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COURT JESTERS

New York Times, Sunday, February 28, 2016

Author: Timothy Polin
Editor: Will Shortz
Timothy Polin
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Puzzle of the Week

This puzzle:

Rows: 21, Columns: 21 Words: 140, Blocks: 72 Missing: {J} This is puzzle # 22 for Mr. Polin. Jeff Chen's Puzzle of the Week pick NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Timothy Polin notes: I played basketball in 7th and 8th grade. Coming from a small school full of Jews, it was a wonder the team didn't win a game in two years. As perhaps the shortest, least athletic Jew on the roster, it's also ... more
Timothy Polin notes:

I played basketball in 7th and 8th grade. Coming from a small school full of Jews, it was a wonder the team didn't win a game in two years. As perhaps the shortest, least athletic Jew on the roster, it's also a wonder that I failed to score more than 7 points in my rookie year, or 6 during my second campaign. To the relief of sports fans everywhere, I hung up my spurs before high school, confident there weren't many no-look passes or buzzer beaters in my future.

The idea for the twist for NOTHING BUT NET, this theme's seed, came from the part in "Forrest Gump" where Forrest and Lieutenant Dan haul in garbage when they're first attempting to shrimp.

My original draft had PERSONAL FOUL in BUZZER BEATER's place and MARCH MADNESS at 116A, as a themer/revealer. That setup seemed OK, but I was a little worried the revealer was superfluous (something I got creamed for last time). OFFENSIVE REBOUND ("New lover taken to spite an ex?") sure would have been nice to include somewhere (tough with an unpaired 16!).

A few wonky comments:

  1. J could've been shoved into MA? / ?EW for the pangram, but that wouldn't have justified MAJ.
  2. My knees start wobbling by the third rung on a stepladder, so it's great to see an acrophobia shout-out in 88A's new and improved clue. The clue kinda reminds me of "Lost Horizon" (lovely book).
  3. ALECTO (toughie) could've been ELECTS, crossing M/COEN and HSN. One of the things, however, that the inimitable Joe Krozel inculcated me with was the desirability of limiting boring propers, both from a cluing standpoint, as well as from a solver's perspective. Here, ALECTO is fairly crossed, and in the aggregate results in one less name, so it was my preference. For this same reason, MIKE and TONY are clued as non-propers.

I've also been lucky enough to work with Jeff on a couple of things, and he too is an invaluable font of wisdom. Seeing his notes every day, I always ask myself WWJD? But, as a LOX-loving non-Gentile, the J stands for Jeff, and not Jesus.

Jeff Chen notes: As a huge fantasy basketball fan, I loved this puzzle. I'm sure there will be solvers who don't care for it — I pitched this same idea to Rich Norris at the LAT a few years ago, and he rejected it because ... more
Jeff Chen notes:

As a huge fantasy basketball fan, I loved this puzzle. I'm sure there will be solvers who don't care for it — I pitched this same idea to Rich Norris at the LAT a few years ago, and he rejected it because things like DOUBLE DRIBBLE wouldn't be familiar enough to enough of his solving population — but my guess is that it'll be accessible enough to a big chunk of NYT solvers.

Now THOSE were the good old days, when bridge could get you on the cover of SI

Plus, March Madness is coming up, people! If you don't know your POINT GUARDs throwing NO LOOK PASSes to sharpshooters hitting NOTHING BUT NET, you don't know what you're missing.

I liked the wacky definitions, most of them funny enough to give me a smile. NO LOOK PASS clued to an acrophobe's nervous journey through the mountains was really amusing. Again, it's going to be tougher for people who don't know what NO LOOK PASS really means, but again … March Madness is almost upon us!

I thought Tim's execution was super solid, too. It's normal to have a few gluey bits in a 140-word Sunday crossword — almost impossible not to — so to keep it to short ROI, AZO, ATTS stuff is really good. And it was so nice to get bonuses like NAMEDROP, MARS BARS, even ATOMIZES, OLD PRO and POW WOW. NOT SO BAD, I DARE SAY. (It's like Tim planned that, isn't it?)

Tim and I have worked on a puzzle or two together, and he knows some of my eccentric hobbies, so it was awfully fun to see Charles GOREN, "Mr. Bridge" in the grid. You had me at GOREN!

And the cluing was really fun. It only takes a handful to really pep up the Sunday crossword, and there were many more than that:

  • An AIRPLANE as a "runway model"
  • A SNAIL as a "mobile home resident"
  • CHAD hinting at the "fallout" from the 2000 election, i.e. the HANGING CHAD

I tend to get bored by Sunday puzzles (due to my short attention … something shiny!) but this one kept me highly entertained until the end.

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© 2016, The New York TimesNo. 24,218
Across Down
1. Make less dangerous, in a way : DECLAW
7. Sleep lab study : APNEA
12. Some school edicts : BANS
16. Small invention : FIB
19. Eagle constellation : AQUILA
20. Signature Michael Jackson wear : GLOVE
21. Runway model? : AIRPLANE
23. Fly swatter? : BUZZERBEATER
25. "It seems to me ..." : IDARESAY
26. Attack order : SIC
27. Rationale : BASIS
28. Trickle : OOZE
30. "The Good Wife" figures: Abbr. : ATTS
31. Confer : POWWOW
34. Drool from both sides of the mouth? : DOUBLEDRIBBLE
38. Screams bloody murder : HOWLS
40. Brought up : BRED
41. Narrow lead in baseball : ONERUN
42. Quaker of note? : ASPEN
45. In base 8 : OCTAL
47. Sound near a spittoon : PTUI
50. Brooding music genre : EMO
51. Tip of an épée? : POINTGUARD
53. Sci-fi film with a 2010 sequel : TRON
54. Brings in : REAPS
56. Palindromic girl : ANA
57. " : DITTO
58. Busted timer? : SHOTCLOCK
60. Illicit sum : RANSOM
62. Anderson of "WKRP" : LONI
64. Historic siege site : ALAMO
65. Legendary siege site : TROY
66. Desi Arnaz? : BALLHANDLER
70. Unsteady gait : LIMP
74. Cutting edge : BLADE
76. Karaoke bar sight : MIKE
77. Key of Brahms's Symphony No. 4 : EMINOR
79. Winning an Oscar for "Norma Rae"? : FIELDGOAL
81. One of the Gabor sisters : MAGDA
84. Prompt : CUE
85. Actress Thomas : MARLO
87. Reclined : LAIN
88. Acrophobe's term for a route through the mountains? : NOLOOKPASS
90. Encouraging word : OLE
91. Fire place? : HELL
92. Attended : WASAT
93. Soothes : EASES
94. One of the Furies : ALECTO
97. Asian territory in Risk : SIAM
99. Round after the quarters : SEMIS
101. Lament from an unlucky shrimper? : NOTHINGBUTNET
105. Devotee : VOTARY
108. Fallout from the 2000 election? : CHAD
109. "My bad!" : OOPS
110. Put off : DEFER
112. Short flight : HOP
114. Nougaty treats : MARSBARS
116. Writing "30 and single" when it's really "50 and married," e.g.? : PERSONALFOUL
120. Reduces to smithereens : ATOMIZES
121. Cropped up : AROSE
122. Canadian smacker : LOONIE
123. Morning condensate : DEW
124. Chichi : TONY
125. Cantina appetizers : TAPAS
126. Go through : EXPEND
1. Applies gingerly : DABS
2. Outfit : EQUIP
3. World Heritage Site in the Andes : CUZCO
4. Oft-married Taylor : LIZ
5. Keg contents : ALE
6. Archer's battle weapon : WARBOW
7. Forever : AGES
8. Like lumberjack jackets : PLAID
9. O.K. : NOTSOBAD
10. Time for last-minute planning : EVE
11. Oxygen-dependent bacterium : AEROBE
12. Card table cloth : BAIZE
13. Not fully independent : AIDED
14. Piece corps, briefly? : NRA
15. Almost dislocate : SPRAIN
16. Violation of Yom Kippur? : FASTBREAK
17. Batting .200, maybe : INASLUMP
18. Queen ___ (pop music nickname) : BEY
22. Don't bother : LETBE
24. Give a tongue-lashing : BAWLOUT
29. Veteran : OLDPRO
32. A question of time : WHEN
33. Is unacceptable : WONTDO
35. Virtual address : URL
36. Père d'un prince : ROI
37. 1961 space chimp : ENOS
39. Improvise, in a way : SCAT
42. Isolated : APART
43. Echolocator : SONAR
44. Softly : PIANO
46. "Three Billy Goats Gruff" villain : TROLL
48. Smash up : TOTAL
49. "You win!" : UNCLE
52. Stabilizer of a ship's compass : GIMBAL
53. "Use your head!" : THINK
54. CD-___ : ROM
55. Ground beef contaminant : ECOLI
58. Mobile home resident? : SNAIL
59. Rio Grande city : LAREDO
61. "Downton Abbey" daughter : SYBIL
63. "Jeez!" : OHMAN
67. Flummox : ADDLE
68. De jure : LEGAL
69. Showroom models : DEMOS
71. Residents of 3-Down : INCAS
72. Trackpad alternative : MOUSE
73. Lean on : PRESS
75. Astral lion : LEO
78. Achieve success : MAKEIT
79. Rug dealer's special? : FREETHROW
80. Prepares for a Mr. Universe competition, say : OILSUP
82. "___ the day!" (cry repeated in Shakespeare) : ALAS
83. Settled the score : GOTEVEN
85. Ghostly sound : MOAN
86. Apportion : ALLOCATE
88. Say "When I met the Dalai Lama last year," say : NAMEDROP
89. "Qué ___?" : PASA
91. Sugar : HON
92. Goth-looking, in a way : WAN
95. It's hard to get across : CHASM
96. Morsel : TIDBIT
98. 1994 bomb based on an "S.N.L." character : ITSPAT
100. Something to boost : MORALE
102. Bridge whiz : GOREN
103. Domineering : BOSSY
104. Actress Thompson of "Creed" : TESSA
106. River along Avignon : RHONE
107. "Wanna play?" : YOUIN
111. Anti bodies? : FOES
113. Petitioned : PLED
114. Whacked : MAD
115. Kind of dye : AZO
117. The Depression, for one : ERA
118. Smoked deli purchase : LOX
119. Popinjay : FOP

Answer summary: 4 unique to this puzzle, 1 debuted here and reused later, 2 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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