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New York Times, Thursday, April 21, 2016

Author:
Alex Bajcz
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
45/6/20148/29/20180
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1011100
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1.58000
Alex Bajcz

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 74, Blocks: 31 Missing: {JQVXZ} This is puzzle # 2 for Mr. Bajcz. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Alex Bajcz notes:
This puzzle was the product of a moment of clarity while watching a football game: 'Wow, saying FALSE START is hard!' You should try ... read more

This puzzle was the product of a moment of clarity while watching a football game: "Wow, saying FALSE START is hard!" You should try it--try to say "false start" at normal speaking pace while ensuring that the S sound in "false" is really distinct from the ST sound in "start." It's hard to do without making the ST sound into more of a D sound, at least for me. A linguist might be able to explain why, but since I'm not one, I won't try :).

I decided I'd try to find some other examples of two-word phrases that had that same kind of sound combination. Turns out, they're pretty rare--the six I include here are very nearly the only ones I was able to come up with (although STANDS DILL/STAND STILL and LAS VEGAS DRIP/LAS VEGAS STRIP were other ones I liked a lot). It's as if phrases that are hard to enunciate are uncommon or something! I guess I got lucky that these six are not only pretty amusing, but that they also are of symmetrical lengths. Good fortune for me!

One other thing of note here: the astute among us might notice that PLEASE and NOSE have Z sounds instead of S sounds, strictly speaking. I fretted something fierce about this--are S and Z sounds "close enough?" However, I happened to read a note by Will on XWord Info for another puzzle that also did some wordplay on S sounds, and, to heavily paraphrase, Will essentially said that the difference between S and Z didn't bother him in that case because they largely worked equally well to accomplish the wordplay. So, I decided it was worth the risk, and I guess he thought so too. So not every "inconsistency" in a theme is one that dooms it, which is a point well-remembered for us constructors!

Jeff Chen notes:
Sound change / letter substitution, ST going to D. Some funny results in FALSE DART and my favorite, BLUEGRASS DATE. There are a ton ... read more

Sound change / letter substitution, ST going to D. Some funny results in FALSE DART and my favorite, BLUEGRASS DATE. There are a ton of words that start with ST, so it was nice to see Alex incorporate six themers.

T BOONE, interesting that he's trying to move from oil to cleaner fuels

Aha, you might have missed themers five and six! They're tucked in the upper left and lower right--NOSE DUD and ICE DORM. Unusual locations. At first I wondered if a NOSE DUD was something the kids these days were piercing / inserting / snorting. And ICE DORM … maybe that's some sort of Icelandic thing? Even though it's kind of neat that pairs of themers intersect, I would have liked those short 7s to stand out better--perhaps at 1-Across and the last across position.

Alex uses a lot of long slots, although some of those felt like they left untapped potential, ANNOTATE, MASSAGER, IN STORES, ETHERNET all feeling more neutral than assets. But I really liked POWERED ON, looking curiously like POWER DON (Mafia bigwig). I also liked PROTÉGÉ, I AGREE, GUNSHY, and OIL TYCOON was my favorite. It was neat to get T BOONE crossing it — I like fortuitous crosses like that.

I wasn't sure about T BOONE as an entry itself though. Is that what people call him? I'm so used to the full T. Boone Pickens that just T BOONE by itself feels like a six-letter partial. Any friends of T BOONE want to weigh in?

Also a bit odd was SKYEY. To my surprise, it actually is in the dictionary, as "adjective form of sky." And Updike writes "a sheet of skyey water." I may have to try it out and see if people around me flinch.

As with most straightforward Thursday themes, I was left wanting more trickery, more of an a-ha moment. It is asking for a lot to want a fresh, tricky idea every single week (and Will has gone on record saying that all he wants out of a Thursday is for it to be harder than a Wednesday), but a guy can wish.

1
L
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M
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© 2016, The New York TimesNo. 0421 ( 24,271 )

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Students & seniors
Across
1. Collateral, of a sort : LIEN
5. "More or less" : ISH
8. Handled the last details of, with "up" : MOPPED
14. Mark up : ANNOTATE
16. Harvest, perhaps : UPROOT
17. One rubbing you the right way? : MASSAGER
18. Is overwhelmed : DROWNS
19. Romantic night in Kentucky? : BLUEGRASSDATE
21. Vehicle in "Frozen" : SLED
22. Textbook market shorthand : ELHI
23. Savory and sage : HERBS
26. Sport-___ : UTE
28. Venison source : ELK
30. Nerd (out) : GEEK
31. Friend of Buzz in "Toy Story" : WOODY
34. "Come on, Doris"? : PLEASEDAY
36. Gold of "Entourage" : ARI
37. One you might hang with : PAL
39. Nevada county with part of Death Valley National Monument : NYE
40. Rocky subject? : ORE
41. Counterfeit Dodge? : FALSEDART
44. Blusterous : WINDY
46. Relative of -ess : ETTE
47. Frosting ingredient, often : DYE
48. Vitamin World competitor : GNC
49. Carlos y Juan Carlos : REYES
51. "I thought you had my back!" : ETTU
53. Decreases : EBBS
57. Fishing boat at summer camp? : CHILDRENSDORY
60. Pickens who's a 33-Down : TBOONE
62. Not sold on TV or online : INSTORES
63. Title figures in a Gilbert and Sullivan opera : YEOMEN
64. Alternative to Wi-Fi : ETHERNET
65. Doesn't let lapse : RENEWS
66. Tempeh base : SOY
67. Pharmacy stock, informally : MEDS
Down
1. Innocents : LAMBS
2. Completely : INALL
3. Occur subsequently : ENSUE
4. Failure to sneeze? : NOSEDUD
5. "Hear, hear!" : IAGREE
6. Take home ... in more ways than one? : STEAL
7. ___ Greene, character on "The Walking Dead" : HERSHEL
8. Harvey ___ College : MUDD
9. TV personality with the best seller "What I Know for Sure" : OPRAH
10. Marco Rubio, to Jeb Bush, once : PROTEGE
11. Booted, say : POWEREDON
12. Gazillion years : EON
13. Drunk's woe : DTS
15. Graffiti mark : TAG
20. Kind of treatment : SILENT
24. Lengthening shadow? : BEARD
25. Brilliantly blue : SKYEY
27. Redheads or book lovers, maybe : TYPE
29. Big name in jewelry : KAY
31. Symbol of thinness : WAFER
32. Hold the floor : ORATE
33. David or Charles Koch : OILTYCOON
34. Taken for a fool : PLAYED
35. Wrapped (up) : SEWN
38. Contribute : ADD
42. Escort after a party : SEEHOME
43. Gives it another go : RETRIES
45. Student housing in Fairbanks? : ICEDORM
48. Nervous and apprehensive : GUNSHY
50. Muscle-bone binder : SINEW
52. Nearing the bell, maybe : TENTO
54. Carried : BORNE
55. Multiply : BREED
56. Networks: Abbr. : SYSTS
58. Word after hand or zoom : LENS
59. Geneviève, for one: Abbr. : STE
60. ___ : Tuesday :: Odin : Wednesday : TYR
61. Garden worker? : BEE

Answer summary: 8 unique to this puzzle, 1 debuted here and reused later, 1 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

Found bugs or have suggestions?