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COURT JESTERS

New York Times, Sunday, February 28, 2016

Author:
Timothy Polin
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
5012/11/20118/8/20192
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74962202
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.626140
Timothy Polin

This puzzle:

Rows: 21, Columns: 21 Words: 140, Blocks: 72 Missing: {J} This is puzzle # 22 for Mr. Polin. Jeff Chen's Puzzle of the Week pick. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Timothy Polin notes:
I played basketball in 7th and 8th grade. Coming from a small school full of Jews, it was a wonder the team didn't win a game in two years. As perhaps the shortest, least athletic Jew on ... read more

I played basketball in 7th and 8th grade. Coming from a small school full of Jews, it was a wonder the team didn't win a game in two years. As perhaps the shortest, least athletic Jew on the roster, it's also a wonder that I failed to score more than 7 points in my rookie year, or 6 during my second campaign. To the relief of sports fans everywhere, I hung up my spurs before high school, confident there weren't many no-look passes or buzzer beaters in my future.

The idea for the twist for NOTHING BUT NET, this theme's seed, came from the part in "Forrest Gump" where Forrest and Lieutenant Dan haul in garbage when they're first attempting to shrimp.

My original draft had PERSONAL FOUL in BUZZER BEATER's place and MARCH MADNESS at 116A, as a themer/revealer. That setup seemed OK, but I was a little worried the revealer was superfluous (something I got creamed for last time). OFFENSIVE REBOUND ("New lover taken to spite an ex?") sure would have been nice to include somewhere (tough with an unpaired 16!).

A few wonky comments:

  1. J could've been shoved into MA? / ?EW for the pangram, but that wouldn't have justified MAJ.
  2. My knees start wobbling by the third rung on a stepladder, so it's great to see an acrophobia shout-out in 88A's new and improved clue. The clue kinda reminds me of "Lost Horizon" (lovely book).
  3. ALECTO (toughie) could've been ELECTS, crossing M/COEN and HSN. One of the things, however, that the inimitable Joe Krozel inculcated me with was the desirability of limiting boring propers, both from a cluing standpoint, as well as from a solver's perspective. Here, ALECTO is fairly crossed, and in the aggregate results in one less name, so it was my preference. For this same reason, MIKE and TONY are clued as non-propers.

I've also been lucky enough to work with Jeff on a couple of things, and he too is an invaluable font of wisdom. Seeing his notes every day, I always ask myself WWJD? But, as a LOX-loving non-Gentile, the J stands for Jeff, and not Jesus.

Jeff Chen notes:
As a huge fantasy basketball fan, I loved this puzzle. I'm sure there will be solvers who don't care for it — I pitched this same idea to Rich Norris at the LAT a few years ago, and ... read more

As a huge fantasy basketball fan, I loved this puzzle. I'm sure there will be solvers who don't care for it — I pitched this same idea to Rich Norris at the LAT a few years ago, and he rejected it because things like DOUBLE DRIBBLE wouldn't be familiar enough to enough of his solving population — but my guess is that it'll be accessible enough to a big chunk of NYT solvers.

Now THOSE were the good old days, when bridge could get you on the cover of SI

Plus, March Madness is coming up, people! If you don't know your POINT GUARDs throwing NO LOOK PASSes to sharpshooters hitting NOTHING BUT NET, you don't know what you're missing.

I liked the wacky definitions, most of them funny enough to give me a smile. NO LOOK PASS clued to an acrophobe's nervous journey through the mountains was really amusing. Again, it's going to be tougher for people who don't know what NO LOOK PASS really means, but again … March Madness is almost upon us!

I thought Tim's execution was super solid, too. It's normal to have a few gluey bits in a 140-word Sunday crossword — almost impossible not to — so to keep it to short ROI, AZO, ATTS stuff is really good. And it was so nice to get bonuses like NAMEDROP, MARS BARS, even ATOMIZES, OLD PRO and POW WOW. NOT SO BAD, I DARE SAY. (It's like Tim planned that, isn't it?)

Tim and I have worked on a puzzle or two together, and he knows some of my eccentric hobbies, so it was awfully fun to see Charles GOREN, "Mr. Bridge" in the grid. You had me at GOREN!

And the cluing was really fun. It only takes a handful to really pep up the Sunday crossword, and there were many more than that:

  • An AIRPLANE as a "runway model"
  • A SNAIL as a "mobile home resident"
  • CHAD hinting at the "fallout" from the 2000 election, i.e. the HANGING CHAD

I tend to get bored by Sunday puzzles (due to my short attention … something shiny!) but this one kept me highly entertained until the end.

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© 2016, The New York TimesNo. 0228 ( 24,218 )
Across
1
Make less dangerous, in a way : DECLAW
7
Sleep lab study : APNEA
12
Some school edicts : BANS
16
Small invention : FIB
19
Eagle constellation : AQUILA
20
Signature Michael Jackson wear : GLOVE
21
Runway model? : AIRPLANE
23
Fly swatter? : BUZZERBEATER
25
"It seems to me ..." : IDARESAY
26
Attack order : SIC
27
Rationale : BASIS
28
Trickle : OOZE
30
"The Good Wife" figures: Abbr. : ATTS
31
Confer : POWWOW
34
Drool from both sides of the mouth? : DOUBLEDRIBBLE
38
Screams bloody murder : HOWLS
40
Brought up : BRED
41
Narrow lead in baseball : ONERUN
42
Quaker of note? : ASPEN
45
In base 8 : OCTAL
47
Sound near a spittoon : PTUI
50
Brooding music genre : EMO
51
Tip of an épée? : POINTGUARD
53
Sci-fi film with a 2010 sequel : TRON
54
Brings in : REAPS
56
Palindromic girl : ANA
57
" : DITTO
58
Busted timer? : SHOTCLOCK
60
Illicit sum : RANSOM
62
Anderson of "WKRP" : LONI
64
Historic siege site : ALAMO
65
Legendary siege site : TROY
66
Desi Arnaz? : BALLHANDLER
70
Unsteady gait : LIMP
74
Cutting edge : BLADE
76
Karaoke bar sight : MIKE
77
Key of Brahms's Symphony No. 4 : EMINOR
79
Winning an Oscar for "Norma Rae"? : FIELDGOAL
81
One of the Gabor sisters : MAGDA
84
Prompt : CUE
85
Actress Thomas : MARLO
87
Reclined : LAIN
88
Acrophobe's term for a route through the mountains? : NOLOOKPASS
90
Encouraging word : OLE
91
Fire place? : HELL
92
Attended : WASAT
93
Soothes : EASES
94
One of the Furies : ALECTO
97
Asian territory in Risk : SIAM
99
Round after the quarters : SEMIS
101
Lament from an unlucky shrimper? : NOTHINGBUTNET
105
Devotee : VOTARY
108
Fallout from the 2000 election? : CHAD
109
"My bad!" : OOPS
110
Put off : DEFER
112
Short flight : HOP
114
Nougaty treats : MARSBARS
116
Writing "30 and single" when it's really "50 and married," e.g.? : PERSONALFOUL
120
Reduces to smithereens : ATOMIZES
121
Cropped up : AROSE
122
Canadian smacker : LOONIE
123
Morning condensate : DEW
124
Chichi : TONY
125
Cantina appetizers : TAPAS
126
Go through : EXPEND
Down
1
Applies gingerly : DABS
2
Outfit : EQUIP
3
World Heritage Site in the Andes : CUZCO
4
Oft-married Taylor : LIZ
5
Keg contents : ALE
6
Archer's battle weapon : WARBOW
7
Forever : AGES
8
Like lumberjack jackets : PLAID
9
O.K. : NOTSOBAD
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Time for last-minute planning : EVE
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Oxygen-dependent bacterium : AEROBE
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Card table cloth : BAIZE
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Not fully independent : AIDED
14
Piece corps, briefly? : NRA
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Almost dislocate : SPRAIN
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Violation of Yom Kippur? : FASTBREAK
17
Batting .200, maybe : INASLUMP
18
Queen ___ (pop music nickname) : BEY
22
Don't bother : LETBE
24
Give a tongue-lashing : BAWLOUT
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Veteran : OLDPRO
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A question of time : WHEN
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Is unacceptable : WONTDO
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Virtual address : URL
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Père d'un prince : ROI
37
1961 space chimp : ENOS
39
Improvise, in a way : SCAT
42
Isolated : APART
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Echolocator : SONAR
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Softly : PIANO
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"Three Billy Goats Gruff" villain : TROLL
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Smash up : TOTAL
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"You win!" : UNCLE
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Stabilizer of a ship's compass : GIMBAL
53
"Use your head!" : THINK
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CD-___ : ROM
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Ground beef contaminant : ECOLI
58
Mobile home resident? : SNAIL
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Rio Grande city : LAREDO
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"Downton Abbey" daughter : SYBIL
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"Jeez!" : OHMAN
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Flummox : ADDLE
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De jure : LEGAL
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Showroom models : DEMOS
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Residents of 3-Down : INCAS
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Trackpad alternative : MOUSE
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Lean on : PRESS
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Astral lion : LEO
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Achieve success : MAKEIT
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Rug dealer's special? : FREETHROW
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Prepares for a Mr. Universe competition, say : OILSUP
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"___ the day!" (cry repeated in Shakespeare) : ALAS
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Settled the score : GOTEVEN
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Ghostly sound : MOAN
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Apportion : ALLOCATE
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Say "When I met the Dalai Lama last year," say : NAMEDROP
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"Qué ___?" : PASA
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Sugar : HON
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Goth-looking, in a way : WAN
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It's hard to get across : CHASM
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Morsel : TIDBIT
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1994 bomb based on an "S.N.L." character : ITSPAT
100
Something to boost : MORALE
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Bridge whiz : GOREN
103
Domineering : BOSSY
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Actress Thompson of "Creed" : TESSA
106
River along Avignon : RHONE
107
"Wanna play?" : YOUIN
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Anti bodies? : FOES
113
Petitioned : PLED
114
Whacked : MAD
115
Kind of dye : AZO
117
The Depression, for one : ERA
118
Smoked deli purchase : LOX
119
Popinjay : FOP

Answer summary: 3 unique to this puzzle, 1 debuted here and reused later, 2 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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