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New York Times, Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Author: John Lithgow and Brendan Emmett Quigley
Editor: Will Shortz
John Lithgow
TotalDebutCollabs
110/18/20171
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
0001000
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.63000
Brendan Emmett Quigley
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
1768/7/199611/3/201716
SunMonTueWedThuFriSatVariety
344152017462614
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.635213

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. 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 ... more
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 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 ... more
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 — 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!

JimH 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 Down
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
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: 3 unique to this puzzle.

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