Ahmed Bayoumi makes his New York Times debut.

SATURDAY PUZZLE — Hello, puzzlers, and what a rare treat to see you all on a Saturday! I’m filling in today for your usual weekend columnist, Caitlin Lovinger. I’ll try to leave everything in good shape, and give you all the impression that I’m as expert a solver as she is.

Since I typically write about the Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday Crosswords, I’m used to searching for a theme as I solve. But in a Friday or Saturday puzzle, the grid’s the thing: The fill must stand on its own, without an added “aha!” moment to tie it up with a bow (lucky us — we get 15-letter entries and devilishly ambiguous clues instead). In today’s crossword, however, Ahmed Bayoumi, a debut constructor, has managed to sneak a wonderful mini-theme into his sparkling Saturday fill. (Spoilers ahead.)

Spoiler Alert!


14-Across asks for a term that describes “roughly one-eighth of the U.S. population,” which is AFRICAN AMERICAN. Just below that, 17-Across clues us with examples of two SLAVE REBELLIONS: “The Haitian Revolution and the Aponte Conspiracy of 1812.” And, crossing both, 16-Down gives the added context of U.S. politics in the 19th century — “Republicans in the 1850s, typically” were ABOLITIONISTS.

Mr. Bayoumi explains more of his thinking in the constructor notes below. There was plenty I hadn’t realized about his puzzle until he mentioned it, and I went back to appreciate his work anew. Isn’t it something when a crossword keeps popping kernels even after you’ve turned off the stove?

7A. I had forgotten how ambiguous these end-of-week clues could be. “Dessert with layers” gives us little to go on — even laminated pastry is layered, arguably — but crossings eventually reveal this to be SPUMONI, an Italian treat. (Here’s our recipe for it.)

24A. “Detective story?” refers not to a narrative genre but to the kind of yarn that wards off a nosy detective — an ALIBI. Somehow, I feel as if my years of faithful “Columbo” watching gave me an advantage with this one.

36A. Don’t fall for the idiomatic phrasing in this clue. The “Sort who might be testing the water” is, quite simply, a MARINE BIOLOGIST.

15D. Last year’s discourse about this “Modern coinage for someone turned successful through their celebrity parents” — a NEPO BABY — grew to such a fever pitch that The New York Times published an explainer on the term.

22D. You shouldn’t sleep on this “Hot bed?” unless you’re planning to be the main course for dinner — it’s RICE! (Imagine me saying this with the same fervor as “It’s a cookbook!”)

53D. “In the Red, say” has to be one of the most brilliant clues for ASEA in recent memory. I actually slapped my knee. Who does that? Someone discovering this entry, that’s who.

I’m delighted to have my first New York Times crossword. Huge thanks to my parents, children and siblings for introducing me to crosswords, encouraging my construction efforts and being critical test solvers!

The seed entry for this puzzle was SLAVE REBELLIONS. I was visiting the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington with my son, and was struck by how many slave rebellions there had been but how infrequently they were discussed. I was really pleased that AFRICAN AMERICAN and ABOLITIONISTS worked as fill, and I thought it was a promising mini-theme with interesting and coherent answers. Where I could, I also clued the proper names of African Americans (thanks to the editing team for 20A, which I had originally clued as the more familiar MAE Jemison). Fun fact: The music teacher at my children’s middle school also taught DRAKE. THE ROSETTA STONE is a nod to my Egyptian background.

One of the reasons I love crosswords is that they prompt me to learn new things while being entertained. I also like crosswords that reflect constructors’ personalities. I know some people prefer to avoid potentially controversial subjects in puzzles, but I especially enjoy solving puzzles that have a point of view.

The New York Times Crossword has an open submission system, and you can submit your puzzles online.

For tips on how to get started, read our series “How to Make a Crossword Puzzle.”

Still feeling adrift? Subscribers can take a peek at the answer key.

Trying to navigate to the main Gameplay page? You can find it here.

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