As I recall, this idea came after completing Howard Barkin's Sunday puzzle that gradually zoomed out from ANIMAL HOUSE, ON EASY STREET, etc. until its revealer GOOGLE EARTH. I sought a well-concealed progression with a snappy revealer and was working my way up from LETTER to BOOK for the longest time. The theme didn't seem worthwhile, though, until I zoomed out more and found OEUVRE hiding at the end of the last themer. Tying the progression up with a profane confederation of vowels seemed like the sort of thing a solver might enjoy. After triple-checking the French spelling, the puzzle came together.
The grid is a bit name-heavy and has a few warts holding it together, but hopefully the good outweighs the bad. Thanks to Will and company for polishing up the clues and keeping a couple of my favorites (26-D, 47-D). In these tumultuous times, I'm delighted to contribute a few minutes' diversion to the world. At minimum, I offer up the puzzle as a belated Mother's Day gift to my dear mom, Chris, who has always been a voracious reader and willing francophone.
As a lifelong volleyball player, I have a soft spot for this puzzle. Not everyone knows the sport inside out, though, so I feared the idea might be too rinky-dink and get blocked. Still, I hope you dig it.
The classic bump-set-spike progression seemed ripe for a crossword theme. I was lucky to find symmetric entries among limited options for bump and spike, so the grid came together without my typical struggle. The puzzle was originally submitted with SOFT SERVE and THE BIG DIG replacing LIP SERVICE and VOLLEYBALL. Will and Sam were rightfully concerned that an early-week theme would be lost on some solvers without a revealer.
If anyone's ever looked at the team names in a volleyball league, you know the sport lends itself to punning (shout out to my teammates on "That's What She Set"). I wanted badly to come up with a groan-worthy revealer in that tradition. Alas, no great ideas were forthcoming, so I went with the direct approach and resubmitted as is.
Thanks to the editing team for their guidance and for working the clues into Tuesday shape. Thanks also for leaving intact mentions of my favorite book and TV show ("Catch-22" and "The Wire"). I hope my devoted test-solving dad will also appreciate seeing "The African Queen." Happy puzzling!
I'm a pediatric ophthalmologist in Charlotte, NC. I started making crosswords while procrastinating writing the annual family Christmas letter. My toddlers' exploits were fascinating, no doubt, but a holiday-themed crossword was more fun to conceive and share. I've been hooked ever since. I put NYT publication on the bucket list and was flummoxed when my second submission was accepted.
As for this puzzle, I saw HATCH hidden in WHAT CHILD IS THIS during Christmas puzzle-making and tried to uncover a few more hidden entrances. That effort fizzled, but a different definition of "entrance" proved fruitful. FRENCH ANTILLES seemed like a winner, and I was lucky to find some other decent entries. The fill was crummy in the SW with the HIDDEN ENTRANCE revealer, so I switched to the current incarnation. Given the awkward themer lengths, low word count, and open corners, I'm mostly happy with how things turned out.
I gleaned some lessons through Will's editing. First, if you start your debut puzzle with a chemical weapon, it's best not to pun about it ("Tool to spread the mustard!"). Also, crosswordese (LIA/III) is preferable to an impolite entry (44-Across: ??AZ). Thanks to the editorial staff for the acceptance and polishing.
I learned much of the construction craft by reading critiques on the crossword blogs, where mid-week puzzles are often savaged, so I harbor a masochistic curiosity in them today.
I doubt I'll end up as the Minnie Minoso of crossword-making, but hopefully, this won't be my last effort. Many thanks to my parents for their test solves and to my wife Julie for sacrificing the Holiday missive.