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OLDEN GOLDIES

New York Times, Sunday, January 19, 2014

Author: Dan Schoenholz
Editor: Will Shortz
Dan Schoenholz
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235/5/201012/7/20170
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1.64220

This puzzle:

Rows: 21, Columns: 21 Words: 138, Blocks: 64 Missing: {QX} This is puzzle # 10 for Mr. Schoenholz. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Dan Schoenholz notes: This puzzle originated when I heard 'Walk of Life' by Dire Straits on my drive to work one morning. Like any good constructor, I started unconsciously fiddling with the song title, and it hit me that the ... more
Dan Schoenholz notes: This puzzle originated when I heard "Walk of Life" by Dire Straits on my drive to work one morning. Like any good constructor, I started unconsciously fiddling with the song title, and it hit me that the tune's Spoonerism would be "LOCK OF WIFE." Moments later I had what I thought was the perfect accompanying clue (Chastity belt?) — and after a few days spent developing a list of other possibilities, I was on my way.

Or so I thought. I sent the resulting 21x puzzle to Will Shortz at the NY Times and, after he gave it the thumbs down, to Rich Norris at the LA Times, where it also failed to make the cut. After subjecting their short rejection notes to a level of scrutiny normally reserved for newly-discovered biblical scrolls, I detected just an inkling of interest and decided that one or the other might consider using a revised version. But based on the feedback I'd received, I came to the conclusion — sadly — that LOCK OF WIFE had to go (apparently it would be too obscure for many solvers.) I also jettisoned DUTIFUL BAY (which didn't work, phonetically speaking, since "Beautiful Day" has a "y" sound after the "b"). In their place, I substituted DOWNED HOG as the central entry. With those modifications, along with some resulting improvements to the fill, Will liked the revision enough to accept it.

As always, I was psyched to get a Sunday puzzle in the NYT, but in this case I was also a bit wistful that my favorite entry and clue had to be sacrificed in the process. What did I learn from all this? To paraphrase another old rock n' roll tune, sometimes if you love a theme entry, set it free.

Jeff Chen notes: Quite a challenge for me today, as my knowledge of popular music is sorely lacking. Still though, a fun puzzle, 'spoonerizing' famous(-ish) songs into wacky results. I laughed when I hit MAD BOONE RISING — ... more
Jeff Chen notes: Quite a challenge for me today, as my knowledge of popular music is sorely lacking. Still though, a fun puzzle, "spoonerizing" famous(-ish) songs into wacky results. I laughed when I hit MAD BOONE RISING — brilliantly hilarious resulting phrase, plus the base song (Bad Moon Rising) is actually something I know. A perfect entry for this theme.

It can be quite a trick to build a theme around "oldies", as a chunk of your solving constituency might be left in the lurch. I felt a bit left out when I couldn't uncover SHES SO HIGH or HES SO SHY, same with I CITE THE WRONGS and I WRITE THE SONGS. Hard to feel deeply engaged when neither the base phrase nor the "wacky" ending phrase makes any sense. But might be solely my personal issue of being an oldies dunce; I could easily be in the minute minority here.

Now that I got that out of the way, I really appreciated Dan's construction. Once I saw those big open corners in the SW and NE, I braced myself for ugliness. Each one of those — a 6x7 chunk, for goodness sake! — is as difficult to fill as a subsection in a themeless. But both of those corners are absolutely beautiful, packed with nice stuff like PIEBALD and LETS EAT. Same goes for the west and east sections, where I cringed at first sight of the huge white spaces and their potential for disaster. But again, quality results, ENCODER reminding me of "A Christmas Story" and NON WORD with its great Colbert clue.

Bear with me as I delve into some numbers. Typically most 21x constructions lean heavily on three, four, and five-letter entries — they're typically necessary to hold grid regions together. Unfortunately, these shorties aren't usually "exciting", because most of them have been used so many times that solvers are used to seeing them. Debuting JUBA (the capital of South Sudan) is a rare example where a shorty is cool.

So the real genius of today's puzzle: Dan did a great job of laying out his grid, incorporating a lot of six- and seven-letter entries (a total of 49!). That's very hard to construct, since you're purposefully eschewing the gluey type short answers, forcing yourself to make grid sections connect through long answers. Very, very difficult, akin to building a network of bridges across the Grand Canyon. And look at the great result: SHOULDA, HARPOON, GI JANE, SCARAB, etc. all make for a chewy puzzle.

Great workout, the type I usually only get in themeless constructions.

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© 2014, The New York TimesNo. 0119 ( 23,448 )
Across Down
1. Egyptian resurrection symbol : SCARAB
7. Ought to have, informally : SHOULDA
14. "Come on, help me out" : BEAPAL
20. Tropical juice type : PAPAYA
21. Weapon for 27-Across : HARPOON
22. Total : ENTIRE
23. Traffic cop's answer upon being asked "Describe your job"? [1975] : ICITETHEWRONGS
25. Certify : ATTEST
26. Fraternity letter : ETA
27. Fictional user of a 21-Across : AHAB
28. Follower of A, B or AB, informally : NEG
29. Positions in old monasteries : SCRIBES
30. Like some rollers after use : LINTY
32. Post-tornado highway detritus, perhaps? [1974] : RAFTERINTHELANE
36. Scarlett's sister-in-law and best friend in "Gone With the Wind" : MELANIE
38. Brand : SEAR
39. Inter ___ : ALIA
40. Chilling : ATEASE
43. Big inits. in health products : GNC
44. Hub : NODE
47. Speck : DOT
48. Chemical compounds in tea : TANNINS
50. Remark about a female stoner? [1980] : SHESSOHIGH
55. Epitome of simplicity : ABC
56. Cracker brand : RITZ
58. Lose it : SNAP
59. DNA structure : STRANDS
63. British heads : LOOS
65. Jour's opposite : NUIT
67. Familia members : TIAS
69. Get closer : ZEROIN
70. Repeated cry accompanying a gavel hit : ORDER
72. Roast pig after a pig roast? [1956] : DOWNEDHOG
75. Stressed : TENSE
76. Fume : SEERED
78. Close : NEAR
79. Base figs. : NCOS
81. ___' Pea : SWEE
82. Attempts : STRIVES
84. "If I ___ ..." : EVER
86. Moolah : KALE
88. See 9-Down : OAR
89. Napa Valley excursion, maybe? [1963] : FUNWINEDAY
92. Sundry : DIVERSE
94. R&B's ___ Hill : DRU
97. Pulitzer-winning novelist Jennifer : EGAN
98. Java : JOE
100. Displayed for scoring, as in gin rummy : MELDED
101. Santa ___, Calif. : ROSA
103. Ghana neighbor : TOGO
106. Yes-men : AGREERS
108. Data request from a good ol' furnace repairman? [1953] : YOURHEATINCHART
112. Regatta racer : YACHT
116. Believer in a strong centralized government : STATIST
117. Roulette, e.g. : JEU
118. On the job : ATIT
120. "Yoo-___" : HOO
121. Not bankrupt : AFLOAT
122. Frontiersman awakening in a foul mood? [1969] : MADBOONERISING
126. About whom Nabokov said "She was like the composition of a beautiful puzzle - its composition and its solution at the same time" : LOLITA
127. Teed off : ANGERED
128. Marcos who collected shoes : IMELDA
129. Rendezvous : TRYSTS
130. Lawn care tools : WEEDERS
131. Some Civil War shots : SEPIAS
1. Long pitch : SPIEL
2. Dragon fruit plants : CACTI
3. Generating some buzz? : APIAN
4. Templeton, e.g., in "Charlotte's Web" : RAT
5. Words stated with a salute : AYEAYESIR
6. Setting for David's "The Death of Marat" : BATH
7. Everything being considered : SHEBANG
8. Bray part : HAW
9. Hockey great whose name is a homophone of 88-Across and 123- and 124-Down : ORR
10. Barely ahead : UPONE
11. Recluses : LONERS
12. Pup : DOGGIE
13. True or false: Abbr. : ANS
14. Sun spot : BEACH
15. ___ nous : ENTRE
16. Supposed ancestor of Dracula : ATTILA
17. Spotted horse : PIEBALD
18. Big name in TV talk : ARSENIO
19. "Dig in!" : LETSEAT
24. ___-kiri : HARA
29. Old "From one beer lover to another" sloganeer : STROHS
31. Fed : TMAN
33. Dive shop rentals : FINS
34. PC whizzes : TECHS
35. iPod model : NANO
37. Name that starts a well-known "ism" : LENIN
40. Speechless : ATALOSS
41. Backless seat for one : TABORET
42. Secret language device : ENCODER
45. Space cadet : DITZ
46. Marsh hunter : EGRET
49. Bit of jewelry : STUD
51. Input : ENTERED
52. Stated : SAID
53. Warren ___, baseball's winningest lefty : SPAHN
54. Flock : sheep :: drove : ___ : HARES
57. Jerusalem's Mount ___ : ZION
60. "Truthiness," e.g., before Stephen Colbert : NONWORD
61. Etiologist's study : DISEASE
62. Had a haughty reaction : SNEERED
64. Line in writing : SERIF
66. Shopper in the juniors section, maybe : TWEEN
68. What may not come out in the wash? : SOCK
71. "Side by Side by Sondheim," e.g. : REVUE
73. Mass gathering site : NAVE
74. Push : GOAD
77. Leader after Mao : DENG
80. Guck : SLIME
83. Try to hit, as a fly : SWATAT
85. Indian head : RAJAH
87. Like clockwork : EVERYTIME
90. Trying to break a tie, say : INOT
91. Spa class : YOGA
93. "Lohengrin" lass : ELSA
94. Cure, in a way : DRYSALT
95. Support : ROOTFOR
96. As a rule : USUALLY
99. To-dos : ERRANDS
102. Stella ___ (beer) : ARTOIS
104. 1997 Demi Moore title role : GIJANE
105. Jittery : ONEDGE
107. Cigar butt? : ETTE
109. Singer John with the 1988 title track "Slow Turning" : HIATT
110. "Cómo ___?" : ESTAS
111. Like beef for fondue : CUBED
113. Dish in a bowl : CHILI
114. Odyssey maker : HONDA
115. Features of much Roman statuary : TOGAS
119. Georgia O'Keeffe subject : IRIS
122. Gullet : MAW
123. See 9-Down : ORE
124. See 9-Down : OER
125. Pennant race mo. : SEP

Answer summary: 10 unique to this puzzle, 1 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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