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VOWEL PLAY

New York Times, Sunday, January 7, 2018

Author:
David Steinberg
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
976/16/201110/30/201918
SunMonTueWedThuFriSatVariety
76691132242
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.645173
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 ... read more

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 ... read more

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.

Jim Horne 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 ... read more

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
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S
T
I
N
E
38
S
U
39
M
E
R
40
D
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A
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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
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
Down
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: 15 unique to this puzzle, 2 debuted here and reused later, 2 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

Found bugs or have suggestions?