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New York Times, Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Author: Daniel Mauer
Editor: Will Shortz
Daniel Mauer
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19/13/20170
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1.57000

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 76, Blocks: 40 Missing: {FQVX} Spans: 3 This is the debut puzzle for Mr. Mauer NYT links: Across Lite PDF

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Daniel Mauer notes: Hello all! Dan Mauer here. This is my debut crossword puzzle for the New York Times (or any other publication, for that matter). ... more
Daniel Mauer notes:

Hello all! Dan Mauer here. This is my debut crossword puzzle for the New York Times (or any other publication, for that matter).

A little background: Around 2013, my lovely wife (with whom I'd been solving the NYT puzzle for years) had the idea of us each making a small puzzle for the other to solve for fun, and through that I realized I really enjoyed crossword construction. When I learned that any random person could submit a crossword puzzle to The New York Times, I set a goal for myself to construct a "real" puzzle good enough to make the cut. Didn't take long to figure out how difficult that was! But, four years and many submitted-and-rejected attempts later, I am thrilled, honored and freaking out that puzzlers around the world are going to be solving a crossword I created.

As for the actual puzzle: it was LE PETIT DEJEUNER that sparked the idea for the theme — someone had used the term on Twitter and I briefly attempted to crack a joke about how it was THE LITTLE THINGS that really mattered. The joke wasn't funny enough to post, but at some point I realized both of those phrases were 15 letters long, and the puzzle grew from there. EINE KLEINE / NACHTMUSIK came to mind instantly, and UNA POCA DE GRACIA followed shortly thereafter. The fill was another story...

When I sent in the completed puzzle, Will Shortz responded that he liked the theme "a lot", but that the fill needed work. A lot of work, as it turned out. Lots of crosswordese, too many partial phrases, and so on; It took about three months, several revisions, and finally some much-appreciated help from Jeff Chen of XWord Info, who helped me to develop a better eye for fill and suggested some changes to the grid layout and a few of the long vertical crosses for this puzzle (including ORANGINA and EBENEZER which I really like) that made working around all the theme entries less impossible.

Before reading his notes here, I didn't realize how much time he'd dedicated to this effort. Super generous, and in addition to making this a better puzzle our correspondence undoubtedly has made me a better constructor.

Finally I got a yes, and I couldn't be more excited. I hope you enjoyed solving it.

Jeff Chen notes: THE LITTLE THINGS today, three foreign phrases that translate to 'the little lunch,' 'a little grace,' and 'a little serenade.' ... more
Jeff Chen notes:

THE LITTLE THINGS today, three foreign phrases that translate to "the little lunch," "a little grace," and "a little serenade." Interesting to learn that the last one actually doesn't mean "a little night music," as I'd thought every one of the hundreds of times I've played it! (Former cellist.)

Dan got in touch with me about this one at Will's behest. It's a tough set of themers to work with, so it was no surprise that Dan hadn't been able to come up with a grid that met Will's criteria for smoothness and snazziness. I wasn't super hot on the theme, but I gave Dan a couple of tips on how to lay it out better.

After several back and forths, he was still having trouble. Again, no surprise, given the frazzling theme set of 15 / 10 / 15 / 10 / 15. It's a constructor's nightmare.

Normally, I don't build grid skeletons for people without asking for a shared byline, but Dan was so earnest and hard-working, never quitting, that I hated to see him stymied. I offered to help him out, gratis — I like a challenge, anyway.

Took me five or so hours to figure out a grid skeleton that tested out well, with generally solid fill plus a few strong bonuses in the long slots. During the first two hours, I had become worried that perhaps this theme set was intractable, so it was a huge relief when I finally landed on a layout I was nearly certain could be filled well.

Unfortunately, I had put in UNA POCO DE GRACIA, not POCA. Sigh. Such an idiot!

Such a seemingly easy thing to correct proved to be not so easy, so it took me a couple more hours to come up with proper adjustments. Dan took it from there, and after a few more back and forths, it was in the can.

Overall, I think it turned out well. I did worry (slightly) that solvers might mess up the K in KROC or the second E in EBENEZER since they're crossed with tough foreign words, but ultimately, I think educated solvers ought to know those names.

The theme still only tickles me as much as I would like — just a LITTLE, ha ha — but I think Dan did a nice job of finding a solid set of themers for the concept and finishing things out.

JimH notes: Yes, it's The Little Things.
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© 2017, The New York TimesNo. 0913 ( 24,781 )
Across Down
1. Hairdressers' challenges : MOPS
5. On-screen word in a "Batman" episode : POW
8. Brilliance : ECLAT
13. Cynical rejoinder : IBET
14. Shades : HUES
16. Figurine on many a wedding cake : BRIDE
17. *Breakfast, in Burgundy : LEPETITDEJEUNER
20. Davis of "Jungle Fever" : OSSIE
21. Fed : GMAN
22. One throwing shade? : ELM
23. *With 52-Across, 1787 Mozart composition : EINEKLEINE
26. ___ Plaines, Ill. : DES
27. Title for Gandhi : SRI
28. Book after II Chronicles : EZRA
30. Vivacity : BRIO
34. Corrida cheers : OLES
37. Start of a selecting rhyme : EENIE
40. *Repeated lyric in "La Bamba" : UNAPOCADEGRACIA
43. Less feral : TAMER
44. Like cat videos, typically : CUTE
45. Golda of Israel : MEIR
46. Side dish at a barbecue : SLAW
48. Dada pioneer : ARP
50. Affordable Care Act option, briefly : HMO
52. See 23-Across : NACHTMUSIK
58. 21,728-pg. work that is constantly updated : OED
59. Sticker component : GLUE
60. Boating hazard : SHOAL
62. They're what really count, so it's said ... or a hint to the multilingual answers to the starred clues : THELITTLETHINGS
66. Wine may leave one : STAIN
67. Blackthorn fruit : SLOE
68. Org. certifying albums as gold or platinum : RIAA
69. When said three times, blah blah blah : YADDA
70. Massachusetts' Cape ___ : ANN
71. Philosopher Immanuel : KANT
1. Otis's feline pal : MILO
2. Portly plus : OBESE
3. Drink with a Wild Cherry variety : PEPSI
4. "The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas" author : STEIN
5. Golden ratio symbol : PHI
6. Unconscious : OUT
7. It provides more loft than a 9-iron : WEDGE
8. Name in "A Christmas Carol" : EBENEZER
9. French vineyard : CRU
10. The Cha Cha Slide, for one : LINEDANCE
11. "Skyfall" singer, 2012 : ADELE
12. Robert Byrd served nearly nine of these in the Senate : TERMS
15. Prefix with final or formal : SEMI
18. Pro shop purchases : TEES
19. TV's "___ the Virgin" : JANE
24. McDonald's founder Ray : KROC
25. State flower of New Hampshire : LILAC
29. Paper purchase : REAM
30. Good-news-to-bad-news transition : BUT
31. Genetic stuff : RNA
32. "OMG, my parents are gonna ground me forever!" : IAMSODEAD
33. Volkswagen competitor : OPEL
35. End of a freshman's new email address : EDU
36. Assail : SETAT
38. XXX divided by X : III
39. Listen here! : EAR
41. Fizzy citrus beverage : ORANGINA
42. ___ warfare : GERM
47. Poet Whitman : WALT
49. Encourage : PUSH
50. ___-totsy : HOTSY
51. Zubin formerly of the New York Philharmonic : MEHTA
53. Shares of profits : CUTS
54. Very, in slang : HELLA
55. Avoid, as work : SHIRK
56. Ancient region where the style of an architectural column originated : IONIA
57. Justice who joined the bench in 2010 : KAGAN
61. Aspiring D.A.'s exam : LSAT
63. Hat, informally : LID
64. Time it takes for paint to dry, seemingly : EON
65. X : TEN

Answer summary: 4 unique to this puzzle, 1 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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