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LETTER RECYCLING

New York Times, Sunday, February 25, 2018

Author:
Will Nediger
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
305/27/20068/4/20192
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
13025118
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.78032
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: 3 unique to this puzzle, 1 debuted here and reused later, 5 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

Found bugs or have suggestions?