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LETTER RECYCLING

New York Times, Sunday, February 25, 2018

Author:
Will Nediger
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
255/27/200611/10/20180
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
11023018
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.79022
Will Nediger

This puzzle:

Rows: 21, Columns: 21 Words: 140, Blocks: 71 Missing: {QZ} This is puzzle # 22 for Mr. Nediger. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Will Nediger notes:
The inspiration for this theme was noticing that CREAM CHEESE and SCHMEAR share the same set of letters, and can both be clued as [Bagel topping]. So I had the idea of a bunch of pairs of ... read more

The inspiration for this theme was noticing that CREAM CHEESE and SCHMEAR share the same set of letters, and can both be clued as [Bagel topping]. So I had the idea of a bunch of pairs of entries that share both clues and letter banks, and I brainstormed for a while and came up with around a dozen pairs. (ETHAN ALLEN and NATHAN HALE was a fortuitous find — they were both mentioned within a few seconds of each other on an episode of Outlander.) The only problem is that I needed many, many more pairs to be able to make a theme that fits symmetrically, and coming up with enough by myself would have taken years, so I enlisted a friend to write some code for me — shoutout to Samir Khan for making this crossword possible. Samir generated thousands of pairs from my word list, and I combed through them to find ones that might work.

Will liked my first submission, but there was one pair that didn't fit with the rest - SILENT K and TELEKINESIS, which I had clued along the lines of [Something a Jedi Knight has]. That clue involved trickery, unlike the rest, so he had me replace it. Easier said than done to find a pair that would fit in that exact spot, but eventually, I found a replacement. Anyway, I've gone on for a lot longer than I usually do, but that's because a ton of time went into this theme!

I'll just leave readers with a few pairs which didn't quite work for the theme, but which I enjoyed coming across anyway:

  • COASTAL ELITES / SOCIALIST STATE
  • APPASSIONATA / PIANO SONATA
  • FORNICATING / GRATIFICATION
  • NATALIE PORTMAN / EMPEROR PALPATINE
  • FOOT FETISH / IF THE SHOE FITS
  • IT AIN'T OVER TILL IT'S OVER / IT'S NEVER TOO LATE
  • GASTROINTESTINAL / INTERNAL ORGANS
  • DOPPELGANGER / EDGAR ALLAN POE
Jeff Chen notes:
NATHAN HALE made up of the letters within ETHAN ALLEN? How cool! And ASTOUNDING made up of the letters within OUTSTANDING? These findings aren't as cool as direct anagrams – much ... read more

NATHAN HALE made up of the letters within ETHAN ALLEN? How cool! And ASTOUNDING made up of the letters within OUTSTANDING? These findings aren't as cool as direct anagrams – much more flexibility when you can use more or fewer instances of the letters however you want – but still, DADBLASTED made up out of the letters within DETESTABLE was pretty awesome.

Not as much a fan of PISTACHIOS / POTATO CHIPS. Okay, they're both snack foods. But that's a pretty gigantic category. Certainly not as tight as "Revolutionary war heroes" or direct synonyms.

GEORGIAN ERA and IRON AGE, too. Perhaps if those two time frames were closer …

CREAM CHEESE made of the letters in SCHMEAR, now that was a great way to end the puzzle. I have a bagel with CREAM CHEESE most every morning, but I've never noticed this finding. Great stuff.

Also great was Will's gridwork. Working in six crossing pairs of long(ish) answers into a Sunday grid should be impossible to do without relying on an excess of crossword glue. Most constructors have to splorch on a (very) noticeable amount of glue in order to just made a standard seven-themer Sunday puzzle work. There were a couple of toughies in ARETES, RECTO, KOMBU, REUNES, but wow. To keep it to just that is amazing.

Will did such a nice job in setting up his grid skeleton and using black squares to keep the themers separated. I highlighted the themers below, so you can better see how careful his spacing was. Such intricate nesting!

My only knock: an overreliance on +preposition phrases. WERE ON, RODE ON, LURES IN, WADE IN, BENT ON … talk about ADD ONS! Generally, these are fine entries, but the glut grated on my sensibilities. If only a few of those slots had been used for things like APTEST, COBALT, TOP TEN, etc.

At first, I wasn't as impressed as I wanted to be, given that these were something less than direct anagrams. But I liked how the concept opened up room for direct synonyms and tight pairs like NATHAN HALE and ETHAN ALLEN – something that direct anagrams won't usually allow. Along with the strong gridwork, this would have been a POW! pick, if some of the pairs hadn't felt too loosey-goosey.

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© 2018, The New York TimesNo. 0225 ( 24,946 )
Across
1. Small flute : FIFE
5. Tries to beat the buzzer? : SWATS
10. Throws together : MAKES
15. Airport waiter? : CAB
18. 404 Not Found, e.g. : ERROR
19. Energize : KEYUP
20. Not happy, to say the least : IRATE
21. Kitchen brand : OXO
22. Historical period spelled using only the letters of 2-Down : GEORGIANERA
24. Singer who once spelled her name with a "$" : KESHA
25. Word before data or deal : BIG
26. Unlikely to be talked out of : BENTON
27. "That wasn't nice!" : TSK
28. Revolutionary War hero spelled using only the letters of 13-Down : NATHANHALE
30. Website with a "Sell an item" option : EBAY
31. Order to go : MUSH
33. Enter the fray : WADEIN
34. Woman's name that sounds like its second and first letters, respectively : ELLY
35. Fix : RIG
36. Snack items spelled using only the letters of 36-Down : PISTACHIOS
38. Inner tubes? : AORTAS
40. Casual top : TEE
41. Ancient theaters : ODEA
42. Prince of Shakespeare : HAL
43. Screw up : FLUB
44. Fund-raising org. : PTA
45. Be annoying : GRATE
47. Garment that's often plaid : KILT
48. Sukkot celebrant : JEW
51. Christmas drink : WASSAIL
55. Geraint's wife, in Arthurian romance : ENID
56. What assayers assay : ORES
57. Butt's end? : ASH
58. Many an office worker's problem : EYESTRAIN
60. It's imagined : FIGMENT
62. TV demonstrator at the 1939 World's Fair : RCA
63. Page 1, e.g. : RECTO
64. Oscar winner with four #1 Billboard hits : CHER
66. Bass player : TUBA
67. When it comes to : ASFOR
69. You can lend one without letting go of it : EAR
70. Jewel case holder : CDTOWER
73. Combo meal entree : SURFNTURF
75. Spanish "Listen!" : OYE
76. Mound : HEAP
77. Future stallion : COLT
79. Tin lizzies : MODELTS
80. Basket part : NET
81. "That so?" reply : ITIS
82. "See you later" : ADIOS
84. Basket part : RIM
85. Put the pedal to the metal : SPED
86. Word that might be helpful on a class reunion name tag : NEE
87. Rack site : OVEN
89. Photog's purchase : SLR
92. What a press pass provides : ACCESS
95. Really impressive, spelled using only the letters of 39-Down : ASTOUNDING
98. Chalked stick : CUE
99. Stern-looking : DOUR
100. Many a year-end list : TOPTEN
102. Alpo alternative : IAMS
103. Drive-___ : THRU
104. No-good, spelled using only the letters of 71-Down : DADBLASTED
106. Include without notifying others, in a way : BCC
107. Bygone deliverers : ICEMEN
109. Cause of a tic, for short : OCD
110. "The Master Builder" playwright : IBSEN
111. Bagel topping spelled using only the letters of 89-Down : CREAMCHEESE
113. Penguins' org. : NHL
114. Group of stars : ALIST
115. Temporary tattoo material : HENNA
116. Writer Nin : ANAIS
117. Sun spot? : SKY
118. Track schedule : MEETS
119. Much-abbreviated Latin phrase : IDEST
120. "Aw rats!" : DARN
Down
1. It's comped : FREEBIE
2. Historical period : IRONAGE
3. Double a score : FORTY
4. Therefore : ERGO
5. Jamaican export : SKA
6. Was dateless : WENTSTAG
7. Muhammad's favorite wife : AYESHA
8. Young ___ : TURK
9. Place to get pampered : SPA
10. Nanki-Poo's father, with "the" : MIKADO
11. Glacial ridges : ARETES
12. Whole-grain cereal brand : KASHI
13. Revolutionary War hero : ETHANALLEN
14. Jamaican rapper ___ Paul : SEAN
15. Shade of blue : COBALT
16. Armpit, medically : AXILLA
17. Ones not up to par? : BOGEYS
18. Grandfather of Alfred the Great : EGBERT
23. Aloft : INMIDAIR
28. Sarcastic response to a fail : NAILEDIT
29. Basil, e.g. : HERB
32. Word before "before" : USE
33. Hypothetical : WHATIF
36. Snack items : POTATOCHIPS
37. Jackie of "The Tuxedo" : CHAN
39. Really impressive : OUTSTANDING
43. Holder of shells : FIREARM
44. "Hey!" : PSST
46. Approve another season of : RENEW
47. Seaweed in Japanese cuisine : KOMBU
48. Amount of jam or jelly beans : JARFUL
49. Part of a motorcade : ESCORT
50. Berth places : WHARFS
51. "You and I have a deal!" : WEREON
52. Roger in the Navy : AYEAYE
53. Clandestine : SECRET
54. Brand in the dairy aisle : LACTAID
59. Breakfast spots : IHOPS
61. Relish : GUSTO
65. Took back one's story : RECANTED
68. Cherry throwaway : STEM
71. No-good : DETESTABLE
72. Was mounted atop : RODEON
74. Kind of medicine : FORENSIC
78. In ___ of : LIEU
83. Six things in some six-packs : SODACANS
85. Neighbor of a Montenegrin : SERB
88. Pep : VIM
89. Bagel topping : SCHMEAR
90. Slyly attracts : LURESIN
91. Gets back together : REUNES
92. Extras : ADDONS
93. Nickname of Duke basketball's Mike Krzyzewski : COACHK
94. Huggable : CUDDLY
95. Challenge for a college-bound student, maybe : APTEST
96. Medical inserts : STENTS
97. ___ Creed (Christian statement of faith) : NICENE
101. Actor Davis : OSSIE
103. Lead role in "Boys Don't Cry," 1999 : TEENA
105. Neeson of "Schindler's List" : LIAM
106. Fostered : BRED
108. Ballot hanger : CHAD
111. X : CHI
112. Dojo surface : MAT

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

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