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Damon J. Gulczynski author page

46 puzzles by Damon J. Gulczynski
with Constructor comments

TotalDebutLatest
4611/8/20041/11/2024
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431.6517958%
Damon J. Gulczynski
View these same grids with comments from:
Constructor (37)Editor (1)Jeff Chen (38)Jim Horne (5)Hide comments

See the 179 answer words debuted by Damon J. Gulczynski.

Alternate name for this constructor:
Damon Gulczynski
Puzzles constructed by Damon J. Gulczynski by year
Thu 1/11/2024
JAWSONJAPENS
ACAIVROOMISIT
BADBREAKUPACHY
SENISUNAIL
EASEDCATPEOPLE
ASUNDERALE
RAPMEGASERTA
THESHOWMUSTGOON
HIREESODAUNO
LILEXACTED
BRAZILIANTHERE
ROTEARIWOO
IBISDASKAPITAL
DEVOETHICROSE
EDENNEATOY=X
Wed 4/6/2022
VACAYTAILTETRA
OHARERUNEOPRAH
LENINITCHBEIGE
EATATCOURSEEXAM
SPAASKREEFS
LASTEDRCATWO
BLOCIRANIOWAN
LAUNDRYDETERGENT
IMPEISAHLREDO
PEERNCPASSED
BTEAMTATLCD
ANNOYANCESADELE
REAIRAGROTIDAL
LOTSAREIDINUIT
ONSETDEEDCOMMA

For notes on my puzzle, ACPT 2022, and maybe a few other things check out my blog.

Fri 2/25/2022
IQSSMELLANDES
SUECILIAMEADE
MEDACINGOWNED
BUTTHATSJUSTME
BECAMEENDEAR
ACTUALSANTE
MOINATIVESWAP
BIOSNODESKILL
ISNTGOODATKOI
APEDAIRLINE
SPIRALSOAPED
WILLYOUBEQUIET
ALLIEPOTUSDID
TABLECANOEIMO
HUEYSSTAIRAEC

For some thoughts on this puzzle and a few others published this month, visit my blog.

Wed 1/5/2022
HECHTBETFEAST
AROARAXEADLER
SMILEWAXMICRO
HALFFULLIFSAY
EONTAWNY
COMMITLIEZEN
HOOPLAWENPOGO
EMITPEACEERGO
SPRYPARLISBON
SHESETINSANE
ANDSOSCI
PARMAOPTIMIST
USAIRUZOTITHE
SHINENETESTOS
SYNODIDSSTYES

For 10 things I like and don't like about crossword puzzles, visit my blog.

Mon 10/25/2021
LATHSEALSTEAM
ACREURSATOPIC
PAULAZAHNIPADS
SCAMPIASEA
EINPETTINGZOOS
SATSORSOVCR
PESKYORBITS
PRINCESSZELDA
POINTYATEIT
IPATAILSEGO
POLISHZLOTYLEB
CHETHIPPIE
CILIAEASYPEASY
FRANKCRAMASHE
LEDGESTYETOAD

If you want to read some of my thoughts on crossword puzzles, including the inclusion (or exclusion) of controversial words, visit my blog.

Fri 12/18/2020
VIBESABANABET
OPENSESAMESEGO
CATCHASCATCHCAN
EDTALEKSALADS
ENDTSPTAU
CORERSEAHORSES
OSGOODATEEXE
SCENEOFTHECRIME
TATHADLOOTED
ARMCHAIRSNASTY
ORALITDDT
LOVATOVASEHEY
SHIVERMETIMBERS
ANNESCRUBNURSE
TOGSOASESBEER

This one was in the queue for an especially long time, so seeing it now is like seeing a new puzzle constructed by a different person with the same name as me.

And to that person I say: Well done, Gulczynski; well done, indeed.

Fri 10/16/2020
HONORSORSEDAM
AMAZONBATFLIPS
LADYDIIMALLSET
THEMSTHEBREAKS
SARAISLES
NEEDEDHELMS
HEADTRIPMORE
ACCIDENTSHAPPEN
NCAAACIDTEST
SEISMICETSY
UTAHNSASS
JUSTASITHOUGHT
ZEPPELINEMIGRE
ENCODINGENTREE
EASTAGEDISOWN

The three greatest BAT FLIPS of all time (as ranked by me):

3. Bret Boone off Mark Wohlers, Game 3 2001 ALCS
2. Jose Bautista off Sam Dyson, Game 5 2015 ALDS
1. Tom Lawless off Frank Viola, Game 7 1987 World Series

Sat 3/21/2020
SOIWASLIKEUSPS
PARACHUTESNCAA
CHARLATANSFACT
AUNTDELTABURKE
HUEYURT
INCONTROLSLINK
MEDGAREVERSSIN
PARELITESEE
ELOPEANUTSAUCE
LEMMAYESINDEED
DOUPCOM
PURPLEHAZEIMAC
ONITPALINDROME
TIVOSWITCHEROO
STEPINFIELDERS

Five puzzle fun facts:

  • SO I WAS LIKE was the seed of this grid, and it's my favorite entry, but I found it very difficult to clue. My submission was "Quote before a self-quote."
  • Whenever I hear the word CHARLATANS, I imagine it's a demonym of people from Charlotte, as if the inhabitants of North Carolina's largest city are legendary phonies.
  • MEDGAR EVERS' older brother Charles is still alive (97 years old). He's a former mayor of Fayette, Mississippi, and a Republican who endorsed Donald Trump in 2016 (seriously).
  • My original clue for PALINDROME was "Damon's nomad, e.g." Yes, I just wanted to put my name in a clue, because I'm vain, but also I thought it might be an interesting misdirection. Did Matt Damon ever play somebody who wandered around a lot?
  • I reluctantly used SCAR TISSUE at 12-Down. It's a good entry, but for the fact it gives me a Red Hot Chili Peppers earworm every time I think of it. You probably have one now too — sorry.
Mon 7/1/2019
HDTVSUSOFANIL
AEIOULEASTORE
HARUMSCARUMSOD
ALECHEMFLING
HEARYEHEARYE
CALDQSLOEWE
ASADADSLFEEL
MAKEMINEADOUBLE
OPELOOFGLOMS
GUSTOCARBOT
ALEXVANHALEN
DONEEOVAAGAR
ONELOGGINGINTO
REVTREATAVAIL
ERAEBONYBETTE

This puzzle represents my record for theme efficiency. I thought of the idea and then scoured the databases for double-alcohol phrases. There aren't many. It's a challenge just to find candidate alcohols with short, common letter combinations (SLIVOVITZ, for example, isn't going to work), and even after you do, there aren't many phrases in which they are doubly embedded. HARUM SCARUM and HEAR YE, HEAR YE are the only ones of their type I could find. But those are great seed entries, so when I discovered MAKE MINE A DOUBLE was (amazingly) 15 letters, it would have been constructor malpractice not to make this puzzle.

So, I jimmied up LOGGING INTO, which isn't very exciting, but it works, leaving me in need of one 12-letter theme entry to round out the set. IMPORT EXPORT was my first try, but the NYT editing team didn't like it, because nobody orders a double port. Fair enough. But ALE was the only other possible option, and I had already tried to find a 12-letter double-ALE phrase and gotten nowhere. After lamenting the fact that ALEX HALEY wasn't named ALEX HALEYSON, I went on the "Alex" page of Wikipedia and almost immediately hit on ALEX VAN HALEN — 12 letters. Whoomp! (There it is.)

Next time I'm frustrated by the Crossword Gods foiling my beautiful theme idea (nobody take my SPICE GIRLS theme, I just need a match with ROSEMARY CLOONEY), I'll think of this puzzle.

Tue 5/14/2019
LISTSDEBTMACRO
ATEUPAREAALGER
THEMEANINGOFLIFE
KAYCITEBIO
ECOCIDESPLAYING
AURASCOLASTEM
LOLTONEDCOO
JACKIEROBINSON
TOTTHEMEEAU
WHETCERAVAULT
ONRUSHESBIRDDOG
SHESEAMNOE
PRESIDENTCLINTON
AISLEBEAKSABLE
DOPESBONYSHEDS

I came up with THE MEANING OF LIFE and JACKIE ROBINSON straight-away, but I needed to think a bit for one more iconic 42. Initially, I had DAMON J. GULCZYNSKI as my last theme answer ("Crossword legend born in 1977"), but I thought he might be too niche. Once I noticed PRESIDENT CLINTON is also 16 letters, I figured he was the more mainstream option.

Thu 3/28/2019
ICANABESDAWGS
NONOSEREOCHOA
FROMWHEREISTAND
IRISHFOPSSTET
DINGOCREEPABA
EDTADADECIMAL
LASSEKEBSIDE
POWERLESS
SHAFTAILOPRY
PERSISTZIPRAE
ORRSKOALIPODS
NOIRYALEPUPIL
GIVEMESOMESPACE
ENACTTHORANAT
DELTASANSEELS

The phrase GOON STRIKE ("Result of a labor dispute between a mob boss and their enforcers?") came to me one day, and I thought it was kinda funny. I set out to make a puzzle around it but couldn't quite get a tight set of theme answers, so I set it aside. When I came back to it, I decided to switch the roles of the theme clues and answers, and this puzzle is the result.

For the revealer, I wanted I NEED SOME SPACE, but at only 14 letters it would have required me to pinch the theme answers closer or add a little strip of cheater squares in the last column (to avoid an impermissible two-letter entry), and I liked those options less than tweaking the revealer.

My favorite theme clue is "Often" — I just like the conversion to "Of ten." My favorite non-theme entry is BEEFCAKE because it reminds me of me.

Fri 8/10/2018
GUFFOPERASOHO
APIALAMESTBEN
SPLITSVILLEREM
BEERBELLYASIDE
ARMSNOEMCEED
GLENVAGABONDS
SINUSERROR
PUTPENTOPAPER
PAYINTIMES
POLICECAROPTO
ITUNESESTORA
GOMERHANKAARON
LOMAREYOUBLIND
ELOCARLINBUYS
TEXEMBARKAMMO

I started constructing this puzzle on vacation without a computer, which is why PUT PEN TO PAPER is in central position. Technically, it's not what I did, but PUT MECHANICAL PENCIL TO GRAPH PAPER is too long for the grid.

POW Sat 5/5/2018
SNUGADAMHEEDS
POGOSOBAINNIE
UTAHHODGEPODGE
MONADMUONSTE
ENDLESSLOOPIRE
DEAFENAWMAN
SPARKYRHETT
ISAIDGOODDAYSIR
TOMEIWASABI
CRASSROOSTS
HERHIGHFALUTIN
HEFDAYOAGAPE
GETUPANDGOHYPE
MATZOGRUBTIER
ADOZESAPSANDS

The long seed entry, 37-A, was inspired by a scene near the end of the old Willy Wonka movie. Although, as I later learned watching the clip on YouTube, Gene Wilder never actually says this line — he only says, "Good day, sir!" It's one of those "Luke, I am you father," "Play it again, Sam" lines. Still a good entry though, in my opinion.

I might have set a personal record with this puzzle for "Most Submitted Clues Surviving Edit." Being 65% math nerd, I'm particularly proud of the clues for 24-Across and 26-Down.

Tue 4/3/2018
TITHEFUSSESARR
ARIELINTHATLEO
NETFLIXQUEUEGAG
GNUICEUPXANADU
YESYOUOOFMYEYE
ATSTROPIC
AVERLESAGEALS
DEADSEAMARYKAY
SETCRUSTYOATS
SUNDEWABS
KALELEMIBUTWHY
ALEPPOANDORAAA
YONTHINKQUICKLY
ANNONSALEATEAM
KEYROUSEDLASSE

Letters-as-words puzzles have been done before, so I wanted to distinguish this one in two ways: 1) Spell a longish word with fun, Scrabbly letters; 2) make the revealer clue a dual-meaning instruction to the solver. I came up with THINK QUICKLY rather quickly, but it took me a while to flesh out the details. Since there are so many theme answers (8), most of them had to be short, and I was stuck on ‘L' for a long time. Once I thought of KAL-EL everything was super, man. (For more of my crossword-puzzling thoughts, visit my blog.)

Sat 3/3/2018
POSTERIZELASTS
ESCAPEPODARHAT
WHATSMOREZAIRE
SANTOARMYBRAT
OMAROBSESS
CAMOGOSOLO
OFFICEMAXNEATO
STASHALIEXCOP
TASTENUDESCENE
ERODEDUSED
LAOTZUSUSS
ITSAWRAPCEASE
LEASHSAYSAYSAY
TAKEIARISTOTLE
STARZPANTSUITS

I made this one many years ago. It sat in the queue even longer than usual. It looks pretty good to me now, with one major exception. 1-Across was a seed answer, and the original clue was something like "Humiliate on the hardwood." As basketball fans know, to POSTERIZE somebody is to dunk on them in such an impressive fashion that the image is worthy of being put on a poster. It's a fun, lively term evoking basketball awesomeness. Why, why, why then would you change the clue to reference a mundane, technical printing process? Maybe it helps the non-sports fan, but at the expense of watering-down the puzzle for everybody — it doesn't seem like a good trade-off to me.

But there is a good chance I'm way off on all of this and solvers won't care much about it, and instead, the main objection will be something else that never even crossed my mind. That seems to be how it goes.

Thu 2/1/2018
PAINDOHAOPTIN
EMMAICESBRIDE
RYANONEALLETON
LAGEARVITALE
SALLINDAEVANS
CLEMENSUNIX
HOAROTTOSOT
MARIEANTOINETTE
ODSCPASRETD
AHEMSWARMED
ROGEREBERTCRY
SORELYORIOLE
PLATOINITIALLY
OFTENAGEECLIO
TEENSMOSSESPN

My only regret with this puzzle is that there was no room in it for SEAN ASTIN — "Salad popular in ‘80s movies?"

Sat 12/30/2017
DASHIKISWETBAR
ALPACINOOMEARA
MNEMONICRUNDMC
AIDINGIDSDARE
SCUDJDATESPEW
KOPFAILSPSA
HOMEDFEALTY
CANIGETAWITNESS
ZLOTYSRERAN
OTTSWEETHAD
LAVAQUIPSROVE
GRABURNTHEWEB
OBLATEIWOULDNT
SOITISSANTIAGO
ZYDECOMCESCHER
POW Tue 10/24/2017
HADJWILLSPRAYS
ISEEIDEATAIPEI
THATSNOTTHEPOINT
SODIOTAETA
PICKUPLINELECAR
ACAIOONABLESS
LEIAWEDPIUS
SNAKESONAPLANE
ERRSORALAXE
CHAROUSEDSPEW
LOGONINEEDSPACE
EREOKRARIA
ANOTHERDIMENSION
RENOIROPUSMOLE
STEPONNAGSSUED

I saw a puzzle in WSJ just a few weeks ago that had a very similar concept — the progression POINT, LINE, PLANE, SPACE. Thankfully, I didn't get totally scooped because my puzzle has ANOTHER DIMENSION.

Fri 9/29/2017
AHIPIPPAAGAPE
MOTIDIOTVAPOR
IVSPABLONERUDA
GENDERBINARY
AROUSESETSHOT
BBGUNSLEAVES
POIPOACHRELO
LAGSTROOPTRES
ERGOASAHITKO
ADIDASGANDHI
SEABASSLAMENT
JOLLYRANCHER
GIVEMEARINGUSA
ACERBSINGEMIC
GEEKSHADERPSY

One Sunday afternoon, I went to a bar to watch football with some pals. Naturally, the conservation turned to poetry and trans rights. When I heard somebody mention PABLO NERUDA and say the term GENDER BINARY, I thought they would make interesting fill in a puzzle, so, noticing you could lay the former and top of the latter in a way that staggered the vowels and consonants nicely, I set out to build a grid with these two seed answers. This is the result.

Fri 9/15/2017
IMPEIDENCHSHH
MATEDENOLATEE
BUBLEADVERSARY
UNAMEDIAFRENZY
YARDARNYAZOO
IKNOWRIGHTRAGU
NEUMANNAHAS
GAMWIGLEVTIE
WANEFRENEMY
GDAYGRACIOUSME
LILACDRTSTET
ALLTHATJAZZCRO
SANTACRUZABASE
STEFLAREPOSEY
YEWFUMEDSWEDE

My original submission of this puzzle was rejected for having too many proper nouns. I cut them roughly in half and tried again. This time: success.

I'm glad my clue for FRENEMY survived edit. Growing up, we had a massive Archie Comics collection in my house. I'm not sure why exactly — the jokes are super trite and the stories are completely vapid. I guess before smartphones, you had to ignore your family somehow.

Fri 8/4/2017
BSSPLOTSDRUB
IHADNOIDEACELL
GIGECONOMYANNA
AMERICANPHAROAH
ISHERE
USEDPLAYMAKER
PERESTROIKAELO
PRECHAPLINFIN
ETCLATEEDITION
DATAENTRYARTY
IRKURL
TSARALEXANDERII
VERBEXOPLANETS
PAINSEXPISTOLS
GRABSCOTTSLO

I once heard (or possibly read) an interview with Will Shortz, in which he was asked about common grammatical errors, and he said the word "led" was misspelled as "lead" relatively frequently, even by well-educated people. This got me thinking about other "words even smart people mess up," and I think we can add "pharaoh" to the list.

At the Indie 500 crossword puzzle tournament a few years ago (2015, America Pharoah's big year, as it was), PHARAOH was an entry in a puzzle, but it wasn't clear from the crossings whether it should be A-O or O-A, and I surprised to find out that even a few of the top solvers had it the wrong way. So, I wonder how this played for most people. Did they try AMERICA PHARAOH first? Is the misspelling common knowledge? Or were they blissfully unaware that anything was strange at all?

Fri 6/30/2017
SHAFTEDAPTZED
CARRACEGLUCOSE
ANNASUIRAMHOME
MOANSHAYMAKER
PIZZERIAEIRE
FLUSHDEMEAN
FAZEELANSOPPY
OVERDEFATFESS
MENDSTUDEFREE
ORGIESNIECE
ANALNANUNANU
VORACITYCSPAN
OLDNAVYBIKINIS
NEEDLERILOVELA
NONFROTOOEASY

Pretty typical Friday fare with a pretty typical back story. I put in a couple of long seed entries (CHARM OFFENSIVE and FRANZ FERDINAND) and went from there. I was happy to find HA-HA FUNNY (making its debut), and I was relieved to find Lindsey VONN — she saved me in the SW corner.

I'm also glad my clue for HANOI survived. When I first learned about recursive algorithms The Tower of Hanoi was the example problem, and I thought it was the coolest thing ever. After seeing it, I wrote a computer program to solve it and kicked it off with 100 discs, wondering how long it would take. It ran for four days straight on my parents' Power Mac before I killed it. I later learned that if I would have only waited like 600 billion more days I would have seen it finish.

Sat 5/27/2017
FETEALDAATHOS
AGOGLEONCHARY
COPAGENTERNES
ASSNAZTECONIT
DUHATNOWADE
ERECTSHAVISHAM
FLORIDATECH
FLEXITARIAN
PALEBLUEDOT
ANNOTATEPREFAB
BOERNEAPRKO
BOATETTASVIES
OGRESIATEALSO
TIEUPCLIPPLUM
TERRYSLOTESPY

I began this one while listening to an episode of "StarTalk", hosted by recently published constructor Neil deGrasse Tyson. His guest, planetary scientist Carolyn Porco, was discussing the famous "Pale Blue Dot" photograph, and it seemed like a good seed entry, so I put it in.

I'm mostly happy with how it turned out. I do wish I could have come up with a cleaner middle-bottom (Texas) section though. I broke two of my personal constructing rules here: (1) No pluralizing uncommon names; (2) No partials. I justified (1) by the fact that both ETTAS, James and Jones, were jazz singers. (I'm not sure why exactly this is a justification for me, but it is.) And my clue for I ATE was "Already had dinner," which would make it a full sentence, not a partial, but it was changed during edit. Does it not work?

"Want to order a pizza?"

"Nah, I ate."

Hmm… it does sound a bit awkward.

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed this one overall, and if you didn't, I'll thank you to not THROW SHADE in my direction.

POW Fri 4/21/2017
APSESPAUSEHAG
CREMAASSETUTA
TOTUPPIECHARTS
OFTSMEARTACTIC
FOLDERGNILLA
GREATSCOTTDEAN
OMIGOSHOHMS
DANRIATEAOHS
TIASAFROPOP
PIPEHELLOKITTY
ENLAIIBNLIDS
GRAMMARNAZIMAT
GOGOBOOTSALITO
EAUANNEEMISER
DDEDEALSBETSY

This is one of the first themeless puzzles I ever constructed. My first version was rejected, and I set it aside for a while, and then after this version was accepted, it sat in the queue for a while longer, getting jumped by a few of my other themeless puzzles.

Looking over it with fresh eyes, I like it. The Texas region makes me cringe a bit — ANNEE crossing RONA and LINTEL is less than stellar — but I'm quite satisfied with the rest of it. My favorite answers are GRAMMAR NAZI and GO-GO BOOTS (not coincidentally my seed entries). To my knowledge, neither has ever before appeared in a crossword puzzle, and I think the clue for the former ("Type for who this clue will be annoying?") is pretty clever. I really like my submitted clue for the latter too, which was basically the same as the published clue ("Iconic part of Nancy Sinatra's early attire"), but I omitted one word: Nancy. Of course, the solver will immediately think of Frank Sinatra, which is the trick.

In another bit of misdirection, I hope fellow baseball fans will appreciate the clue for TOTAL BASES ("A batter receives four for a grand slam"), once they realize RUNS BATTED IN doesn't fit.

POW Thu 4/6/2017
ESTDXMANLIVE
ACHEMEGAARIL
TERABYTESBTEAM
UNEIGAAGEE
PEELERPATTIE
XENIAMARAUDS
PSATTWEEOGRES
ATLXSANDOSNAE
REARSSEASGELS
INDEPTHLURID
STYLESMUFFED
YEASUGGUVA
VIVIDTUNASALAD
IRANAMPMALDA
PANGRACEHOES

X is a strange letter. It starts the fewest number of English words by a significant margin, but we make up for this by *overusing* it in other areas. In mathematics (my college major), we are first introduced to x in elementary school as the multiplication symbol. Then as we take algebra in middle school that usage completely goes away, and x is used instead to represent an unknown number in an equation. As if that isn't enough, when we next move on to functions, x is typically used to represent the independent variable in functional notation. Why? Why do we abuse x like this when we have dozens of other symbols we can use? I mean, given how many kids struggle with math literacy, you would think we could make it a bit easier on them, no?

Anyway… for this puzzle it was helpful that x can be used in so many different ways. I haven't been making many rebus puzzles of late (lest they become as overused as x), but I thought this idea — making the rebus symbols mean something different each time they're used — was new enough to warrant a puzzle.

I hope it isn't lost on the solver that the letters X and O do not appear in this grid at all outside the theme. This put a pretty substantial limitation on my fill options (as it turns out, O is a very useful letter in crossword puzzle constructing), so the grid isn't quite as clean as I would like (see TWEE crossing ENE), but I think it mostly came out alright — eventually. The first two iterations of this puzzle were sent back with a "not quite" note. Well, you know what they say: Third x the charm!

Tue 3/14/2017
MOMDATAMACAU
ANIEWERSOBOES
NECNGAIOTBIRD
SIDCAESARANO
MORALELEEJCOBB
ATOMIZEPAYPAL
NAPECOOEDSTY
ORSONBEAN
AMCVENTIAAHS
GOOIERTANKTOP
TOMGREENPAELLA
CPUSALADDAYS
SHOEDAMATINAT
PERSESENORTRI
ARTSYSEWSAKC

I wanted to make a pop culture-themed puzzle that spanned many generations. Without an exact theme idea in mind, I started browsing lists of old actresses and actors hoping something would come to me. Because SID CAESAR and LEE J. COBB both have surnames that start with C, they were listed near each other, and I made the obvious salad connection. Next I came up with the revealer SALAD DAYS, and the idea that my puzzle would contain movie stars with salad names who reminded people of their salad days. It seemed clever enough.

It didn't work out quite like I wanted. (Does it ever?) There aren't a ton of well-known salad-named movie stars (nary a Waldorf or a House or a Tuna), and so I had to take what I could get: three actors who were at their peaks over fifty years ago and a guy who was better known for, um, "being intimate" with a dead moose on the side of the road on a silly TV show than he was for being in movies. (Unfortunately, I didn't think of Eva Green until well after the puzzle had been accepted.)

So if you were born in the ‘40s or the ‘80s, this puzzle might hearken you back to your SALAD DAYS. Otherwise it's a puzzle with a simple theme for all the people out there who really like vegetable-based word play.

Sat 1/28/2017
BOSCHJANEEYRE
ACURAOPENDOORS
DEBARHEGOTGAME
JAZZHANDSUNIX
ONEEACHPERONI
KIRRHEALATKES
ECOINCHESEST
ALREADY
AHAFLYINGBTW
SOISEETGIFORE
STRAWSINASNIT
ESPNBANGUPJOB
SPIDEREGGVIOLA
SUPERHEROELVER
REDROBINSLITS

I couldn't decide between FUZZY MATH and JAZZ HANDS for a seed answer at 19-Across, so I made two puzzles with similar grids using one in each. The FUZZY MATH puzzle was rejected, and the JAZZ HANDS puzzle… was also rejected. But it was rejected encouragingly, so I reworked the offensive section (which wasn't actually offensive — just boring), resubmitted it, and here we are.

Looking over it with fresh eyes, it looks fine to me. It's got a handful of nice entries (my personal favorites are JOHN HENRY and BANG UP JOB), and hopefully just A FEW not-so-nice entries. Nothing earth-shattering; nothing awful. Overall, I'd say it's a solid Saturday offering.

One thing I've been interested in with my more recently published puzzles is the clues. When I first started constructing, my clues were all over the place and roughly 90% of them were changed substantially to better fit with the style of the New York Times puzzle. Over time, as I became more familiar with the databases at XWordInfo and Cruciverb, I drastically reduced that number by, in effect, mimicking clues appearing in previous NYT puzzles. So now the challenge is to write completely original clues that survive the editing process. It's not feasible to do this with every answer (the "new clue reservoir" for, say, ORE is pretty much tapped out at this point), so I just pick and choose several answers to try this on each puzzle.

Two of my clues I like that survived:

  • "One with many enemies" (SUPERHERO)
  • "Like some pigs" (SEXIST)

Two I like that didn't survive:

  • Useful items for people who have the shakes? (STRAWS)
  • Artist who can be seen by turning one around? (ENO)

Too clever by half? Not clever at all, just awkward? Either one is entirely possible.

For extended constructor notes visit scrabbledamon.blogspot.com.

Thu 12/8/2016
WARPEDNAMISTS
ORALDIALUNTIE
LADODGERSSTALE
FBIEASYAIRIER
OHAREIDCARDS
ACHEDLAMAS
PHENOMRAGPISA
PAANNOUNCEMENTS
TIDYTRISESTET
ELLENSCHMO
POBOXESELSIE
ALLDAYALOUZEE
USAIRITSUPPORT
SERUMPOOPONIT
ENEMYANNEMENU

My entire reason for making this puzzle was to use the entry MAGNUM PI — "Champagne bottle that holds 3.14159… liters?" But as I started thinking up other themers, I noticed that the livelier ones had the initials at the front of them, not at the back. So my next idea was to do a mix of front and back, but I couldn't get the symmetry right, and after struggling with it for *way* too long I gave in to the obvious solution: ditch my beloved MAGNUM PI. And once I did, everything came together quite nicely. So let that be a lesson when it comes to crossword puzzle constructing (and perhaps life in general): Be flexible. Don't cling so tightly to your "great" ideas. Things often work out better when you let them go, and, honestly, they probably aren't that great anyway.

Also, it took a failed submission to get this one accepted. My first version had the entry GI BILL — "Invoice for a karate uniform?" — but neither Will nor Joel had heard of a karate gi, so they nixed it. I had no problem with this (I had PO BOXES on the bench, ready to go, if need be), but I was a bit surprised, as I thought karate gis were common knowledge. Although being that I get a little red squiggly underlining "gi" and "gis" as I type this, it's quite possible that I'm wrong here.

My final comment about this puzzle is that I wish it had run on Wednesday instead of Thursday. In part this is because I need Wednesday to complete the "cycle" (i.e., a puzzle published on each day of the week), but also because solvers often expect something trickier on a Thursday. This one is pretty straightforward. Oh well, no biggie. I'm cool with it if you are.

Fri 11/11/2016
NEWTAFLACTYKE
OVERROACHHOAX
SILOAGREEYURI
ELLIELATELAS
JESSEJAMESMOOT
OSHGUMNEWCOKE
BTUSSPFPARKED
THATSABIGIF
ALMONDBOZBASH
COYOTESOZSMOO
DAMSSCAMARTIST
ENOELEMSALUT
LOUDREGISLIEU
CUTETRICKIAMB
OTHOSASSYARES

About a year and a half ago, I was listening to a podcast and somebody said THAT'S A BIG IF. I was on my computer at the time, so I looked to see if that term had ever been used in a crossword puzzle before, and when the results came back negative, I decide to make it the seed answer in a themeless puzzle. Because… why not?

Looking back over this grid with fresh eyes, I'm mostly pleased with it. I think I pretty much nailed the long answers. It's got some glue I don't particularly care for (notably SRS and ELEM — if I made this puzzle today, I probably wouldn't let these two stand). But I think (hope) the trade-off is worth it.

The clues for this one are a mixed bag for me. Quite frequently when Will changes my clues, I feel they get better — and there are some examples of this in this puzzle (e.g., the clue for BOOM MICS) — but there are also some for which it is not the case. My least favorite clue is "Hook remover, perhaps" for NOSE JOB, because it evokes the term "hook-nosed," and although the dictionary informs me there is nothing inherently derogatory about this term, it feels kind of slur-y to me. Using "hook" to describe somebody's nose is just not something I like or would ever do. (My clue was "Profile alterer" if you were wondering.)

I also had a great clue for LA RAM, but I came up with it too late: "Noted NFL returner of 2016". Get it? Not bad, huh?

For more on this puzzle and other tangentially related topics, feel free to visit my blog: scrabbledamon.blogspot.com.

Mon 10/17/2016
RATIOCAITADAM
PLANKRIDERENO
MAINCOURSETAGS
ODESADDLE
LIBERALPAGEBOY
OLEARYSENECA
SANTACAANOTTO
ENCLASTLAPTEX
SAHLCPUSIRENE
WALLOPDEFRAY
SWAPOUTLUCKYME
TARTSSASH
ATMONONSTARTER
KEEPFLUSRAINY
ERRSLEGOTHESE

The best "What do these seemingly disparate things have in common?" puzzles are those in which you don't know the answer to this question until you hit the revealer. That's what I was trying for here — a legitimate, honest "a-ha" moment. This can be difficult to achieve with a Monday-level puzzle, so if I pulled it off, kudos to me! If I didn't, well, no kudos, I guess. I'll somehow have to make it through the day kudos-less.

Other than that, I tried to pack in interesting entries while minimizing the glue, as always. I'm mostly happy with how things came out in this regard. The only entry I really don't like is C-SPOT, because I've never seen it or heard it used in "the wild" (and Google thinks it's something very different than money). But it *is* in the dictionary, so fair game, I suppose.

I do like some of the longer non-theme entries, like OK CORRAL, PAGE BOY, and LUCKY ME. I was also happy to facilitate the debut of the hilarious ILANA Glazer in the NYT puzzle. The equally funny (maybe even a bit funnier) ABBI Jacobson probably isn't far behind. Those two can crack me up like few other. Do you think YAS QUEEN will ever be an entry in a mainstream puzzle?

By the way, if you are interested in more in depth constructor notes, feel free to check out my word blog.

Sat 9/3/2016
TABSCHATSRYES
ERLEHORAEFETA
ACUTEANGLEDAHL
PARTYFOULREB
ONTHEFRITZEZRA
TASESNEETENN
SOCGETBORED
ZOOCREWSAYNOTO
UNPEELEDSAC
GLENERENOBIS
ZONEBENEVOLENT
WOWHOMESLICE
AKINPETESEEGER
NEDSARENTGENE
GREWHEDDAESTO

I came across the word ZUGZWANG somewhere and decided to put it in a puzzle. It's an interesting letter combination, and it's also an interesting concept. According to Wikipedia, ZUGZWANG is German for "compulsion to move," and it means "a situation found in chess and other games wherein one player is put at a disadvantage because they must make a move when they would prefer to pass and not move." Compulsion is an important aspect of a ZUGZWANG, but I couldn't come up with a way to succinctly convey this in the clue, so while "Chess situation in which any move is a bad move" is an accurate clue, it doesn't quite capture the true essence of a ZUGZWANG.

As for the rest of the puzzle, I'm quite happy with how it all came out. I hope everybody enjoys solving it as much as I enjoyed making it.

Thu 6/9/2016
TALCUMDEFKNOB
IMPOSERDARAVE
AISLESANIOPED
ORCPARTNERS
CARRIAGEGOO
LIEIDLEBARRELS
AKINSLLAMAMAP
WINGFAIRENITA
ADEMATTECOLIC
TORTONILEONINE
BOZHYMNBOOK
MAJORITYASA
ECONNAPJOSTLE
LAKEEXEOLIVIA
DIEDSISRECANT

Silent letters: The English language's stoic warriors. Without them, a buffet would always be confused with a musician who sings about margaritas, and the name "The Colbert Report" just wouldn't make us chuckle. I thought it was time to properly honor these quiet, but useful characters — honor them in puzzle form. This is their story. I hope you enjoyed it.

Fri 5/27/2016
SCRAMBLESHAWED
WHATAJERKOVATE
MANICOTTITAXON
LARSENMIENS
BARTOKFUELS
AMEGILLSPET
RIALLENINSTOMB
OGLEERICADEBI
NOTAGBACKSSTAR
SSRROLESIND
ONENDSHOCKS
BLOATFATTEN
LAPAZOPIONEERS
ALECKRICOCASEK
HARPYDESDEMONA

APIE... I really don't like APIE. Everything else looks pretty good to me.

Sat 3/26/2016
DRAWSMEANSIT
ROSINMOMJEANS
IDYLLMARMADUKE
FEELTEXMEXCST
TOTALIDIOTSETS
COLUMNEAPOE
LAMESASATANS
CETERARATINE
MATHISCOVENS
ASHENDOTERS
STERMEMORYHOLE
SARCOVERSEXIT
INCAHOOTSDELLA
FERRARISATILT
STYMIEDESPYS

I wanted to make a very low word count puzzle, and I picked this grid because it seemed like the most doable option. The four big clusters of black squares really help the constructor. They are like low word count "training wheels."

I started this puzzle in the northeast with MOMJEANS and then spiraled counterclockwise finishing in the middle. The last 20% of the puzzle took me about ten times as long to finish as the first 80%. The strain is evident with the EAPOE, SATANS, RATINE stack, but overall I can live with it (and E.A. Poe is much more widely used than I first thought).

The lynchpin in the whole thing is MEMORYHOLE, which, to my knowledge, is making its crossword debut. I had MEMORY???? for the longest time and kept cycling through various options (e.g., MEMORYCARD, MEMORYLANE), but couldn't get anything to work right. Then one night I was working on the puzzle listening to Dan Savage's "Savage Lovecast," and a woman called Dan saying she had a one-off affair, asking if she should tell her husband about it. Dan told her that if she thought she would never do it again then she should not tell him and instead she should slide it down her "memory hole." How serendipitous! Who knew marital infidelities could aid the construction of crossword puzzles?

Truth be told, I don't love the super staircase layout of this grid, but as a changeup to the typical long-stack themeless grid I think it works pretty well. Plus, it's got LETHERCRY in it, so I just gave everybody between the ages of 35 and 45 a Hootie and the Blowfish earworm for the day. You're welcome.

Mon 3/7/2016
OUTERFAQABUSE
WHAMOASUFUGUE
LUMPSTHERACHEL
SHARIFLARK
GENIALLYETCH
UFOSVIESAYHEY
SETSERASEEME
ANC90SFADSMEN
UNHIPLIENANA
SEISMSEWEACTS
ALSOMETADATA
LOUDSMURFS
DRMARTENSBREAK
ACUTENITLANCE
PAGESSLYELATE

In June, 2006 a puzzle of mine ran in the New York Times with the central revealer 80SFADS. Since that was about 10 years ago, I figured — why not a sequel '90s puzzle?

I tried to cut a wide swath culturally and categorically with the types of fads I chose, but with only two pairs of symmetrical entries, I was obviously quite limited. Noticeably absent is a hip-hop fad. I tried to get one in, but the fads that were distinctly '90s didn't fit (e.g., overalls with one strap undone), and the ones that did fit weren't distinctly '90s (e.g., high top fades).

A few technical things: I think the clue for 14-Across contains an inaccuracy. The Wham-O product appears to be stylized Slip'N Slide, without a space between the apostrophe and the N (this is how it was written in my submission). Also, my original clue for FIVE0 explicitly referenced the remade version of the show, as the original is "Hawaii Five-O" with the letter O at the end, not the number 0. The clue isn't wrong as stated — there is a TV show called "Hawaii Five-0" — but I wanted to remove the ambiguity. Oh well, no biggie.

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed the trip down memory lane. The good thing about making a puzzle like this is that even if it's not very good, a certain segment of the population will like it anyway because it reminds them of the good old days (it's the same phenomenon that makes Jimmy Fallon popular). And so, I will leave you with some '90s fads that didn't make the cut: flannels, Zubaz pants, starter jackets, Reebok Pump, Hypercolor, Umbro shorts, Beanie Babies, Tickle Me Elmo, Pogs, frosted tips, Baja hoodies, No Fear tees, snap bracelets, wallet chains, chokers, hacky sack, pagers, and the Spice Girls.

Does anybody else have the urge to play some Sega Genesis?

Sat 12/19/2015
ACCRANETSSCAT
YAHOOEVELPOPI
KROLLMILACLOG
RIPEBELLYLAUGH
OBSDISEASEMET
YOUGOGIRLGIBES
DUPONTSLLANOS
LEOILS
GOLDENMOPTOPS
EAZYEARENAROCK
XYZARBOREDHWY
WIFFLEBALLPLOW
ICEEPEDICLARA
FOSSORENFILLY
ENTSTSOSLEADS

This is not the first themeless puzzle I've had accepted, but it is the first one I began working on that was accepted. It started out as a completely different puzzle, but when I got to the final section (the southwest) I couldn't quite get it to work, and I got frustrated and set it aside. When I came back to it several months (and puzzles) later, I liked the part that didn't quite work — the EXWIFE/GAYICON/OZZFEST stack — better than anything else in the puzzle, so I started there, tore everything else down, and essentially made an entirely new puzzle.

My favorite answer in the grid is WIFFLEBALL, because I've never before seen it in a crossword puzzle and because I spent much of my adolescence playing Wiffle Ball Home Run Derby. (I always called I was Ken Griffey Jr., if you were wondering.)

My second favorite answer is BELLYLAUGH, because for years I've stared at Jenny McCarthy's book "Belly Laughs" on my bookshelf. I've never read it (I think it's my wife's … or it could be one of those random books that just ends up on your bookshelf somehow), so at least I got some use out of it in some way.

If I was making this puzzle today I probably wouldn't settle for INSTR, REPOT, OREN, MERLINS, and ARBORED all in the same puzzle (and all lumped so closely together). But I'm not making it today, so there's nothing I can do but have some General Tso's chicken, watch a CFL game, and call it night.

Sat 9/12/2015
GALBASCOTMAC
ABALLAGHALOLA
FERALBICURIOUS
FAUXFUROTALGIA
STEPONEMOIL
LUISENDINGS
ACTORROYAOUT
CHRISTIANMINGLE
MEETHTSCHOPS
EFFACESIDEE
TERAJOBLOSS
CLAIROLSHELLAC
BAYOFPIGSAMIGO
EDENEVIERAVER
RESSELLSNARE
  1. I think it would be ironic if somebody put in GAFFE for 1-Down.
  2. I actually start all my algorithms at step zero, not STEPONE. (I love a good array-indexing joke.)
  3. I initially thought of CHRISTIANSINGLES for 34-Across and was very disappointed when I realized it was too long. When CHRISTIANMINGLE came to me, it felt like a miracle.
  4. Jim Brown and Jim Kelly were both big BLAXPLOITATION stars, but only one of them is the Pro Football Hall of Famer.
  5. This is the first time IJSSEL has appeared in an NYT puzzle — is AFSLUITDIJK next?
  6. I despise Crosswordese, except, apparently, when it's in French.
  7. Is one who makes nonkosher meals a TREF CHEF?
  8. I tried and failed to come up with a good Vint CERF/surf the Internet pun.
  9. "Vegan wrap?" for FAUXFUR is, I think, a pretty good pun.
  10. I'm not BICURIOUS, but I'm bicurious-curious.
POW Sat 4/18/2015
TRODCABOEFILE
RAKEANALDIDOK
ICECOLDBEVERAGE
BELIEVEYOUME
ARYDIASLAPDOG
LSDINNINGLINA
OOPTEAPARTY
ECKHARTCRACKOS
THECLASHNED
RELOIROBOTINS
ETYMONWOREGOA
ELEANORRIGBY
SOUNDSLIKEAPLAN
OTTOIACERSELA
LOEWEREMYORLY

One day, for some reason, I randomly thought of the phrase "believe you me," and it struck me as a strange and amusing idiom, so I decided to put it in a crossword puzzle. The result was my first published themeless. I made it several years ago, and looking back on it critically now, I think the short answers are a little too "gluey," but I still really like most the medium answers and especially the six longs — ICECOLDBEVERAGE was Plan B after the snappier ICECOLDBEERHERE didn't take, but I think it's a solid stand-alone, and then you've got two sharp colloquialisms, "The Simpsons," The Beatles, and "Boogie Nights." Can't go wrong with that collection, if you ask me.

I was a bit dismayed to see my clue for DIRKDIGGLER was changed. I submitted "1997 film character who is finally revealed in the end." (Clever, huh?) But Will changed it to a very straightforward clue, perhaps because the reference (and thus the cleverness) would be lost on too many people. I sometimes forget that not everybody loves all the things I love.

One clue that did not get changed is "1980s baseball star Lemon" (CHET), and this is a good thing because it affords me a not-completely-tortured segue into unabashedly plugging my self-published baseball book: "Urban Shocker All-Stars: The 100 Greatest Baseball Names Ever." It's got a section in it about baseball names in crossword puzzles, so it's somewhat relevant to solvers. You can order a hard-copy at Amazon and get an e-version on Kindle. Want to know who baseball's crossword puzzle king is? Buy my book! (Although, if you are a seasoned solver, you really "ought" to know the answer already.)

POW Thu 9/5/2013
MAOISMPORTEDD
ONSTARDREINOR
INCITEFENGDYE
LEANEDAHNOLD
RAESCATTERED
CINNIGHTOWL
OSOSATITALOUD
RADIANIDIDSO
POSERFAWNEDER
STRATEGOORR
SPUTTEREDPAR
CANAANDICERS
ANDTTOPUNEVIE
LSUUTESSELENA
EYEMORTTRANKS

An early version of this puzzle only had the revealer PORT, with four "P or T" squares. I wasn't thrilled with how it came out, but I liked the idea, so I set it aside in my (massive) "Puzzles To Rework" folder. Over the next few weeks I made note of any "letter x or letter y" words that came into head. Once I got enough decent ones I made this puzzle.

I was surprised by how constraining the theme was in constructing. The four symmetric revealers made the fill tougher than I expected. Many times I put in a snazzy long answer, only to delete it shortly thereafter. The original version I submitted had OSCARBUZZ instead of OSCARNODS, but the double zees caused a chain reaction that lead to PROTONIC being 39-Down. Mr. Shortz didn't like it, which I understand. Protonic is an inferable word, but... it's no electronic, that's for sure.

Overall I'm satisfied with the non-theme fill. (Thanks to Frank Longo whom Will enlisted to fix a potential Natick.) My biggest regret with this puzzle is that I thought of better theme answers shortly after it was accepted: JANE[D/R]OE is great, as is [C/P]RANKCALL. Oh well. Is there such a thing as a puzzle sequel?

Thu 11/8/2012
MOHMSAMMIMTOM
ARALAFOULTOUR
GARYWINGOELSA
ELIMNINGVALLEY
OVERSEAS
ADAMTENYAMTA
RIVERALOOSCAG
MEATERSBUSLANE
DONSMESMEUVER
OFTMICAGREYS
DISSUADE
BATEAUTWELFTHM
EGALICEINIRAQ
LUXETEENSSITU
LEMSSEDGEHOSE
Tue 5/19/2009
CZARMATHFEST
RELORADIOONCE
OREOEXULTOLAN
COCKTAILTATARS
SODTAILPIPE
UTELESREAR
PIPEDREAMSITON
SNIPSLYLYNOPE
YACHTDREAMTEAM
EUROTRASLO
TEAMGAMEDDE
IMMESHGAMECOCK
NAIRREAVEAMAN
GIGAARDENROBE
ELALHESSDOSE
Mon 2/2/2009
CAJUNABLECART
AMAZEMAIDOVER
MARIONETTEPOLO
NINTENDOWII
CRABCSIOUSTS
RECIPEEDICT
ERRORCRACKEST
MAISOUISHALLWE
ENDBRASHGOTIN
CANOEAESOPS
SHOOTVETSNEE
MICHELLEWIE
OREOSUREENOUGH
GEARAGERYAHOO
SENTTEDSASFOR
Thu 8/14/2008
THORJOEYSCALD
SINEARLOEULER
KEEPCUMULATIVE
LEAKRICMEA
EMIGRATESOMBER
MENSCLUBLAI
ETESNOESKERS
NORSEANGTENET
DOSINGIOSTSU
TSOCOMPLAIN
ROTUNDSPOILING
ICHABALEAL
PROGRESSEDNIKE
EERIEHEREONIT
RANTSYEARSGTS
Tue 6/27/2006
EDITBELLAAJAX
LENOARIASHEIR
LEGWARMERSALMA
SPENTANGUSLEY
INSSOCKEYES
HIDEOUTHIPS
ADOSBOOMMAHER
SIN80SFADSORE
HOKUMSTIRMEIN
EPICDEBASED
SAYALOUDWAG
ILKEASELTIRES
ETONRUBIKSCUBE
VANESAUDIABBA
ERGOELTONLESS
Sun 1/16/2005 PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE
COHORTSOROIZEWHIFF
ARMOIRETUNASUBHANOI
DROPPINGTHEBONEISSUE
MOOROLLINGSTALL
SHARMREDNEDATONED
PONEBEARERREAIREDS
ERODEDMUSALETA
ADDINHEIRTOTHETHRALL
REEDITEDRBITHEBLUE
TARESOARSOLLA
ALLFORONEANDONEFORALL
LEIASINGSAPAN
INERTIANAMREALLOTS
TONEINTHESADDLEYACHT
SCENENOISIFTER
MAESOEURHONEOFFAME
ARMIESNEAROAMSLEW
ICECREAMCALLARE
MARIOGALLWITHTHEWIND
EDGESANIMATEHONOREE
DEEREREPYENSWEETEN
Mon 11/8/2004
LYNXPSSTSTARE
BEAMECHOEASEL
SANEROAMARIEL
HANDONHANDOFFS
ONEHOOT
DECAYSHAIGTAP
ALAMOSEWSLOGO
TAKEUPTAKEDOWNS
UTESOARSIVIES
MEDSPITTSETSE
STIRTAC
WORKINWORKOUTS
ALIENALEECOOL
SLEETYEARLURE
PANTSSOTSAREA
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