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New York Times, Monday, April 13, 2015

Author: Alex Silverman
Editor: Will Shortz
Alex Silverman
TotalDebutCollabs
14/13/20150
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1.66010

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 76, Blocks: 34 Missing: {DJZ} Spans: 5, (2 double stacks) This is the debut puzzle for Mr. Silverman NYT links: Across Lite PDF

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Will Shortz notes: Crossword constructing is a little like writing a palindrome. You want to write something as sensible and natural as possible. ... more
Will Shortz notes:

Crossword constructing is a little like writing a palindrome. You want to write something as sensible and natural as possible. Still, there's the constraint that the thing has to read backward and forward the same, and chances are it's going to sound a little awkward.

Straw? No, too stupid a fad. I put soot on warts.

No one writes this way normally. But I look on a long palindrome like this and I marvel. It's a stunt, of a sort, and a very cool one.

Similarly, the Monday and Tuesday crosswords this week are "stunt puzzles," in which the constructor has started with some peculiar thematic constraint that compromises the fill.

The constraint in today's debut by Alex Silverman is the stacking of names of 15-letter Beatles songs at the top and bottom of the grid. I don't remember seeing thematic stacking like this before, and it bowls me over . The puzzle's subject, the Beatles, gives me good feelings besides.

The downside of the constraint, of course, is some non-Mondayish or less-than-stellar vocabulary. You can list it as well as I can.

For any stunt puzzle, I weigh the amazingness of the theme, and the difficulty of the constraint, versus how compromised the vocabulary is as a result. It's a balance. For an amazing stunt, I may make major allowances. For a smaller one, not so much. Both today and tomorrow, I think, the compromises are fairly modest and well worth tolerating to get the wow.

I won't spoil tomorrow's puzzle, but will say only that it involves a different sort of stunt with a different issue with the fill.

In both puzzles I hope you can make the same allowances I do to appreciate what's cool.

Alex Silverman notes: I got interested in trying to construct a crossword after seeing the movie 'Wordplay' and thinking, 'I can do that.' My first ... more
Alex Silverman notes:

I got interested in trying to construct a crossword after seeing the movie "Wordplay" and thinking, "I can do that." My first several attempts taught me that it is a lot harder that it looks. At some point my brother-in-law in New York told me, "Someday you're going to have a puzzle published in the Times." I'm glad he was right!

Special thanks to my friend Pavel of Pavel's Puzzles for great advice on how to improve my construction and for encouraging me to submit to the Times the puzzle that is now before you. And thanks to Will Shortz for saying he liked the theme the first time I submitted this puzzle, even though CRXS and MOKSA were not acceptable entries, and for accepting the rewritten version the second time.

Aside from constructing crosswords, I am a patent attorney in the Seattle area and like to play the piano.

JimH notes: Stacked grid-spanning theme answers is a stunt that gives me a nice endorphin rush — how is that even possible? I wish I'd thought ... more
JimH notes:

Stacked grid-spanning theme answers is a stunt that gives me a nice endorphin rush — how is that even possible? I wish I'd thought of Will's example when I used to blog about crosswords (I used to blog about crosswords) because it's perfect. A long palindrome judged by the standards of poetry or literature is very likely to come up short, but that's not the point. It's cool!

Jeff tends to be less forgiving of the consequent clunky compromises so I'm curious to read his thoughts. In the meantime, I have one of the most beautiful Lennon-McCartney songs stuck in my head, "She's Leaving Home" from Sgt. Pepper. Which, by the way, is a stunt song because of its very repetitive chord structure. (None of the Beatles play on it; there's a small string orchestra instead.)

Jeff Chen notes: Debut! And what a debut. Jim and I had many discussions about this one, that fact alone making it a successful puzzle. Five Beatles ... more
Jeff Chen notes:

Debut! And what a debut. Jim and I had many discussions about this one, that fact alone making it a successful puzzle. Five Beatles songs — all 15 letters long — given a wacky interpretation, plus a kicker, the FOUR of WHEN IM SIXTY FOUR combined to form the FAB FOUR. Very cool idea.

Four grid-spanners are hard enough to do. I've commented many times on all the difficulties that arise with so many down entries that must interact with two or more grid-spanners. Including FIVE of them, two pairs each double-stacked, is an order of magnitude more difficult. It certainly provides a neat visual impact, akin to wide-open themeless puzzles. Amusing that this puzzle reminded me of another one, which just happened to have a double-stacked pair of grid-spanners ending in ALEX!

Avila is apparently the "Town of Stones and Saints"

As Will mentioned, there are some compromises that the stacks force. For me, it was only really noticeable in the SE and NW corners where there's a concentration of gluey answers. And as to "Monday-like" answers, I think most anything is fair game — if the crossings are gettable. I LOVE the entry QUANT, for example, as it's both a memorable piece of finance lingo and inferable just by itself (it's slang for a "quantitative person").

LISLE crossing AVILA might be fair game in a themeless, but more a source of grumbling on a Monday.

This puzzle will likely play super strongly to the generation that grew up with the Beatles. I can certainly appreciate all the great feelings — it's like what the Simpsons or Monty Python do for me. Personally, not knowing SHES LEAVING HOME made me wonder if it would have been better to have just four themers (which would go along with FAB FOUR!), but I'm sure this song plays as well as the others to Beatles fans like Jim.

Memorable first puzzle; hoping to see more from Alex.

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© 2015, The New York TimesNo. 23,897
Across Down
1. Snoozes : SLEEPS
7. Shortly : SOON
11. Certain airport shuttle : BUS
14. Navy captain's favorite Beatles song? : YELLOWSUBMARINE
17. Empty nester's favorite Beatles song? : SHESLEAVINGHOME
18. Use a stopwatch on : TIME
19. Also: Fr. : AUSSI
20. When planes are due in, for short : ETAS
21. Sound before a dog bites : GRR
22. Math whiz, in Wall Street lingo : QUANT
23. Cries to divas : BRAVAS
27. Photo collection : ALBUM
30. Wall painting : MURAL
31. Dangling tissue near the tonsils : UVULA
32. With the shaded squares of 35-Across, subject of this puzzle : FAB
35. Sexagenarian's favorite Beatles song? : WHENIMSIXTYFOUR
38. Spanish Mrs. : SRA
39. Fine glove material : LISLE
40. Lift : elevator :: ___ : truck : LORRY
41. ___ incognita : TERRA
42. Language in which "yes" and "no" are "ja" and "nein" : GERMAN
43. Mexican chili pepper : ANCHO
46. Apr. 15 addressee, for many : IRS
47. Letter-shaped beam : LBAR
48. ___ acid : AMINO
51. Where workers may get the shaft? : MINE
55. Author's favorite Beatles song? : PAPERBACKWRITER
58. Early riser's favorite Beatles song? : HERECOMESTHESUN
59. Shipping magnate Onassis : ARI
60. Pirates' assents : AYES
61. Oscar nominations, e.g. : HONORS
1. The "S" of GPS: Abbr. : SYST
2. Where Samson slew the Philistines : LEHI
3. Like a sch. before middle school : ELEM
4. "What ___ is new?" : ELSE
5. Campaign pro : POL
6. Says "@#%!" : SWEARS
7. Some 4x4s : SUVS
8. Japanese sashes : OBIS
9. Prefix with directional : OMNI
10. Old, worn-out horse, informally : NAG
11. Flora and fauna of a region : BIOTA
12. Deprive of courage : UNMAN
13. Look at, in the Bible : SEEST
15. Ending with dino- : SAUR
16. Watery eye discharge : RHEUM
21. Astronomer who discovered the main moons of Jupiter : GALILEO
22. Vice-presidential family of 1989-93 : QUAYLES
23. Rivals of Audis : BMWS
24. ___ Valley, European steelmaking region : RUHR
25. Region : AREA
26. Certain airport shuttle : VAN
27. St. Teresa of ___ : AVILA
28. Sumptuousness : LUXE
29. Luncheonette sandwich, for short : BLT
31. Lenin's land, for short : USSR
32. 1040A, e.g. : FORM
33. Surrounding glow : AURA
34. ___ Mawr : BRYN
36. Old Russian space station : MIR
37. Not against : FOR
41. Number of little pigs : THREE
42. Expansion : GROWTH
43. "A" as in Athens : ALPHA
44. Bull or Celtic : NBAER
45. Isle of ___ : CAPRI
46. Signs, as a contract : INKS
48. "It's ___!" (birth announcement) : ABOY
49. "We Need a Little Christmas" musical : MAME
50. Summer coolers : ICES
51. Appearance : MIEN
52. "You've never had ___ good" : ITSO
53. Prefix with -algia : NEUR
54. Sea eagles : ERNS
56. Big TV brand : RCA
57. Letter between pi and sigma : RHO

Answer summary: 3 unique to this puzzle.

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