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LANE CHANGES

New York Times, Sunday, November 5, 2017

Author:
Natan Last
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
287/17/20072/3/20196
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
6122098
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.60350
Natan Last

This puzzle:

Rows: 21, Columns: 21 Words: 142, Blocks: 76 Missing: {QX} This is puzzle # 23 for Mr. Last. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Natan Last notes:
This puzzle germinated during late nights spent dreaming under a mosquito net — I was in western Tanzania for work and it was recommended we stay in the compound at night, so I spent ... read more

This puzzle germinated during late nights spent dreaming under a mosquito net — I was in western Tanzania for work and it was recommended we stay in the compound at night, so I spent a lot of time with sci-fi e-books and blank grids and anti-malarial pills. Maybe also poetry — the Frost poem was definitely the seed, and earlier iterations of this puzzle focused equally on the "less traveled" and the "diverged" lines.

Initially I was looking for movies, songs, and literature pairs that had the word ROAD in them "diverging." (Here's a long boring explanation of that old, dream-fueled idea: imagine ROAD TO RIO across, then an additional OAD diagonally down from the R, then it picks up three rows down and finishes across with HOUSE, for the movie ROADHOUSE. The idea was to play on "less traveled" as less popular — ROADHOUSE as grossing less or having smaller audience numbers than ROAD TO RIO, or something). Anyway, that morphed into the idea you see now, with a nice steer from Joel on putting a black square after the "diverged" answer, since it should function as if it were its own entry.

Diagonal words always make filling tougher, and I'm happy with some of the pizzazz in the puzzle, but would've spent more time trying to avoid the glue, especially in the lower left. Hopefully the theme offers a fun aha moment, and hopefully you're as tickled by the descent of THE ROAD TO HELL as I am. Sad to see an Ed KOCH clue become Koch Industries, given the hellscape toward which companies like theirs have steered us.

Thanks to Will, Joel, Sam and all those who looked at early versions of this!

Jeff Chen notes:
Natan takes us on some ROADs NOT TAKEN, starting phrases with synonyms for 'street,' then veering off diagonally to form some other phrase (or word). My favorite by far was THE ROAD NOT ... read more

Natan takes us on some ROADs NOT TAKEN, starting phrases with synonyms for "street," then veering off diagonally to form some other phrase (or word). My favorite by far was THE ROAD NOT TAKEN splitting to form THE ROAD TO HELL — dropping diagonally down was especially apt for this one. Too bad HIGHWAY TO HEAVEN wasn't another one, rising up!

I found it a little odd that some synonyms for "street" were hidden or disguised, some not. ROAD was overt, as was PATH. DRIVE misdirected from its "street" meaning, as did DRAG. And WAY as part of WAYNES WORLD felt like an outlier. With just five themers, I would have preferred more consistency.

It's hard to work with splitting themers, those pesky diagonals causing so much trouble in filling. I can understand why Natan decided to keep it to five pairs, with one pair having a very short themer (PATHOS). But overall, it felt thin to me. Tough to execute on this type of theme — six or seven pairs would have felt much meatier, but that gets so much more difficult to do.

Natan did a fantastic job of working in bonus fill — check out all the GOD HELP US, ATTACK ADS, MEDIA BIAS, BELOW ZERO, I AM LEGEND, THE BEE GEES, SEAN PENN, (oh) NO YOU DIDN'T, BELLAGIO (this huge fan of "Ocean's 11" filled it in without a single crossing letter!). So much goodness! Almost felt like a juicily-packed themeless grid. Everywhere I went, there was some other fat entry that satisfied.

There was some ELKE, SLO, ATP, DEP, etc., but it didn't get to be enough to bother me. To have five pairs of themers, with diagonal entries, plus that huge amount of strong bonus fill, and keep your crossword glue to below average for a Sunday? That's great craftsmanship.

The theme didn't totally work for me, feeling a bit inconsistent and thin, but that central ROAD pairing was dynamite. Along with all the snazz in the fill, I wasn't quite on the highway to heaven, but certainly not on the road to hell.

1
M
2
S
3
N
4
S
5
U
6
C
7
R
8
O
9
S
10
E
11
B
12
I
13
G
14
T
15
A
16
L
17
K
18
O
H
O
19
U
P
A
H
E
A
D
20
M
E
D
I
A
B
I
A
21
S
22
W
A
Y
23
N
E
S
W
O
R
L
D
24
A
L
L
A
B
O
A
R
D
25
S
H
O
O
26
E
S
S
27
T
I
28
N
G
L
Y
29
A
U
R
A
S
30
U
S
31
F
L
32
S
E
E
Y
A
33
A
R
N
34
G
35
O
D
H
E
L
36
P
37
U
38
S
39
D
R
A
G
40
A
N
D
D
41
R
42
O
43
P
44
I
C
I
E
R
45
I
H
O
46
P
47
F
R
I
S
K
S
48
A
G
E
49
L
T
D
S
50
E
L
F
M
A
51
N
52
S
O
P
H
53
T
I
R
E
54
D
E
N
55
I
L
L
56
E
R
O
57
S
58
S
59
O
O
N
E
R
60
A
T
T
61
A
C
K
A
62
D
S
63
E
L
64
S
65
A
66
P
W
N
S
67
T
H
E
R
O
A
68
D
N
O
T
T
69
A
70
K
E
N
71
J
72
A
W
A
73
N
Y
E
T
74
U
P
H
O
L
S
75
T
76
E
77
R
78
L
A
B
A
T
79
T
80
P
R
81
O
B
82
W
C
S
83
H
U
E
84
A
F
A
R
85
H
86
A
87
S
88
P
89
Y
A
H
90
W
E
H
91
B
E
L
T
92
W
A
C
93
R
E
H
E
A
94
T
95
F
U
E
L
96
T
U
B
E
R
97
D
R
I
98
V
E
I
N
A
R
U
99
N
100
B
E
L
101
O
W
Z
E
R
O
102
A
C
R
103
N
O
N
O
104
S
105
L
A
Z
E
106
O
107
U
108
T
I
E
109
S
P
L
A
S
H
110
O
111
C
D
112
E
G
113
O
114
T
115
B
R
E
N
D
116
A
L
E
E
117
P
A
118
T
H
F
I
119
N
D
E
R
S
120
I
A
M
L
E
G
E
N
D
121
I
D
A
H
O
E
S
122
E
E
K
123
L
A
Y
D
O
W
N
124
N
E
R
I
S
S
A
125
S
O
S
© 2017, The New York TimesNo. 1105 ( 24,834 )
Across
1
Popular web portal : MSN
4
Sweet stuff : SUCROSE
11
Braggadocio : BIGTALK
18
"Well, well, well!" : OHO
19
Coming : UPAHEAD
20
Slant in columns : MEDIABIAS
22
1992 movie based on an "S.N.L." sketch ... or, diverged: Modus vivendi : WAYNESWORLD
24
Railroad line? : ALLABOARD
25
"Out!" : SHOO
26
Suffix with host : ESS
27
Like pins-and-needles feelings : TINGLY
29
Mystiques : AURAS
30
Defunct org. in which Donald Trump owned the New Jersey Generals : USFL
32
"Adios!" : SEEYA
33
"Prince Valiant" son : ARN
34
"We're doomed!" : GODHELPUS
39
Computer mouse action ... or, diverged: Event for RuPaul : DRAGANDDROP
44
Less friendly : ICIER
45
Blue-roofed eatery : IHOP
47
Gambols : FRISKS
48
Time to remember : AGE
49
Erstwhile Fords : LTDS
50
"The Simpsons Theme" composer Danny : ELFMAN
52
Many a frat pledge : SOPH
53
Become bored (of) : TIRE
54
___ mother : DEN
55
Scarcely : ILL
56
Freudian "will to live" : EROS
58
Better, to an impatient boss : SOONER
60
Spots likely to smear : ATTACKADS
63
Italian novelist Morante : ELSA
66
Destroys, in gamer-speak : PWNS
67
1916 Frost verse ... or, diverged: Start of a saying about meaning well : THEROADNOTTAKEN
71
"Star Wars" nomad : JAWA
73
Opposite of "da" : NYET
74
Put a cover on : UPHOLSTER
78
Molson rival : LABATT
80
"No ___!" : PROB
82
Heads overseas? : WCS
83
Coral, e.g. : HUE
84
A long way off : AFAR
85
Part of a treasure chest : HASP
89
Another form of "Jehovah" : YAHWEH
91
Big swig : BELT
92
W.W. II org. whose insignia featured Athena : WAC
93
Prepare, as leftovers : REHEAT
95
Fill-up filler : FUEL
96
Cassava, for one : TUBER
97
Bring someone home ... or, diverged: Common high school offering : DRIVEINARUN
100
Frigid : BELOWZERO
102
From l. to r. : ACR
103
Proscriptions : NONOS
105
Chill out : LAZE
106
"Button" that's plainly visible : OUTIE
109
Showy debut : SPLASH
110
A germophobe might have it, for short : OCD
112
Acronym for the four major entertainment awards : EGOT
115
Artist with the third most Top 40 hits in the 1960s, behind Elvis and the Beatles : BRENDALEE
117
Nissan S.U.V.s ... or, diverged: Emotional appeal : PATHFINDERS
120
Hit 2007 Will Smith film : IAMLEGEND
121
Some potatoes : IDAHOES
122
Comic strip cry : EEK
123
Establish, as rules : LAYDOWN
124
Gratiano's love in "The Merchant of Venice" : NERISSA
125
Line in the sand? : SOS
Down
1
Does course work? : MOWS
2
Bygone title : SHAH
3
Expression of shock at someone's actions : NOYOUDIDNT
4
Go after for redress : SUE
5
Try to induce a bigger purchase : UPSELL
6
Rookery cries : CAWS
7
Symbols of density : RHOS
8
Beyond, to bards : OER
9
Sea dogs : SALTS
10
Went for a whirl : EDDIED
11
Vegas casino robbed in "Ocean's Eleven" : BELLAGIO
12
Without purpose : IDLY
13
Supermodel Carangi : GIA
14
Armless coats that may bear coats of arms : TABARDS
15
Overflow (with) : ABOUND
16
Fabulist : LIAR
17
Russia's ___ Sea (arm of the Arctic Ocean) : KARA
20
Hungarians : MAGYARS
21
Activist youth org. : SDS
23
Snacks : NOSHES
28
Ball brand : NERF
31
La Dame de ___ (Eiffel Tower nickname) : FER
33
Sacred crosses : ANKHS
34
1946 femme fatale film : GILDA
35
Santa's reindeer, e.g. : OCTET
36
Monumental support : PILLAR
37
TV band : UHF
38
"Word on the street is ..." : SOMESAY
40
Deadly cobra : ASP
41
Wilson of "The Office" : RAINN
42
They might be giants : OGRES
43
Kind of review : PEER
46
The usual : PAR
50
Actress Sommer : ELKE
51
"Keep out" sign : NOENTRY
53
Burgs : TOWNS
55
Bygone Apple app : ICHAT
57
___-pitch : SLO
59
Autobahn autos : OPELS
61
Feuding : ATWAR
62
Syndicate head : DON
64
Online ticket exchange : STUBHUB
65
Chem. neurotransmitter : ATP
68
Sheriff's asst. : DEP
69
"Them's the breaks, I guess" : AHWELL
70
___ Industries (oil and gas giant) : KOCH
71
"Aladdin" villain : JAFAR
72
Summers back in the day? : ABACI
75
"How Deep Is Your Love" group : THEBEEGEES
76
"Introduction to the Analysis of the Infinite" writer : EULER
77
Cool again : RETRO
78
God, informally : LAWD
79
Gender-neutral possessive : THEIR
81
Lummox : OAF
86
Philip ___, first Asian-American film actor to get a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame : AHN
87
"Milk" star, 2008 : SEANPENN
88
Interrupted mid-sentence? : PAROLED
90
Like leprechauns : WEE
91
Tipsy : BUZZED
93
Shrank : RECEDED
94
Skipjack, e.g. : TUNA
96
Early flight inits. : TWA
98
For naught : VAINLY
99
Straight-talking : NOSPIN
101
Certain radio format : OLDIES
104
What you might sit in by the pool : SHADE
106
Kabuki sash : OBI
107
Territory in Risk : URAL
108
Motif for Verdi or Monteverdi : TEMA
109
Whole heap : SLEW
110
"Fancy seeing you here!" : OHHI
111
$$$ bigwigs : CFOS
113
Certain fro-yo add-in : OREO
114
Sounds of reproof : TSKS
116
Back : AGO
118
Besmirch : TAR
119
Eavesdropping org. : NSA

Answer summary: 12 unique to this puzzle, 5 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

Found bugs or have suggestions?