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WONDER-FUL!

New York Times, Sunday, August 21, 2016

Author: Kathy Matheson and Jeff Chen
Editor: Will Shortz
Kathy Matheson
TotalDebutCollabs
18/21/20161
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1000000
RebusCirclePangram
010
Jeff Chen
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
777/5/201011/26/201745
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2267111768
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.633162

This puzzle:

Rows: 21, Columns: 21 Words: 140, Blocks: 89 Missing: {JQ} Grid has mirror symmetry. This is the debut puzzle for Ms. Matheson. This is puzzle # 56 for Mr. Chen. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Constructor notes: KATHY: As a longtime reporter, I've had many bylines over the years — but this is one of the most exciting! It's only my second published puzzle; the first was a solo effort printed in Games Magazine a ... more
Constructor notes:

KATHY: As a longtime reporter, I've had many bylines over the years — but this is one of the most exciting! It's only my second published puzzle; the first was a solo effort printed in Games Magazine a couple of years ago. That one was smaller and simpler: 15x15 and only wordplay, no visuals. So I knew I needed help with my idea for "Wonder-ful!" and my first thought was Jeff Chen. His grids are always so creative!

We had communicated a bit through Twitter over the years when I was blogging at crosswordkathy.com (currently on hiatus), but I didn't meet him in person until I went to the ACPT for the first time last April. A couple of weeks later, I emailed him with this theme proposal and he was intrigued. We debated which parks to include and how they could be visualized, including an ambitious shape for GREAT SMOKY MOUNTAINS and an entry where the RIO GRANDE slithered through a crooked BIG BEND. Unfortunately, not all of our ideas could fit, but I'm pretty happy with the ones that did.

And I'm really grateful to Jeff for his willingness to work with a rookie! I learned a lot.

JEFF: I admit it. I'm on Twitter (@JeffChenWrites — follow me!) but I still don't totally get it. I occasionally tweet about my current writing project or stray nose hairs or other subjects of equal importance, and followers will reply, or poke me, or Pokemon Go me or something. It's oddly complicated and altogether baffling, really. But I appreciate the chance to meet cool people through it once in a while, like Kathy.

Crossword Kathy http://crosswordkathy.net/ is on hiatus right now, but for a while, Kathy would post insightful commentary from an experienced solver's perspective. Best of all, I liked when she called me "the best thing since sliced platinum-plated superfood bread" and that I was "undoubtedly the sole human being who could best Dos Equis's The Most Interesting Man Alive."

(There may have been some paraphrasing.)

So it was a delight when Kathy introduced herself at the ACPT, and asked if I could help her with creating a crossword. I'm always happy to help out a friendly newbie, and to my surprise, her very first idea — for a NATIONAL PARK SERVICE puzzle — I thought was a gem. (People usually flame out and give up after we go back and forth over 10+ ideas.)

It took some fleshing out and research to make sure there would be enough theme material. From a long list we shortlisted about 6-8 really well-known parks we could represent pictorially. Kathy's suggestion for HALF DOME over YOSEMITE was what clinched the set. We're both West Coasters at heart, so if you haven't heard of HALF DOME, consider it your obligation to go see it. And not just in an Ansel Adams painting. You don't have to bivouac halfway up the sheer face, but seeing it from both the ground and from top is something else.

After that, it was a simple matter of 90+ versions, and the grid was done! Easy peasy. In the Twitter sort of sense.

Jeff Chen notes: Okay, so this one was backbreaking. I was really glad to have Kathy as a collaborator speaking her mind, as I was ready to make pretty big compromises at many points during the construction process. Coming up with ... more
Jeff Chen notes:

Okay, so this one was backbreaking. I was really glad to have Kathy as a collaborator speaking her mind, as I was ready to make pretty big compromises at many points during the construction process. Coming up with the various individual elements wasn't that hard — we both really liked MIND CANDY hiding the GRAND CANYON, and OLD FAITHFUL going up through YELLOWSTONE, etc. — but putting all the pieces together in a 140-word grid made for a rough go. It was even tougher when we decided to locate all the parks roughly where they are on a US MAP.

Okay, ARCHES is a little off. Ahem. We had ACADIA there for a while, but we decided having both ACADIA and DENALI was duplicative. (Plus, ACADIA isn't actually the name of the mountain.)

Some of the odd stuff I tried to pass off as acceptable, before Kathy reined me in:

  • Stretching the definition of "proper geographical location." California is kind of in the southeast of the US, isn't it?
  • Spelling HALF DOME wrong. Ish.
  • Relying on many an obscure city (NDOLA would have been so useful) to hold major grid chunks together
  • Making DENALI so cockeyed / spelled wrong it looked half-mountain, half-desert
  • Generally pulling crossword glue shenanigans, of the capital-Ug-ugly variety

I really enjoyed working with Kathy on this. My threshold of what's an acceptable trade-off tends to dip after I get 50 or more grid skeletons in, so it was great to have her kindly telling me at many a point that what I proposed as reasonable trade-offs were actually (cough cough) not.

I admit it, sometimes on these really complicated projects, I stick my head in the sand and go into Denali. Er, denial.

P.S. "One Hundred Years of Solitude" — our alternate title for the puzzle — is one of my favorite books ever. (Buy it here.)

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© 2016, The New York TimesNo. 0821 ( 24,393 )
Across Down
1. "It's a pity other cars aren't built this way" cars : SAABS
6. Fischer, to Spassky, e.g. : RIVAL
11. "Stop!," at a port : AVAST
16. Ring around a classical column : ANNULET
18. Verdi aria : ERITU
19. Spots for auto logos : GRILLES
21. Rap's ___ Boys : BEASTIE
22. Flat-bottomed boat : SKIFF
23. Passionate kiss : LIPLOCK
24. Busy time for malls: Abbr. : DEC
25. Nascar unit : LAP
27. Row maker : HOE
29. Life force in Chinese philosophy : CHI
30. High-powered guns : UZIS
32. Home to more than half the world's active geysers : YELLOWSTONE
37. Enigmatic one in "The Hobbit" : RUNE
38. Dunham of "Girls" : LENA
39. Organized hikes : EXPEDITIONS
40. Follower of Joel : AMOS
41. Approver of new meds : FDA
43. Snack brand whose name hints at its flavor : NILLA
44. Zika monitoring org. : CDC
46. Alternative regimen to an 84-Down, informally : PALEO
49. Surrender : CEDE
51. Whacks : OFFS
54. I C U, e.g. : REBUS
58. Highly rated bond : AAA
59. Highly rated Bond? : MOORE
61. Telenovela, e.g. : DRAMA
63. Fury : IRE
64. Result of many years of study, for short : PHD
65. Halley of Halley's comet : EDMOND
67. Like Serbs, but not Hungarians : SLAVIC
68. What might replace you? : ONE
69. Subject of many Ansel Adams photos : YOSEMITE
71. Mortgage, often : HOMELOAN
73. "The Simpsons" character in a green jacket : APU
74. Disney dwarf : DOC
75. Kind of treatment : SPA
77. Cousin of goth : EMO
78. Bethesda-based research agcy. : NIH
80. Federal agency established on August 25, 1916 : NATIONALPARKSERVICE
85. Like some oaths : SOLEMN
86. Region of ancient Greece : IONIA
87. Insult, say : DEMEAN
89. Election night graphic, for short : USMAP
90. Annual N.Y.C. fund-raising event : METGALA
92. Oprah's BFF : GAYLE
93. "Keep fighting the good fight!" : BESTRONG
96. Like Sherpas : NEPALESE
99. Very, very : EVERSO
102. Subatomic particle named for the weak force : WBOSON
104. "Mind ... blown!" : HOLYCOW
108. House majority leader before DeLay : ARMEY
110. Good fact-checking types : PEDANTS
115. "Three Coins in the Fountain" fountain : TREVI
116. Light and breezy entertainment, informally : MINDCANDY
119. Dazzled : INAWE
120. Portions : METES
121. Concerted efforts : ENDEAVORS
122. Break up with someone : ENDIT
123. Untethered : LOOSE
124. Nina Totenberg's milieu : NPRNEWS
125. Milk dispensers? : TEATS
1. Blessed thing? : SNEEZE
2. Painkiller containing caffeine : ANACIN
3. Neighbor of Ger. : AUS
4. Luncheonette order, for short : BLT
5. Six, in Italy : SEI
6. Dazzling : RESPLENDENT
7. Annoy : IRK
8. The Henry who founded the House of Tudor : VII
9. Raiders' org. : ATF
10. Erupter at 32-Across : OLDFAITHFUL
11. Radio host Shapiro : ARI
12. Kind of pass : VIP
13. Nothing but : ALL
14. Henry W. ___, Union major general during the Civil War : SLOCUM
15. Disco relative : TECHNO
16. "So You Think You Can Dance" judge : ABDUL
17. Wire message : TELEX
19. Harris's role in "The Right Stuff" : GLENN
20. Jumps higher than, in sports slang : SKIES
26. Gran Paradiso, e.g. : ALP
28. It's as good as XXX : OOO
31. Partner of sound : SAFE
32. Word of support : YEA
33. Dog created by Jim Davis : ODIE
34. Actor Wheaton : WIL
35. France's so-called "Capital of the Ruins" : STLO
36. Exit key : ESC
37. Sprint : RACE
42. Parts of a Jerusalem skyline : DOMES
45. Harry's Hogwarts enemy : DRACO
46. Drivel : PAP
47. "Man, that feels good!" : AAH
48. Indoor plants popular in waiting rooms : LADYPALMS
49. Like the name Nguyen in Vietnam : COMMON
50. Beethoven's "Sinfonia ___" : EROICA
52. Purchase at an optometrist's : FRAMES
53. "Help!" : SAVEME
55. Feature of the Six Million Dollar Man : BIONICEYE
56. Samovar, e.g. : URN
57. "Capeesh?" : SEE
60. Had too much of, briefly : ODEDON
62. Term of address for a noble : MILORD
66. Tyrant : DESPOT
67. Islamic law : SHARIA
70. Defeat in a Nathan's Famous contest : OUTEAT
72. Cracker shape : ANIMAL
73. Win by ___ : ANOSE
76. Feeling of hunger : PANG
79. Mends : HEALS
81. Not quite right : IMPRECISE
82. PolitiFact finding : LIE
83. Actor Penn : KAL
84. Regimen adopted by Bill Clinton in 2010 : VEGANDIET
85. Clancy's Red October, e.g. : SUB
88. Born : NEE
90. Store head: Abbr. : MGR
91. Mayo container? : ANO
94. Egg: Prefix : OVO
95. "It's the ___" ("I've changed") : NEWME
97. Annual athletic honors : ESPYS
98. For whom the Edgar awards are named : POE
100. Wall St. "500" : SANDP
101. Drive-thru decision : ORDER
102. Bob alternative ... or partner : WEAVE
103. At this point : BYNOW
104. Webmaster's medium : HTML
105. Cookie with a Thins variety : OREO
106. Oscar winner for "Dallas Buyers Club" : LETO
107. Part of Y.S.L. : YVES
109. Thom ___ shoes : MCAN
111. Virgin Mary's mother : ANNE
112. Zippo : NADA
113. Ninny : TWIT
114. Goes down : SETS
117. Tavern attachment : INN
118. A.M.A. members : DRS

Answer summary: 11 unique to this puzzle, 3 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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