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CHARACTER BUILDING

New York Times, Sunday, March 4, 2018

Author: Byron Walden
Editor: Will Shortz
Byron Walden
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
8911/23/20016/23/201812
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901192607
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1.59321

This puzzle:

Rows: 21, Columns: 21 Words: 132, Blocks: 69 Missing: {JX} This is puzzle # 87 for Mr. Walden. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Byron Walden notes: HAT TIP to the puzzle magazines of my long-gone youth. One of them (Dell?) had a little word puzzle where you had to go from STARTLING to I deleting one letter at a time, always forming a new word without ... more
Byron Walden notes:

HAT TIP to the puzzle magazines of my long-gone youth. One of them (Dell?) had a little word puzzle where you had to go from STARTLING to I deleting one letter at a time, always forming a new word without anagramming. (BTW, there are two solutions.)

One of my bugaboos is plural names, which I really try to avoid. This one has two! The second one came when I just had to get IN MEM out of the grid and upgraded it with TV MOM. I tried to do something about ALIS. I could replace the corner, but because of the interlock, it would require redoing the whole of the eastern seaboard, and I just couldn't pull it off. Because of a tough crossing, ALIS needed the easiest clue possible, but I like to tell myself the real clue is the first word of Oregon's state motto. I'm pretty happy how the rest turned out. Hope you all enjoy it!

Jeff Chen notes: How to describe this theme? There's a letter-adding progression of IN, SIN, SING, STING, STRING, STARING, STARTING, STARTLING … with each word shifted down one phrase for kooky results? Instead of 'sing in ... more
Jeff Chen notes:

How to describe this theme? There's a letter-adding progression of IN, SIN, SING, STING, STRING, STARING, STARTING, STARTLING … with each word shifted down one phrase for kooky results? Instead of "sing in the shower," we get STING IN THE SHOWER.

It's pretty impressive that every word in this letter-add sequence can be part of a real phrase. Not an easy task – I once tried to build a BEARD growth puzzle with Ian Livengood, but it was so tough to find good phrases. A BEAR, you might say.

(groan)

The theme didn't do much for me — the notion dragged on too far. The constructor in me was much more interested in the findings than the solver, who got tired of it.

Very nice gridwork! I didn't notice much crossword glue at all, so it was a huge surprise to see the word count at a low low 132. So few constructors can pull this off. If I were the grid police, Byron would be one of the few people I'd issue a license for sub-140 wording.

To get such nice entries in EBENEZER SCROOGE and PROBLEM SECTIONS (I'm a math dork, so sue me), each running through three themers is great stuff. And TEA TIMES, LION TAMING, THE PIANIST, CAT DOOR – that's the way to make the most out of your long slots!

And that clue for TEA TIMES! [Pauses for service] made me think about a tennis server taking a moment to gather his/her strategy before firing. TEA service is much different. (Although it's fun to imagine a TEA SERVICE service at Wimbledon, with one hand on a racket and the other holding a teacup, with pinky extended.)

Unusual for me to get through an average Sunday puzzle, without slogging through at least 10 dabs of crossword glue, of the ALIS, ENDE, SEP variety. To give me a smooth solve in a colorful, 132-word grid? Fantastic craftsmanship.

Unfortunately, a great grid doesn't cover up a theme that doesn't hold one's attention. Probably would have been better if downsized into a four-themer weekday grid.

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© 2018, The New York TimesNo. 0304 ( 24,953 )
Across Down
1. Where Napoleon died in exile : STHELENA
9. Pursues, as a hunch : ACTSON
15. Assails with emails : SPAMS
20. Pauses for service : TEATIMES
21. Demi with the 2012 hit "Give Your Heart a Break" : LOVATO
22. Droid with a holographic projector, informally : ARTOO
23. Equally pensive? : INTHOUGHTASMUCH
25. "Heaven forbid!" : GODNO
26. Foldable beds : FUTONS
27. Witticism : BONMOT
28. Canada's largest brewer : LABATT
29. Daschle's successor as Senate majority leader : FRIST
30. Commit a peccadillo? : SINSOMESMALLWAY
33. Mo. with Constitution Day : SEP
34. "___ calling" : AVON
36. Irish "John" : SEAN
37. Part of E.S.L.: Abbr. : ENG
38. Shoot off : EMIT
39. Break down, in a way : WEEP
43. 1980s-2000s Texas senator Phil : GRAMM
45. Beyond passionate : RABID
47. Perform the hit "Things I Should Have Said"? : SINGOFOMISSION
52. Symbol over 9 or 0 on a keyboard, for short : PAREN
53. Pet portal : CATDOOR
54. Horror, e.g. : GENRE
55. The Police frontman filming a shampoo commercial? : STINGINTHESHOWER
60. Golden State, informally : CALI
61. The night before, to a hard partier? : HAZE
62. Whimsical : FEY
63. Bolted : RAN
64. "___ autumn, and a clear and placid day": Wordsworth : TWAS
65. All-inclusive : ATOZ
66. Tying packages, securing helium balloons, etc.? : STRINGOPERATIONS
73. Lessens in force : WANES
75. Flirtatious quality : COYNESS
76. Throng : HORDE
77. The Beatles showing absolute amazement? : STARINGQUARTET
81. Martial art with bamboo swords : KENDO
82. Ketel One rival, familiarly : STOLI
83. Selling point : HOOK
84. Handholds while slow-dancing : HIPS
85. "The Walking Dead" channel : AMC
87. Headey of "Game of Thrones" : LENA
89. Salon offering, familiarly : PEDI
90. Important but sometimes ignored piece : COG
93. First weapons used in a knife fight? : STARTINGDAGGERS
99. Yoga pose : ASANA
101. Oxygen-reliant organism : AEROBE
102. Oh-so-handsome : DREAMY
103. Jungian souls : ANIMAS
104. Disney bear : BALOO
105. Surprising group of suspects? : STARTLINGLINEUP
108. Endorse digitally : ESIGN
109. "Baby, baby, baby!" : OHMAMA
110. Lean fillet, as of lamb : NOISETTE
111. "Walk Away ___" (1966 hit) : RENEE
112. Enthusiastic consent : YESYES
113. "The 15:17 to Paris" director, 2018 : EASTWOOD
1. Doesn't pay : STIFFS
2. ___ track : TENURE
3. Metaphoric acknowledgment : HATTIP
4. Shared values : ETHOS
5. Performance for which one might grab a chair : LIONTAMING
6. Tridactyl birds : EMUS
7. Blood type modifier, for short : NEG
8. Waste receptacle : ASHBIN
9. Astronauts Bean and Shepard : ALANS
10. Mag featuring "Fun Fearless Females" : COSMO
11. Clair Huxtable or Peg Bundy : TVMOM
12. Browns : SAUTES
13. Nonprescription, briefly : OTC
14. Drama with many fans : NOH
15. Katey who played Peg Bundy : SAGAL
16. Parts of math textbooks : PROBLEMSECTIONS
17. When duelers may meet : ATDAWN
18. Beginning of the German workweek : MONTAG
19. Like chimneys : SOOTY
24. Truckload : TON
28. Island veranda : LANAI
30. Barfly : SOT
31. Kind of lily : SEGO
32. School closing? : MARM
35. Snapchat posting, for short : VID
38. One seeing ghosts : EBENEZERSCROOGE
39. Including : WITH
40. Michael who wrote "The Neverending Story" : ENDE
41. Things that clash in Washington : EGOS
42. Pouty exclamation : POOH
44. "No ___" : MSG
45. Rap sound : RATATAT
46. The 48th star : ARIZONA
47. Woodland god : SATYR
48. Do with a pick, maybe : FRO
49. Briefly : INAWORD
50. The Theme Park Capital of the World : ORLANDO
51. German border river : NEISSE
52. Quaint dismissals : PSHAWS
53. Tech news website : CNET
56. Hypotheticals : IFS
57. Take with force : WREST
58. Bears ___ (national monument in Utah) : EARS
59. Messenger ___ : RNA
67. Post-op stop : ICU
68. One releasing a dove in the Bible : NOAH
69. Food truck menu item : GYRO
70. Not tricked by : ONTO
71. Advance look, say : PEEK
72. Film for which Adrien Brody won Best Actor : THEPIANIST
74. "Park it" : SIT
78. "Honestly" : NOLIE
79. Verdant spot : GLEN
80. Last Chinese dynasty : QING
81. Not be serious : KID
84. "___ Just Not That Into You" (2009 rom-com) : HES
85. Relaxing : ATEASE
86. Catch in "The Old Man and the Sea" : MARLIN
88. Title family name in old TV : ADDAMS
89. Hawthorne heroine : PRYNNE
90. Snapped out of it : CAMETO
91. Out of control? : ONAUTO
92. Showed shock : GASPED
93. Cossack weapon : SABER
94. Crash into the side of, informally : TBONE
95. Marshal : ARRAY
96. "You follow?" : GETME
97. Fancy soirees : GALAS
98. Old record co. conglomerate : EMI
100. Strength : SINEW
103. Celebrated boxing family : ALIS
105. Edamame source : SOY
106. Alternative to café : THE
107. ___ long way : GOA

Answer summary: 14 unique to this puzzle, 1 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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