It looks like you're using an Ad Blocker. Please consider supporting our site by purchasing an account.
This web browser is not supported. Use Chrome, Edge, Safari, or Firefox for best results.

COUNTERPRODUCTIVE

New York Times, Sunday, November 19, 2017

Author:
Tom McCoy
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
3311/14/20139/29/20190
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
18815100
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.61362
Tom McCoy

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 ... read more

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 ... read more

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?)

1
S
2
T
3
A
4
T
5
S
6
H
7
O
8
P
9
I
10
N
11
S
12
N
13
L
14
S
15
L
16
A
17
P
18
A
R
D
O
R
19
W
A
S
H
O
E
20
T
E
A
21
T
A
T
E
22
M
I
D
N
I
23
G
H
T
H
O
U
R
24
E
V
I
25
T
A
B
L
E
26
E
L
M
O
27
L
O
H
A
N
28
D
29
I
V
E
R
S
G
O
A
L
30
L
E
A
31
F
E
D
32
E
33
I
S
N
E
R
34
P
E
R
S
E
35
V
I
E
36
N
37
O
I
R
38
M
O
M
39
A
40
E
E
R
41
O
42
C
43
E
A
N
44
T
A
R
T
A
45
R
E
46
O
N
47
M
48
A
R
S
49
V
O
T
I
N
50
G
A
G
E
I
N
A
M
51
E
R
I
C
A
52
E
V
A
L
53
O
R
S
O
N
54
N
O
D
E
55
G
R
56
A
57
D
58
E
59
R
E
L
60
N
L
E
61
O
K
R
A
62
R
I
P
L
E
Y
63
T
R
I
64
B
A
D
65
L
66
U
67
C
K
S
Y
M
68
B
O
L
69
I
L
E
70
I
M
A
71
F
A
N
72
A
P
E
S
73
O
W
L
74
B
U
S
75
P
E
E
L
E
76
H
I
S
S
77
T
78
U
79
L
S
A
80
I
A
G
O
81
A
R
82
G
O
N
S
A
83
T
O
M
I
C
N
84
U
M
B
E
R
85
R
86
A
N
S
O
M
87
T
R
O
U
P
E
S
88
B
L
A
D
E
89
D
E
R
90
V
E
91
T
O
92
U
C
S
D
93
C
E
O
94
E
L
I
95
S
96
E
97
M
O
R
98
I
T
A
99
C
A
R
V
100
E
101
R
102
R
E
A
L
L
103
O
O
K
E
R
104
N
105
A
106
D
A
L
107
I
D
E
108
S
109
M
A
N
A
L
I
V
E
110
A
111
N
S
W
E
R
L
112
E
N
G
T
H
113
I
S
N
T
114
L
I
N
115
T
O
A
R
M
S
116
T
I
A
R
A
117
S
E
A
S
118
Y
E
S
119
E
M
M
Y
S
120
S
T
R
O
M
© 2017, The New York TimesNo. 1119 ( 24,848 )
Across
1
Sports figures : STATS
6
Words said through a car window : HOPIN
11
The Land Shark's show, for short : SNL
14
Throw (together) : SLAP
18
Fervor : ARDOR
19
Reno's county : WASHOE
20
It may come hot or iced : TEA
21
___ Modern : TATE
22
This clue's 110-Across, timewise : MIDNIGHTHOUR
24
Not definitely going to happen : EVITABLE
26
Furry, red TV character : ELMO
27
Young actress who played two main characters in "The Parent Trap" : LOHAN
28
This clue's 110-Across, at the Olympics : DIVERSGOAL
30
Flipped (through) : LEAFED
32
Former executive with the same interior letters as his company : EISNER
34
As such : PERSE
35
Compete (for) : VIE
36
Opposite of blanc : NOIR
38
N.Y.C. attraction : MOMA
40
"I love her ten times more than ___ I did": Shak. : EER
41
Large amount : OCEAN
44
Steak ___ : TARTARE
46
End of the sci-fi film titles "First Man ..." and "Last Days ..." : ONMARS
49
This clue's 110-Across, as is relevant each November : VOTINGAGEINAMERICA
52
Assessment: Abbr. : EVAL
53
Mork's boss on "Mork & Mindy" : ORSON
54
Branching point : NODE
55
Leave one's mark? : GRADE
59
Bro or sis: Abbr. : REL
60
Phillies' div. : NLE
61
Staple of Southern cuisine : OKRA
62
One after whom a Times Square museum is named : RIPLEY
63
Prefix with -mester : TRI
64
This clue's 110-Across, to the superstitious : BADLUCKSYMBOL
69
Martinique, par exemple : ILE
70
Words of adulation : IMAFAN
72
Mimics : APES
73
Temple athlete : OWL
74
Clear, as a table : BUS
75
Jordan who directed "Get Out" : PEELE
76
Feline's warning : HISS
77
Home of Oral Roberts University : TULSA
80
Shakespearean plotter : IAGO
81
This clue's 110-Across, in chemistry : ARGONSATOMICNUMBER
85
Return fee? : RANSOM
87
Moving companies? : TROUPES
88
Unit of grass : BLADE
89
Article in a German paper : DER
90
Quash : VETO
92
State sch. on the Pacific Coast : UCSD
93
Co. leader : CEO
94
Beethoven dedicatee : ELISE
97
Pat of "The Karate Kid" : MORITA
99
Thanksgiving role : CARVER
102
This clue's 110-Across, in terms of attractiveness : REALLOOKER
104
2017 U.S. Open winner : NADAL
107
13th or 15th : IDES
109
"My word!" : MANALIVE
110
Something to count to understand 22-, 28-, 49-, 64-, 81- and 102-Across : ANSWERLENGTH
113
"___ It Romantic?" : ISNT
114
Designer Maya : LIN
115
Dramatic battle cry : TOARMS
116
Ornamental crown : TIARA
117
Rising concerns in modern times? : SEAS
118
"You rang?" : YES
119
Primetime ___ : EMMYS
120
Sen. Thurmond : STROM
Down
1
"Me too!!!" : SAME
2
Warble : TRILL
3
Snapchat request : ADDME
4
Uselessly : TONOAVAIL
5
___ Lanka : SRI
6
Has in an old form? : HATH
7
Labor agcy. : OSHA
8
Perform perfunctorily : PHONEITIN
9
Debt note : IOU
10
Certain high school clique : NERDS
11
One of the stuntmen on "Jackass" : STEVEO
12
Old-fashioned "That's absolutely the last time" : NEVERMORE
13
The Lonely Mountain, for Smaug : LAIR
14
Play place : STAGE
15
Worker : LABORER
16
Place holders? : ATLASES
17
Kitchen tool : PEELER
19
"___ have thought ..." : WHOD
23
Giddy happiness : GLEE
25
Recipe amt. : TSP
29
As far as one can recall : INMEMORY
31
Hero role in "The Force Awakens" : FINN
33
Country whose name is also a two-word sentence : IRAN
36
Badgers : NAGS
37
Crumbled froyo topping : OREO
39
Nickname for a young Darth Vader : ANI
41
Be really generous to a waiter : OVERTIP
42
Words before "I'm going in" : COVERME
43
List-ending phrase : ETALIAE
44
Weighed, in a way, as a container : TARED
45
Orders : RANKS
47
University in Montreal : MCGILL
48
Seniors' org. : AARP
50
___ Heights : GOLAN
51
Mild cheese : EDAM
56
Famous password stealer : ALIBABA
57
Inundated : DELUGED
58
Trash-filled lot, e.g. : EYESORE
60
Shooting stars? : NBAERS
61
Green lights : OKS
62
Mountain ash : ROWAN
65
Been in bed : LAIN
66
Shipping center : UPSSTORE
67
French film award : CESAR
68
Some pears : BOSCS
71
Custardy dessert : FLAN
76
Family Night entertainment : HOMEMOVIE
77
One with a large bill at breakfast? : TOUCANSAM
78
Ones stationed at home : UMPS
79
Told stories : LIED
80
McDonald's slogan introduced in 2003 : IMLOVINIT
82
URL ending : GOV
83
Push : TOUT
84
Ride option : UBER
85
Hollywood news : RELEASE
86
Businesswoman Huffington : ARIANNA
89
Layer of skin : DERMIS
91
Wooden nickels, e.g. : TOKENS
93
Give a ring : CALL
95
Blind parts : SLATS
96
Right-angle shape : ELL
98
Fit to be tied : IRATE
99
2006 film with massive profits in related toy sales : CARS
100
One of Mr. Poe's children in a Lemony Snicket book : EDGAR
101
Back in : RETRO
103
Oleaginous : OILY
105
Wrong : AWRY
106
Blue side, for short : DEMS
108
Fraud : SHAM
111
___ de guerre : NOM
112
French connections : ETS

Answer summary: 8 unique to this puzzle, 2 debuted here and reused later, 2 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

Found bugs or have suggestions?