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DO THE SPLITS

New York Times, Sunday, February 12, 2017

Author: Lynn Lempel
Editor: Will Shortz
Lynn Lempel
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
7712/9/19792/12/20171
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654112130
ScrabRebusCirclePangrampre-WS
1.610712

This puzzle:

Rows: 21, Columns: 21 Words: 140, Blocks: 66 Missing: {Q} This is puzzle # 77 for Ms. Lempel. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Lynn Lempel notes: The idea for this puzzle languished for years. I could never decide if it was good, or uninspired. Then, if I looked at it for the umpteenth time, I couldn't decide which ideas were the best to use. I might like ... more
Lynn Lempel notes:

The idea for this puzzle languished for years. I could never decide if it was good, or uninspired. Then, if I looked at it for the umpteenth time, I couldn't decide which ideas were the best to use. I might like one choice for a symmetrical pair, but be lukewarm about the other one.

Finally, this fall, I emailed a friend here who I know does Sunday NYT puzzles, and asked her what she thought. She started bugging me to do this. And here you have the result.

I was amazed how fast it went from submission to publication. I mailed this in early December and it was accepted in mid-January.

Probably the genesis of this puzzle was somehow reading "Colorado" as "color ado." That would make PUEBLO COLORADO into something like [Big fuss over how to paint the Indian village]. I still like that, but was afraid it wouldn't pass muster since "Colorado" actually comes from the Spanish word for "color", and thus the meanings wouldn't change.

I would have preferred more answers that divided the words in unusual ways, like MARSHALL PLAN, which I liked [Spec for an interplanetary campus building?] or MADEIRA WINE, which in the end seemed kind of blah [Aged a glassful for Mr. Glass?]. A few others that got left out were RAMBLING ROSE [The price went up on some flashy NFL jewelry?], TAKE A PLACEBO ["Park yourself somewhere," to a onetime White House pet?] (I wasn't sure whether that qualified as an "in the language" phrase), and GOLF CADDIES [Headline for the obit of a country club scoundrel?]. If the current grid hadn't worked out well enough, I would have gone back and tried other options.

As for clues, mine remained intact for the most part. I think that Will's changes, overall, tended to make things a bit easier; for example, the clues for MALE and ORANGES—both sort of gimmes--were his. And I would never have come up with that clue for MOTH—totally not in my wheelhouse. All the theme clues were basically the ones I wrote except for UNFUNDED MANDATES. I think I'm reading Will's revised clue a bit differently than he intends, because it seems somewhat off to me. (Mine had been "Watching TV on Saturday nights with a cash-strapped beau?")

Oh, and one last thing for all of you who wonder about clue-grid duplications. Looking at the preview copy, I happened to notice that Will changed the ELMO clue to read "Kids' TV character …" when KIDDIE LIT was fairly nearby in the grid. His response:

"I think bloggers accord way too much importance to this sort of thing, which average solvers don't give a hoot about. My rule is: No answer word in its entirety can be part of a clue, and no clue in its entirety can be part of an answer. But in most cases, partial to partial duplication, as in this puzzle, doesn't matter."

Anyway, I hope you had fun with this. That's the whole point.

Jeff Chen notes: DO THE SPLITS, apt title for introducing spaces into regular phrases for kooky results. I enjoyed GO OFF ON A TAN GENT, and BRA IN WAVES evoked a funny image. Humor is so subjective. I found some of the ... more
Jeff Chen notes:

DO THE SPLITS, apt title for introducing spaces into regular phrases for kooky results. I enjoyed GO OFF ON A TAN GENT, and BRA IN WAVES evoked a funny image.

Humor is so subjective. I found some of the resulting phrases stilted, especially POE, TRY READING. Not only grammatically does it feel odd, but I imagine Poe wouldn't have needed much prompting to read. And FAT AL ATTRACTION … something there makes me cringe. Not sure what.

UNFUNDED MANDATE as a base phrase. I vaguely recognized it as a thing, but even after researching it, it still doesn't sing to me.

Some nice long bonus fill, RAW RECRUIT matching well with a TROOPSHIP, and … GOOSESTEP. That last one is a regular term for a common military practice (especially outside America), but boy, does it have uncomfortable connotations. Perhaps recently reading about the siege of Leningrad colored my thinking.

Lynn is so good with her short fill — she usually focuses on Monday puzzles, giving us some of the smoothest Monday offerings around — and today is no different. Although it's a tough task to build a 21x 140-word puzzle — I'd estimate it to be about five times harder than a Monday, since there are necessarily much bigger swaths of white space to fill — this is such a smooth offering.

I did hitch at DAVA, but 1.) all the crossings were fair, 2.) Pulitzer Prize nominee, and 3.) if that's one of the few quasi-gluey bits you end up with, that's a win.

Although most of the themers didn't resonate with me, a few great clues helped to elevate my solve:

  • [Gives an order] made no sense for RANKS until I realized that it wasn't a sergeant giving an order, but a spreadsheet jockey.
  • LADLE delivering a punch sounded like it should be "delivering punch" or "a cup of punch," but I still liked the clever wordplay, nonetheless.
  • ATOMS are indeed at the "heart of the matter" — all matter, to be precise!
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© 2017, The New York TimesNo. 0212 ( 24,568 )
Across Down
1. Topic for Dr. Ruth : LIBIDO
7. Reimbursed expense for a commuter, maybe : MILEAGE
14. As yet : SOFAR
19. Sound system? : PHONICS
21. Major export of Florida : ORANGES
22. Blue hue : AZURE
23. Berate some guy for getting too much sun? : GOOFFONATANGENT
25. Like most "Quo Vadis" characters : ROMAN
26. Altar spot : APSE
27. "A bit of talcum / Is always walcum" writer : NASH
28. Banquet : DINE
29. For whom Nancy was first lady : RONALD
30. Gives an order : RANKS
32. Remain undecided : PEND
33. Fabric from flax : LINEN
34. Bearded animal : GNU
37. Suggestion to a bored short story writer? : POETRYREADING
40. Book reviewer?: Abbr. : CPA
43. Having less heft : LANKER
45. Swinging Ernie : ELS
46. 35-nation alliance, briefly : OAS
47. Drive-___ : THRU
48. Fasten : AFFIX
49. Kids' TV character who refers to himself in the third person : ELMO
51. Greenhorn on the force : RAWRECRUIT
54. Horse for hire : STUD
55. Result of a serious wardrobe malfunction at the beach? : BRAINWAVES
57. Hit one out : HOMER
58. Clean with a pressurized spray : SANDBLAST
60. First name in daredevilry : EVEL
61. Turbid : CLOUDY
62. Weighty matters? : DIETS
63. He can be seen at the western end of the National Mall, informally : ABE
64. Pens for hens : COOPS
65. Toast word : CHEERS
67. M, on a form : MALE
69. March movement : GOOSESTEP
73. It may deliver a punch : LADLE
74. Scientist's dilemma regarding work vs. play? : LABORPARTY
76. "My only love sprung from my only ___!": Juliet : HATE
77. Entry : ADMITTANCE
79. Wild revelry : ORGY
80. Archives material : FICHE
81. Gist : MEAT
82. Sight at Tanzania's Gombe Stream National Park : APE
83. Gist : NUB
84. It's a drain : SIPHON
85. Entry on an I.R.S. form: Abbr. : SSN
86. Dismaying announcement about disaster aid? : JUSTICEFORALL
91. What's right in front of the tee? : ESS
92. Photographer Arbus : DIANE
94. Old gang weapons : GATS
95. Heart of the matter? : ATOMS
97. Bit of cushioning : PEANUT
99. Arrears : DEBT
100. Glitch : SNAG
101. "Waterloo" band : ABBA
105. Corroded : EATEN
106. Roker's appeal before gastric bypass surgery? : FATALATTRACTION
109. Turn aside : AVERT
110. Bad look : EVILEYE
111. Five-alarmer : INFERNO
112. Irritable : TESTY
113. Spreadsheet contents : DATASET
114. Dripping : SODDEN
1. Tour grp. since 1950 : LPGA
2. Breakfast chain : IHOP
3. Disapproving sounds : BOOS
4. Gather : INFER
5. "What's the ___?" : DIF
6. Alito's Supreme Court predecessor : OCONNOR
7. Creature on the movie poster for "The Silence of the Lambs" : MOTH
8. With 34-Down, longtime public radio host : IRA
9. Some space vehicles : LANDERS
10. It must turn over to start : ENGINE
11. Docket : AGENDA
12. With 42-Down, "Frosty the Snowman" singer : GENE
13. Super suffix? : EST
14. Pacific island wrap : SARONG
15. Worry of stratospheric proportions : OZONE
16. "That villain in comics has sure gotta be sore!"? : FUMANCHUMUSTACHE
17. Desiccated ___ Sea : ARAL
18. Tear apart : REND
20. Plunger alternative : SNAKE
24. Deputy: Abbr. : ASST
29. Dentist's directive : RINSE
31. Tip : APEX
32. Traffic cone : PYLON
33. Those who need sound memories, per Montaigne : LIARS
34. See 8-Down : GLASS
35. W. Hemisphere treaty of 1994 : NAFTA
36. What a cash-strapped beau might take you on? : UNFUNDEDMANDATES
38. Pay : REMIT
39. Certain rod : DOWEL
41. Was a busybody : PRIED
42. See 12-Down : AUTRY
44. Beatrix Potter's genre : KIDDIELIT
47. Conveyance for soldiers : TROOPSHIP
49. Timeline sections : ERAS
50. ___ Palmas (Spanish province) : LAS
51. Talk wildly : RAVE
52. Way to go: Abbr. : AVE
53. Pricey French fashion label : CHLOE
55. Club cousins : BLTS
56. Utah's ___ State University : WEBER
59. Cap similar to a tam-o'-shanter : BERET
61. London tea accessory : COSY
63. Fleshy-leaved succulent : ALOE
64. 1950s French president René : COTY
65. Steamed seafood dish : CLAMS
66. Abductor of Persephone : HADES
67. Exhibitor at 1863's Salon des Refusés : MANET
68. Something easy, so they say : ABC
69. "Grand Hotel" star, 1932 : GARBO
70. A.A. or AAA : ORG
71. Group's basic beliefs : ETHOS
72. Tool parts used for bending things : PEENS
74. Run out : LAPSE
75. High hairdos : POUFS
78. Jeer : TAUNT
80. Take some shots : FILM
83. Annoys : NETTLES
84. Ad agency output : SLOGANS
86. Devil-may-care : JAUNTY
87. "Aha!" : IGETIT
88. Mystical doctrine : CABALA
89. Talk wildly : RANT
90. Gaming trailblazer : ATARI
93. Sluggish : INERT
96. Having no room for more : SATED
97. Fuel from a fen : PEAT
98. Building's rain diverter : EAVE
99. Sobel who wrote the Pulitzer-nominated "Galileo's Daughter" : DAVA
100. Editor's override : STET
102. One with a lot of tweets : BIRD
103. Treat for a dog : BONE
104. Presently : ANON
106. Supplied : FED
107. Parliamentary support : AYE
108. Corp. bigwig : CFO

Answer summary: 5 unique to this puzzle, 4 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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