Steppin' Out
"Midrash" by John Child / Edited by George Barany (December 2015)


In January of 2015, xwordinfo.com posted a collection of Eugene T. Maleska's New York Times step-quote puzzles. I clicked through and was delighted. I'm not a fan of quote puzzles in general, and the structure specifically of step-quote puzzles leave them well short of modern standards for theme density. Moreover, because the quote is deliberately broken up, there's gibberish in the grid.

Despite all of that, I loved Maleska's step-quote puzzles, and decided to try to make one myself.

The grid size limits the possible lengths of quotes for any grid. Would one of my mathematically-inclined friends like to figure out the formula for a grid of X by X? Most step-quote puzzles start at 1-Across and end in the symmetrical corner, but there are exceptions, and a cheater square in the NW and SE corners is fairly common.

It looks to me that all of Maleska's puzzles imposed a limitation that none of the quote parts could be real words. I followed this rule but was frustrated that the best quote I found for a 15x puzzle was "Never let a rhinestone go unturned" (Dolly Parton). I couldn't break that up without a real word in one of the steps.

So Mae West's I used to be Snow White, but I drifted" is the second-best quote: not as good, but familiar enough to make this a fairly easy puzzle.

Maleska's 100th birthday seemed like a perfect opportunity to unleash this on the Cross World. Plus, we're sure that by now you figured out that it is Maleska's mug that decorates the puzzle's main page. I hope you enjoyed it.

 

GB adds: I had a lot of fun with this tribute to Eugene T. Maleska; John Child is an absolute delight to work with. A particularly elegant touch was to cross MALESKA's name with MAE_WEST, the name of the author of the quote. I also want to thank the many friends (listed on this puzzle's main page), whose generous insights and suggestions improved the details of John's original vision.

However, a funny thing happened on the way to hitting the centennial "on the nose." You see, if one does a Google search on Maleska, the auto-generated summary (shown below) suggests that he was born on January 16. However, the obituary in the paper of record clearly states January 6, and the preponderence of evidence supports that. Hence, we have no choice but to release the puzzle merely in the correct month.


If you want to tell others about this particular page, refer them to http://tinyurl.com/steppingmidrash

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