ANDERSON: When Jon and I came up with this theme idea, we started by trying to make a 15x15 grid, but eventually decided that 21x21 would work better since there's a good variety of "A to the B" phrases and it gives a lot more flexibility with grid design. We'd never attempted to make a Sunday-sized grid before, and we quickly realized how brutal the 140-word limit was: we spent probably ~30 hours filling the first draft, with many nights of screen-sharing and iterating on the fill until we were happy with it, followed by another ~20 hours to produce a revision when we were asked to swap out a theme entry. Many thanks to Will Shortz and co. for their help throughout the process!
I'm especially glad to see that the clues about criminally underappreciated artist Elaine de Kooning and Choi Woo-Shik in Parasite (an incredible film) were kept in.
Thanks to Jakob Weisblat for giving very helpful construction advice, as well as several other friends involved with the Galactic Puzzle Hunt, who test-solved and provided useful feedback. And I have to stress how much I appreciated co-constructing with Jon — having a friend to collaborate with really helped with splitting up the workload and motivating each other to make progress. Perhaps even more importantly, it let us bounce potential fill options off each other and see things from different perspectives. I certainly wouldn't have been able to make this on my own.
Hope you enjoyed the puzzle!
JON: Hi, everyone! We're excited to be making our NYT debut! Anderson and I have been writing puzzles together ever since we met in college — mostly puzzle hunt puzzles, but some crossword puzzles here and there. We hope to write more NYT crosswords in the future!
Anderson did a great job of covering the construction process, so I won't say much here. I'll reiterate that this is the first time we tried to construct a 21x21, and we were a bit surprised by how much harder it was to fill cleanly than other crosswords we've constructed in the past (the unusual arrangement of the theme entries probably didn't help).
One of our biggest gaffes was after we had almost filled the puzzle for the second time, when we realized we had included both ELM STREET and TAKE [to the] STREETS. Luckily we were able to swap out TAKE [to the] STREETS for PLAY [to the] GALLERY without too much more work, but it had us worried for a bit!