This puzzle goes out to my dad, who celebrated his 63rd birthday yesterday, and to my good friend and former partner, who is celebrating his 26th birthday today. He actually gave me the seed entry for my very first puzzle published in the Times—and still asks for a cut of the earnings. Happy birthdays, Dad and David!
I also had to laugh when Jeff showed me his collaboration with Tracy Gray back in 2017, which has a nearly identical theme. I hadn't seen that puzzle before, so I appreciate the Times team taking mine on. I hope solvers still enjoy it.
I want to thank the NYT crossword staff, and all puzzlemakers out there, who have made this difficult period just a little easier to endure. My family has a group text every morning where we share out the exciting words we found in the Spelling Bee and clues we liked in the crossword. Whatever the day holds, these puzzles are a great way to stay together.
ANDREW: This puzzle is a personal favorite (not just because it has my name at 24-Across). This was my first foray into Thursday puzzles, so I figured I'd mess with some crossword rule, and the two-letter rule seemed like a fun challenge. I quickly turned to John for help with the idea, and together we got the M-E-O-W letters to work without too much glue and awkward cluing. John gets all the credit for the apropos CROSS THE BORDER and I NEED SOME SPACE bonuses.
JOHN: I'm glad I got to work with Andrew on this one, our fourth Times collaboration. It was an inspired idea that was great fun to help shape into its final form. Andrew and I will also be collaborating on the fourth edition of Boswords, the crossword tournament we co-direct in Boston that is open to solvers of all levels. This year's version will be on Sunday, July 26 and you can find more information about Boswords here.
I remember leaving Puzzle 5 of ACPT 2019 feeling bummed that I left so many squares empty. For some reason, I thought I would avenge myself by building my own puzzle, one that wouldn't be so cruel (although these puns may cause some groaning) and this is what resulted. I hope you won't need bumpers for this one.
PAST: Three years ago today, my first NYT crossword was published. Back then, I only made themelesses, but lately, as you can see here, I've been experimenting with days of the week I've seldom tried. Look out for a Thursday (and maybe even a Sunday) from me soon!
PRESENT: I successfully presented my master's thesis in education at the University of Pennsylvania this past weekend. Because I'm concerned about how students think about their and others' identities, my thesis focused on how 9th-grade boys learn to think about aspects of identity such as gender, class, and race through literature.
FUTURE: I recently accepted a teaching position at the Riverdale School in the Bronx, so I'll officially be a New Yorker next year. But fret not, for I will still be hosting and running Boswords this summer with John Lieb. If you're in the Boston area on July 28th and want to compete in a crossword tournament, Boswords is for you. Registration and other information can be found at boswords.org. Hope to see you there!
Andrew: This puzzle started with the SE stack, as I had been trying forever to get PIXIECUT into a puzzle (my sister proudly donned this style for a while). When FLEXTIME and DOMINATRIX fell into place, I knew I was cooking. Then I hit PANSEXUAL (more and more I'm trying to incorporate queer-themed language into my themelesses to expose solvers to aspects and identities within the queer community) and was a happy man. While I'm bummed that COME OUT was not clued as I had hoped, I am so happy by the sparkle that John brought to the left side—a true collaborative effort.
John: It was great fun trying to fill the left half of this puzzle, working to build on the lively right half that Andrew presented to me. I'm excited to have our third collaboration appear in the Times. I'm also excited to be working with Andrew on the third edition of Boswords, the summer crossword tournament that we co-direct in Boston (with the help of an amazing group of constructors and volunteers!) The date is set for Sunday July 28 and you can get more info at www.boswords.org. Hope to see you there!
Vowel runs have been done with some frequency, so I wondered if doing parallel runs would be possible. I first debated between P_T / P_P and P_T / N_T, and ultimately found the latter to be more grid-friendly. I even wondered if I could have done a triple vowel run. The answer is yes, with BAT BET BIT BOT BUT, but that would have required a 21x21 grid, and the solvers, I imagine, would tire of the gimmick by the time they got to BITCOIN or BOTFLY.
When I realized that the phrase "great minds think alike" consists of four five-letter words, I knew I had to make a crossword around it. But what? Fortunately, Wikipedia has a whole page called the "list of multiple discoveries" which outlines all of the simultaneous inventions throughout history. I then built a grid around five discoveries that were commonly known. Thankfully, no one else had come up with a similar puzzle, although that would have been funny just for the irony of it.
Also, John Lieb and I just wrapped up the second year of Boswords, a crossword tournament in Boston. If you'd like to find out more about it, or if you're looking for even more puzzles to solve, check out boswords.org. There you can purchase the tournament's ten puzzles, many of which were made by NYT favorites!
This puzzle went through two other iterations. Ironically, the seed entry LHOOQ (the Marcel Duchamp work of Mona Lisa with a mustache) got the first puzzle rejected. As themeless revisions often go, I had to scrap the entire puzzle. Well, not the entire puzzle. I kept HOMOEROTIC. You can't kill all your darlings.
Speaking of darlings, Boswords is back! Last year, John Lieb and I ran a Boston crossword tournament to great success, and we're gearing up for round two this year. So, if you are around on July 29, come on down. All the tournament information can be found at boswords.org. Hope to see some of you there! And if you can't attend, you can also order all of the tournament puzzles from the website and enjoy from home.
ANDREW: Another Kings-Lieb creation! Well, maybe more of a Ki-Lieb creation, since John did the lion's share of the work on this one. After Oxford Dictionaries declared POSTTRUTH as 2016 "Word of the Year," I knew it had to be a 1-Across. Thankfully for this puzzle (and sadly for everything else), facts are still flexible and POSTTRUTH is still relevant. NOPUNINTENDED was my other significant contribution (I sifted through a sea of dad jokes for the right clue, so I hope you groaned at the one I chose), and then John brought the sparkle with the other stacks.
JOHN: Writing a themeless from scratch is a daunting task, so when Andrew brought me a promising, half-filled grid and asked me if I wanted to fill in the rest, I jumped at the chance! This ended up being a "2-for-1" puzzle, as the last across entry in the first draft ended up as the seed for our first published collaboration last August. I was on a Mr. Robot watching binge at the time we wrote this and was psyched to get RAMI MALEK into the grid.
Also, Andrew and I are excited to be hosting the second edition of Boswords, Boston's crossword puzzle tournament on Sunday, July 29. Registration opens on June 15th and you can find more information at boswords.org, including info about last year's tournament. We hope to see some of you there!
This puzzle is one in a string of themed puzzles I created this summer while directing a STEM summer camp—don't tell the campers. Having primarily constructed themeless puzzles thus far, and with the Friday/Saturday competition growing ever fiercer, I figured I'd give themes a shot. With themelesses, there's always this nagging insecurity — how could my fill be snazzier? How can I pack in one more entry? But with themed puzzles, I've enjoyed the pleasant finiteness to the four of five entries that undergird the grid. May there be more to come. Shout out to John Lieb for helping me tinker with this puzzle to find its sweet spot.
ANDREW: John and I both teach at The Roxbury Latin School in West Roxbury, MA. I joined the faculty last year, so it was only a matter of time before we put our heads together to create some crosswords. This one began as a themeless which included the entry SPIN CLASS. John came up with the idea of people who spin things for a living, and we were off from there (although neither of us is a big fan of this exercise regimen). As a duo, we found we work nicely together, especially since we can pop into each other's office during free periods and talk shop. Look out for more Kings-Lieb puzzles soon!
JOHN: This puzzle was Puzzle #2 at Boswords, a crossword tournament that Andrew and I co-directed at our school on Sunday August 6. We are grateful to Will for allowing us to use this puzzle at the tournament, which had 149 competitors. It was a blast to both write this puzzle and to organize this tournament with Andrew! More information on the tournament can be found at boswords.org and we look forward to running it again next summer. The rest of the tournament puzzles, plus a few bonus ones, are available for purchase (for an Abe) at the site.
It's a good Friday indeed when you see your hard work hit print. Almost a year ago I experienced the thrill of debuting a puzzle in the Times, so today marks a satisfying year of causing re-sharpened pencils and whittled erasers nationwide. May there be more to come.
I don't remember much about the genesis of this puzzle, but I do recall the SE falling together nicely, especially BALALAIKA and ARENA ROCK, which are unfortunately rarely found together outside this crossword. What I loved most was Joel and Will changing the clue for HER, lest we forget what we passed up.
My partner introduced me to the term WEEKENDER when I mistakenly called his bag a satchel. My error and/or his sartorial expertise led to the puzzle you see before you. Well, that and RETROCHIC, a word that has fascinated me ever since Muffy from the kid's show "Arthur" told her friend her shoes were "fabulously retro-chic." My pre-adolescent mind was already collecting 1-acrosses, I suppose.
My early grid architectures had been a bit haphazard, so I decided to go for a tried-and-true style, one used extensively by my teacher, David Quarfoot. It fell into place quickly and wasn't as constrained in the NW and SE as I had anticipated. No wonder David had such luck with them. The other two corners, unfortunately, feel thin by comparison, but so be it. The clue for SEX was enough to leave me smiling.
This puzzle started with the double stack of HERE'S HOPING and PRIZE INSIDE. How I got a grid of this shape in the end I'm not sure. This was still in a period when I built puzzles without the aid of a program, so that may explain it. But now I've put down my spears and cave drawings and learned how to use (Cross)fire.
I think I'm happiest with the clues on this one for two reasons. First, I love the fun facts, particularly SPANDEX, ANT, and SIXTIES. Second, most of the across clues are my own. When I first started constructing, I was such a grid hound that I gave little time to the clues in an attempt to submit as many puzzles as quickly as possible. As a nascent constructor raised on a diet of crossword blogs, I picked up their entry-fetish, where their writing focuses only on the hottest words in the themeless grid while overlooking the creative pop of the clever clues, which could make blander entries like CEASE FIRES or CEL come alive. While a puzzle need its lifeblood of OSCAR NOD's and GAME FACE's, I discovered that my early philosophy was fairly myopic. I await the day when a themeless is filled with purposely banal entries, yet the clues are the prize, and by themselves make the puzzle sexy. Here's hoping.
Sometime in the days of yore
When themeless puzzles had become quite a bore
I groped for a theme which would prove not a snore;
Yet nothing came rapping at my vacant mind's door.
Tired of waiting for a fancy to spore,
I selected a tome from some worn out bookstore.
Full of whimsy and wit and nonsense galore
It quickly became a story adored.
Now Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, Lewis Carroll to you
Was a tinkerer with words and puzzling guru,
Yet there was one puzzle he Mad-Hatterly posed
Whose solution no one has yet to suppose.
So I leave it to you, my frabjous scores
To decipher the cipher Mad Carroll once swore
To leave rejoindered by readers
I was worried when I began this puzzle that the SUPERFOOD fad was just that: a fad. Fortunately, we can't seem to get enough of putting kale where it was never meant to be. I'm talking to you, kale cookies and kale chips. I recommend listening to comedian Jim Gaffigan's take on kale if you haven't.
Recently, I submitted a puzzle to Will that was themed with SUPERFOOD. It contained entries like BIG MAC, DR PEPPER, and BLOODY MARY clued as if they were superheroes. Alas, DR PEPPER, who cripples cities with his sneeze ray, will not be gracing your morning paper anytime soon. But maybe Marvel will bite…
Anyway, I'm happy my clues for MECCA, CLEOPATRA, and CLOSE VOTE stayed. I'm a big fan of adding trivia to crosswords since they are terrific platforms not just for testing knowledge, but also providing new knowledge. Let's just hope this election isn't as close as Hayes's in 1876!
I am surprised by how quickly my second puzzle appeared. It couldn't have come at a more fitting time. I'll be graduating from Dartmouth College tomorrow! Crosswording has always provided a needed break from all the essay writing. It was also the way I began writing for the school's newspaper. I mostly just published the puzzles Will rejected (sorry, Dartmouth solvers). After my puzzles started getting accepted, I didn't have much material to send to the paper, so I became the film critic instead. Go figure. I can't wait to construct a few this summer on our back porch with my cat sunbathing next to me.
This one was accepted in April of last year. It was my first foray into the sub-70-worder realm and it was actually not as nightmarish as I had anticipated. The seed entry was SELFIE STICK (or as my friend aptly calls it, the narcissistick). Unfortunately, David Steinberg beat me to it with his February 6th puzzle. But I'm much happier seeing selfie stick used in a crossword than in real life.
I was pleased to get MALL SANTA, I CAN EXPLAIN, and SAME SEX in there as well. Will and Joel were uneasy about SO DOPE, but we all felt like it's tossed around enough to be included, which is so dope!
Since this feels like my weepy Oscar acceptance speech, I want to first and foremost thank David Quarfoot for introducing me to crosswords. David was my calculus teacher at the Roxbury Latin School (where fellow constructors Sam Trabucco and John Lieb also hail from, and where I will begin teaching next fall!). Seeing that I was interested in other word games at school, he showed me the ropes of cruciverbalism. My first crack at constructing was for our school newspaper. I made the grid by hand, tore through the paper after too many erasings, and ultimately misspelled a word in the finalized grid. In spite of that initial trauma, I've been addicted ever since.
This was my first puzzle accepted by the Times, back in April 2015. The seed entry for this puzzle, POPCORN BRAIN, ironically got the puzzle rejected when I first submitted it. So I substituted PASSION FRUIT and redid the bottom half of the grid, and voila! I got THE RAVEN and EASY READ out of it, so the English major in me was pleased. Shout out to Will and Joel for improving many of the clues.
As for myself, I hail from Dedham, Massachusetts and am finishing up my senior year at Dartmouth College. I study English and film history, and am working on a thesis focusing on the cross-pollination of cinema and literature at the end of the nineteenth-century. When I'm not reading or building crosswords, I enjoy improv comedy, film criticism, and table tennis. Will, I'm coming for you!