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New York Times, Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Author:
Alex Eaton-Salners
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
272/2/201711/14/20191
SunMonTueWedThuFriSatVariety
125411013
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.54240
Alex Eaton-Salners

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 79, Blocks: 39 Missing: {KQXZ} Grid has mirror symmetry. This is puzzle # 21 for Mr. Eaton-Salners. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Notepad: When the puzzle is done, read the dotted letters line by line from top to bottom to spell a title related to this puzzle's theme.
Alex Eaton-Salners notes:
Clocking in at 42 letters, I believe 'A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte' is one of the longest non-quote word ... read more

Clocking in at 42 letters, I believe "A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte" is one of the longest non-quote word strings to ever appear in a daily NYT crossword puzzle. Evenly spreading it out over the entire grid to simulate pointillism while maintaining the best fill possible required several non-standard constraints and techniques.

First, I spaced out the "letter dots" so that no two dots were orthogonally adjacent. I initially tried to avoid diagonal adjacency too, but that proved too constraining on the surrounding fill. Spacing out the dots in this way gives the grid a more uniform and aesthetically pleasing pattern.

Second, I intersected parts of the painting's name with POINTILLISM and GEORGES SEURAT, which I also had to keep away from the top, the bottom, and each other. The result: 14 dots before either word, 2 dots in POINTILLISM, 15 dots between the two, 3 dots in GEORGES SEURAT, and 8 dots afterward.

Third, I placed letter dots in positions where the fill would be least constrained. For example, the J in JATTE is placed in the lower-left corner where it is relatively isolated from other letter dots and starts a 5-letter horizontal word. In English, J is much more common at the start of words than in other positions. Based on XWord Info's word list, there are 317 valid strings with a J as the first letter of a 5-letter word, versus 27, 84, 48, and 9 valid strings when the J is in the other positions. Since the title unfolds top-to-bottom in a fixed order, I had much more control over horizontal placement than vertical placement. For example, after the J, I had to work in 4 more letters, which limits how high or low it can be positioned.

Jim Horne notes:
Stop me if you've heard me say this before: crosswords are a deeply personal experience. Your level of joy is hugely influenced by the ... read more

Stop me if you've heard me say this before: crosswords are a deeply personal experience. Your level of joy is hugely influenced by the intersection of things in the puzzle and things you love. That Venn Diagram overlap is enormous for me today, so it's impossible to be objective.

  1. I got to feel smug. As soon as I saw all those dots, I guessed we were heading toward a Seurat theme.
  2. I happen to love the Art Institute of Chicago, home of the iconic painting you discover by connecting the dots.
  3. I happen to love Sondheim, and I consider Sunday in the Park with George one of his masterpieces. That musical is centered on that painter and that painting. (If you prefer, you can think of the artwork as a key element in a different kind of iconic scene from Ferris Bueller's Day Off.)

Crossword commentators sometimes ding puzzles because they either don't know or don't care about the theme. Today I get to express the opposite viewpoint when my endorphins are gushing.

Jeff Chen notes:
Any guesses as to how many times people will email me, asking what's the point of this one? I admire so much about Jim. Take his ... read more

Any guesses as to how many times people will email me, asking what's the point of this one?

I admire so much about Jim. Take his gusto; his love for the arts. It's a joy to read how happy this puzzle made him. Makes me wish I felt that way about more things.

I was preparing to go into great detail about how the solving experience was not enjoyable, given that the random dots didn't form a picture, as is the payoff of POINTILLISM. Jim's comments made me hesitate. After some deliberation, I'll say that the puzzle is nothing if not memorable.

Art appreciation is subjective. Sometimes you either love a work or you hate it. Some might even say that the best pieces are the ones that get noticed; that generate this love/hate duality.

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© 2019, The New York TimesNo. 0625 ( 25,431 )

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Across
1
Book of the Bible after John : ACTS
5
Like some high-end cigars : CUBAN
10
___ vu : DEJA
14
Russian rejection : NYET
15
Like about 60% of the world's population : ASIAN
16
Daredevil Knievel : EVEL
17
Org. for the New York Cosmos : NASL
18
Alternative to a hedge : FENCE
19
Answer to "Shall we?" : LETS
20
"Come in!" : ENTER
22
Prez before J.F.K. : DDE
23
Bygone car model named for a horse : PINTO
24
Technique employed in the painting hidden in this puzzle : POINTILLISM
27
What's far from fair? : ANI
29
___ Fighters (rock band) : FOO
30
Counterpart of long. : LAT
31
One side of Niagara Falls: Abbr. : ONT
34
Had as a customer : SOLDTO
36
Dijon darling : CHERIE
38
"Star Trek: T.N.G." character with empathic abilities : TROI
39
Bump up in pay : RAISE
43
Impart : LEND
44
$15/hour and others : RATES
46
Suffix with elephant : INE
47
Got ready to be photographed : POSED
48
Takes too much, in brief : ODS
49
What a Heisman winner might hope to become : NFLSTAR
52
"Le Comte ___" (Rossini opera) : ORY
53
Weaving machine : LOOM
54
First small bit of progress : ATOB
56
Artist who created the painting hidden in this puzzle : GEORGESSEURAT
61
Crime scene clue : PRINT
62
Rapa ___ (Easter Island) : NUI
63
Willem of "The Grand Budapest Hotel" : DAFOE
65
Tower-building game : JENGA
66
___ Radio Hour (NPR program) : TED
67
Egg shell? : OVARY
68
"Awesome!" : SWEET
69
French religious title: Abbr. : STE
70
Specialty : FORTE
Down
1
Green Gables girl : ANNE
2
Ink cartridge color : CYAN
3
Aviators trying out new planes : TESTPILOTS
4
Pope who negotiated with Attila the Hun : STLEO
5
Half-___ (coffee order) : CAF
6
Did, once upon a time : USEDTO
7
Dot on a Hindu woman's forehead : BINDI
8
Smallish battery : AACELL
9
Fla.-to-Me. direction : NNE
10
Cold cut purveyors : DELIS
11
With still greater intensity : EVENMORESO
12
Rocker Joan : JETT
13
Plus : ALSO
21
Falling-out : RIFT
23
Essential part : PITH
25
Koh-i-___ diamond : NOOR
26
Doily material : LACE
27
Elroy's dog on "The Jetsons" : ASTRO
28
Missile detection org. : NORAD
32
Forty-___ (old prospector) : NINER
33
All-in-one undergarment : TEDDY
35
Game cube : DIE
37
Chess rating system : ELO
40
Minor maladies : AILMENTS
41
Counterparts of outs : INS
42
Save for later : SETASIDE
45
Dismiss with derision : SNORTAT
47
Self-satisfied about : PROUDOF
50
Harbor hazard : FOG
51
Took in some takeout, say : ATE
53
What the French pronounce "Louis" with that the English do not : LONGE
55
"Well done!" : BRAVO
56
Increased : GREW
57
German article : EINE
58
Plum pudding ingredient : SUET
59
Beyond the horizon : AFAR
60
Civil wrong : TORT
61
Cover of night? : PJS
64
Hurricane's center : EYE

Answer summary: 4 unique to this puzzle, 2 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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