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THE FIRST SHALL BE LAST

New York Times, Sunday, August 28, 2016

Author: Paolo Pasco
Editor: Will Shortz
Paolo Pasco
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
127/17/20151/22/20182
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
1300053
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.63011

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 longest time I shied away ... more
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 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 themselves. The ... more
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 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 Down
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
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: 15 unique to this puzzle, 2 debuted here and reused later.

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