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"S-Q'S ME!"

New York Times, Sunday, November 12, 2017

Author:
Ed Sessa
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
379/10/200710/16/20180
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
4967452
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.64251
Edward Sessa

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 ... read more

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.

1
G
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A
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M
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O
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V
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H
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M
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P
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L
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M
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A
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O
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V
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U
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B
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N
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M
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L
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Y
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G
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C
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Q
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A
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S
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H
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B
E
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E
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F
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A
P
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B
T
U
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T
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L
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W
A
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N
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E
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C
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S
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Q
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U
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A
W
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A
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H
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O
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N
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S
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T
A
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E
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K
U
R
D
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E
L
B
A
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T
O
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S
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D
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Y
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S
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H
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© 2017, The New York TimesNo. 1112 ( 24,841 )
Across
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
Down
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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