We had fun trying to devise seven wacky theme entries that were all baseball-related. (Yes, we know the outfield grass isn't called a LAWN but cut us a little slack here). LABOR OF GLOVE was the first really solid theme entry we hit upon, and it gave us hope of coming up with six more.
We know some solvers don't want to see any sports references in their puzzles at all. Sorry, folks. But there's still plenty to love in this one: music, movies, bird trivia, trigonometry. And it could have been worse. It could have been a golf puzzle.
A couple of years ago I decided to try my hand at themeless puzzles because I have such a hard time thinking up themes. Unfortunately, I have my issues with themelesses too. Namely, cluing. So I asked Erik Agard if he would write some clues for me and he told me to do it myself. (His response was actually more like, "You are totally capable and would feel so proud if you did it yourself, but of course I'm happy to help.") So I try Kevin Der. He might be willing, right? He tells me basically the same thing. So there's my answer. It's time for me to start learning how to write difficult clues.
The grid sat around for four months. I wondered if a solo themeless was just too ambitious for someone at my level. I kept putting it off. But I finally sat down and did it. It was excruciating. So, so hard. I got some great feedback from a few friends, tweaked some clues, sent it off to Will, and crossed my fingers.
When I got the acceptance notice, I couldn't believe it. I felt like I had taken a major step in my constructing career. A solo themeless! The puzzle with all those hard clues I wrote was accepted! The funny part, of course, is that Will changed just about every clue. I'm not complaining! I know from experience that Will knows what he's doing and every change he's ever made to a puzzle of mine has been for the better. To be honest, I'm not sure what the lesson is for me. Should I not stress over the clues? Am I really bad at cluing? Was I just "off" on the difficulty level? These are questions I'll ponder while working on my next themeless grid.
Such a pleasure to with Angela on this puzzle. I had been thinking about vowel progressions, and noticed that RAID READ RIDE RODE RUDE worked pretty well. When RAID THE FRIDGE and RUDE AWAKENING came to mind, it seemed like we ought to give it a shot.
However, the fact that these first and last themers were both 13 letters long created a challenge, since 13's can't go in rows 3 and 13 due to black square constraints. That means all the theme answers had to get squished together. With five theme answers spaced just one row apart apiece, I wasn't sure it was going to be doable without including some ugly fill.
Luckily everything worked out out after a couple of attempts and Angela and I were off to the races! We really liked FLAME WAR and wanted to put in more sparkly long down stuff, so were pleased that NOLAN RYAN and HOLE IN ONE would fit without much compromise. And then FEED BAG and FRET OVER fell into place so nicely we held up our hands and said "I like!" in a Borat voice.
The only area we had to really work at was the center, which was constrained by the three middle theme answers. Having ICI, NDAK, and ATF all in close proximity wasn't ideal, but in the end we figured in the grand scheme of everything that was working in the puzzle, this was a good tradeoff.
Finally, I tried to sneak it in with Angela's name first but she out-sneaked me.