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Drew Schmenner author page

6 puzzles by Drew Schmenner
with Jeff Chen comments

TotalDebutLatest
611/16/20213/13/2024
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
1112100
RebusScrabDebutFresh
11.642725%
Drew Schmenner
Puzzles constructed by Drew Schmenner by year
Wed 3/13/2024
AULDWASSEMIS
SNORTALAATONE
SARAHSEMAPHORE
AGAPETROMPNED
MIXEDMETAPHOR
DUOSOSOON
ACHDONORLOBO
CHIWETELEJIOFOR
TATETEXANSEA
SISTERMSG
ASNEVERBEFORE
ADSSERTACONES
FINALFOURTREAT
EVADEODESCARE
WAGERMEDELSE
Sun 12/24/2023 Wrap Stars
ARCOSTABCHISISLE
LIARCASARUNTSANTES
ACROPOLISUMBRASCOOP
SHAMELESSSEPROMOTER
MEADLEASEDSONICS
FEEORPRINTDEALSEAT
ILLLEANDERNOTEDLY
ALAGORGESRIGGESPY
TENRUSESBARREULAPP
FIDOHOTIRONOSSO
SILENTNRARESOPENTOE
SNOWINJUREDDARE
NASHEELIPSSECCOOFT
HIREIONESPEAKSFOE
GONERILRELINKSFIN
OLGASEALKANYEUSTED
DEADENMINGNABRUH
SANTASLITTLEHELPERS
GETBYSTILETRUSSESUP
ACELAKEELSAINTRHEA
POPELSATPETSBERY
Thu 7/20/2023
ARISLOGAROMA
CUZDIANAGURUS
TMZUPZZZZEBATE
IZODYEAHETTA
ENAMELNAPLES
PATSOLDSOUL
ITSALIAMAID
CEOSZZZREACIS
SNIPETASLST
RESIDESOZMA
OPENERTARZAN
PLOPMOOSCOZY
SLEEPINGCARZIP
SITARERASEUNO
TESTYDENSSGT

Quite a sleepy concept — in a good way! Drew takes the "hidden word" genre and guns the engine, playing on SLEEPING CAR to replace hidden car makes with Zs. The themers:

Claudius probably wouldn't sleep on driving an AUDI
  • UP(FORD)EBATE
  • I(BMW)ATSON
  • S(KIA)REA
  • ICL(AUDI)US

The "hidden words" genre is so overdone that Will Shortz typically insists on the hidden word spanning across two words of a phrase. Mission accomplished for three of them — BMW in IBM WATSON is such a cool standout. AUDI doesn't measure up, but it is much more disguised than it would be in AUDIENCE, and something like TALAUD ISLANDS would be way too hard to figure out.

(I'd suggest ROE V WADE, but perhaps not in today's charged political climate. It is fun that LIGHTNING MCQUEEN is meta!)

The gimmick was so hard to uncover that I nearly got stumped, especially since I couldn't predict how many Zs there would be. A few much-appreciated gimmes, like Chloe ZHAO, told me where at least one Z was, but it still turned out to be a game of Battleship where my opponent kept announcing, "hit! Or maybe miss! Bwa ha ha!" That rough [___ Sunday] clue, plus ONZE and GAZANS, took more solving time than the rest of the puzzle combined.

Gridding around Zs is such a challenging task. Gridding around 14 is masochistic. Well done in the upper left, setting the tone for the rest of the puzzle with a clean result. I might have asked Drew to go up to 80 words to clean up some LST ORO RTE SGT, but that is a reasonable result, given the constraints.

I still hitch on SLEEPING vs. SLEEPER CAR, but I loved the creativity. Brainstorming ways of making it less like to blow solvers' gaskets would have been fun.

Wed 10/12/2022
KALEBASRULERS
IDEAALYENAMOR
LOWRIDERFORAYS
LSDMARIEVIAL
MUSTANGSALLY
SLUMPSTAPES
TOGAAMIGACEL
ACLFASTCARALE
TOYIGIVEAMMO
TAXEDBIDSON
MERCEDESBENZ
CLUESPLATQED
JETSETAUTOTUNE
ONHIRETRIMAYA
BASTEDESTCYAN

The BADASS UGLY TRUTH is that even this pop music moron enjoyed the AUTOTUNE pun. I can't help groovin' in my seat when LOW RIDER plays, and although the other songs are only vaguely familiar, they're undoubtedly tunes about autos. AUTOTUNE, indeed!

I appreciated reading about Drew's in-depth thought process. There are so many songs about cars that picking four random ones with any car-related lyric would have felt loosey-goosey.

His second point is not straightforward. "Iconic" is a great goal. But iconic to who? It'd be great if a database of songs existed with how familiar they are to what percentage of NYT crossword solvers. Even then, though, do you want to play to the current data or push toward more inclusion? It's a tricky set of questions with no right answers.

Although I didn't know LITTLE RED CORVETTE, it's possible to stack themers, like LITTLE RED 9 in row three and CORVETTE 8 offset in row four. Not easy, but it's worth considering, especially if you already have an 8 to match part of it, like LOW RIDER.

Great cluing touches; so important to entertain the music curmudgeons out there. You're a bebop purist? Maybe you'll appreciate the jazzy riff that Turkey (the country, not the food) is on top of SYRIA. Classical snob? You might enjoy learning a classic bit of trivia, that KALE is aptly rich in vitamin K.

Although the theme concept had two strikes against me — not only do I have a huge knowledge gap in popular music, but I care so little about cars that my neighbor thought my 2005 Honda Civic belonged to a homeless person (sadly true) — the wordplay still got my motor running.

Mon 6/27/2022
POSHLASTMASON
ALPOASTOINURE
DDAYTHEMESONGS
SESAMEBUSNAT
SOFTGRUBIN
ACSNEAPONEI
CHECKERSITSME
MATTEPUPVALID
ENTRYNAMESAKE
ILSAIGORMEN
INCURTERSE
INGNEESELFIE
MUSICSCENEVIVA
USUALHAULIRAS
PENNEOUTSSENT

Rise and shine, sleepyheads! The SUN is coming up, and … wait, what?

SETTING SUN? Is it bedtime already?

Before my kids could tell time, bedtime would happen as early as 3 p.m. on days they drove me crazy. Am I proud of blackening their windows to fool them?

No comment.

One of Will Shortz's top priorities is accuracy — he takes great pride in having as low an error rate as possible. The SUN does set in the west, so this execution is technically accurate. Confusing, though, since the usual Western left-to-right reading order makes today's SUN appear to rise.

Drew wisely chose a 7-letter central entry, GPS UNIT, which makes the gridwork much easier than a 9+ letter entry. There's still an element of difficulty that most puzzles don't have. Note that SETTING SUN and MONKEY'S UNCLE are both flush to the bottom of the grid (to enhance the SUN visual) instead of alternating bottom-top. This makes for more themer overlap than usual. Smart use of cheater squares to smooth the filling process.

I also enjoyed THEME SONGS and MUSIC SCENE. Will cares less than other editors about muddying up vertical themes with long horizontal entries. This isn't an issue today since the shaded squares clarify what's theme and what's not.

I like these "shifting trigram" puzzles; an old one still stands out in my memory banks. Today's was too confusing for my Western-biased thinking, but I liked how Drew arranged things so the SETTING SUN revealer didn't rise too soon in the solve, as too often happens with vertically-oriented themes.

Tue 11/16/2021
TABSAPSATTACKS
ISEIMONFIRTREE
THATSALLFAILURE
ARTOISOARSAT
NANOSYLVIAPLATH
IMINGMOORAUDIE
ASKARCSHELEN
ANNASEWELL
SERTAREELPHD
MOLARBAILAURAE
EMILYBRONTESOSA
NETEELITSBAD
DOICARESHEWROTE
ENSUREDARIAWIN
DETESTSLEOSLTD

A friend asked me about this theme two years ago, and I hemmed and hawed, wondering if it was worth the effort of creating a full, clued grid, as Will Shortz requires. Something didn't sit well with me, as SYLVIA PLATH, MARGARET MITCHELL, and EMILY BRONTE (our theme set) wrote other things in their lives — all writers do.

We ended up querying the theme with Mike Shenk at the WSJ, who said no thanks, because although these writers are best known for their single novel, they all wrote short stories, essays, etc.

I'm a genius!

Then I did today's puzzle.

Okay, maybe not.

This is why everyone should listen to me. Also, no one.

It's a fun concept, playing on THAT'S ALL / SHE WROTE. I knew ANNA SEWELL off the top because my friend and I discussed extensively whether or not she was fair game. (I think so. Mostly.)

I'm not a fan of revealers that give away the game too quickly. Perhaps a mirror layout, with all the themers vertically oriented, would have been better. That way, THAT'S ALL SHE WROTE could be experienced much later in the solving process.

Still, a novel (sorry) concept to most non-OCD constructor types. Fun debut.

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