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CODE SWITCHING

New York Times, Sunday, March 24, 2019

Author:
Trenton Charlson
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
174/26/201711/23/20191
SunMonTueWedThuFriSatVariety
11022551
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.77012
Trenton Charlson

This puzzle:

Rows: 21, Columns: 21 Words: 140, Blocks: 70 Missing: {QXZ} Spans: 1 This is puzzle # 11 for Mr. Charlson. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Will Shortz notes:
Trenton Charlson is a 2018 graduate of Ohio State University with a degree in English and a concentration in creative writing. 'Sadly,' he says half-jokingly (I think), 'there is no ... read more

Trenton Charlson is a 2018 graduate of Ohio State University with a degree in English and a concentration in creative writing. "Sadly," he says half-jokingly (I think), "there is no crossword-puzzle major at Ohio State." Five of Trenton's previous nine crosswords in The Times were named "Puzzle of the Week" by the blog XWord Info.

This is his first Sunday puzzle.

Trenton Charlson notes:
As a constructor, I never know what will spark the idea for a puzzle; the only consistent factor seems to be the rewarding feeling of having that breakthrough that makes a puzzle possible. ... read more

As a constructor, I never know what will spark the idea for a puzzle; the only consistent factor seems to be the rewarding feeling of having that breakthrough that makes a puzzle possible. Here, the tiniest seed of an idea was planted while I was pre-editing clues for a themeless. I was trying to think of an interesting clue for DELTA, then suddenly realized that it is a letter in both the Greek and NATO alphabets. This connection must have lying dormant in my brain, waiting for its next big moment, because seeing the clue again some time later immediately gave me the idea of replacing individual letters in phrases with letters of the NATO alphabet.

This seemed like it might have potential, but I had difficulty coming up with theme answers. I reflected that using homophones for letters instead might allow for better themers, and then eventually realized I had inadvertently found the perfect way to tie my theme together— by replacing words of a "phonetic" alphabet of sorts with the letters of an actual phonetic alphabet! And just like that, I had the theme for my first published Sunday puzzle. TOO EASY, right?

The title I proposed was "Forming an Alliance", but I think the new title, "Code Switching," works remarkably well. I also had originally clued NATO and PHONETIC ALPHABET separately to explain what is replacing / replaced in the theme answers, but the new clue simplifies things. My revealers did seem a bit convoluted, and hopefully it will be enjoyable for solvers to piece together the inner workings of the theme without as much assistance. After all, epiphanies should be not just for constructors, but for solvers too!

It was interesting to have the opportunity to incorporate so much 7 and 8 letter bonus fill into a themed puzzle— enough to fill a themeless!— and I'm proud of how it turned out. I was pleased to work in entries like BEAR PIT, JAKARTA, JUJITSU, OOH LA LA, PROSPERO, and SISYPHUS, and I think the puzzle is pretty clean overall. I also like a lot of the clues of mine that survived— my favorites here are those for 19-Across, 33-Across, 67-Across, 120-Across, 88-Down, 99-Down, and 107-Down, along with the clue echoes of 15- through 17-Down.

It's exciting to be making my Sunday debut today, and hopefully it will be the first of many. Until next time, happy solving!

Jeff Chen notes:
The NATO / PHONETIC ALPHABET has been tapped for many a crossword over the years. Of all the types of themes I get pinged with, it's in the top five. (The most common is homophone-based ... read more

The NATO / PHONETIC ALPHABET has been tapped for many a crossword over the years. Of all the types of themes I get pinged with, it's in the top five. (The most common is homophone-based themes.) I liked Trenton's take today, combining NATO and homophones to result in something I haven't exactly seen before. BOSTON TANGO PARTY (from Boston Tea Party -> Boston T Party) brought up fun images of people doing the sultry dance while yapping in Beantown accents.

The others didn't make me laugh much, but there were good efforts in the cluing. Amusing to think of THE PRINCESS AND THE PAPA as a king bringing his daughter to work one day. What exactly that means, I don't know — what do kings really do as work, anyway? But an amusing-ish thought.

My first impression of the gridwork was that there wasn't much crossword glue. Excellent! And all too rare for a Sunday 140-word puzzle. Trenton took great care; much appreciated.

My second impression: there wasn't enough bonus fill to entertain solvers who didn't connect to the theme. I liked what Trenton mentioned (although OOH LA LA isn't that interesting anymore), but what else? DOORPOST isn't going to do much for anyone (except maybe carpenters). Less than a half a dozen great bonuses to see a solver through a 21x ...

Third impression: maybe the puzzle didn't need any more bonuses in the fill, because there was a torrent of fantastic wordplay in the clues. I ticked off about 10 clues that were wickedly clever or genuinely novel. My top three:

  • SISYPHUS fighting an uphill battle, indeed!
  • Blue jeans OUTLAWED in North Korea? No wonder they're struggling, economically! (Just kidding Kim Jong-un! North Korea is the greatest and most wonderous of superpowers much better than the devil Americans wearing deplorable blue jeans! Please don't kill me!)
  • The boot-shaped ITALY as a source of boots. How's that for art imitating life?

It all made me think about my own constructions. I tend to spend the majority of my time brainstorming themes and building grids. But seeing the impact of such cluing greatness today reminds me that I ought to dedicate more of my time to coming up with clever clues.

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© 2019, The New York TimesNo. 0324 ( 25,338 )
Across
1
Metaphor for an aggressive political arena : BEARPIT
8
Puts away : STASHES
15
Source of fries : SPUD
19
One who didn't even show? : ALSORAN
20
Frame part : DOORPOST
21
It stayed in Pandora's box : HOPE
22
*Ballroom dancing event for Beantown residents? : BOSTONTANGOPARTY
24
Takes a course : EATS
25
Relatives of foils : EPEES
26
Shade of green : SAGE
27
Dundee dissent : NAE
28
Mother-of-pearl : NACRE
29
Imperfect service : LET
30
Climax : PEAK
33
*Annoying member of a New York baseball team? : YANKEEBOTHER
36
Thrills : SENDS
37
Family moniker : SIS
38
Hydrocarbon gas : ETHENE
39
World capital known as Batavia until 1942 : JAKARTA
42
"Witches' Flight" painter : GOYA
44
Sparkling white wine : ASTI
46
Pesticide banned in 1972 : DDT
47
*Wager in which the winner gets the loser's pants and jersey? : UNIFORMBET
49
They're not hard to swallow : GELCAPS
52
___ Cuervo (tequila brand) : JOSE
53
Casanova : LOTHARIO
55
Slapstick actor Jacques : TATI
59
"___ over" : ITS
60
Contingency phrase : IFSO
63
Man's name that's the reverse of 60-Down : ARI
64
Don hastily : THROWON
67
*Duo ruling a kingdom on Take Your Daughter to Work Day? : THEPRINCESSANDTHEPAPA
72
It's higher on the Scoville scale than a jalapeño : SERRANO
73
Skin pic? : TAT
74
Pallid : ASHY
75
Certain 35mm camera : SLR
76
Major or minor in astronomy? : URSA
77
Like chewing gum in Singapore or wearing blue jeans in North Korea (seriously!) : OUTLAWED
81
Second-largest branch of Islam : SHIA
82
Attacks à la Don Quixote : TILTSAT
85
*Exclamation after a performance of "Every Breath You Take"? : BRAVOSTING
89
Platform for many tablets : IOS
92
Building blocks, e.g. : TOYS
93
Vegetarian gelatin substitute : AGAR
95
Property recipient : ALIENEE
96
"Looks promising!" : NOTBAD
98
Covert org. : CIA
99
Sailor's cry : AVAST
100
*Amusement park named after a "Peanuts" boy? : CHARLIEWORLD
104
College football rival of 110-Across : NAVY
105
Unembellished : RAW
108
Jetson who attends Little Dipper School : ELROY
109
Broadway show about Capote : TRU
110
College football rival of 104-Across : ARMY
112
Pricey fashion label : PRADA
114
With 115-Across, communication system that's a hint to the answer to each starred clue : NATO
115
See 114-Across : PHONETICALPHABET
119
Tireless racer : SLED
120
They might hold derbies : HATTREES
121
Fall apart : CRUMBLE
122
Spots for hammers and anvils : EARS
123
Common lease period : ONEYEAR
124
It may have a lot of intelligence : DOSSIER
Down
1
Early tower locale : BABEL
2
Skip the ceremony, in a way : ELOPE
3
Strong point : ASSET
4
Mechanical : ROTE
5
Shakespearean sorcerer : PROSPERO
6
Janis ___, singer of the 1975 hit "At Seventeen" : IAN
7
Earth-shattering invention? : TNT
8
Unpleasantly wet : SOGGY
9
Like child's play : TOOEASY
10
Artist Jean : ARP
11
Defeats soundly : SPANKS
12
Greek goddesses of the seasons : HORAE
13
Signature scent since 1968 : ESTEE
14
Total mess : STY
15
Sword holder : SHEATH
16
Took stock? : POACHED
17
Good news for a stockholder : UPTREND
18
Early name for Utah : DESERET
20
Forensic material : DNA
23
Does some grilling : ASKS
28
What a stiffed server receives : NOTIP
31
___'acte : ENTR
32
Noted exile : ADAM
34
Falls for someone who's already married? : NIAGARA
35
Testing stage : BETA
36
Bread box? : SAFE
39
Sport that emphasizes pinning and throwing : JUJITSU
40
Terse bar order : ANOTHER
41
Traps : KISSERS
42
Former G.M. make : GEO
43
First N.L. player to hit 500 home runs : OTT
44
Laila of the ring : ALI
45
Big maker of lawn care products : SCOTTS
48
Like-minded voters : BLOC
50
Secretary on "The Office" : ERIN
51
"Hold it!" : STOP
54
Mañana preceder : HASTA
56
Inundated with : AWASHIN
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Five-star : TOPLINE
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Furious : INARAGE
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Man's name that's the reverse of 63-Across : IRA
61
End of a French film : FIN
62
Snobbish : SNOOTY
65
L.B.J.'s veep : HHH
66
"Star Wars: The Last Jedi" heroine : REY
68
Idiot, in British slang : PRAT
69
"___ Kett" (old comic strip) : ETTA
70
Something taken in by sailors : SALTAIR
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Infant's early word : DADA
78
___ Nautilus : USS
79
Ring letters : WBA
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Make a wrong move : ERR
81
Change one's mind about changing : STET
83
Source of many an imported boot, appropriately : ITALY
84
Site of a 1796 Napoleon victory : LODI
86
"___-voom!" : VAVA
87
Patron saint of Norway : OLAV
88
One fighting an uphill battle? : SISYPHUS
89
Altar offering : INCENSE
90
"C'est magnifique!" : OOHLALA
91
Official with a pistol : STARTER
94
Pygmalion's beloved : GALATEA
97
Stews (over) : BROODS
98
One of 32 for Ireland : COUNTY
99
Reformed demon on "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" : ANYA
101
Edith Wharton's "___ Frome" : ETHAN
102
Composed : WROTE
103
Having less vermouth, as a martini : DRIER
105
Shul scholar : RABBI
106
Dancing partner for Fred : ADELE
107
Fire extinguisher : WATER
111
Puts on a show, for short : MCS
113
Plows (into) : RAMS
115
Vietnamese noodle soup : PHO
116
Poet's "before" : ERE
117
Kind of screen, in brief : LCD
118
Maven : PRO

Answer summary: 9 unique to this puzzle.

Found bugs or have suggestions?