TOE TAGS

New York Times, Sunday, October 6, 2013

Author: Patrick Berry
Editor: Will Shortz
Patrick Berry
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
2157/11/19999/16/20162
SunMonTueWedThuFriSatVariety
711241670492
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.54980

This puzzle:

Rows: 21, Columns: 21 Words: 136, Blocks: 72 Missing: {X} This is puzzle # 180 for Mr. Berry. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Jeff Chen notes: Always a delight to see Patrick Berry's name on a byline, because I know I'll get a cleanly-filled puzzle, polished to a high shine. Today is no different. Two years ago we were blessed by a ridiculously awesome ... more
Jeff Chen notes: Always a delight to see Patrick Berry's name on a byline, because I know I'll get a cleanly-filled puzzle, polished to a high shine. Today is no different. Two years ago we were blessed by a ridiculously awesome puzzle suite by the man, the myth, the legend. Although I'm not a religious person, sometimes I get down on my hands and knees to pray that one day I'll think of something so ingenious. I'm kind of glad I've never met Patrick in person, because I'd have a hard time not letting out a fanboy "SQUEE!" in his face.

Fine offering today; in-the-language phrases with the "TOE" sound appended to the last word. TOE TAGS seems a touch morbid, so I prefer to imagine ten little piggy-wiggies running around playing freeze tag. Note to self: make sure to delete that last sentence before this goes live.

I appreciate how Patrick switches up the modifications so it's not always a simple addition of the letters TO or TOE. We do have that in GUIDED MISTLETOE and GARBAGE CANTO, but the ending words are transmogrified for CUP OF TITO and BUY ONE GET ONE FRITO to good effect. And check out how Patrick tosses in nine long theme answers like it wasn't any big deal, even going as far as to stack the first two and the last two. An overlap of six letters apiece often causes an awkward two-letter series, but Patrick not only gives us buttery smoothness, but crosses those stacks with CANOODLE and REPRINTS. I'm working to suppress my squees.

I attempted to locate some pieces of questionable fill just to demonstrate that almost every puzzle construction contains trade-offs, but all I could come up with was ALEE and ATRA. Therefore, I will continue to use the modifier "almost". There is the travesty that 37A wasn't clued as "Philosopher King and Benevolent Overlord Chen" but I shall forgive him and Will this once.

(pause to order minions to assemble)

As if that wasn't enough, look at the word count: 136. As I've said before, it's hard enough to construct a smooth 21x puzzle with 140 words, and that much harder to reduce the word count to 136. I really like the fact that Will is trying something new, and I like even more the fact that Patrick laughs, not even bothering to reduce his theme density in order to lower his word count.

One nit I'll pick though, is that while there are some great pieces of fill (CANOODLE, BUCKLE UP, RUMBLE SEATS, JUST DESERTS, HYMN BOOK, BONE DRY, enough to make any Sunday puzzle very good), I would love to see someone achieve Will's goal of incorporating, say, 10+ great pieces of long fill to make a true hybrid of a 21x and themeless. Not a knock on this puzzle, but if anyone can achieve that (without sacrificing quality of the other fill) it's PB.

SQUEE!!! oops.

1
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K
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O
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J
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B
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M
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R
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W
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© 2013, The New York TimesNo. 23,343
Across Down
1. Tach site : DASH
5. "Histoire de ___" (children's classic) : BABAR
10. Ocular ailment : STYE
14. Where roots grow : SCALP
19. Tech company in the Fortune 500 : EBAY
20. Like Lincolns : OVINE
21. Comply with : MEET
22. Holmes of Hollywood : KATIE
23. Magic word that never loses its power? : PERMANENTPRESTO
26. Autograph seekers' targets : IDOLS
27. Company with a monocled mascot : PLANTERS
28. 1970s Ford on the move? : ROLLINGPINTO
30. Twins, possibly : BEDS
31. Old trans-Atlantic voyager : PINTA
32. Exudes : OOZES
33. More than a murmur of discontent : UPROAR
36. Ruptures : RENDS
37. Bezos who founded Amazon : JEFF
39. Enthusiastic enjoyment of one's unhappiness? : GLOOMYGUSTO
41. The Josip Broz Memorial Trophy? : CUPOFTITO
46. Lapse in secrecy : LEAK
47. Balance sheet nos. : AMTS
48. Stumper : POSER
49. Hindustan capital of old : AGRA
50. Common ingredient in Nigerian cuisine : YAM
51. Bag End resident : BILBO
53. "North Dallas Forty" star : NOLTE
54. Tenderloin cut : FILET
55. Hands-free microphone's place : LAPEL
56. More than ardent : RABID
57. Camp rentals : CANOES
58. Stingy snack vendor's special offer? : BUYONEGETONEFRITO
61. Gussied (up) : DOLLED
63. Impertinent : SAUCY
64. Rises dramatically : SOARS
65. Say uncle : YIELD
66. Like the word "cwm" : WELSH
67. Settlement stipulations : TERMS
68. Capture : BAG
71. Away from the wind : ALEE
72. Rock used for flagstones : SHALE
73. Country club vehicle : CART
74. Dublin-born musician : BONO
75. Big Apple cop who's looking to bust Popeye? : NYPDBLUTO
77. Learn all about the capital of Ecuador? : MASTERQUITO
80. Conversation openers? : LIPS
81. Track assignments : LANES
82. Teacher at Alexandria : EUCLID
83. Skimming utensil : SPOON
86. Tootle : MOTOR
87. Unsound, as an argument : WEAK
88. Portion of Dante's "Inferno" that was wisely excised? : GARBAGECANTO
91. Photo processing centers : MINILABS
95. To date : ASYET
96. Christmas decoration that automatically steers toward lovers? : GUIDEDMISTLETOE
98. "Here lies One ___ Name was writ in Water" (words on Keats's tombstone) : WHOSE
99. Tiny pasta : ORZO
100. Sad sack : LOSER
101. Constellation animal : URSA
102. Whittled (down) : PARED
103. Spotted : SEEN
104. Goizueta Business School's university : EMORY
105. Slip by : PASS
1. People's Sexiest Man Alive ... twice : DEPP
2. Genesis victim : ABEL
3. 1979 Fleetwood Mac hit : SARA
4. Service manual? : HYMNBOOK
5. Waterless : BONEDRY
6. Maintains : AVERS
7. Rubbermaid wares : BINS
8. Lead bug in "A Bug's Life" : ANT
9. You may have had issues with them in the past : REPRINTS
10. Extracts metal from : SMELTS
11. Car company based in Palo Alto, Calif. : TESLA
12. Seven-foot (or so) cryptid : YETI
13. English school : ETON
14. Leave surreptitiously : SKIPOFF
15. Southernmost province of Spain : CADIZ
16. Compensate (for) : ATONE
17. Pleasant vocal qualities : LILTS
18. Spanish "weight" : PESO
24. Elite squad : ATEAM
25. Sonata segment : RONDO
29. Take a stab at : GOFOR
31. Genoese delicacy : PESTO
33. Frightful : UGLY
34. Defendant's declaration : PLEA
35. Incur cellphone charges, maybe : ROAM
36. Model A features : RUMBLESEATS
37. Fitting punishment : JUSTDESERTS
38. Sport with a French name : EPEE
40. Ancient Hellenic healer : GALEN
41. ___ Kaepernick, Super Bowl XLVII QB for the 49ers : COLIN
42. Spoils : TAINTS
43. Round house : IGLOO
44. Golfer's obstacle : TREE
45. Stable diet? : OATS
48. Submarine : POBOY
51. Sang in the moonlight, maybe : BAYED
52. Player in a pocket : IPOD
53. "But of course!" : NATCH
54. Some fund-raisers : FAIRS
55. Pacified : LULLED
56. Get more mileage out of : REUSE
57. Learn fast, say : CRAM
58. [unmentionable] : BLEEP
59. Wine Country surname : GALLO
60. Area in which one shines : FORTE
61. Cannon who married Cary Grant : DYAN
62. Like sulfuric acid : OILY
66. Lick : WHUP
67. Dart gun : TASER
68. Seethe : BOIL
69. Prefix with septic or tank : ANTI
70. "I'm glad!" : GOOD
72. Rock launcher : SLING
73. Make out : CANOODLE
74. Driver's recommendation : BUCKLEUP
76. Overlarge : BLOATED
77. Paint option : MATTE
78. Orbital decay result : REENTRY
79. Small game : QUAIL
81. Three-time Olympics host : LONDON
83. One of the Obamas : SASHA
84. Seinfeld called him "the Picasso of our profession" : PRYOR
85. Overlarge : OBESE
86. Mesoamerican crop : MAIZE
87. Tempered by experience : WISER
88. Stare stupidly : GAWP
89. Impediments to teamwork : EGOS
90. Medical breakthrough : CURE
91. ___ soup : MISO
92. Sensor forerunner : ATRA
93. Give orders to : BOSS
94. Poseidon ruled them : SEAS
97. Pop lover : MOM

Answer summary: 12 unique to this puzzle, 2 debuted here and reused later, 1 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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