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THE ART OF PUZZLE-MAKING

New York Times, Sunday, September 23, 2018

Author:
Andrew Zhou
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
1611/11/20109/23/20180
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3021532
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.64241
Andrew Zhou

This puzzle:

Rows: 21, Columns: 21 Words: 140, Blocks: 77 Missing: none – this is a pangram. Grid has mirror symmetry. This is puzzle # 16 for Mr. Zhou. Jeff Chen's Puzzle of the Week pick. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Notepad: After completing this puzzle, draw a line connecting the circles, starting and ending at the first circle of 62-Across, to spell a five-word message. The connected circles will reveal a picture related to the puzzle's theme. (Note: Rounded edges look best.) To complete the effect, draw a line between the circle at 36-Across and the circle at the third square of 37-Across.
Andrew Zhou notes:
I was Magritte's 'Son of Man' for a Hallowe'en party a couple of years ago. The decision, however, had a fatal flaw: it was my Hallowe'en party and I was playing bartender. Seeing, I ... read more

I was Magritte's "Son of Man" for a Hallowe'en party a couple of years ago. The decision, however, had a fatal flaw: it was my Hallowe'en party and I was playing bartender. Seeing, I learned later, is a useful sense to have when preparing drinks for public consumption.

"Seeing is not believing" could be a warning drawing from the subject of this puzzle. The construction came together rather quickly, because I always needed to think several steps ahead to ensure the viability of its completion.

I'll go into some depth about the construction, for those interested. Tribute puzzles put an inherent limitation on theme entries: you've got to keep them basic and trivial (i.e. like trivia). (That being said, I have to acknowledge here Elizabeth Gorski and Kevin Der for having contributed the finest puzzles of this sort, in my book.) I thought here the added quotation simultaneously refined and complicated the tribute, and once I decided to include it, given the beautiful way it can break into segments of 7, 15, and 7, it became clear that I needed to go with right-left symmetry. (In fact, the crossings work out very kindly if you stack the lines directly on top of one another, but immediately you'll see the impossibility of this option.)

For the pipe itself, I knew it needed to possess a convincing likeness once it was drawn, and I was intent on honoring the original proportions as much as possible. So I put an image of "Treachery" into a vector graphics software, overlaid a 21x21 grid on it, and set out to find the key vertices of the pipe, seeing where they landed in the grid. These spots would correspond to the squares with circles in them. I also did some of manual testing in one of those science notebooks I somehow still own, despite completing zero scientific activities on a daily basis. It was only then I realized just how much the luscious, round edges of this pipe contribute to its sensuality, hence my "rounded edges look best" direction.

Because the text "Ceci n'est pas une pipe" is so iconic, and a fundamental visual component of the painting, as opposed to being a paratext, I knew it had to be included, in the original French. With the quotation on three lines, the title of the painting, and the other thematic material, there was no way this was going to make it in as a regular entry. Yet, at 17 letters, and hence 17 points in the outline, the phrase gives just enough resolution for the image (better than 14 for "THIS IS NOT A PIPE"). Once these proportions were determined, they were fixed, though the image could be moved vertically within the grid, and I could start the phrase at several points (I limited the possibilities to the left side: so the circles at 29-, 36-, or 62-across). Getting the title of work in the interstitial line without circles and finding out the"I" at 85-across could pull double duty was a crucial step toward getting that central section to work. I do wish MAGRITTE could have been in the very last slot, to echo the extreme corner position of the signature in the original image, but the crossings wouldn't allow it (it barely allowed the present corner to happen).

Thanks as always to Will and co. for helping get this out into the world. A couple of notes here: My original title for this puzzle was "WHAT YOU SEE IS...". The central bottom box was also revised from the submission (I had, under IS IT NOT: CEO, EXT, STE; not sure if EXT and STE are less desirable than OXY and DTS.) I had a lot more wordplay in the original clues, but maybe some were imprecise, or too oblique: SELFIE was "Single shot?" EMITTERS was "Ones with issues?" NOTE was "Staff pick?" The clues for LAB NOTES and TROUPE, however, made it through.

In the end, this puzzle is not only an homage to Magritte, but also an homage to the typology of puzzles: apart from being a tribute, it has circles you connect to make an image, a quotation, and even a bit of thematic wordplay with 120-across. It's also an homage to paper [solving].

Hopefully, the surrealism of the original painting gains a new dimension here: a representation of a representation. The (benign) joke, which was the reason "Treachery" was so enticing to invoke, is on detractors of this theme: if you finish the puzzle, play your bonus round of connect-the-dots, and declare "that's not a pipe!" or "that isn't anything like a pipe!," you'd, of course, be fully correct.

Jim Horne notes:
Ceci n'est pas une répétition. As a recent crossword reminded us, simultaneous invention is common in science and technology. The same thing happens in puzzles when ... read more

Ceci n'est pas une répétition. As a recent crossword reminded us, simultaneous invention is common in science and technology. The same thing happens in puzzles when constructors get similar ideas, even if their executions are different. A diagramless last April by David Steinberg, one of my favorite Variety puzzles in the past year, tackled the Treachery of Images in a grid you had to build yourself.

Jeff Chen notes:
It's such a shame that David Steinberg's puzzle was so recent – and so beautiful! I don't know much about art, but I loved learning about it through David's diagramless. This ... read more

It's such a shame that David Steinberg's puzzle was so recent – and so beautiful! I don't know much about art, but I loved learning about it through David's diagramless.

This particular painting has such an interesting story and message behind it. It's a fantastic blend of art and logic – it's obviously a pipe … but the caption begs to differ. I love me a good paradox!

Although my wow factor was diminished because David's puzzle was stuck in my memory, not nearly as many people do the variety puzzles, so I'd bet most solvers will still have a neat experience as they read up on the painting. Or, if they already knew about it – fine, I'm an art dummy, are you happy? – they can appreciate how closely the shape of the pipe is mimicked by the circled letters.

I also liked that Andrew included the "explanatory" quote: "it's just a representation, is it not?"

I admit that I don't fully understand that, but the notion behind it amuses me.

Even though all those circled letters plus the themers added up to a ton of constraints, I appreciated that Andrew worked in some fine brushstrokes: HUMAN RACE, MARS ROVER, DOG TREAT, CAGE FREE, FUEL TANKS. I didn't get QB RANCH at first until I (head slap) parsed it to Q BRANCH. I thought as a huge Bond fan I knew everything there was about the series – apparently not!

I bet Daniel Craig would be a good quarterback.

I do wish that the full caption, CECI N'EST PAS UNE PIPE, had been underneath the pipe so as to better copy the painting (even if that meant not using the quote). And a connect the dots from A to B to C would have been easier to follow, especially if you didn't already know C E C I N E S … what a confusing mess of letters.

But overall, I liked Andrew's take on the famous painting almost as much as David's.

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© 2018, The New York TimesNo. 0923 ( 25,156 )
Across
1. Accents to tuxedos : STUDS
6. Leader in a robe : EMIR
10. Stinger : WASP
14. Wind-borne seed : SPORE
19. "Sesame Street" figure : ERNIE
20. "Long live ...!" : VIVA
21. Western ski resort : ALTA
22. N.F.L.'s Kaepernick : COLIN
23. Where 68-Across is permanently housed : LOSANGELES
25. How 122-Across is usually described : SURREALIST
27. Hoses connect to them : FUELTANKS
28. Curiosity or Opportunity : MARSROVER
29. Imperial ___ (bar orders) : IPAS
30. Pill alternative, for short : IUD
31. Vegas inits. : MGM
34. Rug rat : TOT
35. Blood parts : SERA
36. It may be a shocker : EEL
37. Hawaiian for "appetizer" : PUPU
38. Sum to : ARE
39. Sport-___ (off-roaders) : UTES
41. Recipe amt. : TSP
42. Ones making the grade, for short? : TAS
43. Triangular snacks : DORITOS
46. D.J. ___ tha Kyd : SYD
48. Time for pampering oneself : MEDAY
51. Lightly bite : NIPAT
52. Dogie catcher : REATA
56. Invisible lures : AROMAS
58. Thither : YON
59. Writer with an interest in cryptography : POE
61. Idiot, in slang : NIMROD
62. Not cooped up : CAGEFREE
64. Sigh of relief : AAH
66. Experimental writing? : LABNOTES
68. 1929 work that is the theme of this puzzle, with "The" : TREACHERYOFIMAGES
71. Short : TERSE
73. "Our" side in a sci-fi battle : HUMANRACE
74. Mild cheeses : EDAMS
77. AAA line: Abbr. : RTE
78. California wine city : LODI
79. Nickname for the Philadelphia Eagles stadium, with "the" : LINC
81. Falsity : LIE
82. Lake that's the source of the Mississippi : ITASCA
85. With 96- and 105-Across, how 122-Across explained the subject of this puzzle : ITSJUST
89. Tops : ATMOST
92. Bests in a Fourth of July hot dog contest, say : OUTEATS
94. Irony or hyperbole : TROPE
95. MI6 R&D division in 007 novels : QBRANCH
96. See 85-Across : AREPRESENTATION
99. Certain laundry appliance : GASDRYER
101. Three ___ of the Wheel of Dharma (Buddhist concept) : TURNINGS
104. Lead-in to cab : PEDI
105. See 85-Across : ISITNOT
109. Spanish greeting : HOLA
111. Quantity of eggs : ONEDOZEN
115. ___-green : PEA
116. Prosy : UNPOETIC
120. Place for works that are in the works ... or what the message formed by the connected letters is? : PIPELINE
121. Houston-based petroleum giant, informally : OXY
122. Creator of 68-Across : MAGRITTE
123. Established figures? : SETRATES
124. Drying-out woe, for short : DTS
125. "Whew!" elicitor : NEARMISS
Down
1. Modern pic : SELFIE
2. Moving company? : TROUPE
3. Open : UNSEAL
4. Set in a cockpit : DIALS
5. Mailed : SENT
6. Tie, as a score : EVENUP
7. Caramel morsel from Hershey : MILKDUD
8. Composer of the "Concord" Sonata : IVES
9. Dorm V.I.P.s : RAS
10. "Time ___ ..." : WAS
11. Grad : ALUM
12. Cloud type : STRATUS
13. Pirate's pet : PARROT
14. Lasting reminder : SCAR
15. Some pullovers : POLOS
16. Michigan college or its town : OLIVET
17. Choir stands : RISERS
18. Snare : ENTRAP
24. Julius Caesar's first name : GAIUS
26. ___ Park, Colo. : ESTES
31. Kind of sauce : MARINARA
32. Camera crane operator : GRIP
33. Something that shouldn't be mixed : METAPHOR
37. How to get the permit, say : PAYAFEE
40. Shot deliverer : SYRINGE
42. Circus employees : TAMERS
44. Palindromic musician : ONO
45. Palindromic tribe : OTO
47. Showed, informally : DEMOED
48. Bub : MAC
49. Big stretch : ERA
50. Milk-Bone, e.g. : DOGTREAT
53. Cultural gathering : ARTSALON
54. Boot part : TOE
55. Scores after deuces, informally : ADS
57. Tijuana title: Abbr. : SRA
58. Violinist Menuhin : YEHUDI
60. Draw out : ELICIT
61. Org. with a June draft : NBA
63. Call back? : ECHO
65. ___ Rand Institute : AYN
67. "I agree fully!" : AMEN
69. Broadcast antennas, e.g. : EMITTERS
70. Bit of Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" : FALSETTO
71. Witches in "Macbeth," e.g. : TRIO
72. Words upon a shocked realization : ETTU
75. Form 1099-___ : MISC
76. Actor Green : SETH
78. "See ya!" : LATER
80. Plane area : CABIN
83. Beach house owner : SEASIDER
84. ID : CARD
86. Graduating grp. : SRS
87. Cawfee : JOE
88. Channel that aired "Moesha" : UPN
90. Half-Betazoid "Star Trek" character : TROI
91. German city with a Pennsylvania namesake : MANNHEIM
93. Dangerous job : SPY
95. Play period: Abbr. : QTR
97. French queens : REINES
98. Fall : AUTUMN
99. Figure in the "Arabian Nights" : GENIE
100. Virtuosic : ADEPT
102. 2018 biopic with a 0% rating on Rotten Tomatoes : GOTTI
103. Narrow cuts : SLITS
104. Boston ___ : POPS
106. Device outmoded by smartphones : IPOD
107. Unusual feature of 68-Across : TEXT
108. Second side to vote : NAYS
110. Nails : ACES
112. Suffix with Motor : OLA
113. Unsightly spot : ZIT
114. Chemical ending : ENE
117. Scottish denial : NAE
118. Tour grp. : PGA
119. Winner of a record eight N.H.L. Norris Trophies : ORR

Answer summary: 8 unique to this puzzle, 4 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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