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CHARACTER BUILDING

New York Times, Sunday, March 4, 2018

Author:
Byron Walden
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
9211/23/200111/18/201814
SunMonTueWedThuFriSatVariety
1101192617
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.59321
Byron Walden

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 ... read more

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 ... read more

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
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
Down
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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