WIDEN
4
Mortimer of old radio : SNERD
5
Contributors to The Paris Review, e.g. : LITERATI
6
First of 12 in South America : ENERO
7
Muffs : ERRS
8
Band with the 1994 album "Monster" : REM
9
"He" and "she" follower : SAID
10
Not perform as expected : ACTUP
11
Dance popularized by Michael Jackson : THEROBOT
12
"Yep" : UHHUH
13
Iraqi P.M. ___ al-Maliki : NOURI
14
Like one of the arm bones : ULNAR
15
Destined (for) : MEANT
17
Like vino de Rioja : SECO
19
Gobs : WADS
21
Compassion, figuratively : MILKOFHUMANKINDNESS
23
Start of many jokes : KNOCKKNOCKWHOSTHERE
25
Dos x tres : SEIS
27
Latin "others" : ALIA
31
Blue-green : TEAL
32
Part of many an anniversary celebration : CAKE
33
Tax-free bond, for short : MUNI
35
Pair of cymbals in a drum kit : HIHAT
36
Ceaselessly : ONEND
37
Tautological statement of finality : WHATSDONEISDONE
38
Cavs, on a scoreboard : CLE
41
Elbow-bender : SOT
42
Superstitious thespian's name for a work of Shakespeare ... from which 21-, 23-, 37-, 58- and 60-Down all come : THESCOTTISHPLAY
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Take care of : SEETO
44
Cause of an insurance investigation : ARSON
46
One of 17 on a Monopoly board: Abbr. : AVE
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What a goner has : NOHOPE
49
Army threats? : OCTOPI
51
Mendoza Mrs. : SRA
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"___ get it!" : OHI
55
System prefix : ECO
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A single stroke : ONEFELLSWOOP
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What the lucky person leads : ACHARMEDLIFE
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Lively : BRISK
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Piqued : RILED
65
500 events : RACES
66
Equipped to row : OARED
69
Have debts : OWE
71
"The Addams Family" nickname : TISH
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___ Maria : TIA
74
Rat : SING
75
Carol : NOEL
78
Towel designation : HERS
79
Elysium : EDEN
81
Cry before "haw" : YEE
84
Big stretch? : EON
91
Moccasin decorations : BEADS
93
You might bow your head to receive one : LEI
94
Play about Capote : TRU
95
Famous Titanic victim : ASTOR
97
Zilch : NIL
99
One of "The Honeymooners" : ALICE
100
Drippings appropriately positioned under the circled letters : BLOOD
101
Alternatively : IFNOT
103
"Lo-o-ovely!" : OOH
104
Director Preminger : OTTO
105
You may find a fork in it : ROAD
108
Prefix with -phile : OENO
109
Some reproaches : TSKS
111
Palindromic cry : OHO
114
Intimidate : COW

Answer summary: 7 unique to this puzzle, 1 debuted here and reused later, 1 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

Found bugs or have suggestions?