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New York Times, Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Author:
John Lithgow and Brendan Emmett Quigley
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutCollabs
110/18/20171
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
0001000
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.63000
John Lithgow
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
1808/7/199612/24/201816
SunMonTueWedThuFriSatVariety
355152017472615
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.635213
Brendan Emmett Quigley

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 78, Blocks: 36 Missing: {BJQVZ} This is the debut puzzle for Mr. Lithgow. This is puzzle # 175 for Mr. Quigley. See all the celebrity crosswords. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Notepad: CELEBRITY CROSSWORD: To mark the 75th anniversary of the New York Times crossword, which debuted in 1942, we are publishing a series of puzzles co-created by famous people who solve the Times crossword, working together with regular Times puzzle contributors.
This collaboration is by the esteemed star of TV and film John Lithgow - who last month won an Emmy for Outstanding Supporting [63-Across] - working together with Brendan Emmett Quigley, of Brookline, Mass. This is Mr. Quigley's 175th puzzle for The Times.
The celebrity collaborations will continue periodically through the year.
More information about the making of today's puzzle appears in the Times's daily crossword column (nytimes.com/column/wordplay).
Constructor notes:
JOHN: Not long ago, Will Shortz found out that I solved the puzzle daily and thought to link me as a 'Celebrity Collaborator' with ... read more

JOHN: Not long ago, Will Shortz found out that I solved the puzzle daily and thought to link me as a "Celebrity Collaborator" with Brendan Emmett Quigley, one of his best puzzle constructors. By good fortune, at the time I was shooting DADDY'S HOME 2 in Boston, where Brendan lives. He and I met for dinner in a South End restaurant, just to get to know each other. A hyper-alert, excitable man, Brendan could barely contain himself. Before the main course even arrived, he lurched down, took a laptop out of his bag, and began my lightning-quick education in how to construct a Times crossroad.

Our first challenge was to come up with a theme that reflected my public persona and profession. We hit on one that I thought was pretty clever, involving a rebus of the word "act": "infraction", "factotum", etc. That was when I learned just how involved Will Shortz was in every single Times crossword: Brendan ran the "act" rebus by him, and he damned us with faint praise and said that we could do better.

In a few two-hour sessions in my Back Bay hotel room, with Brendan pacing around and staring at the traffic on Commonwealth Avenue, we hashed out the puzzle that appears in the October 18 edition of the New York Times. Brendan taught me volumes about the dark mysteries of puzzle creation as if he were giving me a backstage tour of the Met Opera House after a production full of dazzling stage effects. Our handiwork arrives about four months after we finished it, a period when I have had to keep its clues a secret from all my puzzle pals. This has been a task even harder than creating the puzzle itself. I'm that excited and that proud.

I hope you enjoy solving it one tenth as much as I enjoyed creating it. Well, co-creating. I'm nothing without the remarkable Mr. Quigley.

BRENDAN: It was a joy to work with John. It felt at times that he was tackling this project much like a method actor would tackle a juicy role. He went from learning about the characters in the crossword world and their philosophies behind puzzles to taking this information and imbuing it with his own experiences to make a puzzle himself. He had a hand in everything from theme development to grid construction to cluing.

In regards to the grid, I spaced the theme answers in a way that each corner would have flexibility, and so we crammed them with as much theater-related content as possible. KATISHA is possibly my favorite answer that's appeared in all of my puzzles this year, and it was all John.

Jeff Chen notes:
Celeb puzzle! I've been a huge fan of Lithgow since his '3rd Rock from the Sun' days. Fun to get a puzzle that plays on his profession ... read more

Celeb puzzle! I've been a huge fan of Lithgow since his "3rd Rock from the Sun" days. Fun to get a puzzle that plays on his profession — acting terms redefined in kooky ways. CURTAIN CALL as a drapes-buying decision, CAST PARTY using the "person" definition of "party," etc. And so much acting-related filler material!

I wasn't familiar with SUMMER STOCK. Apparently it's a generic term for any theater production that only happens in the summer? We have a local company that does "Shakespeare improv" in a nearby park — I keep meaning to check it out.

I enjoyed some of the fill in the grid, particularly the long bonuses of SPITTAKE (I seem to remember a lot of SPITTAKEs on "3rd Rock"!), CATFISH, PINE NUTS, even the DOLPHINS with their perfect season, including a Superbowl victory. (Take that, 2007-2008 Patriots!)

I did feel like the grid contained a lot of crossword glue, though. Starting with some ATRAS, ETA, AAR wasn't bad. Toss in some STLO, SECCO, I DON'T, and the crosswordy ERNES, though, and it felt like A HEAP of stuff. (Not sure why A TAD feels fine to me but A HEAP doesn't …)

And then there was the KEYES / KATISHA crossing. Yikes! Perhaps educated solvers should be expected to know Daniel KEYES ... I buy that. And I appreciate that a reference to "The Mikado" fits right in with this celeb collab. But wow, is that a tough name for us laypeople. Rough crossing, tough to get correct.

As with most crosswords, it's a game of trade-offs. Four themers are easy to work with, but it's not at all simple to work a bunch of great bonuses into the fill. Then when you strive to put in more quasi-thematic material (references to theater in this case), it strains the grid mightily. Overall, I would have preferred a smoother end product with fewer bonuses, but I can understand the trade-off here, given the nature of this celeb puzzle.

I like these types of "redefinitional" puzzles. The Isaac Mizrahi one worked better for me, since some of today's themers didn't quite jibe — hard to imagine anyone describing a stage departing by saying the stilted "STAGE LEFT." And a fly fisherman might be a CASTing party, but not really a CAST PARTY.

But overall, so much fun to see one of my favorite actors make his crossword debut, with a profession-specific concept. Love BEQ's description of John tackling this project ... if "method cruciverbalism" isn't a thing, it really should be!

Jim Horne notes:

Reading Mr. Lithgow's notes makes me even more of a fan of his. Constructing a puzzle you're proud of, and then seeing it published, is a special thrill.

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© 2017, The New York TimesNo. 1018 ( 24,816 )
Across
1
TV's "The Crown" or "Dexter" : DRAMA
6
Surrounded by : AMID
10
Crime show figure : COP
13
Tiny bits : IOTAS
14
Many babysitters' rules : NONOS
16
Swiss waterway : AAR
17
Decision to go with drapes instead of blinds? : CURTAINCALL
19
"Dexter" channel, in TV listings : SHO
20
Info that might be given with a gate change : ETA
21
Engineered food, briefly : GMOS
22
Ready to burst : PENTUP
24
Level : DESTROY
26
Lots : AHEAP
27
State tree of Iowa : OAK
28
Slapstick specialty : SPITTAKE
31
Lip-smackin' good : TASTY
34
Like groaner humor : CORNY
35
Tease relentlessly : RAG
36
Word after test or web : SITE
37
Some pullovers : POLOS
38
1944 battle locale : STLO
39
Law regarding access for the handicapped, for short : ADA
40
Add and then stir : MIXIN
41
Daniel who wrote "Flowers for Algernon" : KEYES
42
Got back : REGAINED
44
Broadway's "___ Joey" : PAL
45
Sea eagles : ERNES
46
Lure with a phony online persona : CATFISH
50
Cameo role, typically : WALKON
52
Pad see ew cuisine : THAI
53
Mater ___ (title for Mary) : DEI
54
___ Miss : OLE
55
Accountant's shares in a company? : SUMMERSTOCK
58
"Noises ___" (1982 farce featuring a play within a play) : OFF
59
Some native Nebraskans : OTOES
60
Therefore : HENCE
61
Like Falstaff : FAT
62
"Deadly" septet : SINS
63
Outstanding Supporting ___ : ACTOR
Down
1
Cut into bits : DICED
2
Paper deliverer's assignment : ROUTE
3
Gillette razors : ATRAS
4
Yoga accessory : MAT
5
Pioneering botanist : ASAGRAY
6
Get to : ANNOY
7
Comfy slip-ons : MOCS
8
Once ___ while : INA
9
Only N.F.L. team with a perfect season (1972) : DOLPHINS
10
Fly fisherman? : CASTPARTY
11
Obama's birthplace : OAHU
12
Play thing : PROP
15
Like some nasty winter weather : SLEETY
18
Response to "You hurt?" : IMOK
23
Lead-in to Geo : NAT
25
Telethon giveaway : TOTE
26
Area in front of the front row of a theater : APRON
28
"Can you do me a ___?" : SOLID
29
Salad green : KALE
30
They may clash in a theater : EGOS
31
Leader with a title derived from the name "Caesar" : TSAR
32
Errand runner, maybe : AIDE
33
Why one missed the coach? : STAGELEFT
34
Ones calling out the rowing rhythm : COXES
37
Pesto ingredients : PINENUTS
38
Individual : SELF
40
Nine-time baseball All-Star nicknamed "The Cuban Comet" : MINOSO
41
Nanki-Poo's pursuer in "The Mikado" : KATISHA
43
Vessel that measured 300 x 50 x 30 cubits : ARK
44
Allen's replacement on "The Tonight Show" : PAAR
46
"Life is a kind of ___": Benjamin Franklin : CHESS
47
Surprise declaration at the altar : IDONT
48
Painting on dry plaster : SECCO
49
Trail guide user : HIKER
50
Bowser's warning : WOOF
51
___ Romeo : ALFA
52
Group reporting to Eliot Ness : TMEN
56
Question of false modesty : MOI
57
Private eye, in old slang : TEC

Answer summary: 2 unique to this puzzle, 1 debuted here and reused later.

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