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SHELL GAME

New York Times, Sunday, December 3, 2017

Author:
David Steinberg
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
976/16/201110/30/201918
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76691132242
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1.645173
David Steinberg

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 ... read more

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 ... read more

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.

1
S
2
A
3
U
4
T
5
E
6
S
7
C
8
Y
9
C
10
L
11
E
12
F
13
T
14
S
15
A
16
S
17
L
18
E
L
N
O
R
T
19
E
20
O
S
H
E
A
21
L
E
I
22
M
O
O
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A
C
C
U
S
A
L
24
S
25
A
L
O
E
S
26
O
A
K
27
L
A
W
N
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W
O
O
T
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T
O
N
30
I
C
31
S
W
E
32
E
PEA
33
H
A
Z
E
D
34
A
P
U
35
P
I
N
T
36
M
E
A
S
U
R
37
E
38
T
I
T
O
39
R
O
T
40
H
41
S
E
T
H
42
A
N
Y
43
R
E
P
44
I
N
O
N
45
P
H
I
46
S
H
47
D
48
A
D
49
D
O
50
I
N
G
51
S
N
O
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O
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P
54
K
R
55
E
56
S
57
G
58
E
59
D
R
A
I
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N
61
S
62
P
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E
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Z
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A
R
C
T
66
I
C
E
X
P
L
O
67
R
E
R
68
S
I
P
69
C
R
A
70
C
K
T
E
A
M
71
P
A
I
N
E
72
I
N
C
A
73
G
A
G
R
E
E
L
74
R
75
E
76
S
O
R
T
77
T
78
I
79
P
S
T
E
R
80
A
G
R
I
81
O
82
N
I
C
E
83
C
84
H
A
M
O
M
I
L
E
85
M
O
E
86
A
87
T
T
A
C
K
W
88
I
89
T
H
A
P
A
W
90
T
Y
S
91
E
N
B
92
L
O
C
93
G
H
O
S
T
S
94
Y
E
M
E
95
N
96
C
O
K
E
97
S
98
S
P
99
A
100
A
R
U
101
B
102
A
103
G
104
E
R
M
105
L
P
106
N
107
G
108
E
O
109
M
110
E
111
A
N
112
B
U
S
113
T
114
O
M
O
O
115
L
I
N
116
C
O
L
N
117
L
O
G
S
118
S
H
H
119
L
O
A
N
120
S
121
T
W
O
A
M
122
U
K
A
S
123
E
124
A
T
I
E
125
A
R
T
D
E
126
C
O
127
S
W
I
128
F
T
129
N
E
W
130
S
C
R
E
W
131
M
A
I
132
L
O
U
133
T
O
R
R
E
134
S
O
O
N
I
S
H
135
E
P
A
136
L
O
T
137
S
L
A
Y
S
138
K
L
E
P
T
O
© 2017, The New York TimesNo. 1203 ( 24,862 )
Across
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
Down
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: 7 unique to this puzzle, 4 debuted here and reused later, 1 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

Found bugs or have suggestions?