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New York Times, Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Author: Jeff Chen
Editor: Will Shortz
Jeff Chen
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757/5/201010/17/201744
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2166111768
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1.633152

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 78, Blocks: 40 Missing: {QXZ} Spans: 1 This is puzzle # 25 for Mr. Chen. NYT links: Across Lite PDF

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Jeff Chen notes: Genius, simply pure genius. What else can I say about my 'JEFF vs. DAN' contest... or should I say, my 'JEFF vs. DAN' con? (rubbing ... more
Jeff Chen notes: Genius, simply pure genius. What else can I say about my "JEFF vs. DAN" contest... or should I say, my "JEFF vs. DAN" con? (rubbing hands deviously together)

For those of you not familiar with JEFF vs. DAN, I speed-solve my own puzzles against five-time American Crossword Puzzle Tournament champion Dan Feyer. It's now been years of sandbagging, pretending like Dan's been beating me by a long shot, whining about how I'll never catch him, even though I know all the answers in advance. And it finally paid off! For I have pulled off the heist of the century.

Danny Ocean? A mental midget compared to myself when it comes to pure devious plotting. (Vizzini? Moron.) See what I have achieved: I finished today's puzzle in -0:43 (yes, that's negative forty-three seconds), clearly besting Dan for the first time ever, using my trade-secret combination of dual-handed solving, Asimovian psychohistory, and warp-induction time travel. Call the Guinness Book people, folks!

And the coup de grace: by beating Dan on this most important of days, I won the ACPT 2013 title from him, based on the contract clearly implied by the JEFF vs. DAN contest. So sayeth my esteemed barrister.

Game.

Set.

Snatched your trophy.

I WIN, FEYER, BWA HA HA!

P.S. My actual time, having studied all the answers before clearing the puzzle and solving it on computer as fast as possible: 1:59.

Jeff Chen notes: I've said over and over how I'm never going to tackle another puzzle with perimeter themers. They take so long to execute and are so ... more
Jeff Chen notes: I've said over and over how I'm never going to tackle another puzzle with perimeter themers. They take so long to execute and are so difficult to fill smoothly / with sparkle. You'd think I'd learn one day.

I had toyed with this idea for well over a year before I finally settled on the basic concept, and coming up with enough distinct drinks was a challenge in itself. Even when I came up with enough to fill the perimeter, it felt inelegant. Who cares if it's just a random listing of drinks? So it wasn't until I was able to group the drinks into four linked categories that I felt like this was maybe worth the effort. It wasn't until I figured out how to intersect CIDER and VODKA into DRINKS ALL AROUND that I thought it was finally worth pursuing.

Then came year two. Trying to fill a puzzle like this from the center out almost guarantees you'll have too many ugly entries in the corners, but I tried it anyway. And indeed, I was able to come up with some snazzy entries around the center, but as I approached the four corners (and the sides to a lesser extent) I jammed myself into a world of hurt, overconstraint forcing a partial or a weird abbreviation or simply a collection of too much Ug. I came up with some fills that I would have green-lighted earlier in my construction career, but these days I am terribly, terribly unhappy if a puzzle doesn't feel top-notch rated-A clean.

Switching to working from the corners in helped a great deal, of course. Still though, it took me over 40 iterations to finally come up with something I felt was worthy of the NYT. FYI, not every puzzle can be filled super-cleanly (without a single "bad" entry), and I think that's okay. I would much rather allow for ambitious constructions that require a NOW I and an AS AN to hold them together. Not everyone will agree with me of course, but I'm firmly in the camp that creativity gets stifled if it's tamped down by overconstraint.

I do agree that a majority of puzzles can be filled 95%+ cleanly though, and if they can, they should. After so many versions of this puzzle, I tend to believe that this one can't be filled without a few bits of ugly here and there, but I'm certainly willing to listen to anyone who could give me a pointer.

P.S. I had a great time at the ACPT, where it was easy to yell out DRINKS All AROUND! (seeing as it was on Will's dime).

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© 2014, The New York TimesNo. 0312 ( 23,500 )
Across Down
1. White breakfast beverage : MILK
5. Orange breakfast beverage : JUICE
10. Tan breakfast beverage : TEA
13. Blunted blade : EPEE
14. What a "V" signals to a violinist : UPBOW
15. Sock : SLUG
17. Middle of a simile : ASAN
18. Work like a dog : SLAVE
19. Body lotion brand : KERI
20. Admonition to the overly curious : DONTSTARE
22. Nut often found on a sticky bun : PECAN
23. Agitated state : SNIT
24. Ungentlemanly sort : CAD
25. R. E. Lee's org. : CSA
28. Like some shopping : ONESTOP
31. Best-liked, in chat rooms : FAV
34. Kid's retort : IAMSO
36. Words said while tapping on a watch : TIMETOGO
38. "I'm buying!," at a bar ... or a hint to this puzzle's theme : DRINKSALLAROUND
41. Good-looking person? : EAGLEEYE
42. "10" star : DEREK
43. Density symbol : RHO
44. Alternative to pasta : RISOTTO
47. Agcy. for retirees : SSA
48. "___ Misérables" : LES
49. They build up in pores : OILS
51. Rainbow-shaped : ARCED
54. Story threads : PLOTLINES
59. Bet : LAID
60. Fire-starting aid : FLINT
61. ___ bene : NOTA
62. One of Isaac's twins : ESAU
63. Start of an elimination rhyme : EENIE
64. Endor denizen : EWOK
65. Fizzy dinner quaff : POP
66. Plain dinner quaff : WATER
67. Genteel dinner quaff : WINE
1. Product of fermenting honey : MEAD
2. ___ facto : IPSO
3. Not marbled, say : LEAN
4. Jonathan and Martha of Smallville : KENTS
5. Newly arrived : JUSTIN
6. Pulling an all-nighter, e.g. : UPLATE
7. Letter-shaped construction component : IBAR
8. Pirate hide-out, often : COVE
9. Meadow mother : EWE
10. Clucked : TSKED
11. G.E. component: Abbr. : ELEC
12. Halo, e.g. : AURA
16. Clear libation popular in England : GIN
21. Hornswoggled : SNOOKERED
22. Cutout toy : PAPERDOLL
24. Knocked-out state : COMA
25. Product of fermenting apples : CIDER
26. England's Fergie, formally : SARAH
27. Bud in the Southwest : AMIGO
29. Fifth-century pope called "the Great" : STLEO
30. Before, briefly : TIL
31. Trey beaters : FOURS
32. Moorehead of "Citizen Kane" : AGNES
33. Clear libation popular in Russia : VODKA
35. Presenter of many a spoof, for short : SNL
37. Stocking stuffer? : TOE
39. Six, in Seville : SEIS
40. Old-timey agreements : AYS
45. Nickname for the $2 Canadian coin : TOONIE
46. Nervous giggle : TITTER
48. Was a prelude (to) : LEDUP
50. Muscle connector : SINEW
51. Product of fermenting barley : ALE
52. Speak like a tough guy, say : RASP
53. "Ta-ta!" : CIAO
54. "Nolo contendere," e.g. : PLEA
55. Dryer fuzz : LINT
56. "___ get it!" : NOWI
57. School for James Bond : ETON
58. Clear libation popular in Japan : SAKE
60. Not a lot : FEW

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

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