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DOUBLE FEATURES

New York Times, Sunday, July 17, 2016

Author:
Jerry Miccolis
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
37/17/201611/14/20171
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
2010000
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.60000
Jerry Miccolis

This puzzle:

Rows: 21, Columns: 21 Words: 140, Blocks: 72 Missing: {JQV} This is the debut puzzle for Mr. Miccolis. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Jerry Miccolis notes:
Talk about beginner's luck! This was the very first puzzle I ever constructed or submitted, anywhere, and I thought I'd swing for the fences and go straight for the Sunday NYT. Why not, ... read more

Talk about beginner's luck! This was the very first puzzle I ever constructed or submitted, anywhere, and I thought I'd swing for the fences and go straight for the Sunday NYT. Why not, right? I was more than pleasantly surprised, a few months later, to have it accepted! Having since had two subsequent puzzles rejected (followed by a less-than-stellar performance at the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament), I'm now suitably humbled, and fear that I might be a one-shot wonder at this. But I do plan to keep swinging!

When I first got the idea for DOUBLE FEATURES and asked Will some pretty naïve questions about how to turn it into a NYT-worthy puzzle, he very helpfully referred me to cruciverb.com. I was amazed how much free advice was out there, much of it from Nancy Salomon who, it turns out, likes to mentor first-time constructors. I contacted Nancy, and she gave me some excellent pointers. With respect to the specific theme, however, she felt she was not the best arbiter of popular movies, so she referred me to Jeff Chen.

Jeff proved to be a tough sounding board, but incredibly generous and patient. While the themers, grid, fill, and clues (pre Will's expert editing, anyway) were ultimately all mine, Jeff guided me through each step of the proper, systematic way to construct a puzzle. He was so thoughtful and instructive, particularly in the way he critiqued some of my early attempts, that I offered him co-authorship credit, which he graciously declined.

So thanks again to Nancy and Jeff, and I hope you enjoy this puzzle about one of my (other) favorite pastimes.

Jeff Chen notes:
Congrats on the debut, Jerry! I agreed with Nancy that the basic idea — describing one movie with two others smashed together — was clever, so I went back and forth with ... read more

Congrats on the debut, Jerry!

I agreed with Nancy that the basic idea — describing one movie with two others smashed together — was clever, so I went back and forth with Jerry through 50ish emails, helping him brainstorm and ultimately settle on a set I felt Will would go for. I particularly liked TITANIC SKYFALL to describe "Armageddon."

I was mighty surprised to see the cluing changed to a more generic language. [… about baseball-sized hail?] for TITANIC SKYFALL doesn't do much for me — cramming just about any two movies together could form some wacky phrase, right?

I proposed a grid skeleton to Jerry, but he decided to go his own way and asked me to review his work. 140 word Sundays are so tough, especially for novices, but Jerry got pretty close on his own. There was way too much crossword glue in his first attempt, especially around that ALIEN CONTACT / TITANIC SKYFALL region, so we went back and forth a few times to work things through.

Given the difficulty of how much overlap there is between ALIEN CONTACT and TITANIC SKYFALL, I would have personally preferred a total reboot in order to achieve better spacing between themers. But scrapping a full grid can be disheartening. It's no surprise that even after some massage, that region contains the crunchy LGS / GNMA crossing as well as the deep crossword glue, ORLE. What with the AS YE, ME IS, EEE, EIN TER, TYES, EXEUNT, I GOT, etc. in the rest of the puzzle, I thought there was still well too much overall.

But as a constructor, you have to stop at some point. And some of the nice long entries like MEAT CASE, PIPE ORGAN, NERDIEST, help make up for some of the roughness.

I think this puzzle would have been much more memorable with the initial clues — it's a real shame. Just FYI, here are the movies that had been referenced:

  • FROZEN WATERWORLD = Ice Age
  • ALIEN CONTACT = ET The Extraterrestrial
  • TITANIC SKYFALL = Armageddon
  • BIG CONSPIRACY THEORY = JFK
  • SAW THE DEPARTED = The Sixth Sense
  • ROCKY SLEEPER = Insomnia
  • NOTORIOUS KINGPIN = The Godfather

ADDED NOTE: My apologies to Will — he mentioned to me today that the manuscript he received did not actually contain the theme clues as I listed above. Not sure where things got lost in translation.

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© 2016, The New York TimesNo. 0717 ( 24,358 )
Across
1. Really tiny : ATOMIC
7. Deli fixture : MEATCASE
15. Over yonder : AFAR
19. First N.F.L. QB to pass for 5,000 yards in a season : MARINO
20. Cathedral music maker : PIPEORGAN
21. Best hand value in baccarat : NINE
22. Double feature about the Arctic Ocean? : FROZENWATERWORLD
24. Kardashian matriarch : KRIS
25. "___ sow, so shall ..." : ASYE
26. French for "square" : CARRE
27. Museumgoer, e.g. : AESTHETE
29. Upholstery problem : RIP
30. Sealy rival : SERTA
31. Some Korean-made TVs : LGS
34. City hard hit by the Zika virus : RIO
35. Didn't play in the game : SAT
36. Actor who was lionized in the 1930s? : LAHR
38. ... about the search for extraterrestrial life? : ALIENCONTACT
42. Chump change : PEANUTS
45. Mustang rival : CAMARO
46. Unfair treatment, with "the" : SHAFT
49. ... about baseball-sized hail? : TITANICSKYFALL
52. First home? : UTERUS
53. Like a neat freak : ANAL
54. Suffix with project : ILE
55. Actress Amanda of "Togetherness" : PEET
57. Additional, in adspeak : XTRA
58. Got room service : ORDEREDIN
64. Dope : SAP
66. Forget to carry the one, e.g. : ERR
67. ... about Lee Harvey Oswald not being the lone gunman? : BIGCONSPIRACYTHEORY
72. When doubled, something to beat : TOM
73. Bow : ARC
74. Bandleader who popularized the conga line : DESIARNAZ
75. Like much of Namibia : ARID
77. "Within ___ a hell": Shak. : MEIS
80. Number on un orologio : TRE
81. About : ASTO
85. Kitchen counters? : TIMERS
87. ... about attending a funeral? : SAWTHEDEPARTED
93. Watchdog org., in two senses? : ASPCA
94. Occupant of a 52-Across : EMBRYO
95. Stein relative : TANKARD
96. ... about an insomniac? : ROCKYSLEEPER
100. Optimistic : ROSY
101. Floor : AWE
103. Wide shoe spec : EEE
104. U.S.N. rank : ENS
105. Marked, as a ballot : XEDIN
107. Cap-and-trade org. : EPA
110. Basis of a political scandal, maybe : MISTRESS
113. They lose their heads over time : BEERS
114. Promising exchange : IDOS
115. Really tiny : ITSY
116. ... about Pablo Escobar? : NOTORIOUSKINGPIN
121. Manual component : STEP
122. Longtime "All My Children" role : ERICAKANE
123. Turn on : AROUSE
124. ___ Park (Chicago neighborhood once home to Obama) : HYDE
125. Most geeky : NERDIEST
126. Yak, yak, yak : NATTER
Down
1. H.I.V. research org. : AMFAR
2. Foot bones : TARSI
3. Only U.S. state motto in Spanish : OROYPLATA
4. Hall-of-Fame slugger Johnny : MIZE
5. Chemical suffix : INE
6. Liszt wrote three for piano : CONCERTI
7. Kind of heart valve : MITRAL
8. Tool for a duel : EPEE
9. ___ Lingus : AER
10. What may follow a breakdown : TOW
11. ___-Magnon : CRO
12. Tourist destination SSE of Delhi : AGRA
13. Amalfi Coast city : SALERNO
14. Breaks up : ENDSIT
15. Cross with a loop : ANKH
16. Stephen King novel with a pyrokinetic character : FIRESTARTER
17. Hill in Hill hearings : ANITA
18. Change to all zeros, say : RESET
20. First section : PARTA
23. "This means ___!" : WAR
28. Done for : TOAST
30. Avoid : SHUN
31. Canadian flag symbol : LEAF
32. Fed. lending agency : GNMA
33. Where your roots are : SCALP
37. Kind of watch : ANALOG
39. Standoffish : ICY
40. Heraldic border : ORLE
41. Cereal used in party mix : CHEX
42. Open-house org. : PTA
43. A, on the Aare : EIN
44. It "never solves a problem without raising 10 more," per George Bernard Shaw : SCIENCE
47. Like stuffed animals : FURRY
48. Leader issuing a ukase : TSAR
50. Some cameras, for short : SLRS
51. Castle part : KEEP
52. Pioneer Day celebrant : UTAHN
56. Address of the Boss's band : ESTREET
59. ___ Victor : RCA
60. Sides of a quadrangle, maybe : DORMS
61. "___ not!" : DID
62. High dudgeon : IRE
63. Nasty ___ (rap nickname) : NAS
65. Shade of green : PEA
67. ___ Johnson, former mayor of London : BORIS
68. "Well, you've dazzled me!" : IMIMPRESSED
69. Commend : CITE
70. It has three feet : YARD
71. Range that's home to the Mark Twain National Forest : OZARKS
72. "Buh-bye!" : TATA
76. Art ___ : DECO
78. Beliefs : ISMS
79. Black : SABLE
82. Didn't budge : STAYEDPUT
83. Thrice, in Rx's : TER
84. "Huh"-inducing, say : ODD
86. One going around in circles? : RACER
88. Small songbird : WREN
89. Sailing ropes : TYES
90. Short flight : HOP
91. Monet or Sartre, by birth : PARISIAN
92. In due course : ANON
94. Blight : EYESORE
97. One of the Wayans brothers : KEENEN
98. Old-fashioned stage direction : EXEUNT
99. Candy man : REESE
101. Electricity-eschewing group : AMISH
102. Swift, in a way : WITTY
106. Nickname for baseball's Dwight Gooden : DRK
108. Cool : POISE
109. "Roots" Emmy winner : ASNER
111. Info for a dating profile : TYPE
112. Ado : STIR
113. Drag queen's collection : BOAS
114. "___ Plenty o' Nuttin'" ("Porgy and Bess" song) : IGOT
117. Condition for a neat freak, in brief : OCD
118. Thor Heyerdahl craft : RAI
119. 1950s pol : IKE
120. Body with many arms, for short : NRA

Answer summary: 7 unique to this puzzle, 1 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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