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Adrian Johnson author page

5 puzzles by Adrian Johnson
with Constructor comments

TotalDebutLatest
54/7/202110/27/2023
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Adrian Johnson
Puzzles constructed by Adrian Johnson by year
Fri 10/27/2023
SLIMESTITCHES
SPATESOHBEHAVE
CATSATBESEATED
ARENTCELESTENG
RENOHERONRTE
SUITYOURKISS
STEEPPALED
EASELXENON
STRIPIONIC
TAYEVEALTHAT
DRSMECCAWINE
RICEBOWLSTALIA
AVEMARIAMONISM
MINIBARSRINSES
SADLYYESSLATE
POW Sat 8/26/2023
ACTTHEPARTLSD
BABAORILEYTOPO
CRAMPINGUPOVAL
STRIPTEASEMERE
IRLEDIBLE
SHINEONUPSETS
GOESGAGAPATTIE
RULESKAOTRA
ASLEEPENGINEER
MARINODINNERS
PATENSMOS
THINTONAMEAFEW
SOSOINITIATIVE
KNEWFAKESMILES
SERFRESHSTART

This maniacal puzzle is a sharp turn from last month's offering, but one I consider among the best puzzles I've ever made.

Most people have a love-hate relationship with quad stacks, especially the dreaded 4x10, but I find them among my favorite type of themeless to solve. If done well — filled with vibrant long answers and few obscurities — that extra answer gives a surprising textural dimension to the puzzle, like the jelly in a jelly donut.

No seed entries in this type of grid — instead it's all about the story told by the stacks and how well the entries as a whole play off of each other. In this case, I'm particularly fond of the results. Every long answer in the grid I consider a strong asset, or has a great clue that elevates it into a strong asset (18A, 11D, 54A, 37D, 23D all mine!), or both!

This one goes out to Mrs. Wright's 8th (now 9th!) grade class, who I had the joy of teaching the morning this puzzle was accepted, and all the other brilliant educators out there (hi mom and dad) that have started or are soon starting school for the year — thanks for all you do!

POW Fri 7/7/2023
TRASHPANDAOPUS
WERESODEADKURT
IWASNTDONEABBA
NIGHOPENLYGAY
SNOCANEASANA
DNATESTINGMAW
BRRSAOSERA
PAELLASMODESTY
AIDETONGUM
WWIGENETICIST
PETCOWHETHOP
RIDEORDIELETO
IWONEIDMUBARAK
NEWTFREESAMPLE
TINSSEASONPASS

It happens to every themeless constructor — the feeling after you finish your last clue, step back from a puzzle, and finally go, "Well, THAT is me." As someone who first started solving and then constructing crosswords as a coping mechanism to manage a bad relationship, I fell into that all-too-familiar anxious trap of writing puzzles with editors' voices in mind rather than my own. With that mindset comes a lot of "am I good enough" anxiety, and when you run out of ideas about what will please editors, you hit a creative wall like I did last summer.

This puzzle was the first one I made after taking a month-long break to prevent burnout, and represents me finally realizing that the best work I have to bring to the table isn't for anybody else but myself. Anyone's best crosswords are, for that matter, love letters to the many worlds around them that they love and care for so deeply.

To my Muslim friends: I hope you had a joyous Eid al-Adha. To Jade (my partner's family dog): happy third birthday! And to my parents: hope you have a seamless move to Iowa next week (and thanks for spending your birthday with us mom). Happy solving!

POW Mon 1/23/2023
EAVECHEMOGLE
CROCAUTOHUEY
HELLMEANGIVE
ONTIMEGEODES
TAPERECORDER
SHOEHORN
POLEOLESOPEN
IMOANSWERIDO
TACITEATIN
CHAMPAGNEFLUTE
HALFRAINGIST
DONTBLOWIT
OSIRISCHEATS
LEVITYHURRAH
DEETSPSYCH

The day I received the proof of this puzzle was also the day my grandfather died. Normally I'd have a profound puzzle insight to share but instead what's on my mind today is gratitude — for the time I spent with him, but particularly for the friendship Alvin, a dear family friend, forged with him during his final years.

Alvin, who began as his landscaper, first came by as a casual friend after grandpa's hip replacement, continuing to come over regularly during many of the 11 years grandpa outlived my grandma. Alvin's visits often took the shape of coffee and conversation after dropping his kids off at school. They discussed everything from family, to life, hobbies, and current events. Some days grandpa would invite Alvin for steak dinners, but other days they'd barely speak and spend the morning watching the news.

The important thing was his presence — the conscious, routine decision to be involved and engaged and make the mundane life of an old man meaningful. Tonight, this morning, whenever you're reading this, take a few minutes to say hello and check in with someone older that you care about. Those hellos can make all the difference.

Wed 4/7/2021
HAJJITVADFATS
ANAISELLALIEN
HORNEDTOADURAL
GEORGIAPEACH
ECHODISANCHO
ROOIBOSSYSTEMS
ANTSYPOETSET
MARIOBROS
YSLNUKEREAIR
ECOTONEPRSAVVY
SOURSMAOGAYE
MURIELBOWSER
AREAOOPSYDAISY
AGEDIDEAAPPLE
MEDSNESTMEARA

What a thrill it is to be making my NYT debut today! I'm 21 and a senior International Studies major at Macalester College from Laramie, Wyoming (special shout-out to any constructors from the Cowboy State!). I can't think of a theme concept more perfect for my first NYT acceptance than MARIO BROS. This one is for all the video game nerds like myself whose lives have been blessed by Shigeru Miyamoto's brilliance. If you're someone that is unfamiliar with Mario or doesn't enjoy video games, I'd highly encourage you to learn more about the Mario Bros franchise — if not for the gameplay or storylines, for the artistry behind them like the music and graphic design.

The inspiration for this puzzle came to me while watching a CNN interview with 53-Across. The not-so-subtle "A-HA" moment triggered by Mayor Bowser's last name sent me down a rabbit hole to see if there were enough Mario characters with names that were both recognizable to a wide audience and that could be disguised at the end of crossword answers. Much of the rest was luck: the length of the best theme answers for the only four characters that met both criteria (TOAD, PEACH, BOWSER, DAISY) matched up beautifully (10/12/12/10) and stacked favorably on top of each other. I dropped MARIO BROS in the center of the grid and swore to myself I would not give up until a puzzle came together.

Stacking theme answers opened up the puzzle nicely, giving me 14 slots of 7+ letters to add fun non-thematic fill to the grid. It's near impossible to convert every single one of those extra entries into colorful assets, but I hope there was enough ROOIBOS, PR SAVVY, TEACH ME, JINGOISM, SNL HOST, etc. to make it an enjoyable solve.

Finally, please reach out to me at adrianjohnson435 [at] gmail [dot] com or at my blog — I'd love to hear from you. Whether you're a constructor looking for mentorship, test-solving or collaboration, a solver looking to provide feedback, or someone after a custom puzzle for a friend, all messages are greatly appreciated!

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