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"UH, WHAT?"

New York Times, Sunday, September 16, 2018

Author:
Joel Fagliano
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
6510/22/20096/16/20196
SunMonTueWedThuFriSatVariety
16911910325
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.64351
Joel Fagliano

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 ... read more

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 ... read more

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.

Jim Horne 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 ... read more

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
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
Down
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.

Found bugs or have suggestions?