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Jane Stewart author page

26 puzzles by Jane Stewart

Jane Stewart
Puzzles constructed by Jane Stewart by year

Autobiography from Jane Stewart and David Balton:

We started making acrostics long ago, by hand. On our first wedding anniversary, many moons ago, we each surprised the other with the gift of a homemade acrostic. A puzzle partnership foreshadowed!

About 15 years ago, Dave began a tradition of constructing acrostics for our family’s amusement on Christmas Eve, tailored to the interests and aptitudes of family members. Dave and Jane have created acrostics for friends and family more generally. Dave also submitted a crossword or two to the NYT over the years — including one constructed partly while on a work trip to the South Pole — but without success.

Needless to say, we were devoted fans of Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon ("HEX") throughout their storied run with the NYT. When we learned that the HEX era at the NYT was ending, we composed three acrostics and sent them to Will Shortz, having no idea what to expect. He ultimately decided to publish one of them on June 18, 2023, the puzzle based on the hilarious quote from Bill Bryson about parking in Rome. Will encouraged us to send him more … and before long, to our great joy, we found ourselves the NYT’s regular acrostic constructors.

Our Debut Puzzle

The day our first acrostic ran in the NYT turned out to be special in several ways. On the Sunday morning in question, we bought a hard copy of the NYT and showed our names in print to visiting friends, to their considerable amazement. We also told them a story from more than 40 years earlier. In the early 1980s, the dad of one of Dave’s college friends had published a crossword in the NYT. That dad told Dave of the morning when he rode a commuter train into New York City and watched with glee as seemingly everyone in the train car was solving his puzzle. Dave thought then, "Some day "...

On the June day when our first NYT puzzle appeared, we went to a Washington Nationals baseball game with a large gathering, where our friends passed out copies of the puzzle that they had procured for all to do between innings. Dave’s "commuter train" moment had arrived! Similarly, Jane has been tickled to see some of her symphony colleagues huddled around acrostics backstage at the Kennedy Center.

Our Process

Our approach to constructing acrostics starts with finding pithy quotes that meet all the format requirements — no mean feat. We try to vary the quotes by topic and author profile, sometimes with a view to a particular upcoming holiday or anniversary. We offer the possible quotes to Will first to get his blessing. Next, Dave creates an initial word list (answers), which is rather like playing a large and highly structured game of Bananagrams. We like to incorporate many answers and clues that link to the theme(s) of the quote.

Next, Jane generates clues for each answer, oddly finding her best inspiration while in the shower or behind the wheel, neither situation ideal for jotting down ideas. Sometimes, the clue-writing phase leads us to revisit our initial word list. After some back-and-forth, we send a beta version of the puzzle to our daughter, Becca; she solves the puzzle and offers valuable feedback. When we have incorporated Becca’s suggestions, we ship the acrostic off to the puzzlemeisters of the NYT, nwho edit some clues and run the puzzle by their own beta testers.

Our Day/Night Jobs

We are delighted to be undertaking this joint venture. Although we both love solving puzzles and playing word games (especially Upwords), we have careers that immerse us in very different pursuits. Jane is a first violinist with the National Symphony Orchestra and does some copyediting. Dave, who spent most of his career as a lawyer and diplomat for the U.S. State Department, works in the White House.

Sunday, June 16, 2024
Sunday, June 2, 2024
Sunday, May 19, 2024
Sunday, May 5, 2024
Sunday, April 21, 2024
Sunday, April 7, 2024
Sunday, March 24, 2024
Sunday, March 10, 2024
Sunday, February 25, 2024
Sunday, February 11, 2024
Sunday, January 28, 2024
Sunday, January 14, 2024
Sunday, December 31, 2023
Sunday, December 17, 2023
Sunday, December 3, 2023
Sunday, November 19, 2023
Sunday, November 5, 2023
Sunday, October 22, 2023
Sunday, October 8, 2023
Sunday, September 24, 2023
Sunday, September 10, 2023
Sunday, August 27, 2023
Sunday, August 13, 2023
Sunday, July 30, 2023
Sunday, July 16, 2023
Sunday, June 18, 2023
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