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CRACKING WISE

New York Times, Sunday, February 4, 2018

Author:
David Levinson Wilk
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
2412/2/19962/4/20180
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
6125271
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.58120
David Levinson Wilk

This puzzle:

Rows: 21, Columns: 21 Words: 140, Blocks: 76 Missing: {QXZ} This is puzzle # 24 for Mr. Wilk. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
David Levinson Wilk notes:

There's always a next time, POTTYHUMOR and BELLYLAUGH. That said, hope this one helped all of you PUTONAHAPPYFACE.

Jeff Chen notes:
I enjoy puzzles that play with shapes. I'd seen 'V sitting over I = Y' puzzles before, but I like David's additional layer, CRACKING WISE hinting that not only do the Ys get broken into V ... read more

I enjoy puzzles that play with shapes. I'd seen "V sitting over I = Y" puzzles before, but I like David's additional layer, CRACKING WISE hinting that not only do the Ys get broken into V over I (see the grid below for details), but it only happens within themers … that are humor-related! Love it when a puzzle goes above and beyond.

Delightful themers. I love me some YO MAMA JOKEs, so that one stood out. But all of them were strong phrases, all related to comedy. Good selections, if a bit repetitive-feeling toward the end.

In my book, the best Sunday puzzles are the ones that scream I'M TOO BIG TO BE CONTAINED BY A 15x15 GRID! This one did not. It's true that EVERYBODYS A COMEDIAN is too long for a 15x15. But while the theme tickled me through the first half of the puzzle, the joke started to get old.

(That central themer apparently is true!)

What might have helped: longer crossing answers (containing the VIs) — shorties like AVIAS and EVITE don't do much for me. Would have been awesome to have even more humor-related phrases crossing the themers at those squares! Now that would have been awesome, and given it a good reason to need a big grid.

A Sunday 140-word grid is almost always harder to fill with clean and colorful material, compared to a 15x15 weekday. It's even harder when you add the constraint of "no other Ys in the puzzle except those in the themers." Stuff like PERINATAL and ARGOSIES didn't do a lot for me — I bet there could have been more of the great ROSE PETAL and POLONIUS long fill in a 15x15 … as well as less AARONS / TARAS, STER / ISE, ACARD / AHERO, etc.

Clever idea overall though, and the title's extra lavier — er, layer — helped me enjoy the puzzle

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© 2018, The New York TimesNo. 0204 ( 24,925 )
Across
1
52-story Boston skyscraper, familiarly : THEPRU
7
Brass instrument with a mellow sound : BASSTUBA
15
___ Malfoy, student at Hogwarts : DRACO
20
Sorkin and Spelling : AARONS
21
Kind of equinox : AUTUMNAL
22
Puerto ___ : RICAN
23
"Stop! You're killing me!" : THATSHYSTERICAL
25
___-garde : AVANT
26
Give some lip : SASS
27
Uncut : ENTIRE
28
More than willing : EAGERTO
30
For whom the Lorax speaks : TREES
31
Internet home to "Between Two Ferns" : FUNNYORDIE
34
Latin for "womb" : UTERUS
38
Monsieur's mate : MADAME
41
Y or N, maybe : ANS
42
Shakespeare character who says "This above all: to thine own self be true" : POLONIUS
45
Actor Jason : ROBARDS
47
Zugspitze, e.g. : ALP
50
A person skilled at deadpan has one : DRYSENSEOFHUMOR
52
What "4" may stand for : APRIL
54
French river or department : OISE
55
Beseech : BEG
56
Advert's ending? : ISE
57
Designer Geoffrey : BEENE
58
Carrier to Karachi : PIA
61
Tugboat sounds : TOOTS
65
Decked out : ADORNED
67
Unimpressed response to someone's one-liner : EVERYBODYSACOMEDIAN
72
___ intolerance : LACTOSE
73
Novo-Ogaryovo is the official one of the Russian president : DACHA
74
Lavatory sign : MEN
75
Hawke of "Training Day" : ETHAN
76
Regrettable : SAD
79
Broadway's Hagen : UTA
81
"Roméo et Juliette" segment : ACTE
85
Coin toss call : TAILS
86
Stand-up chain started in Los Angeles : THELAUGHFACTORY
92
Big engine additive : STP
93
Log-in needs : USERIDS
94
Verbally assail : SCREAMAT
95
"Iglu," for "igloo": Abbr. : VAR
97
Cover over, in a way : REROOF
99
Start limping : GOLAME
100
It might involve someone being "so poor" or "so old" : YOMAMAJOKE
104
"___, amigo" : ADIOS
107
Count ___ : CHOCULA
108
Nail salon employees, at times : FILERS
110
Its "reeds are a pain / And the fingering's insane," per Ogden Nash : OBOE
114
Lipinski and Reid : TARAS
115
"Jeez ... lighten up!" : IWASONLYKIDDING
120
Be grandiloquent : ORATE
121
To this day, Marie Curie's are still radioactive : LABNOTES
122
Mystery : ENIGMA
123
Lacoste and Descartes : RENES
124
Star of 1976's Oscar winner for Best Picture : STALLONE
125
Smoothed in a shop : SANDED
Down
1
Some body art, for short : TATS
2
"Hilarious!" : HAHA
3
Noteworthy times : ERAS
4
Lobster traps : POTS
5
Med. professionals who take a pledge named for Florence Nightingale : RNS
6
Welcomes : USHERSIN
7
Plaster : BASTE
8
Condition for filmdom's Rain Man : AUTISM
9
Suffix with speed : STER
10
"Oh, what the hell ... I'll do it" : SURE
11
"Uh, you've told me quite enough" : TMI
12
Where Michael Jordan played coll. ball : UNC
13
Meadow call : BAA
14
Poet Ginsberg : ALLEN
15
"Game of Thrones" creature : DRAGON
16
Joan who quipped "A Peeping Tom looked in my window and pulled down the shade" : RIVERS
17
"Pick ___ ..." : ACARD
18
"Pretty please?" : CANTI
19
Doing a pirouette, say : ONTOE
24
Poison ivy, e.g. : VINE
29
Some sneakers : AVIAS
30
Something carried onstage? : TUNE
31
"Terrif!" : FABU
32
Fifth category of taste with a Japanese name : UMAMI
33
"Peter ___ Greatest Hits" (1974 album) : NEROS
34
High hairstyle : UPDO
35
Doughnut figures : TORI
36
Late '50s singing sensation : ELVIS
37
One of many scattered in a honeymoon suite, maybe : ROSEPETAL
39
Light bark : ARF
40
Cry from Homer : DOH
43
Kind of port for a flash drive : USB
44
Manage : SEETO
46
Night vision? : DREAM
47
Bowl : ARENA
48
Maid's armful : LINEN
49
Made an appeal : PLED
51
Hymn starter : OGOD
52
Habitation : ABODE
53
Around the time of birth : PERINATAL
59
Chains : IRONS
60
Car rental giant : AVIS
62
Poet who wrote "Fortune and love favor the brave" : OVID
63
Org. that offers Precheck enrollment : TSA
64
___ fly : SAC
66
One on the left?: Abbr. : DEM
67
Greatly bother : EATAT
68
TV blocking device : VCHIP
69
Tops : BESTS
70
Finish all at once, in a way : CHUG
71
Things taken by government officials : OATHS
72
"Sounds like a plan!" : LETS
77
"Don't be ___!" : AHERO
78
___ Walcott, Nobel Prize-winning poet : DEREK
80
Patriots' org. : AFC
82
Bad state to be in : COMA
83
Mine transport : TRAM
84
Modern party summons : EVITE
87
Euros replaced them : LIRE
88
Bustle : ADO
89
Grp. that puts on a show : USO
90
Fleets : ARGOSIES
91
Wall St. bigwigs : CEOS
93
Like Mount Narodnaya : URAL
95
Empty : VACATE
96
Brings a smile to : AMUSES
98
Like some angels and dominoes : FALLEN
100
Champion : VICTOR
101
Airport that J.F.K. dedicated in 1963 : OHARE
102
Erin of "Joanie Loves Chachi" : MORAN
103
Locks up : JAILS
105
Concoct : DEVISE
106
Bug : IRK
108
Jester : FOOL
109
Feeling : INTO
110
Anthony Hopkins's "Thor" role : ODIN
111
City NNE of San Antone : BIGD
112
"My treat!" : ONME
113
"My stars!" : EGAD
116
Cambodia's Angkor ___ : WAT
117
Court org. : ABA
118
Skit show, for short : SNL
119
What makes you you? : DNA

Answer summary: 8 unique to this puzzle, 2 debuted here and reused later, 1 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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