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HOW SWEET IT IS!

New York Times, Sunday, October 27, 2019

Author:
Michael Paleos
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
210/24/201810/27/20190
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
1001000
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.59020
Michael Paleos

This puzzle:

Rows: 21, Columns: 21 Words: 140, Blocks: 70 Missing: {JQX} This is puzzle # 2 for Mr. Paleos. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Will Shortz notes:
Michael Paleos, of Oyster Bay, N.Y., is chief of staff at a major investment bank. He started solving crosswords at a young age, but only got hooked on them after discovering the archive ... read more

Michael Paleos, of Oyster Bay, N.Y., is chief of staff at a major investment bank. He started solving crosswords at a young age, but only got hooked on them after discovering the archive of puzzles in the New York Times app. "After doing enough of them, I started wondering what it would take to make one, and down the rabbit hole I went."

This is Michael's second crossword for The Times, and his first Sunday.

Michael Paleos notes:
Hi again, Crossworld! Excited to be back with a second puzzle, and especially psyched to publish my first Sunday. Very sweet, indeed. This puzzle started as a 15x15 weekday puzzle, ... read more

Hi again, Crossworld! Excited to be back with a second puzzle, and especially psyched to publish my first Sunday. Very sweet, indeed.

This puzzle started as a 15x15 weekday puzzle, where I set out to find some grid-spanning themers to create a visual effect — the original theme set was PEANUT BUTTER CUP, MARSHMALLOW PEEP, CADBURY CREME EGG, and PEPPERMINT STICK. I was happy to find four solid 15-letter entries but didn't love that some were brand names and others weren't.

Then I noticed that two of the four were Easter candies, so I went searching for a third, but the best I could come up with was CHOCOLATE RABBIT. Close, but I couldn't get behind it in the end. "Chocolate bunny" feels so much more in the language and the fact that CHOCOLATE RABBIT had never appeared in a puzzle before convinced me that I was stretching. (Imagine my amusement when it debuted last month.)

Back to the drawing board. After a few dead ends, I started exploring the idea of allowing the stripes to include black squares, and it blew the whole thing wide open. Even after applying the constraints that the themers had to be a) words or phrases that could be clued in non-candy ways, and b) actual candies (no gum or mints) there were still plenty of options to work with. So many in fact that it practically demanded to be made into a Sunday puzzle. I had never attempted a 21x before, but it felt like the right time to try.

The final hurdle was the placement of the revealer. It became clear early on that it would need to cross some themers. The fixed vertical stripes didn't allow much room to maneuver, but eventually I saw that I could cross MOUNDS with CANDY at the D. That created a symmetrical 6-letter theme slot, second letter R. I went back to my candy list and had a Hail Mary moment while scanning the 6-letter entries, and there it was — the linchpin of the entire puzzle, and my favorite candy bar at that! You could almost hear an audible click. Or maybe it was a crunch.

I have to say — as gratifying as the "aha moment" can be as a solver, it's nothing compared to the moment when a tricky construction crystallizes into a reality.

Despite the original plan to make this an Easter puzzle, I hadn't intended for the final product to be tied to a holiday. Hats off to the Times editorial team for making the connection and running it today.

Jeff Chen notes:
Neat visual, CANDY STRIPEs throughout the puzzle. I hope the NYT prints the background of the theme squares in red — the Sunday Magazine has such potential to employ color. I ... read more

Neat visual, CANDY STRIPEs throughout the puzzle. I hope the NYT prints the background of the theme squares in red — the Sunday Magazine has such potential to employ color.

I liked that Michael

  1. arranged his themers so neatly, and
  2. chose candies that can be clued in non-candy ways (try that with M&Ms or ALMOND JOY).

Solid gridwork, too. Filling around six grid-spanning themers is hard enough, but when you break them up, forcing black square placements right off the bat, it becomes even harder. I didn't care for the aggregation of ERI LAE NEU ACI — too much of one type of gluey bit becomes noticeable — but overall, the result was better than I imagined. Ending with about an average amount of crossword glue for a NYT Sunday is an accomplishment when the constraints are stringent.

Hard-core solvers like myself might find it to be a boring solve, but sometimes we have to suck it up and recognize that occasionally the wider solving audience could use a softball; a "hey, I finished the Sunday NYT!" victory dance. I challenged myself to solve the themers without the benefit of a single cross, which turned out to be a fun experience.

1
W
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M
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D
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B
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A
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R
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O
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M
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G
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P
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D
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L
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P
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G
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R
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C
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R
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C
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M
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D
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K
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C
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H
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L
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L
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H
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D
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F
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P
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L
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K
N
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M
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A
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P
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O
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S
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K
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E
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O
M
S
© 2019, The New York TimesNo. 1027 ( 25,555 )
Across
1
Iraq War concern, in brief : WMD
4
An earl outranks him : BARON
9
Billiards maneuver : MASSE
14
Exclaim "@#%!" : SWEAR
19
Tilling tool : HOE
20
QB defenders, collectively : OLINE
21
Relating to a certain arm bone : ULNAR
22
___ Kenyatta, president of Kenya starting in 2013 : UHURU
23
Something set by a stove : OVENTIMER
25
Year of the final flight of the Concordes : MMIII
26
French-speaking African nation : GABON
27
Eyedropper, essentially : PIPETTE
28
Submission to a record label, once : DEMOCD
30
Rodeo loop : LARIAT
31
Accessory with a bass drum : PEDAL
32
Major fuss : STINK
33
Wedding bands? : GARTERS
34
Way out there : ESOTERIC
38
Hand over : CEDE
39
Take a mulligan on : REDO
40
"<<" button: Abbr. : REW
41
Ricochet like a hockey puck : CAROM
43
To a certain extent, colloquially : SORTA
45
Ad phrase indicating higher pricing tiers : ANDUP
49
Amtrak stop: Abbr. : STN
50
Infomercial imperative : ACTNOW
52
Pill bug, biologically : ISOPOD
54
Intake suggestion, briefly : RDA
55
Unlock, to Shakespeare : OPE
56
Third-longest river in Europe, after the Volga and Danube : URAL
58
Tear to shreds : REND
59
Partner of 46-Down in the frozen food business : EDY
60
Brown seaweeds : KELPS
63
U.S. island owned almost entirely by billionaire Larry Ellison : LANAI
65
Manic-looking, in a way : CRAZYEYED
67
Neutral response from a therapist : ISEE
68
Pattern once used for hospital volunteer uniforms, with a hint to this puzzle's theme : CANDYSTRIPE
70
Loser of a beauty contest, in myth : HERA
71
Birds known to mimic car alarms and human speech : STARLINGS
73
Graduate's "honor" : LAUDE
74
Carousel mount, to a tot : HORSY
75
Mark of a scam artist : SAP
76
Hooked on : INTO
77
Laura of "Big Little Lies" : DERN
78
Emulate Johnny Appleseed : SOW
79
H, to Hellenes : ETA
80
"Ya dig?," in more modern slang : FEELME
82
Get up in the face of : ACCOST
85
Emma Stone's role in "La La Land" : MIA
88
Protagonist in Toni Morrison's "Beloved" : SETHE
90
Skate park features : RAILS
92
Place for regulars : HAUNT
93
Handel's "___, Galatea e Polifemo" : ACI
94
Glenn Frey's "The Heat ___" : ISON
96
Bad thing to come up in a title search : LIEN
98
Total failure : DISASTER
100
Important members of the community, so to speak : PILLARS
103
Where menisci are found : KNEES
105
What socks usually do : MATCH
106
Bitter green : ENDIVE
107
Regards covetously : EYESUP
108
Display piece for tchotchkes : ETAGERE
110
Virtual sticky : ENOTE
111
Battling it out : ATWAR
112
Boondocks : RURALAREA
114
One of 11 in a Christmas carol : PIPER
115
Provide an address : ORATE
116
French novelist Zola : EMILE
117
Bit : TAD
118
Company that once offered "the Thrift Book of a Nation" : SEARS
119
Excited, with "up" : KEYED
120
Foil alternatives : EPEES
121
Meditative syllables : OMS
Down
1
Big fat lies : WHOPPERS
2
Where you might need to get a grip : MOVIESET
3
In one's heart of hearts : DEEPDOWN
4
Pop covers : BOTTLECAPS
5
Stopped a flight : ALIT
6
Frosty encrustation : RIME
7
Its square equals its square root : ONE
8
Types who think school is too cool : NERDS
9
They're kept under wraps for a long time : MUMMIES
10
Nut extract used in skin care : ALMONDOIL
11
Derisive chuckles : SNICKERS
12
Didn't just hint at : SAID
13
Verdi's "___ tu" : ERI
14
Gold digger's goldmine : SUGARDADDY
15
Alma mater of Tesla's Elon Musk : WHARTON
16
Jazzman Blake : EUBIE
17
Like a crowd when the headliner takes the stage : AROAR
18
Pipsqueaks : RUNTS
24
Like some servings of Scotch : NEAT
29
"You get the idea" : ETC
30
New Guinea port that was Amelia Earhart's last known point of departure : LAE
33
Large, purple Hanna-Barbera character : GRAPEAPE
35
Campaign ... or a campaign topic : RACE
36
Original N.Y.C. subway line : IRT
37
Non-pro : CON
42
Heaps : MOUNDS
44
Steamy : TORRID
46
Partner of 59-Across in the frozen food business : DREYER
47
Dairy sources : UDDERS
48
Biweekly occurrence, for many : PAYDAY
51
Actress Fay of the original "King Kong" : WRAY
53
Neuf + deux : ONZE
55
Abbr. between * and # : OPER
57
Separation at a wedding? : AISLE
60
What x's sometimes represent : KISSES
61
Executor's charge : ESTATE
62
Pounce on, as an opportunity : LEAPAT
63
The "two" in "two if by sea" : LANTERNS
64
Portuguese-speaking African nation : ANGOLA
65
What lettuce lends to a sandwich : CRUNCH
66
Popular D.I.Y. site : EHOW
68
Endeavor recognized by the César awards : CINE
69
Reid of "The Big Lebowski" : TARA
72
They come through when you need them most : LIFESAVERS
74
Total stunners : HOTTAMALES
77
Sketch out : DELINEATE
78
W-2 IDs : SSNS
81
Its closest neighbor is Andromeda : MILKYWAY
83
Mr. Wrong : CAD
84
All-vowel avowal : OUI
85
Carry some relevance for : MATTERTO
86
Mode, on a menu : ICECREAM
87
Scatterbrains : AIRHEADS
89
Neon marker : HILITER
91
Is blinded by rage : SEESRED
95
Cent : euro :: ___ : krona : ORE
97
Modern, in Munich : NEU
99
Epic narrative : SAGA
100
Tiny objections : PEEPS
101
What many a navel-gazer gazes at : INNIE
102
Treatment for Parkinson's : LDOPA
104
Jag : SPREE
107
Word repeated in "___ ou ne pas ___" : ETRE
108
Lake bordered by four states and a province : ERIE
109
Yarn : TALE
111
Just ducky : AOK
113
Person who might call you out : UMP

Answer summary: 4 unique to this puzzle, 3 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

Found bugs or have suggestions?