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New York Times, Monday, April 10, 2017

Author: Lonnie Burton
Editor: Will Shortz
Lonnie Burton
TotalDebutCollabs
14/10/20170
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0100000
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1.51000

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 78, Blocks: 40 Missing: {QVXZ} This is the debut puzzle for Mr. Burton NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Notepad: In the print version of this puzzle, the clue number 7 in both the grid and clues reads "007" instead. This does not affect solving.
Will Shortz notes: There is an old joke that prisoners make good crossword constructors because they have a lot of time on their hands. In my 23+ ... more
Will Shortz notes:

There is an old joke that prisoners make good crossword constructors because they have a lot of time on their hands.

In my 23+ years at the Times, I haven't found this to be the case. I've rarely gotten submissions from people in prison, and Lonnie Burton is the first one I've ever accepted a puzzle from.

Lonnie's theme of 007 actors is straightforward and unremarkable. I'm sure it's been done before. What tickled me about this version was the grid number "007," as well as the elegance of crossing the answer there with one of the theme entries. That's brilliant.

I asked Lonnie to tell me about himself and how he makes crosswords — which can't be easy to do in prison. A condensed version of his response appears below.

I'm a strong believer in redemption and the capacity of people to change. No matter what Lonnie has done in the past, which landed him in prison, I admire him for what he's doing now.

Lonnie Burton notes: This is my first-ever puzzle in The New York Times. I am so excited and honored. You see, I am a 51-year-old man without a ... more
Lonnie Burton notes:

This is my first-ever puzzle in The New York Times. I am so excited and honored. You see, I am a 51-year-old man without a computer, who has submitted at least 75 other puzzles to Will since 2008. Frankly, I lost count! I make all my crosswords by hand, then send them by snail mail to my good friend and partner, Nadine Anderton, who serves as my sounding board, personal editor, and conduit to crossword editors.

I am in prison in Washington State, and have been for 26 years. I did some pretty bad things in my youth, but now am dedicated to changing my life, seeking redemption and forgiveness, and making amends for my actions. In addition to making crosswords, I am a contributing writer for Prison Legal News, a national publication focusing on issues relating to the criminal justice system.

I came up with the idea for this 007 puzzle while talking to another prisoner who was interested in how I made crosswords. I was showing him how to number (by hand, of course) another puzzle when I screwed up on 7-Down. It ended up a mess and looked a bit like "007," which we thought was funny. So the idea was sparked. I took out my crossword dictionary and found that the James Bond role had been played by more people than I had thought. Everything worked fine symmetrically, except for the 10-letter ROGER MOORE. My solution, as you see, was to break that up in the middle. Thank God he has two five-letter names! In honor of how I got the idea, I decided 7-Down should be 007-Down, and the "Bond" entry there would be what ties the puzzle together.

I've long been fascinated by crosswords. In 2008 I saw the documentary "Wordplay" on PBS. In it Merl Reagle showed how to make a puzzle from scratch. I paid close attention. When the show was over, I set out to make my first crossword, sure I would sell it for thousands of dollars! It took me several weeks and a lot of trips to the prison library to have the staff librarian look up words I needed to complete the puzzle. It sucked, and it still sits in my crossword folder.

For filling grids, The Million Word Crossword Answer Book, by Stanley Newman and Daniel Stark, has been my mainstay. It's what I use to make all my puzzles. I used to draw my grids by hand, but later took a class where the teacher was cool and made me some blank grids on her computer. Since then I keep making copies of that. When I get an idea for a puzzle, I use a crossword dictionary to help me come up with and verify theme entries. I then sit down with a pencil, pen, eraser, and my Crossword Answer Book, and start my grid. I am told that most crossword builders use computers these days to make their puzzles. I can't even imagine that.

Once the grid is made and it complies with all the rules, I do what is the most fun part for me — the fill. I'm to the point now where I can fill a 15x in 60-90 minutes on a good day, and 3-4 hours if I really box myself in. My biggest issues are obscurities and the fact that the Crossword Answer Book only goes to seven-letter words. After that it's just my "imagination."

For clueing I use an unabridged dictionary, a crossword dictionary, a Scrabble dictionary, and the back of the Crossword Answer Book. For anything I still can't clue I turn to Nadine, who has access to the Cruciverb database. Then I take out my manual typewriter, type up the clues, take a Sharpie and make the black squares on the grid, type in the numbers, and finally neatly write in the words with two sharpened pencils. I pop it in the mail to Nadine with instructions on where I want to submit it. She enters it into Crossword Compiler, fixes my mistakes, and makes suggestions for improvements. Once we agree, she sends if off and we cross our fingers.

I love making crosswords, but I thought I'd never reach the top of the mountain by joining the New York Times club. My life hasn't been easy, and I've done many things that have hurt others, but that is in my past. I don't know what the future holds, but I am determined to be a good and productive member of society. The modest income I receive from selling puzzles will someday help me successfully reintegrate back into society.

Jeff Chen notes: My dad and I are both huge BOND fans, so it was fun to see the major actors who played the role. It was odd that GEORGE LAZENBY was ... more
Jeff Chen notes:

My dad and I are both huge BOND fans, so it was fun to see the major actors who played the role. It was odd that GEORGE LAZENBY was excluded from the set, but realistically, he was a goofy BOND, best forgotten.

I don't often like revealers coming at the top of the puzzle — pretty obvious what was going on when I uncovered BOND and SEAN CONNERY right off the bat — but what a great idea to position BOND at 7-Down … or is that 007-Down! Very cool touch.

I think Mondays ought to be uber-friendly for novices, and generally, this grid does that. Lonnie does well, considering the theme density. He deploys black squares well to separate SEAN CONNERY and TIMOTHY DALTON, never leaving big white spaces that have to flow through those two themers.

In this type of layout, the west and east sections are typically the roughest: the TIM of TIMOTHY and ROG of ROGER must work together, and that usually causes problems. But a beautiful result in the west — I don't mind ITO at all since there are at least two famous ITOs. There is a bit of RIA / EIN in the east; more typical of these side regions.

There's also a tough little IRINA / RAJ crossing in the lower left, but IRINA / RAJ does look a lot more plausible than IRINE / REJ or IRINI / RIJ.

And even a couple of bonuses in the fill. I like PB AND Js, and ARAMAIC is interesting too. I would have liked a pair of long downs somewhere in the puzzle — perhaps removing the black square between I CAN and MEG? — but that would likely have sacrificed smoothness.

It would have been great to get a little extra punch to the theme, like in an earlier Gorski. And how awesome would it be to have the full BOND, JAMES BOND at 007-Down, with actors crossing that central entry! That's probably impossible, but a guy can wish.

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© 2017, The New York TimesNo. 0410 ( 24,625 )
Across Down
1. Pay hike : RAISE
6. "Humble" living quarters : ABODE
11. Inner part of an ear of corn : COB
14. Killer whales : ORCAS
15. Like some processed apples : CORED
16. King topper : ACE
17. *1962-67, 1971 : SEANCONNERY
19. Hawaiian neckwear : LEI
20. Put up, as a picture : HANG
21. The Washington Post, CNN, etc. : MEDIA
22. Think ahead : PLAN
23. Airport screening grp. : TSA
25. Gossiping : DISHING
27. *1987-89 : TIMOTHYDALTON
32. Had breakfast or lunch : ATE
33. Let (up) : EASE
34. Command before giving a dog a bone : SIT
35. With 39-Across, *1973-85 : ROGER
37. Carry with effort : LUG
39. See 35-Across : MOORE
43. Single-stranded molecule : RNA
45. Ill-bred fellows : CADS
47. PlayStation competitor : WII
48. *1995-2002 : PIERCEBROSNAN
51. Leaning left : LIBERAL
53. It's kept in a pen : INK
54. S.&L. offerings : IRAS
55. Finish in the top three, in the Olympics : MEDAL
58. "What's gotten ___ you?" : INTO
62. Prominent shark feature : FIN
63. *2006- : DANIELCRAIG
65. ___ of the line : END
66. Kitchen cutting tool : DICER
67. Likelier to win a baby contest : CUTER
68. British rule in colonial India : RAJ
69. Joe ___ (ordinary sort) : SCHMO
70. Saw logs : SNORE
1. ___ Hashana (Jewish holy day) : ROSH
2. Roughly 3.8 million square miles, for the United States : AREA
3. Words of self-empowerment : ICAN
4. Serenaded : SANGTO
5. Keyboard key : ESC
6. Clearasil target : ACNE
7. What the answers to the starred clues share, in two ways : BOND
8. Frozen potato brand : OREIDA
9. Jumps the track : DERAILS
10. Big name in ice cream : EDY
11. Format of some talk radio shows : CALLIN
12. Most of our planet's surface : OCEAN
13. Human ___ : BEING
18. Largest city in Nebraska : OMAHA
22. Instagram upload : PHOTO
24. Less forgiving : STERNER
26. Henry L. ___, secretary of war during W.W. II : STIMSON
27. La Brea goo : TAR
28. "What was ___ think?" : ITO
29. Actress Ryan of "Sleepless in Seattle" : MEG
30. Designer letters on a handbag : YSL
31. Two, in cards : DEUCE
36. Iroquoians of New York : ERIES
38. Talk incessantly : GAB
40. Have the title to : OWN
41. River inlet : RIA
42. German "one" : EIN
44. Jesus' language : ARAMAIC
46. Tool for a carpenter or dentist : DRILL
48. Popular sandwich, informally : PBANDJ
49. Tighten, as a fist : CLENCH
50. Vail trail : SKIRUN
51. Long-term inmate : LIFER
52. One of Chekhov's "Three Sisters" : IRINA
56. Per ___ (daily) : DIEM
57. Commercial prefix with postale : AERO
59. Alliance that keeps a wary eye on Russia : NATO
60. Wedding cake layer : TIER
61. Shrek, for one : OGRE
63. Cavity filler's deg. : DDS
64. Dosage amts. : CCS

Answer summary: 1 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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