This is my tenth puzzle published in the NYT, a personal milestone, and if I've learned one thing at this point in my short constructing career, it would be to give the solvers what they want, and for many it's a Thursday rebus.
This idea occurred to me at work, the phrase COMPRESSED AIR had rebus written all over it. When I had the chance I researched whether anyone had published this theme before, and found to my surprise they had not. I then went about finding words and phrases that included the trigram AIR, fitting as many of them as I could into the grid. A couple of the entries involve the word "air" itself which I wanted to avoid, however I thought it was not fatal to the final product.
The original puzzle had the central entry UPSTAIRSDOWNSTAIRS running east-west but I changed it to the more apropos north-south. It also had ten entries that Will asked me to replace, and I was able to switch out nine of them. The two clues of mine which I hoped would make it and did, were 27-Across, and 62-Down, as always Will and Joel livened up a lot of the others.
Hope this puzzle satisfies that Thursday rebus jones.
I actually watched "Road to Bali", for the first time this weekend on YouTube. For its time, it was a pretty hip movie, what with inside-Hollywood and political humor, a few cameos, and breaking the fourth wall to wisecrack to the audience. My favorite line was when our heroes were captured by a tribe of cannibals. As they were being marched to their certain demise, a little boy runs out of the crowd of people and starts tapping and poking at them, the boy's mother hurriedly pulls him away and says: "Now junior, I told you not to play with your food" — that was a laugh-out-loud moment.
This was the second puzzle of mine to be accepted for publication, so you can see that Will does really try to space out word ladder puzzles. I was looking for something that was a bit off the beaten track when researching "xxxx to xxxx" phrases, and came upon the film title "Road to Bali", which I had not seen until the weekend prior to publication. I did see "Road to Utopia" on TV as a child, but that wouldn't work unless it was an add-two-letters word ladder (hmm...).
My original grid lacked the two cheaters which turned two of the "L"s into "T"s (on the sides of the grid). I really liked that the original made the middle of the grid look like a letter box movie screen, but there were too many "uglies" without those cheaters. Will and crew provided the fix, and cleaned it up a bit. In the SW I was wedded to having COSTAR at 38-Down crossing DOROTHYLAMOUR and providing her clue, however that also resulted in a few less than desirable entries. The Roman numeral unfortunately was inoperable.
I did have my qualms about the theme being dated and possibly turning off younger solvers, who would think it, and by extension me, less than hip. My advice to them would be to make a visit to their local Blockbuster and rent a VHS tape of the movie, they might like it =).
Hope you enjoyed the solve.
I was surprised to learn when researching the theme that it had not appeared before in the NY Times, so I was off and running with it. The fact that there are only four corners, however, made for a limited amount of theme material even with CORNERSTONE as the central reveal. I tried to find other entries which related and noticed INSCRIPTION — an integral part of a cornerstone. The task became finding an eleven letter partner, and it wasn't too long before I hit upon TIMECAPSULE, which very often is either contained in or lies behind a cornerstone.
The placement of the three elevens, with CORNERSTONE in the middle, was determined by the choice of vertical theme entries in the northeast and southwest. Fortunately, after some trial and error, STONEMASON and TOUCHSTONE fit the bill. I wanted all of the perimeter theme entries to be the same length, however with the added horizontal theme material that became very difficult to pull off, thus GEMSTONE and STONEAGE. I made a few changes to the fill after acceptance; 8-Down was originally SIDEARMS. Will and his team made a few more changes, as well as a great number of much better clues.
I was extremely honored to have this puzzle selected for the final round at this year's 16th Annual Westport Crossword Puzzle Tournament. Thanks to Will Shortz, and to Patrick Merrill who hosted, and congratulations to the winner Andy Kravis.
The original grid had all the themers running horizontally, I then realized that if I switched two of the them to the vertical they each serendipitously crossed the reveal symmetrically. The one remaining issue was a SW theme entry to balance POLE POSITION in the NE. After a few tries and some back and forth emails, Will accepted POISON POWDER in July, resulting in a surprisingly quick turn around for a rebus puzzle.
My favorite clues are 25-Across which is a newbie for a well-worn 3-letter word (LEI), and 44-Across. My favorite clue which didn't make the cut and admittedly was a bit of a stretch of the old "?", was 21-across clued as "Feathered friend?" as in "tarred and feathered". Will greatly improved on my cluing, especially for the theme entries, as usual.
A word on the "sausage making". I do not use any crossword compiler software to create my grids (I can hear the snark already: "Yeah we can tell"). I'm not of the graph paper and stacks of reference books school though, I do use an Excel spreadsheet for my grids and clues, and I use XWord Info and OneLook as helpers in weaving the words together.
I hope you like this puzzle, my seventh with a few more in the pipeline.
I like the published version for its four theme entries, several of which are debuts. TIMES TABLE CHART might be a bit weaker than the others, however I think most people are familiar with the term from their elementary school days, or their children's. The rest of the fill is fairly clean, so all in all I'm happy with the result, as I hope you are too.
Finally, thanks to Will for accepting this puzzle and improving some of my underwhelming clues, although I think my clue for 42-Across is a nice bit of misdirection.
Thanksgiving Day is my lovely wife's favorite holiday, she says it is a day on which all people of the world can celebrate, regardless of their religious or cultural heritage. We all can be thankful in our own way. She also happens to be an excellent cook and for that I am extremely thankful.
Hope you enjoyed this pre-holiday treat. Happy Thanksgiving, from my family to one and all.
This puzzle was submitted last December, and was accepted in April with some provisos. A few changes had to be made to the fill, however there was one sticking point, the ten letter 3-Down themer didn't quite fit with the others. In subsequent submissions 3-Down went from: THISLLPASS; to YOUAREOKAY; to DONTGIVEUP; to LIFEGOESON, each of which was rightly met with Mr. Shortz's disapproval. I just couldn't find something that sounded right.
By then it was the end of August, my wife and I were spending two weeks at a lake cabin in Vermont. On our final evening, after one or two margaritas, (underage constructors please disregard this), the heavens opened up, and NOTTOWORRY was comfortingly whispered into my mind's ear. EUREKA!!!
Mr. Shortz concurred.