It looks like you're using an Ad Blocker. Please consider supporting our site by purchasing an account.

New York Times, Thursday, September 7, 2017

Author: Alex Eaton-Salners
Editor: Will Shortz
Alex Eaton-Salners
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
32/2/20179/7/20170
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
0001200
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.58100

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 76, Blocks: 37 Missing: {JQXZ} This is puzzle # 3 for Mr. Eaton-Salners. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Alex Eaton-Salners notes: The key to constructing this puzzle was finding workable downs for the left-hand side of the grid. Having the acrosses in ... more
Alex Eaton-Salners notes:

The key to constructing this puzzle was finding workable downs for the left-hand side of the grid. Having the acrosses in alphabetical order requires that those words (ABC, CHILL, and MOSSY) monotonically increase in alphabetosity (uh, that's a thing...trust me).

With those three words chosen, I used manual trial and error to select workable alphabetically correct starts for each of the acrosses (i.e., fixing in place one to three of the starting letters for each word) while also coming up with a grid structure that supported some good fill. Similar to the left-hand side of the grid, deploying contiguous vertical blocks (i.e., the ones next to 8-Down and 60-Down) means that the neighboring letters must be in alphabetical order (i.e., the AB of ABLUSH and all of STY).

The Utah block at the top of the grid enables relative freedom for the NE corner in light of the constraint of having ABC at 1-Down. Without those two cheater squares, the neighboring down word would need to start with ABC, ACC, BBC, or BCC (if no cheater square is used) or BC or CC (with a single cheater square). Instead, I just needed a word that starts with AB (a much easier constraint to fill around). This freedom was especially important because the black square under 7-Down (REC) was fixed in place by its symmetry to the one above 60-Down (STY).

Interestingly, my first iteration of an alphabetical order puzzle had 78 words including three across answers in each row at the top and bottom of the grid, which made construction very difficult. The resulting grid strain also made the fill pretty blah. Going down to 76 words (and more importantly reducing the number of words in the top and bottom rows) made things both easier and better (a rare combination!).

Jeff Chen notes: Ah, that feeling of having given up on an idea years ago, deeming it impossible … only to see another constructor make it ... more
Jeff Chen notes:

Ah, that feeling of having given up on an idea years ago, deeming it impossible … only to see another constructor make it happen. Impressive construction today, Alex putting all the across answers in alphabetical, or ABC, order.

I had been working with a grid containing exactly 26 across answers, one for each letter of the alphabet, but no matter how long I flailed away, it just wasn't happening. I like Alex's approach, which is much less constrained than the one I had been taking, making it actually doable.

I wasn't hot on ABC as a revealer, because 1.) ABC order is not as strong as ALPHABETICAL order and 2.) it came at the beginning of the grid, giving away the game early. In mine, I was planning on using THE ALPHABET SONG, which would come at a better location for a revealer. But like my overall approach, that also proved impossible to execute on.

Impressive that Alex finished the grid with not nearly as much crossword glue as I would have expected from this set of constraints. Yes, there did feel a lot when I solved — ESS, CRTS, HOI, HEE, COL, BBL, and more — but think about how difficult it is to fix so many letters into place, all throughout the grid. It's true that some letters could be shifted, i.e. from C to D or from R to S, while still maintaining alphabetical order. But a single move like that will affect the rest of the puzzle, forcing a cascade of changes.

And to work in some great bonuses! EVILDOER, I ADORE IT, LUCASARTS, BOOYAH! Well done there.

As a constructor, I was wowed — Alex's note about 76 words being easier than 78 words was particularly interesting to me. As a solver though, the effect was less impactful, especially for a Thursday puzzle, where I expect to work harder for a bigger a-ha moment.

1
A
2
R
3
B
4
I
5
T
6
E
7
R
8
A
9
S
10
T
11
E
12
R
13
S
14
B
E
B
R
A
V
E
15
B
O
O
Y
A
H
16
C
A
L
O
R
I
C
17
C
L
A
U
D
I
A
18
C
O
L
19
C
O
U
R
T
I
N
G
20
C
21
R
22
T
S
23
D
24
R
I
E
S
T
25
E
S
S
26
H
O
I
27
H
O
O
T
28
H
O
29
T
30
I
L
L
31
S
E
E
Y
O
32
U
33
I
34
N
35
U
36
P
37
L
E
T
T
E
R
A
38
L
39
I
40
V
E
O
N
E
41
L
O
S
E
42
L
43
U
C
A
S
A
R
T
S
44
M
45
C
46
A
47
M
E
D
O
48
M
I
T
49
M
50
O
51
N
52
O
L
53
D
P
R
O
54
O
S
L
O
55
O
V
E
56
R
B
I
D
S
57
R
58
V
S
59
S
A
M
O
A
N
S
60
S
E
E
K
61
I
62
N
63
G
64
S
T
E
W
I
E
65
T
I
N
A
F
E
Y
66
Y
E
A
R
N
S
67
Y
T
T
R
I
U
M
© 2017, The New York TimesNo. 0907 ( 24,775 )
Across Down
1. One who settles arguments : ARBITER
8. Late bloomers : ASTERS
14. "Stay strong!" : BEBRAVE
15. "Awesome!" : BOOYAH
16. Like some information on food labels : CALORIC
17. Lady Bird Johnson's real given name : CLAUDIA
18. Newspaper unit: Abbr. : COL
19. Plying with wine and roses, say : COURTING
20. Old TV screens, for short : CRTS
23. Like Nevada among all U.S. states : DRIEST
25. Non-P.C. suffix : ESS
26. ___ polloi : HOI
27. Laugh riot : HOOT
28. Heading for the fence? : HOT
30. "Ta-ta for now!" : ILLSEEYOU
33. ___ to one's ears : INUP
37. Scarlet stigma : LETTERA
38. Fish that's being reeled in : LIVEONE
41. Hit the top in Tetris, e.g. : LOSE
42. Maker of Star Wars and Indiana Jones video games : LUCASARTS
44. Longtime record label for Elton John and Mary J. Blige : MCA
47. "Love ___" (Beatles song) : MEDO
48. Sch. on the bank of the Charles River : MIT
49. Kingston dude : MON
52. Veteran : OLDPRO
54. Capital of the Land of the Midnight Sun : OSLO
55. Optimistic bridge calls : OVERBIDS
57. They're parked in parks : RVS
59. People who might greet you by saying "Talofa, afio mai!" ("Hello, welcome!") : SAMOANS
60. Word in many a personal ad : SEEKING
64. Brian's pal on "Family Guy" : STEWIE
65. Former "Weekend Update" co-anchor : TINAFEY
66. Hungers (for) : YEARNS
67. Its atomic number is 39 : YTTRIUM
1. Kind of order ... or a hint to this puzzle's unusual construction : ABC
2. Stephen of "V for Vendetta" : REA
3. OPEC units: Abbr. : BBL
4. Classic Camaros : IROCS
5. Tropical tuber : TARO
6. "Nothing is easier than to denounce the ___; nothing is more difficult than to understand him": Dostoyevsky : EVILDOER
7. Boom box button : REC
8. Visibly embarrassed : ABLUSH
9. Reach, as an altitude : SOARTO
10. Push : TOUT
11. Singer Gormé : EYDIE
12. Comes down : RAINS
13. Retrieves, as balls : SHAGS
17. British runner Sebastian : COE
19. ___ Gaston, first African-American manager to win a World Series : CITO
20. "Just relax!" : CHILL
21. Loggers' contest : ROLEO
22. Isn't on the level : TILTS
24. Queen, for one : ROYAL
27. Bit of a giggle : HEE
29. "___ yellow ribbon ..." : TIEA
31. Modern educational acronym : STEM
32. Something you feel in your gut? : ULCER
34. Things most people follow : NORMS
35. Word before "Yesterday" in a Tony Bennett hit and "Tomorrow" in a Sammy Kaye hit : UNTIL
36. Green sauce : PESTO
39. "That's simply lovely!" : IADOREIT
40. Brandy label letters : VSO
43. Ones calling people out? : UMPS
45. Lead singer of Nirvana : COBAIN
46. Flared dresses : ALINES
49. Old-fashioned : MOSSY
50. Almost circular : OVATE
51. Setting of Hercules' first labor : NEMEA
53. License to drill, for short? : DDS
54. Schindler with a list : OSKAR
56. "Hey there, tiger!" : ROWR
58. Let it all out : VENT
60. Barnyard adjunct : STY
61. "___ Ruled the World" (1996 Nas hit) : IFI
62. Opposite of old, in Oldenburg : NEU
63. It might precede a shower : GYM

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

Found bugs or have suggestions?