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PREPOSITION PROPOSITION

New York Times, Sunday, April 15, 2018

Author: Alex Bajcz
Editor: Will Shortz
Alex Bajcz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
35/6/20144/15/20180
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1010100
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.65000

This puzzle:

Rows: 21, Columns: 21 Words: 140, Blocks: 66 Missing: {JQXZ} This is puzzle # 3 for Mr. Bajcz. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Alex Bajcz notes: Bucket list item achieved—I've got my first NYT Sunday puzzle! Yay! I don't know about other constructors, but I can't 'force' a good theme out of me. I have to be lucky enough for one to 'come to me,' ... more
Alex Bajcz notes:

Bucket list item achieved—I've got my first NYT Sunday puzzle! Yay!

I don't know about other constructors, but I can't "force" a good theme out of me. I have to be lucky enough for one to "come to me," and thankfully this one did. It was inspired by WALK ON WATER, which felt worthy of building a puzzle around. After batting around some ideas, I somehow noticed that WALK ON could become WALK-ON, which changes its meaning in a way I liked. So, I hunted for other, similar phrases, and when I realized I had found at least nine, I had to make the scary decision: whittle, or go for a Sunday puzzle? I guess I chose correctly!

Because my themers were short and easy to arrange, the grid design and filling went (for a Sunday) pretty smoothly. The SW fought with me, but I ultimately won out. MISSES A CUE was a big help--I got it from XWord Info, I think!

By far the biggest challenge was the NE corner. Originally, I had EAT SUPPER at 13-D, which allowed that corner to fill easily. Will didn't enjoy this phrase though, so I had to try doing without it. That proved tricky; the first several fills all introduced dupes—sometimes, even three or more! The dupe Gods seemed determined to get me. I'm bummed the final fill has TRISTE, BAL, AT A, and APEAK in the NE, since that is more "glue" than I would normally allow myself, but I'm still pleased with the zippiness I was able to get into the long fill overall. I hope everyone has fun with this one!

PS. See if you can think up any good theme entries like mine with these phrases I couldn't use: TIE-IN, LIE-IN, COME-ON, MAKE-UP, TAKE-IN.

Jeff Chen notes: I stared at the title for a long time before staring the puzzle. How neat, that PREPOSITION and PROPOSITION are the same except for that third letter. I didn't quite figure out how it applied to the theme – ... more
Jeff Chen notes:

I stared at the title for a long time before staring the puzzle. How neat, that PREPOSITION and PROPOSITION are the same except for that third letter. I didn't quite figure out how it applied to the theme – prepositions joined up to produce kooky themers – but I suppose you could call a theme a "proposition," as in a "plan of action."

I enjoyed most of the themers. STAND-IN LINE as a delivery from an understudy felt clever. PULLUP STAKES as the wager for an exercise bet, too. PUT-ON NOTICE as a [Scam alert], too! I was surprised at how different these common phrases became with just that slight hyphen/space change. Amusing theme.

I was glad to read Alex's note, as that NE corner stuck out to me, too. Here's a case where going to 142 words could have been a good option. I do like PINCH RAN and ANTI RIOT a lot, but breaking those up into two words apiece would have allowed for some cleanup on aisle APEAK. Probably would have allowed Alex to upgrade TOSSES TO into something more sizzly, too.

I thought Alex did a nice job with his fill, except for all those prepositional fillers. For a theme based on prepositions, where you're already going to have some UP / IN / ON / TO dupes, having more of the SHAKE UP / UP ONE / PUSH IN / OD ON / FLIES TO / TOSSES TO is less than ideal. That kind of fill is neutral at best in average puzzles. But here, not only do they muddy up the theme a bit, but there's just such a huge quantity of prepositions floating around.

And GOOK. Yes, it's clued as GO OK, but come on. Seriously? NO NO!

But I enjoyed the theme, those seemingly innocent hyphen changes creating huge and entertaining shifts in meaning. A sharp theme can almost always overcome a couple of infelicities in grid execution.

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© 2018, The New York TimesNo. 0415 ( 24,995 )
Across Down
1. Sound of a dud : PFFT
5. Personnel overhaul : SHAKEUP
12. End of the block? : ADE
15. Pitcher's feat, slangily : NONO
19. Peace activist Wiesel : ELIE
20. Rear seating compartment in old automobiles : TONNEAU
21. Replaced someone on a base : PINCHRAN
23. Wagers for a gym exercise? : PULLUPSTAKES
25. Big name in luxury S.U.V.s : ESCALADE
26. Successfully persuades : SELLS
27. At the most : TOPS
28. Sub : HOAGIE
30. Opposite of stiff : TIP
31. Figures on slots : SEVENS
33. Bad thing to see under a truck's hood? : PICKUPSTEAM
35. Small breather? : NOSTRIL
38. Customer service worker : AGENT
40. "Man and Superman" playwright : SHAW
41. Anxious feeling : UNEASE
42. Wastebasket or folder, maybe : ICON
43. Avoided trans fats and refined sugars, say : ATERIGHT
47. Part of NASA: Abbr. : NATL
48. Unrecruited athlete's bottleful? : WALKONWATER
52. ___ al-Hussein (Jordanian royal) : NOOR
53. Private eye : TEC
55. Word after flight or credit : RISK
56. "Zounds!" : EGAD
57. ___ dish : PETRI
58. It's not in the bag : LOOSETEA
61. Intake in many an eating contest : PIE
62. Makes drunk : BESOTS
63. Certain note passer, for short : ATM
64. Timely entrance? : DEADONARRIVAL
69. Kitty : POT
70. "Here's the thing ..." : YOUSEE
72. Lawn coating : DEW
73. Grueling workplace, so to speak : SALTMINE
75. Man first mentioned in Exodus 2 : MOSES
76. Something removed at a T.S.A. checkpoint : SHOE
78. Purple smoothie flavorer : ACAI
80. German "you" : SIE
81. Caught in ___ : ALIE
82. Understudy's delivery? : STANDINLINE
85. Nonsense singing : SCAT
88. Closet rackful : NECKTIES
90. Suffer from a lockup : SKID
91. Zeros : LOSERS
93. "Fight, fight, fight for Maryland!" singer, familiarly : TERP
94. Duke of ___, character in "The Two Gentlemen of Verona" : MILAN
96. Reaches by plane : FLIESTO
97. Scam alert? : PUTONNOTICE
101. Paragons : IDEALS
103. Hoppy brew : IPA
104. Info provider : SOURCE
105. Optimist's credo : ICAN
106. What an A.P. class likely isn't : EASYA
110. Throws at : TOSSESTO
112. Fight clubs? : RUNINCIRCLES
115. Serving to quell violent protests : ANTIRIOT
116. Free, as a seat : UNTAKEN
117. Web links, briefly : URLS
118. Trickle : SEEP
119. Certain baseball positions: Abbr. : RFS
120. Lunchtime errands, e.g. : NOONERS
121. ___ Classic (cable channel) : ESPN
1. Juices (up) : PEPS
2. Something a chimney sweep sweeps : FLUE
3. Permeate : FILL
4. Gossips : TELLSTALES
5. Pennzoil competitor : STP
6. Low-cost lodging : HOSTEL
7. Playwright Chekhov : ANTON
8. Bags that might have drawstrings : KNAPSACKS
9. Startled squeals : EEKS
10. Neighbor of Oman, for short : UAE
11. Press, as a button : PUSHIN
12. Vertical, to a sailor : APEAK
13. Saying "Eww!," say : DISGUSTED
14. Make hard to read : ENCIPHER
15. Org. that's nearly one-fourth Canadian : NHL
16. Speak before Parliament, e.g. : ORATE
17. Comaneci of Olympics fame : NADIA
18. Time in Tokyo when it's midnight in New York : ONEPM
22. ___ salad : CAESAR
24. App customers : USERS
29. 10/ : OCT
32. Scene : VIEW
33. Founder of Philadelphia : PENN
34. Strong strings : TWINES
35. Sister : NUN
36. Man ___ mission : ONA
37. Soundtrack for a brawl? : SETTOMUSIC
39. Proceed well enough : GOOK
42. Story featuring divine intervention : ILIAD
43. ___ premium : ATA
44. Compositions often chosen for encores? : GOTOPIECES
45. Seuss title character : HORTON
46. Sad, in San Juan : TRISTE
49. Department : AREA
50. Small dam : WEIR
51. Smoking or stress : AGER
54. Forfeits : CEDES
57. Hits with snowballs : PELTS
58. Nonexpert : LAYMAN
59. Portrayer of Mr. Chips : OTOOLE
60. Ball support : TEE
61. Something "shaken" in a trick : PAW
62. The Ravens, on scoreboards : BAL
65. Take too much of, briefly : ODON
66. Call for : NEED
67. "To repeat ..." : ISAID
68. Self-absorbed : VAIN
71. Hope that one may : SEEKTO
74. Doesn't go on at the right time : MISSESACUE
76. Exit : STEPOUTOF
77. Gives birth to : HAS
78. "Eso Beso" singer : ANKA
79. Doctor treating patients : CLINICIAN
82. G.I. reply : SIRNOSIR
83. Any of the Galápagos : ISLE
84. Singer known for her 85-Across : ELLA
86. Skill : ART
87. Chinese menu name : TSO
89. More likely to escalate : TENSER
92. Member of a four-time Stanley Cup-winning team in the 1980s : OILER
94. Emcee's item : MIC
95. Spring river breakup : ICERUN
96. Certain Summer Olympian : FENCER
97. Gyro holders : PITAS
98. Barely ahead, scorewise : UPONE
99. Interior decorator's asset : TASTE
100. Brisk paces : TROTS
102. Gracias : Spanish :: ___ : German : DANKE
105. Avid about : INTO
107. Some Nikons, for short : SLRS
108. Go "Ow, ow, OW!" : YELP
109. Professional grp. : ASSN
111. Apt rhyme of "nip" : SIP
113. Card game cry : UNO
114. Some doorways : INS

Answer summary: 11 unique to this puzzle, 4 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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