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NUMBER THEORY

New York Times, Sunday, February 16, 2020

Author:
Sam Ezersky
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
367/28/20122/16/20209
SunMonTueWedThuFriSatVariety
411335127
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.71211
Sam Ezersky

This puzzle:

Rows: 21, Columns: 21 Words: 138, Blocks: 82 Missing: none – this is a pangram. Scrabble average: 1.77 Grid has repeated answers This is puzzle # 36 for Mr. Ezersky. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Will Shortz notes:
Sam Ezersky, 24, is the associate puzzles editor at The Times. A 'puzzlehead' since childhood, he sold his first crossword to the paper, a Saturday, when he was 17. His job at The Times ... read more

Sam Ezersky, 24, is the associate puzzles editor at The Times. A "puzzlehead" since childhood, he sold his first crossword to the paper, a Saturday, when he was 17. His job at The Times includes testing/fact-checking the daily Mini crossword and curating the daily digital Spelling Bee.

This puzzle started when he noticed a curious property of 26-Across.

Sam Ezersky notes:
Several years ago, before joining Will and Joel at The Times, I had one of my own puzzle submissions rejected, whose theme presentation just wouldn't offer up a strong enough click with ... read more

Several years ago, before joining Will and Joel at The Times, I had one of my own puzzle submissions rejected, whose theme presentation just wouldn't offer up a strong enough click with the majority of our solving audience. It involved puns around interesting names for groups of animals: "Group of rhinos on Wall Street?" for STOCK MARKET CRASH, "Group of crows in Egypt?" for MURDER ON THE NILE, etc. Perhaps this would amuse those familiar with "crash" as the term for a group of rhinos, but to the many solvers discovering it mid-solve, the puzzle probably would elicit more "Oh, fun fact, I guess" than that smile-inducing "Aha!" we strive for.

I thought about that puzzle a lot while agonizing over how to present the theme idea in today's. It seemed too cool to me that various English words were spelled the exact same way as written-out numbers in foreign languages. How could I get solvers to appreciate these finds in crossword form while (most likely) showing them something new?

I hope this puzzle provides that smile-inducing "Aha!" on your end, and isn't just indulging my soft spot for constructor-y wordplay. There's a lot going on in the grid, and I'd like to thank the crossword gods for some serious luck with the theme symmetry.

P.S.: Yes, there were other possible fills for that southeast corner ... but I like keeping my grids on the wacky side.

Jeff Chen notes:
Matt Gaffney's wonderful meta-puzzle series had an outstanding 'foreign numbers doubling as English words' concept a few years back. After banging my head for 10+ hours, I admitted defeat, ... read more

Matt Gaffney's wonderful meta-puzzle series had an outstanding "foreign numbers doubling as English words" concept a few years back. After banging my head for 10+ hours, I admitted defeat, but I don't mind being stumped when a puzzle is that clever.

When it comes to Sunday puzzles, Will Shortz has to cater to an enormous audience, ranging from the most noob of newbs to the tip-top speed solvers. I don't envy him. I bet there are a lot of solvers out there who have never before thought about foreign numbers in this way. To them, this could be the perfect introduction to the idea.

I'm not a top solver, but I do have thousands of puzzles solved under my belt, so today's execution felt like it was hitting me over the head with a hammer — keyword within phrase PLUS keyword repeated elsewhere PLUS language in which the keyword is a number? That drained out most of the fun. I'd prefer something more playful, or at least less explainy.

Removing the language entry, i.e., no SPANISH and just QUINCE JELLY + QUINCE [FIFTEEN, in Spanish], would have made it less hammery. Would newer solvers understand what's going on, though? Maybe not.

What would be more playful approach? Maybe having the numbers spell out something in alphanumeric (A = 1, B = 2, etc.)? Making kooky number phrases like ELF ON THE SHELF = [Eleven magical creatures in a Berliner's room?] Not sure, but it's fun to think about.

Anyone else's eyes open wide when encountering BA__S = things passed between the legs? That's legs of a relay race. Ahem.

Not sure which is more appalling: where my mind first went, or my lack of understanding of basic anatomy.

1
D
2
R
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A
4
T
5
D
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A
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T
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I
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V
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E
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S
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L
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I
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M
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P
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C
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M
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X
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S
P
A
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H
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A
M
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L
A
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Q
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E
J
E
L
L
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Q
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U
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C
E
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P
O
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C
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S
P
30
E
X
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A
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M
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G
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E
R
M
A
N
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A
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Y
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E
A
Y
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S
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I
R
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M
A
W
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D
A
F
O
E
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A
B
A
F
T
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T
H
O
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L
O
R
I
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E
L
F
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D
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O
B
B
Y
T
H
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E
H
O
U
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S
E
E
L
F
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W
A
S
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A
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B
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P
E
A
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O
V
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D
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T
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B
E
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G
E
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H
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A
D
E
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58
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P
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Y
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P
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A
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M
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S
O
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N
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A
M
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S
S
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T
A
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67
G
O
D
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S
G
68
O
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O
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D
71
D
U
E
T
O
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T
H
E
F
A
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C
74
T
T
H
A
T
75
D
U
E
76
I
N
N
S
77
M
R
S
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K
A
Z
O
O
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N
80
O
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C
E
81
O
R
C
82
D
I
E
T
83
M
E
N
U
S
84
F
85
R
E
N
C
H
86
S
A
Y
87
S
O
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A
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C
S
89
S
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V
E
90
L
O
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S
T
I
N
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T
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R
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A
N
S
L
A
T
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I
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O
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N
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B
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U
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S
Y
B
E
E
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A
102
K
R
O
N
O
H
103
D
E
T
O
O
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I
T
A
L
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A
N
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B
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L
O
G
Y
106
A
R
T
O
O
107
G
E
N
Y
E
R
108
B
A
T
O
N
S
109
M
Y
O
B
© 2020, The New York TimesNo. 0216 ( 25,667 )
Across
1
"Consarn it!" : DRAT
5
Kind of case in grammar : DATIVE
11
Shed some pounds : SLIMUP
17
Edited, in a way : RECUT
19
Sister channel of HBO : CINEMAX
20
What the answer at 26-Across is written in : SPANISH
21
Low-level, as a class : INTRO
22
Question that might be asked when hurrying into a meeting : AMILATE
23
Duty for a property owner : LANDTAX
24
Relative of marmalade : QUINCEJELLY
26
FIFTEEN : QUINCE
28
Oval Office V.I.P. : POTUS
29
Transition point : CUSP
30
Period preceding a school break : EXAMS
34
What the answer at 45-Across is written in : GERMAN
36
"Yes, captain" : AYEAYESIR
40
Gaping opening : MAW
41
Willem of "John Wick" : DAFOE
42
Toward the stern : ABAFT
43
Howe'er : THO
44
Chicago mayor Lightfoot : LORI
45
ELEVEN : ELF
46
Whom Harry Potter frees from serving Draco Malfoy's family : DOBBYTHEHOUSEELF
50
Spicy, crunchy snack tidbit : WASABIPEA
53
"Ars Amatoria" writer : OVID
54
Area the Chinese call Xizang : TIBET
55
"Make sense?" : GETIT
56
Hell : HADES
58
Square up with : REPAY
59
With 60-Across, take control after a coup : SEIZE
60
See 59-Across : POWER
61
SIXTEEN : SEIZE
62
"Just ___ boy, born and raised in South Detroit" (lyric from "Don't Stop Believin'") : ACITY
63
Specks : MOTES
64
Sleep: Prefix : SOMNI
65
Not quite right : AMISS
66
Full of tension : TAUT
67
"Hallelujah, praise the Lord!" : GODISGOOD
71
Because : DUETOTHEFACTTHAT
75
TWO : DUE
76
Cozy spots to stop : INNS
77
Miss in the future, maybe : MRS
78
Buzz source : KAZOO
79
Cocktail specification : NOICE
81
Fictional creature made from slime : ORC
82
Restaurant handouts for calorie counters : DIETMENUS
84
What the answer at 61-Across is written in : FRENCH
86
Final authority : SAYSO
88
Rainbows, e.g. : ARCS
89
Flour filter : SIEVE
90
With 92-Across, alternative title for this puzzle : LOSTIN
92
See 90-Across : TRANSLATION
98
On-the-go sort : BUSYBEE
101
It's SW of Erie, Pa. : AKRONOH
103
See 106-Across : DETOO
104
What the answer at 75-Across is written in : ITALIAN
105
Life lessons? : BIOLOGY
106
With 103-Across, character in Episodes I through IX of "Star Wars" : ARTOO
107
Millennial, informally : GENYER
108
Things passed between the legs? : BATONS
109
"Butt out!" : MYOB
Down
1
Title host of radio's first major quiz show : DRIQ
2
Contact lens care brand : RENU
3
Broadway opening : ACTI
4
Declare for the draft, say : TURNPRO
5
Items that, ironically, contain nickel : DIMES
6
"Slumdog Millionaire" co-star ___ Kapoor : ANIL
7
Be a snitch : TELL
8
Wishy-washy R.S.V.P. : IMAY
9
Plant holder? : VAT
10
Funeral ceremony : EXEQUY
11
Go across : SPAN
12
Soldier on horseback : LANCER
13
Word before card or fund : INDEX
14
Sloan School of Management sch. : MIT
15
Team ___ : USA
16
Major Southwest hub, for short : PHX
18
In store : TOCOME
19
Like some New Orleans cooking : CAJUN
20
Sloppy : SLIPSHOD
25
Letter in the classical spelling of "Athena" : ETA
27
"Here's something that'll help" : USETHIS
29
Some battery ends : CATHODES
31
Amorphous creatures : AMOEBAE
32
Dreaded musician of the 1960s-'70s : MARLEY
33
Brisk : SWIFT
34
Luxurious affair : GALA
35
Symbols of failure : EFFS
36
1974 Eurovision winner that went on to international stardom : ABBA
37
"Wahoo!" : YAY
38
Immature stage of a salamander : EFT
39
Letters of credit? : IOU
41
Drops on the ground? : DEW
42
"Not on ___!" : ABET
44
Where Wagner was born and Bach died : LEIPZIG
46
Scatterbrained : DITZY
47
Man's name that sounds like two consecutive letters of the alphabet : OPIE
48
At any time : EVER
49
Oktoberfest vessels : STEINS
51
Some unfair hiring managers : AGEISTS
52
"Go ahead," in Shakespeare : BEITSO
56
Openly controversial opinions : HOTTAKES
57
Knock out : AWE
58
Invoice directive : REMIT
59
Like most medical journal articles : SCIENCY
60
High hairstyle : POUF
61
Club ___ : SODA
62
Egypt's "king of the gods" : AMUNRA
63
Excellent conductors : MAESTRI
64
N.Y.C. neighborhood near NoLIta : SOHO
65
"Ciao" : ADIOS
66
Put in jeopardy : THREATEN
67
Muscle cars of the '60s : GTOS
68
Lyrical, as poetry : ODIC
69
Facetious response to a verbal jab : OUCH
70
"E.T." actress Wallace : DEE
72
"Ugh, stop talking already!" : TMI
73
Sack : CAN
74
Sun ___, "The Art of War" philosopher : TZU
79
Where most of America's gold is mined : NEVADA
80
Like the presidency of John Adams : ONETERM
82
Joint : DOOBIE
83
Longtime Eagles QB Donovan : MCNABB
84
Suspect : FISHY
85
Bible study: Abbr. : REL
87
With a wink : SLYLY
89
Kisses, in Cambridge : SNOGS
91
Brown : SEAR
92
Bring (out) for display : TROT
93
Candy wrapped in a tube : ROLO
94
"I'll come to you ___": Macbeth : ANON
95
Eensy-weensy : ITTY
96
New pedometer reading : OOOO
97
Beginner, in modern lingo : NOOB
98
Mammoth : BIG
99
Western tribe : UTE
100
___ Salvador : SAN
102
What will happily sell its Soul? : KIA

Answer summary: 13 unique to this puzzle, 3 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

Found bugs or have suggestions?

See NYT Crosswords for info.