“Pilot Programs”

by Dr. Jessie and Mr. Ross Trudeau

[.puz][PDF][Solution] Difficulty: 3.75/5

n.b. Today’s puzzle is 21×21, so the clues may present above/below the grid rather than to the right.

First and foremost, I’d like to say a big ol’ honkin’ thank you to everyone who donated this week. I appreciate you! I’m going to leave the button here for one more week, and then you won’t see me passing the hat again until next January.

This week I got test solving input from Emily, Sean, and Connor — I appreciate you guys! Thoughts and spoilers for “Pilot Programs” below.

So, we iterated pretty hard on this one. We settled on the mechanic of moving an A-P-P string immediate down or up a row (to be either deleted or added to/from a base phrase) because the constraints of *only* “downloading” the string made things a bit too wonky. Reference the V1 iteration below, as well as the 16×16 version with abbreviated revealer. In both cases, the APP makes perfect sense vis-a-vis the placement of the answer it “joins,” but the answer it gets removed from subsequently gets, like, justified left or right to account for the “missing” letters.

As such, we decided to move the APPs both down and up (which seemed fair, given the MOBILE APP revealer), and *always* to/from the very beginning of the four pairs of stacked theme answers. The result is that the space “vacated” by the APPs are more visually logically black squares.

Getting clean fill with four pairs of long stacked themers (while leaving space for the vertical revealer) isn’t super easy, but we think this one came out pretty well in the end.

Happy solving, friends!


21 thoughts on ““Pilot Programs”

  1. Very nice. 13D was a new phrase to me. Some semantic elegance to abutting 13D and 14D. 9D reminds me of the time in the late 70s or early 80s when my family was skiing at a Quebec ski resort. My little sister, not quite teenaged (or maybe barely teenaged), hearing all the French spoken around her, decided to sing that “Voulez-Vous Coucher Avec Moi” song (whose words I’m guessing she didn’t understand) loudly on a crowded lift line. Let’s call that a teaching moment.

  2. This looks like a fun puzzle but I didn’t like the clues being underneath it. I tried to print it out but the link just showed gibberish. 🙁

    • Hi, Martha! I just clicked the PDF link above the puzzle and it’s presenting just fine for me. Alternatively, you can download AcrossLite and solve the .puz file offline.

  3. Although I applied myself to the best of my abilities, this pilot was forced to bail prior to crashing and burning. 2 causes:
    1) 21×21 grids test the limits on my age (or former abuse?) compromised mental stamina. Brain fatigue kicks in.
    2) As a Boomer I’m at home in Jurassic Park. I’m a relic who mainly pays with cash and checks. Social media is alien territory (this site excepted). Computerese and gaming are my swollen Achilles heels.

    Please don’t get me wrong. I would much rather be challenged than to solve a puzzle effortlessly. I look forward to reviewing and acknowledging the theme material of “Pilot Programs”.
    Favorite clues: 7A, 56A, 97A, 102A, 1D and 62D.

    • I’m really glad to read this note, Dom. It’s incumbent on puzzle makers to check in with themselves about when/how they might be falling victim to their own language comfort zone. I spend enough time on Twitter that I probably go a bit, what, intellectually nose blind vis-a-vis the language, terminology, and syntax that *feels* ubiquitous … but ultimately is totally opaque to large swathes of folks. Of course, it’d be easy to overcorrect and alienate the TikTok kids who–let’s face it–are the engines of much of the exciting churn and evolution of modern language!

  4. Love the puzzle and really appreciate the work you put into it to make it work.

    Two nits:
    1. I cringe every time I see sexist clues, and especially answers. “Mankind” DOES NOT equal “humanity” – this is the entire gist of sexist language.
    2. If the sexist “man” use isn’t bad enough, it’s duped in “tinman.” Yes, I know this example isn’t as egregious but highlighted from “mankind” already, it stood out for me as another big ick moment.

    I appreciate that both of these entries either cross, or are integral to the theme, and removing them would constitute a complete rebuild on that section. For the price of being sexism-free? I’d say it’s worth it. I expect overt sexism in NY Times puzzles, but from Indies, I expect better.

    • Hey, Squidley. Thanks for solving. I’m on board with being mindful of (needlessly) gendered language in the first case. In the second, I’m not sure I’m tracking why referencing the Tin Man constitutes an ick moment for you. That’s his name (and his apparently self-identified gender in the literature and movies). Relatedly, you’ll also continue seeing words like, say, “postman” on this site. I agree that those words shouldn’t be used as exhaustively descriptive terms–plenty of postwomen and postpersons exist out there. But cluing them like [Newman, in “Seinfeld,” e.g.] is accurate and not at all exclusionary, to my mind.

      And lest it interfere with your enjoyment of future solves on this site, please expect many future dupes of short/common words like “man” in my puzzles. (I personally find the “no dupes” convention arbitrary and restrictive; you can find my notes on dupes and other conventions under the “about” tab.)

      • Thanks for your reply. Sorry, I perceived the answer to be Tin Man, the two word-phrase, rather than the character from Oz, Tinman. I would not consider that a dupe either; I apologise.

        I hope to see no “postman,” “fireman,” “policeman,” or anything of the ilk. As a feminist, those terms are not only exclusive, they are also offensive. To say Commissioner Gordon is a policeman–yeah, ok. To say “help! I’ve been robbed! Call a policeman!” That’s not great.

        Thanks for your consideration.

        • Roger that, Squidley. I think we’re mostly on the same page here. We probably aren’t going to agree on -man words being necessarily exclusive/offensive per se, as I’m perfectly willing to honor/accept if, say, a man who happens to deliver mail wants to be called a “postman.” As such, I’m happy to include “postman” as an answer word specifically because a crossword puzzle by definition has the opportunity to qualify the term via the clue: [Certain mail carrier] or [Newman, in “Seinfeld,” e.g.] specifically acknowledge that the word “postman” is being used in a non-exhaustively descriptive way (via the specific example or the word “certain”). In any case, I very much appreciate you sharing your perspective with me here!

  5. Wow! This was quite an accomplishment on your part, and it “app-eased” my brain to solve it with no errors.

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