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SHELL GAME

New York Times, Sunday, December 3, 2017

Author: David Steinberg
Editor: Will Shortz
David Steinberg
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716/16/201112/3/201713
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5656921181
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1.653133

This puzzle:

Rows: 21, Columns: 22 Words: 149, Blocks: 86 Missing: {JQV} This is puzzle # 71 for Mr. Steinberg. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
David Steinberg notes: In the Steinberg family, we keep a small notebook in each room of our house and in the car. That way, if one of us gets inspired by a crossword idea, entry, etc., it can easily be written down. My dad is particularly ... more
David Steinberg notes:

In the Steinberg family, we keep a small notebook in each room of our house and in the car. That way, if one of us gets inspired by a crossword idea, entry, etc., it can easily be written down. My dad is particularly (in)famous for coming up with crossword ideas in the middle of the night, scribbling them down, and then excitedly barging into my room the next morning to pitch them to me. I love my dad very much, but I'm not at all a morning person, and . . . well, I don't always share his enthusiasm about the ideas themselves.

On one typical morning a few years ago, Dad was super excited about the idea of doing a shell game puzzle. "You could even stick thimblerig into the puzzle! I bet no one will know that," he said gleefully as he showed me a picture he'd scribbled down. In the picture, he had three C-U-P arrangements covering a marble, a shell, and a pea. "Sure the cups look triangular, and you can't actually squeeze a six-letter PEBBLE into a three-letter CUP, but I'm sure you'll figure something out!" he said as he made his exit. I just groaned and went back to sleep.

Fast forward to September of this year. I was looking through one of the idea notebooks (at a non-A.M. hour, mind you) and came across the shell game idea. After chuckling to myself, I decided to give it a makeover. No more triangular cups, marbles, or pebbles (sorry, Dad). In a nutshell, the puzzle eventually turned into what you see. In my opinion, F is the correct answer to the quasi-Schrodinger square at the 127-Across/128-Down crossing, but I could see an argument the other way as well. Happy solving!

Jeff Chen notes: The old SHELL GAME! I spent years trying to come up with a Sunday puzzle around the fascinating sleight of hand. My best attempt was to have three 'shells' made out of black squares, with Schrodinger-like white squares ... more
Jeff Chen notes:

The old SHELL GAME! I spent years trying to come up with a Sunday puzzle around the fascinating sleight of hand. My best attempt was to have three "shells" made out of black squares, with Schrodinger-like white squares underneath, either containing PEA or (nothing). It felt too wonky though, so I eventually abandoned it to the grid graveyard.

There are some fun aspects to David's interpretation. I like the shells made out of ALMOND, WALNUT, CASHEW. I've always thought of the game with WALNUT shells only, but it would have been dull to get six repetitive WALNUTs. Plus, this method demonstrates that the shells have been mixed up from top set to bottom. Neat!

I understand that FRY is actually (PEA)RY if the PEA is under the WALNUT shell, and SWIFT is SWI(PE A)T, clued by those awkward-sounding central themers. But shouldn't that square be empty if the PEA isn't there? Why an F? E at least would have been more apt. Empty, not Full!

Given that the theme was a bit thin, David did well to give a ton of bonuses to snazzify the grid. Loved the rat-a-tat spray of ALCOPOP, AMAZING ISNT IT, IM RICH!, CRACK TEAM, LINCOLN LOGS, GAG REEL, etc. Spread out everywhere, these bonuses helped keep my interest from start to finish.

Yes, there's more crossword glue than you'd typically see in a Steinberg, what with AGRI ATIE CRI EUR FTS IRR etc. But it's not more than an average Sunday puzzle. Considering how difficult it is to work around so many SHELL shapes, I think it's a constructing win.

Overall, it didn't give me anywhere near the hipster thrill I get from watching grifts a la "The Hustler" or "Ocean's 11." But a valiant attempt.

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© 2017, The New York TimesNo. 1203 ( 24,862 )
Across Down
1. Browns : SAUTES
7. Four-hit achievement, in baseball lingo : CYCLE
12. Mil. posts : FTS
15. System used at Gallaudet Univ. : ASL
18. The U.S., in Mexico : ELNORTE
20. Milo of "Romeo and Juliet," 1968 : OSHEA
21. Hawaii's ___ Day : LEI
22. Low : MOO
23. "Et tu?" and others : ACCUSALS
25. Lotion ingredients : ALOES
26. Suburb of Chicago : OAKLAWN
28. Joyful internet cry : WOOT
29. Bubbly mixer : TONIC
31. Popeye's boy : SWEEPEA
33. Harassed, in a sense : HAZED
34. Cartoon seller of Squishees : APU
35. Pyrex glass marking : PINTMEASURE
38. Jackson 5 member : TITO
39. Philip who wrote "Portnoy's Complaint" : ROTH
41. Cain and Abel's younger brother : SETH
42. Word before questions or advice : ANY
43. Do sales work, informally : REP
44. A part of : INON
45. Band with the 1989 platinum debut album "Junta" : PHISH
47. Darryl, in the comic "Baby Blues" : DAD
49. Accomplishing : DOING
51. Poke around : SNOOP
54. The "K" in Kmart : KRESGE
59. Places for plugs : DRAINS
62. Plastic dispenser producer : PEZ
65. The clue for 128-Down, if this shell game weren't a scam : ARCTICEXPLORER
68. Hardly guzzle : SIP
69. Group of pros : CRACKTEAM
71. "Rights of Man" author, 1791 : PAINE
72. Early Cuzco dweller : INCA
73. Series of mistakes? : GAGREEL
74. Vacation spot : RESORT
77. Inside dope source : TIPSTER
80. Prefix with business : AGRI
81. Chilled : ONICE
83. With 13-Down, herbal brew : CHAMOMILE
85. Cartoon seller of Duff Beer : MOE
86. The clue for 127-Across, if this shell game weren't a scam : ATTACKWITHAPAW
90. Former N.F.L.'ers Detmer and Law : TYS
91. All together : ENBLOC
93. Shapes of some Halloween cookies : GHOSTS
94. Country united in 1990 : YEMEN
96. Soft drink options : COKES
98. A peeling place? : SPA
100. Westernmost of the ABC Islands : ARUBA
103. "Bug" : GERM
105. Hosp. worker : LPN
107. Prefix with caching : GEO
109. 2.5, for the set {1, 2, 3, 4} : MEAN
112. Classic sculpture : BUST
114. Novel narrated by a soon-to-be mutineer : OMOO
115. Material for small buildings? : LINCOLNLOGS
118. Proctor's warning : SHH
119. Students often take them out : LOANS
121. When some bars close : TWOAM
122. Edict : UKASE
124. End in ___ : ATIE
125. Style influenced by Cubism : ARTDECO
127. Like hand motions during a shell game : SWIFT
129. Professional group with a van : NEWSCREW
131. Month of l'année : MAI
132. Singer Reed : LOU
133. Four-time World Series-winning manager : TORRE
134. In the near future : SOONISH
135. Superfund org. : EPA
136. Something to build on : LOT
137. Looks fabulous, in slang : SLAYS
138. Pincher : KLEPTO
1. England and Spain fought one in 1588 : SEAWAR
2. Smirnoff Ice, e.g. : ALCOPOP
3. Lacking polish : UNCOUTH
4. Push : TOUT
5. Verbal stumbles : ERS
6. Walks or runs, for short : STAT
7. Work together : COACT
8. Fashion inits. : YSL
9. Elected : CHOSEN
10. Degree of freedom : LEEWAY
11. Lightens : EASES
12. Like hounds and most bunny rabbits : FLOPEARED
13. See 83-Across : TEA
14. Guru, maybe : SIKH
15. "Pretty cool, huh?" : AMAZINGISNTIT
16. Johannesburg neighborhood much in the news during apartheid : SOWETO
17. Underground locale : LONDON
19. Give a ring while on the road? : ELOPE
24. Tizzy : SNIT
27. Typical Vanidades reader : LATINA
30. How many TV shows are shown : INHD
32. Port. is part of it : EUR
36. One caring for a bebé : MADRE
37. Classical poem : EPODE
40. Email openers : HIS
41. Egghead? : SHORTE
46. Deceitful sort : SNAKE
48. Grp. with lots of pointers : AKC
50. Like the verbs "eat" and "drink": Abbr. : IRR
52. Bobcat relative : OCELOT
53. Fund-raising org. : PTA
55. Fair : EXPO
56. Warm up for a bout, say : SPAR
57. Bug : GLITCH
58. Ages and ages : EON
60. With politesse : NICELY
61. They're symbolized by slashes : SPARES
62. Minecraft or StarCraft : PCGAME
63. Fantasy novel hero who rides the dragon Saphira : ERAGON
64. Capital 175 miles east of Venice, Italy : ZAGREBCROATIA
66. Lottery winner's cry : IMRICH
67. Record again : RETAPE
70. Dernier ___ : CRI
72. Philosophy class suffix : ISM
75. Marc of fashion : ECKO
76. Follows a pattern? : SEWS
78. Much-covered 1955 Bo Diddley hit : IMAMAN
79. Juice : POWER
82. Verb often said three times in a row : NAG
84. It's cut and dried : HAY
86. All right : AOK
87. Immune system component : TCELL
88. "Let's do this thing!" : ITSON
89. Amt. of seasoning : TSP
92. Loch on the border of the Highlands : LOMOND
95. Worn-down pencil : NUB
97. Say quickly : SPITOUT
99. One way to run : AMOK
101. Greyhound offering : BUSTRIP
102. Most visibly frightened : ASHIEST
103. Develop a limp : GOLAME
104. Hybrid music genre of the 2010s : EMORAP
106. Houston-to-Dallas dir. : NNW
107. Desert, in a way : GOAWOL
108. City west of Binghamton : ELMIRA
110. Pulitzer-winning novelist Jennifer : EGAN
111. Total jerks : ASSES
113. Group with two top 10 rock operas : THEWHO
116. Runs to : COSTS
117. They have long necks and round bodies : LUTES
120. Bear's advice : SELL
123. Bearlike creature in sci-fi : EWOK
124. Oil crisis? : ACNE
126. Murmur : COO
128. Cook in oil : FRY
130. Only three-letter scale note : SOL

Answer summary: 11 unique to this puzzle, 2 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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