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MAKING CONNECTIONS

New York Times, Sunday, March 15, 2015

Author:
Dan Feyer
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
410/4/20113/15/20151
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
2020000
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.64010
Dan Feyer

This puzzle:

Rows: 21, Columns: 21 Words: 138, Blocks: 66 Missing: {Z} This is puzzle # 4 for Mr. Feyer. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Dan Feyer notes:
This crossword was designed to annoy Jeff Chen. He often talks about how it's a good idea to space out your theme answers for maximum flexibility. So what did I end up with? Every theme ... read more

This crossword was designed to annoy Jeff Chen. He often talks about how it's a good idea to space out your theme answers for maximum flexibility. So what did I end up with? Every theme answer is adjacent to, or overlapping, another one.

My previous Sunday puzzle also had an overlapping stack at the center, so I wanted to see if that could work again. After I had the first two, last two, and middle three theme answers in place, I tried many, many different layouts to find the best spots for the last two pairs of themers. This one was the winner once I lucked into the southwest corner with fresh entries SLUSHIE, HYPHEN, PUSHBACK, and CHESNEY. (And ACTINIC, but I'm less proud of that one.)

The northeast corner was by far the hardest to fill, but because I was so enamored with that southwest, and I had tried so many grid configurations already, I didn't want to move or add blocks. (If you regularly read XWordInfo commentary, you know that moving blocks around is the right thing to do.) Anyway, I was locked into BRUNEI, GOTSORE, and EYEEXAM up there. The seven-letter slot at 43-Across was the biggest problem, because the ideal fill would be a phrase starting with GET (GET TO IT! GET ON IT! GET IT ON! GET IT UP! GET LAID! GET BENT! OK, now we're getting out of NYT territory). But I wouldn't let myself cross GOT with GET, so the current boring northeast is the best I could do.

I had a similar issue with 71-Down, where OPENLY would quite improve that little section (eliminating the need for TENNER/RASE, for instance) but dupes with INCAN OPENER. I don't think that kind of duplication is necessarily a dealbreaker for Will Shortz, who tends to be lenient about such things, but it's inelegant and I'd rather avoid it.

Overall I thought the freshness of some of the long fill, and the amount/amusement of the themers, would outweigh all the glue in the grid. As a solver, I like to see more new/unusual fill even at the cost of more junk. As a constructor... I'm a really good solver.

Jeff Chen notes:
Did you ever watch MAN VS. BEAST? Ultimately it disappointed, but the promise of bizarre matchups like a man trying to outrace a giraffe / a speed-eater racing a Kodiak bear was too good ... read more

Did you ever watch MAN VS. BEAST? Ultimately it disappointed, but the promise of bizarre matchups like a man trying to outrace a giraffe / a speed-eater racing a Kodiak bear was too good to pass up. So today we at XWord Info bring you …

MAN-MACHINE vs. MACHINE-MAN!

In the blue corner is a computer with heart — you better believe it's smart — trained by a programmer with a whole lotta glamor. Its processor is so fast it once got citations for doing way too many calculations; its ability so fine it'll drive you out of your mind. I give you … DR. FILL!

In the red corner, we have the five-time ACPT champion. Half-man, half-amazing, and half-blazing (yes, he runs at 150%, folks); he towers like Big Ben (and of course, writes in pen). The bookies have had to make up NEW NUMBERS in order to take bets on him this year! Personally, I like the eleventy-pi to negative j odds that our champion will show up the good doctor, especially given that HE'S DOING HIS OWN PUZZLE AS FAST AS HE CAN.

Okay, let's set some ground rules. I'll count any error as a 15 second penalty. Other than that, THERE ARE NO RULES. (Except the ones I'll make up as we go.) I want to see a good dirty fight. Solvers ready? FIGHT!

Dr. Fill comes out with a quick flurry of bytes, his jabs and crosses landing hard. Folks, it looks like the champ is taking a beating! Feyer's on the ropes, taking ONERs to the solar plexus. He's looking POTTED!

But wait! Feyer comes back with a flurry of his own, finishing the puzzle out in 2:48, leaving the good doctor reeling in confusion. The doctor is staggering! Toppling! And the doctor is down! Let's count it out … 16 wrong squares. I declare the winner… the MACHINE-MAN! Er, the MAN-MACHINE!

Straightforward but fun "add two letters" puzzle today. INFANCY PANTS made me giggle. Impressive theme density, and going down to 138 words makes the task even harder. There's some strain with a few partials and gluey bits, but it's neat to see Dan flex his constructing muscles.

(Special thanks to Matt Ginsberg for indulging my bizarre whims. Now, to pit Dr. Fill against a honey badger ...)

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© 2015, The New York TimesNo. 0315 ( 23,868 )
Across
1
Opportunity : PROSPECT
9
So-called Baghdad by the Bay : FRISCO
15
"___ at the office" : IGAVE
20
Mayor's title : HISHONOR
21
Mr. Darcy's creator : AUSTEN
22
Circle : ORBIT
23
"You can never moor a boat here"? : INLETLIE
24
Provide sufficient coverage from risk? : INSUREENOUGH
26
Fashion portmanteau : SKORT
27
Gets close to : NEARS
29
"Have some!" : TRYIT
30
Feature of Hawaii's Molokini Crater : REEF
32
Some miracle drug pushers : QUACKS
35
Bothers : EATSAT
39
Atheistic Cuban leader? : INFIDELCASTRO
43
Like Columbus : GENOESE
44
Low : MOO
45
Legendary weeper : NIOBE
46
Desk chairs? : INBOXSEATS
48
Most common key of Chopin's piano pieces : AFLAT
51
Tour grp. : PGA
52
Side in the Peloponnesian War : SPARTA
53
Hit hard : SWAT
54
Unsalvageable : RUINED
56
Valentine and others: Abbr. : STS
57
Pvt. Pyle's outfit : USMC
59
Get on : AGE
60
Quechuan "hello"? : INCANOPENER
64
___-Caps : SNO
65
Moved a shell : OARED
67
Removing a Band-Aid too early? : INJURYTAMPERING
70
2:1, e.g., in the Bible : VERSE
73
On : LIT
74
Covering first, second and third base? : INFIELDGOAL
78
"Hello, Hadrian!" : AVE
79
Tear down, in Tottenham : RASE
81
A year in Brazil : ANO
82
Aristocratic : LORDLY
83
Certain tide : NEAP
85
Green deli stock : CAPERS
87
With 115-Down, 1983 Lionel Richie hit : YOU
90
Subjects of some modern school bans : SODAS
91
Add to the Video Clip Hall of Fame? : INDUCTTAPE
93
Is forbidden to, quaintly : MAYNT
95
Genre for Panic! at the Disco : EMO
96
Drink that might cause brain freeze : SLUSHIE
97
Diet? : INTAKECONTROL
101
Jack-in-the-box part : HYPHEN
102
"Lucy" star, in tabloids : SCARJO
103
Bygone Chevrolet : AVEO
104
Madonna's "Into the Groove," originally : BSIDE
106
"Do ___!" : IEVER
108
Cameron who directed "Jerry Maguire" : CROWE
112
Diapers? : INFANCYPANTS
117
Popular website whose name is a hint to this puzzle's theme : LINKEDIN
119
Shakespeare's "The Comedy of Errors," e.g. : FARCE
120
How to make money "the old-fashioned way" : EARNIT
121
Disrespectful, in a way : SNEERING
122
___ Mountains : SMOKY
123
Heavy-lidded : SLEEPY
124
Visitor to a fertility clinic : EGGDONOR
Down
1
Sorority letters : PHIS
2
Place for curlers : RINK
3
Home for King Harald : OSLO
4
Shepherd formerly of "The View" : SHERRI
5
Stinko : POTTED
6
Big picture: Abbr. : ENL
7
50-50 chance : COINFLIP
8
It can be sappy : TREE
9
Parodist's principle : FAIRUSE
10
Charges : RUNSAT
11
There's one every year for Person of the Year: Abbr. : ISS
12
Political analyst Rothenberg : STU
13
Roll by a cashier : CERTS
14
Long, unbroken take, in film lingo : ONER
15
Certain ancient Greeks : IONIANS
16
Small caves : GROTTOES
17
___ Dhabi : ABU
18
Bookie's charge : VIG
19
Ordinal ending : ETH
25
Something you might get two 20s for? : EYEEXAM
28
Mideast's Gulf of ___ : AQABA
31
Morn's counterpart : EEN
33
Bloods' rivals : CRIPS
34
Coastal region of Hawaii : KONA
36
What the Spanish Armada fought : SEAWAR
37
Shakespeare's world? : ASTAGE
38
Proven : TESTED
39
Japanese porcelain : IMARI
40
A drag : NOFUN
41
___ acid (vitamin B9) : FOLIC
42
Interlocking piece : COG
43
Became peeved : GOTSORE
47
Oil-rich land ruled by a sultan : BRUNEI
49
Writer Nin : ANAIS
50
Pair of fins : TENNER
52
Bits of music : STRAINS
55
Atty. gen.'s employer : DOJ
56
Word with get or smart : SET
58
Some ski resort rentals : CONDOS
61
Throb : PULSATE
62
City about 100 miles ENE of Cleveland, O. : ERIEPA
63
Paper featured in the documentary "Page One," for short : NYT
64
No. often between 15 and 50 : SPF
66
Belligerent, in Britspeak : AGGRO
68
Three on a 6 : MNO
69
Poorly : ILL
70
Go poof : VANISH
71
Without variation : EVENLY
72
Get educated (on) : READUP
75
More outré : ODDER
76
Memorable mission : ALAMO
77
Disinfecting Wipes brand : LYSOL
80
Like light that causes chemical change : ACTINIC
81
"Gladiator" locale : ARENA
84
Resistance : PUSHBACK
86
"Gladiator," for one : EPIC
87
Smirnoff of comedy : YAKOV
88
"___ Como Va" (Santana hit) : OYE
89
Cold : UNCARING
92
Country singer Kenny : CHESNEY
93
Grandeur : MAJESTY
94
"Mazel ___!" : TOV
98
Bottom sirloin cut of beef : TRITIP
99
Made out : NECKED
100
One who takes the bull by the horns : TORERO
102
Plant part : SEPAL
105
Turns a different shade, say : DYES
107
Alternatively : ELSE
109
Sleipnir's master, in myth : ODIN
110
Drunk's favorite radio station? : WINO
111
App creator, perhaps: Abbr. : ENGR
112
Uncertainties : IFS
113
'60s war zone : NAM
114
Back the other way : FRO
115
See 87-Across : ARE
116
Uptown dir. in N.Y.C. : NNE
118
-: Abbr. : NEG

Answer summary: 17 unique to this puzzle, 4 debuted here and reused later, 7 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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