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"UH, WHAT?"

New York Times, Sunday, September 16, 2018

Author: Joel Fagliano
Editor: Will Shortz
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6110/22/20099/26/20185
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14811810325
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1.65351
Joel Fagliano
Puzzle of the Week

This puzzle:

Rows: 21, Columns: 21 Words: 132, Blocks: 66 Missing: {QZ} This is puzzle # 60 for Mr. Fagliano. Jeff Chen's Puzzle of the Week pick. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Joel Fagliano notes: Excited to be back in the Magazine pages! Given how many tiny crosswords I make these days, setting my mind to a Sunday puzzle was refreshing. Because this is a fairly established theme type – ... more
Joel Fagliano notes:

Excited to be back in the Magazine pages! Given how many tiny crosswords I make these days, setting my mind to a Sunday puzzle was refreshing.

Because this is a fairly established theme type – add-a-sound themes have been pretty much done to death – I knew I needed to make the puzzle stand out for solvers in some way. Themewise, that meant making every example as amusing as possible. Crossword jokes are never going to be high comedy, but they should still make the solver smile when they uncover each example. A lot of that comes in carefully planning the theme set before you start building the grid, making sure you have a good joke to go with each answer. It also means theme answers that are just plausible enough to be real, while still silly or incongruous enough to elicit a laugh – of course you'd never really call a fat Congressperson "Senator of Gravity," but it's funny to think about.

The other way I tried to make the puzzle stand out was with the fill. I used only six theme answers instead of trying to jam in seven or eight, which allowed me to increase the length of each answer and make the word count lower. Sunday puzzles at the max word count limit of 140 can often feel like a chore to finish, particularly if the fill is stale and familiar. For this one, I tried to make the puzzle free of the normal three and four letter crutch words and use longer, more fresh and interesting vocabulary. In the past, this might have meant using seeded entries of pop culture names or modern slang, but I'm increasingly focusing instead on filling with regular words (CLUMSY, BEER, TYPING, etc.) that can become fun entries when clued in an imaginative way. I think that makes for a more enjoyable experience for every type of solver.

Hope people enjoy it!

Jeff Chen notes: It's rare that I can't figure out how I would have pulled off a particular theme, and I love when it happens. It's like seeing a great magic trick unfold – everything works together so amazingly, and you're ... more
Jeff Chen notes:

It's rare that I can't figure out how I would have pulled off a particular theme, and I love when it happens. It's like seeing a great magic trick unfold – everything works together so amazingly, and you're left with a sense of wonder. How the hell did he/she do that?

It's easy to deconstruct letter addition or subtraction themes. Synonym themes. Words hidden in phrases. All of these are simple to pull off, using various computerized tools. But syllable additions? No idea, besides a whole lot of sounding out words to yourself (while the people around you slowly go crazy from all your babbling).

So many complex word changes! KING JAMES BIBLE to KING JAMES (LeBron) BUYABLE? Genius! WRITING to RIOTING is such a neat transmogrification, too. And CENTER to CEN-UH-TER = SENATOR is the best of all.

I might have liked one more themer, especially since OREGON TRANSPLANT didn't seem kooky enough for this Pacific Northwesterner. But I'd much rather have one too few themers along with a stellar grid, than one too many, along with serious compromises.

There are few constructors would could pull off a 132-word Sunday grid – one of the toughest tasks in all of construction – while keeping the solving experience so smooth. Just a bit of CEES and HOERs? That's way, way, way less than an average (140-word!) Sunday. With a couple of bonuses in SOLAR PANEL, BEANIE BABY, OKAY OKAY, and the delightful triple of AHI TUNA / PITCREW / SO THERE, it's an elegantly constructed piece of art.

Next time someone asks me for an example of a sound change puzzle, I'll be pointing to this one.

JimH notes: I've been waiting for PHABLETS to make it into an NYT puzzle. Like most portmanteau words, it's odd at first but easy to figure out. Smartphones are getting bigger, tablets shrink, and eventually, they overlap into a ... more
JimH notes:

I've been waiting for PHABLETS to make it into an NYT puzzle. Like most portmanteau words, it's odd at first but easy to figure out. Smartphones are getting bigger, tablets shrink, and eventually, they overlap into a new device category.

"Tube tops" and "Case load" are clever. I like the green juice provider too. "What ... may represent" is a fun, modern clue.

As for the theme answers, here's why I'm disappointed. I'd love to end our Argument Week with bitter disagreement, but I'm afraid I concur with Jeff. They're all outstanding. Well, I love OREGON TRANSPLANT just as much as the others, but that's the extent of my divergence. Bravo, Joel Fagliano.

This wraps up our Jim and Jeff at the Puzzles experiment. I don't think we learned anything we didn't already know — Jeff and I sometimes look at puzzles differently — but it was fun to put it out for the world to see. Let us know what you think, and maybe we'll try this again sometime.

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© 2018, The New York TimesNo. 0916 ( 25,149 )
Across Down
1. Like a bull in a china shop : CLUMSY
7. Blue : RACY
11. Band whose songs are featured in a hit 2001 musical and 2018 movie : ABBA
15. Tube tops : CAPS
19. Where Hemingway wrote "The Old Man and the Sea" : HAVANA
20. Instrument whose name sounds like a rebuke of Obama's dog : OBOE
21. Case load? : BEER
22. River that formed an extension of the Mason-Dixon line : OHIO
23. One who's just moved from Portland? : OREGONTRANSPLANT
26. Bit of baseball gear : MITT
27. "Jeez, I heard you already!" : OKAYOKAY
28. Number : AMOUNT
29. Game played with a dog : FETCH
30. Peak : APEX
31. Tennis great who wrote the 2009 tell-all "Open" : AGASSI
32. Major science journal : NATURE
33. Satchel for a guy : MURSE
35. Convert a morgue worker into a spy? : TURNTHECORONER
37. Google ____ : MAPS
38. Pre-euro currency : LIRA
39. Smooch : BUSS
40. Leave gobsmacked : AWE
41. Common plural verb : ARE
42. Staple of many a "Real Housewives" episode : DRAMA
44. One of the Leewards : STMARTIN
48. LeBron basketball sneaker, e.g.? : KINGJAMESBUYABLE
51. Foe in "Wonder Woman" : ARES
55. - - - : ENDASHES
56. Ready for the recycling bin : EMPTY
57. Field trip chaperone : PARENT
59. Surrender : WAIVE
60. Celebrity chef Oliver : JAMIE
61. Hunger for : CRAVE
62. Will of "Arrested Development" : ARNETT
64. Determined to do : SETON
65. Flower said to cover the plains of Hades : ASPHODEL
68. Brand of 33-Down : RAGU
69. Intense blowback against a signature Trump policy proposal? : RIOTINGONTHEWALL
72. Large mobile devices, to use a modern portmanteau : PHABLETS
74. Hair net : SNOOD
75. Amazon threat : BOA
76. Muppet eagle : SAM
79. Highest draft category : ONEA
80. Garbage barge : SCOW
81. Tour de France setting : ALPS
82. Bad person to get paired with for a class assignment? : PROJECTRUNAWAY
87. Bender : SPREE
89. "Present!" : IMHERE
90. Like more : PREFER
91. Gulf mogul : EMIR
92. Rulers during the Time of Troubles : TSARS
93. Jewish mysticism : CABALA
94. Harmonized : INUNISON
98. Triple-A requests : TOWS
99. Nickname for a superserious congressman? : SENATOROFGRAVITY
101. Trainer of Rey in "The Last Jedi" : LUKE
102. Eager : KEEN
103. Fixtures in every Vegas casino : ATMS
104. Ontario city across the river from Buffalo, for short : FTERIE
105. Craftsy online store : ETSY
106. Cay : ISLE
107. For takeout : TOGO
108. Exemplar of cruelty : SADIST
1. Follower of "ah-ah-ah" : CHOO
2. Fun adventure : LARK
3. Colored layer : UVEA
4. Hungarians, by another name : MAGYARS
5. Noses around : SNOOPS
6. Northerner : YANKEE
7. One of the Gilmore Girls : RORY
8. Old sports org. with the Kentucky Colonels : ABA
9. U.S. food giant : CONAGRA
10. Suck-up : YESMAN
11. Red with embarrassment : ABLUSH
12. Fad toy of the 1990s : BEANIEBABY
13. Tendency : BENT
14. What's better when it's fine? : ART
15. Awaken : COMETO
16. Yellowfin : AHITUNA
17. Workers who are always retiring? : PITCREW
18. "Take that!" : SOTHERE
24. Strain : TAX
25. Tweet, e.g. : POST
29. Language of Omar Khayyam's "Rubáiyát" : FARSI
31. Glows : AURAS
32. Caution on an airplane wing : NOSTEP
33. Dip for mozzarella sticks : MARINARA
34. Affecting radically : UPENDING
35. x : TIMES
36. Biceps exercise : CURL
37. Attack on a big scale : MAKEWAR
38. Uncool : LAME
42. Gig for an aspiring electronic musician : DJSET
43. Root word? : RAH
44. Citation : SUMMONS
45. What "..." may represent : TYPING
46. What "#" means in chess notation : MATE
47. Slim : NARROW
49. Surrendered : GAVEUP
50. "Take a hike!" : BEATIT
52. Like an uncorrupted file : READABLE
53. Academy Awards prop : ENVELOPE
54. Popular Belgian brews, informally : STELLAS
58. Hurt : ACHED
60. Ballet jump : JETE
63. Music genre at a rave : TRANCE
64. Provider of green juice? : SOLARPANEL
65. Bother : ANNOY
66. Put away : STOW
67. Vietnamese broth-and-noodles soup : PHO
70. "Yeah, right" : IBET
71. Academy Awards prop : OSCAR
73. Garden toilers : HOERS
76. Saliva : SPITTLE
77. Words from a T.S.A. agent before a pat-down : ARMSOUT
78. Punk rock hairstyles : MOHAWKS
80. Guarantee : SWEARTO
81. U.S.P.S. package status : ARRIVED
83. Purchase at a sports stadium : JERSEY
84. Sophisticated : URBANE
85. How whiskey is often served : NEAT
86. Financially solvent : AFLOAT
87. Blue man group? : SMURFS
88. Something made to be destroyed : PINATA
91. Where soccer was invented: Abbr. : ENG
93. Hitchcock triple feature? : CEES
94. Should that be the case : IFSO
95. "Hey ____" (start of a phone voice command) : SIRI
96. R&B great Redding : OTIS
97. A bit of disputin' from Putin? : NYET
99. Chairlift item : SKI
100. Clickable tag on BuzzFeed beside "LOL" and "WTF" : OMG

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

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