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10 puzzles by George Barany
with constructor comments

TotalDebutLatestCollabs
101/22/200611/11/201710
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
2010322
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.55120
George Barany
Sat 11/11/2017
SPEARSCHAIQBS
HORRORFLICKURI
TIREBALANCEEOS
ERASEUPTOSEA
TONRMNUGANDA
LTDTAKEANUMBER
SSRNOTABENE
VETERANSDAY
INAPANICFAS
PESTCONTROLAWS
STEAKSARCSET
ILLTWITAMICO
UZIDRAFTANIMAL
FENPUSSYGALORE
ONEIMHOELEVEN

Today's puzzle has been in the making for over seven years, with several periods of intense activity punctuated by long hiatuses. Two complementary narratives account for this. The simpler one is that we--both being naturalized U.S. citizens--sought to pay tribute to our brave men and women in uniform on the annual federal holiday that honors their service and sacrifice, and to have this published on the 99th anniversary of the armistice signed at 11 a.m. on 11/11 (of the previous century) to end the hostilities of World War l.

More complicated, we initially targeted the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity afforded by 11/11/11 (a Friday) to try to work VETERANS DAY (11 letters), and perhaps THANK YOU FOR and YOUR SERVICE (both 11 letters), and then ELEVEN as a reveal, all into the same grid. However, Friday offerings tend to be themeless with wide-open relatively low-word-count grids, so our goal morphed into developing a puzzle with interlocking and/or stacked entries all of the same length [specifically 11, since good luck jam-packing a grid with twelve 12s a year, month, and day later, on 12/12/12].

In all, we examined at least a dozen grid skeletons comprising several hundred fills, with substantial tweaking of those that appeared most promising--all this via e-mail. We finally met in person in Baltimore to close this out, including clue writing, but we were too late and the Times ran Alex Vratsanos' puzzle with a different concept.

Deflated, we took a long hiatus until the approach of 2016, the next year that 11/11 would again fall on a Friday. Long story short, we again waited too long, and our submission was judged--by the increasingly rigorous standards in play these days--to have too many compromises in the fill. With 11/11/17 (a Saturday) looming just about a year away as a possibly final opportunity to implement the concept, we tried to keep some momentum and continued to experiment with grid designs and fill options--culminating with something reasonably close to the grid you see today.

The project was again set aside (with confidence, never actually put to the test, that fresh looks might produce even further variations) while other commitments took priority, but fortunately, we were able to reconvene just in time to complete everything for the present calendar year (2017).

Tue 3/21/2017
ETCHTSARBASIN
AIRSINREEVITA
STATUEOFLIBERTY
ELMPROMON
DESKTOPCOMPUTER
IUDHUEERGO
STARRSITARORA
CABINETMINISTER
AMASCENEVESTS
BICSZEESIE
SLIPPERYWHENWET
HUMHAREPA
PUREMATHEMATICS
USURPWIREBLOT
GENESOPEDALTE

GEORGE: John started working on this puzzle in April 2015 but got sidetracked by the earthquake in Nepal later that month. In early summer, he sent me a prototype to ask for help. I was sure that all five tastes could be incorporated into 15-letter theme answers and made a new grid. We worked through eight or nine versions of that and sent the puzzle to a few people to test solve in late summer 2015. With their feedback we reworked the grid again and iterated fill changes through another half-dozen versions to what you see today. Submitted September 2015 and accepted in December of that year.

We were pleased to find a sweet spot for the revealer, TASTE, crossing two theme answers. It's nice to see that our clues for SCENE and OUTIE are in the final version, and we especially enjoyed Will and Joel's clue for PURE MATHEMATICS. Ours was {Goldbach's conjecture, e.g.}.

JOHN: In October of 2014 I made a puzzle and asked on a crossword discussion blog for testers. I got a gratifying number of very helpful comments, including a long email from George packed with suggestions and information and including a link to xwordinfo.com. (Jeff: my subscription is George's fault: when I saw my own puzzle in the "Analyze view" I was hooked.) George has been my mentor since then, and I owe the opportunity to appear in the Times today to him and his group of crossword friends.

Fri 12/16/2016
CONDESPOILHEX
ADAIRMARMALADE
SERVICEPROVIDER
COCACOLANISAN
ONSPTLETH
HEAMOBAFT
HOTELCALIFORNIA
ARRIVESONTHEDOT
LAIDITONTHELINE
TRAININGSEMINAR
SELBCEPEC
JAIINARIA
GUTSYTOSSPOTS
HADTHELASTLAUGH
EGGNOODLEARGUE
WEEPHLOXPREYS

GEORGE: This is our third collaborative quad stack crossword published in the New York Times [two others have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, and others may be found here]. Our goal has been to transcend the notion that these are "stunt" puzzles, and satisfy the same criteria of liveliness and smoothness that characterize the increasingly exacting standards of late-week themeless puzzles.

Today's puzzle, created over a 3-month period in late 2014/early 2015, features six 15-letter horizontal entries, four of which are Shortz-era debuts. Our seed (and your ear-worm) was the Eagles classic HOTEL CALIFORNIA (co-written by the late great Glenn Frey, and clued in an evocative way). Interestingly, LAID_IT_ON_THE_LINE was introduced by Sophie Fierman during the Maleska era (1977), remained unused for nearly four decades, but now shows up for the fourth time this calendar year (Saturdays by Flinn and Guizzo, and a Friday by one of us). What are the odds of that?

The key find for this puzzle was the 11-letter "Rent" showstopper, LA VIE BOHEME, moderately inferable due to the relationship between the star-crossed Larson musical and the legendary Puccini opera, cutting through the central quad. Overall, we are quite pleased with how the puzzle turned out and hope it gives you a few "aha" moments and evokes some interesting memories.

Sun 9/11/2016SACK TIME
BARBERELKTESSHELM
ISEEITBOASHEEPONER
COVERSTORYPILLOWTALK
ENUREELEANORMRIMAI
PEEPBLANKETSTATEMENT
UFOASTOISOLDE
SPELEOLOGYTUNER
LAXLYSLEEPOVERLAPIS
ARPADDTOTHEMIXSARI
MEOWEDSAWLOGSRUSSET
BRIDEALETA
CATSUPMONSTERYESIDO
ICEETWOPOINTERSCYD
OKRASDUSTBUNNYYAHOO
CANSTTATEMUSEUM
SCARNEOVALAKA
CAMEDOWNINSHEETSWHAT
APUINEVOTERIDSHAKE
MESSAGEPADANDSOTOBED
PREFAPACETIECALLED
ISSOSYNEHERDREAMY

NW: A while back I told my wife Carla I wanted to do a Sunday about one of my favorite things. She said, "Napping?" and I said, "Close enough." So began a puzzle that I wanted to design as a hybrid — part picture puzzle with positionally relevant theme answers, part wordplay answers about various layers of bedding that were partly stagger-stacked. When I first submitted it, MONSTER was under the bed along with DUST BUNNIES, sevens Z's in the bed and SOUND ASLEEP over it — along with other entries like DRIFT OFF, 'NIGHT ALL, NYTOL, and (White) NOISE. Will liked the concept but there were problems with the fill, and unfortunately the bed image had four black squares touching its four corners and wasn't quite "bed-like" enough. That's when I sent out a call for help.

GB: Along with several other friends, I had test solved earlier iterations of Ned's original highly ambitious concept for this puzzle, and was delighted to see my alma mater STUYVESANT going down to the right of the bed. Imagine my surprise when Ned came back to me, asking for help revising the puzzle; you would be surprised too if you were in the middle of a NAP like I was. Long story made exceedingly short, we dialed back on the ambition, changed several of the theme entries and their locations, and started from scratch on the grid — all told, we probably went through two dozen significant variations before coming up with something that the two of us, along with Will and his team, were all satisfied with. Lights out, and back to Ned.

NW: When I first saw Will's clues for the five "bedding" entries, I was sorry to see the loss of the wordplay clues (example: COVER STORY: "How did I get this quilt? Therein lies a tale..."?), but soon realized straight cluing was a much stronger approach, with more "ahas" for solvers, since the theme entries don't shout out — they need to be discovered. Very cool. Thanks to the whole gang — with a special nod to David Steinberg — for their contributions. This was my first collaboration, a great experience, and a team effort all around.

Fri 7/22/2016
JAGSADMPASTOR
AGRAREAADHERE
PIEDINKSTAINED
ALASATIEMETOO
NETELENIASH
BOAGNPOIL
AMASSEDAFORTUNE
HURRICANESEASON
AFRICANELEPHANT
STICKSANDSTONES
HIEHITIED
RPMDRAWLYEP
PAREEEAPOEEGO
LEEKRASNERJARS
AREOLACADORES
NOFEESERYESTE

We are delighted with the publication of our second collaborative quad stack crossword for the New York Times [two others have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, and others may be found at this site, including the just posted "Eight Across." Reviewing our files, we find no less than fifteen separate versions, all generated, modified, and optimized over an intense week-long period in July 2014 that in turn followed a painstaking multi-month process to identify several potential seed quads.

To the best of our knowledge, this is the first published quad stack that contains three grid-spanning vertical entries of length 16 that are symmetrically situated and cross the central quad. To discover GREAT_BARRIER_REEF, MAKING_AN_ENTRANCE, and TEN_THOUSAND_YEARS required much tenacity, intuition, and no small modicum of good luck. Note that the adjective TEN in the third of these 16-letter entries could just as well have been ONE, TWO or SIX, and we did indeed debate their relative merits and completed appropriate alternative grids. We settled on TEN because it was tied to a specific definition [Banzai], whereas the others seemed somewhat more arbitrary ("green-paintish," in constructor parlance).

As for the four 15-letter horizontal entries comprising the quad, AMASSED_A_FORTUNE and HURRICANE_SEASON are also New York Times debuts, whereas AFRICAN_ELEPHANT previously appeared in themeless puzzles by Byron White and Patrick Berry and the only Shortz-era mention of STICKS_AND_STONES was in a Monday (themed) crossword by Peter Gordon.

Intermediate drafts of this puzzle had SANAA (Yemen's capital) in column 7 and OF_ELD (a not entirely desirable partial) in column 9; this intersected the present tense AMASSES_A_FORTUNE. Not satisfied, we changed to past tense (S to D), and then stumbled across DANAIDES, which had been used twice by Farrar and once by Maleska, but not during the Shortz era. Nevertheless, as the link amply demonstrates, we convinced ourselves that this entry derived from Greek mythology would still be an apt late-week puzzle word, and were thrilled to note that SEINFELD could now be placed symmetrically.

Sat 9/27/2014
IBEFOREEFLUKE
DELAWAREJOINED
SEALSKINOUTING
ABBAECIGARETTE
YEOKEEN
REBSTRUMBA
ICALLEMASISEEEM
NATIONALAVERAGE
BREAKERONENINER
INONESSPARETIME
GENSCHSTUN
EASTGPS
TOPTENLISTPLIE
ARABICEARPIECE
WECAREGROANSAT
SNAREESPRESSO

"Can we talk?" original grid

We would love to tell you that JOAN RIVERS was the seed entry for this crossword. However, if you look at our initial (and never submitted) version of this puzzle, the long down entry in the tenth column was originally THE_SHIVERS ("What a haunted house may give you"). Here is how this puzzle evolved:

In June 2014, the two of us started collaborating on some original strategies to create novel quad stacks with fewer obscurities and fresher entries than are common for this genre — a story that will have to be told in another place at another time. The present grid, the sixth that we decided had enough promise to pursue seriously, started to emerge toward the end of July. An immediate concern was that the customary request from a trucker to interrupt an ongoing CB radio conversation is most commonly reported as BREAKER, BREAKER ONE NINER. After some discussion, we decided to try what we thought was a neat rule-breaking trick, putting the first word (BREAKER) at 1-Across, and having the 15-letter BREAKER ONE NINER cross-referenced.

However, once we started cluing this grid, we realized that "Words from a good buddy" worked equally well whether or not the answer grid had one or two BREAKERS. Therefore, we decided to redo the northwest corner and remove a black square that had previously been needed to accommodate BREAKER, and as long as we were at this, continue to try to improve other portions of the puzzle. Thus, we also removed a second symmetrically placed black square in the southeast corner and tried to remedy the inadvertent inclusion of two phrases both starting with STAGE.

In the midst of the aforementioned rework, we noticed that JOAN RIVERS could fit in nicely — this was weeks before she checked into a Manhattan clinic for a minor medical procedure, and wound up having her final life battle headlining the tabloid and mainstream media in print and on on the air. Thus, our inclusion of the late comedienne in our puzzle is a complete coincidence. Nevertheless, the day after she died, which was a little over two weeks after we submitted the puzzle, we heard back from Will Shortz, who mentioned that due to 15-Down he might run the puzzle soon. The terrific and unusual eight-line clue for 15-Down, along with many other fine, fair clues, were written by Will. In all, well over half of the clues in the puzzle are Will's, invariably for the better. We do hope that solvers, regardless of any earlier notions about quad stacks, enjoy working through this puzzle.

Thu 12/19/2013
CATROMANCEBCD
ARREXEDOUTALE
PTACOLORTVNEE
TINFOOLAMP
ACCOSTSTRAINER
ILESULTRAMANE
NESSBROERESTD
LIKEWATERANDOIL
AWEATATIMEURI
SHYHOTWBAGTAB
TEAODESIRLTR
PERIODTOLIFE
ALECLAYERONIT
SINEELATEWENT
SEAWRAZEDWSKI

Thousands of University of Minnesota students learning organic chemistry have read George's handout that reveals the four secrets of organic chemistry, the second of which is that "oil and water don't mix." Back in the spring of 2006, we were brainstorming in our usual ways via e-mail, IM chat, and occasional phone calls, and realized that LIKE_OIL_AND_WATER was 15 letters and could span the center of a grid. Recalling that the majority of organic liquids are less dense than water and hence form an upper phase after being shaken with water, it occurred to us to place oil-containing theme entries exclusively above the central entry, and water-containing entries exclusively below.

Early decisions were to have OIL and WATER both be rebuses (for a while we toyed with HHO or even HOH, but those ideas proved unworkable), to use left-right symmetry, and to separate the two phases by a staggered set of solid bold bars rather than full-sized blocks. Mike ran the concept by Will informally, but the project went into hibernation for several years until the summer of 2010. It was then that Mike realized that switching the positions of the words OIL and WATER in the central reveal would also allow a vertical T(oil)ET(water) entry to place rebus elements both above and below the divide.

Mike produced a few candidate grids that we worked together to polish over the next few months, and George saw how the word LAYER could be inserted near the lower bottom and could be clued to provide a final level of reveal. Will was hesitant for a long time, because he had never previously used bars in a Times weekday crossword, and he was also concerned about on-line solving. With hindsight, this delay turned out to be a positive, because so many other brilliant constructions that "push the envelope" have been published between the time our original ideas were formulated and the present day. For the two of us, this was a fun collaboration that played into our respective strengths, and we hope that solvers will like it too.

Thu 11/1/2012
BLAKSOXSANDAL
EAREASELREUSE
ELETRONIGAMES
PLATOLADDER
SYRINGEINSITU
DEMFONTDES
THEIEMANOMETH
RENENAVELAARE
EXTRAURRIULAR
VEEMALEASP
ISRAELARTISAN
RRATEDANODE
JESSIAFLETHER
AARONPOISEIED
BLINDARBONOPY
Thu 4/27/2006
LIANASTATBATH
AZTECSOLOEROO
SEVEREGROGPAINS
DOWTREATMENT
CHASSEASSES
HYPTRASHES
ADLAITOADLVII
DRAGCONCLUSIONS
SANEPOKETUGAT
LASORDAELO
AMANAOTELLO
GONEWITHTHED
NOWINSITUATIONS
ELALEMMEANTON
WARSEELSXACTO
Sun 1/22/2006THE SOUND OF MUSIC
WAIFSETTOCRABLENT
ALTIAFOULSHULACLAY
IDENTIFIEDITASAGSHARP
TORNADOSTRIPESLANCE
THROOAFROI
WROTEITDOWNFROMMEMORY
EUROSDANINONTAO
ESTDFISTSANERSATYR
USEOFTWOHANDSANDANOSE
NEGIRONYODELENT
STANDONLECIDHASIDIM
AGOMASONRAREONO
WHILEPLAYINGBILLIARDS
HADATADOREABLYREOS
OILUSAFSLOSAMOA
AREQUIEMFORHISPETBIRD
UTEMAIELAL
CLEANMOANINGAREARUG
BYTHEROLLINGOFTWODICE
EROOEDGESLOTTAZEST
RANGPEASESSEXENDS