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New York Times, Saturday, July 30, 2016

Author: Lily Silverstein
Editor: Will Shortz
Lily Silverstein
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
27/30/201612/1/20170
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
0000011
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.57000

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 68, Blocks: 36 Missing: {JQVXZ} This is the debut puzzle for Ms. Silverstein. NYT links: Across Lite PDF

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Lily Silverstein notes: I'm delighted to make my crossword debut today! I'm 28 and originally from the Boston area, though I now live in California ... more
Lily Silverstein notes:

I'm delighted to make my crossword debut today! I'm 28 and originally from the Boston area, though I now live in California where I am pursuing a mathematics PhD at the University of California, Davis. Besides math and crossword puzzles, I am passionate about self-supported bicycle touring, i.e. traveling hundreds and thousands of miles on a bike with all my camping gear and other supplies. Apparently stubbornness is the common theme of all my favorite activites.

The first few puzzles I created were acrostics in the style of the biweekly Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon puzzles in the Sunday Times. These were my favorites growing up, and it's possible I've done (or attempted) every single one since they became a feature in 1999. Unfortunately for me, but fortunately for the world, Cox and Rathvon have a monopoly on producing these for the Times.

To help me construct these acrostics, I wrote a simple computer program to keep track of which letters from the quote I had used, and to number them in the answers below. This piqued my interest in using computers as a tool for crossword constructing in general. After a few efforts at making crosswords by hand, I started writing programs to scrape text from the Internet to create word lists, and to help me search for words and phrases that fit with a partially filled grid.

I soon discovered that most constructors use commercial software such as Crossword Compiler and Cruciverbalist to make puzzles, but I've steered clear of these for three reasons: first, I enjoy messing around with computers; second, I have a graduate student's income; and third and most importantly, I'm a huge believer in the Free Software and Open Source Software movements. (I would guess I'm the only constructor to typeset my crossword submissions using LaTeX!) In some respects I am probably making things harder for myself by not using the commercial software, but I think it also creates an opportunity to come up with something novel.

My first two submissions to the Times were rejected. One of the issues with those puzzles was that they had too many short words--there were isolated corners and "boxes" of short words on the sides, with only a few long words running in between. So for this puzzle I set out to make as open a layout as I could. I started with the three long acrosses and the center down entry, and then looked for a long down to run into each corner. At this point the letter combinations pretty much forced the placement of the rest of the black squares.

Will and Joel enormously improved this puzzle by rewriting a substantial portion of the clues. In the eight or nine months since I submitted this puzzle, I've gotten a little better at coming up with good clues, but I still find it very difficult and time-consuming. I actually have six completed grids right now that I'm totally happy with, but which are still missing clues.

Jeff Chen notes: Debut! Neat to see a newbie constructor pooh-pooh the usual 'four sets of triple-stacked 8s or 9s, one in each corner' pattern and ... more
Jeff Chen notes:

Debut! Neat to see a newbie constructor pooh-pooh the usual "four sets of triple-stacked 8s or 9s, one in each corner" pattern and use a difficult "stairstack" arrangement. I wasn't familiar with A HUNGER ARTIST — not nearly as famous as "Metamorphosis" — but it's definitely legit. CHANCE MEETING and PLATELET COUNT complete the stairstack well.

The stairstack is nicely held together without a lot of crossword glue, LET US the only one that sticks out to me. Great to see RIGHT ANGLE, PAPER THIN, AEROSOL CAN, and DEFEATIST running through it, too! Great bonuses.

I often worry about puzzles featuring 7-letter answers, since those are tough to convert to great material. Stuff like ASPIRES is often much easier to work in than snazzy material like BIT PART. So I really enjoyed seeing TINA FEY, MOCKERY, AM RADIO. Good use of those mid-length slots.

Sectioning off the top left and bottom right is not ideal. I got stuck in the bottom right mini-puzzle, a tiny chunk that felt like a sub-puzzle disconnected from the rest. Didn't help that LAMOUR and ALBA were clued so they were in two of my areas of weak knowledge — that's Dorothy LAMOUR of the "Road to …" movies and Goya's "Duchess of ALBA." If only either Louis L'AMOUR or Jessica ALBA had been used (sad what that says about me ...).

Love the tricky ALAS clue, [Start of a Hamlet monologue]. I imagine I wasn't the only one to fill in TO BE.

A couple of little dabs of crossword glue in ITAL, ENG, but they were so minor. All in all, quite a bit of good material with not a lot of subpar fill. Looking forward to more from Lily!

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© 2016, The New York TimesNo. 0730 ( 24,371 )
Across Down
1. Ridiculous imitation : MOCKERY
8. Basis of a patent : NEWIDEA
15. Traffic report source, often : AMRADIO
16. Something John Adams and John Quincy Adams each had : ONETERM
17. Change, as allegiances : REALIGN
18. "Mean Girls" screenwriter : TINAFEY
19. Close to, colloquially : INWITH
20. Sell : PEDDLE
21. Means of communication since 1817, in brief : ASL
22. Some receptions : TEAS
24. Wonder : AWE
27. Surgeon's tool : CLAMP
29. Charles who created murals for Harlem Hospital and the American Museum of Natural History : ALSTON
32. Start of many a romantic comedy : CHANCEMEETING
34. 1922 Kafka short story : AHUNGERARTIST
35. Hematologist's measure : PLATELETCOUNT
36. Pioneer in New Journalism in the 1960s-'70s : TALESE
37. Author who shares his name with a German state : HESSE
38. Fire away : ASK
39. Pet name meaning "faithful" : FIDO
40. Michael Moore offering, for short : DOC
43. Sea ___ : URCHIN
47. Part of a hit 1940s-'50s film trio : LAMOUR
50. Has dreams : ASPIRES
52. Completely surpass : ECLIPSE
53. It doesn't have much to say : BITPART
54. Armful for Moses : TABLETS
55. Slide presentations? : AMOEBAS
56. Hedge fund employee : ANALYST
1. Santa ___ : MARIA
2. They might be ill : OMENS
3. Feature of CNN or Fox News : CRAWL
4. Hindu goddess often portrayed with her husband Shiva : KALI
5. Work on a lead, maybe : EDIT
6. Part of a square : RIGHTANGLE
7. That there : YON
8. F and G, but not H : NOTES
9. Wife in Jonathan Franzen's "The Corrections" : ENID
10. Meander : WEND
11. It adds stress: Abbr. : ITAL
12. "Glass half empty" sort : DEFEATIST
13. Emily Dickinson's "Ended, ___ it begun" : ERE
14. Writer Sedaris : AMY
20. Like motel walls, it often seems : PAPERTHIN
23. Host : EMCEE
25. Refuses to : WONT
26. Grade sch. class : ENG
27. Ladder's counterpart : CHUTE
28. Track things : LANES
29. Sprayer : AEROSOLCAN
30. "___ pray" : LETUS
31. Author of the "Mostly Ghostly" book series : STINE
32. Attribute as the cause of : CHALKUPTO
33. Sprayed, in a way : MACED
34. Start of a Hamlet monologue : ALAS
35. Child support, for short? : PTA
39. Sparring partners? : FISTS
40. Dull-witted : DOPEY
41. Boots : OUSTS
42. Peak : CREST
44. Ready : RIPE
45. Zodiac symbol : CRAB
46. One sitting on a celestial throne : HERA
48. Goya's "Duchess of ___" : ALBA
49. Grind down : MILL
50. Legal org. : ABA
51. Kind of card : SIM
52. Itinerary abbr. : ETA

Answer summary: 4 unique to this puzzle, 2 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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