It looks like you're using an Ad Blocker. Please consider supporting our site by purchasing an account.
This web browser is not supported. Use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge for best results.

New York Times, Friday, October 21, 2016

Author:
Martin Ashwood-Smith
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
866/5/19913/29/201910
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
000246416
ScrabRebusCirclePangramPre‑WS
1.520017
Martin Ashwood-Smith

This puzzle:

Rows: 16, Columns: 15 Words: 69, Blocks: 32 Missing: {JQVZ} Spans: 10, (1 quad stack) This is puzzle # 83 for Mr. Ashwood-Smith. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Martin Ashwood-Smith notes:
This is an unusual grid. As you can see, it has a set of quad-stacked 15s running through the center of the grid, and a pair of ... read more

This is an unusual grid. As you can see, it has a set of quad-stacked 15s running through the center of the grid, and a pair of triple-stacked 15s at the top and the bottom. When I first started constructing this crossword, I did not have this goal in mind. This is because all of my quadstack puzzles have been constructed "backwards." By "backwards" I mean that I start by trying to create a set of four 15-letter words to stack independently of the grid.

But, how are the actual quad-sack sets constructed? The answer is: by any means possible!

Some solvers think it's 100% computer and word list management. However, in reality, using a computer to "brute force" a quad-stack is often doomed to failure. It is possible, but the results are usually very poor, because the computer word list has to be very, very large. And that means: lots of unusual, really poor, rare words. Furthermore it's a good way to fry your hard-drive! (I speak from experience!)

The best approach I've found, is a combination of old-fashioned hand constructing, with varying degrees of computer assistance.

When I think I have what may be a viable stack, usually with at least a couple of nonsensical 4-letter combinations crossing the stacks, I set to work trying to design a possible grid (if I'm lucky) around the stacks. Frequently I do this on my iPhone. Indeed, some of today's puzzle was actually completed in the parking lot of a local late-night donut shop ... and heck, I got free police protection too ;)

Seriously though, as I said, these puzzle are a combination of computer assistance, hand construction and sheer luck. And in the case of this puzzle, it was sheer luck that gave me the possibility of adding the extra stacks.

However, if I had not found two strong 10-letter words (CHILD BIRTH and TORE TO BITS) to join the stacks, Will Shortz would not have accepted this puzzle. Those two long words meant that Will was willing to break his moratorium on this style of grid, mainly because there was greater interconnectivity between the stacked parts of the grid.

Personally, I still think the puzzle (obviously) would be improved by a less segmented grid. But, to the best of my knowledge, this is the first time a 3/4/3 stack pattern has ever been published. So if some solvers think that this is too much of a "stunt" grid: I plead guilty. But I do hope this is still interesting and entertaining to solvers.

Jeff Chen notes:
Not a surprise to get more triple- and quad-stacks from MAS. I really enjoyed the quad. I COULD EAT A HORSE is a fantastic entry, and ... read more

Not a surprise to get more triple- and quad-stacks from MAS. I really enjoyed the quad. I COULD EAT A HORSE is a fantastic entry, and SLEEPLESS NIGHTS is good too. The only one I had a slight hitch on was PURSUE THE MATTER, which felt somewhat arbitrary. There's something too unspecific about it for my taste.

And it's held together with less crossword glue than I'm used to seeing in a quad. ALL UP and IS SET feel like iffy partials ... but perhaps passable. All of the TETE / AAHS / RTES / I AM NOT entries are very minor — I wish they hadn't been so concentrated, which made them feel like they stuck out when in close proximity to A HAIR — but an argument can be made that A HAIR is akin to the commonplace A LOT. As a whole, the quad held up well for me, when compared to other quads in recent memory.

I'm mixed on whether it was worth it to include two triple-stacks in the grid in addition. As much as I liked LAID IT ON THE LINE and TESTED THE WATERS, even this finance junkie got bored with INTEREST RATE CAP. And given the glue necessary to hold the quad-stack together, it was unfortunate to get more of the DET, A WIRE, I LET variety.

I found myself wondering what could have been if MAS had broken up the TESTED THE WATERS slot, and attempted to give us two sizzling grid-spanners without resorting to any crossword glue. But perhaps some people love INTEREST RATE CAP, or just the visual impact of that huge white space in the bottom.

Overall though, I like when constructors try new things. It was surprising to see that MAS hasn't ever done a triple/quad/triple stack puzzle before.

1
M
2
E
3
A
4
S
5
U
6
R
7
I
8
N
9
G
10
S
11
T
12
I
13
C
14
K
15
S
16
I
A
P
P
R
E
C
I
A
T
E
T
H
A
T
17
S
T
R
A
I
T
O
F
M
E
S
S
I
N
A
18
H
O
O
T
S
19
S
T
E
A
L
20
L
E
X
21
A
N
N
22
S
A
Y
23
M
A
24
D
D
25
N
26
A
E
27
O
B
28
I
29
T
30
O
31
T
A
L
I
32
T
33
A
34
R
35
I
36
A
N
I
S
37
M
38
I
C
O
U
L
D
E
A
T
A
H
O
R
S
E
39
P
U
R
S
U
E
T
H
E
M
A
T
T
E
R
40
S
L
E
E
P
L
E
S
S
N
I
G
H
T
S
41
I
T
A
42
O
R
O
43
O
M
44
A
45
N
46
T
47
E
T
48
A
49
S
50
S
51
A
52
P
B
53
W
O
54
M
E
N
55
P
56
I
L
O
T
57
L
A
I
58
D
I
T
O
N
T
59
H
E
L
I
N
E
60
I
N
T
E
R
E
S
T
R
A
T
E
C
A
P
61
T
E
S
T
E
D
T
H
E
W
A
T
E
R
S
© 2016, The New York TimesNo. 1021 ( 24,454 )
Across
1
Ones making the rules? : MEASURINGSTICKS
16
"Thanks" : IAPPRECIATETHAT
17
Passage between Sicily and the toe of Italy : STRAITOFMESSINA
18
Laughfests : HOOTS
19
Take home, perhaps? : STEAL
20
___ scripta (statutes) : LEX
21
Blyth of "Mildred Pierce" : ANN
22
Word before or after "what" : SAY
23
Org. opposed to weaving? : MADD
25
Scottish refusal : NAE
27
Band from the East : OBI
29
"1984" concern : TOTALITARIANISM
38
Pre-buffet declaration : ICOULDEATAHORSE
39
Take legal action, say : PURSUETHEMATTER
40
Sheep-counting times : SLEEPLESSNIGHTS
41
Gendered Spanish suffix : ITA
42
Prize for Pizarro : ORO
43
Gulf War ally : OMAN
46
Occasion for dragon dances : TET
48
Cousin of a zebra : ASS
51
Something that might interrupt a flight, for short : APB
53
"Little ___" : WOMEN
55
Frequent flier : PILOT
57
Didn't mince words : LAIDITONTHELINE
60
It's of no concern to a usurer : INTERESTRATECAP
61
Showed caution, in a way : TESTEDTHEWATERS
Down
1
Perfume named for Baryshnikov : MISHA
2
Shirley of "Goldfinger" : EATON
3
It comes with strings attached : APRON
4
Cross words : SPAT
5
"Mila 18" novelist : URIS
6
Abbr. after many a military name : RET
7
Twenty: Prefix : ICOSA
8
Faboo : NIFTY
9
Go, for one : GAME
10
Whistle blower? : STEAM
11
Model X maker : TESLA
12
"___ complicated" : ITS
13
Labor day highlight : CHILDBIRTH
14
Batman co-creator Bob : KANE
15
Memphis- based record label : STAX
22
Large beer mug : SEIDEL
24
"Stay" : DONOTGO
25
Ad follower? : NAUSEAM
26
Hopeless : ALLUP
28
Doesn't need a thing : ISSET
29
Server's bread and butter : TIPS
30
Round openings in domes : OCULI
31
Shredded : TORETOBITS
32
French thinker? : TETE
33
Sounds during a massage : AAHS
34
Arteries: Abbr. : RTES
35
Definitive disclaimer : IAMNOT
36
Just slightly : AHAIR
37
Seas overseas : MERS
44
"Bird on ___" (Mel Gibson/Goldie Hawn comedy) : AWIRE
45
Picked up on : NOTED
46
Tin anniversary : TENTH
47
___-deux : ENTRE
48
Fictional title character who declares "How puzzling all these changes are!" : ALICE
49
Sub standard? : SONAR
50
Way up : STEPS
51
Hit the ground : ALIT
52
Transparent sheet : PANE
54
More than more : MOST
55
Org. with many banned Super Bowl ads : PETA
56
"Before ___ you go ..." : ILET
58
Clue follower: Abbr. : DET
59
What's left on a farm? : HAW

Answer summary: 4 unique to this puzzle, 1 debuted here and reused later, 2 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

Found bugs or have suggestions?