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New York Times, Sunday, July 23, 2017

Author: Caleb Madison
Editor: Will Shortz
Caleb Madison
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
325/13/20087/23/20173
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
9154535
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.63132

This puzzle:

Rows: 21, Columns: 21 Words: 140, Blocks: 88 Missing: {QV} This is puzzle # 32 for Mr. Madison. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Caleb Madison notes: This puzzle was inspired by a monthlong hovercruise Elon Musk organized for the most important brand influencers from across all social media platforms. I remember looking philosophically out onto the sea from ... more
Caleb Madison notes:

This puzzle was inspired by a monthlong hovercruise Elon Musk organized for the most important brand influencers from across all social media platforms. I remember looking philosophically out onto the sea from the balcony of the Nootropics Suite, sipping on my Matcha Soylent and listening to the statistically most thought-provoking sounds according to metadata when the epiphany came to me: what if there were as many singers in a puzzle as there were amazing digital content creators on this very hovership? I immediately got my crossword AI, Pencilton, to crowdsource reactions to that concept. Fun fact: this was actually the last puzzle I created before I started constructing completely in virtual reality. For updates about my industry-disrupting journey into the future of crosswords, sign up on solvetheinternet.com & to all my fans–stay branded ;)

Jeff Chen notes: It took me an embarrassingly long to figure out what the bracketed numbers in the clues meant. What could the [4] refer to in HONOLULU? The fourth letter? Maybe it was the fourth themer in some progression? ... more
Jeff Chen notes:

It took me an embarrassingly long to figure out what the bracketed numbers in the clues meant. What could the [4] refer to in HONOLULU? The fourth letter? Maybe it was the fourth themer in some progression? Sheepish moment when I realized it was just the last four letters, LULU (a singer). Appropriate interpretation of BACK ON THE CHARTS, meaning "a singer hidden at the end of phrases."

I would have preferred a more obvious presentation of the theme, maybe circles or shaded squares highlighting the singers. I've gone ahead and done that (below) since I lost track of everything during my solve.

I wonder if others will also feel like the themers didn't stand out sharply enough. When a long across answer like MENU OPTIONS sits in a position that would typically be a themer, everything gets muddy. For instance, I found myself wondering who IONS at the end of MENU OPTIONS or SUITS at the end of PANT SUITS might be. Laying out all the themers in the across direction could have helped that.

More crossword glue than I expect from someone with Caleb's expertise. Everything was going pretty well until I bogged down in the west section. DOA over EUR over OTB is passable. Running through AGOUTI … okay. But toss in IME, OSE, MAPPER, and it felt like a patch of quicksand, tough for me to escape from.

It is incredibly tough to fill that section given the ultra-high theme density — look at the grid below again to see just how constrained it is — but to me, that's a sign that you should figure out how to avoid shoehorning so much in. It would have been one thing if every themer was essential, but I would have been fine with 50% fewer themers.

That PAZ / AZUL / LAHR set of crossings, too — should educated solvers be expected to know Bert LAHR? Probably. But AZUR / RAHR might seem reasonable, and I would be sympathetic. I think a constructor's number one goal should be to design something a lot of solvers will ultimately triumph over, and I don't know if this section qualifies.

Overall, I liked a lot of the finds — MADONNA at the end of PRIMADONNA was especially good — but I have a very high bar for Caleb.

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© 2017, The New York TimesNo. 0723 ( 24,729 )
Across Down
1. Top : ACME
5. Wears : HASON
10. Pioneer in computer chess : IBM
13. Channel setting on many airport TVs : CNN
16. Gets cheeky with? : MOONS
18. Act on a sudden itch to be hitched : ELOPE
19. Fit for service : ONEA
20. It may be seeded : RYE
21. Even (with) : FLUSH
22. Roger who battled 13-Across : AILES
23. Utter : OUTANDOUT
25. Cut, Paste and Print : MENUOPTIONS
27. Degree in math? : NTH
28. Mountain ___ : DEW
29. Copse makeup : TREES
30. Title character in a 1943 French novella [6] : LITTLEPRINCE
35. Zap : NUKE
37. Pedagogic org. : NEA
39. Vote for : YEA
40. Pacific capital : APIA
41. N.F.L.'s Jaguars, on scoreboards : JAX
42. Sugar suffix : OSE
43. 1990 Literature Nobelist Octavio ___ : PAZ
44. Toner cartridge contents : DRYINK
46. Is from ancient Rome? : EST
47. The Big Pineapple [4] : HONOLULU
50. Rhyme scheme ending a villanelle : ABAA
52. French word between two surnames : NEE
53. Intl. commerce grp. : WTO
54. Banded gemstones : ONYXES
55. Bert who sang "If I Only Had the Nerve" : LAHR
57. Poor People's Campaign organizer, for short : MLK
59. Frequent Bosch setting : HELL
60. Capital accumulation : WEALTH
61. Dance craze of the 2010s : DOUGIE
63. "___ and animals are free" (party slogan in "1984") : PROLES
65. "___ Mine" (George Harrison book) : IME
66. Like some lawyers' work [4] : PROBONO
67. Musical talent : EAR
68. Cartographer : MAPPER
71. Try to sink one's teeth into : BITEAT
72. Cheap cooking implement : TINPAN
76. Like, forever : AGES
77. Steely Dan's best-selling album : AJA
78. Naval noncoms : CPOS
80. E'erlasting : ETERNE
81. ___ one-eighty : DOA
82. Bleeping government org.? : FCC
84. Trophy figure : NIKE
86. "Why are you looking at me?" [4] : WHATDIDO
88. Where It. is : EUR
89. Inverse trig function : ARCTAN
91. Agcy. that oversaw plants : AEC
92. Ones "from Mars" : MEN
93. Inits. in some parlors : OTB
94. American-born Jordanian queen : NOOR
95. "Shoo!" : GIT
98. Org. behind the Human Genome Project : NIH
99. Lewis ___, 1848 Democratic candidate for president : CASS
100. 11th-century campaign [4] : FIRSTCRUSADE
103. Put in stitches : SEWED
105. Like the Salt Lake Bees baseball team : AAA
106. Decoration for an R.A.F. pilot : DSO
107. "Will you let me have a taste?" : CANITRYSOME
112. Clothing associated with Hillary Clinton : PANTSUITS
115. "Same here" : ASAMI
116. Like many pools and highways : LANED
117. Cooperation : AID
118. They begin trading, for short : IPOS
119. Frankincense, e.g. : RESIN
120. Singer of a famous bath time song : ERNIE
121. Crooked : WRY
122. Barack Obama's mother : ANN
123. Sturm und ___ : DRANG
124. Garner : EARN
1. Like some radios : AMFM
2. "Born Sinner" rapper J. ___ : COLE
3. 17,000+-foot peak near the Equator [4] : MOUNTKENYA
4. Guarantee : ENSURE
5. Make airtight, in a way [4] : HEATSEAL
6. Others of ancient Rome? : ALII
7. Band member's time to shine : SOLO
8. In public : OPENLY
9. Monster's moniker : NESSIE
10. Healthy [4] : INTHEPINK
11. "Don't ___ hero!" : BEA
12. Nightshade family member [5] : MANDRAKE
13. Prized possession [5] : CROWNJEWEL
14. Home of the Gallatin Sch. of Individualized Study : NYU
15. Take home : NET
17. Unit around one foot? : SHOE
19. Spending : OUTLAY
23. Mich. neighbor : ONT
24. Mater ___ : DEI
26. One doing routine office work, informally [5] : PENPUSHER
31. "Wasn't that fantastic?!" : TADA
32. Long : PINE
33. Move to protect the king, say : CASTLE
34. Praises highly : EXTOLS
35. At all, in dialect : NOHOW
36. Me.-to-Fla. route : USONE
38. Color of el mar : AZUL
45. Butt : RAMINTO
48. Flowers native to damp woods : OXLIPS
49. "Please, I'll handle it" : LETME
50. Totally LOL-worthy : AHOOT
51. Dave of jazz [4] : BRUBECK
56. Supermodel Lima : ADRIANA
58. Certain fire sign : LEO
59. Like the Greek god Pan : HORNED
62. Flip out : GOAPE
63. One leading the exercises, for short? [4] : PETEACHER
64. Singer Bonnie : RAITT
66. Sandwich inits. : PBJ
68. Having as ingredients : MADEOF
69. Guinea pig relative : AGOUTI
70. Fruity spirit [6] : PEARBRANDY
73. Vain, temperamental sort [7] : PRIMADONNA
74. Long range : ANDES
75. Bright lights : NEONS
77. Band member's main squeeze? [4] : ACCORDION
79. ___ song : SWAN
82. 1940 Disney release [3] : FANTASIA
83. Swamp swimmer : CROC
85. Woman who took a "roll in ze hay" in "Young Frankenstein" : INGA
87. Pulling off bank jobs [5] : HEISTING
90. Teddy Roosevelt targets : TRUSTS
96. Much-swiped item : IDCARD
97. Short trailer : TEASER
99. Borgia who was an illegitimate son of Pope Alexander VI : CESARE
101. Took a breather : SAT
102. Message from the marooned : SOS
104. Noah of "ER" : WYLE
108. Grp. with a mission : NASA
109. "Sure, sign me up!" : IMIN
110. Predecessor of Rabin : MEIR
111. What's lost in "Paradise Lost" : EDEN
112. Rabbit's foot : PAW
113. It's inspired : AIR
114. Original "Veronica Mars" channel : UPN

Answer summary: 7 unique to this puzzle, 3 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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