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New York Times, Sunday, August 20, 2017

Author:
Ruth Bloomfield Margolin
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
82/26/20146/10/20180
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
3013100
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.48100
Ruth B. Margolin

This puzzle:

Rows: 21, Columns: 21 Words: 138, Blocks: 73 Missing: {J} This is puzzle # 7 for Ms. Margolin. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Ruth B. Margolin notes:
Friends always ask me how long it takes to make a puzzle. There's no good answer to that question. Some ideas come together quite quickly, others involve lots of mulling, refining, and ... read more

Friends always ask me how long it takes to make a puzzle. There's no good answer to that question. Some ideas come together quite quickly, others involve lots of mulling, refining, and word-searching. This puzzle was of the latter sort, with months passing between first poring through lists of words beginning with "RE" and finally having a puzzle worthy of submission. I needed to find fun phrases involving "RE" words in which "RE" did not have the "do it again" meaning. (So REQUEST was in, and REPLAY was out.) However long it takes me, it is all part of the fun and the challenge! Doesn't everyone spend summer vacation evenings with a glass of wine in one hand and pages of words in the other?

I certainly learn a lot through the process of refining these puzzles. Not only do I get to scrutinize language, but I get to explore a tremendous spectrum of knowledge. As I attempt to assess whether a fill word is "good" or not, I often get caught up in a process akin to those childhood hours spent browsing through the paper-and-ink pages of our encyclopedia, where looking up one topic led to exploring a dozen others. I learn when I solve puzzles, and I learn even more when I create them! Not just about the content: as Will and Joel point out the shortcomings of one puzzle draft or another, I learn more and more about crossword structure and precision.

This puzzle required several drafts after Will first expressed his enthusiasm for the theme. As usual, revision forced me to leave some favorites behind, so I lost the memo re: cruise ship advertiser's subject line: MAINS TO BE SEEN! I truly appreciate Will and Joel's help and patience as I sought to create a revision that would pass muster. I hope you enjoyed it!

Jeff Chen notes:
What a fun idea, playing on the common 're:' start of memos. I loved REMOTE CONTROL transforming to 're: MOTE CONTROL' as a memo about cleaning. So amusing! 're: QUEST FOR PROPOSAL' also ... read more

What a fun idea, playing on the common "re:" start of memos. I loved REMOTE CONTROL transforming to "re: MOTE CONTROL" as a memo about cleaning. So amusing! "re: QUEST FOR PROPOSAL" also made me laugh. This theme type doesn't always bring a smile to my face, so kudos to Ruth for thinking up such entertaining themers.

I would have liked more strong bonus fill, in the vein of I WANNA SEE, CAN IT BE, and GMC TRUCKS — that type of entry is so important re: keeping this solver's attention through an entire Sunday-size grid. It's so difficult to do though, without introducing too much crossword glue — the 21x21, 140-word grid is so difficult to execute well on.

Considering Ruth kept the crossword glue down to a reasonable level, with some dribs and drabs of ANUT, EATNO, STAC, ORDS, ESTS, AFTS, NLER, I would have been okay with a just a touch more if it had allowed Ruth to add in a couple more shiny bonus entries. Stuff like ANOINTS and EXERT ON are perfectly fine, but they don't add much spice.

I originally thought going up to 140 words (from Ruth's 138) would have been an easy solution to achieving more snazzy fill / less crossword glue. But I couldn't find an easy way to do this by adding a single pair of black squares, and honestly, most of the crossword glue is spread out pretty well throughout the grid. I do think a different black square pattern, aiming at 140 words, could have been a better way go, though.

Overall, I was amused by the theme, and that's my most critical element for a Sunday puzzle. If there had been more sparkly fill (with the short fill still being kept relatively clean), I might have given it POW! consideration.

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© 2017, The New York TimesNo. 0820 ( 24,757 )
Across
1. Matisse, e.g., stylistically : FAUVE
6. H. H. Munro pseudonym : SAKI
10. XXX : CHIS
14. Back up on disk : SAVE
18. Cons : ANTIS
19. Juicy : LURID
20. Seats by the orchestra pit, perhaps : ROWA
21. Film excerpt : CLIP
22. Re: ___ (suitor's subject line) : QUESTFORPROPOSAL
25. 25, 27, 29, etc. : ODDS
26. The first pope, to French speakers : STPIERRE
27. Words before fat and lean, in a nursery rhyme : EATNO
28. The Gabor sisters, e.g. : TRIO
29. Re: ___ (stingy date's subject line) : TREATISNOTANOPTION
34. Hairstyle rarely seen in the military : AFRO
37. Apply to : EXERTON
38. Formally chooses : ANOINTS
39. The crystal in some crystal balls : QUARTZ
41. Carrier to Seoul, for short : KAL
42. The lowest of the low : BASSES
44. Catering staple : URN
45. Re: ___ (song lyricist's subject line) : VERSECOURSE
49. Part of a locust tree : THORN
53. Place to say 9-Down : ALTAR
55. Help : AID
56. Quenched : SLAKED
58. World leader who proclaimed "Women hold up half the sky" : MAO
59. Bathday cakes? : SOAPS
61. Kind of diagram : VENN
62. Dwellers on the Arabian Peninsula : OMANIS
65. Re: ___ (film director's subject line) : ACTIONTIME
69. Re: ___ (sales agent's subject line ... with an attachment) : ADONLYFILE
72. Peanut butter choice : CREAMY
73. Municipal regs. : ORDS
75. Prefix with liberal or conservative, but not moderate : ULTRA
76. Slippery sort : EEL
77. One is usually set by a chair : AGENDA
80. Purpose : USE
81. Talk smack about : TRASH
85. Baseball exec Bud : SELIG
88. Re: ___ (duster's subject line) : MOTECONTROL
91. Tony winner Hagen : UTA
92. $$$$, on Yelp : PRICEY
94. "Selma" director DuVernay : AVA
95. Greek gods' drink : NECTAR
97. "Down," at a diner : ONTOAST
100. Pithy observations : APERCUS
103. Best-of-the-best : AONE
104. Re: ___ (prison librarian's subject line) : WARDFORINFORMATION
108. Hansen of a 2016 Broadway hit : EVAN
109. Sidney who directed "12 Angry Men" : LUMET
110. Actress Arquette : PATRICIA
114. The Destroyer, in Hinduism : SIVA
115. Re: ___ (celebrity physician's subject line) : ACHESFORTHESTARS
119. Mark Zuckerberg when founding Facebook, e.g. : TEEN
120. Eliminated by a ref's decision : TKOD
121. Heavenly hunter : ORION
122. Monastery figure : ABBOT
123. European capital : OSLO
124. Repair shop figs. : ESTS
125. Stuff : GEAR
126. Simple, as a question : YESNO
Down
1. Online help : FAQS
2. "Are you some kind of ___?" : ANUT
3. Lone Star State sch. : UTEP
4. Guest : VISITOR
5. Perfume compound : ESTER
6. Inspector Clouseau's employer : SURETE
7. "A Navel" artist, 1923 : ARP
8. Wine-and-cassis drink : KIR
9. See 53-Across : IDO
10. Dalmatian, e.g. : CROAT
11. Lilylike plant : HOSTA
12. Tot's "Lemme up on your shoulders!" : IWANNASEE
13. Old-fashioned gunfight locales : SALOONS
14. Like the people who invented golf : SCOTTISH
15. Astronaut after whom Buzz Lightyear was named : ALDRIN
16. Couch potato : VIDIOT
17. Some home printers : EPSONS
19. Title Seuss creature : LORAX
23. "Stop!," to a cop : FREEZE
24. Lowly worker : PEON
30. Bugged : IRKED
31. Short and detached, in music: Abbr. : STAC
32. Surefire : NOLOSE
33. Expert on meters and feet : POET
34. An official color of the Miami Dolphins : AQUA
35. Roll up : FURL
36. Tirade : RANT
40. Den, often : TVROOM
42. Gucci or Givenchy, e.g. : BRAND
43. The first "A" in Reddit's A.M.A. : ASK
46. Mesmerized : RAPT
47. "You bet!," in Yucatán : SISI
48. Radiuses' neighbors : ULNAS
50. Marriott competitor : OMNI
51. Third one's a harm? : RAIL
52. Wine's aroma : NOSE
54. China setting : ASIA
57. Doofus : DOLT
60. Novelist Seton : ANYA
61. Mesa ___ National Park : VERDE
63. Moaning Hogwarts ghost : MYRTLE
64. Not even close : AFAR
65. The Red Baron and others : ACES
66. Northern Montana tribe : CREE
67. Poker player's tic, perhaps : TELL
68. ___ Python : MONTY
70. Depose : OUST
71. Cubbie or Card : NLER
74. From the top, to a musician : DACAPO
78. Sierras, e.g. : GMCTRUCKS
79. Want ad letters : EOE
80. Take the heat from? : UNARM
82. Motorcade unit : AUTO
83. Lee of Marvel Comics : STAN
84. Storied also-ran : HARE
86. Apple product discontinued in 2017 : IPODNANO
87. Tennis's Steffi : GRAF
89. Through with : OVER
90. Like some training : ONSITE
93. Quarantine : ISOLATE
96. "Is that even possible?" : CANITBE
97. Must pay : OWESTO
98. Main forces? : NAVIES
99. See the world : TRAVEL
100. Tea times: Abbr. : AFTS
101. Ransom note writer : CAPTOR
102. Deseret News reader, e.g. : UTAHN
105. "Turn up the A/C!" : IMHOT
106. Must have : NEEDS
107. Paris's Musée d'___ : ORSAY
111. Fleet on Fleet Street : CABS
112. With 117-Down, Mesabi Range output : IRON
113. Regarding : ASTO
116. Thick coat on a cold day? : FOG
117. See 112-Down : ORE
118. Small inlet : RIA

Answer summary: 11 unique to this puzzle, 1 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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