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TAKE ONE FOR THE TEAM

New York Times, Sunday, March 31, 2019

Author:
Andrew J. Ries
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
228/13/200712/6/20190
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31111753
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.57020
Andrew Ries

This puzzle:

Rows: 21, Columns: 21 Words: 140, Blocks: 68 Missing: {JQXZ} This is puzzle # 15 for Mr. Ries. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Notepad: Drop one letter from each set of shaded letters in the grid to name a major-league baseball team. The letters thus removed, in order from top to bottom, will spell an appropriate answer at 76-Down.
Will Shortz notes:
This crossword by Andrew J. Ries, of La Pine, Ore., comes with special instructions: [See notepad.] Andrew is a lifelong baseball fan — his favorite teams are hidden in 90- and ... read more

This crossword by Andrew J. Ries, of La Pine, Ore., comes with special instructions: [See notepad.]

Andrew is a lifelong baseball fan — his favorite teams are hidden in 90- and 107-Across. He's excited about the new season that's just started.

Andrew Ries notes:
This puzzle is a reworking of a 15x15 I wrote a couple of years ago for a now-defunct crossword service called Aries Xword. That puzzle used BUNT as the extra letters that needed to be ... read more

This puzzle is a reworking of a 15x15 I wrote a couple of years ago for a now-defunct crossword service called Aries Xword. That puzzle used BUNT as the extra letters that needed to be removed to reveal the baseball team. While I liked the idea, BUNT only works from a baseball standpoint and not so much from a wordplay standpoint. SACRIFICE works much better as the bonus word, as this can explain the wordplay mechanism as well as tie into the baseball theme.

This was a challenging grid to pull off, as it's tough working with nine theme entries that need to be in top-to-bottom order. Getting SACRIFICE to cut through two of the themers was an unplanned bonus. I tried to space out the themers as much as possible so that the crossing down entries wouldn't intersect more than two themers. SPY STORY is the only entry that crosses three themers, and all told I like the grid that emerged considering the constraints of the theme.

I know that not everyone is a baseball fan, but this is one of those "stealth" sports themes – you don't need any specific knowledge of baseball to solve the puzzle as the teams are hidden within common phrases. I hope this is an enjoyable challenge for baseball fans and wordplay fans alike!

Jeff Chen notes:
Sunday puzzles with notepad instructions face an uphill battle. In some cases, they give away most of the game before it even starts. Today's was so hit-you-over-the-head-with-a-fungo that ... read more

Sunday puzzles with notepad instructions face an uphill battle. In some cases, they give away most of the game before it even starts. Today's was so hit-you-over-the-head-with-a-fungo that I worried that the puzzle was basically already over.

I was wrong. (As I am a lot.) Even though I knew what was coming every step of the way, I stopped at many points to enjoy Andrew's finds. C + ASTROS in CASTRO STREET. SCRUB SUITS obfuscating CUBS and the necessary R. PAID RESPECTS hiding the I and PADRES.

We highlighted the themers below to make everything easier to see.

It all led up to a SACRIFICE play, apt for the idea of removing a letter – or "sacrificing it" – from each themer. Nice idea, if not that exciting. Sort of like baseball!

I'm usually not one to be impressed by themer interlock, but I liked what Andrew did today. There's something elegant about having the SACRIFICE oriented vertically, mirroring the up to down order of the sacrificed letters. Given how many themers he had to work with, it'd have been so much easier to put SACRIFICE in horizontally. Glad Andrew found a way.

Some dabs of crossword glue, but mostly minor stuff like ARB/ORO, ESO, SALA, ELLS. Good craftsmanship.

Not hot on a lot of the bonus material, though. EARGASM made me laugh, but TOILET BAG felt off, more commonly "toiletry bag" or "toiletries bag." ALIENEE felt alien. WHEEL NUT – l changed a tire a couple of months ago and took off the nuts, yes. But WHEEL NUTs feels overly specific. LIEDER is tough, even for this classical music buff. APPOSITE …

Okay, I should have known that one. I'm sure I'll forget what it means in about one paragraph.

It's so tough to make a 140-word 21x21 puzzle, even tougher when you have to work with such high theme density. I think Andrew did well given the level of technical difficulty. I wish the impact of the SACRIFICE punchline had been stronger though, especially since the notepad already put Andrew in the position of coming in as the closer, bottom of the ninth, up one, no outs, bases loaded, unable to give up even a sac fly.

Hopefully, that was an apposite metaphor.

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© 2019, The New York TimesNo. 0331 ( 25,345 )
Across
1
Top 10-rated sitcom each season from 1972 to 1976 : MAUDE
6
Chilling : ONICE
11
Payment vouchers : CHITS
16
Dugout propeller : OAR
19
Mexico City daily : ELSOL
20
Dish of cooked buckwheat : KASHA
21
Site of a 2019 Trump/Kim meeting : HANOI
22
___ hug : BRO
23
Moved stealthily, colloquially : SLUNK
24
Not a nice look : SNEER
25
Pronounces breathily : ASPIRATES
27
Hearty pasta topping : MEATSAUCE
29
Absolute truth : GOSPEL
31
A singer can carry one : TUNE
32
Some plumbing joints : ELLS
33
Ask too-personal questions : PRY
34
Tailor's tool : TAPE
35
Uses as a perch : RESTSON
37
Mold into something new : RESHAPE
39
Historic San Francisco thoroughfare : CASTROSTREET
41
___ y Plata (Montana's motto) : ORO
42
Aid in tapestry-making : LOOM
43
Itinerant sorts : HOBOS
44
Outfits in the operating room : SCRUBSUITS
48
Stockholm stock unit : KRONA
50
"Look at me - I did it!" : TADA
54
Precisely : TOAT
55
Saint in a children's rhyme : IVES
56
___ Maria (coffee liqueur) : TIA
57
Sister in a children's story : GRETEL
59
Small pain : IMP
60
Upright building support : STUD
61
Travel group : CONVOY
64
Big name in 1950s politics : ADLAI
65
"Flowers" and "Sticky Fingers" for the Stones : LPS
66
Some Sunday broadcasting : TELEVANGELISM
69
Cakes and ___ (simple material pleasures) : ALE
70
Buncha : LOTTA
72
Hockey venues : ARENAS
73
Wonka portrayer : DEPP
74
Rock band with the 1994 4x platinum album "The Downward Spiral," for short : NIN
75
Many Jazz fans : UTAHNS
77
Elusive sort : EEL
78
Smooth-talking : OILY
79
___ Reader (quarterly magazine) : UTNE
80
Prefix with scope : PERI
81
Bestow : AWARD
84
"The Wonder Years" star : FREDSAVAGE
86
Goldman's partner in banking : SACHS
88
Symbol of poverty : RAGS
89
Unwieldy boat : TUB
90
Visited out of deference (to) : PAIDRESPECTS
94
Bright light in inclement conditions : FOGLAMP
98
Doesn't bring up again, say : LETSDIE
99
"Sad to say ..." : ALAS
100
Go off : ERR
101
Dodgers broadcaster Hershiser : OREL
102
K-12 : ELHI
103
Casting choice : FLYROD
105
Colorless mode at a copy shop : GRAYSCALE
107
Strong servings with dessert : PORTWINES
109
Bit of dental work : ONLAY
111
Where the Firestone tire company was founded : AKRON
112
"___ Beso" (Paul Anka hit) : ESO
113
Sharp : ACUTE
114
Bull ___ : MOOSE
115
Tilted, in Stilton : LEANT
116
Barbecue bone : RIB
117
Awful-smelling : FETID
118
Went back, as a tide : EBBED
119
Like the Chelsea neighborhood in Manhattan : ARTSY
Down
1
Physician Franz who coined the term "animal magnetism" : MESMER
2
Variant of a gene : ALLELE
3
Unsurprising people to show up : USUALS
4
"Inside voices, please" : DONTSHOUT
5
___ Lodge : ELKS
6
"All right, why not" : OKSURE
7
With 90-Down, first woman to lead a major party in Congress : NANCY
8
"Mm-hmm" : ISEE
9
Narrator of "Evita" : CHE
10
Tremendous auditory pleasure, in slang : EARGASM
11
Drink after drink? : CHASER
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Trunk fastener : HASP
13
Not remotely : INPERSON
14
Traveler's holder of bathroom supplies : TOILETBAG
15
"Kind ___" (term of politeness) : SIR
16
Thickheaded : OBTUSE
17
Playground comeback : ARENOT
18
Nevada senator Jacky : ROSEN
26
Sworn (to) : ATTESTED
28
Fitting : APPOSITE
30
Make a decision : OPT
34
New Mexico county or its seat : TAOS
36
Hit sign : SRO
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Wall St. professional : ARB
39
Hotel rollouts : COTS
40
"Look what I found!" : OHO
42
Schubert compositions : LIEDER
44
Burning the midnight oil : STILLUP
45
Dessert with a sugary syrup : COMPOTE
46
Drake, for one : RAPSTAR
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Something seen with a tiny flashlight : UVULA
48
What cowboys are, in poker lingo : KINGS
49
High praise : RAVE
51
Home of Spelman College : ATLANTA
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Business transaction : DEALING
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Property recipient, legally : ALIENEE
56
Related to pitches : TONAL
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Intensify, with "up" : RAMP
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Hall-of-Famer Musial : STAN
61
Like some porch chairs : CANED
62
Popular radio format : OLDIES
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Farmer's concern : YIELD
67
Turn sharply : VEER
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John le Carré specialty : SPYSTORY
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"No turning back now" : THISISIT
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[See note] : SACRIFICE
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List for charitable givers, for short : ORGS
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Sunscreen ingredient : UVBLOCKER
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Something removed when changing a tire : WHEELNUT
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Pompous sort : ASS
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Domino, familiarly : FATS
85
8/ : AUG
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Throw in : ADD
88
Former Indianapolis sports venue : RCADOME
90
See 7-Down : PELOSI
91
Pulsating : ATHROB
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Analyzed : PARSED
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"Xanadu" band, briefly : ELO
94
Loose around the edges : FRAYED
95
Peak in Genesis : ARARAT
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They have thick skins : MELONS
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Good supply : PLENTY
98
Outcast : LEPER
100
Make blank : ERASE
104
Legendary humanoid : YETI
105
Shapeless mass : GLOB
106
Hacienda room : SALA
108
Mil. program discontinued in 1976 : WAF
110
Head, in slang : NOB

Answer summary: 11 unique to this puzzle, 2 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

Found bugs or have suggestions?