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MISQUOTING SCRIPTURE

New York Times, Sunday, May 21, 2017

Author: Randolph Ross
Editor: Will Shortz
Randolph Ross
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1.475002

This puzzle:

Rows: 21, Columns: 21 Words: 134, Blocks: 76 Missing: {JQXZ} This is puzzle # 104 for Mr. Ross. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Randolph Ross notes: I like punny themes... the more groans the better. Constructors, like Merl Reagle, Rich Silvestri and Cathy Allis, who are among my favorites, have done great work in this genre, especially when they created ... more
Randolph Ross notes:

I like punny themes... the more groans the better. Constructors, like Merl Reagle, Rich Silvestri and Cathy Allis, who are among my favorites, have done great work in this genre, especially when they created puzzles with outrageous or clever puns around a particular topic.

"Misquoting Scriptures" tries to do that. It probably started with IN THE BIG INNING, something I probably heard or read related to how the Bible could be connected to baseball. It's a beautiful pun in that it is quite euphonious and funny to think that the Bible would have anything to say about baseball.

Some solvers don't like puns and some who do are strict constructionists about the pun being an exact or very, very close sound-alike, such as GARDEN OF ETON and A MARK UPON CANE are in this puzzle. But, like Merl and Cathy, I'm a little more forgiving about how close in sound a pun needs to be if the entry fits the theme and the clue and solution generate a smile or groan. FORBIDDEN FLUTE and ASSAULT OF THE EARTH are two examples of less rigorous euphony, yet still fit the theme in a funny way.

I'm sure my constructor colleagues who also like these kinds of themes will agree that it sometimes hard to find a balanced set of punny theme entries for a Sunday puzzle, all of which are so tight with their puns that the substitutions are all homophones. That is something to strive for, but should not, in my opinion, be determinative of whether a pun-based theme should fly or not. For this puzzle I was happy that all the theme entries fit the clueing template "The Bible on..." and none were too far astray that the original word being manipulated was not easily identifiable with the original quote.

I was also pleased that I was able to construct this one with a fairly low word count and a lot of theme squares. With some guidance from Will and some reworking, I think we minimized the unappealing and crosswordese entries.

Now I'm thinking about "Misquoting Shakespeare" e.g. TWO BS OR NOT TWO BS — What the Bard thought about when spelling Caribbean?

Hope you enjoy the puzzle.

Jeff Chen notes: Puns / homophones playing on famous Biblical phrases. This is a tried and true crossword theme type — it was Merl Reagle's specialty — and it lives or dies on how amusing the resulting phrases are. I ... more
Jeff Chen notes:

Puns / homophones playing on famous Biblical phrases. This is a tried and true crossword theme type — it was Merl Reagle's specialty — and it lives or dies on how amusing the resulting phrases are. I enjoyed IN THE BIG INNING, as that was a surprising word transformation. And it was fun to think of God playing baseball (he/she and I are both SF Giants fans). FORBIDDEN FLUTE also entertained me, evoking an image of a magic flute held under lock and key.

The others didn't do much for me. LET THERE BE LITE didn't make much grammatical sense, AN AYE FOR AN EYE too easy of a substitution, and I was sure A MARK UPON CANE had to be based on the "mark of Cain." I'm no Bible scholar, but it was news to me that "a mark upon Cain" was a thing.

Even if a puzzle's theme doesn't catch my attention, there's plenty of room for bonus fill or great execution to do so. SCHUBERT was nice at the top of the puzzle. BARN ONE — er, BAR NONE — was another standout. I've never SAFARIED, but I'd sure like to. And even the crazy KEYOFE? Ah, the KEY OF E! Nice.

So much crossword glue, though. I don't mind a few minor STL, TRA, ADDA, REMI here and there. But LII. IT OFF. ASIA M — er, AS I AM. SENAT. (And I kept on ticking off more and more after that.)

VOGEL crossing VALES = yikes. I put in (HOGEL / HALES.) Maybe I ought to know Kenneth Vogel. But for those of us that need an introduction to him, doing it in a such a way to deprive solvers of a correct finish is not the way to do it.

I'll have to respectfully disagree with Randy on the amount of unappealing entries and crosswordese.

I do understand the drive to try difficult constructions — a crazily wide-open grid can make for an interesting challenge. And if the fill was smoother, it could have made for an extra-hard, extra-satisfying-to-complete solve. But making a quality 140-word puzzle is hard enough. Very few people can pull off the sub-140 — much less go all the way down to 134 — while keeping standards to where they need to be, if the NYT's reputation as one of the best puzzles out there is to be maintained.

Still, I did enjoy a couple of the themers, as well as some of the long fill bonuses.

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© 2017, The New York TimesNo. 0521 ( 24,666 )
Across Down
1. Purchase via Charles Schwab: Abbr. : STK
4. "Unfinished" Symphony composer : SCHUBERT
12. Commercial success? : ADSALE
18. Expose : BARE
19. Its slogan is "Family City U.S.A." : OREMUTAH
20. Final bit : TAILEND
22. The Bible on political horse trading? : ANAYEFORANAYE
24. One of the original Mouseketeers : ANNETTE
25. Approaches aggressively : ACCOSTS
26. Cries at unveilings : TADAS
28. Part of a chorus line? : TRA
29. The Bible on camera problems? : THEFLASHISWEAK
35. 1987 Best Actress winner : CHER
36. Water carrier : HOSE
37. Square dance group, e.g. : OCTET
38. Rave review : ITSGREAT
42. The Bible on an alien invasion? : ASSAULTOFTHEEARTH
46. Went on an African hunting expedition : SAFARIED
50. Without exception : BARNONE
51. Losing ground? : ERODING
52. A hill of beans? : LIMAS
56. Pass carefully : EASEBY
58. The Bible on where Prince Harry learned horticulture? : GARDENOFETON
60. Perceive : GET
61. Spacewalk, for short : EVA
63. Arafat's successor as P.L.O. chairman : ABBAS
64. Nursery rhyme boy : GEORGIE
66. Forum farewells : VALES
68. Number of weeks per annum? : LII
69. Those with clout : INS
71. The Bible on bad business practices? : FALSEPROFITS
74. Item near a stereo : CDCASE
77. Buc or Bronco : NFLER
78. Newport event : REGATTA
79. Long, long time : DOGSAGE
81. Like all official football games : REFEREED
82. The Bible on directions to hell? : THEROUTEOFALLEVIL
88. Weasel out of : RENEGEON
89. "Take me ___" : ASIAM
90. Sportswear brand : AVIA
94. Bozos : OAFS
95. The Bible on a climactic part of a baseball game? : INTHEBIGINNING
100. Blood work report abbr. : LDL
101. In la-la land : SPACY
104. Skilled banker? : AVIATOR
105. Bungle : LOUSEUP
107. The Bible on ruined sugar crops? : AMARKUPONCANE
113. ___ Mill (California gold rush site) : SUTTERS
114. Parent vis-à-vis a child's loan, maybe : COSIGNER
115. "Would ___?" : ILIE
116. Conical construction : TEEPEE
117. Avoid boredom, say : KEEPBUSY
118. Safety device : NET
1. Don Quixote's squire : SANCHO
2. Vestiges : TRACES
3. Setting for spring in Vivaldi's "The Four Seasons" : KEYOFE
4. Vowel sound in "hard" and "start" : SOFTA
5. Betray : CROSS
6. Film in which Scarlett Johansson is heard but not seen : HER
7. Actress Thurman : UMA
8. Rear half? : BUN
9. LAX listing : ETA
10. Something poking through the clouds : RAY
11. Symbol in trigonometry : THETA
12. Just slightly : ATAD
13. Perino of Fox News : DANA
14. Confessor's confessions : SINS
15. Sierra Nevada, e.g. : ALE
16. The Bible on diet food? : LETTHEREBELITE
17. Beseech : ENTREAT
18. 62-Down's political party : BAATH
21. Scarcity : DEARTH
23. Night school subj. : ESL
27. Japanese relative of a husky : AKITA
30. Two-time Wimbledon winner Lew : HOAD
31. Destination from the E.R. : ICU
32. Cardinal letters : STL
33. Anti-Prohibitionist : WET
34. W.W. II zone, for short : ETO
35. One doing heavy lifting : CRANE
39. A wee hour : THREE
40. French assembly : SENAT
41. Storms of the 1990s : GEOS
42. Sign of spring : ARIES
43. Ireland's ___ Fein : SINN
44. Western lily : SEGO
45. Runners behind O-lines : FBS
46. Erich who wrote "Love Story" : SEGAL
47. Like our numerals : ARABIC
48. The Bible on a taboo musical instrument? : FORBIDDENFLUTE
49. Start of many recipe steps : ADDA
52. Wrangler alternative : LEE
53. Words after hit or knock : ITOFF
54. Fable finale : MORAL
55. Perspective : ANGLE
57. Mrs. Michael Jordan : YVETTE
59. OT enders, sometimes : FGS
60. "Oh wow!" : GEE
62. Putin ally : ASSAD
65. United Nations entrant of 1949: Abbr. : ISR
66. Political writer Kenneth : VOGEL
67. A long way off : AFAR
69. Matter of debate : ISSUE
70. "Keen!" : NEATO
72. Before: Abbr. : PREV
73. Mortgage deal, for short : REFI
75. Essential parts : CORES
76. Bug-eyed : AGOG
77. Prefix with con : NEO
80. Photo finish? : GENIC
81. Scale sequence : REMI
82. Online mischief-makers : TROLLS
83. Get going : HEADOUT
84. Falstaffian : FAT
85. Pompeii problem : ASH
86. Golfer's concern : LIE
87. Test site : LAB
90. Motrin alternative : ANACIN
91. Sportscaster Dick : VITALE
92. Being part of a secret : INONIT
93. Match : AGREE
96. New York town on the Hudson : NYACK
97. Reacts to an awesome sight : GAPES
98. Shade of white : IVORY
99. "Children of the Albatross" author : NIN
101. Escape slowly : SEEP
102. 100% : PURE
103. Quiet place to pray : APSE
106. ___-Foy, Que. : STE
108. Stooge with a bowl cut : MOE
109. "Peer Gynt" character : ASE
110. Upholstery problem : RIP
111. Org. in a le Carré novel : KGB
112. Burma's first P.M. : UNU

Answer summary: 12 unique to this puzzle, 4 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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