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VOWEL PLAY

New York Times, Sunday, November 17, 2013

Author: Julian Lim
Editor: Will Shortz
Julian Lim
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221/6/201010/8/20160
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1115437
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1.63101

This puzzle:

Rows: 21, Columns: 21 Words: 140, Blocks: 72 Missing: {QXZ} This is puzzle # 13 for Mr. Lim. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Julian Lim notes: This puzzle started life with CHAI EUONYM as part of the theme set. Will didn't think many people would know what a EUONYM was, so we went to PRAGUE AIOLI (changing CHATEAU OIL to OILS), and I refilled the grid ... more
Julian Lim notes: This puzzle started life with CHAI EUONYM as part of the theme set. Will didn't think many people would know what a EUONYM was, so we went to PRAGUE AIOLI (changing CHATEAU OIL to OILS), and I refilled the grid for the first time. I thought at that point I was done, but Will wanted another rewrite because I had long downs at 5d and 64d* that were longer than my themers at 36d and 40d. I personally hold the philosophy that breaking that convention is OK with certain themes (for instance, where the theme answers are all clearly nonsense phrases), but I may be in the minority on that point. Fortunately I had come in at 138 words in my original version, so I was able to split those answers up without completely gutting the grid. Still not the end of the story though — Will e-mailed me a couple of weeks before publication to tell me I'd misspelled OEUVRE (oof) and that he had redone the left side of the grid. Talk about limping to the finish line.

In any case, I'm very pleased to have my first Times Sunday puzzle in print, and I hope people enjoy it despite its tortured birth!

* for interest, 64d in the original grid was LAUREL WREATH {Leaves in triumph}, and 5D was BREASTAURANT (!)

Jeff Chen notes: Good workout today from Julian, theme phrases which all contain some arrangement of AEIOU across two words. He uses a pattern today which often facilitates easier filling, having two theme entries run vertically ... more
Jeff Chen notes: Good workout today from Julian, theme phrases which all contain some arrangement of AEIOU across two words. He uses a pattern today which often facilitates easier filling, having two theme entries run vertically at the sides of the puzzle. The reason it usually makes construction easier is that it reduces the number of places two or more themers are crossed by the same word, making for more flexibility.

However, this type of arrangement makes for a more difficult time incorporating good long fill. Why? Because when themers run both horizontally and vertically, it can be tough for the solver to pick out which are theme answers and which aren't. For this type of arrangement, Will likes to keep fill short (shorter than the shortest theme answer) in order to make the theme answers stand out. For a long time I didn't agree with him, but I've come to see his rationale.

Julian brings up the counterpoint, that for certain theme types, it's pretty obvious what is thematic and what isn't. But even today, where the theme becomes clear after finishing the solve, I had a bit of confusion because of MEDIA BIAS. I love that piece of fill and its clever clue, but during my solve I got it stuck in my mind that it was somehow thematic, and that distracted me. So I like the fact that Julian redid the puzzle to make sure the fill was all shorter than the themers.

Theme answers like this soar or fall on the strength of how amusing or wacky they are, and most of them felt a bit too straightforward for my taste. But I really enjoyed the fill Julian incorporated. Even with the above constraints, he managed to include MEDIA BIAS, GET REAL, DONT PANIC (without a Hitchhiker's Guide reference, dramatic sigh), HOT LEAD, HAIRPIN, THE SOPRANOS, AD SPEAK, etc. Hitting all that really enhanced my solving experience.

Fun to read through Julian's story about working with Will to improve the puzzle. When I started constructing, I felt like Will was being so picky when he asked for three redos of one of my original puzzles. But now I'm really glad he did, because it made for a much better product.

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© 2013, The New York TimesNo. 23,385
Across Down
1. Shade of brown : MOCHA
6. Javert's portrayer in 2012's "Les Misérables" : CROWE
11. Rice, e.g., informally : CARB
15. Come (from) : HAIL
19. All-time leader in R.B.I.'s : AARON
20. Vegetables also known as lady's-fingers : OKRAS
21. Common quatrain form : ABAA
22. Indian tourist destination : AGRA
23. Paintings of French estates? : CHATEAUOILS
25. Spin, of a sort : MEDIABIAS
27. Tanning aid : SUNLAMP
28. Carrier for Casanovas? : ROUEAIRLINES
30. Time of one's life? : ERA
31. Thanksgiving, e.g.: Abbr. : THU
33. Having failed to ante up, say : NOTINIT
34. Italian tourist destination in the Mediterranean : ELBA
37. "Anything you can do I can do better" and others : BOASTS
39. Supreme Court justice known for his trenchant dissents : SCALIA
43. Spurs : GOADS
45. Relative of mono- : UNI
46. Medium for body art : HENNA
50. Roman roads : ITERS
51. "So pret-t-ty!" : OOH
52. Aid for a submarine séance? : UNDERSEAOUIJA
56. Google : Android :: Apple : ___ : IOS
57. Quarreled : SPARRED
59. When scores are settled? : POSTGAME
60. Cake with a kick : BABA
61. "That's clear" : ISEE
62. Venus de ___ : MILO
63. Post production locale? : NEWSROOM
65. Kings and queens: Abbr. : SOVS
66. Achieve nirvana : FINDPEACE
69. Having little give : TAUT
70. Skiing maneuver at a bend in the course : STEPTURN
72. Like cutting in line : RUDE
73. Savoir-faire : TACT
74. Glorify : LAUD
75. Navigation hazards : SANDBARS
78. Dish Network competitor : DIRECTV
81. 4x4, e.g. : ATV
82. Hawaiian wine lover? : MAUIOENOPHILE
84. Get behind : OWE
85. Vice ___ : VERSA
87. Big name in batteries : DELCO
88. Substantial shoe spec : EEE
89. Figure with horns : DEMON
91. Untrustworthy sorts : SNEAKS
93. Odin's home : ASGARD
95. Time off : REST
96. "That'll never happen!" : GETREAL
100. Scrape (out) : EKE
101. Moo ___ pork : SHU
103. Last words from a coxswain? : ADIEUOARSMAN
107. American alternative : CHEDDAR
111. "Stay cool!" : DONTPANIC
112. Garlicky sauce in central Europe? : PRAGUEAIOLI
115. English princess : ANNE
116. Food item often seasoned with cilantro : TACO
117. Like some patches : SEWON
118. Sporty car roofs : TTOPS
119. High land : MESA
120. 6'9" or 72% free throw avg. : STAT
121. Swift composition : ESSAY
122. "Narcissus and Goldmund" author : HESSE
1. One side in a computer rivalry : MACS
2. Home of the Waianae Range : OAHU
3. Start of some blended juice names : CRAN
4. Gunfire, in slang : HOTLEAD
5. Not far from, in poetry : ANEAR
6. Putsch : COUP
7. Studio behind "Suspicion" and "Notorious" : RKO
8. "... ___ quit!" : ORI
9. Whiskered creature : WALRUS
10. International gas brand : ESSO
11. Stan Lee's role in many a Marvel film : CAMEO
12. Skip ___ : ABEAT
13. They come from the center : RADII
14. Wee ones : BAIRNS
15. Living room? : HABITAT
16. Not supportin' : AGIN
17. "Dies ___" : IRAE
18. Girl in tartan : LASS
24. Docs united : AMA
26. Keys with tunes : ALICIA
29. Turn out : UNSEAT
31. Muscle ___ : TONE
32. Extremely sharp : HAIRPIN
34. Self centers : EGOS
35. Lariat part : LOOP
36. All the writings of a Persian faith? : BAHAIOEUVRE
37. Fictional Billy : BUDD
38. Hit show with many hits : THESOPRANOS
40. "Happily ever after" with Han Solo? : LEIAOUTCOME
41. 2004 movie set in 2035 : IROBOT
42. Indian state known for its tea : ASSAM
44. Most reliable : SUREST
47. Seasonal beverage : NOG
48. Small difference : NUANCE
49. Girl's name meaning "loved" : AIMEE
53. Word between last names : NEE
54. Convinced : SOLD
55. Wailing Wall pilgrim : JEW
58. Got back to, in a way : RSVPD
60. Support : BRACE
62. Toon with a polka-dot hair bow : MINNIE
64. Goggled : STARED
65. New York's ___ Island : STATEN
66. Charlatan : FRAUD
67. 100 cents : EURO
68. "Operators are standing by" and "Call now!," e.g. : ADSPEAK
70. Many Eastern Europeans : SLAVS
71. "WWE Raw" airer : USA
73. Up to, informally : TIL
76. "Almighty" item: Abbr. : DOL
77. Quiet : BECALM
78. Was mortified, hyperbolically : DIED
79. What chopsticks come in : TWOS
80. Hole in the wall : VENT
82. Kind of exam or kit : MAKEUP
83. "Is this the spot?" : HERE
86. Hot herbal beverage : SAGETEA
90. Learned : ERUDITE
92. Brown weasels : STOATS
94. History and biography : GENRES
97. Pressed charges against? : RANAT
98. Actress Durance who played Lois Lane on "Smallville" : ERICA
99. Fancy neckwear : ASCOT
101. "And ___ Was" (1985 Talking Heads single) : SHE
102. ___ bar : HEATH
103. Singer Lambert : ADAM
104. Cry made while wiping the hands : DONE
105. Some stopovers : INNS
106. Recess : APSE
107. Big Apple sch. : CUNY
108. Ski-___ (snowmobiles) : DOOS
109. Challenge for Hannibal : ALPS
110. Quit lying : RISE
113. Sounds by a crib, perhaps : AWS
114. Indian tourist destination : GOA

Answer summary: 10 unique to this puzzle, 3 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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