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STRESSED OUT

New York Times, Sunday, January 5, 2020

Author:
Will Nediger
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
315/27/20061/5/20202
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
14025118
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.78032
Will Nediger

This puzzle:

Rows: 21, Columns: 21 Words: 140, Blocks: 66 Missing: {KQXZ} This is puzzle # 31 for Mr. Nediger. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Will Shortz notes:
Will Nediger, of London, Ontario, is a professional crossword constructor and writer of trivia questions. He's a regular contributor to National Academic Quiz Tournaments, which supplies ... read more

Will Nediger, of London, Ontario, is a professional crossword constructor and writer of trivia questions. He's a regular contributor to National Academic Quiz Tournaments, which supplies questions for quiz-bowl tournaments at the middle-school, high-school and college levels.

Since 2000, Will has had more Sunday crosswords in The Times (14, including today's) than any other Canadian.

Will Nediger notes:
It was really tough to come up with a good set of themers for this one. To be as consistent as possible, I wanted all the themers to involve words that become an etymologically-related ... read more

It was really tough to come up with a good set of themers for this one. To be as consistent as possible, I wanted all the themers to involve words that become an etymologically-related word with a different meaning when the stress is switched from the first to the second syllable, and I wanted all those words to be at the beginning of a two-word phrase. I'm happy I was able to come up with seven themers that worked symmetrically — but at the same time, I'm not sure I'd still submit this puzzle today. Phrases like CONTRACT TERMS and PRODUCE LABELS aren't exactly exciting, so there's not as much of an entertainment factor as I'd like. Still, I hope there's enough good stuff in here for solvers to enjoy!

Jeff Chen notes:
It's a shame that this one comes so close on the heels of another stress-change puzzle. I enjoyed Will Nediger's today, although it didn't feel as creative since there are tons of lists ... read more

It's a shame that this one comes so close on the heels of another stress-change puzzle. I enjoyed Will Nediger's today, although it didn't feel as creative since there are tons of lists out there containing dozens, if not hundreds of words whose meanings change with a shift in stress. I appreciated Will's effort to tighten the theme, but I'm afraid I missed every layer he described. Hopefully other solvers will be more astute.

There's also the ground-breaking stress-change puzzle from 2010 that was so brilliant. The best puzzles take ideas from disparate areas and combine them in fascinating ways. Stress change + entry duplication = memorable.

A few weeks ago, Evan Birnholz wrote to me, offended (rightly so) by an offhand remark I made about high word counts leading to "crapfest" puzzles. I was surprised since I wasn't at all talking about his Washington Post Sunday Puzzle — I'm a great admirer of Evan's themes and gridwork, which often outshine the NYT's Sunday puzzles these days. He made a great point, that he usually goes up to 144 words in his grids, and no one's ever complained to him about word count.

That doesn't mean that word count is irrelevant, though. Take the notion to the extreme, for example. If you made a Sunday puzzle with 200 words, it'd be chock-full of nothing but short entries, and it really would resemble the crapfest you see in your local small-town paper.

And look at today's 140-word grid — Will did a fantastic job of adding a ton of color. The NE corner is beautiful, for example, APOSTATE / SEASONAL / ACRONYMS so fun. Many constructors would be happy to break up ACRONYMS to make filling easier, going up from 140 to 142 words, and I wouldn't want that.

Is 140 or 144 words is a better target? The short answer is that I don't have the answer. If you can fill with enough color at 144 words (which Evan and few other constructors can do), then I say go for it. But if you can fill with color AND cleanly at 140 words (like Will and even fewer other constructors), I'd always opt for that. I enjoy having biggish areas like today's NE, which 140-word puzzles are better at allowing for.

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© 2020, The New York TimesNo. 0105 ( 25,625 )
Across
1
Stuffs with bacon, say : LARDS
6
Convention handouts : SWAG
10
Second of the 10 biblical plagues : FROGS
15
Mission-driven org. : NASA
19
Underway : AFOOT
20
Congress person : AIDE
21
Ancient neighbor of Lydia : IONIA
22
Intl. group founded in 1960 with five members : OPEC
23
"We can't hear you in the back, Johannes!"? : PROJECTGUTENBERG
26
Winter leaf covering : HOAR
27
"Oops, my bad!" : SOSORRY
28
Fixtures at most airport lounges nowadays : TVS
29
Boston ___ (Sam Adams offering) : ALE
30
Place to fill up in Canada : ESSO
31
Not just -er : EST
32
Canal trouble : EARACHE
35
Triage sites, briefly : ERS
36
Brown in a Food Network kitchen : ALTON
37
Not leave alone : DOG
38
Put on a production of a classic Sondheim musical? : PRESENTCOMPANY
41
Subjects of "birds and bees" talks : URGES
44
Knowledgeable about : UPON
45
Pirate's chant : YOHOHO
46
Scottish cap : TAM
47
What composers do when they add the finishing touches? : PERFECTSCORES
50
Lets out : UNREELS
52
Put away, as a sword : SHEATHE
53
"What's the ___?" : DIF
54
Place to park at the bar : STOOL
55
Police, informally : HEAT
56
Comedian Andre with a self-named Adult Swim show : ERIC
59
Russian assembly : DUMA
61
Super-duper : ULTRA
65
Western Hemisphere grp. : OAS
66
What workers at the sticker factory do? : PRODUCELABELS
70
___ Royal Highness : HER
71
Words before "Remember" and "Forget" in song titles : TRYTO
73
Shooter of arrows : EROS
74
Code part : GENE
75
Brown in the kitchen : SEAR
76
Scarfs (down) : WOLFS
79
Do some pogoing : HOP
81
French France : ANATOLE
83
Jackson nicknamed the "Queen of Gospel" : MAHALIA
86
Shorten words like "forecastle" and "boatswain"? : CONTRACTTERMS
89
Equal : ARE
90
Stretching muscle : TENSOR
92
Certain yearling : COLT
93
What a private detective might photograph : TRYST
94
Ignore what you have in reserve while taking inventory? : DISCOUNTSTORES
97
Morn's counterpart : EEN
98
Assignment that might have a page limit : ESSAY
99
#MeToo ___ : ERA
100
Underground places with bats : DUGOUTS
102
Anti-bullying spot, for short : PSA
105
Toiling away : ATIT
106
Computing pioneer Lovelace : ADA
107
Side dish with kalua pig : POI
108
Betrays a sibling, say : TATTLES
110
Statistician's worry : BIAS
111
Encouragement at an N.B.A. mixer? : CONVERSEALLSTARS
115
Irish novelist O'Brien : EDNA
116
Pull : TUGON
117
Lake near London : ERIE
118
Country ruled only by kings named Tupou since 1845 : TONGA
119
Obstacle to overcome : TEST
120
Loses sleep (over) : STEWS
121
Hinge (on) : RELY
122
Made a choice : OPTED
Down
1
Mental slip-up : LAPSE
2
Hairstyles for Pam Grier and Angela Davis : AFROS
3
Take a break from flying, say : ROOST
4
Martial arts center : DOJO
5
Audiophile's purchase : STEREOSET
6
Nymph pursuer : SATYR
7
Drag wear : WIG
8
Soccer phenom Freddy : ADU
9
Be nominated : GETTHENOD
10
Some scuba gear : FINS
11
Overcharge ridiculously : ROB
12
In the world : ONEARTH
13
Samoa salesperson : GIRLSCOUT
14
Worth heeding : SAGE
15
Utterly useless : NOHELP
16
Nonbeliever, now : APOSTATE
17
Not always available : SEASONAL
18
Nascar and FIFA, e.g. : ACRONYMS
24
Ibex's perch : CRAG
25
Brinks : EVES
33
Google Play buys : APPS
34
Big snapper, informally : CROC
35
Book of Mormon book : ENOS
36
Ready for romance : AMOROUS
37
Trim, in a way : DEFAT
39
Spectacle : EYEFUL
40
"I totally forgot!" : OHNO
41
End result : UPSHOT
42
Take up again, as a case : REHEAR
43
Like foods said to be good for hangovers and bad for skin complexion : GREASY
44
In ___ (not yet delivered) : UTERO
48
Singer who was in 2018's "Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again" : CHER
49
Has as a mount : RIDESON
51
Right-angled joint : ELL
54
"Quién ___?" (Spanish "Who knows?") : SABE
57
Fateful day in 44 B.C. : IDES
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No purebred : CUR
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Cosmo, e.g. : MAG
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What's the big idea? : THEORY
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Dimensions : REALMS
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Something you don't want to be under : ARREST
66
Noodle, for example : POOLTOY
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Colleague : COHORT
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Put on the books : ENACT
69
Giving up time : LENT
72
Carrier until 2001 : TWA
75
Rudder's place : STERN
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Place : LIEU
78
Dispersed, as a search party : FANNEDOUT
80
Retro Chrysler : PTCRUISER
82
Corroborates : ATTESTSTO
83
Did some gambling : MADEABET
84
Former Haitian leader Jean-Bertrand : ARISTIDE
85
Defenders in the Battle of Trenton : HESSIANS
86
___ Nostra : COSA
87
Film director Nicolas : ROEG
88
Tangent introducer : ALSO
91
Funny : STRANGE
95
Watched a kitty : CATSAT
96
Target of an air freshener : ODOR
97
Series finale abbr. : ETAL
101
Baseball's Chase : UTLEY
102
Confederate in an audience : PLANT
103
Ridged fabric : SERGE
104
Syrian strongman : ASSAD
106
Doesn't just sit : ACTS
107
Writers might click them : PENS
109
Sporty roof feature : TTOP
112
Solemn statement : VOW
113
Poetic "before" : ERE
114
Feel bad : AIL

Answer summary: 9 unique to this puzzle, 4 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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