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THE FIRST SHALL BE LAST

New York Times, Sunday, August 28, 2016

Author:
Paolo Pasco
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
137/17/20151/19/20193
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
1300054
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.63011
Paolo Pasco

This puzzle:

Rows: 21, Columns: 21 Words: 140, Blocks: 64 Missing: {JQWX} This is puzzle # 5 for Mr. Pasco. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Paolo Pasco notes:
Cool, my first Sunday New York Times Crossword! Did you notice the nine-letter bonus answer? If you haven't gotten it, I'll give you time to look for it before you read on. For the ... read more

Cool, my first Sunday New York Times Crossword! Did you notice the nine-letter bonus answer? If you haven't gotten it, I'll give you time to look for it before you read on.

For the longest time I shied away from 21x constructing, on the basis that I heard it was haaaard (Note: in retrospect, it totally was. I almost tore my hair out trying to navigate the 140-word limit). But then I saw the postscript in a New York Times acceptance email encouraging me to try a Sunday. Not wanting to back down from a suggestion, I, with a sense of cockeyed optimism, set up a blank 21x21 grid.

The theme came after a lot of brainstorming; for it to be Sunday-worthy, it had to be something good. The "beginning → end" idea seemed novel enough, and there was enough looseness with the theme to allow for a bonus answer. Once that was in place, all I had to do was think of a satisfying end phrase (REAR ENDED was apt, and also had superfriendly letters to work with), write some hasty code that would give me words that would work with those letters, pick theme entries, fill the grid, and done.

Well, not exactly. I got an email saying to replace a theme entry (I had VILE SPIRIT, which was too close in meaning to EVIL SPIRIT) and work out a dodgy entry in the middle section. Thankfully, I was able to salvage it without doing too much grid surgery, because that center would not be easy to rebuild. Once I sent in the revision, I got that acceptance email in July 2016.

One last thought: In the notes for my last puzzle I mentioned how my puzzles usually contain references to things I like. A cool thing about this is that you can chart, with a couple months' delay, when I become interested in things. My "Hamilton" obsession manifests itself in the 30/32A twofer, and there are assorted Broadway things in 55A and 78A, true to my latest musical kick.

Hope you enjoyed the puzzle!

Jeff Chen notes:
Paolo's Sunday debut! I like how he's been stretching himself as a constructor, first doing themelesses, then early week, and now a Sunday 21x. Very cool to see a person push and stretch ... read more

Paolo's Sunday debut! I like how he's been stretching himself as a constructor, first doing themelesses, then early week, and now a Sunday 21x. Very cool to see a person push and stretch themselves.

The theme is pretty straightforward — phrases where one of the words has its first letter moved to the end, to produce funny results. I had mixed feelings on them, as DAME CHEESE (EDAM -> DAME) is amusing, but HEAR PERLMAN and SENATE IDEA felt more dry.

I really liked the ESPRIT -> SPRITE find, as it's neat to see that long word get an interesting transformation. It's too bad that the rest are short words, just four or five letters. There are so many dozens (hundreds?) of short words that can be transformed like this, so the puzzle felt a bit loose for my taste. Would have been great to get a few more 6+ letter ones — that could have tightened up the theme.

His grid is quite nice — it's clear that all his prior work has helped him develop the skills needed to tackle the daunting 140-word 21x Sunday puzzle. Take his upper right corner, for instance. That type of 8x3 chunk is not easy to pull off for a newer constructor, but it's a very common phenomenon in themeless puzzles. Paolo does so well here, with THE FORUM, SI SENORA, and OPERAMAN. What a great set of entries! With only TSO a little rickety (and saved by a good historical clue), I doubt Paolo could have pulled that off without all his work in themeless grids.

I would have loved some extra element — a tighter theme (all names? all verbs to nouns? something else in common that tied the themers together?), more transformed words of six or more letters, something spelled out by the new first letters — but it generally works as a straightforward theme. And it was awfully nice to get some snazzy bonus fill like DOPESLAP, EGGHEADED, ABSINTHE, etc. Enhances the solve to get so much themeless-quality fill.

ADDED NOTE: Wish I had caught REAR ENDED (highlighted below). Neat how that term literally describes those nine letters. Would have been great if some clue had alluded to it, or the letters had been circled — I have a feeling that a lot of solvers will miss this element. I'm glad that Paolo pointed it out! That's the kind of extra layer I was hoping for, making the puzzle feel tighter, more elegant.

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© 2016, The New York TimesNo. 0828 ( 24,400 )
Across
1
Ditch : SCRAP
6
See-through clothing material : MESH
10
Listens to Shakespeare? : HARKS
15
Taiping Rebellion general : TSO
18
Tourist's report : TRAVELOGUE
20
Ring or sphere : ARENA
21
Mail : SHIP
22
Reason to scream "Why won't this damn thing locate airplanes!"? : RADARANGER
23
Honorary title in Wisconsin? : DAMECHEESE
25
___ Aduba of "Orange Is the New Black" : UZO
26
Insect that shorted out an early computer, spawning the term "computer bug" : MOTH
27
"Ciao" : BYEBYE
29
Surmise : INFER
30
Hamiltons : TENS
32
Domain of "Hamilton" : THEATER
34
City with 500 attractions? : DAYTONA
36
Takes in : HAS
38
Bay ___ : AREA
39
Section of "Aida," e.g. : SCENA
41
Letters after CD : ROM
42
"Hey, let's gather 100 people to enact laws and ratify treaties"? : SENATEIDEA
46
Fired (up) : KEYED
47
Glow : AURA
48
Get by : ELUDE
49
Super ___ : NES
50
Listen to violinist Itzhak's music? : HEARPERLMAN
52
Like blue moons : RARE
53
Norm: Abbr. : STD
54
California missionary Junípero ___ : SERRA
55
"Ready to relieve 'em of a ___ or two" ("Les Misérables" lyric) : SOU
56
Stamp incorrectly, in a way : MISDATE
58
Group that appeared in the movie "Grease" : SHANANA
60
Oscars grp. : AMPAS
64
Out of gas, informally : ONE
65
Soft drink favored by the Marines? : SPRITEDECORPS
68
Stephen of "Interview With the Vampire" : REA
69
Sticky spots? : NESTS
71
Cathedral feature : STEEPLE
72
Blazing successes : METEORS
74
"Oh, you're funny-y-y-y ..." : HAR
76
Indian wear : SARIS
77
Super ___ : PAC
78
Setting for the beginning of "The Book of Mormon" : UTAH
79
Church response that's taken as a given? : ASSUMEDAMEN
83
Lead-in to Pablo or Carlos : SAN
84
Like Navy SEALs : ELITE
85
"Old MacDonald Had a Farm" sounds : BAAS
86
"Got it" : ROGER
87
Newspaper essay on why not to go outdoors? : INSIDEOPED
89
Skit show, for short : SNL
90
E-cigarette output : VAPOR
91
Frat boy types : BROS
92
Assn. : ORG
93
Top of the agenda : ITEMONE
95
Fastener with a ring-shaped head : EYEBOLT
97
Cries of approval : YAYS
101
Tennis's King of Clay : NADAL
102
Cry from comic book civilians : SAVEUS
105
Futile : VAIN
107
Meadow : LEA
108
Woody playing a medieval baron? : THANEALLEN
110
Books written entirely in chat rooms? : IMEDNOVELS
113
Robert of "Airplane!" : HAYS
114
Singer LaBelle : PATTI
115
TLC and Destiny's Child : GIRLGROUPS
116
Most "Doctor Who" characters, for short : ETS
117
"What if ...," informally : SPOSE
118
___ cone : NOSE
119
On edge : ANTSY
Down
1
Walk with pride : STRUT
2
Crosswords in 1924-25, e.g. : CRAZE
3
Home inspector's concern : RADON
4
"Selma" director DuVernay : AVA
5
Locks in place for a while? : PERM
6
What the "1" of "1/2" represents : MONTH
7
Intellectual : EGGHEADED
8
Litigate : SUE
9
Home remedy drink : HERBTEA
10
Bill of "Trainwreck" : HADER
11
Aladdin, e.g. : ARAB
12
"Ratatouille" rat : REMY
13
Embroiled (in) : KNEEDEEP
14
Biological pouch : SAC
15
Los Angeles Lakers' home until 1999 : THEFORUM
16
Assent to a married mujer : SISENORA
17
89-Across character played by Adam Sandler : OPERAMAN
19
"Tao Te Ching" philosopher : LAOTSE
21
Mailed : SENT
24
"Howdy" : HIYA
28
"___, verily" : YEA
31
Gray, say : SHADED
33
Mythical father of Harmonia, strangely enough : ARES
35
Southern chain : ANDES
37
Took in : ATE
39
America's Cup, e.g. : SEARACE
40
Rostand protagonist ___ de Bergerac : CYRANO
42
Sunday delivery : SERMON
43
Bush labor secretary Chao : ELAINE
44
Sips : NURSES
45
Puts under : INTERS
46
Bits of truth : KERNELS
47
Name on many a college hall, informally : ALUM
50
One easily bowled over? : HEADPIN
51
Laugh-filled broadcast : ROAST
53
Racer's brand : STP
54
More see-through : SHEERER
57
Noted tea locale : ASSAM
58
The Titanic, e.g. : STEAMER
59
Gucci competitor : ARMANI
61
Bit of expert advice : PROTIP
62
Fill with gas : AERATE
63
Like pageant contestants, typically : SASHED
66
"Full speed ahead!" : ITSAGO
67
Push-up muscle, informally : PEC
70
"That means ..." : THUS
73
Passing remarks? : EULOGY
75
Showed over : RERAN
77
Nisan observances : PASSOVERS
79
Green spirit : ABSINTHE
80
Something felt at Christmas : SANTAHAT
81
Post-Christmas events : SALEDAYS
82
Hit upside the head, in slang : DOPESLAP
83
Snoot : SNOB
84
Eternally, to poets : EER
87
Words of concession : IRESIGN
88
Liable to spoil? : DOTING
90
Cousin of a lemming : VOLE
91
Sch. whose honor code includes chastity : BYU
94
Staffs : MANS
95
Start of a few choice words? : EENIE
96
Big dipper : LADLE
98
Native of Alaska : ALEUT
99
Goes "Ow, ow, ow!" : YELPS
100
Like the response "Talk to the hand!" : SASSY
103
Adele, voicewise : ALTO
104
Spot checkers? : VETS
106
One of Asta's masters : NORA
109
College-level H.S. courses : APS
111
"Dios ___!" : MIO
112
The "V" of fashion's "DVF" : VON

Answer summary: 14 unique to this puzzle, 3 debuted here and reused later.

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