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BUZZ CUT

New York Times, Sunday, May 26, 2019

Author:
Ruth Bloomfield Margolin
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
102/26/20145/26/20190
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4013200
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.50100
Ruth B. Margolin

This puzzle:

Rows: 21, Columns: 21 Words: 140, Blocks: 70 Missing: {KQXZ} This is puzzle # 10 for Ms. Margolin. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Will Shortz notes:
Ruth Bloomfield Margolin, of Westfield, N.J., began constructing crosswords after having an 'I can do that!' reaction to a puzzle she solved. It took some time (and a couple of what she ... read more

Ruth Bloomfield Margolin, of Westfield, N.J., began constructing crosswords after having an "I can do that!" reaction to a puzzle she solved. It took some time (and a couple of what she calls "polite rejections") before she got her first acceptance. This is now her 10th crossword for The Times.

In her non-puzzling life, Ruth serves on several community nonprofit boards and tutors in an adult literacy program.

Ruth B. Margolin notes:
Ideas come from many different sources. Usually, once I have an idea for a theme, I search through lists of words, idioms, or phrases to find material that fits the concept. This time, ... read more

Ideas come from many different sources. Usually, once I have an idea for a theme, I search through lists of words, idioms, or phrases to find material that fits the concept. This time, remembering many years ago when my kids had to learn to pronounce "R"s, I sought out speech therapy worksheets! These offered many examples of legitimate words created when "S" and "Z" sounds become confused ("minimal pairs," to a speech therapist), and that was exactly what I needed.

Once I had a list of fun phrases, switching either "S" to "Z", or "Z" to "S", the challenge became finding a way to unify these theme answers with a reveal or a title. At first, I planned to use phrases that humorously changed "Z" sounds to "S"s, which in my mind was adding a whistling sound. I kept thinking of Lauren Bacall saying "You know how to whistle, don't you?" and I would have used that idea somehow in the title or reveal answer. But the quote didn't resonate with my test audience (a.k.a. my now adult children), and they didn't perceive the whistle. (Which is actually a good thing, in speech therapy terms!) It wasn't until I came up with "BUZZ CUT" that my theme felt coherent.

Then the puzzle formed around HISS AND HEARSE, which ended up being the only theme entry that included the S/Z confusion twice. That meant that either I couldn't use it or I had to put it in the center where you see it now. And from there, I picked too many of my favorite entries and tried to squeeze all of them into a puzzle. Alas, after several tries (Thank you Will, Sam, and Joel for your patience!) I faced the fact that I had to eliminate a theme pairing to get better fill.

Some of the many theme answers that were left on the "cutting room floor":

  • LACE A GOLDEN EGG [Do an elegant Easter dye job?]
  • LACY BOY RECLINER [Comfy chair for a guy who is unconstrained by social norms?]
  • PACE HER OWN WAY [Marches to a different drummer?]
  • FALSE IN LOVE [Unfaithful?]
  • PASSING FACE [Asset for a teen with a fake ID?]

and my personal favorites:

  • ASK FOR A RACE [Yell "Last one in's a rotten egg!"?]
  • ICE IN THE BACK OF MY HEAD [Brain freeze?]

It was fun to make, and I hope it was fun to solve!

Jeff Chen notes:
My kids love the 'Fly Guy' series. YEZZZ they do! Standard sound change, Z dulled down to an S. Ruth found a lot of neat examples requiring huge spelling changes. I admired PEERS to ... read more

My kids love the "Fly Guy" series. YEZZZ they do!

Standard sound change, Z dulled down to an S. Ruth found a lot of neat examples requiring huge spelling changes. I admired PEERS to PIERCE, FOURS to FORCE, EYES to ICE.

I often harp on consistency, consistency, consistency, but I liked that the central themer had a double change — a cherry on top, HIS AND HERS to HISS AND HEARSE.

The one themer that didn't quite work (speaking of consistency) was WARM AND FUSSY. Every other themer's base phrase ended with the Z sound, but this one ended with a long E. It wouldn't be noticeable if there had been a mix – some sound changes at the front of words, some at the back, some in the middle – but this one was the sole themer not like the others.

Doug Peterson and I just had an exchange lamenting how hard a 140-word 21x21 grid is to make, with color and cleanliness. I'd like to see Will change his spec sheet to "140-words, or 142 if you can still integrate a lot of colorful long non-theme entries." That would have helped today, what with ASA EDY ERN ILRE ITSA LTD NEY ORLE YMA, not to mention TENTER.

ORLE ought to be a puzzle-killer at this point, and crossing NACRE makes it especially guilty.

I did like many of the bonuses. CANDY CANE, HARD CIDER, RUDIMENTS, START DATE, BRUCE LEE, DATA PLAN were all solid. But breaking up ABRASION and ARMENIAN, going up to 142 words, could have facilitated a smoother final product.

Standard theme types are perfectly fine to tap, and sound changes may never go by the wayside because there are so many interesting ways to do them. Since so many have been done over the years, though, it's essential to make them nearly flawless.

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© 2019, The New York TimesNo. 0526 ( 25,401 )
Across
1
Mythical hunter : DIANA
6
Curmudgeon : CRAB
10
Famous Musketeer : ATHOS
15
Crack : STAB
19
Glowing reminder : EMBER
20
Houston university : RICE
21
Bond film staple : CHASE
22
"Other people," per Sartre : HELL
23
Facebook friends weighing in on the new belly button ring? : JURYOFYOURPIERCE
26
Gymnast Korbut : OLGA
27
Flat pancake filling? : ASA
28
Custodian's need : MOP
29
Woodwind category : REED
30
Cellphone user's choice : DATAPLAN
32
When something goes live : STARTDATE
35
Fish dish : SCROD
36
Dr.'s order : MED
37
Princess who makes a plea via a hologram : LEIA
39
Draw : TIE
40
Jacques of French comedy : TATI
42
Mozart's "___ Pastore" : ILRE
44
L'eggs brand bikini? : TWOPIECEINAPOD
48
Typical fan of Dick Clark's "American Bandstand" : TEENER
51
Blue material : DENIM
52
Arafat's grp. : PLO
53
Nickname of a 2010s pop idol, with "the" : BIEB
55
Valerie Harper title role : RHODA
56
Extension of a chicken breast : RIBMEAT
59
"Git!" : SCRAM
61
"Interviewer" who asked Buzz Aldrin whether people on the moon were friendly : ALIG
62
Scientific inquiry? : HOW
65
Family nickname : GRANNIE
67
Bugs and Thumper : RABBITS
69
End of an ___ : ERA
70
Final scene of "Antony and Cleopatra"? : HISSANDHEARSE
74
Speak lovingly : COO
75
1979 World Series opponents of the 63-Downs : PIRATES
77
Big-spending demographic group : YUPPIES
78
South end? : ERN
79
Lake in "Casino Royale" : COMO
80
Axes : FIRES
84
Competitive video gaming : ESPORTS
86
It routinely goes off when you're out : ALARM
88
Seethe : FUME
89
3-D measurement: Abbr. : VOL
90
Illusory illustration : OPART
94
Camper without a camper, say : TENTER
96
Like a confirmed peacenik? : DOWNONALLFORCE
100
Swimmer Torres with 12 Olympic medals : DARA
101
"___ miracle!" : ITSA
102
Mideast land: Abbr. : UAE
103
Mideast land : OMAN
104
Klutz : OAF
106
Easy question to answer : GIMME
108
Stick on a Christmas tree : CANDYCANE
112
Actor with a famous side kick : BRUCELEE
114
Coat-of-arms border : ORLE
115
Physics unit : OHM
116
Born : NEE
119
Additionally : ALSO
120
"Our driveway has been incredibly slippery since the storm!"? : CANTBELIEVEMYICE
124
Shambles : MESS
125
Shaw of 1930s-'40s swing : ARTIE
126
Gawk at : OGLE
127
Title role in a Christmas opera : AMAHL
128
"The Cherry Orchard" daughter : ANYA
129
Hoarse : RASPY
130
Blender sound : WHIR
131
Small iPods : NANOS
Down
1
___ vu : DEJA
2
Shock jock Don : IMUS
3
Scrape : ABRASION
4
Marshal at Waterloo : NEY
5
It may be carried by the wind : AROMA
6
Puzzling : CRYPTIC
7
Agua source : RIO
8
Honda line : ACURA
9
Hat for un artiste : BERET
10
Anything but basic : ACID
11
Alternative to café : THE
12
Brew made from apples : HARDCIDER
13
Famous grouch : OSCAR
14
Get the job done : SEETOIT
15
Class with drills : SHOP
16
Parent's fervent prayer to the school nurse? : TELLMENOLICE
17
Fish tank film : ALGAE
18
Vanilla : BLAND
24
Loud : FORTE
25
Katniss's partner in "The Hunger Games" : PEETA
31
Famed acting coach Stella : ADLER
33
Animal with a prehensile snout : TAPIR
34
Reinforces, as convictions : DEEPENS
35
Seneca, philosophically : STOIC
37
Relative of Inc. : LTD
38
Ram dam : EWE
41
Police dept. alerts : APBS
43
New-joint joint? : REHAB
45
"It depends on my schedule" : IMIGHT
46
Actress Glazer of "Broad City" : ILANA
47
Away : NOTIN
49
Job in media : EDITOR
50
Teases : RAGSON
54
Latin quarter : BARRIO
57
Provide essential info to : BRIEF
58
Group of mountains : MASSIF
60
Atomic clock timekeeper : MASER
62
One into jive : HEPCAT
63
1979 World Series opponent of the 75-Across : ORIOLE
64
Like a sick baby? : WARMANDFUSSY
66
Ice cream eponym : EDY
68
Greatest hits opener : BESTOF
71
Tortilla española ingredient : HUEVO
72
Printer brand : EPSON
73
Loudly commend : APPLAUD
76
Main line : AORTA
81
ABCs : RUDIMENTS
82
Cry too much, say : EMOTE
83
Stitches : SEWS
85
Nestle : SPOON
87
Blend : MERGE
91
Like the Kardashians, ethnically : ARMENIAN
92
Pioneer in color TV : RCA
93
Pin number? : TEN
95
Training wheels? : RAILCAR
97
Mother-of-pearl : NACRE
98
Part of a long travel day, maybe : LAYOVER
99
Milk from una vaca : LECHE
104
Author of the 2018 best seller "Becoming" : OBAMA
105
"The Wizard of Oz" composer Harold : ARLEN
107
Stiller's comic partner : MEARA
109
Permit : ALLOW
110
Sound on Old MacDonald's farm : NEIGH
111
Mideast capital : AMMAN
113
___ Nostra : COSA
114
Heed : OBEY
117
NATO alphabet "E" : ECHO
118
Slinky swimmers : EELS
121
Good thing coming to those who wait : TIP
122
Country music's ___ Young Band : ELI
123
Singer Sumac : YMA

Answer summary: 9 unique to this puzzle, 1 debuted here and reused later, 1 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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