It's surprisingly difficult to assemble a usable set of well-known government agencies that don't repeat Agency, Commission, Department, Federal, National, Security, Service, or Trade. We discovered this over ice cream in fall 2018, which now feels like a lifetime ago. Since this puzzle was accepted, the ice cream store where we did our brainstorming closed, the president was impeached, and a pandemic has gripped the planet.
A queue time of more than two years seems long (especially for a debut!). Perhaps Will has an overabundance of Wednesdays and/or hidden-word themes. As of August 2019, Wednesday was Will's third-longest queue with 41 puzzles awaiting publication.
Our must-haves were NSA and AIRCRAFT CARRIER. Ed retired from a career as a U. S. Navy Cryptologic Officer in ceremonies aboard the frigate Constellation in Baltimore's Inner Harbor while stationed at the NSA. Prior to that, among other posts, he served aboard the aircraft carrier Constellation during the Vietnam War.
Our starting point was trying to incorporate NSA into a crossword theme. The idea of hiding government agencies in theme entries actually preceded the revealer GOVERNMENT BONDS. But once we found that, we were off to the races!
ALEX: I'm jealous of Ed's 100% acceptance rate at the NYT (he's one-for-one). It took me 16 rejections before I got my first acceptance!
ED: I'd like to claim some credit for Alex's love of puzzles. We played many word games on the way to school, and I was his math and English teacher for two years.