BRIAN: After a few years of constructing, I am thrilled to have my debut puzzle in the NYT! I started constructing in 2017, so this was a few years in the making.
The idea for this puzzle came after seeing the tremendous "Lady Bird." I thought a literal interpretation would make for a fun puzzle, and after some brainstorming/googling, I discovered there were a plethora of women with birds for last names that fit the bill.
Knowing my original 15x version needed something else but unsure what, I reached out to Erik Agard through the Crossword Puzzle Collaboration Directory and asked him to connect me with a constructor to bounce ideas off. Thankfully, he connected me with Chris, who provided superb feedback on several puzzles, including this one. Our emails on this puzzle naturally turned into a collaboration I'm proud of. After a few months we finished it and sent it in.
PS: Greta Gerwig—if you need some custom puzzles for any reason, feel free to reach out!
CHRIS: After being e-introduced, Brian floated some ideas by me; I particularly enjoyed this one, especially since Lady Bird was one of my favorite films that year.
I figured there'd be enough theme answers to warrant making this a 21x, but also thought that I'd seen something similar before. And after searching XWord Info and Crossword Fiend, I came across a Peter Gordon puzzle from 2018. Similar, to be sure, but with a different enough focus that we both felt OK proceeding with our idea.
For elegance, we decided to only use last names, and we strove to strike a balance between well-known real and fictional people (hence why Robin Wright and Jennie Finch, among others, didn't make the cut). Length was also considered in picking theme answers; thankfully, the lengths mostly matched up, and we could have gone with normal symmetry. But everything fit together very nicely in this layout, which gave us a lot of flexibility in filling. And after a few fits and starts, we figured out the grid and filled and clued it together (coincidentally, right around the Oscars).
And now, here we are. Definitely a fun collaboration, and if you are an aspiring constructor, I'd love to collaborate and/or help in any way possible; contact me via my personal puzzle site.