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PLACES, EVERYONE!

New York Times, Sunday, May 14, 2017

Author: Will Nediger
Editor: Will Shortz
Will Nediger
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
215/27/20067/9/20170
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
8023017
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.80022

This puzzle:

Rows: 21, Columns: 21 Words: 140, Blocks: 66 Missing: {JQX} This is puzzle # 20 for Mr. Nediger. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Will Nediger notes: It's nice to be back in the New York Times — my last puzzle was all the way back in 2014, since I was on a hiatus from constructing for a while. I'm back in the swing of things now, and even have a blog ... more
Will Nediger notes:

It's nice to be back in the New York Times — my last puzzle was all the way back in 2014, since I was on a hiatus from constructing for a while. I'm back in the swing of things now, and even have a blog where I post a free puzzle every Monday.

I like that the theme for this one produces a nice criss-cross pattern. The downside is that when theme entries cross each other (as every single one in this puzzle does), it makes the grid hard to fill. So there's more gluey fill (ALAE, ELEA) than I'd like, but hopefully, some of the long answers make up for it.

Jeff Chen notes: A pretty pattern of shaded squares, highlighting a position-dependent theme. Fun a-ha to realize that [Grand pooh-bahs] wasn't BANANAS, but (top) BANANAS. Same with [Dropped out] not being SCHOOL, but (left) ... more
Jeff Chen notes:

A pretty pattern of shaded squares, highlighting a position-dependent theme. Fun a-ha to realize that [Grand pooh-bahs] wasn't BANANAS, but (top) BANANAS. Same with [Dropped out] not being SCHOOL, but (left) school, and HANDER actually being (right) HANDER. We fixed up the answers in our database so the answers match the clues — see below.

Not all the themers were fantastic — some could work just fine without their positional modifier, like how ENGLISH as [Chaucer's tongue] doesn't need the (middle) modifier — but getting all 18(!) themers into such nice symmetrical, intersecting places must have greatly reduced Will's flexibility. Not easy to find so many crossing pairs that work this way.

Speaking of not easy, Will's point about filling around pairs of crossing themers is no joke. This task becomes even trickier when working with the NYT's 140-word maximum, which translates to having to fill some big, themeless-esque sections, using more long filler entries than you might in a weekday puzzle. Check out how well Will does in the west, with just AMI as a minor blip, and ALI BABA, BALD SPOT, MADE WAR, IN A HOLE as bonuses. Now that's what I'm talking about!

Now check out the lower right. Will helps himself by sort of sectioning this region away from the rest of the puzzle, but it's still hard to fill around (bottom) FEEDING and (right) CLICKS. A random Roman numeral in CDV isn't great, but it's at least gettable. ELEA crossing EDINA … oof. I'd find it hard to argue that either one is something educated solvers must know, or should be able to figure out.

BTW, were you baffled by SAUK as [Fox neighbor] too? I was stuck on it being FOX News … not the Fox Native Americans. D'oh!

I've seen variations on this idea many a time before, but this layout was so aesthetically pleasing. It would have been great to get more examples which absolutely required the positional modifier (CLICKS works just as well as (right) CLICKS for the clue, e.g.). Along with some smoothing of rough spots (ETHELS/ALLS, ALAE/NEER, etc.) that might have elevated into POW! contention for me.

1
C
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L
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A
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D
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H
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V
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© 2017, The New York TimesNo. 0514 ( 24,659 )
Across Down
1. Necklace parts : CLASPS
7. Extreme : DRASTIC
14. Peter out : ABATE
19. Relative of a brasserie : BISTRO
20. Phoenix event : REBIRTH
21. Power machine in woodworking : PLANER
22. Dropped out : LEFTSCHOOL
23. U.S. heartland : MIDDLEAMERICA
24. Dexterous one : RIGHTHANDER
25. Where you might stop before going home : THIRD
26. Prince Buster's genre : SKA
27. Heathrow facilities : LOOS
28. Cherished by : DEARTO
29. Start of a boast : VENI
30. Battle-torn Syrian city : ALEPPO
32. Org. that delivers : USPS
34. Contraction lacking just a "v" : NEER
35. You might find one under a Christmas tree : NEEDLE
37. One using 32-Across, e.g. : SHIPPER
39. Hideouts : LAIRS
40. Did a cobbler's job on : SOLED
42. First-year law student : ONEL
43. Sinus suffix : ITIS
45. "Who ___?" : AMI
48. Enter : TYPEIN
50. Tool for talking online : WEBCAM
52. Angel dust : PCP
55. Knightstick? : LANCE
57. Colossal head sculptors : OLMECS
59. Setting for John Ford's "My Darling Clementine" : OKCORRAL
61. Sarah Palin, by birth : IDAHOAN
63. ___ Gunderson, sad sack on "The Simpsons" : GIL
64. Average : SOSO
65. White House worker : AIDE
66. Abandoned : LEFTBEHIND
67. Person pretty far up the corporate ladder : MIDDLEMANAGER
69. Having correct opinions : RIGHTMINDED
71. No longer in the company, say : AWOL
72. Singer/reality TV personality Aubrey : ODAY
74. What old couches tend to do : SAG
75. ___ up on (conspiring against) : GANGING
76. It lacks locks : BALDSPOT
78. Credit card provider, e.g. : ISSUER
80. Theft preventer ... or theft encourager : FENCE
81. Equal : ARE
82. Mushroom makers : ATESTS
84. R&R by oneself : METIME
86. H.S.-level exam : GED
87. Smooch : BUSS
88. Vinick's portrayer on "The West Wing" : ALDA
90. Searcher for "the lost village," in film : SMURF
92. Catalyst : SPARK
95. "Told you so!" : IKNEWIT
98. Accountant's list : ASSETS
101. Creature also called a catamount : PUMA
102. All-inclusive : ATOZ
103. Aggrandize : ENRICH
105. Apple of Discord thrower : ERIS
107. Poison victim's remedy : IPECAC
109. Fidel's brother : RAUL
111. Whack : ICE
112. Suburb of Minneapolis : EDINA
113. Blind side protector, usually, in an offensive line : LEFTTACKLE
114. Chaucer's tongue : MIDDLEENGLISH
116. Brings up a menu with a PC mouse : RIGHTCLICKS
117. Waters and Kennedy : ETHELS
118. Aisle's head? : SILENTA
119. Disavows : DENIES
120. Juicy bits, in slang : DEETS
121. Item for a cafeteria worker : HAIRNET
122. Whim : VAGARY
1. "The Late Show" airer : CBSTV
2. Reindeer moss, e.g. : LICHEN
3. Glowing : ASHINE
4. News highlights : TOPSTORIES
5. Nudge : PROD
6. La preceder : SOL
7. Rapper with the 4x platinum album "Views" : DRAKE
8. Charts again : REMAPS
9. Fin : ABE
10. Boneless cut : TOPSIRLOIN
11. Huey, Dewey and Louie, e.g. : TRIO
12. Brangelina was one : ITCOUPLE
13. Gliding step, in ballet : CHASSE
14. Wings, to zoologists : ALAE
15. Grand pooh-bahs : TOPBANANAS
16. Russian film director Tarkovsky : ANDREI
17. Threaten to fall : TEETER
18. They may be unforced : ERRORS
21. Many profs : PHDS
26. Think over : SLEEPON
30. Bedfellow : ALLY
31. Contribute to a radio show : PHONEIN
33. Syringe sensations : PRICKS
36. Lavish with attention : DOTEON
38. They provide backing for churchgoers : PEWS
39. Sight at a red-carpet event : LIMO
41. Director Guillermo ___ Toro : DEL
44. City SSW of Seattle : TACOMA
45. Fictional woodcutter : ALIBABA
46. Was belligerent : MADEWAR
47. Debt-ridden : INAHOLE
49. Coming-out words : IMGAY
51. Vulgar sort : BOOR
52. Indulging (oneself) in self-satisfaction : PRIDING
53. Rhythm : CADENCE
54. Vowed : PLEDGED
56. Neglected one, stereotypically : MIDDLECHILD
58. Bourgeoisie : MIDDLECLASS
60. Mezzo-soprano, for female voices : MIDDLERANGE
62. Rescues a foundling, say : ADOPTS
64. Smooth transition : SEGUE
67. Yoga equipment : MATS
68. Line to a pilot? : GASMAIN
70. Figures out : INFERS
73. "Is that so?" : DOESIT
75. [That's painful!] : GRIMACE
77. Fox neighbor : SAUK
78. Part of a chain : ISLE
79. Many "Star Trek" characters, for short : ETS
83. Home of the highest point in Africa : TANZANIA
85. Cry to a sled dog : MUSH
87. Where teams that have little-to-no chance of winning are found : BOTTOMBRACKET
89. Inhabitant of the ocean's benthic zone : BOTTOMDWELLER
91. Profiting from the misfortunes of others : BOTTOMFEEDING
92. Treated with malice : SPITED
93. Transform, as larvae : PUPATE
94. Actor Don : AMECHE
96. Cult leader killed in the Waco siege : KORESH
97. Sibelius's "Valse ___" : TRISTE
99. One of the Nixon daughters : TRICIA
100. Fishing item : SINKER
102. Part of a dead man's hand : ACES
104. Onetime tool for talking online : ICHAT
106. Full of lip : SASSY
108. First word in a Shakespeare title : ALLS
110. Hybrid citrus : UGLI
112. Home of Zeno and Parmenides : ELEA
115. Roadside stop : INN
116. 405, to Flavius : CDV

Answer summary: 12 unique to this puzzle, 7 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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