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Puzzle of the Week

New York Times, Thursday, November 17, 2016

Author: Timothy Polin and Joe Krozel
Editor: Will Shortz
Timothy Polin
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
4112/11/20118/22/20172
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
63841802
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.624120
Joe Krozel
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
857/7/20069/28/201715
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
4147232521
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.48056

This puzzle:

Rows: 16, Columns: 15 Words: 63, Blocks: 57 Missing: {FJQVXZ} Grid has mirror symmetry There are unchecked squares This is puzzle # 29 for Mr. Polin. This is puzzle # 83 for Mr. Krozel. Jeff Chen's Puzzle of the Week pick NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Notepad: In the print version of this puzzle, the five squares in 50-Across each have a small number in them, as follows: 5 | 29 | 47 | 34 | 43
Constructor notes: JOE: Tim bounced a preliminary idea off of me for a pyramid puzzle, and I responded with suggestions on how he might cut down the ... more
Constructor notes:

JOE: Tim bounced a preliminary idea off of me for a pyramid puzzle, and I responded with suggestions on how he might cut down the black squares and incorporate additional theme. Later, I was delighted when he came back to me and asked to make this a collaboration. I have thoroughly enjoyed the collaborations I've had with Tim ... and all the other constructors I've made puzzles with over the years (Peter, Martin, Victor).

TIM: Thanks very much to Joe for working with me on this.

I'd built a mirror grid with a smaller pyramid/entombed mummy and the four theme answers, but it felt like the puzzle was in this weird area between the theme's not being rich enough and the grid's not being visually distinctive enough. There was too much noise for the pyramid to stand out; too little theme to compensate.

Assistance was required. On went the Bat-Signal.

Joe liked the idea but agreed that the grid needed revamping. He expanded it vertically while adding in the larger pyramid at the bottom and the three others around the sides.

Incidentally, King Tut's tomb was discovered in the Valley of the Kings, not in a pyramid. We weren't sure whether to include him anyway, but decided to after seeing that he could be tucked in under the barrow-like central block formation.

Thank you also to Will and to the enfant terrible of crosswords, David Steinberg, for their help in revising the theme. Specifically: how to link MUMMY with the outside fill. The notepad/numbers idea was all theirs.

Jeff Chen notes: I'm a sucker for visual puzzles, and simply having a MUMMY buried within a pyramid of black squares might have gotten this puzzle the ... more
Jeff Chen notes:

I'm a sucker for visual puzzles, and simply having a MUMMY buried within a pyramid of black squares might have gotten this puzzle the POW! alone. What a brilliant image!

I had the luck to go to Egypt a few years ago before things started getting unsafe, and that made this puzzle even more enjoyable. Descending into those claustrophobic pyramids during 120-degree weather was harrowing, but what a once-in-a-lifetime experience. All those stories about lost tombs and building projects of massive scale … wow. Just, wow.

As if that wasn't enough, Tim and Joe give us some more pyramid graphics in other back square patterns, plus some fun theme material. PYRAMID SCHEME, TOMB RAIDER, PHARAOH ANT are more indirect than TUT, but they gave me enough to feel like the puzzle wasn't just a pretty picture.

And bonus fill to boot, with a themeless-esque open feel! I loved uncovering RARE GAS, MEGAWATTS, LAST GASP, even RASTAMAN (are you singing Bob Marley's RASTAMAN Vibration now too?), and TEA BAGS that come with strings attached.

Not all the fill was great, but that's to be expected with such wide-openness. TWO HEARTS felt partial-ish, and crossing TWICE was inelegant. I doubt many people will like seeing ANIS, but that's the only real glob of crossword glue, and I found it worth the price of LITHUANIA / LAST GASP. Tim and Joe could have cleaned up that region by putting a black square at the T or G of LAST GASP, but I like their decision here.

It also would have been nice to get less random-ish placement of the M U M M Y letters, but I can't think of a better way to do it (maybe have those letters be part of theme answers? or have them regularly spaced somehow?).

I imagine TOMB RAIDERs slipping diagonally into the pyramid from the T of MAD AT or first A of AMANA, just like I crept through chutes into the real pyramids. Totally tickled by this puzzle; a perfect example of the astounding creativity crosswords can exhibit.

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A
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M
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© 2016, The New York TimesNo. 1117 ( 24,481 )
Across Down
1. Mitch who wrote the best seller "The Five People You Meet in Heaven" : ALBOM
6. Careful way to think : TWICE
11. Tree frog with a distinctive call : PEEPER
13. Go after, as a fly : SWATAT
14. Krypton, for one : RAREGAS
16. Extras in many apocalyptic movies : LOOTERS
17. Common scam : PYRAMIDSCHEME
19. Criminals : LAWBREAKERS
20. Company's marketing group : SALESTEAM
21. Nice ideas come from them : TETES
22. Leave in a bad way : STRAP
24. Class for a one-L : TORTS
25. Big name in chain saws : STIHL
27. Harold who directed "Groundhog Day" : RAMIS
28. King of the 18th dynasty : TUT
31. Dawdler : SNAIL
33. Bishop's title in the Coptic Church : ABBA
34. "The only sensual pleasure without vice," per Samuel Johnson : MUSIC
36. Latina title: Abbr. : SRTA
37. Camera variety, briefly : SLR
38. In pen? : CAGEDUP
40. Reactions of wonderment : AHS
41. They come with strings attached : TEABAGS
43. Cry : YELLOUT
45. One of the eggs used in this 1986 film is now exhibited at the Smithsonian : ALIENS
46. "Popeye" villain who sailed the Black Barnacle : SEAHAG
47. Fed up with : MADAT
48. Whirlpool subsidiary : AMANA
49. Comment to a brother or sister : AMEN
50. See Notepad : MUMMY
51. Black birds : ANIS
52. Longtime home of the Tappet Brothers : NPR
53. When repeated, testing of a mic : TAP
1. Passover mo., often : APR
2. Get off the ground? : LEAP
3. Color akin to turquoise : BERYL
4. Work not of the buffa style : OPERASERIA
5. Power plant quantity : MEGAWATTS
6. They beat as one, in a U2 song : TWOHEARTS
7. Hookups for hydrants : WATERMAINS
8. Things : ITEMS
9. Give a rip : CARE
10. French connections : ETS
12. Doesn't stick to the topic : RAMBLES
13. Eyes, shoulders and knees have them : SOCKETS
15. Father figures : SIRES
16. Exams with a max. score of 180 : LSATS
18. Académie ___ Beaux-Arts : DES
21. Video game featuring an archaeologist heroine : TOMBRAIDER
23. Insect with multi-queen colonies : PHARAOHANT
24. Piece of living room décor : TABLELAMP
26. Eurozone member beginning in 2015 : LITHUANIA
27. Dreaded guy? : RASTAMAN
28. Big jerks? : TUGS
29. Walk all over : USE
30. Having everything in its place : TIDY
32. Done in desperation : LASTGASP
34. Hot rod wheels : MAGS
35. Prompts : CUES
38. Jargon : CANT
39. Sentence shortener, at times : PLEA
42. Hit on the head : BEAN
44. High priest? : LAMA

Answer summary: 6 unique to this puzzle, 1 debuted here and reused later, 3 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

Found bugs or have suggestions?