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ALADDIN

New York Times, Sunday, June 1, 2014

Author:
Tom McCoy
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
3211/14/201310/7/20180
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
17815100
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.61362
Tom McCoy

This puzzle:

Rows: 21, Columns: 21 Words: 140, Blocks: 70 Missing: {JQXZ} This is puzzle # 2 for Mr. McCoy. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Tom McCoy notes:
I'm thrilled to have my first Sunday published! The larger size presented a whole new world of difficulty to fill, but it was extremely satisfying to get a completed grid. This puzzle ... read more

I'm thrilled to have my first Sunday published! The larger size presented a whole new world of difficulty to fill, but it was extremely satisfying to get a completed grid.

This puzzle began with a theme exactly opposite the current one. I planned for the revealer to be WITHDRAWAL, with theme answers that were common phrases missing the letters AL, such as ICE IN WONDERLAND, FLOUT BOYS, or FAT ATTRACTION. I had just finished a course in computer science, so after I made a list of themers, I wrote a program to make sure I was not missing any juicy potential theme phrases. The program was designed to output a list of all English words that became different English words when the string "al" was removed, and my plan was to look over the list to see if it contained anything interesting that I had not thought of on my own. At the top of the list was the pair "Aladdin" and "add-in," and I realized that ALADDIN would make a great title for a puzzle that involved inserting "al" rather than deleting it, so I decided to change from WITHDRAWAL to ALADDIN.

There were a couple of reasons for the switch. First, ALADDIN makes a better title than WITHDRAWAL because ALADDIN is unrelated etymologically to ADD-IN whereas WITHDRAW and WITHDRAWAL have the same stem. Secondly, subtracting letters can make it difficult to tell what the base phrase is, but this is less of a problem when letters are added because then the base phrase is still present in its entirety. Therefore, I turned the theme on its head, and the result is what you see. (By the way, thanks to Mrs. Prosser and Lori Levin for teaching me the requisite programming skills!)

I always struggle to balance cleanliness with liveliness. In this grid, I was especially happy to fit HIPSTER, PUSSYFOOT, and APLOMB, but there are also a few entries I would rather have done without; if I'm ever brave enough to attempt another Sunday, I would like to include more interesting non-theme answers. In addition, my favorite Sundays usually have extra theme layers (for an example, see pretty much any Sunday by Elizabeth C. Gorski), so I would also love to try my hand at adding extra elements to the theme.

Jeff Chen notes:
Straightforward 'add a letter(s)' theme today, ALADDIN parsing as AL ADD IN = add AL to phrases to produce wacky results. As with these types of puzzles, the keys are 1.) whether or not ... read more

Straightforward "add a letter(s)" theme today, ALADDIN parsing as AL ADD IN = add AL to phrases to produce wacky results. As with these types of puzzles, the keys are 1.) whether or not the base phrases are snappy and 2.) if the resulting phrases make the solver smile or laugh. I think Tom did a nice job in picking strong base phrases; all of them very solid. The resulting phrases generally didn't do a lot for me — humor is so subjective — but A FAREWELL TO ALARMS gave me a nice image of that kooky alarm clock programmed to roll away when it goes off, thus making the owner chase it a la Benny Hill. (cue Yakety Sax music here)

For just his second NYT puzzle, Tom does a nice job. The leap from weekday to Sunday puzzle is dramatic — I remember staring at a blank 21x grid for the first time, wondering if I could actually do it. It was a simple "add an R" puzzle so wasn't accepted (hey, you gotta start somewhere), but it was a giant step for me to realize that a Sunday NYT was within my grasp (well, with a LOT of additional practice and training). Congrats on the Sunday debut, Tom.

Ah, big corners. Check out the NE and the SW, 6x6 chunks of white appearing almost themeless in quality. These are tough to fill, especially when bordered by two long answers. I appreciate the care Tom took with the SW corner — it turned out beautiful. LONG PANTS is a nice enough answer, and Tom puts in PINKIES / RAN DRY / PLANAR with a great Flatland clue. Not even one tenuous answer! That's the way to care and feed for a subsection.

Moving to the NE though, once you throw down IDEALS OF MARCH and PUSSYFOOT (great entry, BTW!), filling that subsection can be brutal. So often they require glue like UNIATE and SO MUCH, which seems to me a six-letter partial, not something that's generally acceptable. I wonder if PUSSYFOOT was just too enticing to leave in the grid. It's one of my favorite entries in the grid, but for me personally, it's not worth the price of UNIATE and SO MUCH.

These big corners are tricky. They can be hard to avoid when your first entry (CHANGE OF PALACE) leaves exactly six white squares to its right. Might have been nicer to break that chunk into a much more easily fillable 6x3 or a 6x4, by shifting black squares around.

Finally, a nice clue to end this post. I was pretty stuck in the SW corner, and I stared at [Lines at a theater?] for the longest time. Turns out putting an "S" at the end wasn't so smart! I liked the a-ha moment of figuring out that it wasn't talking about QUEUES but a SCRIPT. I find these types of clever clues are essential for holding my interest when a Sunday theme is straightforward. Brought a smile to my face.

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S
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B
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B
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C
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© 2014, The New York TimesNo. 0601 ( 23,581 )
Across
1
To the same extent : ASFAR
6
Something Pedro and Pablo might have? : SAN
9
Coll. program : ROTC
13
Tug-of-war participant : PULLER
19
Watts on a screen : NAOMI
20
Like some desk work : CLERICAL
22
One of a group of Eastern Christians : UNIATE
23
King's move? : CHANGEOFPALACE
25
Only what a person can take? : SOMUCH
26
In fine fettle : HALE
27
Process of sorting injuries : TRIAGE
28
Gets browner : TANS
30
Start of something big? : IDEA
31
Mineralogists' study : ORES
32
Anoint, archaically : ANELE
33
Like some French sauces : WINEY
34
Brooklyn squad : NETS
35
The two sides of Pac-Man's mouth, say : RADII
37
Principles espoused during Women's History Month? : IDEALSOFMARCH
40
Cry after a roller coaster ride, maybe : AGAIN
44
Together : ONE
45
Coward from England : NOEL
46
Ability to walk a tightrope or swallow a sword? : CIRCUSTALENT
51
Land in the Golden Triangle : LAOS
52
Part of a giggle : HEE
55
Pass with flying colors : ACE
56
Like the 10-Down : ANDEAN
57
Soupçon : SMATTERING
60
Olden : BYGONE
62
Finish (up) : MOP
64
Soprano Sumac : YMA
65
At the discretion of : UPTO
66
Dream for late sleepers? : AFAREWELLTOALARMS
72
Identity : SELF
74
Car antitheft aid, for short : VIN
75
Informal way to say 87-Across : YUP
76
Sheen : LUSTER
79
Chooses beforehand : PRESELECTS
83
It's all tied up with the present : RIBBON
86
Start to love? : ELL
87
"Certainly" : YES
88
Collapse, with "out" : CONK
89
Waterway leading to a SW German city? : CANALOFWORMS
92
Way to l'Île de la Cité : PONT
93
Feature of many a Ludacris lyric : PUN
94
Add up : TOTAL
95
Slinky going down the stairs? : SPRINGFALLING
101
Dough raiser : YEAST
105
Large family : CLAN
106
Postlarval : PUPAL
107
Crimean conference locale : YALTA
111
Over : ANEW
112
Captain, e.g. : RANK
113
Confederate : ALLY
114
Biblical book in two parts : SAMUEL
115
Star burst : NOVA
116
Neighbor of an 8-Down : INDIAN
118
Dissertation on people's inherent spitefulness? : OFMALICEANDMEN
121
Chaperone, often : PARENT
122
Treasure Stater : MONTANAN
123
Human or alien : BEING
124
Some cheaters have them : TRYSTS
125
Frat members : BROS
126
Drivers brake for it : ESS
127
Pungent green : CRESS
Down
1
Hold down : ANCHOR
2
"The ostrich roams the great ___. / Its mouth is wide, its neck is narra": Ogden Nash : SAHARA
3
Gave birth on a farm, say : FOALED
4
Unlikely memoirist : AMNESIAC
5
Fix : RIG
6
Derision : SCORN
7
1966 title role reprised by Jude Law in 2004 : ALFIE
8
Neighbor of a 116-Across : NEPALI
9
Inflame, with "up" : RILE
10
South American tuber : OCA
11
Touchy? : TACTILE
12
Tidies up : CLEANS
13
Not be bold : PUSSYFOOT
14
Commercial version of crazy eights : UNO
15
In-between : LIMINAL
16
Cosmetician Estée : LAUDER
17
And so on and so forth : ETCETC
18
Go over and over : REHASH
21
Lost it : RAGED
24
Letter between two others that rhyme with it : ETA
29
Like some care : NEONATAL
33
Lacks : WANTS
36
One who might stick his tongue out at you? : IGUANA
38
Long time : EON
39
Agosto or settembre : MESE
41
Ed of "Up" : ASNER
42
"___ be my pleasure!" : ITD
43
Burns's refusal : NAE
46
It's widely hailed as a convenient way to get around : CAB
47
Frozen over : ICY
48
Entertains : REGALES
49
Bemoan : LAMENT
50
Organic compound : ENOL
51
Monastery resident : LAMA
52
One parodied on "Portlandia" : HIPSTER
53
Fangorn Forest denizen : ENT
54
Inflatable thing : EGO
58
Reason for glasses : MYOPIA
59
Captain Morgan and others : RUMS
61
Does away with : OFFS
63
Layer : PLY
67
Action-packed : EVENTFUL
68
It has a light at one end : WICK
69
Roll of the dice, say : TURN
70
Up : ALOFT
71
Strip for a fashion show : RUNWAY
72
Secret collector : SPY
73
Before, poetically : ERE
77
The ___ City (New Haven) : ELM
78
Literary inits. : RLS
80
Nobel Prize subj. : ECON
81
Trousers : LONGPANTS
82
Racing boat : SCULL
84
Sandwich order, for short : BLT
85
Scary word : BOO
90
Young Darth Vader's nickname : ANI
91
Evergreen shrub : OLEANDER
92
Thumbs' opposites : PINKIES
93
Represent, sportswise : PLAYFOR
95
Lines at a theater? : SCRIPT
96
Like Flatland : PLANAR
97
Became less than a trickle : RANDRY
98
Composure : APLOMB
99
Spiral-horned antelope : NYALA
100
Mischievous girl : GAMINE
102
Social breakdown : ANOMIE
103
Common dice rolls : SEVENS
104
Elements of some accents : TWANGS
108
"American Graffiti" director : LUCAS
109
Frigid temps : TEENS
110
Like : ALA
114
Srs.' worries : SATS
117
Colony member : ANT
119
Telephone trio : MNO
120
Its logo displays all Roy G. Biv except indigo : NBC

Answer summary: 9 unique to this puzzle, 3 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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