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Nam Jin Yoon author page

9 puzzles by Nam Jin Yoon
with Jeff Chen comments

TotalDebutLatestCollabs
98/14/20207/15/20222
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Nam Jin Yoon
View these same grids with comments from:
Constructor (8)Jeff Chen (9)Hide comments

See the 46 answer words debuted by Nam Jin Yoon.

2 collaborators: Brooke Husic Matthew Stock
Puzzles constructed by Nam Jin Yoon by year
Fri 7/15/2022
DUETFRAYMMA
INLAWPROMOTION
STEPHRESCUEDOG
SOCIALITERAGER
TOTEMSCOMEDY
PRICESTUTU
RIVALTOOTHPICK
AGESLURPEENAE
MASSEUSESRETRY
LINKARCHES
PUPUSADOCILE
ONEILBOWLGAMES
SPACETIMEHIALL
TIREFIRESTRIBE
SNLTODDSLAW

Last year, Christina Iverson asked me to go in on a themeless featuring YOUR OTHER RIGHT. I loved, loved, loved that as a seed entry. The NYT team ultimately thought our final product didn't make the cut, but I was still happy to see it debut today. Such a smile-inducing phrase.

It will be when my kids finally figure out left vs. right, that is.

I admire the attempt at a LEFT / RIGHT mini-theme. Great that LEFT is on the left, and RIGHT is on the RIGHT, too. The phrase WHAT ELSE IS LEFT, though … I'm sure it gets said, but I wouldn't strive to seed a themeless with it. I'd have adored the mini-theme if it had been something like YOUR OTHER LEFT and THAT AINT RIGHT.

There are only 12 long (8+ letters) entries in the puzzle, some of which are one-worders. There's nothing inherently better about multi-worders, but editors seek them out since they often bring the heat. RESCUE DOG is excellent! ELECTIVES isn't as strong.

Of course, not all multi-worders are created equal. TIRE FIRES does appear to be in the language, but the Wikipedia article only has a short reference to today's slangy usage.

The cluing helped elevate the solve, Matthew and Nam Jin's time and effort show through. MASSEUSES is pretty good for a single-worder, but when you get tricksy with [Their customers lie for them] — wow, what a delight it becomes! The same goes for the everyday TOOTHPICK, a literal "stick in one's mouth."

Well above average in cluing delight. Even with the sky-high bar for 70-word themelesses, an adjustment to the mini-theme, and it'd have been in POW! territory.

Fri 5/13/2022
CHARTSPFOWLS
ROMANACLEFLEOS
ARENTWEALLDION
ISNTANYTAKERS
GETWITHKINDER
ROBOTOPEDSEA
BATONCORDCONK
TCHOTCHKECRUDE
SEATLAYABOUTS
STYLEDCONS
CIORHYTHMS
PILAFRAISEHELL
ADULTSITESADIE
DECLUTTERTRIMS
SAYPLEDDAYS

Two of the best new wave themeless specialists, working together! I love all the collaboration that's happened in the crossworld over the past couple of years; nothing like a little 1 + 1 = 3.

So many solid entries spread throughout the grid, linking ROMAN A CLEF to BOOTY CALL to TCHOTCHKE to PLAY HOOKY to WEIRDS OUT to CRUSH HARD (what kids these days say to describe strong infatuation). There's no one amazing debut entry, like in a recent SOLO PARENTING / WHO AM I KIDDING puzzle, but that can be the nature of themelesses mostly featuring 10s and 9s.

There's some gold-medal wordplay in the clues, too. It stinks that Brooke and Nam Jin got scooped on BOOTY CALL, but [Summons before congress?] is brain-bustingly incredible. Government might work more smoothly if there were more congress in Congress.

Several clues took me a hot minute to figure out, even after figuring out the grid entry. [Orchestral instrument that doesn't make a sound]? It turns out a conductor's BATON is technically an instrument? [Was appealing?] was appealing wordplay, but only after a few minutes of trying to make sense of its link to PLED, i.e. in making an appeal. HORSE RACES are a series of stakes ... how? Think about events like the Preakness Stakes.

I gave this one strong POW! consideration. My expectations are so high when I see a Nam Jin or Brooke byline, though, that the puzzle has to be even more amazing than I anticipate. A drop-everything-and-go-tweet-about-it debut entry, or cluing that was more Friday-delightful than Ken-Jennings-knows-more-than-you-do Saturday, and it'd have ticked over that sky-high bar for sure.

POW Sat 3/5/2022
MOSSPROVEIT
CONEOFSILENCE
FRIENDLYBANTER
MOESTOICFARCE
ARMSRIGHTLEAS
IGETBYHOYAEPA
MEDIASTURDY
TELLONTAMALES
DALLOWAYNIKOLA
ABAONPOINTVIP
MOCKSAGGYMESS
AURASTAUPAPI
STEPINMADEROOM
KIMONOANDSCENE
STEWEDTARTMSG

★ Another beaut from Nam Jin! I've seen thousands of grid patterns over the years, so it takes something special for me to notice. This grid, symmetrical across a diagonal line from NW to SE, with a wide-open layout, certainly qualifies. If you tilt your head, it almost looks like the CONE OF SILENCE.

FORGET ABOUT IT isn't as memorable as FUHGEDDABOUDIT, but it sure is easier to spell. And given that what I seek above all else in crosswords is ten minutes of forget-my-worries bliss, FRIENDLY BANTER is such a CRÈME DE LA CRÈME entry.

Clever repurposing of "needle exchange," too, as in two friends good-naturedly needling each other.

I didn't get a few clues:

  • VENAL means "showing or motivated by susceptibility to bribery," or [Easily bought]. If you say so, dictionary!
  • I was much more interested in learning about a media SCRUM. I imagined a bunch of reporters tackling each other, rugby-style, for the scoop. The reality is less interesting, but the term is going to stick with me.
  • I must be doing YOGA wrong. You meditate on your YOGA MAT, not count down the minutes until the boredom concludes?

So much delightfulness in black square aesthetics, marquee entries, and clever cluing, all in a nearly squeaky-clean grid. Couldn't ask for much more than that.

POW Sat 12/4/2021
CHEFSKISSCLIFF
YOGAPANTSHENRI
BORNAGAININDEX
EKEYARNANDIE
RAGANOTETOSELF
CHICKWELLSBAA
ABODESDIASANK
FAUCETSASKANCE
ERSPARESANDES
SITINETS
BIDETSGOTASEC
ACRIDHABANEROS
SAYNOMOREAROMA
ELLEWOODSSIDED
SLYNOFEEFETE

★ CHEF'S KISS is right! Perfect Saturday puzzle. This further establishes Nam Jin as a preeminent themeless constructor. Hard to believe his debut was only about a year ago.

Did you notice the diagonal symmetry along the NW to SE axis? Not only is it different — this long-time solver appreciates different — but it's purposeful. Running triple-stacked long entries through each other often makes a themeless constructor's life doubly agonizing because even if you can achieve greatness in one corner, you have to do it again in the opposite.

Not so with diagonal symmetry! Check out how much easier the SE is to fill than the NW.

And what excellent results in the NW. The horizontal stack is the star, with three marquee entries. The vertical stack isn't nearly as strong, but with HOOKAH BAR, it's so much better than a typical triple-stack-intersecting-into-triple-stack result.

Something unusual and cool about two long entries with a terminal F. Both SANS SERIF and NOTE TO SELF didn't come easy because I couldn't convince myself that this might happen. So many long entries in themelesses end in common RSTLNE letters.

Such entertaining cluing, too — material that made me feel smart. Great mix of giveaway question marks ("overdrawn account?" = YARN) and brilliant misdirects that you don't necessarily need to understand to solve. I missed why ERS were transcript omissions until Jim Horne mentioned that it's not a college transcript but a spoken one.

I love it when a constructor sets me up for a smashing victory, like an en fuego game of pool where each shot leaves the cue ball with a perfect angle for the next shot, culminating in slamming the eight-ball home. It's rare that I'll want to see a themeless byline repeated more than once a month, but I'm adding Nam Jin's name to that list.

Sat 8/14/2021
CLEATSFIRST
THISISAMERICA
THEMOREYOUKNOW
PHASEBLINDGUN
ARTSMAINECORY
NOHMISOGYNY
GAUNTLETTANG
TRAILSBRIDAL
TIDEBEELINES
FANBASESGTO
SIBSNESTSESTA
INABILESMATER
MUSICALTHEATER
MIRACLEWORKER
STANSDOTEON

Nam Jin is one of my favorite recently-on-the-scene themeless makers. I'm biased because I had the privilege of working with him early on, seeing firsthand his dedication to his craft, and how unwilling he was to leave even minor dings unaddressed. I love that work ethic, and it shows in the top-notch quality of his products.

Today's grid is incredibly difficult to work with, a 64-word challenge that features four near-grid-spanners. The stacked 13/14 entries aren't difficult, but they become a ton harder when you leave a wide-open region underneath — with a long entry like MONEY TREES running through!

I've only seen THIS IS AMERICA because I loved Donald Glover (stage name = The Childish Gambino) in "Community." It's a thoughtful video that stuck with me, so I enjoyed that it got its day in the crossworld sun. I can understand how people who don't know of it might shrug, but at least they can piece together the three recognizable words.

My highlight was uncovering MUSICAL THEATER. I thought I'd never again get fooled by a tricky clue involving "numbers" — often used as "someone who numbs"—but I got got. I figured this grid was so tough to fill that the entry had to be something of the boring CORPORATE AUDITOR ilk. Ah, no, that's musical numbers! Great entry, even better clue.

Nam Jin is one of the few themeless constructors whose puzzles regularly include a high number of clever clues. Some of them are likely due to Will Shortz and the editing team, but so many of Nam Jin's themelesses stand out with their wordplay. Again, it's not surprising, given what I know about his dedication to making the solving experience joyful.

I'd love to see every themeless constructor spending as much time on their clever cluing. A+ clue for CHESS, for example. Tying it to checkers — or check-ers, as in people who put their opponents into check — is wow-worthy.

I did notice the BASE dupes. Will Shortz doesn't care much if a short word gets repeated, but three instances feels iffy.

Even so, it's bad luck that Nam Jin got bested by the outstanding Monday puzzle this week. Most of the time, this would have won a POW!

POW Fri 6/4/2021
KILNJAWSPTAS
INEEDANAPSLASH
DONTJUDGETAKEI
SNOWANGELOCEAN
ONTOTAPAS
ENERGYTOPBRASS
PANKOEURYDICE
OCDBEATSMIN
CHIMNEYSLEAFS
HONEYBEEBESTIE
TAMESPUTT
SCENEOVERRATED
TOASTREALITYTV
IDRISESCAPEPOD
RESTSTEPSONS

★ I might have given this puzzle the POW! based on one clue alone: [A child who's lying might make one]. In my house, that's EXCUSE. DIVERSION. PUPPY DOG EYES. LIE. Yes, LIE would duplicate the lying in the clue, but some kids double down on the lying, based on the theory that the emphasis makes it more believable. Great moment of discovery (and relief) when it turned out to be SNOW ANGELS, something my little angel-devils love doing in winter.

Jim Horne and I discussed the puzzle, and he commented that END IN TEARS didn't sound like an in-the-language phrase.

*sounds of muffled laughter*

In my world, things END IN TEARS roughly 62 times a day. Play a game? End in tears. Eat some food? End in tears. Start to cry? You get the picture. Perfectly pitched to this parent's psyche.

DON'T JUDGE.

There wasn't quite as much juice in the grid as I wanted, with TAKES AIM AT and OVERRATED a bit overrated. So much great cluing, though, the wordplay with [Hardly a long shot] hinting at a PUTT = delightful. Even better, my brother and I were discussing hot pot meals last week, so the misdirection away from the KILN gave me a huge smile.

Sat 1/30/2021
HOAGIEDROID
ROCKETSCIENCE
YOUHATETOSEEIT
SAYNOGRADDONE
CLADCOATESFEN
ATLSUITECRUST
BASELINEMOUSSE
PANGDAUB
CASINGKITTYCAT
EXACTDUSTSADO
ROOSCONCEKNIT
ALIGRODECEDES
MOREPOWERTOYOU
ITSNOWORNEVER
CLEATPASTED

Beautiful construction, a work of art. I appreciate how Nam Jin eschewed the full triple-stacks and broke up the entries in rows 1/15. Many themeless constructors — including me — would scrap like hell, fighting against the full triples, trying over and over and triply over again to achieve a reasonable balance of color and clarity. Going to that dark side of the force will almost always result in some compromises. Note how clean Nam Jin's grid is — not a single dab of crossword glue in a 68-word layout as hard as this demonstrates spectacular craftsmanship.

Such standout marquee entries, too. When you only have eight long entries, it's so important to make them sing. MORE POWER TO YOU, IT'S NOW OR NEVER, ROCKET SCIENTIST … it doesn't take that last one to figure out that these are out of this world. I'm less into YOU HATE TO SEE IT, since I don't use the phrase, but it's also strong.

The eights weren't as stellar; DISCERNS, GET GOING, BASELINE more baseline entries than stars. KITTY CAT is fun, though.

Thank goodness for that rhyming hint on AXOLOTL! I've seen this creature before in crosswords, but it always makes me panic since I have a roughly 23% chance of spelling it correctly. Thank you, Ogden Nash!

I enjoyed COATES and KUNDERA, too. I have a tough time remembering how to spell their names, so it can be frustrating if my poor spelling interferes with my top crossword priority: getting a fair shot at finishing with no errors. Maybe you don't know one or both of these authors — that'd be a shame, but understandable — but not to worry. Nam Jim carefully crossed all those 13 letters with regular words while leaving no ambiguities.

This is by far the best way to work in names like COATES, gently introducing solvers to more recent influential persons. Other puzzles have risked tainting solvers' first associations with someone new to them.

Fantastic craftsmanship, high marks for technical execution. It didn't have quite enough artistic zing in the fill or clever fun in the cluing to get the POW!, but it certainly received consideration.

Sat 11/28/2020
TIMETRAVELESTA
AREYOUGAMEXMAN
POWERSUITSPAST
SNLTHANTARTT
TOEBLOTTER
FAIRSFAIRMBA
DRESSCODESOUP
PROBEORCSANDS
LOGOAUTOTUNES
APPPITYPARTY
CARRELSBEA
ELIOTGPASOCT
BINSOVERSHARES
ONCEPINACOLADA
SEENTEETOTALER

I haven't ripped through a Saturday this fast in ages. It made me feel smart, and boy, do I enjoy feeling smart! It almost made me feel too smart …

It's always something, ain't it, Jeff?

Saturdays are supposed to be challenging, and it's even more challenging to select/edit them so they're the right kind of challenging. You don't want them to be a slog, filled with obscure dictionary definition clues, but you also don't want them to be hard because they feature people/proper nouns that some solvers have no chance of knowing.

My ideal Saturday themeless is composed of all recognizable entries that are clued in wickedly clever ways. [Move to a later date, say] for TIME TRAVEL is perfect. It's impossible to figure out without any crossings, and once you do get enough letters in place, it's such a brilliant a-ha moment.

Same for [Study pills]. I wondered, is that a verb, as in "investigate pills"? Ah, PLACEBOS, as in pills taken by study participants!

On the other hand, PINA COLADA is a fine entry, but [Official drink of Puerto Rico] makes it guessable. [Alters, as a pop …] I don't need to read the rest, since what else could it be but AUTOTUNES?

Overall, I had a great time solving this puzzle; every long entry so well-chosen, no obscurities or tough proper names that might make me feel old, out-of-it, and/or dumb — kudos to Nam Jin for an excellent construction.

I wish that great time hadn't been so short, though.

Fri 8/14/2020
KAMASUTRAANGST
ATITAGAINSERTA
FLATWHITESHOOP
KATELAWYERUP
ASANASERUPTS
DRUMBEATCHI
LAMPOONSTHAN
GINSDUOBOAT
DAFTBANKRUPT
ALESOLDIERS
BOSSEDPREGGO
SWANSONGCHOU
SHOTSPELLGRANT
EERIEEYEOPENER
ASKEDDONTSTARE

Nam Jin and I have been kicking around a few themes over the years, but nothing has landed yet. Glad to see him gain success in a themeless! They're so competitive — excess supply, little demand — that I steer newer constructors away from them. Impressive to see a debut in this maker-unfavorable arena.

Such a smooth product, too, with hardly any gloopy bits. The only nit I could point out (after a second, careful look), was the NEYO / PELL crossing. It's hard to assess how well-known either entry is, but it does seem mostly fair, especially considering Friday solvers will likely have seen both crossword-friendly entries many times before.

A couple of beautiful feature entries, with KAMA SUTRA headlining. The satisfying FLAT WHITE coffee. LIFES WORK, EYE OPENER, GROUP CHAT, LAWYER UP.

And that incredible clue for DRUMBEAT! "Hit after hit" for a rock band, indeed.

Ooh! The ATLAS clue struck me as well. I've seen plenty of takes on ATLAS of Greek mythology. [One for the road?] is a brilliant way to play on the reference guide that some of us still keep in our cars.

There wasn't any one entry that I'll remember tomorrow, but plenty of solid to well above-average ones. Along with his outstanding gridsmanship, I'll be keener than ever to work with Nam Jin to finally hit upon a crossworthy theme.

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