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LETTER RECYCLING

New York Times, Sunday, February 25, 2018

Author: Will Nediger
Editor: Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
245/27/20067/29/20180
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11023017
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.80022
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 entries that share ... more
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 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 more flexibility when you ... more
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 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 Down
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
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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