This puzzle began when I realized I could clue the term THINK FAST as "Catch phrase?" A puzzle with colloquialisms as theme answers is often pretty lively, so I sensed I was onto something. I pulled together a sizable list of possibilities, built my puzzle, and sent it in.
The rejection I got was very nice. Will and team liked the idea fine, but my choices for entries had too many problems. Since they liked the basic premise and I had numerous options for entries, I took a chance and offered an alternative set.
This started off a series of back-and-forth that resulted in the puzzle we have today. Only two of my original seven made it through (I WANT TO BE ALONE and COGITO ERGO SUM). Will and co. came up with GO AHEAD WITHOUT ME and AGE IS JUST A NUMBER (which I looooove). I want to thank them all for being willing to work with me even after the original puzzle was rejected.
A number of my clues made it through, but of course plenty were changed. I'm not too keen on the new clue for NAG, but I was happy to see the new clues for NASA and AMES Research Center. As it turns out, that's where I had my first job many years ago in a summer program for high school juniors. A fun coincidence for me!
This puzzle began life as my first serious attempt at a themeless. I had the idea of pairing GRUMPY CAT and ANGRY BIRD, but they were nowhere near enough for a theme, so I planned for them to be the basis of a mini-theme in a themeless grid. I added MAD DOGS to the mix, but It still wasn't enough for a full-blown theme, so I worked up a few (18 to be exact) iterations of grids with just those three.
Some months later (I tend to let grids ferment a while), I came upon GROUCHY LADYBUG, and that threw everything up in the air. I've read the story many a time to my kids, so I had to add it. And when I found RAGING BULL, everything fell into place, and I abandoned my themeless goal.
But of course, the entry lengths wouldn't cooperate, so I had to get creative. Breaking up GROUCHY LADYBUG and nixing the "The" makes it awkward as heck, but I wanted it in there, so I gritted my teeth and found a way. At least it split cleanly into a 7-7. In my view, having it there, even in such a disjointed fashion, is better than not having it. (Others may disagree.)
But I had to jettison MAD DOGS. You would think a shorter entry like that could be worked in somewhere, but it was not to be. I even tried putting MAD and DOG in opposite corners, but it resulted in too much dodgy fill and having two split-up theme entries was definitely over the top.
Aside from MAD DOG(S), I think I have all instances of well-known crabby critters. If you think of any others, please let me know. As for my themeless dreams, I guess it's back to the drawing board.
I had a plan when I built this puzzle in March 2015. The 50th anniversary of the old TV show would be in January 2016, on a Tuesday, which I thought perfect for this theme. Hoping to avoid a multi-year wait to get published, I suggested it run on the anniversary.
But Will Shortz saw through my plan and … didn't run it. Oh well. It was worth a shot.
I am extremely proud of this grid. I think I had to work harder on this than any other I've made. No corner is safe from constraints so it took quite a while to get everything just so. Further, I made sure there were no NAs in the Down direction, adding to my difficulties.
My original grid only had 13 NAs (if you listen to the actual theme song, you'll only hear 13 of them at the end…and they sound more like DAs, not NAs). But Will rejected it since people are more familiar with the main part of the theme song and the Internet meme usually has 16. I had my doubts that I could pull off 16, but I had a go and am pleased with the result.
I had trouble cluing the revealer. I was trying to cross reference the starts of the long theme answers as well as the NAs, and the clue was so unwieldy. Will's solution is much cleaner: refer only to the NAs in the revealer and simply highlight the action sounds in the theme answer. Very nice.
For better or worse, I can't take credit for the NAE clue. It's cool that it's the first time it's being clued that way in the NYT, but crossing foreign word TABLAS, I wish the typical "Scottish no" clue was kept.
Until next (bat) time!
This puzzle started more traditionally with theme entries GODSEND, BLESS THIS MESS, US AND THEM, EVERY TIME, and ONE LIFE TO LIVE with the revealer TINY TIM (no rebus). But I wanted to rebusize (is that a word?) the TIM in TINY TIM, 'cuz he's such a cute li'l guy! So that meant aiming this puzzle at a Wednesday or Thursday.
Will has run a one-square rebus on a Wednesday before, so I thought this might be a good candidate for that type of treatment. But that meant hiding the words better. It wasn't possible to span them across multiple words (thanks to BLESS) so it was a matter of finding interesting ways to hide my words within other words. I came up with a pretty good grid, but I wanted to add one more layer — the novella's title as the central grid-spanning themer. The result is what you see today.
A lot of theme material means some compromising fill. I built this puzzle two years ago when my threshold for gunk was lower. I wish I had taken the time to come up with something better, even after it was accepted.
Sometimes the Muse gives you an idea and you just have to go with it, regardless of whether an audience exists for it. That's how I felt with this one. I wasn't sure it was NYT-appropriate, but I did the best I could with the idea and submitted it, not expecting an acceptance. Apparently though, according to the Interwebs, last year was the Year of the Butt. I didn't know that until just now, but maybe that's why Will gave it the go-ahead.
But he actually didn't at first. My submitted puzzle had a different revealer, one that was a punchline to this joke (which, as far as I know, I made up entirely): "What caused the market panic among investors in long johns?"
Answer: THE BOTTOM FELL OUT (cue rimshot)
I liked that puzzle better because I felt it was funnier, and since the phrase is 16 letters, the grid was bigger, and I had more room to space things out. But Will preferred my alternative revealer, FALLING BEHIND, and the normal-sized grid.
The grid was difficult because I wanted the BEHIND words to be isolated vertically (meaning blocks above and below each). This made for quite a challenge and many "cheater" blocks. I also ended up with those two large chunks of blocks on the left and right. (But to my sophomoric mind, I justified them by squinting and imagining a pair of cheeks with one side sagging.)
So, is this a new low for the NYT? Has the NYT hit bottom? Will this bit of cheek cause the NYT to be the butt of all jokes in the crosswording world? Well, just be thankful Will used the clue "Lagging" in place of my original clue: "Going into arrears".
Now to collect my booty...
The idea for this puzzle came from out of the blue, as long as you define "out of the blue" as "Ian Livengood's 'Chee Whiz!' puzzle of 8/3/14." While solving that puzzle, adding CHEE sounds to different phrases, I thought, "Gee, wouldn't it be interesting to add a GEE sound to different phrases?" Where do I come up with this stuff?!
I immediately fell in love with the phrase NINTENDO OUIJA. But not everyone pronounces it WEE-JEE, so it might fail for some. I asked my fellow cruciverbalists and got mixed results. I decided to push forward and make a weekday-sized puzzle with it, until at the last minute, Amy Reynaldo hammered it into my head. I abandoned OUIJA and started thinking of other possibilities. That allowed me to get GPS I LOVE YOU and OH DARJEELING, two of my favorites, along with KITTY LITURGY and WEIRD ALGAE. I figured I'd have enough for a Sunday, which has been a goal since I started constructing. So, thank you, Amy, for helping me make a better product!
Will and Joel said that Add-A-Sound themes were becoming common, so what put this puzzle over the top were a couple of secondary goals that I set. I wanted each GEE sound to be spelled differently, and I wanted them spread out within their respective entries; two are at the beginning, two at the end, and three in the middle. One interesting change: GOD NO was originally OODLE [Website behind Facebook Marketplace]. Will's entry is definitely livelier, but it comes with PENTAD and PROEMS where I had CELLAR and DREAMS. (And MUNG was ANNO.) So, a tradeoff. No amount of fiddling with the grid produced any better result.
Most of my clues were changed a little bit or completely (64%), but I'll proudly claim the clues for NANU, NACL, TOENAIL, and STOOP. I wish my clue for OH DARJEELING had gotten through ["Abbey Road" song with the lyric, "I'll never steep you alone"?], but I understand why it had to go. And I liked [Never, on a Sonntag] for NIE and [Four-letter word, boringly] for TETRAGRAM. But I do like Will and Joel's clues for DRAGNET and AWOL.
I submitted this puzzle at the end of September, a mere 11 weeks ago! That's light-speed in the crosswording world. Will's Sunday supply is comparatively low, creating opportunities for us Sunday-hopefuls.
We've all heard the phrase "Been there, done that." Typically, it means we've already experienced something and are bored by it or have no desire to experience it again. Care to relive your puberty years? Been there. Done that.
But did you know the phrase has Caesarian origins? That's right, in a letter to the Roman Senate around 46 BC, the ever-witty Julius remarks about his victory over Pharnaces II of Pontus, "Veni, vidi, vici, accepi toga," which, roughly translated, means, "I came, I saw, I conquered, I received the toga." (For some reason, history seems to have forgotten about that last bit — guess it doesn't flow as well.) So, in the spirit of Caesar's victory, I set about creating this puzzle. What I like best about it is that I was able to find four phrases that were very conversational in nature. I think that helped to link the theme entries together. In my head, I even imagined them as parts of an exchange between two friends meeting up once again (with one of them being an overzealous hand-shaker).
What I like least about it is the segmented sections in the NW and SE. If I were making this puzzle today, I would try to alleviate that. However, it did allow me to get an interesting corner in the NW with APEMEN, BONAMI, and LUDWIG stacked nicely.
Unfortunately for me, most of my clues were changed. I take that to mean that I need to do better. My favorite of mine that got through was for 18-A [Half an exorbitant fee?]. But I was sad that [Beethoven's first] didn't make it through for 17-A, and correspondingly, [Descartes' first] for 36-D. Oh well.
If this theme makes you think "Been There, Done That" — as in, you've already done a puzzle with this theme — you might be right. Liz Gorski used the exact same theme for her Feb 25th, 2014, Crossword Nation puzzle. But mine was accepted in January of 2013, so you can see that they were each created independently. For me, it shows I'm on the right track if I'm thinking along the same lines as one of the greats!
Until next time, here's hoping your solving experience is not the same old same old!
This is my second published puzzle in the NYT and represents a return to basics. My cutesy theme ideas had been falling flat, so I went back to a simple theme and tried to make it as clean as possible. I'm not sure how I picked "AYS" as the syllable, but I was spoiled for choice. There were some great names/phrases I could have used (WOODY/GABBY/HELEN HAYES, HOLLANDAISE, LYONNAISE, PURPLE HAZE, WILLIE MAYS, POPINJAYS).
For this type of rhyming theme, each entry should have a different spelling for the syllable in question, but I put a couple other constraints on myself.
In the end, it came down to the most interesting choices with the right letter counts and which allowed a clean fill. A friend of my wife's says she loves the Monday puzzles because they make her feel smart. Here's to all the smart Monday puzzlers out there!