This puzzle has gone through more iterations than any other puzzle I have constructed, from seed idea to publication. I developed the central theme early in 7th grade (I'm now in 9th grade). We were learning about Ancient Egypt in Social Studies. The Great Pyramid of Giza, the mystery behind how it was built, and what's inside, always fascinated me. When I realized that THEGREATPYRAMIDOFGIZA was exactly 21 letters, and that it would fit in a pyramid shape inside a crossword puzzle grid, it was too perfect an opportunity to pass up! I also liked the idea of having KHUFU in his tomb in the pyramid.
After that, I (mostly) took a break from the puzzle for about a year and a half. I didn't know where to go from there, and I still hadn't had a puzzle accepted by the Times. Then, last summer I discovered the possibility of using numbered squares to hide KHUFU. I was off and running again. The supplementing, straight-forward theme content followed, and I submitted.
Still, it bugged me that the puzzle had no word play in it. The Times said "yes" to the theme but asked for cleaner fill. I refilled the puzzle, and in the process, I noticed that ENCRYPT would fit front and center. For me, that entry makes the puzzle, because it ties together how KHUFU is in a crypt, but also encoded through the numbered squares. Three months later, here we are!
I have been looking to incorporate chemical formulas into a crossword puzzle for about three years. I always thought that there was a good deal of potential for cleverness in this theme genre. I fiddled around with theme concepts related to the chemical formulas for salt, water, even carbon dioxide, and the greenhouse effect. However, when I stumbled upon the revealer (JUST ADD WATER) while brainstorming another theme, I knew that I had found the perfect opportunity to flesh this theme out.
I will be interested to hear how difficult NYT solvers find this puzzle compared to other Thursdays. From WATER to H20 to HHO could be a tricky transition, so I tried to clue the theme answers in a straightforward manner.
Perhaps my favorite aspect of the puzzle is how the relatively short theme answers allowed me to make the puzzle themeless-esque, with only 69 words in a 15x14 grid. I really like the northeast and southwest corners, with DEMENTOR, DRAG RACES, TURN A LOSS, JANE EYRE. In terms of clues, I like the connection between 14A and 59A in symmetrical spots; also 25A, which references one of my favorite stories/pieces of music.
Hello Cruciverbalists, I'm excited to make my New York Times debut! I'm only fourteen, but it was inevitable that I would get into solving and constructing crossword puzzles. From an early age, I watched my entire family solve the NYT puzzles, including my grandmother and grandfather. At nine, I started solving the puzzles with my dad. More accurately, I would sit and watch him fill them in. Now, I can solve the Monday and Tuesday puzzles on my own, and portions of the rest of the week. At ten, I started constructing crossword puzzles with my dad, and at eleven, I made my first solo crossword.
During the first summer of the pandemic, I had a lot of free time and made 10-15 puzzles, including my first themelesses. My strategy for constructing a themeless is to find a manageable looking grid (68-72 words) and then try to fill it with as many of my favorite words as possible, making NO compromises. My basic approach for themelesses is that any liability, especially if it's four or more letters, means the puzzle needs reworking. I have the same basic approach for themed puzzles. Overall, I would say that I prefer constructing themed puzzles, but filling a puzzle with my favorite words can be just as fun as a great theme.
Thanks to the Times for greatly improving my puzzle's clues (I've gotten better!) I have a Thursday waiting in the queue, so see you again soon!