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New York Times, Thursday, December 20, 2018

Author:
Ruth Bloomfield Margolin
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
92/26/201412/20/20180
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
3013200
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.50100
Ruth B. Margolin

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 72, Blocks: 38 Missing: {JQVXZ} Minimum word length: 2 Grid has repeated answers This is puzzle # 9 for Ms. Margolin. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Ruth B. Margolin notes:
It took a while for this one to come together. I was trying to place NONOS in the lower right corner, but I couldn't get it to work. ... read more

It took a while for this one to come together. I was trying to place NONOS in the lower right corner, but I couldn't get it to work. It wasn't until I played with putting it in the center that I came up with the idea of splitting it into NO and NO, thereby not only creating impermissibly short entries, but also impermissibly identical entries. Clear NONOS — perfect!

I first submitted the puzzle with FAULT INSURANCE [Second serve in tennis, essentially], but I hadn't realized that "no-fault" was hyphenated. That entry was deemed inconsistent with the others, and so LAUGHING MATTER was born.

Along the way, I enjoyed chuckling over such options as ROOM TO SWING A CAT [Dance hall with a jazz band?], CHILD LEFT BEHIND ["Home Alone" plot?], and MORE MR NICE GUY [Dr. Jekyll's thwarted goal?].

I also took particular delight in finally working TYPO into a puzzle. I had long ago come up with the clue that I loved [An aye for an eye, say?], and I have been trying to squeeze the word into a puzzle ever since. Of course I'm really glad that the editing team liked my clue — and kept it!

I hope the puzzle gave you an enjoyable break from the rest of life's tumult. Now on with the day!

Jeff Chen notes:
I love it when constructors break crossword rules, for a purposeful reason. Having two-letter words is a big no-no, so I laughed when ... read more

I love it when constructors break crossword rules, for a purposeful reason. Having two-letter words is a big no-no, so I laughed when encountering the two two-letter words today – NO and NO. Wait! Duplicating words in a grid is another big NO NO. Ha, that's doubly clever!

Humor is so subjective. Removing the NOs from famous phrases wasn't quite a LAUGHING MATTER for me, as the results weren't different enough from their base phrases. I get that they are opposite because they're missing the NO. But MAN IS AN ISLAND was the only one where meanings vastly changed. I liked Ruth's original themers much better, especially ROOM TO SWING A CAT!

(There have been two recent puzzles riffing on NO MAN IS AN ISLAND, so I would have loved to see more space between those and today's.)

I'm not a huge fan of trying to go down to low word counts for Thursday puzzles. I get why Will encourages this – it makes the puzzle much harder to solve, which is appropriate for a Thursday – but the price of ANCY ALEE ANON SST NHRA SYST YSER ROOD … no laughing matter, indeed.

I did appreciate the bonuses of SCENIC AREA and FINEST HOUR. RACE DAY and ON A WHIM, too. But breaking up FINEST HOUR at the S might have been a finer choice, allowing for cleaner gridwork. I bet it'd also allow for some more jazziness in the AMOUNTS and LARGEST slots.

It's a neat concept, breaking not just one but two crossword rules, perfectly. I would have liked more audacity in the theme though — perhaps taking out NOs from middles of entries in more surprising ways? And a little less audacity in the gridwork.

Jim Horne notes:
Two-letter answers were common in Margaret Farrar's day. They disappeared from the NYT crosswords in 1952, until Patrick Merrell broke ... read more

Two-letter answers were common in Margaret Farrar's day. They disappeared from the NYT crosswords in 1952, until Patrick Merrell broke the two-letter ban and nine other rules in this memorable 2004 puzzle. Joe Krozel gave us eight two-letter State abbreviations in 2008. In 2014, Peter A. Collins's Mother's Day grid art required four two-letter entries.

1
A
2
M
3
O
4
S
5
C
6
A
7
R
8
T
9
S
10
S
11
P
12
A
13
S
14
R
E
N
O
15
A
N
O
U
K
16
T
A
C
K
17
T
E
A
S
18
S
C
E
N
I
19
C
A
R
E
A
20
T
W
O
21
W
A
Y
S
A
B
O
U
T
I
T
22
H
O
O
23
I
N
N
A
T
E
24
S
25
K
I
N
O
26
F
27
F
28
M
29
Y
B
A
C
K
30
A
R
M
31
A
L
E
E
32
I
H
E
33
A
34
R
35
N
O
36
M
Y
A
N
M
37
A
R
38
N
O
39
S
C
40
A
41
L
Y
42
Y
S
E
R
43
R
O
O
44
M
A
N
45
I
S
A
N
I
46
S
47
L
A
N
D
48
A
49
G
O
R
A
S
50
S
A
C
51
L
A
U
G
H
I
52
N
53
G
54
M
55
A
T
T
E
56
R
57
F
I
N
E
S
T
H
O
U
R
58
E
D
A
59
M
60
A
L
T
S
61
O
R
A
T
E
62
N
A
S
A
63
S
Y
S
T
64
K
A
L
E
S
65
T
Y
P
O
© 2018, The New York TimesNo. 1220 ( 25,244 )
Across
1. Prophet who said "The Lord roars from Zion and thunders from Jerusalem" : AMOS
5. E-tail icons : CARTS
10. Upscale hotel features : SPAS
14. ___ Sweeney, leading character in "Anything Goes" : RENO
15. Actress Aimée : ANOUK
16. Approach in handling something : TACK
17. Afternoon affairs : TEAS
18. Place for a picnic along a highway : SCENICAREA
20. Choice of routes? : TWOWAYSABOUTIT
22. See 21-Down : HOO
23. From birth : INNATE
24. Result of some sunburn I had? : SKINOFFMYBACK
30. Mr. Potato Head part : ARM
31. "Ready about! Hard ___!" : ALEE
32. "According to the grapevine ..." : IHEAR
35. With 38-Across, what a two-letter answer is in a crossword, usually ... or a hint to 20-, 24-, 44- and 51-Across : NO
36. Home to the Rohingya : MYANMAR
38. See 35-Across : NO
39. Like lizards and fish : SCALY
42. River through Flanders : YSER
43. Pouch holder, for short : ROO
44. Declaration concerning British geography? : MANISANISLAND
48. Ancient markets : AGORAS
50. Egg ___ : SAC
51. Nitrous oxide? : LAUGHINGMATTER
57. Time of valor, in a Winston Churchill speech : FINESTHOUR
58. Big cheese? : EDAM
60. Hgts. : ALTS
61. Stand and deliver? : ORATE
62. Org. behind the InSight mission : NASA
63. Part of iOS: Abbr. : SYST
64. Some greens : KALES
65. An aye for an eye, say? : TYPO
Down
1. Biblical verb : ART
2. What parallel lines never do : MEET
3. Because why not? : ONAWHIM
4. "Already?!" : SOSOON
5. Home to Castro : CASA
6. Suffix with expect : ANCY
7. Tobiko and ikura, on a sushi menu : ROES
8. Common casserole ingredient : TUNA
9. Certain attire when hitting the slopes : SKIBIB
10. Steadfast : STAUNCH
11. Not teetotal, say : PARTAKE
12. Nail the test : ACEIT
13. Variety of ray : SKATE
19. 1997 Nicolas Cage thriller : CONAIR
21. With 22-Across, a triumphant cry : WOO
24. Comic ___ (typeface) : SANS
25. Ray of fast-food fame : KROC
26. Wray of "King Kong" fame : FAY
27. Whips : FLAYS
28. Gatherer of intelligence? : MENSA
29. Country where camel jumping is a sport : YEMEN
33. Shortly, quaintly : ANON
34. Where one might find Jesus : ROOD
36. Chatty ones : MYNAHS
37. The Cardinals, on scoreboards : ARI
40. Six of one and half a dozen of the other, say? : AMOUNTS
41. Like the outer matryoshka doll : LARGEST
43. Time for a mint julep in Louisville : RACEDAY
45. "Do you mind?" : ISITOK
46. Concorde, e.g., for short : SST
47. Dormant : LATENT
48. Sporty Spiders, informally : ALFAS
49. In a cheery manner : GAILY
52. Drag racing org. : NHRA
53. Top of a fund drive thermometer : GOAL
54. Trumpet accessory : MUTE
55. "Wonder Woman" antagonist : ARES
56. Carpentry tool : RASP
59. Revolutionary figure : MAO

Answer summary: 4 unique to this puzzle, 1 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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