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# COUNTERPRODUCTIVE

## New York Times, Sunday, November 19, 2017

 Author: Tom McCoy Editor: Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
3011/14/201311/19/20170
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
15815100
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.61351

## This puzzle:

Rows: 21, Columns: 21 Words: 138, Blocks: 72 Missing: {JQXZ} This is puzzle # 30 for Mr. McCoy. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Notepad: The circled letters spell a bonus answer related to the puzzle's theme.
Tom McCoy notes: The idea for this puzzle came from reading the book 'Number Freak,' which is full of interesting facts about numbers. One of my favorite facts from the book was that 4 is the only number n that is n letters long. ... more
Tom McCoy notes:

The idea for this puzzle came from reading the book "Number Freak," which is full of interesting facts about numbers. One of my favorite facts from the book was that 4 is the only number n that is n letters long. For years, I've been toying with ways to turn that fact into a crossword theme, which finally resulted in today's puzzle.

I read that book about 8 years ago (well before I started constructing) and didn't look at it again until just now. Therefore, I was pleasantly surprised to realize that the author of the book is Derrick Niederman, a New York Times crossword constructor! Given that crosswords are mainly about wordplay, it's interesting how many constructors have a math background.

Originally I planned for the theme answers to be mathematical expressions such as THE SIXTH PRIME (13), TWO CUBED (8), or ONE THROUGH SIX SUMMED UP (21), but for the sake of variety I switched to the current theme, which uses numbers in non-mathematical contexts. I also considered cluing 110-Across as [This clue's 110-Across, for this clue], but I decided that would be a bit much. Thanks to the editing team for some other helpful tips that greatly improved the theme from my original submission!

Jeff Chen notes: Tom plays on ANSWER LENGTHS, giving us entries hinting at their own length. ARGONS ATOMIC NUMBER is … (taking off my shoes to count on my toes) … 18, which is the length of that answer. The MIDNIGHT ... more
Jeff Chen notes:

Tom plays on ANSWER LENGTHS, giving us entries hinting at their own length. ARGONS ATOMIC NUMBER is … (taking off my shoes to count on my toes) … 18, which is the length of that answer. The MIDNIGHT HOUR is 12, and MIDNIGHT HOUR has 12 letters.

I was confused as to why F O U R was circled in the grid. Were there four theme answers? Four ANSWER LENGTHs? Huh ... a-ha! FOUR seems to be the only number that contains exactly that number of letters. ONE has 3 letters, TWO has 3 letters, etc. Interesting piece of trivia.

(Another piece of trivia: what's the largest number that has nine letters in it? My answer below.)

I liked the in-the-language phrases like MIDNIGHT HOUR much more than the definitional VOTING AGE IN AMERICA things. But it's tough to find a snazzy phrase that contains exactly 18 letters, and also hints strongly at the number 18.

BAD LUCK SYMBOL … it does have the critical 13 letters, but it suffers from a definitional dryness. It also felt wonky. Not wrong, but I'm not sure how many people would call 13 a "symbol."

I enjoyed the McCoyan touches, NERDS as a high school clique, LAIR giving Smaug's Lonely Mountain, etc. It's fun to know something about the constructor and his/her personality reflected in the grid.

A couple more blips in the grid than I'm used to in a McCoy puzzle. ON MARS , s a verboten six-letter partial? Say it ain't so! NLE isn't really used in real life, and even though NBAERS is (in headlines), man does it seem weird.

Then again, with a very small amount of crossword glue overall, it just goes to show what a high bar Tom has set for himself.

Overall, I liked the concept of the ANSWER LENGTHs hinting at the entry's content, but I would have liked a few more sizzlers. Even as a chemistry wonk, I wasn't too interested in counting out ARGONS ATOMIC NUMBER. And darn it, I feel like I should have known it off the top of my head!

(My answer: TEN GOOGOL. Can anyone do better?)

 1S 2T 3A 4T 5S 6H 7O 8P 9I 10N 11S 12N 13L 14S 15L 16A 17P 18A R D O R 19W A S H O E 20T E A 21T A T E 22M I D N I 23G H T H O U R 24E V I 25T A B L E 26E L M O 27L O H A N 28D 29I V E R S G O A L 30L E A 31F E D 32E 33I S N E R 34P E R S E 35V I E 36N 37O I R 38M O M 39A 40E E R 41O 42C 43E A N 44T A R T A 45R E 46O N 47M 48A R S 49V O T I N 50G A G E I N A M 51E R I C A 52E V A L 53O R S O N 54N O D E 55G R 56A 57D 58E 59R E L 60N L E 61O K R A 62R I P L E Y 63T R I 64B A D 65L 66U 67C K S Y M 68B O L 69I L E 70I M A 71F A N 72A P E S 73O W L 74B U S 75P E E L E 76H I S S 77T 78U 79L S A 80I A G O 81A R 82G O N S A 83T O M I C N 84U M B E R 85R 86A N S O M 87T R O U P E S 88B L A D E 89D E R 90V E 91T O 92U C S D 93C E O 94E L I 95S 96E 97M O R 98I T A 99C A R V 100E 101R 102R E A L L 103O O K E R 104N 105A 106D A L 107I D E 108S 109M A N A L I V E 110A 111N S W E R L 112E N G T H 113I S N T 114L I N 115T O A R M S 116T I A R A 117S E A S 118Y E S 119E M M Y S 120S T R O M
© 2017, The New York TimesNo. 1119 ( 24,848 )