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New York Times, Monday, May 29, 2017

Author:
Jeff Chen and Seth Geltman
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
917/5/201011/15/201853
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
2467172188
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.635192
Jeff Chen
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
212/21/20165/29/20172
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
0101000
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.68000
Seth Geltman

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 16 Words: 77, Blocks: 38 Missing: {QZ} This is puzzle # 70 for Mr. Chen. This is puzzle # 2 for Mr. Geltman. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Constructor notes:
SETH: Jeff and I have collaborated since 2014, and it's great fun. For this one, we wrote around 150 emails, some of which read like an ... read more

SETH: Jeff and I have collaborated since 2014, and it's great fun. For this one, we wrote around 150 emails, some of which read like an absurdist script...

Seth: PITINO and RAISA seem fair, but the AKIMBO, SENECA, GRIT, and MATING goodness of Version C gets my vote.... Maybe, for a themer... BEST DAY EVER?

Jeff: Hmm, maybe a reach. I'm not a SpongeBob watcher though.

Our original plan was to make the units of time narrow down to an AHA MOMENT. Couldn't quite make that work.

Hope your solving time isn't a dog's age on this … and thanks, Will and Joel!

JEFF: Ah, Seth, that sneaky devil. He keeps changing the order of our names just before submitting the puzzle to Will! He deserves first authorship on this one.

Seth is a brainstorming monster. I love getting his emails, usually loaded with 10+ ideas to consider. They don't always contain a usable seed idea, but more often than not, something sparks another thought, and it morphs into something fun.

For this one, it took us a while to zero in on the idea of PRIME TIME being "synonym for good" + "time duration," but I thought it would be great … if we could 1.) get all strong phrases, 2.) have crossword symmetry, and 3.) present them in a logical sequence.

Some constructors would still do the puzzle without the third constraint, but I felt like it'd be too inelegant for my taste without that. It meant we had to do a ton of research. Luckily, another of Seth's strengths is his tenacity in research. Soon, he had a gigantic list of possibilities for us to sift through.

RED LETTER DAY made the construction challenging though — not only did it require a 16-wide grid, but it sort of cut the puzzle in half. Took a lot of trial and error, testing and ditching layout after layout. Finally, I felt like the skeleton you see was promising — enough room for some long bonuses, while not looking problematic in any one area — and Seth took over from there.

We always have a lot of fun going back and forth, comparing possibilities for various regions (although I can't remember how SpongeBob was related now). In the SE for example, I badly wanted to work in DOUBLE O (as in double-O 7), but DOODLES made that area much smoother. Ah well, the solver comes first.

Jeff Chen notes:
16-wide grids can be surprisingly difficult. Just one extra column creates such challenges. One of the bigger issues is that I hate going above ... read more

16-wide grids can be surprisingly difficult. Just one extra column creates such challenges. One of the bigger issues is that I hate going above 78 words (the usual max), even though one could argue that it ought to be 81 words for a wider-than-normal grid.

Why? As a solver, I'm used to 15x15, and if my solve feels slow, that makes me like the puzzle a little less. So as a constructor, I try to keep a 16x15 grid feeling like it's a 15x15. That usually means using longer words than normal on the whole, all the while keeping things smooth. Not easy.

In this grid, I felt like we needed at least two pairs of long bonus answers. It's easy to work in the first pair of long downs (BEDHEAD / DOODLES), but it gets exponentially harder after that. Putting in RUB NOSES and IN THE WAY meant using fairly big corners, piling on the challenge.

Finding more long slots was tricky — long acrosses like INFIDELS and MAIL IT IN are usually tricky to incorporate, given that it means stacking them with theme answers, but some testing made this arrangement feel like it'd be doable.

Finally, we debated long and hard over ETERNE — was it worth the price of admission for AMIRITE, RUB NOSES, MUFFLER? Ultimately, it seemed favorable, especially since we didn't have that much other crossword glue in the puzzle. The eternal constructor's dilemma of snazzy vs. smooth rarely has a clear answer. Hope you agree with our decision.

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C
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© 2017, The New York TimesNo. 0529 ( 24,674 )
Across
1. TV network whose logo is an eye : CBS
4. Singer Mitchell who wrote "Woodstock" (but didn't attend) : JONI
8. Whole : ENTIRE
14. The "A" of I.P.A. : ALE
15. Former Israeli P.M. Ehud : BARAK
16. ___ Tunes (Warner Bros. cartoons) : LOONEY
17. Epoch of rare distinction : GOLDENAGE
19. Tool for the Grim Reaper : SCYTHE
20. Opposites of true believers : INFIDELS
21. Optima and Cadenza car company : KIA
22. "If only ___ listened ..." : HED
23. Archie's wife on "All in the Family" : EDITH
24. Topic of a happy annual report : BANNERYEAR
27. ___ Pieces : REESES
29. Celestial Seasonings product : TEA
30. Greet with humility : BOWTO
31. Jul. follower : AUG
33. Dow Jones stat. : AVG
35. Shocked response : GASP
36. Something circled on a calendar : REDLETTERDAY
40. Second-largest Hawaiian island : MAUI
42. Aperitif with black currant liqueur : KIR
43. ___ Paulo, Brazil : SAO
44. Darkest part of a shadow : UMBRA
46. Bro, e.g. : SIB
48. Concepts not meant to be questioned : DOGMAS
53. Period of supreme courage and achievement : FINESTHOUR
56. One-named rap star : DRAKE
57. To and ___ : FRO
58. Fact-gathering org. : CIA
59. Do a perfunctory performance : MAILITIN
61. Substituted "math" for "mass," say : LISPED
63. When TV viewership peaks ... or a hint to 17-, 24-, 36- and 53-Across : PRIMETIME
64. Timeless, to Shakespeare : ETERNE
65. Houses in Havana : CASAS
66. TV network whose logo is a peacock : NBC
67. Puts back to 0, say : RESETS
68. X-ray ___ (gag gift) : SPEX
69. "We all ___ little mad sometimes": Norman Bates : GOA
Down
1. More evasive with the truth : CAGIER
2. Marilyn Monroe, notably : BLONDE
3. Something you reach out and take? : SELFIE
4. Author Austen : JANE
5. Toothbrush brand : ORALB
6. Bothers the conscience of : NAGSAT
7. Eisenhower, informally : IKE
8. Borden milk mascot : ELSIE
9. Like a diet lacking bread or pasta, for short : NOCARB
10. Etch A Sketch or yo-yo : TOY
11. Blocking someone's path : INTHEWAY
12. Puts back in the oven : REHEATS
13. Visine application : EYEDROP
15. Tousled look of the recently woken : BEDHEAD
18. Counterparts of dahs in Morse code : DITS
21. Scoundrels : KNAVES
25. In apple-pie order : NEAT
26. Mind-body exercise : YOGA
28. Sit and mope : SULK
32. Performer with a fan : GEISHA
34. One finally done with finals? : GRAD
36. Kiss like an Eskimo : RUBNOSES
37. Land of Blarney : EIRE
38. Duo plus one : TRIO
39. Idle drawings : DOODLES
40. Part of a car's exhaust system : MUFFLER
41. "You agree with me?," informally : AMIRITE
45. Goal for a mountaineer : ASCENT
47. Trumped-up charge : BUMRAP
49. Fortitude : GRIT
50. Beating at chess : MATING
51. With hands on hips : AKIMBO
52. ___ Falls, N.Y. : SENECA
54. Neap and ebb : TIDES
55. Uplift : RAISE
60. Big movie format : IMAX
62. ___-K (early schooling) : PRE
63. Mac alternatives : PCS

Answer summary: 3 unique to this puzzle, 2 debuted here and reused later, 1 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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