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Dick Shlakman author page

3 puzzles by Dick Shlakman
with constructor comments

TotalDebutLatestCollabs
32/2/20144/11/20213
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
2001000
CircleScrabble
11.57
Dick Shlakman
Sun 4/11/2021MERGER MANIA
CIRCEABRAMOBJECTORS
UBERXHUEVOBEAVERHAT
LIFECOACHESINBALANCE
DETERSYRUPTONEPOEM
RELAYDYLANUSS
UKETEARNOOKTIBIA
SINGLESBARSDRIVENUTS
UNDEADATEAMBEELIST
ADULTSCEPTERSSTELMO
LAMEMMAISOSPUTTER
TROUBLESHOOTERS
MIGRANTOAFPARMTSP
AQUILADOCILITYOPINE
SUITCHEHEIDIMIAMOR
TIDEPOOLSSPAMFILTERS
STORETIEDBAILCEE
ALEARROWBLAIR
BARESALLSIZEDENNUI
ANIMATIONPOLOGROUNDS
GETINHEREUNLITDICES
SWELTEREDPESTOETHAN

DICK: I "met" Will Nediger by requesting his mentorship, freely offered on a Facebook group of cruciverbalists. That led to our collaborating on a number of already published and pending publication puzzles, and we have developed a pattern for our collaborations, which held in this case. I come up with a theme idea, and related grid entries and clues that I think will make most editors jump for joy, and Will shows me how wrong I am while suggesting how to take my idea and make it ideal.

We then trade back and forth about theme entries within the construct Will has outlined, and when we have an agreed set, Will constructs the grid and locates the theme entries in it. I take the first crack at filling the remainder of the grid, and Will takes my draft and improves it dramatically.

I then take the first crack at drafting all clues. Will revises to create contemporary references for some of the clues, eliminate my tendency toward verbosity, make necessary grammatical changes (co-authoring with a linguist makes one wish he had paid more attention to grammar in grades K through 6), and suggest substitutions where he believes the approach I have taken can be improved. Because his suggestions are always improvements, after his round of revisions, we submit them.

Collaborating with Will is always a learning experience, which is a precious experience for an octogenarian.

WILL: This is a deceptively simple theme — it was much harder than expected to come up with a set of consistent theme entries (brand name + generic product, where both words have sufficiently different meanings in the base phrases, and where the brands are owned by companies with a lot of name recognition). The editing team didn't like a couple of our original options, so they gave us the go-ahead to stick with 7 themers, with a pretty low number of theme squares for a 21x21, which let us focus on keeping the fill as clean as possible. I hope we succeeded!

I was pretty sure the editing team wouldn't keep the clue [Capital in the 21st Century?] for CEE, but I had to go for it anyway. I'm in love with the [Birkin stock] clue for BAGS, though — thanks to whichever editor came up with that gem!

Wed 7/2/2014
SPAYROBENOISY
ALBAELBAONCUE
PEAKSPIQUEPEKES
SANMANSART
DDAYBROWSE
BOARSBOREBOERS
LINDTANODTRU
ESSAYDANARSON
ASHORITLIARS
PAIRSPAREPEARS
UPKEEPAXLE
ELDOGRECAT
IDYLLSIDLEIDOLS
NEALELIONURSA
SATYRKEPTODOR

DICK:

This puzzle was accepted for publication on June 30, 2013, before my Sunday collaboration with Jeff published last February was accepted. Thus, this is really my maiden effort at puzzle creation. The idea for the puzzle began with a triple homophone and clue that just popped into my head while coming awake from an afternoon nap, but that did not survive: LET THE BEE BE BEA, clued to refer to a Golden Girl (Bea Arthur) waving at a stinging buzzer, was the thought provoker, and I developed a list of similar triple homonyms and sent it to Jeff with the request that he co-create if the idea appealed to him.

As a total novice, I had no idea how to go forward with grid creation, fill, cluing or any other aspect of puzzle creation. There were, on my list, some ideas Jeff liked but no internal grammatical or stylistic consistency. Some had just 3 words, some 4, some 5, some in the present, some in the past, etc. If you are a fan of Jeff Chen puzzles, you know that such sloppiness of internal thematic consistency does not pass muster. He came up with the tabloid headline clue structure and the fill structure where every themer is only 3 words, and all follow the identical grammatical pattern. I had taken the first shot at cluing the non-themers and tried for Thursday level difficulty and misdirection. Jeff saw it more as a Monday or Tuesday puzzle and together we simplified the clues. None of this seemed to matter as Will accepted it as a Wednesday and rewrote what seems to me to be a very considerable number of the clues. Maybe that's the norm; I do not know. If you already know the answers, as I did, it might be hard to see a change upward in level of difficulty of the clues.

Sun 2/2/2014TOIL AND TROUBLE
HAWSLEERSATUNUM
OLINSINREACHWHOLE
REDEEMTERMITEKAHUNA
EXERCISERSDURANDURAN
BANDOLEROPOLOSHIRT
KIATCMBIC
HOWCOSTEAUOAKSTSA
INHALFINAKNOTKOSHER
HEAVEHOOLEICENTREES
ANTEUHOHTACOASTO
TDSBMINORROCOCOCON
DORAEPITAPHKATO
SNOWINFELICIAWRITHE
IONESKYEESEREHEATED
NEEKIELDHSMOODIRE
GLIBNELLTENSASSN
SENDSEABIRDTOSH
ORDAINWILLFULHOTPOT
TOODLEOOIONICEHOLES
TANSSHOCOOFORRANK
ODESOPEDTEWEYOS

Dick:

If the byline for co-constructors was set in type reflecting the respective contributions of each, my name would be in eight point pica type and Jeff's in 20 point, BOLDED and italicized. I am, at age 74, very different from most who construct puzzles accepted by the New York Times. I do not attempt any crosswords or other puzzles except the Sunday NYT and it takes me close to an entire day to get near finishing one. It has been a dream to see my name attached to a Sunday NYT crossword puzzle. (I think it is the same syndrome that causes me to enjoy writing poetry but not reading it.)

I had many theme ideas (none architectural) and no ability whatsoever to take the next step. One Sunday, in checking my many unfilled answers at Rex Parker's blog, I saw a comment from Jeff volunteering to work with newbies. My initial effort ultimately led to the co-construction of a puzzle containing homophones as the theme answers, submitted to, and accepted by Will for a Wednesday publication, but it has not yet been published.

During the course of working with that puzzle, Jeff taught me the most basic of NYT crossword construction requirements, to wit: that theme answers need to be internally very consistent and "tight" (a comment I have heard from Jeff as he has, with considerable grace, declined to co-author virtually every other idea I have submitted to him!), and that the fill must be neat and clean and interesting with as little reliance on "crosswordese" as possible.

My original idea and theme word selections for this puzzle centered on well known expressions first introduced into the English language by Shakespeare. Not "tight enough" opined my new mentor. He suggested we try for such theme content from one play only. He also authored the idea of using Macbeth and working in, as the reveal clue, the reference to the superstition against mentioning the play's name, (which was the subject of a marvelous Canadian TV series called Slings and Arrows, season 2, also shown in the U.S. on Sundance). In our division of labor, we collaborated and contributed equally on the selection of the Macbeth quotes, Jeff did the grid and virtually all of the fill, and I took the lead in, and supplied much of the clues.