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AS IT WERE

New York Times, Sunday, August 16, 2015

Author:
Don Gagliardo and Zhouqin Burnikel
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
1211/13/20129/19/201712
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
3151200
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.58131
Don Gagliardo
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
5611/13/20129/21/201819
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
519165452
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.56281
Zhouqin Burnikel

This puzzle:

Rows: 21, Columns: 21 Words: 140, Blocks: 70 Missing: {JQ} This is puzzle # 7 for Mr. Gagliardo. This is puzzle # 20 for Ms. Burnikel. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Constructor notes:
A theme like this instantaneously reveals itself. Don noticed a phrase, MINK STOLE, where the last word doubles as a noun and the past tense of a verb not related to the noun. This is a ... read more

A theme like this instantaneously reveals itself. Don noticed a phrase, MINK STOLE, where the last word doubles as a noun and the past tense of a verb not related to the noun. This is a quirky sort of aspect of our language that we thought would be interesting for the crossword puzzle solver.

We intuited that there are many similar examples, and that such a theme had the potential for a Sunday-sized puzzle. To find such phrases, it was helpful to look at a list of verbs and their past tense forms. We did find quite a large number of examples — it is not often that we 1.) have quite a few theme entries to choose from and 2.) make the intersection of two theme answers possible.

Don created a grid design that did not fill easily. Zhouqin finished off the design, and that was when she noticed two pairs of theme answers could cross. After we were done inserting theme answers, Don saw that there was still space to enter one more down the middle at 45D.

It is risky to have so many theme answers and still be able to come up with good surrounding fill. We give great credit to Will Shortz and Joel Fagliano for encouraging us to find better fill in the NE and SW corners after our submission. Those were difficult areas to fill, and we thought we had exhausted the possibilities before. But having a fresh start on it, we were able to improve the areas greatly.

We will admit that sometimes we force a fill because we like certain words or phrases, and that may have been the case here. It is difficult to admit to oneself that the fill is not good enough, and to better keep looking — we are glad that we have editors who cared enough to point this out.

This was a puzzle where the title came after the fact (sometimes the title drives the theme idea). Don came up with AS IT WERE almost immediately, without thinking much about it. It just sounded right!

Jeff Chen notes:
Nice concept; phrases whose second word can double for a past tense verb. I've seen similar sorts of themes before, but I can't remember MARK FELT as an example. As Don mentioned, there ... read more

Nice concept; phrases whose second word can double for a past tense verb. I've seen similar sorts of themes before, but I can't remember MARK FELT as an example. As Don mentioned, there are a lot of examples of this type of word, but he and C.C. did a nice job of picking some strong theme phrases.

Mark Felt, a complicated fella

I found it confusing as to where the themers were, so I highlighted them below. I wish the themers had stood out by themselves rather than requiring asterisks, but that would have meant getting rid of the shorter ones like MARK FELT, which I quite liked. Always the trade-offs.

With nice pieces of long fill like HOME COURT and GAS GRILL, the themers didn't stand out very well for me, so I solved the puzzle as I would a themeless. That's not a terrible thing, as Don and C.C. put in a lot of good entries, but it further confused me when I went back to study the theme — I wondered if COURT and GRILL were somehow parts of the theme too.

What with the stairstep arrangements of black squares breaking up the middle of the puzzle, Don and C.C. were forced to leave big open corners in the upper left and lower left. This is a tough task, as 9x3 chunks are rarely easy. RAIN DANCE is a nice entry, as is BE A PAL, but I found AFFIANCED an oddball to kick off the puzzle. SERENADER could go either way for me — I struggle to figure out if it's truly legit or it sounds made-up.

Perhaps opening up a pair of those stairstep black squares in the middle of the puzzle would have allowed them to work with not as wide-open corners. I'd much prefer a 9x2 stack with one fantastic entry than a 9x3 stack with two neutral or not great ones.

Overall, I liked the idea, but it might have packed more punch as a weekday puzzle. I feel like the best Sunday puzzles are the ones that absolutely cannot be done in the smaller 15x15 format, and this one felt like it could have been a strong Tuesday or even Wednesday puzzle.

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© 2015, The New York TimesNo. 0816 ( 24,022 )
Across
1. Engaged : AFFIANCED
10. Jacques who was "alive and well and living in Paris" : BREL
14. Island near the Mariana Trench : GUAM
18. Pueblo Indian rite : RAINDANCE
19. Places for light gatherings? : ATRIA
21. Mario who played Enrico Caruso : LANZA
22. *Pricey wrap : MINKSTOLE
23. *Triple Crown winner who himself sired a Kentucky Derby winner : SEATTLESLEW
25. When repeated, an aerobics class cry : STEP
26. ___ bar : TAPAS
28. New faces : STRANGERS
29. Rejecting higher authority? : ATHEISTIC
33. Dodger manager with two World Series rings : LASORDA
34. Shout from the crow's-nest : LANDHO
37. Seminary subj. : REL
38. Giggle syllable : HEE
40. Prefix with state : TRI
41. "___ seen enough!" : IVE
42. "Skedaddle!" : OUT
44. Impressed with : TAKENBY
47. Village V.I.P. : ELDER
51. *Carpenter's tool with a cord : POWERSAW
54. "Dogs" : WIENIES
56. Single : LONE
57. Black rock : ONYX
58. White-tailed raptor : ERNE
60. Dad-blasted : DRATTED
62. Fed. property agency : GSA
63. Black ___ : OPS
65. Half a Beatles title : OBLADI
67. Like the telecast of the 1954 Rose Bowl parade, notably : INCOLOR
69. ___ Macmillan, 1950s-'60s British P.M. : HAROLD
72. Plants above the timberline : ALPINES
75. Skin conditioners : TONERS
76. Ungainly : AWKWARD
78. Identified : PEGGED
80. Drink with spices : NOG
81. On the ___ (at large) : LAM
82. ___ Hall, shortest Harlem Globetrotter : TOOTALL
85. Irving protagonist : GARP
87. Pit bull biter : FLEA
90. Dirt pie ingredient : OREO
92. ___ shake : PROTEIN
94. *Deep Throat's identity : MARKFELT
96. Rogen and Green : SETHS
98. "Show me" type : SKEPTIC
100. Hunger : YEN
101. Budgetary excess : FAT
102. N., E., W. and S. : PTS
104. Thumbs-up vote : YEA
105. Lean-___ : TOS
107. With understatedness : SUBTLY
109. "Two New Sciences" author : GALILEO
112. Hedge clippings, grass cuttings, etc. : YARDWASTE
115. Ideal setting for a fan : HOMECOURT
117. Features of green rooms : SOFAS
118. "That's the way the cookie crumbles" : ALAS
122. *Start a construction project : BREAKGROUND
124. Back then ... or a hint to the ends of the answers to the starred clues : INTHEPAST
127. Save up : AMASS
128. Bone: Prefix : OSTEO
129. Giovanni, in "Don Giovanni" : SERENADER
130. Russo of "30-Down" : RENE
131. Morales of "La Bamba" : ESAI
132. Very cold : HEARTLESS
Down
1. Ones holding hands? : ARMS
2. French act : FAIT
3. Comment before "Be that way!" : FINE
4. Stamping need : INKPAD
5. Some campaign purchases : ADS
6. D.C. ballplayer : NAT
7. It's worth 100 smackers : CNOTE
8. Patisserie buy : ECLAIR
9. Sunken, as eyes : DEEPSET
10. Low voices : BASSI
11. It may be lined with mailboxes: Abbr. : RTE
12. Different rooms in a museum, maybe : ERAS
13. *Smidgen : LITTLEBIT
14. Cooker with a dial : GASGRILL
15. Having no head : UNLED
16. Luxury Hyundai : AZERA
17. Gaping things : MAWS
20. Relative of the Contour Plus : ATRA
21. Poe poem : LENORE
24. Like "Annabel Lee" among all Poe poems : LAST
27. See 89-Down : ATLAW
30. Wielder of the hammer Mjölnir : THOR
31. Lower chamber : HOUSE
32. Some stadium noise : CHEERING
34. Slimming surgery, informally : LIPO
35. River through Bristol : AVON
36. *Tom Seaver, e.g. : NEWYORKMET
39. At 3,000 feet above sea level, the highest provincial capital in Italy : ENNA
43. ___ cake (dim sum staple) : TARO
45. *Dr. Seuss' genre : KIDDIELIT
46. Mysterious sighting : YETI
48. *Challenge for a right-handed golfer : DOGLEGLEFT
49. Newsman David : ENSOR
50. Brings up : REARS
52. John McCain, for one : EXPOW
53. Sports org. with the teams Sun and Sky : WNBA
55. In the mail : SENT
59. Wing : ELL
61. Household brand name with a lowercase first letter : DCON
64. Crib strip : SLAT
66. Google Wallet alternative : APPLEPAY
68. Kind of switch : ONOFF
69. They hover over some icons : HALOS
70. In the know : AWARE
71. Release to the public, informally : DROP
73. Pad thai ingredient : EGG
74. Coal locale : SEAM
77. Actress Diana nicknamed the "Blonde Bombshell" : DORS
79. Strong sideless wagon : DRAY
83. *W.W. II propagandist : TOKYOROSE
84. Suit to ___ : ATEE
86. Directive in some automated messages : PRESS
88. Holy Land line : ELAL
89. With 27-Down, firm figure: Abbr. : ATTY
91. "Stop your nonsense!" : OHPLEASE
93. Funny-car fuel, informally : NITRO
95. Danish king who conquered England : KNUT
97. Boondocks : STICKS
99. Catch in the North Atlantic : CODFISH
103. Tough going : SLOG
106. Al Jolson standard : SWANEE
108. "Aw, c'mon" : BEAPAL
109. Songstress Eydie : GORME
110. "You're ___ One, Mr. Grinch" : AMEAN
111. Köln coin : EURO
113. "Same here" : ASDOI
114. Stars, at the Forum : ASTRA
115. Letter-shaped girder : HBAR
116. Sounds of scolding : TUTS
119. Put on board : LADE
120. Grieg's "___ Death" : ASES
121. Violins and violas: Abbr. : STRS
123. U.S.'s largest labor union, in brief : NEA
125. Oscar-nominated Joaquin Phoenix film : HER
126. "The Two Towers" denizen : ENT

Answer summary: 10 unique to this puzzle, 2 debuted here and reused later, 7 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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