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New York Times, Monday, November 20, 2017

Author: Peter Gordon
Editor: Will Shortz
Peter Gordon
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1029/5/198911/20/20170
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1.5891611
Puzzle of the Week

This puzzle:

Rows: 16, Columns: 15 Words: 79, Blocks: 36 Missing: {QXZ} Spans: 2 This is puzzle # 102 for Mr. Gordon. Jeff Chen's Puzzle of the Week pick. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Peter Gordon notes: I can't recall what the phrase was that gave me this theme. It might have been KANGAROO COURT. Whatever it was, I saw it and ... more
Peter Gordon notes:

I can't recall what the phrase was that gave me this theme. It might have been KANGAROO COURT. Whatever it was, I saw it and thought it was interesting because it was alliterative but the two words started with different letters. I wondered if there were others like that. I thought of ones like KNITTING NEEDLE and SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGY, but those seemed cheap since the K and P are silent. I wanted ones where the opening consonants didn't have any repeats. The only ones I could think of that worked were G/J, PH/F, C/S, and K/C. The Z/X possibility led nowhere. Too bad this ZEBRA XYLOPHONE isn't better known.

The puzzle needed a revealer, but ALLITERATION (or ALLITERATIVE) is 12 letters, a bad length. If it's at the bottom, it has to go in Row 12, which squeezes everything too much toward the middle. That's when I thought of putting ALLITERATIVE down the middle of a 15x16, and having the other theme answers crossing it.

Jeff Chen notes: Love this concept, two-word phrases that sound like ALLITERATION but don't start with the same letter. I've looked at the phrase ... more
Jeff Chen notes:

Love this concept, two-word phrases that sound like ALLITERATION but don't start with the same letter. I've looked at the phrase PHOTO FINISH so many times in my life, but I've never realized that those two words are alliterative! Same with CAESAR SALAD. Very cool finds.

GENTLEMAN JOHNNY wasn't as much an everyday phrase, but it's such a great nickname.

KELLYANNE CONWAY didn't do it as much for me. Nice to have someone current and topical, but oof, does she bring up some ickiness for me. More importantly, I can imagine some solvers wondering how on earth Kelly, Anne, and Conway could be a triplet of alliteration. Felt like there might have been better options for a fourth themer.

I'm usually not that impressed by themer interlock, but I like what Peter did today. Something so elegant about the themers running through that ALLITERATION backbone. It does give away the game very quickly, as most solvers will read the ALLITERATION clue shortly after starting. But that was okay with me since even after reading it, I didn't understand the concept until solving two or three themers.

I enjoyed the theme so much that I gave this the POW! ... even though I think the grid is not right for a Monday. Not at all novice friendly. As a mechanical engineer, the first time I ever ran across MHO was through crosswords. DCV is pretty ugly (Peter and I have very different perspectives on random Roman numerals, though). The HEEP / LOGE crossing might prevent some newer solvers from a clean finish. And I can imagine novices bringing up the "you have to know weird esoteric stuff in order to do crosswords" argument with ANAPEST and TETCHY.

The theme is meaty enough, with hardish themers that felt more mid-weekish too. A real shame it was run on a Monday, where it might scare off newer solvers.

Not sure what the right answer is. It could have been Monday-ified by breaking up ANAPEST / STEERED into two words apiece, or losing some of the great bonuses, like IVORY TOWER and AB NEGATIVE. But I enjoyed those last two a lot.

Overall though, the idea was memorable, and that's hard to come by. POW!

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© 2017, The New York TimesNo. 1120 ( 24,849 )
Across Down
1. Three-syllable foot, as in "bada-bing" : ANAPEST
8. Hosp. diagnostic procedure that's noninvasive : MRI
11. Cavity filler's deg. : DDS
14. German measles : RUBELLA
15. Patronizes a restaurant : EATSOUT
17. Nickname of Gen. Burgoyne in the American Revolution : GENTLEMANJOHNNY
19. "Your turn," to a walkie-talkie user : OVER
20. Source of fresh water : WELL
21. Valentine's Day flower : ROSE
22. Parts of psyches : EGOS
24. Skills that no one knows anymore : LOSTARTS
27. College fund-raiser targets : ALUMNI
30. Sound after snap and crackle : POP
31. Law : ACT
33. End of a close race : PHOTOFINISH
38. Ante matter? : CHIP
40. Cookie cooker : OVEN
41. "Drove my Chevy to the ___ ..." ("American Pie" lyric) : LEVEE
42. Bit of turf on a golf course : DIVOT
44. St. Louis landmark : ARCH
46. High-priced theater section : LOGE
47. Dish made with romaine lettuce, croutons and Parmesan cheese : CAESARSALAD
50. Busta Rhymes's music : RAP
51. ___ Lanka : SRI
52. Irritable : TETCHY
54. Sombrero-wearing musician : MARIACHI
58. Animal docs : VETS
60. United ___ Emirates : ARAB
61. Exclamations during eclipses : OOHS
64. Actress Skye : IONE
66. Coiner of the phrase "alternative facts" : KELLYANNECONWAY
70. Taking a sabbatical, e.g. : ONLEAVE
71. "Le Misanthrope" playwright : MOLIERE
72. "You don't ___!" : SAY
73. Anthem writer Francis Scott ___ : KEY
74. Had the helm : STEERED
1. Jason's ship, in myth : ARGO
2. Cuatro + cinco : NUEVE
3. Rare blood type : ABNEGATIVE
4. Gas sold by the litre : PETROL
5. Right-angled joint : ELL
6. Seattle ___ (1977 Triple Crown horse) : SLEW
7. Domesticated : TAME
8. ___ Park, N.J. : MENLO
9. Indian character on "The Big Bang Theory" : RAJ
10. Midori who lit the torch at the Nagano Olympics : ITO
11. Blood drive participant : DONOR
12. Actress Kirsten : DUNST
13. Eye woes : STYES
16. Henry ___, British Army officer who invented the exploding shell : SHRAPNEL
18. What 17-, 33-, 47- and 66-Across exhibit, despite appearances to the contrary : ALLITERATION
23. "How's it goin'?" : SUP
25. Letters before a number on a beach bottle : SPF
26. Work like a dog : TOIL
28. Unit of conductance : MHO
29. Suddenly bright stars : NOVAS
31. Electrically flexible : ACDC
32. ___ Pet (kitschy gift) : CHIA
34. Frère of un père : ONCLE
35. Place sheltered from worldly realities : IVORYTOWER
36. Game company that created Sonic the Hedgehog : SEGA
37. Dickens's Uriah ___ : HEEP
39. Part of A.S.A.P. : POSSIBLE
43. "Gone With the Wind" plantation : TARA
45. Sombrero, e.g. : HAT
48. Ocasek of the Cars : RIC
49. 605, in ancient Rome : DCV
53. Keister : HEINIE
54. Powerful sharks : MAKOS
55. Ice show setting : ARENA
56. Political campaign event : RALLY
57. Bees' production : HONEY
59. Small drum : SNARE
62. Clothes lines? : HEMS
63. Edinburgh native : SCOT
65. Observed closely : EYED
67. Tibetan ox : YAK
68. N.Y.C.'s Madison ___ : AVE
69. Bullring cheer : OLE

Answer summary: 3 unique to this puzzle, 1 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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