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VOWEL PLAY

New York Times, Sunday, January 7, 2018

Author: David Steinberg
Editor: Will Shortz
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1.645163
David Steinberg

This puzzle:

Rows: 21, Columns: 21 Words: 140, Blocks: 82 Missing: {Q} This is puzzle # 73 for Mr. Steinberg. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Notepad: In the print version of this puzzle, the squares that are circled are instead each divided into two halves with a diagonal line.
David Steinberg notes: This puzzle has an unusual construction story: I didn't come up with any of the theme entries! At least not directly. All I had was an idea, which came from . . . wait for it . . . a Facebook chat! It all ... more
David Steinberg notes:

This puzzle has an unusual construction story: I didn't come up with any of the theme entries! At least not directly. All I had was an idea, which came from . . . wait for it . . . a Facebook chat! It all started when my bro Trenton Charlson messaged me an awesome hand-constructed vowelless he'd been working on. He ultimately got stuck on a couple corners, but fortunately, I was able to help: I put on my CS major hat and taught him what I know about regular expressions. After that, he was off and rolling :).

This whole interchange got me thinking. What if I made a puzzle whose theme entries had the same consonants but different vowels? I couldn't think of any long examples, but I figured there must be a way to write a program to find some (if they existed). A few hours later, I had a working program, and there were a lot of possibilities. In fact, there were so many that I decided to constrain the theme to entries where a) the vowels are in the same positions and b) all the vowels are different. The next challenge was figuring out how to present the puzzle. Should it be a crossword or some sort of variety puzzle? Definitely a crossword. Daily or Sunday? Go big or go home, dude! Separate or merged theme entries? Merged seemed more interesting. Schrodinger squares or rebuses? Rebuses, since I'd probably need slashed clues anyway.

Moral of the story: The hours I spend on social media are OBVIOUSLY worthwhile! Hope you enjoy the puzzle.

Jeff Chen notes: Some VOWEL PLAY today (a nice pun on 'foul play'). Entries work two ways, using different sets of vowels, and both two vowels in each of the special squares are used in the crossing direction. Terrible ... more
Jeff Chen notes:

Some VOWEL PLAY today (a nice pun on "foul play"). Entries work two ways, using different sets of vowels, and both two vowels in each of the special squares are used in the crossing direction.

Terrible explanation.

An example: 22-Across can be either DEAL A MEAL or DAILY MAIL. That second square, either E or A, uses both E and A in the crossing word, UNEASY.

Some fun finds, MINT OREOS / MANTA RAY my favorite. Not as impressed with things like DANGEROUS / DUNGAREES, as both are fairly utilitarian words.

I wish there had been a better way to present this. In the grid below, it's so tough to see the words MINT OREOS and MANTA RAY. Maybe if all the themers had been laid out in the across direction, and the diagonal slashes were replaced by horizontal ones?

I liked some of the bonuses in the fill, LENINS TOMB the standout. DIGITIZE was good, too. But I'm used to seeing more in David's puzzles.

Granted, the theme constraints are huge — an enormous number of double-letter crossings to work through — but along with some oddballs in RHENISH, ATANDT (AT&T), and SUBGUM (I eat a lot of Chinese food, but I struggled mightily to fill this in), I might have preferred fewer themers and better overall fill.

I did appreciate how smooth David kept the grid, a tremendous accomplishment given the theme's technical difficulty. To keep it to some UNI, ESS, JUL, HELI shows a ton of attention to detail.

Some interesting finds in a concept that I don't remember seeing before. Reminded me a little of "Split Decisions," a puzzle type Fred Piscop has been making for a while now.

JimH notes: This is only the fifth time diagonal slashes have been used in NYT daily crosswords. The first was this 1992 Crytocrossword by Eugene T. Maleska himself which included the awesome word SPLACKNUCKS, followed by this ... more
JimH notes:

This is only the fifth time diagonal slashes have been used in NYT daily crosswords. The first was this 1992 Crytocrossword by Eugene T. Maleska himself which included the awesome word SPLACKNUCKS, followed by this Tic-Tac-Toe grid by S. E. Booker.

Before today, the only two in the Shortz Era were this New Year's puzzle by Henry Hook in 1995, and a tricky 2011 Trip Payne puzzle called Figure It Out.

We added helpful slashes to a couple of grids to explain themes, but those slashes didn't appear in print. In 2012, Ian Livengood pulled a clever trick with keyboard digits and their shift-key equivalents. Just a few weeks after that, Joel Fagliano tried to confuse us with his W vs. double-U grid.

Added geeky note: David Steinberg mentioned Regular Expressions, which is as a way to do complex word pattern searches. And yes, of course, the XWord Info Finder Page supports them!

1
J
2
U
3
L
4
S
5
P
6
A
7
S
8
S
9
M
10
A
11
R
12
M
13
C
14
O
15
R
16
A
17
U
N
I
18
T
O
R
T
19
A
20
L
O
A
D
E
R
21
A
P
E
X
22
D
EA
AI
23
L
AY
M
EA
AI
L
24
A
N
N
A
L
S
25
R
I
D
E
26
A
S
S
E
S
S
27
D
I
28
E
M
29
S
P
IE
C
30
YI
F
OI
OE
D
31
H
Y
E
N
A
32
T
R
I
33
J
E
T
S
34
K
I
D
S
35
I
T
36
O
37
S
T
I
N
E
38
S
U
39
M
E
R
40
D
41
A
42
M
N
43
F
44
OU
UE
L
C
AE
L
45
L
46
P
O
S
E
47
D
48
A
49
S
50
E
L
IA
S
51
A
T
S
E
A
52
L
I
53
P
O
S
54
S
AU
L
T
55
V
A
N
T
56
A
G
E
57
M
I
N
E
58
D
59
N
B
A
60
T
O
R
E
A
61
T
62
S
63
A
64
T
I
N
65
S
U
66
B
G
U
M
67
W
68
H
OA
M
I
69
T
R
70
IA
C
K
S
T
EA
71
R
72
P
R
EA
M
P
73
H
E
R
B
A
74
L
75
A
M
I
C
A
76
L
A
77
G
E
A
R
78
E
L
EA
79
S
A
80
H
I
B
81
R
A
D
I
OE
82
R
83
A
84
L
L
OY
85
D
86
C
A
N
I
87
T
88
I
89
R
90
W
I
N
91
D
UE
I
N
92
P
O
S
I
93
T
E
D
94
C
H
95
OA
C
H
AI
N
G
96
E
S
P
N
97
G
O
Y
A
98
S
99
E
T
H
E
L
100
S
101
A
D
102
T
103
R
I
G
104
G
A
105
I
N
S
O
N
106
T
R
107
A
108
I
109
T
110
W
H
AI
T
AE
111
T
OA
OI
L
112
E
R
I
113
S
114
L
A
U
N
C
H
115
H
E
L
I
116
S
T
R
O
117
B
E
118
S
T
119
R
IO
N
G
T
IE
EA
120
A
T
O
Z
121
K
I
S
S
E
D
122
H
O
U
N
D
123
E
S
S
124
M
A
N
E
125
S
T
E
E
D
126
P
E
S
T
127
S
T
P
© 2018, The New York TimesNo. 0107 ( 24,897 )
Across Down
1. Start of the third qtr. : JUL
4. Treatment centers? : SPAS
8. Sycophant's quality : SMARM
13. Mr. Dithers's wife in "Blondie" : CORA
17. ___-ball pens : UNI
18. Ristorante dessert : TORTA
20. Construction site vehicle : LOADER
21. Top : APEX
22. Richard Simmons diet regimen / London tabloid : DEALAMEAL/DAILYMAIL
24. Records : ANNALS
25. One may have a height restriction : RIDE
26. Gauge : ASSESS
27. Carpe ___ : DIEM
29. What a red pepper on a menu may signal / Made clear : SPICYFOOD/SPECIFIED
31. Caninelike animal more closely related to a cat than a dog : HYENA
32. Three-engine planes : TRIJETS
34. Babies grow into them : KIDS
35. O. J. Simpson trial judge : ITO
37. "Goosebumps" author : STINE
38. So-called "cradle of civilization" : SUMER
40. Curse : DAMN
43. Preceder of free throws / Juice container? : FOULCALL/FUELCELL
46. Pretended to be : POSEDAS
50. Inventor Howe : ELIAS
51. Discombobulated : ATSEA
52. Slimming surgeries, in brief : LIPOS
54. ___ Ste. Marie, Mich. : SAULT
55. Strategic position : VANTAGE
57. Like the data in big data : MINED
59. Warriors' org. : NBA
60. Really bothered : TOREAT
62. Used, as a chair : SATIN
65. Chow mein relative : SUBGUM
67. Self-reflective question : WHOAMI
69. Fooler / Summer Olympics standout : TRICKSTER/TRACKSTAR
72. Sound signal booster : PREAMP
73. Kind of medicine : HERBAL
75. Lady friend, in Livorno : AMICA
76. SoCal-based sneaker brand : LAGEAR
78. Zeno of ___ : ELEA
79. Colonial Indian title : SAHIB
81. When big bands thrived : RADIOERA
84. Bridges of old film : LLOYD
86. "Shush!" : CANIT
88. Writer Shaw : IRWIN
91. Scheduled to arrive : DUEIN
92. Hypothesized : POSITED
94. Harry Potter's ex-girlfriend / Register sound : CHOCHANG/CHACHING
96. National Spelling Bee airer : ESPN
97. Some prized Prado pieces : GOYAS
99. One of the Kennedys : ETHEL
100. Disappointing : SAD
102. Sin subject? : TRIG
104. Lessens the distance between, in a race : GAINSON
106. Straight or curly hair, e.g. : TRAIT
110. "He's so lame!" / Deer variety : WHATATOOL/WHITETAIL
112. Golden apple goddess : ERIS
114. App developer's milestone : LAUNCH
115. Prefix with port : HELI
116. Photographer's light : STROBE
118. Thin neckwear / Assam or Earl Grey : STRINGTIE/STRONGTEA
120. Complete : ATOZ
121. Lightly touched : KISSED
122. Afghan, e.g. : HOUND
123. Cursive capital that looks like a flipped "&" : ESS
124. Mustang feature : MANE
125. Mount : STEED
126. Little sibling, often : PEST
127. Major race sponsor : STP
1. Jerusalem's onetime kingdom : JUDAH
2. Nervous : UNEASY
3. Act the middleman : LIAISE
4. Visits for a time : STAYSAT
5. Yappy lap dogs, informally : POMS
6. Plane calculation : AREA
7. Unadventurous : STAID
8. Word after "&" in many a company name : SON
9. Minister's home : MANSE
10. Makes into a movie, say : ADAPTS
11. Trusts : RELIESUPON
12. Richie's mom on "Happy Days" : MRSC
13. Flare-ups in the hood? : CARFIRES
14. OxyContin or Demerol : OPIOID
15. Fixes the décor of completely : REDOES
16. Canceled : AXED
19. Sort of : ALITTLE
20. Thin layers : LAMINAE
23. Moscow landmark : LENINSTOMB
28. Writer Jong : ERICA
30. "Hoo boy!" : YIKES
33. Solidify : JELL
36. 18, say : OFAGE
37. Is litigious : SUES
39. Baby in a basket : MOSES
40. Actor Patel : DEV
41. Resembling : ALA
42. Cookies filled with green creme / Flattish sea creatures : MINTOREOS/MANTARAYS
44. Best at a hot dog contest : OUTEAT
45. Cap : LIMIT
47. Risky / Denim attire : DANGEROUS/DUNGAREES
48. See 49-Down : ALBUM
49. With 48-Down, philatelist's collection : STAMP
53. ___ gland (melatonin producer) : PINEAL
56. Five things in "La Bohème" : ARIAS
58. Pulled a fast one on : DUPED
61. Part of a wedding that drags : TRAIN
62. Comp ___ (college major, informally) : SCI
63. Dog show initials : AKC
64. Grp. with wands : TSA
66. Often-oval floor décor : BRAIDEDRUG
67. Puppy : WHELP
68. "Are you listening?!" : HELLO
70. Stressed at the end, in a way : IAMBIC
71. ___ to go : RARIN
74. Crime-fighting mom of 1980s TV : LACEY
77. Jets and others : GANGS
80. Tried something : HADAGOATIT
82. Lambaste : RIP
83. Massachusetts' Cape ___ : ANN
85. Scan, in a way : DIGITIZE
87. Storyteller's transition : THEN
88. Olympian blood : ICHOR
89. Like some German wines : RHENISH
90. Howl : WAIL
93. Garments worn in old Rome : TOGAE
95. Future cereal grain : OATSEED
98. Actress Ronan of "Lady Bird" : SAOIRSE
101. Sprint competitor : ATANDT
102. Second letter in the Greek for "Athens" : THETA
103. Vehemently criticize : RAILON
105. Words of resignation : ILOSE
107. Potful : ANTES
108. Least warm : ICIEST
109. Daddy Warbucks's bodyguard : THEASP
110. Hard smack : WHAM
111. Judgmental sounds : TSKS
113. Word with "f" or full : STOP
114. First N.F.L. team to go 0-16 for a season, in 2008 : LIONS
117. Spring locale : BED
119. ___ the day : RUE

Answer summary: 16 unique to this puzzle, 1 debuted here and reused later, 2 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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