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THREE-PEAT

New York Times, Sunday, November 8, 2015

Author: Tracy Gray
Editor: Will Shortz
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249/8/20106/12/20185
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6245610
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1.60431
Tracy Gray

This puzzle:

Rows: 21, Columns: 21 Words: 138, Blocks: 64 Missing: {QV} This is puzzle # 15 for Ms. Gray. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Tracy Gray notes: Sometimes, you just need one word to get your crossword constructing juices flowing. For me, that word was 'MISSISSIPPI,' the letters of which were spelled out big and bold on a TV ad I saw last March. I ... more
Tracy Gray notes:

Sometimes, you just need one word to get your crossword constructing juices flowing. For me, that word was "MISSISSIPPI," the letters of which were spelled out big and bold on a TV ad I saw last March. I immediately noticed the repeated, consecutive three-letter strings in M(ISS)(ISS)IPPI and wondered if there were other words with the same pattern. Up until then, however, my search queries had all been simple — using letters, asterisks, and question marks.

Fortunately, my Google searches led me to the Regex Dictionary and I found the following formula: ($c$c$v)\1 — and then I just interchanged the "c's" (consonants) and "v's" (vowels) within the same formula to find more words using the on-line Regex Dictionary and also the one found on XWord Info. Surprisingly, there were not a lot of single words with this pattern so I was happy to be able to find nine such words to incorporate into phrases for a Sunday puzzle.

Although I did come up with my concept and title independently, I discovered during my word searches that John Farmer's 10/16/2014 NYT puzzle had the same basic concept, except his repeated three-letter strings were at the end of one word and the beginning of another (e.g. SCARLETTER). Therefore, I felt confident that my "original" theme idea was still unique and was thrilled that Will and Joel apparently felt the same way.

Construction-wise, however, they were less than thrilled with my original grid, saying it was overly segmented with too many 4 and 5-letter words. Of the 140 words I had in the original grid, 111 words were 3's (22), 4's (44), and 5's (45). By shortening two of my theme entries and moving some black squares around, I was able to open up the grid and reduce the number of 3, 4, and 5's to 81 words out of 138, and add some longer, more interesting fill.

Hope you enjoy my second solo Sunday puzzle!

Jeff Chen notes: Theme phrases with three letters repeated, thus THREE-PEATs. Hopefully the NYT won't get a legal notice from Pat Riley, who trademarked the 'three-peat' term in anticipation of his Lakers winning their third title ... more
Jeff Chen notes:

Theme phrases with three letters repeated, thus THREE-PEATs. Hopefully the NYT won't get a legal notice from Pat Riley, who trademarked the "three-peat" term in anticipation of his Lakers winning their third title in a row. (They failed, ha!)

Pat Riley cheering on today's THREE-PEAT

I had seen some of these before, most notably MISSISSIPPI turned into MISS(ISS)IPPI, but Tracy found a couple nice ones. Obviously, CHEN REPUBLIC is my favorite. (My reign of power over the aforementioned country is a bit tenuous these days, what with a one-year old.) I couldn't quite figure out what the base answer was, so finally uncovering CHECHEN REPUBLIC (another name for Chechnya) was a neat moment.

I would have liked more of those neat moments, ones that really disguised the base phrase. It was a real challenge to figure out ENTE(NTE) CORDIALE for example, and I very much enjoyed that struggle. The rest came a bit too easily. I ran a quick query on my personal wordlist and came up with a few that could have been more challenging to uncover:

  • BAR(BAR)Y PIRATES
  • BEST (EST)IMATES
  • COWBOYS AND I(NDI)ANS
  • FEATHERS ONES (NES)T
  • IT ALL MAKES SEN(SE N)OW
  • NEAR (EAR)TH ORBIT
  • PICKED UP THE C(HEC)K
  • UC SANTA BAR(BAR)A

Some people pooh-pooh the idea of using coding to help with a crossword theme, but I'm all for it.

I liked a lot of the longer fill Tracy used. SMARTPHONE and TOUCH AND GO make a great pair of long downs, and AT LEISURE and RAN RAGGED add color as well.

You might wonder why some short gluey words like ODA, ELENI, OTARU, ADITS, NOLI, and LAH appear in crosswords. They are undesirable to see in modern crosswords, but they're also so useful in building a grid. Note 1.) all the common letters and 2.) the alternating consonant vowel patterns — both of these qualities make it so tempting to use these types of entries in assembling a grid. I wouldn't have minded a little less good long fill in order to cut out some of these gluey bits.

A fun solve, and my defeat of the two themers which put up a struggle was satisfying.

JimH notes: Regular Expressions are a powerful way to find patterns like this and the XWord Info Finder supports them. See all the "three-peats" in our database with this regex query: (\w\w\w)\1. (The \w means "any letter".)
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© 2015, The New York TimesNo. 1108 ( 24,106 )
Across Down
1. Pushovers : PATSIES
8. Horn of Africa native : SOMALI
14. Pushed forward, as a crowd : SURGED
20. Wellesley grads : ALUMNAE
21. "Same here!" : IDOTOO
22. Paternally related : AGNATE
23. 1982 Arnold Schwarzenegger film : CONANTHEBARBARIAN
25. Vintner Paul who would "sell no wine before its time" : MASSON
26. Knot on a tree : KNAR
27. ___ of the earth : ENDS
28. Like a chestnut : OLD
29. ___ Joaquin, Calif. : SAN
30. Fell for an April fool, say : BIT
31. Verses with six stanzas : SESTINAS
33. Bringer of peace between nations : ENTENTECORDIALE
36. ___ qué (why: Sp.) : POR
37. NPR host Shapiro : ARI
38. Worked to the bone : RANRAGGED
39. State bordering Texas : CHIHUAHUAMEXICO
45. Actress Pflug of "M*A*S*H" : JOANN
46. Dummy : DODO
47. Wishing sites : WELLS
48. Author who inspired the musical "Wicked" : BAUM
50. Chiwere-speaking tribe : OTOE
54. Bygone office worker : STENO
56. 65 or so : DEE
57. Rose buds? : CINCINNATIREDS
60. Spruce up : NEATEN
62. Op-Ed columnist Maureen : DOWD
63. Spanish airline : IBERIA
64. Met, as a legislature : SAT
66. Jason Bourne and others : TRAINEDASSASSINS
70. Big name in outdoor and fitness gear : REI
71. 2014 land-grab : CRIMEA
73. Draft picks? : OXEN
74. Tarzan's simian sidekick : CHEETA
76. Salad bar bowlful : ALFALFASPROUTS
79. Kung ___ chicken : PAO
80. Constellation next to Scorpius : NORMA
83. Stephen of "Ben-Hur" : BOYD
84. Alternative media magazine founder : UTNE
85. Pep : OOMPH
87. Some "Fast and the Furious" maneuvers, slangily : UIES
88. Opening of a Hawaiian volcano? : MAUNA
91. Some auto auctions' inventory : REPOSSESSEDCARS
94. Unhurriedly : ATLEISURE
98. One calling the shots, for short? : REF
99. "Well, ___-di-dah!" : LAH
100. Land in the Caucasus : CHECHENREPUBLIC
102. Deli sandwich filler : HAMSALAD
107. New ___ (official cap maker of Major League Baseball) : ERA
108. Wares: Abbr. : GDS
109. Wite-Out manufacturer : BIC
110. Caps : LIDS
111. ___ me tangere (warning against meddling) : NOLI
112. Costner/Russo golf flick : TINCUP
114. Chocolaty Southern dessert : MISSISSIPPIMUDPIE
117. Climate-affecting current : ELNINO
118. How some people break out on Broadway : INSONG
119. Trig calculation : TANGENT
120. Div. for the Mets : NLEAST
121. It may be filled with bullets : AGENDA
122. Catches some Z's : SNOOZES
1. Fills to capacity : PACKS
2. How you can't sing a duet : ALONE
3. Yellowfin and bluefin : TUNAS
4. Cell that has multiplied? : SMARTPHONE
5. Place to retire : INN
6. Like sushi or ceviche : EATENRAW
7. ___ knot, rug feature : SEHNA
8. Some bunk bed sharers, for short : SIBS
9. Concubine's chamber : ODA
10. Half-baked : MORONIC
11. Slanting : ATILT
12. Caterpillar machine : LOADER
13. It comes with a charge : ION
14. Iraqi city on the Tigris : SAMARRA
15. Like one side of Lake Victoria : UGANDAN
16. Ones calling the shots, for short? : RNS
17. Chatterbox : GASBAG
18. Ballet headliner : ETOILE
19. Slightly depressed : DENTED
24. Workers on Times tables, briefly? : EDS
29. California wine region : SONOMA
32. Bread substitute? : IOU
33. Second-largest dwarf planet : ERIS
34. Cuisine that includes cracklins and boudin : CAJUN
35. Turn a blind eye to : IGNORE
37. One spinning its wheels? : AXLE
39. Some I.R.A.s : CDS
40. All the rage : HOT
41. Pinpoint : IDENTIFY
42. Greek sorceress : MEDEA
43. Nicholas Gage memoir : ELENI
44. Anakin's master in "Star Wars" : OBIWAN
49. Bridge words : ANDS
51. Amateur botanists' projects : TERRARIA
52. Yellow dog in the funnies : ODIE
53. Morales of HBO's "The Brink" : ESAI
55. John in the Songwriters Hall of Fame : OATES
57. Writes in C++, say : CODES
58. Utensil's end : TINE
59. "A Doll's House" playwright : IBSEN
61. Lawyer's clever question, say : TRAP
62. Showtime crime drama, 2006-13 : DEXTER
64. One who has crossed the line? : SCAB
65. Janis's husband in the funnies : ARLO
67. Rock, paper or scissors : NOUN
68. Phishing lures : SCAMS
69. Places for links? : IHOPS
72. Hit AMC series that ended with a Coca-Cola ad : MADMEN
75. Iffy : TOUCHANDGO
77. Immediately preceding periods : RUNUPS
78. Hokkaido port : OTARU
79. Magician's word : POOF
81. "La ___" (Debussy opus) : MER
82. Dunderhead : ASS
85. Intl. group headquartered in Vienna : OPEC
86. One at the wheel : HELMSMAN
89. Pellet shooters : AIRGUNS
90. Got high, in a way : USEDPOT
92. Vinland explorer circa A.D. 1000 : ERICSON
93. Opponents for Perry Mason, for short : DAS
94. Winning blackjack pair : ACETEN
95. Send : THRILL
96. Romance novelist Banks : LEANNE
97. Going out : EBBING
101. Dutch town known for tulip tourism : LISSE
102. Au courant : HIP
103. Miners' entries : ADITS
104. Ruy ___ (chess opening) : LOPEZ
105. Skirt style : ALINE
106. Nutritionists' prescriptions : DIETS
110. Grp. of teed-off women? : LPGA
113. Snoop group, in brief : CIA
114. POW/___ bracelet (popular 1970s wear) : MIA
115. Neither red nor blue?: Abbr. : IND
116. Tres menos dos : UNO

Answer summary: 6 unique to this puzzle.

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