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MIND THE GAP

New York Times, Sunday, October 7, 2018

Author:
Tom McCoy
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
3211/14/201310/7/20180
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
17815100
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.61362
Tom McCoy

This puzzle:

Rows: 21, Columns: 21 Words: 140, Blocks: 72 Missing: {JX} This is puzzle # 32 for Mr. McCoy. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Tom McCoy notes:
The idea for this puzzle came from the phrase HOLE IN THE WALL, although that specific theme entry did not make it into the final version. (I decided to avoid any theme answer with HOLE in ... read more

The idea for this puzzle came from the phrase HOLE IN THE WALL, although that specific theme entry did not make it into the final version. (I decided to avoid any theme answer with HOLE in it, to avoid repetition with the implied "IN A ROUND HOLE" that follows the bonus answer).

I always prefer when Sundays have something extra on top of the main theme, which is why I went for the bonus answer spelled out by the circled letters. At the same time, adding such a bonus can really constrain the puzzle: in this case, it required having nine theme answers to accommodate the nine-letter bonus answer, and nine theme answers is a lot to cram into a puzzle — it doesn't leave much room for long non-theme answers. I decided that the trade-off was worth it, but it's always tough weighing the theme against the non-theme fill.

Jeff Chen notes:
Not just one, but two interesting ideas today! Circles create gaps in appropriate words, i.e. RAIL is 'split' by a circle, thus making that circle a RAIL SPLITTER. What goes into a ... read more

Not just one, but two interesting ideas today!

  1. Circles create gaps in appropriate words, i.e. RAIL is "split" by a circle, thus making that circle a RAIL SPLITTER.
  2. What goes into a round hole? How about a SQUARE PEG? Great way of using circles – instead of just highlighting certain letters, the circles are precisely the "round holes" of that saying!

Most of the themers for idea #1 felt decent. RAIL SPLITTER, ROOM DIVIDER, and SAFE CRACKER worked best for me, since they were so directly literal. Ones like NASAL CAVITY felt more awkward, as the circle was a CAVITY "in" the NASAL. Er, in the nose. You get my meaning. Maybe.

And I liked that the circled letters spelled something for idea #2. Hey, SQUARE PEG going into a round hole! Er, round holes. Plural. I enjoy when constructors take a crossword convention like circled letters, and use them in a clever way.

Overall though, I felt like there wasn't synergy in these two ideas, a bit like 1+1=1.414 (the SQUARE root of 2). Some of my favorite puzzles take two established concepts from different walks of life and mesh them together in a brilliant way – that's how some people define "creativity." Seeing SQUARE PEGS emerge was more of a shruggy kind of moment for me.

The gridwork was a little disappointing, too. Granted, I have a very high bar set for Tom, who I think is one of the best in the business. Not a lot of colorful bonuses in just SOLO HOMER, ARM REST and BLANKNESS (which felt oddly thematic). And OSO, which Will has said he's trying to phase out (for good reason!), along with ANON EDUC ENE ERI OVO … it's an above average grid as Sundays go, but far from my favorite of Tom's products.

Jim Horne notes:
RATSO is a surprisingly common crossword answer; this is its 53rd appearance in the Times. Surprising both because Midnight Cowboy came out nearly 50 years ago, and because there's no ... read more

RATSO is a surprisingly common crossword answer; this is its 53rd appearance in the Times. Surprising both because Midnight Cowboy came out nearly 50 years ago, and because there's no way to clue the word without reference to that film.

"City from which the U.S. moved its embassy in 2018" is a modern clue, and one seemingly designed to either raise hackles or cause you to lovingly stroke your red MAGA cap. Is it ok to stoke political outrage in a crossword? Sure, why not? I love NOBAMA too, not because it echoes my sentiments, but because it's a lively clue tailor-made to evoke a reaction.

Baseball lingo clues carry a regionalism danger. Your local broadcaster may refer to a "singleton," but it's tough to know if that's universal language or just how your play caller talks. Still, easy enough to figure out given a few letters.

The RATE clue is a little geeky, which I like. NASAL CAVITY is a snotty answer. I didn't know EPIZOA. "Little protestation" is a terrific clue for PEEP. The 2007 film "LARS and the Real Girl" is delightful. Lars's companion Bianca, not exactly a real girl, is a sex doll. No, really, it's more charming than it sounds.

That wraps up another Jeff and Jim Cross Words week. If we get enough feedback, we might do this once a month or so.

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© 2018, The New York TimesNo. 1007 ( 25,170 )
Across
1. Experts : GURUS
6. Accord : TREATY
12. The Harry Potter novels, e.g. : SEPTET
18. External parasites : EPIZOA
20. Minuscule, cutesily : EENSIE
21. Not yet packed, say : UNREADY
22. Another nickname for Old Abe ... or a description of the circled letter? : RAILSPLITTER
24. Got fit : TONEDUP
25. Funny Brooks : MEL
26. Eight: Prefix : OCTA
27. Astronaut's place ... : OUTERSPACE
29. Aves. : STS
30. Let out, as a sigh : HEAVED
33. Venus, but not Serena : PLANET
34. Truckful : TON
35. A lid usually covers it at night : IRIS
37. Naval rank: Abbr. : ENS
38. Counterpart of Venus : MARS
42. Screen or partition ... : ROOMDIVIDER
47. Kitchen sink attachment : DISPOSAL
50. Much-disputed part of an airplane : ARMREST
51. Where decongestant spray goes ... : NASALCAVITY
53. Animal with a snout : TAPIR
54. Candidate's goal : SEAT
57. "___ time" : ITS
58. Discontent : UNEASE
59. Alternatively : ELSE
60. Kind : SORT
61. Cellular messenger : RNA
62. CBS drama beginning in 2018 : FBI
63. Negative connector : NOR
64. Cyberexpert's worry ... : SECURITYBREACH
69. ___ Poke (caramel candy) : SLO
72. ___-rock : ALT
73. Each "O" of BOGO : ONE
74. "___ and the Real Girl" (2007 comedy) : LARS
75. "What have I done!" : OHNO
79. Part of an auto garage's business : TOWAGE
81. Hawaiian mash-up? : POI
82. Product much advertised during football games : BEER
83. Clutch : BROOD
84. Office device ... : PAPERCUTTER
87. "That's my intention" : IPLANTO
89. At the end of the day : AFTERALL
90. Heist figure ... : SAFECRACKER
93. General ___ chicken : TSOS
94. Bear: Sp. : OSO
96. Soon : ANON
97. Memphis-to-Nashville dir. : ENE
98. Coinage during the 2008 presidential election : NOBAMA
101. "Spider-Man" baddie : DOCOCK
103. ___ drive : USB
106. Bit of good fortune ... : LUCKYBREAK
111. Something you might get your mitts on : OVEN
112. By birth : NEE
113. Away from work for a while : ONLEAVE
114. Store banner ... : GRANDOPENING
118. Early ___ : ADOPTER
119. Scowling : AGLARE
120. Worry in East Africa : TSETSE
121. Something to chew on : DOGTOY
122. Some see-through curtains : SHEERS
123. "Ni-i-i-ice!" : SWEET
Down
1. Common phobia source : GERMS
2. Overturn : UPSET
3. Omani money : RIALS
4. Powerful arm : UZI
5. What a "singleton" is, in baseball lingo : SOLOHOMER
6. City from which the U.S. moved its embassy in 2018 : TELAVIV
7. Big retailer of camping gear : REI
8. Middle-earth denizen : ENT
9. About : ASTO
10. Keep busy : TIEUP
11. Dr. Seuss title animal : YERTLE
12. Be a lousy bedmate, say : SNORE
13. Physicist Mach : ERNST
14. Little protestation : PEEP
15. "Ain't I somethin'?!" : TADA
16. Cabinet dept. : EDUC
17. Kind : TYPE
19. Is on the up and up? : ASCENDS
21. Part of a place setting : UTENSIL
23. Mom-and-pop org. : PTA
28. Followers of talks : QANDAS
31. "___ tu" (Verdi aria) : ERI
32. Chose not to : DIDNT
34. Whigs' opponents : TORIES
36. "Water, water, everywhere," per Coleridge : SEA
38. "You're in my spot!" : MOVE
39. Like an increasing amount of immigration to the U.S. nowadays : ASIAN
40. Rizzo in "Midnight Cowboy" : RATSO
41. More cunning : SLYER
42. The "r" of r = d/t : RATE
43. Kind of hygiene : ORAL
44. Experts in the field? : UMPS
45. Publisher's announcement : ITSOUT
46. Wet : RAINY
48. Visits a school, maybe : SCUBAS
49. Feeling with a deadline approaching : PANIC
52. Like carbon 12, but not carbon 14 : STABLE
55. Trip up : ERR
56. Intrinsically : ATROOT
60. Eyeball layer : SCLERA
61. Calif.'s 101, e.g. : RTE
62. Containing iron : FERRIC
65. Gung-ho : EAGER
66. Quick signatures, quickly : INITS
67. Grammy winner Corinne Bailey ___ : RAE
68. Poet who originated the phrase "harmony in discord" : HORACE
69. Apostle of Ireland, for short : STPAT
70. Lounges : LOAFS
71. Have because of : OWETO
76. Respond to a bumper sticker, maybe : HONK
77. Bill : NOTE
78. Lilac or lavender : ODOR
80. Section at a zoo : APES
81. Distant source of radio waves : PULSAR
82. "X" isn't really one : BRAND
83. Void : BLANKNESS
85. Wallop : CLOBBER
86. Org. founded under Nixon : EPA
88. General rule : PRECEPT
91. "Aw, nuts!" : FOO
92. Converts to binary, e.g. : ENCODES
95. Literally, "great O's" : OMEGAS
98. "Pretty slick!" : NEATO
99. Expression of dismay : OYVEY
100. "Gah!" : AARGH
102. Egg: Prefix : OVO
103. Join : UNITE
104. Have a feeling : SENSE
105. Bring into the world : BEGET
106. Truckful : LOAD
107. Computer command : UNDO
108. Problem for a plumber : CLOG
109. Remained fresh : KEPT
110. ___ chips (trendy snack food) : KALE
115. Scot's refusal : NAE
116. Scottie's warning : GRR
117. ___ Amsterdam (name on colonial maps) : NEW

Answer summary: 8 unique to this puzzle, 4 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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