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FIRST FOR KNOWLEDGE

New York Times, Sunday, July 9, 2017

Author: Will Nediger
Editor: Will Shortz
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245/27/20067/29/20180
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11023017
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1.80022
Will Nediger

This puzzle:

Rows: 21, Columns: 21 Words: 140, Blocks: 64 Missing: {JQ} Scrabble average: 1.76 This is puzzle # 21 for Mr. Nediger. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Will Nediger notes: Sound change themes are one of the oldest tricks in the book, of course, but I think they can still be great if executed well. When I thought of FELONIOUSMONK, I just had to write this puzzle. I had a devil of ... more
Will Nediger notes:

Sound change themes are one of the oldest tricks in the book, of course, but I think they can still be great if executed well. When I thought of FELONIOUSMONK, I just had to write this puzzle. I had a devil of a time coming up with a title — anything that seemed like it was making fun of speech impediments would be unseemly, so I figured the title would have to be just another example of the sound change. I submitted "Oaf of Office," not least because of the implied dig at Trump, but I like "First for Knowledge" better.

Back when I wrote this, BAE had never been in the puzzle, so I wondered if Will would go for it — but I see it's been used twice since then, so I guess it's hit the mainstream.

Jeff Chen notes: Great example of how simple themes ought to be executed. Will took something as basic as a sound change, from TH- to F-, came up with some funny examples, and built a smooth grid with a few nice bonuses. Didn't ... more
Jeff Chen notes:

Great example of how simple themes ought to be executed. Will took something as basic as a sound change, from TH- to F-, came up with some funny examples, and built a smooth grid with a few nice bonuses. Didn't stretch too much by going down below 140 words, didn't try to do anything fancy — that's a formula for success.

As a huge jazz fan, FELONIOUS MONK was my favorite (Thelonius Monk was a ground-breaking pianist) — I find it so amusing that writers tend to make monks the antagonists of their stories. And although I don't like when constructors stretch grammar too far, Mythbusters into MIFFBUSTERS made me laugh. Great transformation.

The fill did have some tough words in it, but most all of them I thought were fair game. MORNAY sauce, the ORKNEY Islands, ODETS, the name SHLOMO … okay, I was forced to learn a little more than I like to from a single crossword, but I still was able to earn a clean solve. I did pause at KRONOS / KEFIR — I had CRONOS in my head for some reason — but CEFIR … well, I'm glad KEFIR is a semi-regular feature of my diet. I give it a pass personally, but that's the one mini-region I thought could use rework.

Well, there was GUIDER … I'll pretend I didn't see that.

I wasn't familiar with "Six Characters in Search of an Author," so that was the one themer that fell flat for me. Given that I'd read a ton for my job and that I hadn't heard of it, I wonder how many other solvers will feel similarly.

Overall, this is a perfect example of how a tried and true theme can still work just fine. I'm glad that Will was careful with his execution, dotting in just a bit of MAD DASH, ECCE HOMO, ME FIRST, EARDROP spice, and most importantly making sure to avoid the kind of crossword glue that can make solvers groan.

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© 2017, The New York TimesNo. 0709 ( 24,715 )
Across Down
1. Relieves : ASSUAGES
9. "You ___!" : BETCHA
15. Noted brand once owned by a utopian colony in Iowa : AMANA
20. Theodore, for one : CHIPMUNK
21. Display no talent for : FAILAT
22. Like boots : SOLED
23. Deadliness : TOXICITY
24. Make lots of people stop in their tracks? : FREEZEACROWD
26. Heartbeat : SEC
27. Bite stopper : DEET
29. When Juno Beach was attacked : DDAY
30. Herb in absinthe : FENNEL
31. Be watchfully ever-present : HOVER
34. Flub : ERROR
36. Obtain through trickery : FINAGLE
37. Roughly equal : ONAPAR
39. "Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me," e.g. : SPOOF
40. Demanding : NEEDY
41. One of the singing Carpenters : KAREN
42. Unnecessary extras that don't cost much? : CHEAPFRILLS
44. One may be circular : SAW
47. Neighbor of Turkey : IRAN
48. Did some farm work : BALED
49. Sharp : ACID
50. Lugosi of film fame : BELA
51. Cry of Pontius Pilate : ECCEHOMO
53. Company behind the Falcon 9 launch vehicle : SPACEX
56. Grad student headaches : ORALS
57. Ancient Greek vessel : TRIREME
59. Diamond stat : RBI
60. Mountain in the logo of Yerevan State University : ARARAT
61. Sweetheart, in slang : BAE
63. Brother who's a criminal? : FELONIOUSMONK
67. Subject of the photo "Guerrillero Heroico" : CHE
68. Trembling, say : AFRAID
70. Friend of Huck : TOM
71. Hectic scramble : MADDASH
73. Cirrus clouds, e.g. : WISPS
74. King of the Titans, in Greek legend : KRONOS
77. Movie starring Michael J. Fox as a lycanthrope : TEENWOLF
80. French press alternative : DRIP
81. Look ecstatic : BEAM
82. Neighbors : ABUTS
84. How Bilbo Baggins traveled : AFAR
85. Currency with notes in denominations of 1,000, 5,000 and 10,000 : YEN
86. Annoy actors Keaton and Crabbe? : MIFFBUSTERS
89. Clog clearer : SNAKE
90. On again : RELIT
91. Green : NAIVE
92. Scotland's ___ Islands : ORKNEY
93. Doomed : DONEFOR
96. Soprano Fleming : RENEE
97. Cold treat eaten with a spoon : FROYO
98. Strapped, say : INAFIX
99. ___ relative : NEAR
100. Boris Pasternak heroine : LARA
102. Org. that might come pounding at the door : FBI
105. Safety worry? : SECURITYFRET
108. Home to some flying monkeys : LANDOFOZ
111. Heals : CURES
112. "Am I the only one thinking this ...?" : ISITME
113. Hollywood resident, e.g. : ANGELENO
114. Said "C-O-L-O-U-R," e.g. : SPELT
115. Kind of acting : METHOD
116. Made fun of mercilessly : SKEWERED
1. Doesn't just sit there : ACTS
2. Flat, e.g. : SHOE
3. With 44-Down, half-dozen real estate agents? : SIXCHARACTERSIN
4. Longtime news inits. : UPI
5. "Breaking Bad" channel : AMC
6. One escorting : GUIDER
7. Log : ENTER
8. Terrier named after a Scottish island : SKYE
9. Real pal, for short : BFF
10. Bit of jewelry with a pendant : EARDROP
11. Attached with a knot at the end : TIEDOFF
12. Not nebulous : CLEAR
13. Nebulous : HAZY
14. Downed : ATE
15. Climbs : ASCENDS
16. ___ sauce (macaroni and cheese ingredient) : MORNAY
17. Word after sing or string : ALONG
18. Post on a banister : NEWEL
19. Perplex : ADDLE
25. Off the beaten path : AFIELD
28. Plain dwelling? : TEPEE
32. Part of a concert that many people impatiently sit through : OPENER
33. Moving vehicle : VAN
35. Some infrastructure : ROADS
36. Name for a cat : FELIX
37. Depression Era refugee : OKIE
38. Stash hunter : NARC
39. Hebrew name that means "his peace" : SHLOMO
40. Annotation on Santa's list : NICE
42. About which you might ask "One lump or two?" : CAMEL
43. Theme in "To Kill a Mockingbird" : RACISM
44. See 3-Down : SEARCHOFANOFFER
45. Name on the Saudi flag : ALLAH
46. Refuse : WASTE
48. Not engaged : BORED
50. It has two cups : BRA
52. LP players : HIFIS
54. Teaser : PROMO
55. ___-Bakr (father-in-law of Muhammad) : ABU
56. Like Mork : ORKAN
58. Put in a crypt : ENTOMB
60. Aconcagua's range : ANDES
61. Like most Judd Apatow comedies : BAWDY
62. In flames : AFIRE
64. One may be polyatomic : ION
65. Ripe : MATURE
66. "Golden Boy" playwright : ODETS
69. Pokémon Go, for one : APP
72. Posh : SWANKY
74. Yogurtlike beverage : KEFIR
75. Whole lot : RAFT
76. "Gymnopédies" composer : SATIE
78. Africa's ___ Chad : LAKE
79. James who wrote the best seller "A Million Little Pieces" : FREY
81. City next to Gulfport : BILOXI
83. Cut at a slant : BEVEL
86. Selfish demand : MEFIRST
87. Discover : UNEARTH
88. City on the Italian Riviera : SANREMO
89. Sign of a hit : SRO
90. What jets may do midair : REFUEL
92. Word often said to lack a rhyme : ORANGE
93. Contents of drives : DISCS
94. Do better than : ONEUP
95. Mother-of-pearl : NACRE
96. Size again : REFIT
97. Candid : FRANK
99. Nasdaq alternative : NYSE
101. "C'est la vie!" : ALAS
103. Paleontologist's find : BONE
104. Polo brand : IZOD
106. Cook who's entrepreneurial : TIM
107. ___ talks : TED
109. It might get your feet wet : DEW
110. Stadium cry : OLE

Answer summary: 10 unique to this puzzle, 1 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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