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New York Times, Saturday, October 6, 2018

Author:
Lewis Dean Hyatt
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutCollabs
110/6/20180
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0000001
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1.55000
Lewis Dean Hyatt

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 66, Blocks: 29 Missing: {JQWY} This is the debut puzzle for Mr. Hyatt. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Lewis Dean Hyatt notes:
A few years ago I decided to make a Mother's Day puzzle for my mom, a longtime fan of the NYT crossword. Hi Mom! I ended up building ... read more

A few years ago I decided to make a Mother's Day puzzle for my mom, a longtime fan of the NYT crossword. Hi Mom! I ended up building so much stuff — filling algorithm, word lists, etc. — that I decided to see what else I could do with it, and so here we are. It was an amazing process working with Will and Sam, and I couldn't be more grateful to them for the opportunity to appear in this venue.

The first puzzle I submitted was a different 66-word grid, about which the less said, the better. The grid you see here with the arrangement of six 14s is the second one I submitted; this puzzle is my third attempt at it. When I got the response to the second try, and the subject was "Crossword — good news!" my heart jumped — only to sink a minute later when I saw, among the generally encouraging feedback, a request to redo the NE corner to remove OREOTHIN and SWA. I knew the former was impossible, given how much the 8s and the 14s in this grid interact with each other.

I made a hard-fought effort, including going up to 68 words and adding cheater squares in various places, but there was no way to remove that singular cookie. I felt it was a great opportunity that Will had invited me to submit my next revision by email, and I didn't want to waste it, but after a week all I had was a version that was identical except for the one letter changing SWA to SZA. I found that rotating the grid by 90 degrees opened up some new possibilities, and so I made a brand new puzzle to accompany my revision and sweeten the deal. I was curious to know what the editing team thought of that one — I felt that the 14s were stronger and the 8s weaker, but I wasn't sure how it balanced out — but I never found out; they accepted the single letter change and all my dreams came true.

I hope you enjoyed solving this puzzle as much as I did making it!

Jim Horne notes:
I love reading the comments from new constructors. Old pros might become a little jaded, but I'm sure they all remember their own ... read more

I love reading the comments from new constructors. Old pros might become a little jaded, but I'm sure they all remember their own debuts. It's a special thrill to get your first crossword published.

Despite what some insist, IRONICAL isn't wrong; it's just old-fashioned. Modern writers prefer IRONIC, but crosswords aren't limited to what's currently in vogue.

Saturday is Peak-Difficulty Day and, under Will Shortz, that tends to mean hard clues rather than hard words. There are plenty of ways to clue HEARTS AND MINDS, but to make it Saturday hard, we get a reference to a four-decade-old documentary. That sounds unfair, but even if you haven't seen that film recently, and you haven't, it's the kind of phrase that, given enough letters, makes enough sense to guess. This is how Saturday works. KNEECAP is a simple enough word, but you have to go back to your med school days to remember "sesamoid bone." Or more likely, you ran across that somewhere, and it's still stuck in some corner of your brain.

"Woman's name that rhymes with a part of the world" is a tough clue because the various common parts of the world that rhyme with ERICA have different syllable counts, making the rhyme less obvious. Still, it's fair.

I often enjoy phrase answers like LABOR INTENSIVE and SLICED AND DICED. "Now you're talking!" is a perfect clue for THAT'S THE SPIRIT.

Did "Regurgitate, as a baby would" make you throw up in your mouth a little? I'm less squeamish than some solvers; it's hard to offend me, and particularly hard in a game. We do get email, though, from indignant solvers who disapprove of certain clues or answers, and I'm sure NYT receives far more than we do.

I like "What isn't legal for copying" for LTR, and I love "R.E.M. show?" for DREAM.

Jeff Chen notes:
Jim, Jim, Jim. In the 10+ years I've known you, how many times have you used the word IRONICAL? I've heard 'the irony' or 'how ... read more

Jim, Jim, Jim. In the 10+ years I've known you, how many times have you used the word IRONICAL? I've heard "the irony" or "how ironic" (okay, I'm making that up to make a point), but IRONICAL?

Knowing Jim, he'll find a way to slip IRONICAL into the conversation the next time we meet up.

I have a different perspective from Jim on what makes a perfect Saturday themeless. Any puzzle can be made hard by inventing crazy-hard clues like [Largest sesamoid bone …]. This type of hard isn't particularly fun for me – makes it more of a trivia game than a word puzzle.

To me, it's much more interesting when a grid is inherently Saturday-hard. Look at those big spaces like the NE / SW — so few toeholds to help you break in! Okay, SAHL in the NE might be a gimme, seeing that SAHL is in the crossword all the time. But so many long entries in that region! How could you possibly even start? That's the type of hard I like in my Saturday puzzle.

Not many constructors dip into 66-word territory, prime material for Saturdays. And to do it using 14-letter entries – they're so tricky to construct around, because they force black square placements immediately – makes it doubly difficult. I love that Lewis went there in his debut. Using SIX 14-letter entries is unheard of!

And strong execution, too. I had a rough time believing SZA was the correct answer, but thankfully, there weren't any other trouble spots for me. More importantly, I was so glad that Lewis managed to turn so many of his long slots into assets – BAR SCENE, FIRE HOSE, OREO THIN (sorry Will, that one seems nice to me!). In a puzzle dominated by a bunch of near grid-spanners, it's so tough to work in anything else worthwhile.

Bravo, Lewis. Debuting like this is audacious, to say the least.

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© 2018, The New York TimesNo. 1006 ( 25,169 )
Across
1. Took out : OFFED
6. First-ever comedian to appear on the cover of Time (1960) : SAHL
10. Singer with the 2017 #1 R&B album "Ctrl" : SZA
13. Data storage sites : DRIVES
15. Cookie for the calorie-conscious : OREOTHIN
17. ___ number : SERIAL
18. Like some pans : SCATHING
19. Me-first attitude : SELFIMPORTANCE
21. Surprised salutation : OHHI
22. Org. in 2007's "Charlie Wilson's War" : CIA
23. Make rent : TATTER
24. "Time for me to shine" : IMON
25. Hungarian-born mathematician Paul : ERDOS
27. Does some yard work : SODS
28. Embedded : NESTED
30. Verb repeated throughout Exodus 20 : SHALT
32. Largest sesamoid bone in the body : KNEECAP
34. Moving : ONTHEGO
38. What finger wags indicate : NONOS
40. University near Penn : DREXEL
41. Grinding away : ATIT
44. R.E.M. show? : DREAM
46. Slew : SCAD
47. Word on a red stamp, perhaps : DENIED
49. Muscle used in dip exercises, informally : TRI
50. Standards : PARS
51. Requiring a lot of work : LABORINTENSIVE
54. Prone to sarcasm : IRONICAL
55. Mahi-mahi, by another name : DORADO
57. Alternative to online dating : BARSCENE
58. Regurgitate, as a baby would : SPITUP
59. Penn, e.g.: Abbr. : STN
60. Troubles : ADOS
61. 1), 2), 3), etc. : STEPS
Down
1. Some tragic ends, for short : ODS
2. First-termers : FRESHMEN
3. It may be under pressure during an emergency : FIREHOSE
4. Bad designs : EVILINTENTIONS
5. Unmindful : DEAF
6. Brillo alternatives : SOSPADS
7. Counterpart of pizzicato, in music : ARCO
8. Oscar-winning 1974 documentary about the Vietnam War : HEARTSANDMINDS
9. Buncha : LOTTA
10. Eastern religion : SHINTO
11. Galvanized, chemically : ZINCED
12. Brings to a boil : ANGERS
14. Broke down for careful analysis : SLICEDANDDICED
16. "Now you're talking!" : THATSTHESPIRIT
20. It made a big splash in 2001 : MIR
21. [Snort] : OINK
26. "Well, whaddya know!" : OHO
29. Lead-in to tourism or terrorism : ECO
31. What isn't legal for copying: Abbr. : LTR
33. "___ qué?" : POR
35. Remove from the ground : EXCAVATE
36. Equipped : GEAREDUP
37. Assembly line pioneer : OLDS
39. Goes with Mr. All Right? : SETTLES
41. They're not in the script : ADLIBS
42. Claw : TEARAT
43. Congenital : INBORN
45. Lionel Richie's "You ___" : ARE
48. Woman's name that rhymes with a part of the world : ERICA
52. Inverse of giga- : NANO
53. Minor concessions : SOPS
56. Special ___ : OPS

Answer summary: 9 unique to this puzzle, 1 debuted here and reused later, 2 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

Found bugs or have suggestions?