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  • Writer's pictureLyle Broughton

Action Movie Climax

Updated: Nov 9, 2021

Another themed puzzle! This is easily my favorite themed puzzle I've ever made, and I put a ton of work into perfecting the grid what you see below is the 6th revision so I'm excited to finally share it here!

I submitted this puzzle to the Times back in December, and got the rejection in early April. Since then (along with being incredibly busy with my senior project for school) I've been debating whether to submit this puzzle elsewhere. Eventually I decided I wanted it here, on my site. That's how proud of it I am.

Usually when I step back from any project for a few months, the rose-colored glasses begin to fade, and I can start to see the imperfections in my work. Not so with this puzzle. I love it just as much as the day I submitted it. I hope you love it just as much as I do.

Extra-special thanks to Adam Aaronson, Brooke Husic, and Quiara Vasquez who found the fourth and final themer (16A) that I somehow overlooked, thereby saving this theme from the scrap pile for test-solving this all those months ago. Y'all are the best <3

Spoilers and extra details underneath the puzzle...

Action Movie Climax
Download PDF • 148KB


As far as measurables go, this puzzle checks all the boxes:

✔️ Regular grid shape (15x15)

✔️ Rotational symmetry

✔️ Acceptable number of words (74)

✔️ Acceptable number of blocks (36)

✔️ Acceptable number of "theme squares" (49)

✔️ Low number of 3s (9)


✔️ High grid connectivity

✔️ No dupes*

✔️ Clean fill overall

...And I knew this when I clicked "Submit" on the NYT form. The only question was, Would they like the theme? I knew that the "first words in the theme answers can precede a certain word" theme has been done to extinction, followed soon by the quickly-falling-out-of-favor "BOTH words of the theme answers can precede a certain word" theme. But I was hoping that "first word of the theme answers can precede one word, second word of the theme answers can precede a different word" would be a new and unique enough take. But I also knew that if I were to receive a "No" email, it wouldn't be for any of the reasons I listed above. It would be because of the theme.

And that's exactly what the rejection letter said. According to Joel, "this was solid work, but unfortunately, the theme wasn't grabbing us quite enough to say yes. This sort of word-that-can-precede theme has become a little too familiar." All I can say is, I'm hoping for better luck next time......whenever I think of another idea!

Below is a progression of all the grid revisions. Things start to settle into place in Revision 4, and by Revision 5, all that's left is minor tweaks. I hope this is interesting and/or helpful!

*BAR is technically duplicated in SEARCH BAR and BAR BET, but I was prepared to send in a backup grid with TARGET instead of BAR BET, and a reworked (but slightly worse overall) SW corner. I noted this in my submission.



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