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11 puzzles by Daniel Kantor
with constructor comments

TotalDebutLatestCollabs
118/7/20079/27/20185
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
0036110
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.60030
Daniel Kantor
POW Thu 9/27/2018
TIKIMEATSCIFI
ORALINCHTOGAS
FILLINTHEBLANKS
USEMISERYLIEU
MAOSEENTIE
ASSIGNSARMED
SHADESOFGRAY
SEGALEOSADR
INSIDETHEBOX
THREESEALEGS
HOEONCEELF
ALASSONATASPA
BETWEENTHELINES
IDEASDEARCARP
TORTSORBSEPPS

The Revenge of the Grid

I believe the art of the crossword puzzle will wither and die if we don't keep breaking it open to make it new again. I get bored if all I do is create variations on proven concepts. So, whether you liked this puzzle or not, I did it to explore something new, to break a few rules, and to take advantage of a platform (the NYT) that celebrates the idea of taking risks.

In this puzzle, I was intrigued by the idea of exploring whether the grid itself could provide its own theme clues. I like to think that if puzzle grids had personalities and could talk, some grids (extroverted types) would say they wanted to be more center stage, to participate in the same things that the clues always do.

"Hey, why do you words always get to give the clues? Why can't we grids ever do that!? It's always empty square, black square, empty square, black square…"

I like to think that my grid is smiling at the idea that its theme fill points back to the grid. The theme fill is, in a way, subordinated to the grid. When the grid lives ABOVE the fill, it's a good day in grid-dom.

When pondering this puzzle, I wondered how far I could go with the design. Would I have to do it using already-accepted methods? Would Will Shortz be interested? How much would I be allowed to challenge standard grid design? My first draft even included CLUELESS in the fill, clued as "How one might feel trying to solve 17-, 33-, 42-, and 62-Across". In the end, Will advised that the CLUELESS entry was not necessary. The puzzle's grid would speak for itself. He got the point I was trying to make even more than I did.

POW Wed 10/28/2015
JIGRUSTSDART
ACESENNUIAMES
CANNEDCORNMALE
KNEELSTAXDOT
ATRASSPLITPEAS
SOAKBASEELUDE
SOLBONYCROSS
FOODCOURT
SWIGSHULAMOD
ANISEGISTRACE
DIRTYRICEMINOT
OPESETIODINE
NETSBAKEDBEANS
ARALENEROSCOT
ISPYLOYALSRS

One way to understand what goes into constructing a NYT-worthy puzzle is to follow this email thread (which has been considerably edited and shortened.)

Hi Jay,

Joel Fagliano, writing on behalf of Will.

Thanks for showing us your FOOD COURT 15x. Will worries about running a puzzle with BATTERED CHICKEN, as a pun on domestic abuse isn't likely to amuse many people.

Hi Will,

What If we rebuilt the puzzle using GRILLED PORK CHOP instead?

Hi Jay,

GRILLED PORK CHOP feels inconsistent, because the other entries all have to do with the offense committed (corruption, divorce, etc), whereas this only refers to what happens once the PORK CHOP enters the courtroom (what a weird sentence to write!). Anyway, we still like the core idea here.

Hi Will and Joel,

We worked hard to come up with a replacement to GRILLED PORK CHOP. Below are 3 options.

17-A Rolled tortillas prosecuted for being high? BAKED ENCHILADAS

17-A Fungi involved in a wrongful termination suit? CANNED MUSHROOMS

17-A Game fish suing for slander? BLACKENED SALMON

Hi guys,

Thanks for the reworked theme proposal.

None of your proposed new theme entries sounded terribly familiar. What if, instead, the theme consisted of the following:

BAKED BEANS (10)

CANNED CORN (10)

Hi Will,

We rebuilt FOODCOURT using the theme entries you proposed.

Hi Jay,

Thanks for the new version. While the grid doesn't have anything that's actually bad, it also doesn't have anything actually good — and overall it feels awfully crosswordy. Would you be willing to try this again with a little more oomph?

Hi Will,

Thanks for hanging in there with us. Have a look at this next draft.

Hi Jay,

Yes, much better! Clue this up for a Wednesday, and we'll be all set.

Thanks a lot.

--Will

Tue 8/11/2015
LOINSSMITSCAT
ASCOTTEASOHTO
PHONEPRANKCOOP
PANPEONCARNE
PUSHYOURLUCK
APROPOSNBASEA
MOABGEESE
PINONESEARSBACK
YACHTOLEO
SOBBROORIOLES
PLYMOUTHROCK
ADLIBUELESOS
SHINPULLEDPORK
MANOINKSILLBE
STETNOSENOOSE

JAY: This puzzle is the fourth collaboration between Dan Kantor and myself, and as it just so happens, the third that has a restaurant and/or food theme. My last solo puzzle had a dairy theme, and the next collaboration we have scheduled to run is—spoiler alert— food related as well.

In the case of PULLED PORK, I don't know that we consciously set out to do another food themed puzzle or that we started with the words "pulled pork." I think the idea came more from wanting to construct a puzzle where a particular word's letters were stretched, broken, split or pulled apart.

I will say that each time we receive payment for one of our collaborations, we use the money to have a nice dinner out with our wives. And now that the NYT has raised the price it pays constructors, we can even splurge a bit. At any rate, I'm suddenly hungry.

Wed 2/27/2013
EXTOLEVITERIB
KEANEPENINAMA
GREATHORNEDOWLS
IMACSOBIT
SECRETHANDSHAKE
EPAAAHRED
WISPSGEISEL
CHANGEOFHEART
CANONSPOISE
ABAFADCAM
COMPUTERHACKERS
TROUORION
SEENBUTNOTHEARD
ORBIPODSOLDIE
NSACAPOSSLOPE
Fri 12/24/2010
HMMARCHGASCAP
EAURARAESPANA
NUSCHURCHHYMNS
RIOTDIRPAT
MICHAELCAINE
MTSINAIGETAT
EATCELTOUCH
NAUGHTYORNICE
INSOOSLOIRE
ADAGEEASEDIN
CHRISTMASEVE
AVAOAKLONI
SILENTNIGHTTEN
SCENEITREEARE
TICTACSEEDLAW
Tue 1/13/2009
DEKEALOTSALSA
IMACMOORADOUT
AUNTSELMALOIRE
GOALPIGTRI
SKASIGHTUNSEEN
OAREARLEERY
WHOAATRAIN
NOGUTSNOGLORY
ARISTAROOD
RAISENSASLY
MIDNIGHTSUNEKE
ABMSEWROBB
REINSMIXEDNUTS
SYRIAINXSASIA
HEELSNEXTIHOP
Wed 7/2/2008
BOSCOPRAHPLUS
ECHOIRATEOUST
THECOLOROFMONEY
SOLOSZENARGUE
NAPABLEEPS
BELUGACAVIAR
ROUTERNOSYFAB
ANTSTITLEHULA
TSEPINECMINOR
GRANDSTANDER
LAURELASST
OUTIEAOLOESTE
GREENEGGSANDHAM
OARSSALADAUDI
SLOEPRESSTEST
Wed 6/11/2008
SAGEPLEBECOTS
KILNASPENIRON
IDIDNTDOITNAME
TABOOCRINLER
WONTHURTABIT
BOSNIATEAM
ATAGTOROSEY
JUSTWHATIWANTED
ASTORSCHARS
DEESBOWSTO
ITSINTHEMAIL
TREEARIFALSE
WORFLIEABILITY
AUTOININKOTOE
STARAEONSMEWS
Wed 4/9/2008
EPICSHUETABBY
DOORHERRACURA
ANNEOMNIBEBOP
MYSOUPISCOLD
LAPILEACK
AREWEINVISIBLE
CROROEOAKLEY
REMAPUHFWEAVE
ATMFEERAWZED
WHERESOURORDER
SALPAWREA
WHINEANDDINE
PATIOSILODRUM
ATOLLURDUYODA
DENTEPEATONEG
Wed 12/12/2007
HADTHEMASKIED
OBISONARHITME
BLACKJACKANSON
NALAOCAODES
ORINGTWOFORONE
BENDERSVFWYAY
IREMERPOUR
GOLDENPARACHUTE
IDEETEXMOO
BEEEARSPOTTER
BAJILLIONPOISE
CHASRONINCA
GOOEYAGOODDEAL
URBANHAZESAPT
SABRESNELLREY
Tue 8/7/2007
FLASKAWEBEEPS
LACTITHEULTRA
AVERTOILZONES
BADABINGEZPASS
WADEONCE
FUHGEDABOUDIT
HARASSBESTSAG
ANATBAYILSA
INNSPECKARATS
YOUTALKINTOME
PACTCOIN
BADDIEMOBSCENE
OCEANBANKAREN
ELATEUZIEGGED
RULEDSECTESTS