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David Kwong author page

21 puzzles by David Kwong
with Jeff Chen comments

TotalDebutLatestCollabs
214/1/20069/6/20205
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RebusCircleScrabblePOW
431.593
David Kwong
Sun 9/6/2020 COULD YOU REPEAT THAT NUMBER?
STRAPTOMBSROPESIAN
IRINAORIONEXERTRBI
LOFTSMANGAVIRGOELL
ONESELFGERIDALANES
YOUONLYLIVETWICE
ODSSPREESBASIEECO
VEEIDEDAILOLDSAWS
UNSEENWIZLAUREL
LITTLEBROWNANDCOMPANY
AREASLICITEWOKS
ROTSONOHEPASIS
SPASMBUILTCLINT
TINKERTOEVERSTOCHANCE
OMEARASNLAUSTIN
INERTIALIECAMPATT
ODESTIEGTOBOOTXES
INTERCONTINENTAL
GENOAIRTREGKEROUAC
RTESOFIAABASESUNRA
ITSEULERMAMIEASIAN
NASDREDDPRESSLETBE

I'll admit, I was befuddled by this puzzle. Just four themers? Why not include more? Surely there are tons more "Double ___" phrases to play on ... perhaps even numbering into the double-digits?

Don't worry, I won't quit my day job.

Then I figured, David is the master magician. This has to be a tie-in to his latest show! Ooh, I love crossovers! Okay … waiting … waiting … waiting …

Good thing I'm impatient, giving up after only three seconds of waiting. There were a few clues that made only partial sense as I solved, but I shrugged them off as editorial vagueness designed to increase the difficulty level. I went back and investigated those few clues:

  • 11-Across: [Dutch requirements] refers to jumping double dutch, the rope-skipping style.
  • 22-Across: [Result, maybe, in brief] is an RBI? I guess. Such an oddly unspecific clue, though.
  • 88-Across: Dealers LIE? Huh? Okay ... think about drug dealers. They lie. Still, I thought about sending Will Shortz a pre-production request to edit this clue.

Wait just a second … look at the numbers I listed above. Notice anything? What if I list out the numbers for the four themers?

  • 33-Across
  • 55-Across
  • 77-Across
  • 99-Across

David stole my watch without me even noticing! Every doubled-number Across clue requires a leading "double" in front of the clue.

I would never have noticed that 111-Across is included, if David hadn't told me outright. That makes more sense, (TRIPLE) A suggestion for RTE, not just [A suggestion]. Tricky, because it seemed fine without the implied TRIPLE.

I'm still waiting and hoping that this puzzle somehow ties into David's latest magic act, though, since even with that added layer, the solve wasn't terribly satisfying.

Some revealer would have at least helped people realize there was a trick. DOUBLE as the final Across answer would have made everything hit-you-over-the-head clear, but it's better than the alternative. As presented, this puzzle is like saying, "Pick a card, any card," figuring out which one it is, then walking away without telling them which card they picked.

Thu 9/19/2019
ASSARABSMADMN
LAHGOPROABODE
ONOAMRICANCRIM
NTWTAINTACA
GAMOFTHRONES
ASPIREALLFOR
ANTSILOSORCA
SIAHOMLANDACT
ATTATENORUAE
PAELLADROIDS
PANTOMIMQUIZ
AFTSTARSLOE
PRIMTIMEMMYENS
PERILSOFIANET
STORYTSARSTDS

Every rebus puzzle needs some rationale, a raison d'etre, and this is as strong as any. Emmy-winning shows with M-E (say it out loud) contained within? Great stuff. It's almost as if George R.R. Martin titled his series a GAME OF THRONES for that exact purpose!

I don't watch much TV these days, so it's tough for me to tell how familiar I should be with most of the rest. MAD MEN? I've never seen an episode, but I've heard many talk about it, both pro and con. No bones there. HOMELAND, too.

AMERICAN CRIME / STORY … looking it up … ha ha ha, how appropriate that Felicity Huffman was on the show! Sad; she's a great actress. Not so great a criminal.

PANTOMIME QUIZ.

Let me rephrase that: PANTOMIME QUIZ?

Huh. I suppose it's worthwhile, as a winner of one of the first PRIMETIME EMMYs.

I suppose.

Maybe.

I'd have loved for each featured show to contain just one ME, or better yet, the number of Emmys the show has won. The latter would have been impossible, so I'd have settled for removing AMERICAN CRIME / STORY, and using simply EMMY as a revealer instead of PRIMETIME EMMY. It's confusing to have just one themer with two rebuses, without any reason except for BECAUSE REASONS.

I'd have also liked the game to be more intriguing, a la GAME OF THRONES (except for that last season, WTF Daenerys?). As much as I liked SHOW ME STATE, it's such an obvious answer / clue pair that it tipped off the fact that some trick was in play.

I often push constructors to integrate more long bonuses in increase solver pleasure, but what with LAH and NTWT required to get SANTA ANITA and SHOW ME STATE, breaking up the former would have better served the puzzle.

Overall, an enjoyable concept that directed me to look up some kinda sorta interesting trivia.

ADDED NOTE: Oops! Astute reader Agnes Davidson points out that AMERICAN CRIME is different than AMERICAN CRIME / STORY. Curiously, they've both won Emmys.

Sun 2/17/2019 TRIVIAL MATTERS
MADESODAPARMJARS
IBETCHRISTENDOMAMAT
ALWAYSHASFOLIAGEPIMA
TAIPEIPOMESULYANOV
AZTECEVERALLINONE
SETCIVILVANOPERAS
OHMANAPINGWES
MOCKHENSTATESEA
ENOLASOWSELMVSOP
TRUANTSLEDAIAMITLL
HIGHSCHOOLSECRETCODE
OCHOMOILACEERITREA
DEEMOLECOLSMOIST
DANPRETTYINRATS
SOBUMASSNOISY
ARMOURMATRELETWKS
CHOOSEUPBOWLAGAIN
CORNEASTIMONINESSE
EDGEDELAWARENICKNAME
SEARSTAYINALIVEUBER
SSNSOPENTYPESITS

David riffing on the common complaint, that you have to know trivia to do crosswords. Today, you do!

A lot of elegant elements, starting with the six Trivial Pursuit wedge colors, placed in a perfect circle. Check out the colored-in grid below — so aesthetically pleasing.

I also liked that we got a trivia question from a certain category, using that category's color as an answer. Here's the list:

  • Geography = blue
  • Entertainment = pink
  • History = yellow
  • Art and Literature = Brown
  • Science and Nature = Green
  • Sports and Leisure = Orange

For example, note how the blue rebus square involved the DELAWARE BLUE HENS. Nice touch.

Also note how many elements David had to work in:

  1. Six rebus squares
  2. Those six rebus squares, placed regularly along a circle
  3. Six trivia questions (symmetrical in length)
  4. Six answers to those questions — placed to work with the rebus squares!

With so much going on, it's no surprise to get some crossword glue, and some oddballs like ULYANOV. But the bigger surprise was that it wasn't more.

(And it's kind of meta to get weird trivia like Lenin's real last name, inside a Trivial Pursuit puzzle!)

The trivia questions themselves weren't all that interesting or challenging, so this one didn't rise to POW! consideration. But overall, an interesting concept along with good craftsmanship on a tough set of constraints.

Wed 12/27/2017
RBIWHOALADIES
ARMAUDIAVENGE
GAGORDERBODEGA
TNOTEWIENER
ADOTATALLTEL
GODOFLOVESHIVA
FINENOBAIL
MISPLAYCOROLLA
OPERASAONE
JANETAGNESGREY
ODDSWEETAIDE
CACHESBRAGS
CHATTYADDERLEY
GASTROGAYETRE
INHALFOMENOSS

(Sawing) LADIES / IN HALF today, (lady) GAGA, (lady) GODIVA, (lady) JANE GREY, (lady) CHATTERLEY. So appropriate for a professional magician; David has worked on movies such as "Now You See Me."

Excellent choices for LADIES to saw in half, GAGA, GODIVA, and CHATTERLEY so recognizable. JANE GREY didn't come right to the forefront my mind, but she was hiding back there somewhere. I did wish that she had been another one-namer for consistency's sake. But I couldn't find any other even-lettered ones besides (lady) DI, and that's not super interesting to saw in half.

I didn't notice at first, but Jim pointed out that the LADIES go in a length series, 4 to 6 to 8 to 10. Cool!

I hitched on the revealer's execution, LADIES / IN HALF feeling stilted. Perhaps SAW A LADY IN HALF would have been better? But that's an unfortunate 14 letters in length, not crossword-friendly. SAWS would make it a 15, but that would feel stilted, too. Huh. Stupid crossword gods!

How cool would it have been if SAW A LADY IN HALF ran vertically down the middle ... as if it were literally sawing the LADIES / IN HALF!

Pretty good execution: 1.) some color in the themers GAG ORDER / GOD OF LOVE, 2.) a couple of fill bonuses in SEND CASH, INERTIAL mass, AIRWAVE, and 3.) not much crossword glue, just ADOT, ILE, DEDE … drat, David ended with OSS / TRE. OSS (office of … strategic services?) is one of those uglies that screams "constructor's crutch," and may cause some head-scratching among solvers. Ah well, you can't win ‘em all.

Fun concept. If the revealer had been presented more smoothly, this would have been a POW! candidate.

P.S. You put in CORE for [Ending with hard or soft] too, didn't you? What, no? Me neither.

POW Wed 6/28/2017
UDDERASTIFLOP
NUEVOSCOWRIDE
HOWIWISHNATALIE
IMACVEENEUTER
PORTMANDATED
ENTLYSARP
ALAINIDOEVEL
JACQUESCOUSTEAU
ARESLYECARPS
RADSSNGPA
SOICOULDCALL
MCLEANUNEARLO
THEMPORTMANTEAU
GIGIRUDEBEAMS
SASSETONASSAY

★ I usually groan at quote puzzles, but I loved this one. Natalie Portman dating Jacques Cousteau would have produced the celeb portmanteau of … PORTMANTEAU! Quote puzzles need to pack a tremendous punch to make them worth all the real estate they take up. Today was a rare instance where I thought that was the case.

Nice job on a tough construction, too. 15 / 12 / 15 / 12 / 15 themer lengths is a punishing demand. No matter how you lay them out, there's going to be a lot of themer overlap you have to deal with.

David decided to take most of his pain in the upper left and lower right corners, where pairs of themers are dangerously close together. The upper left does suffer a bit with UNHIP (maybe I'm too unhip to say this?), DUOMO, DEWAR an esoteric trio. Along with NUEVO, it didn't make for the greatest start to the puzzle. Toss in SCHED, and that's about all the crossword glue I want in one puzzle.

Thankfully, the opposite corner came out clean as a whistle. Beautiful work there, not a drop of crossword glue in a region that had to work with difficult constraints — four parallel down answers having to thread through CALL and the end of PORTMANTEAU.

Elsewhere, there was only MTGS that stuck out. I might have placed a black square at the M of MCLEAN to smooth that out, but that's a judgment call. Overall, very good work in short fill considering the constraints.

Strong bonuses, too, with Uncle Sam's I WANT YOU and Shakespeare's ELSINORE weaving through three themers apiece. It's so hard to work in long bonuses when you have this much theme density, so the effort is appreciated.

Love the GPA clue too; Dean Wormer taking such pleasure in announcing Bluto's GPA as a 0.0. TEES also was nice, having their "home on the range" — the driving range, that is.

Funny/punny quote, good bonus fill with a smooth overall result. This is how a quote puzzle should be done.

Thu 6/23/2016
PEDIELLENSOAP
ALECNEARSINGA
ROBERTFORAPPLES
ENTREATSOHYES
INITHALO
PENELOPEPINCH
YORKEROLESHEM
ERASJIBESMELD
WETLOGONSARIS
DOROTHYMATRIX
ERSTIRAS
UPPEDARMYBASE
SYLVESTERASAFOX
ERIEAIREDREFI
DOESLEONASWAT

Debut! I had been wondering why Megan Amram's name sounded familiar … and then I saw the closing credits for my favorite show, Silicon Valley! Very cool that this writer joins the crossword constructors' club.

Good ol' SLY

Today we get normal phrases done "formally," expanding names that could be short for something else. I thought SYLVESTER AS A FOX was brilliant, "Sly" being Sylvester Stallone's nickname. I wasn't aware of DOT being short for DOROTHY (in DOROTHY MATRIX printer), but I can see it.

It was so neat to get a specific nickname like SLY expanded. Not as neat to get BOB = generally short for ROBERT, PENNY = generally short for PENELOPE, because there are so many nicknames than could be used like this — RICH, DREW, REG, TEDDY, BILL, PAT, etc. I would have loved if the theme had been kept to very specific nicknames used only for one particular celeb. Not sure if this is possible, but a guy can dream.

Going down to 72 words definitely makes for a tougher-than-normal solve. I liked a lot of the long fill — HELEN MIRREN, ARMY BASE with its great [Where many grunts may be heard?] clue, and ICE RINKS in particular. That big lower-right corner is so nice, with MARS BARS / ARMY BASE creating a wide-open space.

All the wide-open spaces do create some construction challenges. I don't mind a difficult crossing like YORKE / ERATO since experienced solvers should know ERATO (the honorary Muse of crosswords, what with her friendly consonant-vowel alternation). But POLIS is a tough one to remember, and crossing it such that OH YES and AH YES work equally well struck me as potentially setting up the solver to lose. PALIS sounded more correct to me, but perhaps I was thinking about PARIS? Sigh. It's so tough — OH YES is a great little piece of fill. To me, not worth that ambiguous crossing, though.

Nice idea, with SLY to SYLVESTER forming a standout answer.

Tue 5/10/2016
ABCSCLOWNINSO
HAHAAEGISSEER
SLAVEARLWEAVER
CTASKEDDIAS
JOHNJAYDADAS
INANERTONYHAWK
MYMANSAABNSA
HARTCRANE
ENSOUISOASES
TOMSWIFTMORALE
CREPEBIRDMAN
ILEAMOOGRAP
PETERFINCHURSA
AGEDELECTMIEN
WADSNOSEYSADO

BIRDMAN hinting at "men with last names that are birds." I've seen this type of theme before, but I like the freshness of using the 2014 movie as a revealer.

Not too shabby a superhero costume ...

Most of the guys I had seen before in this last name = bird capacity, although EARL WEAVER made me scratch my head. I sort of follow baseball, just like I sort of follow most everything to keep up (sort of), but this one was a mystery to me — not only his name, but that a WEAVER is a bird. Apparently it is!

David finds an amazing six examples, which is pretty cool. I did find it odd that BIRDMAN wasn't the last themer though — its placement as number six out of seven is curious. It is true that using a seven-letter theme revealer in row 13 is tough — that creates big corners, hard to fill — but it would have avoided the inelegance of hitting the revealer … and then getting one single more themer.

Seven themers is tough to work with. Gluey fill in almost inevitable where themers overlap. David does quite well in the center of the puzzle, with STUF being the only even slightly wonky answer (it can only be clued one way, really). But he does this by using a ton of black squares to section it off, which chokes down puzzle flow.

Given that the theme quickly became apparent, I appreciated David's efforts to include bonus fill to hold my interest. There's not much room to work in long fill, but SEESAWS, EARDRUMS, SAVANNAH, even BALCONY adds to the feeling of a satisfying solve.

This is a prime example of trade-offs in construction. Seven themers can be hugely impactful and impressive, but it's so difficult to avoid a slew of IN SO, SADO, ILEA, INANER, ROI, ANO/DIAS, etc. All minor, nothing glaring, but as a whole, it's quite a bit.

Mon 4/4/2016
GOPADMITSHIM
ONAONASSISACE
TETWAYNEKNIGHT
TRAILISWEAR
CLEARSIGNINTO
SURFTASSEL
PISTOLHEATLAMP
AGOREFCNNNOR
NINEBALLGASTRO
BEFAIRHIED
TODOPLAYBILLS
OHIOANNUOVA
BACKCOUNTRYBAD
ERECARPETSODE
YESTHIRDSROW

BACKCOUNTRY interpreted as "country listed in reverse, within phrases." Some beautiful finds, KENYA backward in WAYNE KNIGHT (Newman!) my favorite. Impressive that David used no short country names, making his task that much more challenging — the four letter countries give more flexibility, like PERU (MINIATURE POODLE, PRESSURE POINT), IRAN (RAN A RISK, DIANA RIGG) or even CUBA (MEGABUCKS). Good call by Will/Joel on that.

NEWMAN!

How many themers do you need in a puzzle? When a revealer like BACKCOUNTRY is used, generally at least three more themers are needed — otherwise the puzzle feels thin. It's not necessary to go up to six total themers like today, but it can be awfully nice, especially when each of the themers sings.

Six themers do put a lot of strain on a grid. David uses an every-other-row arrangement, trying to space them out, but this means he's bound to get a bunch of regions that have little flexibility. It's no surprise that the gluey bits like O WAR, NSEC, OR BE come in those highly constrained areas. David does well to spread out ISE, HIED, ONA (odd that David chose ONA in such a flexible section) too, but in aggregate, it does feel like a lot.

I wonder if compressing some of the themers would have helped? Moving CLEAR SIGN down a row does put it right on top of HEAT LAMP, but the overlapping pairs of letters — GH and NE — would be friendly combinations. Same goes on the opposite side with the LP and LL overlaps if you squeeze NINEBALL atop PLAYBILLS. It's counterintuitive to not put some space between themers, but when theme density is this high, it can often help.

It was nice to get a bit of bonus fill, even with such high theme density. PATTERSON is a phenom, becoming a force in children's lit (his "Middle School" series is surprisingly good). ANTILABOR, BE FAIR, ONASSIS, I SWEAR are all good uses of longish slots, too.

I would have preferred a smoother solving experience, but there sure were a lot of nice theme finds. ADDED NOTE: No wonder the top left corner is so flexible but contains ONA and TET — I can't wait to find out what the hidden message is! I'll post it once it's public.

POW Thu 12/17/2015
TWANGYABROGATE
SECURENONRIGID
PRIDEANDPREJUDD
EDENOYSGOADS
AASFOE
CANDDBERGENMAW
ARBORSURNCODE
LUAUASSOCAXLE
IBETLAHESPIED
FARBODDRIPPERS
AIMONE
STINKPDAEACH
LONGISLANDDDTEA
INCENSEDTSURIS
TSARINASSTELLA

★ There seem to be two camps when it comes to rebuses — the haters and the lovers. Given that there have been SO many rebuses, I lean slightly toward the former side, but I really like when a rebus is not just a rebus. David's interpretation of DIE + DIE = DICE made for a highly entertaining solve.

It is a truth universally acknowledged ...

Not only was the concept really fun, but I loved David's selection of themers. BO(DICE) RIPPERS was my favorite, evoking images of Harlequin Romance covers. PRIDE AND PREJU(DICE), CAN(DICE) BERGEN, and LONG ISLAN(D ICE)D TEA are all great picks, too. It would have been nice to get one more where DICE was broken — perhaps COME(DIC E)FFECT or NOMA(DIC EMPIRE)? — but there are a very limited number of phrases breaking like that. And a second D / ICE break would be tough since not much starts with ICE that wouldn't have the same etymology as ICED.

I also liked how David only used DIE once by itself in the fill, in DIE OUT. Hiding the rebuses in RUSH(DIE), (DIE)TS, GRENA(DIE)R avoids duplications. With so rebus-filled entries required for this puzzle, it's impressive to not dupe DIE.

I also liked the big, open corners in the NE / SW. Sometimes this sort of thing is optional, but today David used so many black squares in the middle of his grid — necessary to partition all the various DIE entries — that he was forced to keep the corners wide open. They came out well, with some nice long stuff like INCENSED and ABROGATE, with very few gluey entries like ASSOC.

I wasn't a fan of the lower right corner. Yes, there's a lot to work around with two DIE answers and a relatively big corner, but HEIL … yikes. Maybe I've grown too sensitive over the years. At least clue it to "The Producers" or something? And A DUE / ASA / CTRL / TSURIS are all fine(ish) on their own, but they sure pile up in that corner.

Perhaps a little too easy for a Thursday puzzle, but it sure provided me with a lot of entertainment. Well done.

Thu 11/12/2015
SCIATICOSMOSIS
OOMPHPHFLIPPNT
IMPLODEARSENIO
LEEEELINN
SSRLASALLESKY
SAMPECKINPH
KNOWNOTHINGPRTY
NINARONLIRA
OKAYPANDAPCER
BELGYESLEON
AHIUMA
PLIMONYPNACEAS
SALESDEPRTMENTS
SPYTINYTIMSPT
ETASASSILYERS

I love grid art. There's something so cool about opening a puzzle and seeing black squares arranged in some crazy pattern. I'm not sure if today's grid looked more like a PANDA's face or a zoo enclosure trapping the PANDA? (I sort of saw the face after reading David's notes, but I had to squint pretty hard.) Even if neither really came through for me, I do like seeing innovative grid patterns. Even inkblot-like ones can be fun.

Squee!

Speaking of fun, very fun to search for those P AND A = PA rebus squares. How cool is (PA)(PA)L (PA)LACE, containing three of them! I like seeing rebus strings within long answers — not only is this harder to construct around, but it makes for a more challenging solve. The PAs in FLIP(PA)NT, (PA)LIMONY, S(PA)NISH RICE, and OOM (PA)H P(AH) were a blast to uncover.

And I liked how David featured a 16-letter in KNOW NOTHING (PA)RTY — almost all 16s will be new, since few grids go to 16 columns. This one seemed slightly off to me as I know that party as the KNOW NOTHINGS, but I like it either way. SALES DE(PA)RTMENTS as a plural felt like I got cheated a bit since I've seen that answer in singular many times before, but it still works fine.

Stuffing in 11 rebus squares is a tough task. You're going to need some PAs in short answers, and stuff like I(PA)D, S(PA)Y, S(PA)T work so well. It's unfortunate to have some of them in the A (PA)L and AT (PA)R types of entries, though.

Also unfortunate was to get a smattering of SSR, SSTS, APO, LMN, ENSE, TREO, etc. throughout the puzzle. It's all relatively minor, and I wouldn't have even minded them in aggregate if there had been something stronger to make it all worthwhile. But as it is, the visual didn't have such a mind-blowing effect that it overshadowed all the gluey bits. I might have been happier having only 10 or less PAs in the grid if it meant cutting the number of gluey bits in half.

I tend to find straight rebus puzzles a bit tired these days, so it was a relief to have a lot of fun uncovering all these rebus squares today.

Fri 3/27/2015
BIGMACREPEALS
ENRICOOPENSUP
ALAMORTLEADSTO
TABERNACLECHOIR
STSNEBOHORSE
MIALINPUTTS
ENTITESISS
UTAHSTATE
ISAATMSSHH
TASESOASHOI
IPODSGRIMASP
LATTERDAYSAINTS
STOOLIESTINKAT
IONBEAMENCAGE
TWEEDLEDEARER

Very cool mini-themed themeless! Not only does David only use Utah-shaped blocks of black squares, but he incorporates three Utah-related phrases, TABERNACLE CHOIR, UTAH STATE, and LATTER DAY SAINTS. All lively entries.

Recognize that shape?

I liked the mini-theme so much that I think it would have made more sense to run this on a Thursday. I had a great a-ha moment when I figured out why David used such chunky black square blocks. Perhaps the theme density isn't high enough to run it as a themed puzzle, but I think the visual's extra oomph puts it over the edge. Thursday puzzles are so difficult to innovate, and for me, this concept fell right into that sweet spot where I'm treated to a stroke of creativity.

I would have loved just a little more flow, more connectivity throughout the puzzle. Not sure if it's even possible to shift the Utah blocks around Tetris-style while still keeping the three themers, but I ended up getting stuck in the NW corner. If only some entries could have squeaked through where the adjacent Utah blocks are touching! Much harder to fill the puzzle that way, though.

We're getting ready to launch scored word lists (coming soon!), and many entries here are easy to evaluate. ITES and ISS are fairly clear; they ought to be avoided whenever possible. DEME is in a grayer zone. And surprisingly, HOI is too. The difficulty with HOI: how else do you clue it besides [___ polloi]? It's tough to assign hard numbers, but we're hoping that our simple system will help a lot of constructors in taking their first cut.

Great idea; beautiful use of the crossword grid as an artistic canvas.

Tue 3/18/2014
BADCOBBSMART
ALIAPARACOMER
BURGLARALITALY
AMTOOITAOTIS
GENTDISTRICT
BOOBOOCHAO
CUPRNACLOGS
AFAREWELLTOARMS
DFLATBIOCAW
TCBYMRBEAN
DEATHWEDOVER
ERIEISABEAST
ERODESNAKECHER
RELOSITSOTERI
EDINAREINMAP

Another puzzle from the crossword magician! I recently saw "Now You See Me," for which David was the lead magician. Talk about a childhood dream to hand out business cards entitled LEAD MAGICIAN to Woody Harrelson and Jesse Eisenberg. Live the dream, David, live the dream.

Nice revealer today, A FAREWELL TO ARMS being both a perfect 15 and a way to describe wacky answers which had ARM removed. Usually the fun in these types of themes for me is enjoying the kookiness of the resulting phrases, but today I found the quest to understand the base phrase amusing. BURGLAR AL clearly starts with BURGLAR ALARM, but GENT DISTRICT was a little harder (GARMENT DISTRICT). Same with SNAKE ARMCHER, which was incredibly hard to suss out.

I jest, of course. Some say I charm. Mostly me, unfortunately.

So although DEATH WED OVER was the only one that wed me over — er, won me over, I enjoyed the wordplay and quest to find the base phrases. I did have an incredibly hard time finishing the puzzle, given the tough TORV and BWI crossing one of the harder to figure out themers. BWI I only know as the airport code for Baltimore's airport, and it turns out BWI also stands for Book Wholesalers, Inc.; who knew the Bahamas was such a literate place? Learn something new every day.

(British West Indies)

So given the tough entries and the difficulties I had in sussing out the phrases, I had my first DNF (did not finish) on a Tuesday in years. It's good to get a dose of humility every once in a while. I did appreciate some long fill like MOTOROLA (I still proudly show off my Razr, sadly) and RATTED ON. The construction is extremely challenging, given that the 9/12/15/12/9 represents a whopping 57 theme squares. All those interconnected areas produce difficult constraints, resulting in a few unfortunate entries such as NORW, AGOGO, SSW and ITA as direct results of all those necessary crossings. Perhaps a slightly less ambitious construction would have resulted in a smoother end product.

Finally, I appreciate when I learn something new from the crossword. I had never really thought of BUFF as a color, so it was neat to finally uncover. And I was supposed to have read Dante's The Divine Comedy in college, but I had a much more divine comedic college experience and failed to read past the title page. So it was fun to read up on the role Beatrice Portinari played in Dante's life!

ADDED NOTE: check out this blog post about the magic trick David integrated into the puzzle. Cool!

POW Thu 10/31/2013
WOLFMANNAMFLOW
INUTEROARIGATO
MONSTERRETSNOM
PREMIUMNATDEB
IMPMISER
SKATEVIANOTSO
LOCHJARJSBACH
OATATRIACAY
GLOSSYORBEINE
SARAHARKPUTTS
DIALSSAG
ACCABUINSECTS
PHANTOMMOTNAHP
EASESINSWEEPEA
DRACULA

★ I haven't been this impressed by a puzzle in quite a while. Such a fun solve; the trick of DRACULA not having a reflection completely mystifying until the very end. I love it when someone breaks the rules of crosswords. David did a masterful job of lulling us to sleep by having us fill in the three mirrored entries and then hits us with the killer finale.

Sometimes people ask me which is more important, the idea or the execution. Well, I had a similar idea a while back, but I had envisioned it with the ENTIRE grid being mirror symmetrical, with only VAMPIRE not showing up. When I tried to put it together, I became something of a Dr. Frankenstein, breaking all sorts of rules broken (in unholy ways). Both David's idea and his execution were better than mine, so what can I do but give a standing ovation to the master?

The people in this coffee shop are staring at me now.

A side note about David: he's actually a magician! And not only a great magician, but one who works his magic with crosswords and Scrabble. He recently worked on "Now You See Me" and has developed a signature trick involving crosswords. The guy's skills are mind-boggling. I actually said "no @#$!& way!" after seeing his work.

It's a shame that the paper solve is so different than electronic solves today. Often times we rebellious constructors find ways to break the classical xw conventions, causing all sort of issues for the paper solve and/or the electronic. The paper version is usually so much more flexible because the newspaper doesn't complain if one writes outside the grid, intentionally doesn't fill in a square, or even draws a picture in one or more squares. But Across Lite and other platforms often get cranky and complain.

As we go forward, more and more people will be solving on computers and tablets, so I hope the NYT and other outlets find ways to evolve. Hopefully soon, I'll be doing a review of software and hardware packages that might be able to tackle the ever-expanding imaginations of constructors.

Couldn't be happier about the puzzle today. Bravo!

Fri 5/3/2013
YIDDISHAIRMAIL
ARIANNACLEANSE
WISHFULDRINKING
ENBLOCEYETESTS
DAEKFCDAG
LAEAAHOSHA
TWITTERFOLLOWER
ONETOGOPAYDIRT
SEVENOFDIAMONDS
STENFENENG
DETAGOFUR
TRIAXIALWINONA
MIDNIGHTINPARIS
ELECTRADESPITE
NEMESESORESTES
Wed 4/11/2012
HENCEHOPSQUID
ALOHAENTOUNDO
MILITARYASSAULT
ATICTEXAIMEE
SEEKOUTATTN
LABORPROTEST
PLAITISONBIB
LENTCASEYFATS
ENERAREBUYUP
BOWLINGSCORE
OLEOANALYZE
ADAGEARCLOAM
NOJOYINMUDVILLE
OLAFDOESINKER
SERFARNOMESSY
Sun 1/24/2010 ABRIDGED EDITION
CCLAMPFONTIGLUTBONES
FLORIOOMOOTRIPABSENT
LAWNBOWLINGSOCIALCHAIR
ARLOREDSEAEVENSOALDA
TOYSMAPSSALETINSESP
LANAISIFSHASTA
ORIGINGOULDZENAMI
RENALFENCEPSATAPICES
BEDSIDESHIDALGOSHEETS
SLOTALOEARNEPOESCAG
AIRDATEADAMANCYAPT
HASPSMADMAGAZINEALPES
OSHSWANSONGENDLATE
STEPINDTIEDXBOXSHOE
POKEATBEETREDOVERHAND
SPENDSAURACOMTEOARED
LAMARRBADATRUNDRY
LATKESLRIROBOT
TANNOELTERAAMASBTEN
ULEEPLIERSPATRIARAVE
NEWSCHANNELSCHOOLPAPER
ARETHAESAIENOWICHIRO
STRAITDEKESENSEBERTS
Mon 2/16/2009
PLIECIGARBLAM
ROSYOMEGAREPO
IRAEKARATOXEN
SNAPDECISION
MACAOPONTIFF
TRAPSMETER
CRACKLEWAREILE
ROTHPRIDEOSLO
EMOPOPMUSICIAN
DANTESETAT
ONEARTHMULTI
RICEKRISPIES
QTIPELIOTLENO
ESAILINDAETON
DONTLOGESTORE
Tue 7/29/2008
BOGIEKIAPECOS
EARNSNONTIARA
THEDECENTGATSBY
HUGELEEZAHESS
ELOMAE
GOODBARRIERREEF
UPNSKEINCORAL
EROSSHARPRITA
SANYOATESTCUR
THENOTBADESCAPE
OPEUKR
MOWNRIGIDARAL
OKAYBALLSOFFIRE
PRIMEKENITALO
SALSASETNYLON
Sun 2/18/2007 MAGIC WORDS
TBONEMUIRAEONSSLED
AARONATNORELEECOPA
ETATSREFSGREATBRAIN
BITINGCROSBYOPULENCE
ONECARORIOLESPEE
ERESNOENDSUNOCO
DEADLYSITINVIIEULA
UNSSTLOSHORTCIRCUS
RENEWSOONAIKMANHET
ARETHASLAINANTI
NOWYOUSEEITNOWYOUDONT
MODELEACHERENOW
SHAPIRATEHEILNOTSO
SUNVISITORSASEAHIP
RANIFARHUNTINGPERM
SCENEVBARONSOIR
ETALHORSESDROWSE
AREYOUOKONEARMEDBAND
TITANLINESATTAELSAS
ASTRTREATTMANRETIE
TEEDSEERSSESSSMELL
Wed 2/7/2007
EPEECAROLPATS
SARAACELAROAN
QWERTYUIOPOLIO
UNCLESDROOP
ESTERASDFGHJKL
SILLHEELS
DINSAIDAATSEA
RNAZXCVBNMTIT
ANGLEEDENSSNS
NIGERTESH
KEYBOARDSPEARL
ASSHESURREY
JOANTYPEWRITER
ARNOAMOREFILE
WRENRETIEFESS
Sat 4/1/2006
HOSETADIRONON
IKESORRSEEMTO
TALSSENATESEAT
OPLACETOGO
NITAAHLOGICAL
SOARANIASAMI
CELENAMORED
OUTSIDETHEBOX
ENLISTEDABA
WEAVENYCARNO
ERNESTOOILOMI
OVERFLOWET
DREAMWORKSFARS
EILEENMEAFITI
ECHOESARYSTAN