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OVERHEARD IN NEW ENGLAND

New York Times, Sunday, September 29, 2013

Author:
Norm Guggenbiller
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
47/16/20039/29/20130
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
1102000
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.51000
Norm Guggenbiller

This puzzle:

Rows: 21, Columns: 21 Words: 136, Blocks: 64 Missing: {JQX} This is puzzle # 4 for Mr. Guggenbiller. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Jeff Chen notes:
Nice example of the 'change a sound to produce wacky results' type theme. These types of puzzles ought to have strong consistency (each base phrase transformed in the exact same manner) ... read more

Nice example of the "change a sound to produce wacky results" type theme. These types of puzzles ought to have strong consistency (each base phrase transformed in the exact same manner) and this one does just that. The AR sound gets modified to a Bostonian AH, and overall, the results are quite good. The base phrases are snappy (CARD COUNTERS and GARBLED MESSAGE are excellent), and the resulting answers are generally amusing. There's something about SPOCKS WILL FLY that tickles the nerd in me, although I would have loved to see a reference to (warning, dork alert) Spock and Evil Spock (I'm obviously the evil one).

Notable that there are only 136 words into today's puzzle. 140 is Will's maximum, and even that is difficult to adhere to. There have been surprisingly few Sunday puzzles with less than 140 words in the Shortz era, and there's a good reason for that: it's incredibly difficult to do without resorting to chucking in cruddy fill. But Norm does a very nice job today, the only real trouble spot being the ECKO/HOCH/DESC area.

Last year, Will commented that he was interested in looking at Sunday-size puzzles with less theme density and a lower word count (a Sunday/themeless mixture), the idea being that it'd be nice to have some variety. After a while, Sunday puzzles can feel like a bit of a slog to some solvers, a giant puzzle that gets tedious, so I really like the idea of tossing in a curve ball once in a while, giving solvers less of a thematic experience but amping up the difficulty level in the surrounding fill.

Norm goes down this route today, incorporating only six theme answers (usually Sundays have at least seven themers) and using fewer black squares for a 136 worder. He gives us goodness such as BUG ZAPPER, RUNS A TAB, MAN EATERS, and OFF CENTER; very welcome entries which help lend the puzzle more of a snappy themeless feel. And there is quite a lot of longer fill — note how many six letter (28) and seven letter words (18) there are (you can figure this out by pressing "Analyze this puzzle" way down at the bottom of the page) — although not much else of the fill is memorable. It is possible to make six and seven letter fill memorable, but that's generally a tough task. I would have loved to see more long fill like BUG ZAPPER. I don't know if it's possible, but it is something I'll be attempting in the future. Anything to give the solver a heightened degree of fun.

All in all, Will is running a useful experiment I hope to see more of. It's intriguing to think about Sunday puzzles with fewer themers but a lot more zippy long fill.

1
E
2
N
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C
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A
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S
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E
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S
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C
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A
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C
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H
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E
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D
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E
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D
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M
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O
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N
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D
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S
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H
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U
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A
P
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P
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F
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T
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P
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C
K
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W
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F
L
Y
26
S
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M
27
P
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A
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E
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H
O
C
H
30
L
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A
P
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P
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T
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A
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C
A
R
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36
C
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O
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D
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39
D
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A
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B
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M
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P
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O
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T
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Y
64
D
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D
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A
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P
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P
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G
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O
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B
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M
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A
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O
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B
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P
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H
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R
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A
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U
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M
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© 2013, The New York TimesNo. 0929 ( 23,336 )
Across
1
Boxes up : ENCASES
8
Hidden : CACHED
14
Astronomer Halley : EDMOND
20
Sheer, informally : SEETHRU
21
Individually : APIECE
22
Not get gratis : PAYFOR
23
Clan garb : TARTANS
24
A "Star Trek" officer and a physician are going to board a plane? : SPOCKSWILLFLY
26
Attack, as ramparts : STORM
27
Cracker topper : PATE
29
German Dadaist Hannah : HOCH
30
Makes stronger? : LACES
31
Kind of court : APPELLATE
34
Without ___ in the world : ACARE
36
Atlantic fishery auditors? : CODCOUNTERS
39
"Galatea of the Spheres" and others : DALIS
41
Comcast media holding : NBC
44
Ones giving their addresses : ORATORS
45
Hedge shrub : PRIVET
47
Dog command : STAY
48
Non-Eur. U.S. ally : ISR
49
Baseball features : SEAMS
53
French article : UNE
54
To boot : ASWELL
56
Minute : LITTLE
59
Work agreeably in a greenhouse? : POTONGOODTERMS
62
It's opposite julio on a calendario : ENERO
63
"No challenge at all" : TOOEASY
64
"Dat ___" (classic jazz song) : DERE
65
Called the shots : DIRECTED
67
Dead-doornail connection : ASA
68
Delicate first-date topic : POLITICS
72
Moon feature : MARE
73
Aristocratic practice : ELITISM
75
Bacteriologist Julius : PETRI
76
"Happy Birthday" on a cake, e.g.? : GOBBLEDMESSAGE
80
Naysayer : DENIER
81
Reproductive parts of flowers : OVULES
82
Folk rocker DiFranco : ANI
83
Ball game : BOCCE
85
Québec place name starter : STE
86
Buster Brown's dog, in old comics : TIGE
87
Verizon competitor : SPRINT
90
Positions oneself to hear better, say : LEANSIN
93
Wood-shaping tool : ADZ
94
Reagan attorney general : MEESE
95
Sexy operators? : HOTSURGEONS
99
Cell part : ANODE
101
Femmes fatales : MANEATERS
102
Bank heist, e.g. : CAPER
104
Lion portrayer : LAHR
107
Word with sea or seasoned : SALT
108
Bar, legally : ESTOP
112
Where frogs shop? : HOPPERSBAZAAR
115
Religious recluse : EREMITE
117
Consternation : UNEASE
118
O.K. to serve : EDIBLE
119
Medication for a narcoleptic : RITALIN
120
Cabernet Sauvignon alternative : MERLOT
121
Ran out : LAPSED
122
Immediately : SOONEST
Down
1
They're probably close: Abbr. : ESTS
2
Undiluted : NEAT
3
Large sport fish : CERO
4
Draw : ATTRACT
5
Hotel amenity : SHAMPOO
6
Directional suffix : ERN
7
Hitchcock genre : SUSPENSE
8
Common aquarium feature : CASTLE
9
Show up : APPEAR
10
Grp. in a 1955 merger : CIO
11
"Wag the Dog" actress : HECHE
12
Fashion designer Marc : ECKO
13
Family tree listing: Abbr. : DESC
14
Prefix with dermis : EPI
15
Longtime home of the Cotton Bowl : DALLAS
16
Reflective material : MYLAR
17
Unbalanced : OFFCENTER
18
Florida State player, casually : NOLE
19
Prohibitionists : DRYS
25
Oil source : WHALE
28
Model Carol : ALT
32
Clutch, e.g. : PURSE
33
Recipe amt. : TSP
35
Stronghold : CITADEL
36
Tortile : COILED
37
Italian princely family name : ORSINI
38
Sand ___ (perchlike fish) : DARTER
39
Drab-looking : DINGY
40
Bygone Chevrolet : AVEO
42
Salve : BALM
43
Engine specification: Abbr. : CYLS
46
Drinks now, pays later : RUNSATAB
47
Make more enticing : SWEETEN
50
Footless creature : APOD
51
Barnyard sound : MOO
52
Enters furtively : STEALSIN
55
Chevron : STRIPE
57
Exhibit fear, in a way : TREMBLE
58
Quarter : LOCALE
60
Green spot : OASIS
61
1960s-'70s pitcher Blue Moon : ODOM
63
Ticked (off) : TEED
66
Locked? : TRESSED
68
One 60-trillionth of a min. : PSEC
69
"True" : ITISSO
70
Dimwit : CRETIN
71
Charmers : SIRENS
73
Start of a choosing rhyme : EENIE
74
"Can ___ now?" : IGO
76
"___ light?" : GOTA
77
"Metamorphoses" poet : OVID
78
Sight at many a barbecue : BUGZAPPER
79
Setting of the 2012 film "John Carter" : MARS
80
Combine name : DEERE
84
Hoarders' problems : CLUTTERS
88
Rinds : PEELS
89
Fourth Arabic letter : THA
91
Go along with : AGREETO
92
"WKRP in Cincinnati" news director Les ___ : NESSMAN
94
To a greater extent : MORESO
96
Reduced : ONSALE
97
Got emotional, with "up" : TEARED
98
Baseball's Bando : SAL
100
Mountainous land : NEPAL
101
Postal symbol, once : MRZIP
102
Bud : CHUM
103
Super-duper : AONE
105
Uncle of Enoch : ABEL
106
"I ___ thought" : HADA
109
Part of a space shuttle's exterior : TILE
110
___ & Carla (1960s duo) : OTIS
111
Cooped (up) : PENT
113
No longer playing: Abbr. : RET
114
They may improve in crunch time : ABS
116
Birthplace of the bossa nova : RIO

Answer summary: 7 unique to this puzzle, 3 debuted here and reused later, 1 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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