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OSCAR DOUBLE FEATURES

New York Times, Sunday, March 2, 2014

Author:
Alan Arbesfeld
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
1238/27/198112/5/20180
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
25724352615
ScrabRebusCirclePangramPre‑WS
1.595099
Alan Arbesfeld

This puzzle:

Rows: 21, Columns: 21 Words: 136, Blocks: 70 Missing: {JQ} Spans: 2 This is puzzle # 105 for Mr. Arbesfeld. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Jeff Chen notes:
Today gives us two Oscar winners / nominees smashed together to create quasi-wacky, quasi-realistic phrases. I was slightly confused at first because AIRPORT TRAFFIC was one of the first ... read more

Today gives us two Oscar winners / nominees smashed together to create quasi-wacky, quasi-realistic phrases. I was slightly confused at first because AIRPORT TRAFFIC was one of the first themers I uncovered, and I thought how cool it was that a regular phrase could be formed. But then ROCKY WITNESS came into view, which helped me cotton to the wacky aspect of it.

Two full grid-spanners (21-letter entries) and a central 17 anchor this puzzle, and with a total of seven themers, it's a toughie to construct. Alan does a nice job of separating his themers from each other pretty well, especially so given that he's used only 136 words today. The difference between 136 and 140 (the maximum Will allows in a 21x) may not seem like much, but it's tremendous. It does allow Alan to work in such long downs as FORCEFUL, DONT ASK, MAN ALIVE, PINPRICKS, etc. That's a lot of good stuff, making the solve more colorful as I went.

It's so hard to create a super-smooth Sunday puzzle at 140 words, and the stress of going to 136 words shows up a little today. A couple of AN ASS, EAU DE type partials by themselves are par for the course, but there were a few crunchy areas that will give some real difficulty to even intermediate solvers. Not sure if there's any way to save the AARE / AKERS crossing with easier cluing? Even though I've seen AARE dozens of times, I paused, wondering if AIRE / IKERS was right. BAFF was also a head-scratcher for me, even though I'm such a bad golfer, I really ought to know the word BAFF. (I have no idea who left all those divots, BTW.)

So an interesting continuation of Will's experiment, using lower word-count Sundays which hopefully snazz up a solver's experience through a higher-than-average amount of good long fill. I might have preferred to break up a pair or even two of the long downs in order to enjoy smoother fill, but to each his/her own.

The solving audience for the NYT xw is likely several million people, and I believe it's a diverse crowd, with greatly differing preferences. This one doesn't break any new ground in the crossword art form, but my guess is that it will cater to a large percentage of Will's audience. Sometimes it's nice for people to get a familiar theme idea, something that won't break their brain as they try to figure out what's going on.

ADDED NOTE: A reader, Angela Osborne, wrote in just an hour after the puzzle went live: "A movie buff, I loved this puzzle. As a member of the Writers Guild and Directors Guild I vote in those categories. Those two guilds have their own awards and are not part of the Oscar votes, but they may influence members of the board that vote for the Oscars. The only problem is I was having so much fun doing this puzzle today that I have no puzzle to do on Sunday."

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© 2014, The New York TimesNo. 0302 ( 23,490 )
Across
1
Compadre : AMIGO
6
Director of "Carrie" and "Scarface" : DEPALMA
13
Muss : TOUSLE
19
They put up walls : MASONS
21
Does some farrier's work on : RESHOES
22
Berate : RANTAT
23
Nelson Mandela? [1995, 1985] : BRAVEHEARTOUTOFAFRICA
26
She, in Lisbon : ELA
27
Strike the ground in a golf swing : BAFF
28
On the line : RISKED
29
Fraternal group : ELKS
30
One giving unreliable testimony? [1976, 1985*] [* = Nominee] : ROCKYWITNESS
34
Blood-related : HEMAL
36
Gang girl : MOLL
37
Paradigms : IDEALS
40
Bread holder? : WALLET
43
Magnate : TITAN
46
Alternatively : ELSE
48
Like yaks and mynas : ASIAN
50
Muckraker Tarbell : IDA
51
Flips over : ADORES
53
Reason for missing a flight? [1970*, 2000*] : AIRPORTTRAFFIC
57
Message from one who's all thumbs? : TEXT
58
It's pitchfork-shaped : PSI
60
"With the jawbone of ___ ..." (declaration of Samson) : ANASS
61
Purposely misinform : LIETO
62
First name in tyranny : IDI
63
Real enthusiast : FIEND
65
Ending for acro- or homo- : NYM
66
Look-alike : TWIN
68
Part of a line at O'Hare? [2002, 1976*] : CHICAGOTAXIDRIVER
73
From the top : ANEW
74
Hide-hair connector : NOR
75
___ cologne : EAUDE
76
Put away : ATE
79
Leader of the pack : ALPHA
82
Insurance giant : AETNA
84
Part of a jazz duo? : ZEE
85
Noted provider of pictorial instructions : IKEA
86
Cheesy pickup line? [1944, 1995*] : GOINGMYWAYBABE
90
Bears, but not Cubs : NFLERS
92
Novelist Patchett : ANN
93
Forfeits : LOSES
94
Degrees for attys. : LLDS
96
"Hound Dog" or "What's New Pussycat?" : OLDIE
97
Baseball's Iron Man : RIPKEN
99
Snowmobile brand : SKIDOO
102
River to the Rhine : AARE
104
V-shaped fortification : REDAN
106
Reason why all the computers are down? [1976*, 2005] : NETWORKCRASH
111
Gallic girlfriend : AMIE
113
Surgically remove : RESECT
116
Pulitzer winner James : AGEE
117
Locale in Gray's "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard" : LEA
118
Seaside outing? [1955*, 1954] : PICNICONTHEWATERFRONT
123
Former Gracie Mansion resident : EDKOCH
124
Repeat : ITERATE
125
Lying face up : SUPINE
126
___ Channel ("Hannah Montana" airer) : DISNEY
127
Successfully impersonate : PASSFOR
128
Early Apple computers : LISAS
Down
1
Yellow shade : AMBER
2
Thomas of TV : MARLO
3
Caravaggio's "The Sacrifice of ___" : ISAAC
4
End of some URLs : GOV
5
Individually : ONEBYONE
6
Annual N.B.A. event : DRAFT
7
Auction ending? : EER
8
The Oscars are awarded on it: Abbr. : PST
9
When repeated, a plea of Richard III : AHORSE
10
Daughter in "The Sound of Music" : LOUISA
11
1986 World Series champs : METS
12
"Dilbert" intern : ASOK
13
Reciprocal raising of tariffs, e.g. : TRADEWAR
14
Lummox : OAF
15
"Amazing!" : UNREAL
16
Many a hanging : STILLLIFE
17
Deficiency : LACK
18
Some P.A. announcements : ETAS
20
Knitted wrap : SHAWL
24
TurboTax option : EFILE
25
"Yuk!" : FEH
31
Target competitor : KMART
32
Not yet final, legally : NISI
33
Linda of Broadway's "Jekyll & Hyde" : EDER
35
"Holy cow!" : MANALIVE
38
Historic fort on the Oregon Trail : LARAMIE
39
Bygone boomers : SSTS
41
Mince words? : EDIT
42
Tijuana treat : TACO
43
Star of "Mr. Hulot's Holiday" : TATI
44
Put the finger on : IDED
45
Poisonous : TOXIC
47
"The Divided Self" author R. D. ___ : LAING
49
"I'm not kidding!" : ITSTRUE
52
Enliven, with "up" : SPICE
54
Like Gamal Abdel Nasser's movement : PANARAB
55
Jet black : ONYX
56
Numismatic condition : FINE
59
Ocean routes : SEAWAYS
63
Achieved through trickery : FINAGLED
64
"Rough day?" response : DONTASK
67
Expand : WIDEN
69
Chemistry Nobelist Otto : HAHN
70
Award won 21 times by Harold Prince : TONY
71
In a stupor : DAZED
72
Like fall leaves : RAKED
77
Hatcher or Polo : TERI
78
Allay : EASE
79
Food thickener : AGAR
80
Actress Anderson : LONI
81
Small irritations : PINPRICKS
83
Meadow mamas : EWES
85
"No one's ___ than me" (Eminem lyric) : ILLER
87
Belgium or Denmark : MONARCHY
88
Tons : ALOT
89
Diddle away : BLOW
91
Emphatic : FORCEFUL
95
"Beetle Bailey" figure : SARGE
98
Excited about : KEENON
100
Moves slowly : INCHES
101
Scares off : DETERS
103
Astronaut Thomas on four space shuttle flights : AKERS
105
Prefix with natal : NEO
107
Western : OATER
108
Dr. Alzheimer : ALOIS
109
Medicinal plant : SENNA
110
Can't stand : HATES
111
Mimicked : APED
112
Skirt style : MIDI
114
Short cut : SNIP
115
James portrayed by Beyoncé : ETTA
119
Clinch : ICE
120
Post-W.W. II female service member : WAF
121
From ___ Z : ATO
122
The Engineers of the N.C.A.A., for short : RPI

Answer summary: 7 unique to this puzzle, 1 debuted here and reused later, 1 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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