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New York Times, Thursday, February 23, 2017

Author:
Jeff Chen
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
917/5/201011/15/201853
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2467172188
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1.635192
Jeff Chen

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 78, Blocks: 42 Missing: {X} Spans: 1 Grid has mirror symmetry. This is puzzle # 66 for Mr. Chen. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Jeff Chen notes:
Don't get what's going on? Check out 10, 20, 30, 40 in the grid. Still don't get it? Look at the entries at 10-Down, 20-Across, ... read more

Don't get what's going on? Check out 10, 20, 30, 40 in the grid.

Still don't get it? Look at the entries at 10-Down, 20-Across, 30-Down, and 40-Across.

(Don't you hate-love it when someone (HOOD)WINKS you with (TRICK)QUESTIONS?)

I wish I could have rounded these out with two final answers more tricksy than (PUSH)PIN and (PET)ROCK — that was the Holy Grail. Ah well.

This idea came to me back in 2014, when Will asked me to write tricky Puzzle #5 for the ACPT … with only three weeks to go. In a state of sheer panic, I brainstormed day and night for one of those weeks, and this particular concept was only half-baked by then. For the life of me, I couldn't get it to work quite right. Thankfully, Will chose a different idea.

I forgot about it for a year, but it popped back in my head when I heard the phrase TEN FOUR. Wouldn't it be cool to have phrases involving TWO, FOUR, SIX, EIGHT, TEN — and combine TEN and FOUR!

It nearly killed me to put the grid together, what with having to place themers at 2-D, 4-D, 6-D, 8-D, and 10-D — in such a way to never have a 2-A, 4-A, 6-A, 8-A, or 10-A, which would have confused the issue — and I was pretty happy with it, especially since the entire south of the puzzle was wide-open; ripe for great themeless fill. I had a lot of fun adding in colorful material in that first draft.

It's always a mixed blessing to hear that Will likes a concept but wants a revision. In this case, he liked the general idea ... but didn't like that TEN and FOUR were combined as themers … and didn't like that there was no theme in the south of the puzzle.

Shows you what I know!

Jeff Chen notes:
It would have been easy to use a set of random numbers for the redo — FRESHMAN FIFTEEN leading to FRESHMAN SENATOR and SWEET ... read more

It would have been easy to use a set of random numbers for the redo — FRESHMAN FIFTEEN leading to FRESHMAN SENATOR and SWEET SIXTEEN leading to SWEET CAROLINE were two of my favorites — but that felt inelegant. I wanted some set or progression. It took a long time to figure out a set that worked with 10, 20, 30, 40.

If you've never tried to create a grid in which themers have to be at specific numbers, don't. It's like hitting yourself in the head with a hammer. A white-hot hammer. A white-hot hammer with an angry shark duct-taped to it.

I didn't want to use so many black squares, and I hated going up to 78 words, but every sub-78 word grid I completed (about two dozen of them) had some small entry that rubbed me the wrong way. Or didn't have enough colorful material. Or sticky shark bite prints.

Big relief to finally get the "we're good to go" email from Joel!

Jim Horne notes:

Very clever, Mr. Chen. Very clever.

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© 2017, The New York TimesNo. 0223 ( 24,579 )

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Students & seniors
Across
1. Joan nicknamed "The Godmother of Punk" : JETT
5. Many a W.S.J. subscriber : MBA
8. Org. that started during the California gold rush : SFPD
12. Home of the all-vowel-named town Aiea : OAHU
13. Tropical fruit : GUAVA
15. Flood (in) : POUR
16. Electrical system : GRID
17. Wayne Gretzky, for 10 seasons : OILER
18. Highland tongue : ERSE
19. Maven : PRO
20. Fool : TRICK
21. Indefinite ordinal : NTH
22. Request at the barber's : TRIM
24. Midwest capital, to locals : INDY
26. Domain of Horus, in Egyptian myth : SKY
28. *Bulletin board fasteners* : PUSHPINS
32. Joker : WAG
35. Toiletry brand whose TV ads once featured the Supremes : ARRID
37. Thus far : YET
38. Michael who played Bruce Wayne's butler : CAINE
40. Engine cover : HOOD
41. Purplish bloom : ASTER
43. Establishments that often have porte cochères : INNS
44. What might get the ball rolling : INCLINE
46. Burrowing animal of southern Africa : MEERKAT
48. Napoleon's place : BAKERY
49. Fight on a mat, in dialect : RASSLE
50. Chopped : HEWN
52. What might get the ball rolling : PUTT
53. Where Herbert Hoover was born : IOWA
56. Actor Turner of "The Hobbit" : AIDAN
58. A tater can produce up to four of these : RBIS
62. *"Which weighs more - a pound of feathers or a pound of lead?" and others* : TRICKQUESTIONS
65. Novelist Fitzgerald : ZELDA
66. Letters preceding a pseudonym : AKA
67. City where LeBron James was born : AKRON
68. "As a result ..." : ANDSO
69. Cohen who co-founded an ice cream company : BEN
70. They come after 12 : TEENS
Down
1. Short run? : JOG
2. Lawman played by James Garner and Kevin Costner : EARP
3. *1970s fad item* : PETROCK
4. ___ rose (English heraldic emblem) : TUDOR
5. California's ___ Woods : MUIR
6. Island in the Coral Triangle : BALI
7. "___ plaisir!" : AVEC
8. Help stimulate the economy : SPEND
9. *Pulls a fast one on* : HOODWINKS
10. Promote : PUSH
11. "Dr." of rap : DRE
13. "Hell if I know!" : GOTME
14. Alan of "Argo" : ARKIN
23. "___ be my pleasure!" : ITD
25. Advisory grp. to the president : NSC
26. Title meaning "master" : SAHIB
27. Capital of Sweden : KRONA
29. Where Harley-Davidson Inc. is HOG : NYSE
30. Dog, cat or hamster : PET
31. Tabloid pair : ITEM
33. Historical record : ANNAL
34. Tale of derring-do : GESTE
36. The devil's playthings, they say : IDLEHANDS
39. Drone's mission : AIRSTRIKE
41. "Back to my point ..." : ANYWAY
42. TV Land programming : RERUNS
45. Hot temper : IRE
47. Clear the dishes? : EAT
51. Muslim face veil : NIQAB
52. Song that might have hosannas : PAEAN
53. Native people of Guatemala : ITZA
54. Wister who was known as the father of western fiction : OWEN
55. Join together : WELD
57. School with five March Madness titles : DUKE
59. Snoozer : BORE
60. A party to : INON
61. Some personnel info: Abbr. : SSNS
63. Principle behind yin and yang : TAO
64. Something you might get with a piercing, informally : TAT

Answer summary: 1 unique to this puzzle.

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