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Mark MacLachlan author page

4 puzzles by Mark MacLachlan
with Constructor comments

TotalDebutLatest
412/22/201611/11/2021
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Mark MacLachlan
Puzzles constructed by Mark MacLachlan by year
Thu 11/11/2021
CAPTCHABITCOIN
AQUEOUSIMEANNO
SUPERGSGUESSSO
HATSHEATSSTUD
CRENDOARL
AINTSTEPSAGEE
BATAANNLASERS
SLAWEATS
GASHOGSTIERRA
ETTASCOPETOAT
THALBOMIT
ALPSLOSERCASA
TELECONTITANIC
ITERATEICERINK
PEDANTSCOMPASS

I'm excited to be back in the Times! The idea for this puzzle came about while I was playing with some different grid shape / symmetry. I started this puzzle in mid-2017 and originally had a different center component, but I finally settled on the NSEW center block to keep 4-fold symmetry and tip off the theme.

The grid was harder to fill than I expected — the overlapping blocks of 7s in each corner was tough, but this was combined with the limited number of possible S_ _ _N and (especially) E_ _ _W words. There were of course many 3 letter groups around the outside that worked with the compass theme, but it took a lot of iterations to get decent fill.

I appreciated the clue revisions made by the editorial team and was glad they kept my original clue for 6D.

Tue 10/10/2017
THORREARMNEON
REVEERGOTEXPO
ILESARGONVETS
FIREALARMJESSE
LUSTSTEMPER
EMTSEASALTOAF
APEXSTACURE
KRYPTONENACTED
HOESDOEESSO
ZEDPUBLISHFWD
MISLEDEMCEE
XENONEMULSIONS
MAYOAGENTAUTO
EVENNANNYTROT
NETSASTORATNO

I thought it would be interesting to make a puzzle where the entry numbers corresponded to the atomic numbers of elements. I played around with this concept for a while and realized that I could fit some of the noble gases into a grid in this way. I thought it would be cute if I could get all of the stable noble gases to fit (not radon, which is unstable and has an atomic number too high to fit into a 15x15 grid this way). This turned out to be very challenging, but I found a grid that worked and obeyed the usual symmetry and word count of the NYT. I'm not sure that this grid is unique, but I couldn't come up with any other sensible ones that work.

The grid is pretty restrictive in where I could place the revealer (initially "NOBLEGAS ELEMENT"), but I was able to get it into the grid without too much of a mess. In addition I could put the revealer ATNO in the lower right corner. Filling the grid was a bit challenging because of the asymmetric arrangement of theme words and I couldn't add any cheater squares as that would disrupt where the noble gas elements were placed. I originally had the theme words clued differently, but thanks to Will for the way he decided to present it — it's better than the way that I submitted it.

Hope you enjoy the puzzle!

Sun 9/17/2017 SUPER LOOPER
SEAWARSFEATDALIASH
IMRIGHTAMMOELEGANCE
LOBSTERMIDORBEVEROOM
OTOHSUTRATITATTIRE
SERBUTAUSTINPRIONS
OPSSHELTERTOTEM
PIANOSIELLANOSESA
UNDEROOFBLACKBOARDER
LADTONIERTEETHE
STERMIDEASTSENECA
AIRESCONCERIESMAXED
RESCUEEQUALTOLISA
ALTPOPENMESHLAP
COMPUTERATORSPOILERT
RNAASTRALETHLODES
YAYMETHEPIPSPLO
SPADESNANOTUBESPAM
CLOVESOTSSATYRELLA
ROLERSALBATTERMINALS
OPENLATEARIEDILUTES
WESEYESRATSSTEPONE

I'm really excited to get my first Sunday puzzle in the NYT! I started this puzzle late in 2015, with the concept of each word being a roller coaster track that goes from left to right through a loop. I landed on the word "LOOPER" and thought that could be "LOOP-ER" with a consistent looping at "ER". I initially had several different words in the grid (TIME REVERSAL, INTERAMERICAN CUP, MODERN GERMAN, THEATERGOERS, INTERSPERSED...), but had a really tough time filling it. I worked on the puzzle on-and-off for more than a year before submitting it early in 2017.

I really wanted to have MOTHER THERESA in the center position, where CONCERT SERIES ended up, but I couldn't get it to work (there aren't many words with "..HT.." that fit well with the rest). In the end, I liked the 9 theme words I was able to include without too much rough fill.

I was really pleased that Will and Joel allowed some science terms that aren't overly common in crosswords, like PRIONS and NANOTUBE. And I owe them a thanks for the small change they made to my homophone clue for 117D to make it chemistry-themed!

POW Thu 12/22/2016
FREDSLAYREVE
LURENONEGENER
OHASHIRTSLATER
ERTEPEECOLOSS
GLENBRO
MREDPREMARIT
ATEENSOAPREDI
BERTEINSTEINMED
LEGEBETSDOADE
ESELLERSSILT
OATKIDD
UMINUMMIDIIDE
BINOSPURITANIC
IMONYOLINFLOR
DENSDENGCASU

I'm super excited to publish my first NYT crossword puzzle! I can't remember how this idea originated, but it was a year or two ago. I messed around with some different grids and didn't actually think it would be possible to fill the grid with "AL", the symbol for aluminum, down each side. Then, last spring I came across the phrase "ALL THINGS BEING EQUAL" — I put that across the center, built a grid around it, and worked hard to fill the puzzle. I submitted the puzzle in the summer and it was rejected — too many obscure words (e.g. "ALGORES", which I sort of knew was pushing it…) and "SIDING" was not in the grid itself. But, Will liked the theme, so I tried again.

I managed to remove most of the puzzle killers and put "SIDING" into the upper right part of the puzzle (not ideal), but there were still problems. I knew that the main issue was the "Q" in the phrase across the middle, which limited words that could cross it. I found the "Albert Einstein Medal" and thought that had much better letters. So, I started over, put "SIDING" in the lower right section, and was able to fill the rest of the grid quite sensibly. (I tried hard to avoid cheater squares, but couldn't finish it without 6 of them.) I resubmitted the puzzle and, after a few exchanges and refinement with Will, we found a fill that worked.

This puzzle took me a long time to make. What made it tough is that there was only one spot in the lower right for "SIDING" and only one spot for "ALUMINUM", and there aren't a ton of "AL" words — I needed 22 of them + the 19-letter phrase.

Hope you enjoy it!

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