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3 puzzles by Daniel Mauer
with constructor comments

Daniel Mauer
Mon 11/25/2019

Hello solvers, this is my third published NYT crossword, and my first Monday. You probably won't be shocked to learn that the spark for this one was the realization that SNACK ATTACK and CRACK IS WACK had the same double-rhyme and the same number of letters. Plus, just repeating "ack" a whole bunch of times sounds inherently funny to me, so there was my theme. The original version I submitted was rounded out with BACKING TRACK and RACK AND STACK, and was rejected because it turns out the latter phrase, though fairly common in my line of work, isn't actually something most people have ever heard. However, Shortz et. al. indicated they'd be interested if I could replace that last themer. Couldn't find another 12-letter entry, so it needed a significant rewrite, but it worked out, and here we are.

Since my other published puzzles were a Wednesday and a quite tricky Thursday, I'm excited more people will be able to tackle this one!

A few notes:

  • I learned while constructing this puzzle that Haring's "Crack is Wack" mural visible today at Harlem River Park isn't the original, which was initially painted without city permission, later defaced, and then painted over, after which a new version was promptly commissioned by the NYC Parks Department. Lots more to the backstory, it's worth a look. And coincidentally, the mural has been out of sight since 2015 due to road construction, but was restored over the summer of 2019 and unveiled just a few weeks ago!
  • The editing team changed a few entries, one of which — ONE NO — I would have needed every single cross to fill in (originally I had CREMA there, clued as "feature of a well-pulled espresso"... as for bridge, I know precisely nothing). The section at 40/41-Down was also replaced in editing.
  • 10-Down: shout-out to my lovely wife's home state!
  • Of the clues that hit the cutting-room floor, the only one I miss was for 59-Across: "T. ___ (distant relative of a parakeet)" 🦖🐤
Thu 1/4/2018

Hello solvers! This is my second published puzzle, and I'm pretty excited about it. I had the idea late last year in the context of "pointers" in computer programming: a chunk of memory that doesn't store relevant data itself but instead, points to another location in memory where the data can be found. Seemed an interesting concept to use as a trick in a crossword, so I got to work.

While thinking of words with "digit sounds" in them to cross the location answers, 4WARD popped into my head, which led me to 4WARDING ADDRESS — a perfect metaphor, and it was 15 characters long. Eureka! The 4 and S both fitting into the xxACROSS answers was a nice bonus, and really tied the theme together.

What made this a bear to construct was that only some digits work as sounds in other words, and adding or removing even a single black square could totally change the entries' numbering. Furthermore, the "forwarded" answers had to be reasonably interesting on their own (thanks to Jeff Chen, who took a look at an early version, for pointing out the importance of that last bit). Put that all together, and you have a lot of constraints to deal with.

It took a ton of work to get it into shape, but eventually, it was ready to submit. Will liked the concept, and after a bit more work it was approved. There was one significant editorial change worth mentioning: originally I had actual clues for the "forwarded" answers, marked with an asterisk, e.g. "Granted access*" at 38-Down instead of "Allowed in". The destination locations were clued with just an arrow, and the revealer clue was "Something to leave at the post office... or what the answers to the four starred clues each have". Will felt it would be a little too difficult to make that large a mental leap in solving, so it was changed to what you see now. I'm happy with the result, and proud of the puzzle. Hope you enjoyed it!

Wed 9/13/2017

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.