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NYT 'Mega' crossword is a gift -- or torture -- for puzzlers

Word up! The biggest New York Times crossword ever spreads across two full newspaper pages, and will take a normal person hours to complete.

Notice anything? Yeah, we haven't filled in any answers yet. Check back in 2017, when we may be halfway done.
Gael Fashingbauer Cooper/CNET

What's a six-letter word for "haunted house sound"? Four-letter word for "posterior"? What was John Denver's first hit (22 letters)?

If you're wrestling over these clues and more, you're one of those buried in the New York Times' biggest crossword puzzle ever, the Super Mega, published in a special all-puzzle section, Puzzle Mania, in the print edition of Sunday's newspaper.

While normal New York Times crosswords measure 15 by 15 squares (21 by 21 on Sunday), this monster is 50 by 50 squares, with 728 tantalizing clues just hanging out there, waiting to be attempted, erased, attempted again, crossed out and screamed at.

The Super Mega takes up two full newspaper pages, and was constructed by Frank Longo, who's not only a puzzle-maker, but a fact-checker and test-solver for the Times' regular crosswords. Two of the answers are 49 letters long, and four run 22 letters.

"It's a gigantic grid," Longo says in the Times. "It was hard to know where to start." (Cry us a river, guy who has all the answers.)

There's already been one correction made to the puzzle. "There are two 387D numbers in the grid," the Times notes in its Wordplay column online. "The second is supposed to be 388D, and does not affect the solving of the puzzle."

While a normal New York Times crossword takes ace solvers as little as six minutes, an average person needs 30 to 45 minutes. "I'd say multiply that times four for this one, so two or three hours at the very least," Longo says. (Substitute "hours" for "days" if you're being realistic.)

New York Times puzzles get progressively harder as the week goes on, and "the difficulty level for this puzzle is from Tuesday or Wednesday, verging into a Thursday," Longo said. "We didn't want it too hard because it's so crazily big. You could spend all day on it. An elite solver could knock it off in an hour and a half."

Ha ha ha ha boo hoo hoo hoo, hour and a half, indeed. We're going to say this puzzle takes hold of those who attempt it and pulls a 256 Across, aka, "Turns inside out." And if you're easily frazzled, you might consider 56 Across, "Stay away from." But we're going to go with 145 Across, a four-letter word for "posterior." As in "this crossword is a true pain in the four-letter-word for posterior."

But for those who can get through it, there's a chance for a prize. The completed puzzle reveals a phrase, and those who find it should send that phrase to the specified email address. Five winners will be chosen to receive a year's subscription to the print newspaper, and 50 more will get a crossword book signed by Times puzzle-editing legend Will Shortz.

Just don't let yourself yell out 339 Across, "I give up!"