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"S-Q'S ME!"

New York Times, Sunday, November 12, 2017

Author: Ed Sessa
Editor: Will Shortz
Edward Sessa
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
369/10/200711/12/20170
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4957452
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.64251

This puzzle:

Rows: 21, Columns: 21 Words: 140, Blocks: 72 Missing: {JXZ} This is puzzle # 36 for Mr. Sessa. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Jeff Chen notes: Funny, punny title, S-Q'S ME describing the concept perfectly. Basic sound changes don't do a lot for me in general since we've seen so many of them, but there's something entertaining about the SQU- sound. (I'm ... more
Jeff Chen notes:

Funny, punny title, S-Q'S ME describing the concept perfectly. Basic sound changes don't do a lot for me in general since we've seen so many of them, but there's something entertaining about the SQU- sound. (I'm easily amused. Must be the sleep deprivation.)

Some great themers, too, Ed on my humor wavelength. "Winter's Tale" to SQUINTERS TALE, a biopic about Mr. Magoo? Yes! A pig seller as a SQUEALER DEALER (from "wheeler-dealer")? Comedy gold. I was a Woody Woodpecker fan as a kid, so SQUIRRELY BIRD also did it for me. And the old ad tagline, "Where's the beef?" changed to SQUARES THE BEEF = hilarious! Great stuff.

Not all of them tickled me. As much as I like the concept of wormholes, and how colorful that phrase is, SQUIRM HOLES only elicited a shrug from me. SQUISH LISTS was better, but it didn't make me smile as much as SQUAWKATHONS.

And SQUANDER LUST … that felt too tortured for my taste. Humor is subjective. At least to this anal grammarian!

I think "less is more" would have been better here, as the weaker themers diluted the impact of the fantastic ones. The relatively high theme density also came with a cost in terms of gridwork. The grid is pretty good as far as Sundays go, but it could have shined by paring down to just the themer gems.

For example, look at the SW corner. ERECTILE, TAUTENED, SPENDERS, URI GELLER, MORAINE, THE SKY (isn't that a six-letter partial?) ... they're all fine, more or less, but none of them are super exciting (unless you're a mentalist). Without SQUIRMHOLES and SQUISH LISTS taking up real estate on the sides of the puzzle, Ed could have opened those sections up and repositioned some black squares into the SW / NE corners. Would have allowed him to add some real pizzazz.

The NW and SE could have used a couple of extra black squares to facilitate better fill, too. Kicking off the puzzle with INQ (inq … uiry? really?) and FEU isn't great, along with FEU CRU. EWW!

But overall, I thought Ed did a good job executing on a basic sound change concept. And it's quite possible that some solvers will laugh uproariously at SQUISH LISTS, so maybe Ed made the right trade-offs. The grid is certainly passable as is. Just a shame that it didn't sing as much as it could have.

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© 2017, The New York TimesNo. 1112 ( 24,841 )
Across Down
1. Philbin's onetime morning co-host : GIFFORD
8. Equality-promoting org. : ACLU
12. Those who believe everything has a spirit : ANIMISTS
20. Off base : INERROR
21. Small songbird : WREN
22. Patronized a restaurant : DINEDOUT
23. Prodigality? : SQUANDERLUST
25. Emmy-winning actor on "The West Wing" : ALANALDA
26. Spinny pool shot : MASSE
27. Direct (toward) : ORIENT
29. Part of many German names : VON
30. "Ready?" response : IMSET
33. Hog seller? : SQUEALERDEALER
38. Chefs' hats : TOQUES
40. Corp. budget item : RANDD
41. 1969 self-titled jazz album : ELLA
42. Salad alternative : SOUP
43. Trouble maker : HASBRO
46. Depend (on) : RELY
48. Letters of warning on internet sites : NSFW
52. Radiologist's tool, for short : MRI
53. Cigar City, so-called on account of a former major industry : TAMPA
54. A part of Life? : OAT
55. Irritate : PIQUE
56. Suffix with market : EER
57. Mr. Magoo biopic? : SQUINTERSTALE
62. Actress Thurman : UMA
63. N.Y.C. subway letters : MTA
65. High school sweethearts : STEADIES
66. "___ said ..." : EASIER
68. Birthplace of Emily Dickinson : AMHERST
71. Sloppy sort : PIG
72. Roadblock : IMPASSE
73. Canadian coin, informally : LOONIE
74. Like rebate coupons, typically : MAILEDIN
78. "How cool!" : OOH
79. Actor Kilmer : VAL
80. Cuckoo or dodo? : SQUIRRELYBIRD
83. Locale for a flock : LEA
86. Nonreactive : INERT
88. Abbr. in a military title : RET
89. Dark times, informally : NITES
90. Trickster : IMP
91. Mariner's org. : NASA
92. Small : MINI
93. Resembling down : FLOSSY
95. General ___ chicken : TSOS
96. Buccaneer's quaff : GROG
98. Was on a crowded bus, say : STOOD
100. Soprano Renata : SCOTTO
102. Prepares cube steak? : SQUARESTHEBEEF
107. Altar sites : APSES
108. A/C stat : BTU
109. Gay who wrote "Frank Sinatra Has a Cold" : TALESE
110. "I ___ talking to you!" : WASNT
112. The "E" of E.D. : ERECTILE
114. All-day gripe sessions? : SQUAWKATHONS
121. Like a rope in tug of war : TAUTENED
122. Northern Iraqi : KURD
123. Alter ego on "The Simpsons" : ELBARTO
124. Tightwads' opposites : SPENDERS
125. Hungers : YENS
126. Questionable : SKETCHY
1. Ones in a mess, informally : GIS
2. Question: Abbr. : INQ
3. Pot-au-___ (French stew) : FEU
4. Basis of the plot of "Gone Girl" : FRAMEUP
5. Like Corinthian columns : ORNATE
6. Bacilli shapes : RODS
7. Habiliments : DRESS
8. Cobbler's tool : AWL
9. Vineyard designation : CRU
10. ___ Cayes (Haitian port) : LES
11. Not related? : UNTOLD
12. Gilbert who wrote "Love and Death on Long Island" : ADAIR
13. Rosetta Stone discovery site : NILEDELTA
14. In a senseless way : INANELY
15. Deranged, in slang : MENTAL
16. Polish movie named Best Foreign Language Film of 2014 : IDA
17. Work out : SOLVE
18. Henry VII's house : TUDOR
19. Lee who co-created the Avengers : STAN
24. Not an elective: Abbr. : REQ
28. Flower colored by Aphrodite's blood, in myth : REDROSE
30. "You know who this is" : ITSME
31. "A Visit From St. Nicholas" poet : MOORE
32. Ways out of embarrassing situations? : SQUIRMHOLES
34. Polished : URBANE
35. It may have a ring to it : EAR
36. Enero a diciembre : ANO
37. Civil rights activist Guinier : LANI
39. Laker legend with a size 22 sneaker, informally : SHAQ
44. Something absolutely necessary : AMUST
45. Fast-paced two-player card game : SPIT
47. Munchies, say : EATS
49. Enumerations of things to be sat on? : SQUISHLISTS
50. Is plenty angry : FUMES
51. Song words before "the World" and "the Champions" : WEARE
53. Like pre-1917 Russia : TSARIST
55. Green shells : PEAPODS
58. Animal with a flexible snout : TAPIR
59. Early title for Julius Caesar : EDILE
60. Brightest star in Orion : RIGEL
61. Apollo 11's Eagle, for short : LEM
64. What Lionel Messi wears : TEN
67. Brazil's ___ Bernardo do Campo : SAO
68. Choreographer Ailey : ALVIN
69. 2016 film set in Polynesia : MOANA
70. Et ___ (footnote abbr.) : SEQ
72. Document certifiers, for short : INITS
74. Countenance : MIEN
75. Sorting category on iTunes : ARTISTS
76. Vacuum tube component : DYNODE
77. Cousin of a spoonbill : IBIS
81. Alleged psychic exposed by the Amazing Randi : URIGELLER
82. Co-authors Margret and H. A. : REYS
84. Theatricalize : EMOTE
85. Lhasa ___ (dogs) : APSOS
87. "Old World Style" pasta sauce brand : RAGU
92. Glacial deposit : MORAINE
93. Opposition : FOE
94. Easy question : LOB
95. "I dare you to do better!" : TOPTHAT
97. Snitched on, with "out" : RATTED
99. Lucy's place, in a Beatles song : THESKY
101. "Impossible!" : CANTBE
102. Leash, e.g. : STRAP
103. Line (up) : QUEUE
104. Ones on the outsides of brackets : SEEDS
105. "Yuck!" : EWW
106. Forgeries : FAKES
108. Pot growers? : BETS
111. Kind of vaccine : SALK
113. Cardboard container: Abbr. : CTN
115. "___ pasa?" : QUE
116. Decorative garden item : URN
117. Source of much of Google's income : ADS
118. Fictional creature made from heat and slime : ORC
119. Unspecified degree : NTH
120. ___ milk : SOY

Answer summary: 11 unique to this puzzle, 5 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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