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MATH HYSTERIA

New York Times, Sunday, March 10, 2019

Author:
Adam Fromm
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
56/18/20083/10/20190
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
3001001
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.77001
Adam Fromm

This puzzle:

Rows: 21, Columns: 21 Words: 136, Blocks: 68 Missing: {JQ} This is puzzle # 5 for Mr. Fromm. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Will Shortz notes:
Adam Fromm lives in Providence, R.I. He works for a pharmaceutical company and moonlights as a singer/songwriter. This puzzle is a throwback to his college days when he briefly majored in ... read more

Adam Fromm lives in Providence, R.I. He works for a pharmaceutical company and moonlights as a singer/songwriter. This puzzle is a throwback to his college days when he briefly majored in math … before switching to literature. He prefers subjects that "don't require the right answer, only a reasonable one."

This is his fifth puzzle for The Times.

Adam Fromm notes:
I wish I understood how my brain works. A decade ago I saw a Photoshop contest on the theme of 'scary road signs,' with entries including enforcing a speed limit of the square root of 666. ... read more

I wish I understood how my brain works. A decade ago I saw a Photoshop contest on the theme of "scary road signs," with entries including enforcing a speed limit of the square root of 666. I haven't the foggiest idea why my brain held onto that image, or why it dragged the memory out kicking and screaming ten years later just for the sake of generating a "root of all evil" pun. Once it did, though, and because every dang thing becomes a theme in this hobby, there was no way I wasn't going to run with it.

(It wasn't until writing this blurb that I went looking for the original image, only to discover that it actually showed the square root of 677. I give up, brain.)

This represents my second attempt at the concept after the first was rejected by Will, who liked the theme but not the execution; some but not all of the theme entries in that original go-around relied on homophones, like SINE OF THE TIMES (sin[AxB]) and HALF A GOOD DAY (.5 x 12/25), which proved inconsistent. The do-over is much tighter overall with a minimum of wince-and-hide-my-eyes fill, which isn't to say that I wouldn't love to gut the SW corner another six times.

The fill went relatively quickly, although the nipping and tucking portion of the process dragged on for quite a while. You'd think I'd have learned by now to hack away at the center first, where everything crashes into everything else Michael Bay-style, but old habits die hard. And yes, I was a math major before switching to English, which is as good an explanation not only for this puzzle but for why I do this in the first place. Such is life.

Jeff Chen notes:
You had me at math puns. ROOT OF ALL EVIL as √666 was hilarious. POWER OF ATTORNEY as XEsq made me smile. As did 3.BB. I've taken so many THREE POINT SHOTs in my life (most of ... read more

You had me at math puns.

ROOT OF ALL EVIL as √666 was hilarious. POWER OF ATTORNEY as XEsq made me smile. As did 3.BB. I've taken so many THREE POINT SHOTs in my life (most of them missed, sadly), how could this former mathlete never have thought of that?

Even the ones that didn't hit 100% amused me. $$$/X = CASH DIVIDEND yes, in that a dividend can be the number on top of the divide line. Hard to remember that definition of dividend though, making for not as strong an a-ha moment.

Still, math humor!

As Adam mentioned, the grid wasn't as smooth as I wanted. I stopped counting gluey bits at 10, and it kept going. ECOL ELA FISC ILE OME etc.?

AH, SO, I say (with squinty eyes).

A great majority of constructors should never go below 140 words. There's an exponential rise in difficulty, inversely proportional to the number of words. Don't do it; resist the temptation! Split up TACONIC so you get rid of AH SO. Trouble with the SW corner? Use more black squares there — break up DEPRESSORS and get your long downs elsewhere. A 6x5 chunk of white space is rarely easy to fill with smoothness and color.

Thankfully, the theme entertained me enough to overcome my qualms with the gridwork. I'd love to see Will start returning grids for rework with two caveats:

  1. don't go below 140 words unless your name starts with Berry, and
  2. go up to 142 or even 144 words if that makes for a squeaky-clean grid, with at least 4-6 strong bonus fill entries.

I bet few solvers would notice an occasional 144-word puzzle.

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© 2019, The New York TimesNo. 0310 ( 25,324 )
Across
1
Get along : COEXIST
8
New York's longest parkway, with "the" : TACONIC
15
Eats : GRUB
19
Exodus figure : PHARAOH
20
Well-turned : SHAPELY
21
"The Nutcracker" protagonist : CLARA
22
L x A : LOSANGELESTIMES
24
Actor Gillen of "Game of Thrones" : AIDAN
25
Vodka in a blue bottle : SKYY
26
Test for college srs. : GRE
27
Instrument that represents the duck in "Peter and the Wolf" : OBOE
28
Lacework technique : TATTING
30
The Caribbean's ___ Islands : CAYMAN
33
Put at stake : RISK
35
Police group with an assignment : DETAIL
36
Mystery Writers of America trophy : EDGAR
39
x - y = x - y : SAMEDIFFERENCE
42
Certain red algae : SEAMOSS
45
Middling mark : CEE
46
Fishmonger, at times : SCALER
47
(A- or B+)/7 : SEVENTHGRADE
50
Postwar German sobriquet : DERALTE
54
Abbr. on a phone dial : OPER
55
Brest friend : AMIE
56
Single hair on a carpet, maybe : CLUE
59
Theresa May, for one : TORY
60
"Likewise" : IAMTOO
62
Only places to find anteaters in the U.S. : ZOOS
63
Caboose : HEINIE
65
On point : APT
67
√666 : ROOTOFALLEVIL
71
Dawn goddess : EOS
72
Blank section at the start of a cassette : LEADER
74
Drop acid : TRIP
75
Tennis's Nadal : RAFAEL
77
"Bus Stop" playwright : INGE
78
Short cuts : BOBS
79
"Hey ___" : SIRI
80
Director Caro : NIKI
83
Free all-ad publication : SHOPPER
86
$$$/X : CASHDIVIDEND
90
Spanish-speaking Muppet on "Sesame Street" : ROSITA
93
A short while? : THO
94
Brewery named for a New York river : GENESEE
95
3.BB : THREEPOINTSHOT
100
Mullah's decree : FATWA
101
Like unbaked bread : YEASTY
102
Box score bit : STAT
103
Noted dog trainer : PAVLOV
106
Founder of Egypt's 19th dynasty : RAMSESI
108
W.S.J. announcements : IPOS
110
Drop to zero battery : DIE
111
Curse word : OATH
115
Some giggling dolls : ELMOS
116
XEsq : POWEROFATTORNEY
120
Prognosticators : SEERS
121
Hobbyist : AMATEUR
122
Turned yellow, say : RIPENED
123
Goes off course : ERRS
124
Actress Portia : DEROSSI
125
One way to turn : ONADIME
Down
1
Two-stripe NCOs: Abbr. : CPLS
2
"Sure, I guess" : OHOK
3
"No sweat" : EASY
4
Airport security apparatus : XRAYCAMERA
5
Follower of Christ? : IAN
6
Like cornflakes, after sitting for a while : SOGGY
7
1,000 large calories : THERM
8
K'ung Fu-___ (Chinese name for Confucius) : TSE
9
"Now I get it!" : AHSO
10
Russian blue or Egyptian Mau : CATBREED
11
OxyContin, e.g. : OPIOID
12
Archenemy : NEMESIS
13
Martinique, par exemple : ILE
14
Dermatologist's concern : CYST
15
Fashionable set : GLITTERATI
16
Angular measurement : RADIAN
17
Relating to radioactive element #92 : URANIC
18
Wrist ornament : BANGLE
21
Booking for a wedding : CATERER
23
Grassy stretches : LEAS
29
First female singer to have three simultaneous solo top 10 singles : ADELE
31
Elvis's middle name : ARON
32
Guitar inlay material : NACRE
34
Seller of Famous Bowls : KFC
36
Gas brand with an oval logo : ESSO
37
Pitched low : DEEP
38
Attempted something : GAVEITAGO
40
Opening to an apology : MEA
41
Tapering haircut : FADE
43
Nonmoving part of a motor : STATOR
44
Blobbish "Li'l Abner" creature : SHMOO
48
Painter whose masterwork is said to be the Scrovegni Chapel frescoes : GIOTTO
49
Earth Science subj. : ECOL
51
The ___ Road in America (Nevada's Highway 50) : LONELIEST
52
Wynken, Blynken and Nod, e.g. : TRIO
53
Things that people are warned not to cross : EYES
57
Letters sometimes followed by :D : LOL
58
Handle online : USERID
61
Soldier food, for short : MRE
62
Throw in the microwave, slangily : ZAP
63
R&B group with the 1991 #1 hit "I Like the Way" : HIFIVE
64
She, in Portuguese : ELA
65
Father-and-daughter boxing champs : ALIS
66
Phnom ___ : PENH
68
Mystical ball, e.g. : ORB
69
Kind of year: Abbr. : FISC
70
Former national airline of Brazil : VARIG
73
Sticks on the tongue? : DEPRESSORS
76
Made an attempt : ENDEAVORED
78
Verve : BRIO
79
1993 Salt-N-Pepa hit whose title is a nonsense word : SHOOP
81
Didn't doubt : KNEW
82
Notion : IDEA
84
Sappho, e.g. : POETESS
85
Annual athletic awards show : ESPYS
87
For sale in malls : ATSTORES
88
Theater reproof : SHH
89
Dope : INFO
91
Contraction in a Christmas song : TIS
92
Like Quakers : ANTIWAR
95
Actor Gibson of "2 Fast 2 Furious" : TYRESE
96
Doctor : HEALER
97
Demolition tool : RAMMER
98
Stick on, as a poster : TAPETO
99
Exclamation that might accompany a curtsy : TADA
104
Lab-assisted, after "in" : VITRO
105
Admit : LETIN
107
Device that comes with 79-Across : IPAD
109
___-chef : SOUS
112
Years in the Roman Empire : ANNI
113
Abound : TEEM
114
Fictional Mr. : HYDE
117
Old-fashioned cry of despair : OME
118
Part of T.G.I.F.: Abbr. : FRI
119
W.W. II rationing agcy. : OPA

Answer summary: 9 unique to this puzzle, 3 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

Found bugs or have suggestions?