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FIRST FOR KNOWLEDGE

New York Times, Sunday, July 9, 2017

Author:
Will Nediger
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
305/27/20068/4/20192
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
13025118
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.78032
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 ... read more

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 ... read more

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.

1
A
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G
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F
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C
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F
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© 2017, The New York TimesNo. 0709 ( 24,715 )
Across
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
Down
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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