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MARRIED COUPLES

New York Times, Sunday, December 25, 2016

Author: Kevin G. Der
Editor: Will Shortz
Kevin G. Der
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
373/12/200712/25/20162
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
122124115
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.67865

This puzzle:

Rows: 21, Columns: 21 Words: 140, Blocks: 69 Missing: {KQXZ} This is puzzle # 37 for Mr. Der. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Kevin G. Der notes: Based on my notes, the idea for this puzzle came about three years ago when noticing a different way to interpret 'calm before the storm.' Finding more theme entries involved identifying other connector words, ... more
Kevin G. Der notes:

Based on my notes, the idea for this puzzle came about three years ago when noticing a different way to interpret "calm before the storm." Finding more theme entries involved identifying other connector words, then well-known phrases using those connectors, and finally interpretations of those phrases that overlapped by two letters. The vast majority of possibilities were dead ends. Overall, it took about a half dozen sessions over those three years to find enough entries of matching length.

I'm guessing this will fall on the difficult side, since many theme entries will likely require at least a few crossings to see, and my clues tend to be on the difficult side to boot. Hopefully, the seasonally appropriate clues that Will and Joel added will offer some holiday cheer.

I hope solvers enjoy this toughie!

Jeff Chen notes: It took me forever to figure out what was going on here, so lemme try to explicitly explain it. Kevin started with common phrases, i.e. [Handle with care] and [Calm before the storm], and ... first word ... second ... more
Jeff Chen notes:

It took me forever to figure out what was going on here, so lemme try to explicitly explain it. Kevin started with common phrases, i.e. [Handle with care] and [Calm before the storm], and ... first word ... second definition ... two-letter overlap ... I can't figure out how to explain this!

So here's how it worked in practice: [Handle with care] = handle + care = alias (as in one's CB handle) + assistance (as in giving a bit of care) = ALIASSISTANCE. It's tricky since you have to figure out that "handle" and ALIAS are synonyms, as are "care" and ASSISTANCE, then cram everything together.

I'm usually against "definitional" entries like Go being a CHINESE BOARD GAME, but in this case, these dictionary-sounding entries were key for me to be able to solve the puzzle. Not sure I would have figured out what was going on, otherwise.

My favorite one was SERENITYPHOON, just perfect for [Calm before the storm]. It's so easy to see that "calm" and SERENITY are linked, as are "storm" and TYPHOON. And SERENITY and TYPHOON have that two-letter overlap! This is the type of creative, innovative wordplay that I like to see in crosswords.

Some nice bonuses in TOFUTTI (sounds a whole lot better than it tastes, ick), JUNGLE GYM, and ESPN RADIO. Good stuff there. CLUB SODA and OFF COLOR, brilliantly clued as [Salty or spicy], were nice too.

And with just a little AREAR and OLA kind of stuff, the rest of the puzzle felt smooth, which was a good thing given how much I struggled with grokking the theme.

Overall, I would have loved this one if every themer had been as strong as SERENITYPHOON, but there were too many stilted-sounding definitions and synonyms that felt like a stretch (ABIDE = stay?). I do admire Kevin's innovation — I don't think I've seen something quite like this.

JimH notes: Terrific puzzle. One of my favorites this year.
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© 2016, The New York TimesNo. 1225 ( 24,519 )
Across Down
1. Leave a permanent mark on : ETCH
5. Stows, as a banner : FURLS
10. Ice carving? : FJORD
15. Frequently : OFT
18. Romance writer Roberts : NORA
19. Ultimately succeed : PANOUT
20. Coin portraying Queen Victoria, once : RUPEE
21. Quaint cry of disapproval : FIE
22. Play by heart? : DRAMATICPIECENTER
25. Monastery title : FRA
26. Sphere : ORB
27. Personal problems : ISSUES
28. Relay segment : LEG
29. Roman emblem of power adopted by Mussolini : FASCES
31. Big name in grills : WEBER
33. Toward the back : AFT
34. Gymnastics event : VAULT
36. Means of death for Judas Iscariot : NOOSE
37. A plus average? : SYMBOLFORAMPEREGULAR
41. Tight-lipped : MUM
42. Took first : WON
43. 2007 Peace Prize recipient : GORE
44. Rio greeting : OLA
45. Makes minor observations? : BABYSITS
50. Gum that comes in Fire and Ice varieties : DENTYNE
53. Begot : BRED
54. Letterhead? : ELL
55. "Star Trek: T.N.G." counselor : TROI
57. Leeway : ROOM
58. Life force in Eastern medicine : CHI
60. Handle with care? : ALIASSISTANCE
64. Chart of the heavens : STARMAP
68. River more than 2,700 miles long that crosses the Equator twice : CONGO
69. Two turtledoves, e.g. : PAIR
70. Cry at a surprise party just before the honoree arrives : HIDE
72. Get a groove on? : SCORE
73. Drink Gatorade after a workout, say : HYDRATE
75. Calm before the storm? : SERENITYPHOON
78. Blow it : ERR
79. Red-haired biblical twin : ESAU
80. Marco Polo crossed it : GOBI
81. "Gnarly!" : RAD
82. What a lead runner sets : PACE
85. Learns : ABSORBS
88. Some Bavarian brews : RYEBEERS
91. Under the weather : ILL
92. "Pronto!" : ASAP
93. Part of a film studio tour : LOT
95. Disney Channel's "___ and Maddie" : LIV
96. Grab and go? : CLUTCHINESEBOARDGAME
104. Land bordering Nepal : TIBET
105. Errands, e.g. : TRIPS
106. A.T.M. expense : FEE
107. Provider of limited coverage? : THONG
109. Subject to a recall, maybe : UNSAFE
111. Ginger ___ : ALE
112. "You betcha!" : SUREDO
114. Middle X or O : TAC
115. Milne young 'un : ROO
116. Stay ahead of the curve? : ABIDECEPTIVEPITCH
120. December 31, e.g. : END
121. ___ Hawkins dance : SADIE
122. Glossy fabric : SATEEN
123. Baja's opposite : ALTA
124. Setting for much of "Lord Jim" : SEA
125. Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse ___ : TYSON
126. Stuck-up sort : PRISS
127. Spot for brooding : NEST
1. Support, as a foundation : ENDOW
2. Dara who swam at five Olympics : TORRES
3. Curmudgeonly : CRABBY
4. Common Christmas entree : HAM
5. Former Saudi king : FAISAL
6. Release from shackles : UNCUFF
7. Way up a bunny slope : ROPETOW
8. San ___ Obispo, Calif. : LUIS
9. Thérèse, e.g.: Abbr. : STE
10. Make available : FREEUP
11. Bars for swingers? : JUNGLEGYM
12. Go (for) : OPT
13. Coral bleaching locale : REEF
14. Drive mad : DERANGE
15. Salty or spicy : OFFCOLOR
16. Event with steeply discounted prices : FIRESALE
17. Interest piquer : TEASERAD
19. Sports team tally: Abbr. : PTS
23. Boeing competitor : AIRBUS
24. Dollar, in slang : CLAM
30. Pittance : SOU
32. One of nine for Tina Fey : EMMY
34. Swedish lake that's the largest in the European Union : VANERN
35. Suffix with beta or cyclo- : TRON
38. Drops : OMITS
39. Metaphor for punishment : ROD
40. Standing : ERECT
45. Luau locale : BEACH
46. Cupronickel, e.g. : ALLOY
47. Like some uncertain dates : BLIND
48. Poppycock : TRIPE
49. 1998 N.L. M.V.P. : SOSA
51. Night at the museo? : NOCHE
52. ___ the line (obeying) : TOEING
53. Canoe builder's bark source : BIRCH
56. "Quite true" : ITISSO
59. Padlock's place : HASP
61. Find common ground : AGREE
62. What spirits can do : SOAR
63. Toward the back : AREAR
64. Kept for later : SETBY
65. "A Visit From St. Nicholas" writer : MOORE
66. Very loud : AROAR
67. Isn't over yet : PENDS
71. Maker of the fragrance Sauvage : DIOR
74. Wreck, informally : TRASH
76. Russian moolah : RUBLES
77. Triangular road sign : YIELD
79. Big purveyor of sports talk : ESPNRADIO
82. Imagines : PICTURES
83. Like a machine that prints, scans and faxes : ALLINONE
84. Provider of the fizz in a gin fizz : CLUBSODA
86. Worm or fly : BAIT
87. Blubber : SOB
89. Setting for some aerial maneuvers : BIGTOP
90. "Well, Did You ___?" (Cole Porter tune) : EVAH
92. "Hurry!" : ACTFAST
94. Soy-based frozen dessert brand : TOFUTTI
97. Flight attendant's offering : TEA
98. Fisher of fashion : EILEEN
99. Design feature : SPEC
100. Hawks' hangouts : AERIES
101. "John Wick" star : REEVES
102. Mark with spots : MOTTLE
103. Passes : ENACTS
108. Onetime alternative to Facebook Messenger : GCHAT
110. Website with a Watch list : EBAY
112. Vigorously debate (with) : SPAR
113. Man cave, maybe : DEN
117. Employee badges, e.g. : IDS
118. It's a "gift" : ESP
119. Name whose Italian equivalent is Giovanni : IAN

Answer summary: 9 unique to this puzzle, 1 debuted here and reused later, 1 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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