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New York Times, Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Author: Bruce Haight
Editor: Will Shortz
Bruce Haight
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This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 78, Blocks: 34 Missing: {BCDFJKLMNOPQUVWXYZ} This is puzzle # 11 for Mr. Haight. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Will Shortz notes: As I wrote for yesterday's Beatles-themed puzzle, the stacking of 15-letter entries at the top and bottom adversely affected some ... more
Will Shortz notes:

As I wrote for yesterday's Beatles-themed puzzle, the stacking of 15-letter entries at the top and bottom adversely affected some of the fill. Not too badly, but still. It definitely had some non-Mondayish and subpar answers.

Today's puzzle has a different issue with the fill. The "stunt" of constructing the grid using only eight different letters of the alphabet resulted in a blander, more crosswordy grid than usual. Nothing truly awful, I think, but you've probably seen most of today's entries dozens (hundreds? thousands?) of times.

On the plus side, every answer here of eight or more letters is good to great. Bruce chose these with care. The puzzle's girders are genuinely strong, which is important even for a stunt. Having the simultaneously thematic and explanatory EIGHT smack-dab in the middle of the grid is a nice bonus.

Then, above everything else, there's Bruce's feat of producing a pretty-clean grid using only eight different letters of the alphabet.

Wow. I doff my hat.

Bruce Haight notes: When I first started constructing three years ago I was immediately drawn to 'stunt' puzzles — one vowel only, no E's, no ... more
Bruce Haight notes:

When I first started constructing three years ago I was immediately drawn to "stunt" puzzles — one vowel only, no E's, no three or four letter words, twelve Hawaiian letters only (my son goes to UH), quadruple pangram, etc. I did develop some tricks to make it easier, but overall the puzzles tend to have compromises, making them hard to get published.

When Ray Young beat me to the punch and came up with a quadruple pangram in a 78 word 15x15 grid on 3/20/13, I abandoned that project and decided to try the other end of the spectrum. I saw that Peter Gordon and David Kahn held the record for fewest letters at ten — I doubt they even knew or cared about it. I submitted a nine letter puzzle with four long entries starting with Q but Will gave it a "nein". Will also did not like my first eight letter puzzle but he thought this second one had reasonably clean and interesting fill considering the constraints.

If you're thinking of trying to see "how low can you go" the good news is that it is definitely possible to make puzzles with fewer letters — I think five letters is doable. The bad news is that each dropped letter causes an exponential drop in available words, making the resulting puzzle rather monotonous. Will likes innovation, but he definitely does not like boring.

Hope you enjoyed these eight letters — there are a few groaners, but you have to love EASTER EGGS!

Jeff Chen notes: Jim and I had another interesting discussion, comparing this puzzle's level of innovation to that of yesterday's. I like stunt ... more
Jeff Chen notes:

Jim and I had another interesting discussion, comparing this puzzle's level of innovation to that of yesterday's. I like stunt puzzles once in a while, and I especially like them when they break completely new ground, or at least push puzzledom in a way that I hadn't quite imagined.

Obligatory ridiculously cute pic of a rat terrier puppy

Super, super tough to only work with EIGHT letters within a single grid. It's fairly easy to set up, requiring just a simple program to eliminate words from one's list containing the letters to be excluded. What's much more difficult is how to set up one's grid skeleton in order to take advantage of long entries that are still allowable. Bruce did a great job of featuring these marquee answers — STARTER SET, EASTER EGGS, RAT TERRIER, THAT'S GREAT are all snappy.

It's so difficult to avoid gluey bits with this sort of stunt. All puzzles contain some sort of trade-offs, and this one is on the far extreme, a crazy-hard constraint requiring a large number of crunchier entries. I'm sure there will be a lot of debate as to whether it was worth it.

Having a more impactful revealer would have been really nice. Something akin to ONLY YOU for a puzzle with only Us as vowels (never mind the O in ONLY. Ahem.) ties a stunt puzzle together nicely. Perhaps if FOUR were the revealer, and the puzzle used only the letters F, O, U, R? EIGHT by itself felt a bit arbitrary, as did the selection of what other three letters were to be used.

Because the idea is more of an improvement than an innovation, it felt like the stunt didn't pack quite the punch of yesterday's puzzle. But I appreciate Bruce's pushing of the envelope.

ADDED NOTE: Astute reader Andy Lin wrote in, saying that people who don't like today's puzzle ought to be called HAIGHTERS. Could have fit as a secondary revealer!

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© 2015, The New York TimesNo. 0414 ( 23,898 )
Across Down
1. Giddy-brained : GAGA
5. Buenos ___ : AIRES
10. Golfer's bagful : TEES
14. ___ 10 and up (info on a game box) : AGES
15. Garbo who said "I want to be alone" : GRETA
16. $15/hour, e.g. : RATE
17. "Way to go!" : THATSGREAT
19. "___ for real?" ("Can you believe that guy?") : ISHE
20. Place for a hammer and stirrup : EAR
21. Hurries, quaintly : HIES
22. Employee of a paranoid king : TASTER
24. Victory, in German : SIEG
25. Nervous giggles : TITTERS
26. Underscore : STRESS
29. One saying "Alas," say : SIGHER
30. Moor : HEATH
31. Rogen and MacFarlane : SETHS
32. Bit of mind reading, briefly? : EEG
35. Introductory drawing class : ARTI
36. Total number of letters of the alphabet used in this puzzle : EIGHT
37. Prefix with cultural : AGRI
38. Tip collector for many an amateur performer : HAT
39. ___ show (part of an old carnival) : RAREE
40. Certain NCOs : SSGTS
41. Tip for remedying mistakes? : ERASER
43. Prepare oneself : GETSET
44. Urban grid makeup : STREETS
46. South American monkey : TITI
47. Mother ___ : TERESA
48. "Blue Moon" lyricist : HART
49. Sounds of satisfaction : AHS
52. Dwarf planet discovered in 2005 : ERIS
53. Group of dishes for a new household, say : STARTERSET
56. Tire swing site : TREE
57. Luck o' the ___ : IRISH
58. Razor brand : ATRA
59. Formal letter opener : SIRS
60. Protection : AEGIS
61. Olympian Louganis : GREG
1. Paid attendance : GATE
2. Old Turkish V.I.P. : AGHA
3. Stuff stored in lockers : GEAR
4. P.E.I. hours : AST
5. Texas A&M team : AGGIES
6. Like some marked-down clothing: Abbr. : IRREG
7. "Cheers" actor Roger : REES
8. Greek H : ETA
9. Didn't go anywhere : SATTIGHT
10. Sad, to Sade : TRISTE
11. Hidden treasures : EASTEREGGS
12. Lead-in to net : ETHER
13. Dealers in futures? : SEERS
18. ___ kebab : SHISH
23. Users of locker rooms: Abbr. : ATHS
24. Org. that listens for alien signals : SETI
25. Portion for the plate : TITHE
26. Exile of 1979 : SHAH
27. Mega- times a million : TERA
28. Popular farm dog : RATTERRIER
29. Rocker Bob : SEGER
31. Fathers : SIRES
33. Art Deco notable : ERTE
34. Crux : GIST
36. Where Korea is : EASTASIA
37. Wine region of Italy : ASTI
39. Actress Charlotte and others : RAES
40. Number of hills in Roma : SETTE
42. ___ Pieces : REESES
43. Saddle straps : GIRTHS
44. Leaves in, in a way : STETS
45. Country singer Clark : TERRI
46. Ankle bones : TARSI
48. Alexander who served three presidents : HAIG
49. Sagan's specialty: Abbr. : ASTR
50. "Present" : HERE
51. ___ beetle : STAG
54. 40-Down minus quattro : TRE
55. Tease, with "on" : RAG

Answer summary: 2 unique to this puzzle, 2 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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