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FILL-IN-THE-BLANKS

New York Times, Sunday, December 28, 2014

Author:
Joe Krozel
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
877/7/20066/14/201815
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
4147242621
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.48057
Joe Krozel

This puzzle:

Rows: 21, Columns: 21 Words: 140, Blocks: 68 Missing: {JQXYZ} This is puzzle # 71 for Mr. Krozel. Jeff Chen's Puzzle of the Week pick. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Joe Krozel notes:
This theme originated with my observation that SUPERSONIC contains the word PERSON, so I checked the clue and puzzle databases and didn't see that any constructor had connected the two ... read more

This theme originated with my observation that SUPERSONIC contains the word PERSON, so I checked the clue and puzzle databases and didn't see that any constructor had connected the two words ... at least in recent history. I was off to a good start. I explored fill-in-the-blanks, e.g., Su____ic, as one way to express this theme, but a theme entry like PERSON would be too short. Then for some reason, I was inspired to interpret Su____ic as a pictoral description. Aha! MISSING PERSON! All I needed was other examples (and, indeed, they would come to me over time).

Many months earlier, I had advocated that constructors cram less theme content into the daily puzzles, but rather expand the theme from, say, five entries to ten and produce a Sunday puzzle instead. Most editors have low Sunday inventory, so packed daily puzzles simply deprive it from growing. This is why I decided upon a Sunday puzzle after having produced just a single one — a collaboration, even — in 2008.

Sunday puzzles are a bear to fill. Duplicate words in the grid are a frustrating obstacle. But I fought hard against that, and I'm particularly happy with the outcome: the fill contains lively long entries cemented with clean short entries. There are no partials in the fill because clues with blanks are reserved solely for the theme entries today.

Overall, this is among my favorite puzzles on account of the success with both theme and fill. Though, I would have liked Will to keep my title "Blank expressions."

Jeff Chen notes:
I really dug both the idea and the execution. Joe takes in-the-language phrases like MISSING PERSON and finds a word (or phrase) it could be missing from. SU______IC was baffling at first, ... read more

I really dug both the idea and the execution. Joe takes in-the-language phrases like MISSING PERSON and finds a word (or phrase) it could be missing from. SU______IC was baffling at first, but finally uncovering MISSING PERSON gave me a great a-ha moment. WITT = Wish I'd Thought of This.

I appreciated Joe's selection of themers, all in-the-language. There were a few obvious ones like DELETED SCENE and ABANDONED SHIP, but I had to do some serious thinking to figure out what DROPPED ???? was. At first I tried DROPPED (the) BALL and felt outrage that Joe could let such an inexact phrase go through! Then I just felt silly when I realized it was DROPPED CALL. Great stuff (Joe's choices, not my idiocy).

The grid is so nice, too. I worried upon seeing the eighth theme entry running down the center of the grid. This sort of interlock is visually impressive but often produces compromises. Aside from BOP IN (which I think I actually like after an initial wince), the center is clean, just a CURST (I think I also like this too, upon further consideration) and an ETO. Strong work.

Joe does spend more black squares in that center section though, because of said interlock. Those two smooth curves help frame that difficult central area, making it easier to fill cleanly. Spending black squares like means that the rest of the puzzle must contain more white space, upping the level of filling difficulty (20 8-letter fill words = unheard of!). Check out the four themeless-esque corners. They're all pretty good, even featuring such nice entries as APP STORE and PANDEMIC, but each one does have a bit of THE TOP, LENOS, ERTES, INTL glue.

Not one of these globs is a NO NO NO! type infraction of course, but that all-important NW corner did set not the greatest tone for me. THE TOP feels partial-ish, with ETAS and HEMI making me worry what was to come. Thankfully, my fears were unfounded.

A neat concept + strong execution = a really enjoyable Sunday solve. Might have been one of my all-time favorites if each of the fill-in-the-blanks had been as mystifying and then hugely rewarding as SU(PERSON)IC.

Jim Horne notes:

I liked this one even more than Jeff did. Each of the theme entries was fun.

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© 2014, The New York TimesNo. 1228 ( 23,791 )
Across
1
Where it's lonely at, it's said : THETOP
7
Semi parts : CABS
11
Powder holder : KEG
14
It shrinks in the light : PUPIL
19
Pass on, as stories : RETELL
20
Modern juice ingredient : ALOEVERA
22
Striped beast : OKAPI
23
Mrs. King on TV's "Scarecrow and Mrs. King" : AMANDA
24
Imports : MEANINGS
25
Host Jay and family : LENOS
26
Su____ic : MISSINGPERSON
28
Political capital? : PEE
30
Antimalarial agent : DDT
31
Result of a burn : PEEL
32
Ob____ly : DELETEDSCENE
35
"Game of Thrones" airer : HBO
37
Din : ROAR
40
Italian tourist destination : LIDO
41
Sultanate next to an emirate : OMAN
42
"Friday the 13th" sequel subtitled "Jason Lives" : PARTVI
44
Bad-tempered, in Shakespeare : CURST
48
Something banned by international treaty : LANDMINE
50
____t : UNUSEDMINUTES
53
Sign of summer : LEO
54
Fish-and-chips fish : COD
55
Bygone sports cars : MGS
56
Call for : NEED
57
Arrive casually, informally : BOPIN
59
They may be checked for checks : IDS
61
Opposite of "Brr!" : IMHOT
63
Grp. with auditors : IRS
65
Checkout headache : LINE
66
Pack, as a car : LOADUP
70
D-Day locale : CAEN
71
Lo____y : DROPPEDCALL
74
Soave, e.g. : VINO
75
Last : ENDURE
77
Masked "bandit" : COON
78
W.W. II domain: Abbr. : ETO
79
They start in middle school : TEENS
80
Ransom specification : SUM
81
Soda nuts : KOLAS
83
Manhattan neighborhood east of N.Y.U. : NOHO
85
Anne Hathaway's persona in 2012's "The Dark Knight Rises" : CAT
86
Sternward : AFT
89
"I've got good news and bad news" speaker : DOC
91
Li____nt : FORFEITEDGAME
94
It's often face-down in a jewelry store : PRICETAG
97
Ibis relative : STORK
98
Messed (up) : LOUSED
99
Spices (up) : PEPS
100
Part of town : AREA
102
Get back (to) : RSVP
104
Flight board abbr. : ETD
105
Ca____t : STRIPPEDBARE
110
One of a Latin trio : AMAS
112
It may follow you or me : TOO
113
It may be smoked in England : EEL
114
Wor____er : ABANDONEDSHIP
120
Eggs, e.g. : OVALS
122
Like oysters as an appetizer, often : EATENRAW
124
"That's completely wrong, you idiot!" : NONONO
125
Change, as a password : RESET
126
1976 hit for Hall & Oates : SHESGONE
127
Curved fasteners : UBOLTS
128
Some Deco works : ERTES
129
"How pathetic" : SAD
130
Book of Mormon book : ENOS
131
Not marry Mr. Right, say : SETTLE
Down
1
Ride around some parking lots : TRAM
2
Half- : HEMI
3
H's : ETAS
4
Sawbucks : TENSPOTS
5
Song on a reunion tour, maybe : OLDIE
6
Virgin offering : PLANERIDE
7
Group of like-minded thinkers : CAMP
8
Boat direction : ALEE
9
Executive group : BOARD
10
Pick up on : SENSE
11
Relative of a pound : KENNEL
12
Energy unit : ERG
13
It's on the right when you're driving : GASPEDAL
14
Ends of the world : POLES
15
Luau staple : UKE
16
Plague, e.g. : PANDEMIC
17
Apple picker's pick? : IPODNANO
18
Didn't just talk : LISTENED
21
Instrument in Vermeer's "The Music Lesson" : VIOL
27
Shine, in product names : GLO
29
"Modern Family" co-star : EDONEILL
33
Preposition between two times : TIL
34
.biz alternative : COM
35
Fill-in-the-blanks activity : HANGMAN
36
Like some cotton : BRUSHED
38
Jefferson Airplane genre : ACIDROCK
39
Operate : RUN
42
Exfoliation tool : PUMICE
43
Let it all out : VENT
45
Chafe : RUB
46
E____hen : STOLENART
47
Unenthusiastic : TEPID
49
Birdbrain : DODO
51
Yom Kippur War politician : MEIR
52
Partial translation of "Auld Lang Syne" : SINCE
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Ones who are never out of order? : NEATNIKS
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Except : SAVE
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Duty : ONUS
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"Scary Movie," e.g. : SPOOF
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Like many toy trucks : DIECAST
68
Anonymous : UNNAMED
69
Up on things : POSTED
71
Mailing to a record exec, once : DEMOTAPE
72
Preppy wear : POLOS
73
Hot goods : LOOT
76
Like talking in a theater, e.g. : RUDE
79
Flap : TODO
82
Destination between LAX and Sea-Tac : SFO
84
Some computer aids : HELPMENUS
86
Modern place to buy games : APPSTORE
87
Stew about : FRETOVER
88
Sirloin cut : TIPROAST
90
Negligent : CARELESS
92
Drop the ball : ERR
93
"So much for that" : GUESSNOT
95
Hit TV series set in Las Vegas : CSI
96
High school makeup test, for short? : GED
101
Tapered off : ABATED
103
Airport shuttle, maybe : VAN
106
Rats and gnats : PESTS
107
What you might get by breaking 4-Down : ABES
108
0-100, e.g. : RANGE
109
Classic example of corporate malfeasance : ENRON
111
Building block : ADOBE
115
"Hawaii Five-O" crime-fighter, informally : DANO
116
Isn't square, say : OWES
117
News anchor Lester : HOLT
118
I.M.F. part: Abbr. : INTL
119
Ask : POSE
121
Rebel leader : LEE
123
"I knew it!" : AHA

Answer summary: 9 unique to this puzzle, 2 debuted here and reused later, 1 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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