Construction Material – New York Times


THURSDAY PUZZLE — That reminds me … I need to power-wash my house one of these days.

Oh, right, the puzzle. Looks a bit strange once you’ve started solving, doesn’t it? Some of the entries just don’t make sense. Or do they?

Mark MacLachlan makes his New York Times debut today with a themed puzzle that I just loved. The idea is superb and the execution is tight and innovative. You really can’t ask for more from a midweek puzzle than that.

Today’s Theme

Some days it really pays to think outside the box. And you’ll have to, because Mr. MacLachlan’s theme involves the application of ALUMINUM SIDING to the grid. That’s perfect, because frankly, the weather has been a bit unpredictable here and we need all the protection we can get.

The chemical symbol for ALUMINUM is “AL,” and in today’s puzzle you will have to leave the ALs outside of the grid where they belong. For example, we all know director ALFRED Hitchcock (1A) as Alfred, but we only have four squares, so today he’s FRED. But the AL is not gone; it’s just the first bit of ALUMINUM SIDING that we’re applying to the grid. Similarly, at 9A, the answer is REVEAL, but you only write in REVE, allowing the AL to side the right. You’ll do that for all of the Across entries that run along the left and right sides of the grid, from the top Across entries to the bottom ones.

In addition, the central 34A, ALBERT EINSTEIN MEDAL, has the AL on both sides and the revealer, ALUMINUM SIDING, is split between 45A and 42D.

And once you are finished solving, take heart in the fact that your puzzle is now protected from the elements.

Tricky Clues

The trickiest part, truthfully, is remembering to put the AL outside the grid if you are solving in print, or, if you are solving electronically, to only put the non-AL letters in the puzzle.

■ 4D: “From abroad?” should really be read “The word for ‘from,’ abroad?” In French, DES means “from.”

■ 31D: “Course requirements?” doesn’t refer to school in today’s puzzle. It refers to golf, and you’re not getting anywhere without your TEES.

Constructor’s Notes

I’m very excited to publish my first New York Times crossword puzzle and to join an amazing group of puzzle creators! I’m a chemistry professor at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. I have been making crosswords on and off for about 10 years, when I can find spare time. My favorite puzzles to prepare (and to solve!) have wordplay themes. However, since I restarted this hobby a couple of years ago, I have become especially interested in constructing puzzles with science- and chemistry-based themes that don’t actually require a lot of discipline-specific knowledge. Today’s puzzle is one of those.

This puzzle stretches the chemical symbol for aluminum (Al) in a new way with Al forming the sides of the puzzle (outside of the grid). This puzzle was a bear to complete as 134 of the 183 squares are part of the theme (AL_ words, _AL words, or SIDING), making the sides quite challenging to fill. I initially had “ALL THINGS BEING EQUAL” across the center, but the four consecutive consonants (LLTH) made it tricky to form sensible crosswords with all of the available AL words, and the Q was a nightmare to accommodate … I went through several iterations before ripping everything out and replacing the long phrase with “ALBERT EINSTEIN MEDAL.” Thanks go to Will for helping me to bring this one up to snuff.

I hope you enjoy the puzzle!

Welcome, Mr. MacLachlan. I’m looking forward to seeing more from you.

Your thoughts?

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