Soup or Symmetry?
"Midrash" by Laszlo Denes / Edited by George Barany (January 2016)

The puzzle was constructed almost three years ago with the help of Crossword Compiler. The inspiration came from an identical grid that appeared in the New York Times around that time, the design of which I found very pleasing to the eye. True, such grids limit word lengths to seven letters, and I like 9+ word lengths and multi-word phrases, but in this case I opted for super symmetry. I was also curious to see if I could come up with enough interesting 7-letter and shorter words that would keep solvers engaged.

I started with the block layout, and after dozens and dozens of attempts with the CCW software, I picked up a few words that I liked, and kept going. Not being an every-day crossword constructor, I do not have an impressive crossword database. Barely any at all, to be honest. During these early attempts, I liked CASUIST, ALUMINA, POETICS, AXILLAE, VALENCE and a few others. I kept adding to them, fixing them, polishing them, tearing sections out and redoing them, until I got to the puzzle you see today.

I intended for the puzzle to be Friday/Saturday difficulty, but Professor Barany's inspired injection of more wordplay and humor into the cluing definitely was worth lowering the difficulty level for. About one-third of the clues belong to the editorŃthey actually became my favorite clues, especially for 41-Down (referring to this incident).

CASUIST is a seldom heard or used word with a very descriptive and complex meaning, which is what I liked about it. It could be used even more aptly today, for many people in public life, than Moli¸re's Tartuffe (my original clue). My favorite, though, was LORELEI. To my ears, it is a beautiful, alluring-sounding word, a perfect fit for the person whom it names, regardless of the language.

I wish VOMITED could have been omitted, especially with EGEST (and for that matter, DIGESTS) already in the grid, but despite my best efforts I couldn't come up with a better choice in that quadrant. I hope you will forgive me for failing your "breakfast test."

And I hope you will enjoy solving my "world premi¸re" puzzle.

Have fun!

GB adds: It's a pleasure to showcase Laszlo's constructing chops for the first time ever ... you may know him for his erudite contributions, full of playfulness and musical scholarship, that appear regularly on the Rex Parker blog, under the nom AliasZ. I will confess to coming up with the puzzle's title, as explained on its main page, and for replacing Laszlo's original geographic VALENCE clue (not to be confused with this location) with one more along the lines of what a chemist would use. Bonus points for anyone who can identify the graphic shown below, and explain what it's doing on this page.


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