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MARRIED COUPLES

New York Times, Sunday, December 25, 2016

Author:
Kevin G. Der
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
403/12/200710/13/20182
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
122124118
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.65865
Kevin G. Der

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 ... read more

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 ... read more

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.

Jim Horne notes:

Terrific puzzle. One of my favorites this year.

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© 2016, The New York TimesNo. 1225 ( 24,519 )
Across
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
Down
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.

Found bugs or have suggestions?