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COMPLIMENTARY

New York Times, Sunday, July 15, 2018

Author:
Sam Ezersky and Byron Walden
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
357/28/20128/24/20199
SunMonTueWedThuFriSatVariety
311335127
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.71210
Sam Ezersky
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
9511/23/200110/19/201914
SunMonTueWedThuFriSatVariety
1101292637
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.58321
Byron Walden

This puzzle:

Rows: 21, Columns: 21 Words: 128, Blocks: 66 Missing: {QXZ} Spans: 1 This is puzzle # 26 for Mr. Ezersky. This is puzzle # 90 for Mr. Walden. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Constructor notes:
SAM: Unbeknownst to Byron, I've wanted to get a theme like this published for years. I submitted a 19x19 grid with OUTSTANDING DEBT to the Indie 500's inaugural guest constructor contest, ... read more

SAM: Unbeknownst to Byron, I've wanted to get a theme like this published for years. I submitted a 19x19 grid with OUTSTANDING DEBT to the Indie 500's inaugural guest constructor contest, though there were clearly superior puzzles in the pool. I had another 15x15 construction with DOPE SHEET, SICK DAY, COOL BREEZE, etc., but I just wasn't in love with the theme set enough; how could I refine this idea more?

It wasn't until recently that I realized my flaw in execution: the DEBT in OUTSTANDING DEBT didn't really change meaning from its base phrase. OUTSTANDING BALANCE came to mind, and I liked that I could interpret the phrase as a completely different lexical chunk: an asset for a gymnast. It wasn't long after that I thought of RADICAL MOVEMENT, and noticed that these could be clued quite crisply ... as "compliments"!

I was so sure this time around that my puzzle idea could work out ... until my theme well went dry. AND I still had to get everything to lay out symmetrically. Enter Byron, who, after hearing my pitch, quickly came up with SMASHING PUMPKINS and SWEET TALK, much to my amazement. OUTSTANDING BALANCE would have to become OUTSTANDING BILLS, but that was OK by me. I not only had a full theme set now but an opportunity for another Sam and Byron collab, which was such a blast the first time.

So we happily set off to make an easy, friendly 140-word Sunday ... LOL, you thought.

"Let's shoot for 124 [words]!," I chatted Byron, adding a laughing emoji so I could pretend I was totally joking about trying to break records and not insane. Fortunately for me, Byron is, in fact, insane, too. As you can see, we ended up "settling" for 128, though that's probably for the best.

BYRON: Collaborating with Sam is fairly predictable: it's not going to be easy, but it's going to be fun. We both like wide-open grids that are a challenge to fill at all, and then require many iterations to fill well. We ended up with some great chunks that we didn't use just because they didn't work with other parts — the downside of having lots of connectivity and maintaining symmetry. The BARBADOS section ended up being the linchpin — credit to Sam for figuring out that bit out. Hope you enjoy solving it as much as we enjoyed making it.

Jeff Chen notes:
Delightful theme! I imagined Keanu's surfer persona shouting RADICAL MOVEMENT! to a classical composer (and eliciting strange stares). Keanu going up to a taxonomist (not a taxidermist, as ... read more

Delightful theme! I imagined Keanu's surfer persona shouting RADICAL MOVEMENT! to a classical composer (and eliciting strange stares). Keanu going up to a taxonomist (not a taxidermist, as I first thought) and yelling STELLAR CLASSIFICATION! = hilarious!

I was amazed at how many of these Sam and Byron came up with. I was even more impressed by how they made them non-obvious. The band SMASHING PUMPKINS is super familiar to me, so the tough clue – [Compliment to a vegetable gardener?] – was much appreciated. Every a-ha moment is so much more satisfying when you have to work for it.

Loved the theme. Could have easily gotten the POW! based on my smiles alone. I'm often bored by Sunday puzzles, but this one held my attention the entire way through.

I didn't love the fill though, not nearly as smooth as I would have expected out of these two masters. It wasn't bad by any means – about ten globs of ITA AMO OCTA IMRE AFIG kind of stuff, which is about average for a Sunday – but Sam and Byron are not average constructors.

They fell into the low-word-count trap, which I completely understand. It's fun to take on a ridiculously tough challenge like this. A Sunday 140-word puzzle is hard enough – achieving a great 128-word grid is like painting a masterpiece. While handcuffed. And blindfolded. With just a piece of beige chalk.

I firmly believe it's almost always better to be less ambitious. Stick with fewer pieces of great fill – a couple of ADDERALL, STILETTO, CLIF BAR, DATA LOSS kind of things are good enough – and make the rest of the puzzle elegantly smooth. It'd make for a better solving experience overall. Could have been an outstanding puzzle overall, rather than just above average.

Still, I loved the theme. So joyful and smile-inducing. Even with the problem I had with their gridwork decision, this was in POW! territory.

(Sam and Byron, now that you've both won multiple POW!s, I have to make you work even harder for them!)

Jim Horne notes:

At publication, only one Sunday NYT puzzle had a lower word count than this one.

1
A
2
L
3
P
4
O
5
A
6
C
7
T
8
A
9
S
10
I
11
F
12
T
13
H
14
E
15
D
16
A
17
N
18
C
19
E
20
M
A
R
C
21
M
R
S
L
A
T
E
22
R
I
D
E
S
O
U
T
23
I
M
I
T
24
O
U
T
S
T
A
N
25
D
I
N
G
B
I
L
L
S
26
N
I
C
O
27
L
28
D
O
O
N
29
A
D
D
E
R
A
L
L
30
O
N
E
P
A
31
G
E
R
32
A
33
D
34
O
R
E
35
D
I
G
36
R
A
D
I
C
A
L
M
37
O
V
E
M
E
N
38
T
39
S
O
40
T
41
T
42
O
43
A
B
Y
S
S
44
M
E
N
T
H
45
E
46
O
I
L
47
P
48
I
49
G
G
Y
50
S
51
A
I
N
T
52
E
C
53
O
54
N
O
M
Y
55
C
A
N
O
E
56
B
57
R
I
G
58
A
S
H
C
A
K
E
59
A
S
T
A
60
T
A
I
C
H
61
I
62
S
W
E
E
T
T
A
L
63
K
64
S
T
E
L
65
L
A
R
C
L
A
S
66
S
I
F
I
C
A
T
I
O
N
67
K
I
L
L
E
R
B
E
E
68
P
O
D
U
N
K
69
I
M
R
E
70
C
L
I
F
B
A
R
71
T
E
L
E
72
M
E
A
D
E
73
S
C
E
N
T
E
D
74
G
75
A
76
D
O
T
77
J
A
R
T
S
78
S
I
C
79
S
O
80
N
O
F
A
81
W
82
H
83
E
E
L
84
N
O
T
85
A
86
R
87
S
O
L
I
D
88
F
O
U
N
D
A
89
T
90
I
91
O
92
N
93
R
A
94
S
95
N
I
G
E
R
96
S
T
I
L
E
T
T
O
97
E
98
P
I
C
P
99
O
E
M
100
A
101
S
H
E
102
A
S
H
E
N
103
S
M
A
S
H
I
N
G
P
104
U
105
M
P
K
I
N
106
S
107
S
E
L
F
108
A
M
S
T
E
R
E
O
109
T
A
P
I
N
T
O
110
E
L
L
A
111
D
A
T
A
L
O
S
S
112
A
V
E
N
G
E
D
113
S
P
O
T
© 2018, The New York TimesNo. 0715 ( 25,086 )
Across
1
Iams competitor : ALPO
5
Pretend : ACTASIF
12
Song sung by Garth Brooks on Jay Leno's last "Tonight Show" : THEDANCE
20
Podcast host Maron : MARC
21
Fred Flintstone's boss : MRSLATE
22
Weathers, as a hurricane : RIDESOUT
23
"That's me you're looking for" : IMIT
24
Compliment to a lawmaker? : OUTSTANDINGBILLS
26
Lesley who played Mrs. Patmore on "Downton Abbey" : NICOL
28
___ the sly (be secretive about) : DOON
29
Drug used to combat A.D.H.D. : ADDERALL
30
Short writing assignment, informally : ONEPAGER
32
Really like : ADORE
35
Really like : DIG
36
Compliment to a composer? : RADICALMOVEMENT
39
___ voce : SOTTO
43
Deep, deep hole : ABYSS
44
Crème de ___ : MENTHE
46
Lucky strike? : OIL
47
Toe, to a tot : PIGGY
50
John, Paul or George, but not Ringo : SAINT
52
Alternative to first-class : ECONOMY
55
Lake vessel : CANOE
56
Water cooler? : BRIG
58
Cornbread variety named for where it's baked : ASHCAKE
59
Film role for the dog Skippy : ASTA
60
Meditative discipline : TAICHI
62
Compliment to a lecturer? : SWEETTALK
64
Compliment to a taxonomist? : STELLARCLASSIFICATION
67
Compliment to a champion speller? : KILLERBEE
68
Smallville : PODUNK
69
2002 Literature Nobelist Kertész : IMRE
70
Snack with a rock climber on its wrapper : CLIFBAR
71
Head of communications? : TELE
72
Gettysburg general : MEADE
73
Like many holiday candles : SCENTED
74
Gal of "Wonder Woman" : GADOT
77
Banned game projectiles : JARTS
78
[not my mistake] : SIC
79
"Why, you little ..." : SONOFA
81
Word with prayer or paddle : WHEEL
84
Claim in e-cigarette ads : NOTAR
87
Compliment to a charity organizer? : SOLIDFOUNDATION
93
Dorm V.I.P.s : RAS
95
Major exporter of uranium : NIGER
96
Hand-to-hand combat weapon : STILETTO
97
Long lines? : EPICPOEM
100
Athlete honored on Richmond's Monument Avenue : ASHE
102
Drained of color : ASHEN
103
Compliment to a vegetable gardener? : SMASHINGPUMPKINS
107
What the "s" stands for in "scuba" : SELF
108
Enhanced medium for talk radio : AMSTEREO
109
Draw upon : TAPINTO
110
"___ Enchanted" (2004 film) : ELLA
111
Result of a computer crash : DATALOSS
112
Got back at : AVENGED
113
Difficult situation : SPOT
Down
1
Key of Mozart's "Odense" Symphony : AMINOR
2
Thin layer : LAMINA
3
___ to sell : PRICED
4
Color-changing creatures : OCTOPI
5
"Yo te ___" (Spanish 101 phrase) : AMO
6
How boors behave : CRUDELY
7
Some inclement weather, in broadcast shorthand : TSTORMS
8
"Oh, by the way ..." : ALSO
9
GPS system, e.g. : SATNAV
10
Suffix with señor : ITA
11
Bog : FEN
12
Weapon resembling the letter psi : TRIDENT
13
Posterior : HIND
14
Beat after a buzzer beater : EDGED
15
Rubbish : DEBRIS
16
Alternative to Parmesan : ASIAGO
17
Chuck ___, four-time Super Bowl-winning coach : NOLL
18
Pick out : CULL
19
Uranians and Neptunians : ETS
25
Lack the courage to, for short : DARENT
27
Musical set in St.-Tropez, familiarly : LACAGE
31
Actress Hoffmann of "Transparent" : GABY
33
Half: Prefix : DEMI
34
What dark clouds might represent : OMEN
37
Small bone, as in the ear : OSSICLE
38
Quai D'Orsay setting : THESEINE
40
Prepared to shoot : TOOKAIMAT
41
Beings on TV's "Doctor Who" : TIMELORDS
42
West Coast beer brand, informally : OLY
45
Modern payment option : ECHECK
47
Musical medley : PASTICCIO
48
Wits : INTELLECT
49
Not hold back, to a poker player : GOALLIN
51
Ottoman title : AGHA
53
Twice tetra- : OCTA
54
More sharply dressed : NATTIER
55
Container for amontillado : CASK
56
Easternmost of the Lesser Antilles : BARBADOS
57
Kitchen device : RICER
58
Meriting only half a star, say : AWFUL
60
French city where D'Artagnan lived in "The Three Musketeers" : TARBES
61
MSN, for one : ISP
62
B on an LP : SIDETWO
63
Site for an A.C.L. tear : KNEE
65
Took off : LEFT
66
Words said before bed? : SOTO
72
Peace Nobelist Yousafzai : MALALA
73
ID card fig. : SSN
74
Lose rigidity : GOLIMP
75
Not worth ___ : AFIG
76
Florida's Miami-___ County : DADE
77
Lightsaber wielder : JEDI
80
Worlds external to the mind : NONEGOS
82
Activity in libraries and movie theaters : HUSHING
83
Diplomatic agreement : ENTENTE
85
Record label for Whitney Houston : ARISTA
86
One of the friends on "Friends" : RACHEL
88
Milkshake, in New England : FRAPPE
89
Author Gerritsen and actress Harper : TESSES
90
What one might seek after a computer crash, informally : ITHELP
91
Opera with the aria "Ave Maria" : OTELLO
92
Skim : NONFAT
94
Vice president Agnew : SPIRO
97
Stone that's a star : EMMA
98
It may be checkered : PAST
99
Till section : ONES
101
Scrape : SKIN
103
Crestfallen : SAD
104
Tony winner Hagen : UTA
105
Dallas hoopster, briefly : MAV
106
Roll on a golf course : SOD

Answer summary: 14 unique to this puzzle, 4 debuted here and reused later, 7 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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