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WONDER-FUL!

New York Times, Sunday, August 21, 2016

Author:
Kathy Matheson and Jeff Chen
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutCollabs
18/21/20161
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
1000000
RebusCirclePangram
010
Kathy Matheson
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
1007/5/20107/21/201961
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
2678172598
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.637222
Jeff Chen

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 ... read more

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 ... read more

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
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
Down
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: 10 unique to this puzzle, 1 debuted here and reused later, 3 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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