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Jay Kaskel author page

11 puzzles by Jay Kaskel
with constructor comments

TotalDebutLatestCollabs
114/9/20088/2/20226
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0253010
CircleScrabblePOW
31.583
Jay Kaskel
POW Tue 8/2/2022
MUSKDWARFEVIL
UBERVENUEAIRY
FOROLDTIMESSAKE
ALINEPLIE
STEAMEDDUMPLING
ASSNORSETOE
STYLELIESL
REPEATAFTERME
SEDANMEATS
APEUVEASASA
CONSUMERREPORTS
AEONOGRES
JIMMYKIMMELLIVE
ARGOACIDSEVEN
BAMAYEASTDENT

JAY: With this puzzle, I had the phrase "Repeat after me" bouncing around in my head for a while, and naturally thought letters that repeat after the letters "M,E" might make for a nice puzzle. But I just wasn't sure it was NYT-worthy, so I forgot about it.

When Dan and I got together, as we often do (we are not only co-constructors but good friends) to catch up and talk puzzles, I mentioned it to him. His eyes lit up, and he said, "This is a great idea. We should totally do it." Dan has never been shy about giving me his honest opinion about my puzzle ideas before, so the fact that he sparked to it got me excited about bringing this one to life.

Unless you're a constructor, it's easy to assume the harder a puzzle is to solve, the harder it is to build, but building an easy puzzle can be more challenging because the parameters are more limiting. The high theme letter count (73) also contributed to the challenge.

Mon 10/30/2017
ONUSICARESLID
PERTNAMESCINE
TADASPELLCHECK
STURGEONSEGUE
WEANTOPLESS
CHARMSCHOOL
ALARMRAPTKEG
DOGSPAINSHAVE
ODSPACEEERIE
WARTSANDALL
SAMURAIMUIR
ACERSBIRTHDAY
CURSEWORDSEIRE
CRITOBESEAKIN
OATSKEATSREDS

I originally set out to create a Halloween-themed puzzle that incorporated all the familiar characters associated with Halloween: witches, ghosts, skeletons, vampires, and zombies. But the theme never felt tight enough. After a while, I settled on a witch/BROOM HILDA-themed puzzle and sent it off.

While Will liked the idea, he felt young solvers might not be familiar with the character. So not only did I have to replace BROOM HILDA at 58-Across, I had to do some serious re-cluing, (CHARM SCHOOL, for example, was clued as "Educational institution attended by 58-Across?")

Here's where things got tricky. One of the original theme fills was WITCH HUNT, which meant I couldn't use the word "witch" in the clues. "Educational institution attended by a Halloween broom-rider" just didn't do the trick. It felt too forced. In the end, I dropped WITCH HUNT as an answer, and thankfully Will was okay with the puzzle having just four main fills.

As always, I can't tell you how much of a treat it is to see one of my puzzles in the NYT.

POW Tue 8/1/2017
CABMAMMAATHOS
LSUADIOSBRUNT
OHMYSTARSCANOE
ROPESAAAWKRP
ORESHOLYTOLEDO
XERPEPSELREN
EERIEDEERE
ILLBEDARNED
ISTOOSPEAR
NEASINSAGLOO
WELLINEVERBEEB
ATIEKIRARGUE
ROAMSGOODGRAVY
DINOSHOWIETRE
STONESMEAROED

This puzzle was one of those rare instances, at least for me, where I wasn't asked to come up with a better theme fill or rebuild the puzzle in an effort to get rid of a lot of junk. That's typically not the case. As to any interesting anecdotes, I'd only say that I debated about going with "I'LL BE DAMMED" (clued as Sinner's "Shocking!") in place of "I'LL BE DARNED" (clued as Seamstress's "Shocking!") before deciding dammed, at least in this context, was probably too darn edgy.

POW Wed 10/28/2015
JIGRUSTSDART
ACESENNUIAMES
CANNEDCORNMALE
KNEELSTAXDOT
ATRASSPLITPEAS
SOAKBASEELUDE
SOLBONYCROSS
FOODCOURT
SWIGSHULAMOD
ANISEGISTRACE
DIRTYRICEMINOT
OPESETIODINE
NETSBAKEDBEANS
ARALENEROSCOT
ISPYLOYALSRS

One way to understand what goes into constructing a NYT-worthy puzzle is to follow this email thread (which has been considerably edited and shortened.)

Hi Jay,

Joel Fagliano, writing on behalf of Will.

Thanks for showing us your FOOD COURT 15x. Will worries about running a puzzle with BATTERED CHICKEN, as a pun on domestic abuse isn't likely to amuse many people.

Hi Will,

What If we rebuilt the puzzle using GRILLED PORK CHOP instead?

Hi Jay,

GRILLED PORK CHOP feels inconsistent, because the other entries all have to do with the offense committed (corruption, divorce, etc), whereas this only refers to what happens once the PORK CHOP enters the courtroom (what a weird sentence to write!). Anyway, we still like the core idea here.

Hi Will and Joel,

We worked hard to come up with a replacement to GRILLED PORK CHOP. Below are 3 options.

17-A Rolled tortillas prosecuted for being high? BAKED ENCHILADAS

17-A Fungi involved in a wrongful termination suit? CANNED MUSHROOMS

17-A Game fish suing for slander? BLACKENED SALMON

Hi guys,

Thanks for the reworked theme proposal.

None of your proposed new theme entries sounded terribly familiar. What if, instead, the theme consisted of the following:

BAKED BEANS (10)

CANNED CORN (10)

Hi Will,

We rebuilt FOODCOURT using the theme entries you proposed.

Hi Jay,

Thanks for the new version. While the grid doesn't have anything that's actually bad, it also doesn't have anything actually good — and overall it feels awfully crosswordy. Would you be willing to try this again with a little more oomph?

Hi Will,

Thanks for hanging in there with us. Have a look at this next draft.

Hi Jay,

Yes, much better! Clue this up for a Wednesday, and we'll be all set.

Thanks a lot.

--Will

Tue 8/11/2015
LOINSSMITSCAT
ASCOTTEASOHTO
PHONEPRANKCOOP
PANPEONCARNE
PUSHYOURLUCK
APROPOSNBASEA
MOABGEESE
PINONESEARSBACK
YACHTOLEO
SOBBROORIOLES
PLYMOUTHROCK
ADLIBUELESOS
SHINPULLEDPORK
MANOINKSILLBE
STETNOSENOOSE

JAY: This puzzle is the fourth collaboration between Dan Kantor and myself, and as it just so happens, the third that has a restaurant and/or food theme. My last solo puzzle had a dairy theme, and the next collaboration we have scheduled to run is—spoiler alert— food related as well.

In the case of PULLED PORK, I don't know that we consciously set out to do another food themed puzzle or that we started with the words "pulled pork." I think the idea came more from wanting to construct a puzzle where a particular word's letters were stretched, broken, split or pulled apart.

I will say that each time we receive payment for one of our collaborations, we use the money to have a nice dinner out with our wives. And now that the NYT has raised the price it pays constructors, we can even splurge a bit. At any rate, I'm suddenly hungry.

Tue 1/22/2013
WISERGASPSHUN
ELOPEOLIOAINT
BLUECHEESEVASE
READSSTATUS
TAMPLAINYOGURT
ARABTRUYESES
COSMOSIMHO
WHIPPEDBUTTER
TAXITARGET
FARSIOUSAGAS
STEAMEDMILKSLO
TOPHATLEIGH
ONEAHEAVYCREAM
PEARACMEKILLS
SRTANOIRSPLAT
Fri 12/24/2010
HMMARCHGASCAP
EAURARAESPANA
NUSCHURCHHYMNS
RIOTDIRPAT
MICHAELCAINE
MTSINAIGETAT
EATCELTOUCH
NAUGHTYORNICE
INSOOSLOIRE
ADAGEEASEDIN
CHRISTMASEVE
AVAOAKLONI
SILENTNIGHTTEN
SCENEITREEARE
TICTACSEEDLAW
Wed 10/27/2010
ANGIZODOPPOSE
TOENOIRDOESOK
HDLKOLAESTATE
REALITYBITES
OATENLOITERS
BLOODBANKDOPEY
LOUGORIER
PAININTHENECK
KIDNAPRUR
PLANTBATMOBILE
HEROINERIGOR
COUNTDRACULA
LEGENDADINEIS
ADONAIFANGSTE
TOOTLETYKESAD
Mon 5/17/2010
APPTSNINEESTS
ASOULENOSNCAA
BYEBYELOVEORGY
ACTALIBLESS
HIYOSILVERAWAY
ECARTEELOULE
SAXEORBAPES
ILLBEBACK
MBASAERHIPS
ELLINEARETOO
SOLONGFAREWELL
HAHASBANAVG
UTESYOUREFIRED
GERIALTAAKIRA
ADESPESTMESSY
Tue 1/13/2009
DEKEALOTSALSA
IMACMOORADOUT
AUNTSELMALOIRE
GOALPIGTRI
SKASIGHTUNSEEN
OAREARLEERY
WHOAATRAIN
NOGUTSNOGLORY
ARISTAROOD
RAISENSASLY
MIDNIGHTSUNEKE
ABMSEWROBB
REINSMIXEDNUTS
SYRIAINXSASIA
HEELSNEXTIHOP
Wed 4/9/2008
EPICSHUETABBY
DOORHERRACURA
ANNEOMNIBEBOP
MYSOUPISCOLD
LAPILEACK
AREWEINVISIBLE
CROROEOAKLEY
REMAPUHFWEAVE
ATMFEERAWZED
WHERESOURORDER
SALPAWREA
WHINEANDDINE
PATIOSILODRUM
ATOLLURDUYODA
DENTEPEATONEG