I've been told all my life by friends, family, and co-workers that "My brain works differently." But noticing and admiring oddities in the English language is second nature to me. While I don't remember the series of idle thoughts that led me to realize OHIO and WASHINGTON could overlap to form IOWA, I do remember that I immediately went to an atlas to see if other items shared this property. Luckily, there were!
Though no other states fit the pattern, a surprising number of world capitals and countries do. In deciding on a theme set, I strived to pick combinations of locations that were well-known, and that spanned the globe. I also included the revealer BORDER DISPUTES in my original draft to supplement the numbering in the themed clues, but that was excessive. So, I dropped it and designed my first-ever 16-column-wide grid with just the three themers. It was a fun challenge to construct, and I'm happy with the mix of conversational and trivia-based entries in the rest of the puzzle.
Endless thanks to Mark McClain, Rich Proulx, Kyle Dolan, and the Crossword Discord community members for their generous feedback and thoughtful insights.
I've been designing puzzles for as long as I can remember, from mazes in elementary school to "crosswords" on my Scrabble board in middle school. Finding out that the Times considers submissions from everyday people was a "Wow!" moment. Having a crossword published? Incredible!
I'm a middle school science teacher. When I'm not at school, you'll likely find me cooking, watching quiz shows, or playing and creating quizzes on Sporcle.
This theme started with the revealer and then 3-Down and 36-Down. I designed the grid by hand. When I mailed it in, I was so proud! Since then, I've collaborated with great mentors and learned about many crossword resources. I've come to realize there are many do's and don'ts that I didn't know. Looking back at this grid, there are things I'd do differently:
Tighten up the theme. Always have the gimmick span over two words? Have the shaded letters spell out words or even a hidden message? I was happy just to find symmetrical theme answers.
Restructure the grid for better flow and more long answers. The isolated northeast/southwest corners just happened. Plus, there are only two long answers outside the theme, and they aren't terribly colorful.
Clean up the fill! I was content to find words that could fit in the grid rather than words I was excited to include.
While I'd do things differently today, I appreciate that this puzzle exists as-is, both for you to enjoy and for me to have as a reminder of what my early constructing efforts were like. I look forward to continuing to refine my skills.