This web browser is not supported. Use Chrome, Edge, Safari, or Firefox for best results.

Thumbnails

87 puzzles by Joe Krozel
with constructor comments

TotalDebutLatestCollabs
877/7/20066/14/201815
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
4147242621
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.48057
Joe Krozel
Thu 6/14/2018
ROLLABSTVVCR
EGGOSPOLLAISHA
ELBOWROYALBLOOD
LETTERIPALL
PALMBEASTS
AWAITSOWLETOAT
CALMAERIALPHOTO
ARLOSCALLCENTO
CHOKECOLLARMALL
IOUMELEEIBISES
ALTAIRMALE
MATEMENSREA
LOVERSLEAPCLEAN
IVANIMOTEHADST
DANDDNEDVOTE

Anyone who solved my NYT puzzle from Sunday 1/18/2015 knows that I like to add new features to traditional constructs like word ladders. Curiously, though, the current puzzle idea came about when I wasn't actively seeking candidates for a word ladder; the concept 1-A + 44-A + 78-A was mentioned on the news one day, and the daydreaming half of my brain immediately noticed how easily 1-A could transform to 44-A. Suddenly, the analytical half of my brain engaged itself with the challenge of getting from 44-A to 78-A. No real difficulties there except for avoiding repeat words and proper nouns. (Meanwhile … I sometimes wonder what vital information I might be missing all the time when daydreaming along with the news).

The puzzle construction challenge was to lay out eleven four-letter words on successively lower rows of a 15x15 grid. I added the constraint of forbidding any non-thematic Across entries from being four letters long. The thematic content was spread out left-center-right to minimize the impact on the Down entries. So, the grid layout alone offered good chances of acquiring lively surrounding fill. In the end, I was especially happy that the longest entries were lively … and mostly unused before.

A few months after this puzzle was accepted, David Kahn had an NYT puzzle published (on 8/30/2017) involving a similar theme: a word ladder consisting of nine five-letter words with a thematic element at the halfway point. I was happy for David's success, but I thought it meant that my own puzzle would probably stay on hold for about a decade. Fortunately, that wasn't the case. I'm guessing that stylistic differences — including the absence of clues for the ladder words — provided enough freshness to receive a normal publication date.

POW Fri 4/13/2018
CUSSERADJUST
UNMIXEDCRANIA
STORESUPQUINNS
TAKEMOREUMLAUT
OPENPLANIRAISE
MESSTENTROBLES
GAZELLES
HOWSOIDLED
HAVEASIP
BOREALMPEGFILE
SPARSESEARAVEN
TENDEDARRESTED
ANGOLADENATURE
ROUSEYDIVEBAR
STEEDSTENETS

I was inspired to produce a low-word-count pangram after seeing Patrick Berry's very Scrabbly 7/15/2006 puzzle. The starting strategy was to get at least two of J, Q, X and Z into the same quadrant. I think I tried seeding every quadrant with just the letters J and Q until I produced what is seen in the NE.

The procedure obviously involved judicious autofilling of successive quadrants; At first I used relatively high threshold values for autofill and eliminated clunkers from my word list with each successive fill, but eventually that left me with very few candidates for completed fill regions. Out of necessity I lowered my autofill threshold and looked for underranked entries which might be tolerated. So, for instance, JAILABLE and UNNAILED were allowed because the surrounding fill was quite satisfactory.

As I moved out of the NE quadrant with J, Q, Z, B, C and G checked off my difficult-letter list, I focused on two main issues: 1. Where to put the letter X, and 2. What to do about G and Z which now spanned two quadrants. (The latter issue was actually more urgent since I probably had plenty of words beginning with EX- … or could eventually invent new ones).

So, as I looked at the G, I decided that the last letter of 14-Down should be something common (R, S, T, L, N or vowel) and specifically considered flexible endings like GHT, GLE, GER, GED and GES. Separately, I decided that 26-Down would probably start with ZIP and 32-Across would have many possibilities ending in UP. This turned out to be a good starting strategy even though the final fill strayed from what I had anticipated. So, the SE quadrant was attempted second — because of the ZIP limitation mentioned above — and a few tentative fills were produced. With each of these candidate fills, I checked off additional letters from my difficult-letter list. At the completion of the SE quadrant, G, F and V were then accounted for, and that mainly left K, H, Y and X to be allotted between the two remaining quadrants.

Beyond the choices for 32-Across ending in UP, I expanded my seeding possibilities for the SW quadrant to specifically include TAKEASIP and HAVEASIP … because they immediately accounted for K and H respectively (while allowing 14-Down to end in an easy letter S. The fill accompanying HAVEASIP looked strong and allowed me to account for the letter Y. So, all that remained was to pack X and K into the NW quadrant. This partially involved luck, but I was also forced to accept one entry beginning with RE- and another ending in –ER. I decided I could live with those two specific words: RESOLE and CUSSER … even if the latter was prominently displayed at 1-Across.

Thu 9/28/2017
EQUITABLEBOGGS
MULTIPLEXAROOM
TOTEMPOLEGIJOE
INSTARGOUDA
ATMTNTELMER
NRAODSREP
SITEIPO
EVENCANDYGNAW
LIFTETRE
MAREUSEUPTHAN
GINPONZIGEL
PASTDIGINOLES
AMBERALEASIAGO
NEEKTELTONKAS
TSEOEDSANGELO

I was pondering ways to revisit my NYT puzzle from Friday 1/27/2012 and add a new twist, AND I decided there were other tricks I could play with the central grid entry engulfed by black squares. It must have been a flashback to my childhood — reading a riddle book and asking my mother to explain the answer to "What are kids' two favorite letters of the alphabet?" — which brought 35-A under consideration. Suddenly it occurred to me that there was one particular enclosure (44-D) which made absolute sense for 35-A and the theme magically fell out of the sky. From there, the main challenge would be to get the grid art just right.

Grid art puzzles are always very tricky to make. A 15x15 grid is already pretty low-res to begin with. Add to that a requirement of word interconnectivity, and suddenly the grid art is pushed away from the walls ... into a 9x9 central space. I made at least six grid depictions that looked an awful lot like dogs and horses until I settled upon the current, rather neckless design. So, I'll probably get battered in the solver reviews for not getting it perfect.

One last perspective on the grid art: those black square stacks on the sides and bottom depict the ends of bats of six individuals waiting for their turn with the PINATA. Wasn't that enough of a visual hint?

POW Thu 1/12/2017
BUSTEDAPART
UNAWARECOVERUP
TAXICABIKEBANA
LOSTDECANTS
HOPSSAT
UNLOADSRAGTIME
STANTONELAPSED
BANANASPLIT
AREARUGTHENORM
NITWITSSANGRIA
DOSERNS
IOTASADCASE
NEIGHEDINORDER
ARMHOLEROLAIDS
BROKENINTWO

Today's crossword originated with a study of rebus setups involving word fragments in some relative position. It just so happened that the first three examples I generated involved two side-by-side words rather than word fragments, so those words could be clued independently. Next, it occurred to me that each rebus needed added words to complete — or reveal — the rebus thought, and it turned out to be rather convenient to tag on these revealers immediately after the rebus words. So, the three-consecutive-entry layout was shaping up nicely from the start. Not long after that, I realized that the revealer words themselves were synonyms suggesting a rift — well, duh! — so I imposed that long rift of black squares upon the grid as an additional novelty.

For a while, I pondered whether any further theme embellishments were possible. Clearly TED, ANA and KEN have the name connection, but nothing elegant emerged from that observation. I also noticed that BUS and BAN could act as imperative verb forms, and I might have pursued that if BRO were the same … but alas, that was another potential connection which didn't pan out. In the end, not all ideas could be exploited, but those that were, made for a pretty decent theme on their own.

Finally, some solvers may know the "Rebus" category of crosswords and will recognize that this puzzle is not within that classification; I generally cannot solve crosswords requiring more than one letter per square, so — after 84 crossword contributions — I still refuse to construct anything like that. Instead, I decided I would produce an "anti-Rebus" rebus.

POW Thu 11/17/2016
ALBOMTWICE
PEEPERSWATAT
RAREGASLOOTERS
PYRAMIDSCHEME
LAWBREAKERS
SALESTEAM
TETESSTRAP
TORTSSTIHL
RAMISTUTSNAIL
ABBAMUSICSRTA
SLRCAGEDUPAHS
TEABAGSYELLOUT
ALIENSSEAHAG
MADATAMANA
AMENMUMMYANIS
NPRTAP

JOE: Tim bounced a preliminary idea off of me for a pyramid puzzle, and I responded with suggestions on how he might cut down the black squares and incorporate additional theme. Later, I was delighted when he came back to me and asked to make this a collaboration. I have thoroughly enjoyed the collaborations I've had with Tim ... and all the other constructors I've made puzzles with over the years (Peter, Martin, Victor).

TIM: Thanks very much to Joe for working with me on this.

I'd built a mirror grid with a smaller pyramid/entombed mummy and the four theme answers, but it felt like the puzzle was in this weird area between the theme's not being rich enough and the grid's not being visually distinctive enough. There was too much noise for the pyramid to stand out; too little theme to compensate.

Assistance was required. On went the Bat-Signal.

Joe liked the idea but agreed that the grid needed revamping. He expanded it vertically while adding in the larger pyramid at the bottom and the three others around the sides.

Incidentally, King Tut's tomb was discovered in the Valley of the Kings, not in a pyramid. We weren't sure whether to include him anyway, but decided to after seeing that he could be tucked in under the barrow-like central block formation.

Thank you also to Will and to the enfant terrible of crosswords, David Steinberg, for their help in revising the theme. Specifically: how to link MUMMY with the outside fill. The notepad/numbers idea was all theirs.

Fri 10/16/2015
PABRVHF
ROLLOVERANIRA
OOPSIDIDITAGAIN
CEOSSITPHIL
ZENTECATESSIX
DPTMILEYLIN
CURATEDREVENGE
RIVERTANGS
GEMINISMENOTTI
MASTACOSSHU
JARDAYRATEEDU
NIPASANGABE
QUEENSOFENGLAND
ASALASTRESORT
LKMYWTS

It seemed natural to build a puzzle with 26 unchecked squares — given my checkered past in the crossword world — so I did. (And in case some solvers didn't count the unchecked squares, the notepad made their significance clear.)

A key constructing challenge for me was ensuring that the short entries with the unchecked letters were fair. Hence, I did not allow acronyms, initialisms, abbreviations, Roman numerals, partials nor propers. Okay, so I eventually caved on that last one and allowed SAM and MENOTTI to creep in. Not too obscure.

Overall the fill turned out really clean, and I'm quite happy with the whole puzzle.

Sat 7/18/2015
RESPROMA
DACHAAVOID
VETOESMAORIS
DECANTSOLDBATS
ANATOLIANSABOU
SALAMANCAILLIN
TESTINGSOCLOCK
CDIANA
ALADDINSENDSON
GOTRESTSTROPHE
AURICLETHEMAGI
STELLARAILERON
SALINETRACED
RINDSETTAS
NESTDYER

I revisited this grid off and on for about eight years thinking my ever-growing word list would help out. Then I finally decided to focus my effort and seed the grid with various entries at 4-Down containing common ending letters: S, R, E, T and N. The left side — and minor variants — is what emerged. The right side presented a much easier task... even with thematic content at 24-Down.

Wide open puzzles like these will have their share of awkwardness, which I'm sure others will discuss. But solvability inevitably comes down to packing a high percentage of familiar words in each quadrant. Common words can be clued in many different ways, and I like to give the editor the flexibility to adjust the difficulty level of these to meet solver need. Will always has a knack for smoothing things out with his adept clue revisions.

Thu 6/4/2015
CAVERNBADSIGN
ADELESADMITONE
MISSAYCASTAWAY
PATERNITYCLAW
MCCIAHA
DOSOHIESCAPS
DIRTSTAINSTOIL
RANATABVANILLA
ENOLCOMEDYTEAM
DATAIDOLSERF
GUTROBT
ISMSPAPERTHIN
TORIAMOSSIRICA
STATIONSOPENUP
EASEDBYTSETSE

I had been collecting companion entries, e.g. MOIL and TOIL, for making the Schrodinger category of puzzle for what seemed like ages. Much of that search was facilitated by Matt Ginsberg's clue database which displays alternate entries with the same clue. (For instance, if I were to look up SIT, one of the clues [Meet] would also apply to FIT ... which differs by a single letter). Short-entry pairs like that were easy to come by, so I scratched my head to find something longer and stumbled upon 10-D and 25-D ... which differ by two letters. Good enough, I said.

Oddly enough, the placement of those long Schrodinger entries into a thematic presentation came only gradually; I initially thought the puzzle would be themeless. Even so, it quickly made sense to place a single entry vertically because of the orientation of these CAVERN growths in nature. From there it took a long while before I decided to depict them as two distinct entries. First, it seemed redundant, but the other mental block was having two, long, nearly-the-same, single-word entries in a puzzle: very taboo. Eventually the theme notion struck me, and it carried the day.

Now, having said all that, I should point out that the puzzle isn't the sort of Schrodinger puzzle where either theme entries is correct in either location: they make the best sense with one particular arrangement ... and I'm so naughty for this sly prank: Someone should look up what percentage of the population doesn't know which is which.

Sun 5/17/2015TO-DO LIST (ABRIDGED)
BREADSROMAODDSSTEM
MARINECORPSKEEPSCOOL
WINDAWATCHAPLAYAPRANK
NOELTIATHANROADS
AMENHEESTOW
THUMBARIDEAWAVEAFLAG
LESSSORPMEELTUG
CREDFLATCRIMESCENE
DOAFLIPACOINAPHRASE
SNOOZEHUESSETSIN
MTMNOWSIPBOAETA
ARARATSALECHANTS
RUNALIGHTAFIREASHOT
CITYSTREETSUMSRULE
SSRABASAMBATBOY
MAKEACATCHABUSATABLE
ACNEARKPADS
WORLDAGRIALBTOOL
FILEARETURNABOOKATRIP
TVANTENNAKARATEKICKS
DEFSATOMSHADYESSES

I originally titled this puzzle "Multitasking" because certain words serve more than one purpose and the individual tasks would overlap — much as they seem to do when one is multitasking. But alas, not everything survives the edit.

At any rate, it's a complex theme idea today ... one which took many more hours to flesh out than a simple rebus or letter subtraction would. (Just try to create your own string of three overlapping tasks: PUSH A BUTTON, BUTTON A SHIRT ... oops I'm stuck). Plus, I don't particularly enjoy solving those "conventional" forms I mentioned — and that's just me — so I never make them. Instead, I push really hard for something new and unexpected — the sort of theme I myself would most enjoy solving. Lets hope that's what solvers got today.

Wed 5/6/2015
STRIFEPROTEM
NEEDIERALUMINA
ANNALEEGUNBELT
ITTMEFIRSTGIT
LOOMSENESUAVE
SNUBFREESMMES
STAIRSTEEPEN
SEASONS
GUTHRIEAANDW
LENAERNSTIIII
ATRIPACHINALL
DIERECEIPTLDL
INSHAPERESPECT
NOTATESRAILCAR
ONSITEKNOTTY

This puzzle theme arose naturally when I was looking back at my June 4, 2009 collaboration with Pete Collins. I pondered: What things go in cycles? The answer that immediately came to me included three of the 6-letter words featured diagonally in today's grid ... and a 4-letter word in FALL.

(Good thing I pondered it a little longer)!

Given my experience filling the aforementioned puzzle, I had a straightforward task on my hands.

Fri 4/24/2015
CATALPAPOLYSCI
TURNEDTHEHEATON
STINKSTANKSTUNK
CONESERMASCDS
AMISONKEYSKIT
NATLADENLETME
STRESSEDVETOER
IODATECANTON
OCTETSCONTENTS
AWOLSDAMESESE
RELSFAVESPSAS
LAUKINERMARIA
OPENTOCRITICISM
CONFERENCETABLE
KNELLEDAMASSES

When I sat down to solve my own puzzle this week I had long forgotten the fill ... though 17-A was a nice reminder of the quality I was striving for. In fact, I feel pretty good about all the 15-letter entries: I try to find previously unused ones, and perhaps one or two might not even be in other constructors word lists. Beyond that, I was happy to get a lot of scrabbly letters into the fill.

There were a few entries I had no recollection of: CATALPA, INKSTER, EDELS and KINER. Nor do I really know these items from their clues — but I'm happy to say that none of them intersected, so I feel pretty confident that the no-Google solvers will be able to complete today's puzzle in its entirety. Some will probably even suggest that the puzzle was too easy ... another "paper tiger" as I like to describe sparse grids that are unexpectedly conquerable.

Thu 4/16/2015
PETERRATAASHY
TARSIEDUCFEUD
ASIANLITELEGS
YOUGOYOURWAY
LBOSBECAME
DIVEINPIELAN
PETITEBACKWARD
ESSEMOMATTA
DRAWKCABBATEHT
AEBWARTESTRA
LERUALAELP
ENIMOGLLIDNA
AJEDENALRUOCS
DOZISUPOIKAHK
SEEDTSENNEMEY

JOE: This puzzle concept came to me when I noticed that the two main theme entries were equal length: constructors lo-o-ove when that happens! The literal interpretation of them virtually begged running them in opposite directions. To build up the theme further, I decided to run the corresponding background fill the same direction. Next, the theme suggested that I might enlist a collaborator, so I called upon Pete. From there, I would fill one half of the puzzle, flip it around, and ask Pete to fill the other half. So that was the basic logistics.

When I construct, I think about fairness to the solver. I guessed there would be solvers who would be very unhappy about the trick in the lower half of the puzzle, so I addressed this in two ways. First, I included the helper entry BACKWARD in the top half of the puzzle ... preparing the solver ahead of time. Second, I made sure that the theme was completely absent from the down fill so that solvers could opt out in that way. That was the least I could offer.

By the way, the other "helper" entry DRAWKCAB was more of a joke than anything else ... not much of any help to the solver I suspect. But it was fun to claim that — technically — the same word appears twice in the puzzle!

PETE: Yes, this one was definitely Joe's idea. When he asked me to go along for the ride, I was more than happy to.

Beyond what Joe said, I'll just add a couple of things. Did you notice the necessary palindromes (ESSE/MOM/ATTA) through the horizontal midline of the puzzle, and BOB vertically intersecting MOM? My clue for BOB was "Go up and down", which I thought was appropriate given the circumstances.

Second, did you notice PETER in the top half of the puzzle and JOE in the bottom? Of course you did.

Thu 4/2/2015
CABANASRONAS
OPERETTARESALE
BLEEPOUTEASTLA
UNCAPORTRAITS
SEALIMEOHO
DIEMENON
PARRPCSERASE
ALEEEREOGLED
MUTILATESWOPAT
SPINALTAPAGO
GETEXERCISESAT
RUDIITELLTIA
EDINCOCASINS
DENGKREMEMST
SSSETE

TIM: Joe and I found two theme arrangements that allowed us to finish this puzzle. Because we weren't sure which grid Will and Joel would prefer if they liked the theme, we submitted both. Each has its pluses and minuses.

The alternative grid's biggest virtue is that its theme answers are well distributed throughout. The greater length of SHANTIES (8) over CABANAS (6) is another advantage.

There's a bunch of bouncy stuff (TRADE WAR, LIVE AMMO, ROOKIE MISTAKES, TAMPER RESISTANT, RUM RAISIN, SCIENTIST), but there's also a fair accumulation of junk (ADAH, RST, TSE, A KING, ATL, ENGR). From an aesthetics standpoint, SSSS looks much worse than SSS, while the triplication (and crossing) of SEASONED TO TASTE, REASON TO LIVE and TURN TO STONE is hardly ideal. And PARENTIS, a slice of abstruse legalese, might have been the worst submitted entry since the time some nitwit (that would be me) sent in a puzzle containing ADEEM a couple of years ago.

On the other hand, the spacing of themers in CABANAS isn't perfect, even if the placement of a theme answer at 1-A (one of Joe's original, starry-eyed ambitions) helps to make up for it. A few clunkers of its own aside, the overall fill of CABANAS feels a touch zippier, and I think both of us prefer it now that we're removed enough to judge through more objective eyes.

If nothing else, the opportunity to clue SPINAL TAP made this whole endeavor worthwhile.

Tue 2/3/2015
GLOBALPOSTAL
REVENUEDIPLOMA
INITIALONTARIO
GODNITROKISS
TRADETHE
CAREEARADDED
PARENTROOMRAY
ANTEORDERSAVE
ITSOVERBATTED
ROYALFORMASS
CARPARTY
WIDEISSUENEW
ACADEMYLETTUCE
RETIREDSCIENCE
STATESEARNED

I noticed that when acronyms and initialisms appear in clues they automatically pin things down. For instance, the clue [Part of GPS] readily identifies "Global Positioning System" and guides the solver to an entry like GLOBAL or SYSTEM or SYST. So, I wondered how a solver might react to a more generalized clue like [Part of ?PS] which could refer to FPS, GPS, IPS, PPS or UPS. This was the basis for today's theme (and the stars in the clues eliminated the need to repeat "part of" in every clue ... perhaps even adding a mystique).

Most acronyms and initialisms contain short words — VAT, for instance, could yield VALUE or ADDED or TAX — and these words wouldn't normally form theme entries by themselves. But I had pioneered a puzzle style in my 12/8/2009 NYT puzzle which uses short-answers-having-something-in-common in all the across entries, so the current theme seemed like a natural fit. What I like about this type of theme representation is that solvers can opt out of the theme entirely by solving only the Down clues, but I like to think that solvers would be delighted by the nature of the theme once they actually did catch on to it.

One last thought: kudos to anyone who solved the entire puzzle with only the Across clues!

POW Sun 1/18/2015CHANGELINGS
BOSSSTEAMCHOPADREP
OATHTURBOLULUDEANE
THAIANTEDOLINUPFOR
HUGELUGELUGSLOGSLOTS
LOBOLIEEATS
MAIDSAIDSANDSANKSINK
ISLCLEATSANTITOUR
SCOTCHCEEVANONE
CANALSANRIBALDASIF
PALEPALSPASSLASSLESS
ERASRTESCAM
KIDSKISSMISSMOSSMOST
ODIEDYNAMOANOONION
NEDADOLYEBADDIE
GASPALFANONAMEELS
LOUDLOUTLOSTLASTCAST
LUAUETACIAO
WILTWILLFILLFULLFUEL
HANOISEATTEASEFOXY
ONCUECAMIOAKENIMAM
PEATSKHANSNERTNOME

The six 20-letter theme entries in this puzzle contain roughly two thirds consonants ... with letters like H, G, K, W and F among them restricting fill choices. I normally like to infuse the fill with a few entries exceeding nine letters, but early attempts conjured up too many clunkers alongside the lively long entries. So, the grid was scaled back to the current design: one dominated by 4- and 5-letter entries. As such virtually no fresh fill could be introduced, but at least this short fill would be free of weak content.

In the end, the success of the puzzle rides mainly on the innovative theme concept.

Sat 1/10/2015
CTEAMSTHEMRS
ARABIANCHEROOT
SARONGSREYNOSA
UNTOETHANSNIT
ASHCHAITEALEI
LASHERDERSITO
TCCHENVAUGHN
ITISSWEDETHEM
EIEIOAMITETRA
SONARDUDASSIN
ONTEPIIVSOVA
FDICINICEONEG
WASHINGTONSTATE
ATTENTIONGETTER
RESTSONONESOARS

My last revision of this puzzle was submitted almost two years prior to the publication date, so when I sat down to solve this final edit I had long forgotten the fill, and Will had vastly livened up most of the clues. Hence, this would be as unbiased a solving experience as I could contrive for myself. For me, I had to confirm that a "No-Google" solver could indeed complete it, and I am happy to report that I did ... completely Google-free.

I consider the "No-Google" solvers to be one critical audience for a puzzle, and the best way to ensure their satisfaction is to minimize the density of unfamiliar content. My greatest concern during construction must have been the proximity of CHEROOT and REYNOSA in the Northeast and the crossing of TCCHEN with HSIA in the West, but they were only minor obstacles for my own solving experience. So, I'm satisfied with the way the puzzle turned out.

Just in case anyone was wondering, here are some of my own missteps while solving:

  • 13-A NOMADIC
  • 26-A MIS
  • 28-A DEY
  • 34-A SCALE
  • 50-A IDO
  • 54-A ONICE
  • 57-A ALEUTIANISLANDS
  • 3-D MARINEENGINEERS
  • 12-D PROGRAMDIRECTOR
  • 14-D CEDAR
  • 59-D CES

I'll be interested in seeing whether the regular solvers had a similar experience.

POW Sun 12/28/2014FILL-IN-THE-BLANKS
THETOPCABSKEGPUPIL
RETELLALOEVERAOKAPI
AMANDAMEANINGSLENOS
MISSINGPERSONPEEDDT
PEELDELETEDSCENE
HBOROARLIDOOMAN
PARTVICURSTLANDMINE
UNUSEDMINUTESLEOCOD
MGSNEEDBOPINIDS
IMHOTIRSLINELOADUP
CAENDROPPEDCALLVINO
ENDURECOONETOTEENS
SUMKOLASNOHOCAT
AFTDOCFORFEITEDGAME
PRICETAGSTORKLOUSED
PEPSAREARSVPETD
STRIPPEDBAREAMAS
TOOEELABANDONEDSHIP
OVALSEATENRAWNONONO
RESETSHESGONEUBOLTS
ERTESSADENOSSETTLE

This theme originated with my observation that SUPERSONIC contains the word PERSON, so I checked the clue and puzzle databases and didn't see that any constructor had connected the two words ... at least in recent history. I was off to a good start. I explored fill-in-the-blanks, e.g., Su____ic, as one way to express this theme, but a theme entry like PERSON would be too short. Then for some reason, I was inspired to interpret Su____ic as a pictoral description. Aha! MISSING PERSON! All I needed was other examples (and, indeed, they would come to me over time).

Many months earlier, I had advocated that constructors cram less theme content into the daily puzzles, but rather expand the theme from, say, five entries to ten and produce a Sunday puzzle instead. Most editors have low Sunday inventory, so packed daily puzzles simply deprive it from growing. This is why I decided upon a Sunday puzzle after having produced just a single one — a collaboration, even — in 2008.

Sunday puzzles are a bear to fill. Duplicate words in the grid are a frustrating obstacle. But I fought hard against that, and I'm particularly happy with the outcome: the fill contains lively long entries cemented with clean short entries. There are no partials in the fill because clues with blanks are reserved solely for the theme entries today.

Overall, this is among my favorite puzzles on account of the success with both theme and fill. Though, I would have liked Will to keep my title "Blank expressions."

Fri 11/14/2014
APPSCIFIJEB
TOOROAMOFFARR
AWLENDPOSTMEA
LEOVIIITACTICS
ERTEALLBYWETS
PESTLOASILO
CAPITALLETTER
MUSICALNOTE
CHESSMOVE
DECADEALERTS
NOTIVISSHAH
EGOPRINCESAVE
GENERALHOSPITAL
RAISEDLETTERING
ORCASERSCESTA

No surprise that Bb5 jumped off the page of a chess book and reminded me of B flat expressed by an old typewriter. Not long after that, 31-A, 34-A and 35-A emerged, and their lengths suggested a puzzle with left-right symmetry. I only stacked them out of curiosity, but soon decided that the hardest crossing sequences ACS and LLM would eventually work out: 5-D was already in my word list, but I had to devise 7-D to match it in length. The rest fell into place with the usual amount of shuffling black squares around.

I was undeterred by cheater squares as long as the grid remained open and the fill stayed clean: I prefer the short fill to contain common words like 30-A and 36-A which are most receptive to word play clues. My other favorite clues are 4-A, 9-A, 52-A — my originals — and 46-A and 56-A — supplied by Will.

POW Fri 9/5/2014
OLDAGEPENSIONER
REEDUCATIONCAMP
RACETOTHEBOTTOM
VOSSKENS
WENTFEARHMO
ASSETALLOCATION
ITTOZMAISOLDE
TORINOCAPLET
IDUNNOROAMBRO
NICKELANDDIMING
GETDADAALDO
CHAWPOLA
PATRONAGEHIRING
GREATGRANDNIECE
STEMLESSGLASSES

As groundwork for this puzzle, I created various Morse code palindromes — first noting that letters E, T, I, R, S, O, P, M, K, X, and H are symmetric in Morse code while letter pairs A/N, D/U, G/W, B/V, L/F and Q/Y are mirror images. But only nonsense emerged: NUN AWAITING NADA; WAIF GO HOWLING; TEAR IN HAIRNET; RING OF SLOW AIR; NET LOSS OF TEA; SEQUIN SAID YES. Really goofy stuff.

So I abandoned the thematic-entry approach and looked toward grid art using black squares to spell out a simple Morse code palindrome: WAITING, FOOTSTOOL or TOP SPOT. I devised numerous odd-sized grids that mostly wouldn't fill before stumbling upon the present grid which would.

Somewhere in the whole process I decided it wouldn't be fair to expect solvers to even know Morse code to get 20-Down, so I double-clued it. As such, the puzzle has only the slightest hint of a theme: one might describe it as more of a themeless with a post-solve conversation piece. (This seems to be one of my signature constructing styles). So, hopefully a few solvers are enticed to ponder the subject of Morse code palindromes for an extra bit of amusement.

Finally, a few words about fill. Given the fixed nature of the grid, it was important to me to introduce as much novel content among the 11- and 15-letter entries; I also wanted the 3- and 4-letter entries to be common stuff. Plus, I wanted all easy content in the vicinity of 20-Down. So, I hope these mini-objectives helped me achieve my goal of an interesting yet smooth solve overall.

Fri 4/4/2014
SATELLITESTATES
ADELAIDESLAMENT
MARINEINSURANCE
SINGINGTOGETHER
REISIEIDIO
SBATROTSUMO
LISROZRAH
SNEERATGUESSSO
HEXEMITAC
AZOVMAPALAS
RIMYARMRTS
SACRIFICIALLAMB
AMIGLADTOSEEYOU
GASOLINESTATION
ANTSINONESPANTS

Martin:

I like to think of today's double-quad-stack puzzle having a long-lost triple stack little brother from 1996. Do you see any similarity between the grids? In reality, any similarity is just a coincidence, but an intriguing one, nonetheless.

When I started constructing the top stacks for this puzzle, I though it would be fun to use a 15-letter word/phrase that is commonly seen at the very bottom of stacked puzzles: SATELLITE STATES, and placing it at 1-Across, at the very top. In this position, its abundance of low-point (useful word-ending) Scrabble letters, normally an advantage, would be all but useless.

After I finished what looked like a promising top stack, I then contacted my friend Joe Krozel to see if he had an "orphan" stack or two, that we could meld into a finished puzzle. By luck he did. Our first draft had 10-D SLUG, and FAIN in its mirror position. Luckily we were able to open the grid up more (and reduce the word count to 66) by extending both entries to SLUG IT OUT and SAMMY FAIN. We got lucky that day!

Joe:

When constructing my first dual quad-stack puzzle around 2010, I assembled a library of half-filled grids containing a single quad stack at the top or the bottom. So, I had numerous potential matches when Martin presented his upper quad stack to me; I just had to search my library for the closest matches, then Martin and I would move squares around to unite the two puzzle halves with the proper symmetry.

I started the lower quad stack with the lively seed entry AMIGLADTOSEEYOU. The vowels at the front and back ensured that 55-D and 60-D would be words rather than some all-consonant letter strings like SSSS or SSTS.

Thu 2/6/2014
BANGOJSARTIER
ELEAHITSENTRAS
WASSOBBYCONSENT
IMTHEREFIRACHE
TOLEDOARIGOTTOW
CREDTIDYDROME
HTSUHOHSMEARED
PSEUDOCOUP
ARCHERSHAMMPTL
REHABEMMABLUE
CARRYOKIENOLANS
ADIABENCDRATES
DISOBEYJAPANESE
ENTHUSEAGOCAIN
GASSEDREPHUNS

Just some standard puzzle-making techniques today; placing the revealer (57-A) as the final theme entry and stretching the grid to 16 columns to accommodate the even-length center entry of an 8, 9, 10, 9, 8 layout.

Those who enjoy this form of word play should get a copy of the 1967 book Mots d'Heures: Gousses, Rames — The d'Antin Manuscript ... It has something to do with Mother Goose rhymes in French.

Sat 9/28/2013
PAWPRINTMEANTO
REELEDININFERS
ORNAMENTALTREES
POTTIESLEIDEI
OBSESSBISCAYNE
SAONEPIETIN
ATUSMIGNONETTE
LITBIGBANGHUA
SCHOOLMATECERT
DALENEBERNE
TIMESINKGERMAN
IWOTOTBARTOLI
LISTENSTOREASON
TSHIRTRUNTIEST
SHEESHITISNTSO
Sat 6/29/2013
CHAPPRIM
VOICEDSEEGER
LETTERCSTEANNE
OUTSKIPHURLING
GRIMIERADSITES
STANDTOREASON
EDGARWINTER
PAINT
HEARINGDOGS
HANGINGAROUND
LATTICEBILLERS
EVERTOREVILEYE
NOSEATSDETERGE
OCTETSRETEAM
SOSOSSRS

My approach to this 50-word puzzle departed radically from my approach to the 52-word puzzle (see 6/1/2012 notes); The seeds here were three ING fragments which are contained in HEARING DOGS, SHARING A BED and HANGING AROUND. The notion was this: I would have over 2000 choices for each ????ING???? and ????ING?????? — and that sort of flexibility would probably offer multiple fills for one or more quadrant.

So, I loaded my word list with items of those patterns using OneLook and a dictionary of phrasal verbs. It felt like I added thousands to my word list, and it certainly paid off in the end.

Fri 5/24/2013
ASBIGHSTTOPUP
STOREOOHHYENA
HASANINTERESTIN
IRTELKSOSROD
PROCRASTINATING
NEAOZSHEF
GASOLINESTATION
MATEKETARERA
CARELESSABANDON
ATEHITDEF
RANACLOSESECOND
ENGTORMASROO
TOLERANCELEVELS
ALEXIARNROSIE
PERECTOTTATER
Fri 3/15/2013
EGOTISTONMERIT
LOVEMEORLEAVEME
AVERAGEAMERICAN
SERAMANORLAGO
TREHERDSHOPIN
INSTANTSFAMINE
NOTWITHMULETAS
RIOTSPINENUT
MCMIIGUNKYLIC
ELANAREASPAVE
NITBLOBSRATEL
INIMICALSERINE
STOODONONESTOES
CONNIVESAGAINST
INSANERMATISSE
Thu 2/28/2013
PROANDCON
NIVEKSOUTBONO
OFERVERSEFIDE
MENADESTROLLED
SITCHA
SCIENCEGESTION
TONSHIBITSODY
AMSNERNIE
NETOGEALSSIST
STRAINSSTRICTS
TRAAIR
FITEERSCLAIMED
IFERLOGUENOTE
CHESSORTSGRAM
TEMTESNTO
Sat 12/29/2012
TRITTSCRAMABA
VIREOCHINANOR
PTOLEMAICSYSTEM
GENERALBEERS
REPULSER
GOSNEEVWS
VANESSAWILLIAMS
ELECTEDOFFICIAL
NARRATIVEPOETRY
ATEENAGERINLOVE
LIECHTENSTEINER
ADIOISSEL
EPEERESTSON
HORSEMANUREEUR
ALESUCCESSCSA
YDSSHOD
Thu 8/9/2012
BEADFRETSATOB
AXLEOASISCOPA
LIMBRISENEMER
ITSUSELESSDART
TICTAC
DANACARVEYCOHO
RUINSEEMEASON
ATATTAXISNOUN
MOPEEVERIOUSE
ANESREDSNAPPER
TOEDYE
IMPSSCREENNAME
SOLEEXILEEGAD
TUESTIMIDREND
SSSSSISSYSEXY
Fri 7/27/2012
PEPCIDLACERATE
APASSAGETOINDIA
DISPUTEDBORDERS
USTAARIANELEE
ATONEMENTSSAMI
NERMINTSICIAN
MAPONTOCREDIT
SOLATESPHONENO
ILENESSOONEST
DOPEDDENSELET
EGISCENTERLANE
WISLEADINOMAN
ACTSINDIFFERENT
YALTACONFERENCE
SLEETINGWASTED

This precursor grid containing about 60% of the same fill is instructive because I myself rejected it as having inadequate fill. The movement of a couple black squares to produce the final grid is somewhat surprising feature, IMO.

Thu 6/7/2012
ADOLPHHEAPON
IBEFOREEEXCEPT
GOLFTOURNAMENTS
NYETARISTASOB
HOMESETA
OLSENSINDENT
NIECEANALCHIP
CEILINGHYGIENE
ENZOHUTSWEIRD
ECOLAWGENRES
KNTIDONT
OWELETSUPRAMS
RADIOASTRONOMER
BIGNAMEROOMERS
STEENSAFTERC
Fri 6/1/2012
ESTESMSDOS
MEAGERPOMELO
BROODERCALIBER
AGITATOOVEREAT
YESITISMASKERS
ITSELEMENTARY
STRESSTESTS
ATO
LITERATURES
FUTURERESULTS
TINSTARRUNLAPS
RECHOSEMANATEE
USHEREDSLIMING
STERESSEANCE
TASEDREGER

I once read Frank Longo's notes — somewhere — describing how he seeded his 52-word masterpiece (1/21/2005) with the entry DINETTE SETS ... because S, E and T offer much flexibility as ending letters. So, when STRESS TESTS became a mainstream concept at the height of the Great Recession, the stage was set for me to attempt a similar feat.

By the way, the entry ESTES randomly appeared at 1-Across, so I clued it as "Harvey of crossword constructing fame" knowing full well that Will would get a chuckle and change it. (But also knowing that if KROZEL ever randomly appeared in one of Harvey's puzzle's, he'd return the favor! ... ;-) )

Thu 5/17/2012
USEDCARTALIBAN
GONEAPEWRITEME
ARTUROSOTOOLES
NEWMATHIINSIST
DIVORCE
ASSHEEGOSURFS
NOTELLONEBASE
RESPECT
TELSTARSLEETS
ASSISTONERNST
TROUBLE
MERIDENTRAVAIL
EXECUTEMINICAM
SPEAKERESOBESO
HOTNESSGENESIS
Fri 3/30/2012
ADOPTIONARISES
NONEEDTOTHANKME
IMEANITTHISTIME
TEASMANTOMAN
ASSEZSYNTAX
ESEISTH
TRIPLEWORDSCORE
RESIDENTIALAREA
IMITATIONBUTTER
BEATSONESBREAST
ETHSEAP
BALLADSTEAM
PECULIARANTE
OPERATIONCONDOR
LONGTERMPARKING
ESTHERARRESTEE
Wed 3/21/2012
BLURTSTHELOT
RANCHODEARONE
IMPAIRCORDOVAN
SARNETHERSERA
KNICKVASESYON
ECCOPSISUBOLT
THEQUEENOFSOUL
SADNATORAW
ESCFAINGLO
ARETHAFRANKLIN
DIEGONOORSATE
ERSPHNOMBURTS
NAPEOOLALAELI
ICETRAYSABIDED
RECTORSBYNAME
OSTENDSIFTED
Sat 2/11/2012
RIPSAW
GOPROSELIG
GALLIUMCHAINED
ALLANTELASCALA
SAINTVALENTINES
SETSONEATEASE
OUTSTRIPS
VACPENSEESMML
ENASDODDSPEAL
STRAPTILEENIE
TENDERHEARTEDLY
ADELPHINEAREST
LURESINESPARTO
SPARINGSTETSON

The first submitted version of this puzzle had fifteen rows: the sides of the heart tapered down further so that just a single entry connected the top and bottom halves of the puzzle. That entry also contained an unchecked letter passing between two blocks; I thought it appropriate for that letter to be an 'X' — the symbol for a kiss — but Will rejected the idea of an unchecked letter, so it was back to the drawing board.

The final design clearly has three vertical entries which connect the top and bottom. This was no trivial undertaking. I think I entered over 20,000 words to my word list before coming up with the particular choices for 12-D and 13-D. Ironically, it wasn't until I put GALLIUM into the working part of my word list that the whole fill coalesced.

Getting TENDERHEARTEDLY into the fill was somewhat fortuitous since it initially appeared that nothing thematic was going to work in that spot. I had a list of about 30 valentine-related 15-letter entries to screen.

Fri 1/27/2012
EMMASIKIDUMPS
SAUDIMICEREAP
QUIZMASTERANTI
SIREJUSTMYLUCK
MARCEAUSHY
LECTUREHALLS
AGARSEWERS
MANICBOXTALIA
EDSELIMETA
DEEPSEADIVER
QEDINRANGE
TRIANGULARALDA
IANSANIMALFARM
PSATGENESATUP
SERAEDELDREGS

I thought it would be cute to have an isolated word in a grid, but it had to connect with the surrounding fill somehow, so a pangram seemed a natural fit. By the way, two other words — BIN and DEN — describe enclosures (as well as have their letters in alphabetical order).

The main task was to prepare a word list with B, O and X removed. After that, the fill process proceeded normally. I tried to use up Scrabbly letters quickly; QUIZMASTER tucked the Q and Z into an alcove, while JUST MY LUCK meshed nicely and disposed of J, C and K. With those in place, the rest came easily, so I tried to make the other long entries as lively as possible.

On a personal note, I absolutely loved it when my sixth grade teacher read ANIMAL FARM to the class. I had my wife read it to my kids on road trips just about the time this puzzle ran.

Sat 1/7/2012
RESCUEDCATBOAT
EXTENSIONCOURSE
DEADASADOORNAIL
TRYASLETONLAE
ICERBETELSETS
DIDSECTSCCXII
ESTIMATESERACS
EHLERSBIREME
SMELLSWENTWILD
TACITVANESNEW
ECONDESEXCAPA
PHUOUTOFMOTHY
DIRTYPOLITICIAN
ANSWEREDTONOONE
DEEPREDSONANTS
Sat 12/31/2011
SMOKEMISSOPUS
CIVILITSABLAST
ICONSNEWGUINEA
ORIGAMIADVERB
NODSOMARGELS
OHIDENE
REALESTATETAXES
PRIVATEPRACTICE
MADERESTITUTION
STARTSSOMETHING
STIRNSA
SASHESAUTBAR
ONECARSPAREME
TOGAPARTYLATEX
BRIDETOBEATONE
SESSSTATSENDS
Fri 11/25/2011
ALGATAKESNOTE
FURLWATERLEVEL
TAILGATEPARTIES
SUNLXIIINNE
DDAYNSCBESS
ESCAGA
SARASOTAFLORIDA
USEDCARSALESMAN
PENTATONICSCALE
STARSINONESEYES
EENNON
PANEGENTUES
ABOROGETUPI
GOHEADOVERHEELS
AVONLADIESAMOS
NEWSBREAKREPO
Fri 9/30/2011
LITTERSPORES
ONEOVERSAFELY
VARMINTSPUTNIK
ERRCOASTALODE
TAINTSPORKPIES
AGEESJACKLORD
PERUBACKLESS
TRACKMEET
FRECKLEDBOOR
CLOCKSINDONNE
PLANKTONPIXELS
IANLINGERSTEE
GINGERSBOOLEAN
GREASEATWORST
YELPSNONAMES
Fri 9/9/2011
FISHERMANSWHARF
ALTERNATEROUTES
CLASSACTIONSUIT
EGGREGNCO
TOSSINONESSLEEP
ILLAPE
SCARLETTANAGERS
HAREBRAINEDIDEA
INONESSPARETIME
PASTISTIN
SLEEPLESSNIGHTS
LOAATO
ASBUSYASABEAVER
STATEUNIVERSITY
UNDERPARISSKIES
Sat 8/6/2011
ASPIRESCITADEL
THEDEEPANATOLE
HITBELOWTHEBELT
EPEESOHSOASIS
APREINEMORASS
RECESSNOELDOE
TROTTAPEASONE
THESWINEFLU
DITSYOGODABET
EGORELSGAGLAW
CONGERFIEFETO
ETTUALLSFITOF
ICANTSAYASIHAVE
THINKERALROKER
SALSODACAMPERS
Fri 7/15/2011
BEDISRESPECTFUL
AMANCALLEDHORSE
RINGAROUNDAROSY
STERLINGSILVERS
EENEEKA
LAMSTIEDLIST
ALATHARSUDOKU
ZIGHIJACKSNIX
ABIDEDQUITIRE
RICOHNIBACTS
RIFERRR
SCARLETTANAGERS
POLITICALASYLUM
ALOTONONESPLATE
DOESNTMAKESENSE
Fri 5/13/2011NY Times, Fri, May __, 2011
SUPERSTITION
BUSINESSDINNER
INSTANTPOTATOES
BYROTENOCANDO
NEGATEORSON
MAUSINEFRI
MRSINDEFINABLE
DEFANGSEXENEMY
CALLTOORDERANE
PENHODPROD
ALIARHONSHU
PANCAKETINGES
OPTICALSCANNERS
DENTALSURGEONS
LOSTONESEDGE
Fri 4/8/2011
NEBSTSK
ALAPCOLDALE
TERRTHEUNKEN
UVEASMILEEEN
RABIDCCSAVE
ATONESFEETBED
LONELIESTDALY
DREDTNTVICE
SIBSFACEMASKS
OSUWATERGLASS
VATASHRILED
ISTSTOWEALAR
ETOHEMANNOTE
TENNERDCWTS
SRSESOS

I originally constructed this puzzle for a book which Peter Gordon was planning which would include 100 crosswords, one each for the years of the 20th century. But alas, I didn't know the year 1961 had already been taken, so I tossed the puzzle to Will.

Puzzle construction encountered the same hurdles I mentioned in my notes for the LIES puzzle: stacks of long words, etc. Many solvers can't make out the numbers depicted with blocks: the 1's blend with the frame and the 6 and 9 look a bit distorted. Even so, the puzzle is still a decent solve.

Fri 3/4/2011
SALESAGREEMENTS
IDONTFEELLIKEIT
PITCAIRNSISLAND
SATELLITESTATES
ILEHEN
CANIWIZARDHAT
LEDTOAVAEPH
OLDENNIXERASE
ELIDEIXEROX
WINEGLASSCTNS
DOEMEA
AFRICANAMERICAN
ALOTONONESPLATE
HAMILTONONTARIO
STANDONONESTOES
Thu 12/30/2010
ASHSLOPIANO
CHARTERMEMBER
OUSEATCOCALEB
PLANTMANAGER
STEVIEORNO
WINETASTER
JAPESAVOWARNO
OPERATINGROOM
KIASOTAYAMPLE
EARTHANGEL
FISCOOLONG
FORTHERECORD
NONETEMMAKWAI
NOTRESPASSING
ELVERTNTNTS
Thu 12/2/2010
FAREASTSITUATE
AVIATORONESPOT
DEGRADEBENEATH
ERALOSESUTES
ALISTSTP
SEWSDOPEABC
PRONOUNNUMERAL
ENTENTEEMPATHY
WEAROUTRETREAD
SSNURSAPLIE
ERNSNAGS
SLAWSAYSOBAH
LIBERALATLARGE
AVERAGESIGNIFY
GETSMADARISTAS

It's hard for me to pick out a favorite puzzle, but this one is probably in my top five. This is the puzzle one should pull out when challenging anyone who claims he/she can solve a puzzle with only the Across clues.

This puzzle exists thanks to the clue database which Matt Ginsberg provided to the crossword community. The database has a nice feature of displaying all other entries — of the same length as the word being queried — having an identical clue. So, for instance, if I type TABLE into the database I find that it and two other words — DEFER and DELAY — have been clued as [Put on hold]. So, when I saw this feature for the first time, I immediately conceived of the current puzzle concept. From there I just frantically hunted down all the 7-letter entries which shared a common clue.

Sat 10/9/2010
CLEAREDONESNAME
HOSTILETAKEOVER
ANTIPROHIBITION
RESTSONONESOARS
SAYSARM
UFWGOFLAT
DNIESTERREFI
GRANDTOTALITOR
ELBEPARKAVENUE
SALSTEENIDOL
TOETAPCST
BHAACEH
OCTOBERSURPRISE
PLAYEDFAVORITES
EARLYRETIREMENT
CROSSEDONESPATH
Sat 8/7/2010
ASPIRESGAROTTE
CULTUREVULTURES
CREASERESISTANT
URALMASTSENYA
SOSHIPTOKASEM
AGEMATESBITMAP
LATIMESMADEIRA
TAXESPARINGS
TEKELWONKSREO
AMESCALLSMANN
BOALALLYMATTE
ITSALULUWIRIER
THEROSETTASTONE
HEARSAYEVIDENCE
ARTSALESTOSSEL
Sat 7/3/2010
APPOINTSPRESSED
SELLSOUTHOLYWAR
INALLPROBABILITY
SANAANOISESMOR
ALTSPOLLEDASNO
ITIERNIESCRUET
DYNAMITESARLISS
DOSIDOALIOTH
CENTREAPPLESEED
ACERSCLAROSDAE
ELSAMOANERDIRS
SIMNEALESGOTTI
UNIVERSALSTUDIOS
RENAULTEKINGOUT
ADDRESSDISSENTS
Wed 6/16/2010
MARCACARDOVES
CLEOSHOEUPONE
DIDNOHARMMTIDA
VEIGHTTBIRDCOT
INGEARNOUSE
RRATEDBMOVIE
MILEYEDSWOON
ACADSNIFFSTUD
ROMEOTRESESS
VNECKTSHIRTS
BASICREADME
NORIPHONEEMAIL
CHANGEXITPOLLS
ONIONMENEALLI
SONGSANODNYSE
Fri 5/28/2010
SPASMEDKEEPFIT
TOSPAREINDORSE
OPTICALILLUSION
PEUTTEMACHELA
OLDENTAUPEDAN
FEYALEXEIMOTT
FOISTEDARLENES
NOAMAERI
EPSILONATALOSS
SACINURNEDNIT
TRACELIDSORER
ATRAALGAEPISA
DOLLARSANDCENTS
ONELANETEARGAS
SETSHOTENMASSE
Sat 4/3/2010
SLACKJAWEDCOED
TABULARASAAXLE
ONEFINEDAYDIAN
ROLFENEUTEDIT
ALAGLADROTINI
GIRLOSIRISZEN
ENDUESNEPALESE
TATITPKE
QUIETINGIAMNOW
UNDENDRUNSERE
ASIANSALGAWBA
SHAHPENTLEWIS
HAMMANNIHILATE
EDIECRIMENOVEL
DENTEYEOPENERS
Sat 3/20/2010
NOLESSSPLASH
INASTIRQUANTA
NEUTEREDUNCIAL
JAPANESEACELLS
ACETONESSHRIKE
STRESSEDHEANEY
DESERTED
CLAREASSES
TRACEDTO
TREXESUPPERARM
REMASTLEEREDAT
AMATOLIDLOVETO
VOTIVEPROTESTS
ELEVESOPIATES
LOSERSSCLERA
Fri 2/5/2010
TEATROSWEDIDIT
ONCEINALIFETIME
STREETMUSICIANS
SEOULOPELSLOT
INSPAVOTEASTI
NTSADANORUNIN
GETTHEREBORING
CHAMPSBRYANT
GOESATLOOKSEES
ORBEDSAYTOORI
ODORRETCHINES
DIRROLEOANEST
MADEAMENTALNOTE
ELEPHANTTRAINER
NERISSASCREEDS
Tue 12/8/2009
LESMARVANITA
ARTLOUIEDENIS
IDAORSONWANDA
REGINASARAIAN
NELLARIEL
STANLEYALEC
COREYCARLERMA
OMARPERRYCHET
PETELUKEIRENE
ADAMANNETTE
KARENROSA
ANNMERLTAMARA
RENEEAARONROD
CLARAILENEALI
ALLENNATEBEN
Sat 11/14/2009
ANTESYEARSPAN
ZEBRAONMEORNO
TAINTUTESFATS
ELLAPEXMAIZE
CELLULARGARR
ENOSLETIGO
INCOMESTATEMENT
MOONOVERPARADOR
ARRIVEDERCIROMA
MANDARINORANGES
SHEBATMOLE
DELSMESSROOM
SABLEWINSFRO
KIEVMAMAIQUIT
IDEEACEDMUSEE
DEFSJOSEPEELS
Thu 10/29/2009
AGASSCOWSHAVE
PACTNOTREOMIT
ESTOARROWSMITH
SOUPSPOONTETRA
LAGOONGRATEON
AIROFFENSIVE
UNIAFROBEAGLE
REEDSRAMOOD
ASSISTALTAIVE
EEROSAARINEN
CASTLEDSLINGS
ELISEDATESBACK
AEROSOLCANOWEN
SUEDNOTITRANI
ETNASTIRSNYET
Fri 9/4/2009
RIPSAWSBATTEAU
ANTIDEPRESSANTS
ISOLATIONBOOTHS
LULLSCODASROT
CRESNUKEDNEUE
ARMHOLEDCOPSE
REASONEDNEURAL
CITIESSENSEN
ATCOSTNINTENDO
TISNTMODESEAR
LOYEPOSESMUNI
UNSSALADTARDE
NATIONALIZATION
CREASERESISTANT
HYMNALSHASSLES
Wed 8/12/2009
SAGFIGHTMOBY
ACNEACRIDORLE
MOANTEENSIBIS
PULLAHEADFRATS
ERYLOSTCRECHE
RETRIMWHOOSHED
EDIEEHUDS
CAPTAINAHAB
RESTSMIRA
ANISETTEHATRED
MARTYRWHOMDVD
APERSSHOWCASES
ZONESLANTBEAT
ELIAROLEORELO
DICKOBEYSADS
Sat 7/18/2009
DUFFSSCALIA
INROWSSPOUTING
STEREOPROSTATE
CAESARLETSINON
UPLATEINHALANT
SPOKENNASTASE
SEVERGETA
DENSERAYESHA
GALLCHAPS
BARCODETHORPE
HAVEATITHERMAN
ERASURESELTORO
ENTICINGMOANER
LEADUPTOENGINE
STRESSSECTS
Fri 7/10/2009
CFOMRS
CREVECOEUR
LAURELSDOLORES
ABERRATIONSGTO
PALESTINEHEIL
SLATHERSSTAPLE
SNOODREHIRE
DUEPRONETO
SHUTPREMARITAL
PUNRELATEENE
IMUSOVINEACTA
TOSCAEECESTOP
TRUECONFESSIONS
EMANANTROSARIO
DELETESSWENSON
Sat 7/4/2009
SERBENIACAWET
ALEAMONGONANO
ROCKGARDENNITA
THEUNITEDSTATES
RIDALOPTALENT
EMEERNEWATDDE
ALSNANPURR
STARSANDSTRIPES
ARISPRESEL
CARSPANSSECTS
KVETCHCHAIART
REDWHITEANDBLUE
ALAIRODSTEIGER
CELLELATEDOSE
EDELSLYASENTO
Wed 6/17/2009
ACTASALPSIEGE
SHALTBICCLARA
TIKKICMLIOTAS
ONEARMBAMISNT
CLIMBBALLADE
TRAINSETRIOTER
DARNGRAMS
STEERTUBPIPES
UCONNTREE
WIESELKEROSENE
ENDUSERRENAL
THENOAROLDAGE
TANGONOROATEN
ELITEBOOATEST
DECORYTDNESTS
Thu 6/4/2009
HAMLETDEISTS
POSTURERESORTS
INTAILSALLRISE
COOPSTAWABBIE
ARLOFSLICSUMP
REAALIENORTOE
DETONATELEGEND
PETEROSE
HITSATMORELAND
EOERAREBITIER
ADMSXENONALAE
PIPETCUTIGETA
EDUARDOIGNORED
DERNIERCITRONS
SASSEDSLOANS

JOE: This puzzle was one of my favorite to construct. The theme idea originated with Pete Collins, who envisioned the base path as SINGLE, DOUBLE, TRIPLE and HOMER. The problem was that they weren't the same length, so the grid faced symmetry challenges. I struggled for hours ... even making each theme entry plural. Subconsciously, I avoided the past tense — thinking they would be the same length as the plurals and harder to finesse into a coherent wording of the theme. But I was wrong. When I finally came around to trying that notion, it was like hitting the jackpot; everything just fell into place. My advice to other constructors: look hard for natural symmetry and focus on variations that don't fight the fill process.

PETE: This was Joe and my fourth collaboration out of nine (and counting?). I think it was my favorite, along with our first (Sunday, August 3, 2008). Our early collaborations usually arose from me coming up with a crazy idea, getting stymied trying to construct a grid, then throwing the grid at Joe and begging him to finish it. Joe never backed down from a challenge — even if it did result in hours of teeth-gnashing and hair-pulling. I'm especially proud that this puzzle landed in "Will Shortz Picks His Favorite Puzzles".

Mon 4/27/2009
MASKHUMUSEFOR
UNTOUNAPTTRIO
SCARSAYNOHELD
THRESHBEMINE
DORATHEEXPLORER
ORYPUPTSEIWO
KASEMADEN
JOETHEPLUMBER
HUNGHENCE
ADESACETDALA
ROSIETHERIVETER
LOCKINTINHAT
ISININTELDOPE
DECINURSEEMIR
EXECSPEEDDENY
Sat 3/28/2009
HUSSEINBRAVOED
INTERNALREVENUE
SCARLETTANAGERS
PONTEACSSAMOS
ENDSALOISNOPE
EDOSPILLITMER
DINETTESNOMEAT
TORIESSUSANN
SINGERBISCOTTI
EOESAGETEAPHR
ANSALAMESULEE
MATEDTIRONEAL
ALOTONONESPLATE
PLEASURECRUISES
SYSTEMSTASTERS
Sat 3/7/2009
MORTARANDPESTLE
AVENGERORDERIN
COSTINGSIGNING
HIPODORIZELEA
IDOLSNIDESLOG
NANOSNCOSPINE
ELDUQUESTEINEM
WRUNIANE
ATPEACEUNLEARN
SHIEDLONSTRAT
HEEDLAUDESSTS
ARRDANIELSEAT
BECKETTRIPINTO
LIEOVERGHANIAN
ENDSONASOURNOTE
Sat 2/14/2009
EGGORFFNOMSG
TORTLEOIIRENE
AREAILOVEPARIS
LEAKOUTERLETT
STEPCLAN
UARTONROAR
MANTOMANDEFENSE
ONCOMINGTRAFFIC
ROLLONTHEGROUND
AXELDONACR
CRTSDULY
OATHHADTOSOUP
PLEASEGOONEURO
EMAILOGRESGTS
DALLYNSECHST
Tue 12/23/2008
TEDSATRATER
ILEENIDTARARA
MINDIDIRETRAP
EDISONAMOPTS
REMANSPITON
SAILEDNONET
ERIEDARLAMINA
TESNOVVONSET
ANIMALRADEIRE
TENONDELIAS
NOTIPSNAMER
STPOMANOSIDE
PARTERIDIDNIM
ARARATDINEELI
RETARTASDET

A lot of people really marvel at this puzzle, but my feelings are somewhat mixed. At the time it ran, I did not know that a fellow constructor Jerry Rosman had attempted the same thing, so I felt his aspirations might have been dashed, and I felt a little sad.

Construction of this puzzle took a logical path: first, build a word list having only entries that can be reversed, then try to autofill a small closed-off region — moving around black squares with each attempt — until it would fill. Next, move onto an adjacent region of the puzzle doing the same thing. Only half the puzzle needed to be filled this way since the remainder was automatically the reversal. The main problem was making sure that entries and their reversals — say ETRE and ERTE — didn't appear in the same half of the puzzle. Lots of trial and error.

Wed 12/10/2008
ANTREBIGOSSE
MOOEDUSEWEAIM
PAEANMATTLAUER
SIOUANASISEEIT
RFDOSCARERO
FIFTHTELL
TORTUREDASKTO
IDOREDARMYEIN
NEGRODOEUVRES
IRAQLAPOF
ATTSUPERTLC
BEEEATERATEOUT
LIEAROUNDHOOEY
YOUINEDUDUEIN
UPDOSLOSTYNE
Fri 12/5/2008
ININKDIBSSOI
MENONBYNOMEANS
LUIGIANNUALFEE
ARTFADEINDELE
TAILENDEDGESIN
ELOIDEMTORINO
MAYBENOTDEW
GLEETRUMEER
DOERESIGNED
ETALIATAEIBMS
COPIERSTAGTEAM
ASIFFURORSTRI
RENTALCARUNTIL
LETSPARTYIRENE
ODOEPEETARES
Fri 11/28/2008
OCHOSTHCIDOL
UNROBEHURMORE
SHIVERMETIMBERS
MEMVCRTAUS
CREATIVELICENSE
PSECSECYTAM
IRENENIAGOA
THECOSTOFLIVING
TOVTAIATIVE
OPESARICASE
PENTATONICSCALE
TONITELHES
STINGOPERATIONS
RIOTNEAIMGONE
ANNOSAMMINTY

Here's a puzzle I devised an Excel algorithm to build ... though could be built more easily today with direct use of Crossword Compiler.

As a launching point, I first draw attention to the intersection points of the 5 horizontal and 5 vertical 15's:

  • IREIE
  • EIEIN
  • ESOLI
  • NTNCA
  • IOEAO

Reading horizontally, these are the letters that appear in positions 3, 6, 8, 10, 13 of their corresponding 15-letter words. Reading vertically, the positions are 3, 5, 8, 11, 13. Note, for instance, that the last row IOEAO represents STING OPERATIONS in the puzzle, but also fits the pattern for JOINT OPERATIONS.

A key feature of the matrix is the heavy use of common letters R ,S, T ,L, N, A, E, I, O. (The letter C is the one outlier). The common letters would assist my algorithm below since slight variations often represent other words. For instance, if IOEAO is changed to IOIAO, I find that the latter represents OBIE NOMINATIONS.

So now, the basic notion of the algorithm was this: I would build the matrix from the top down and maximize my chances of completing rows and columns based on shear numbers. I started off with "good guesses" for the top two rows like this:

  • IREIE
  • EIEIN
  • ?????
  • ?????
  • ?????

Examining the individual columns... I have 379 15-letter words in my word list that follow the (abbreviated) pattern IE???; 469 for RI???; 326 for EE???; 255 for II???; 217 for EN???. All very plentiful. Then, for each of these sets I looked at what letters are most common as the third letter ... while limiting myself to only those which would successfully complete the third row: (ESOLI — as a horizontal entry — gives me THE COST OF LIVING).

The matrix now grows to:

  • IREIE
  • EIEIN
  • ESOLI
  • ?????
  • ?????

and the next iteration focuses on the columns again; The number of 15-letter entries with the pattern IEE?? is 50; There are 30 for RIS??; 38 for EEO??; 42 for IIL??; 12 for ENI??. The main thing to note is that the choices are quickly dwindling, and the iteration could easy have halted with the completion of row 4. If that had been the case, I'd go back to the top with fresh choices for row 1 and 2 and repeat the above algorithm.

But the matrix filled up, and the corresponding 15-letter entries were transferred onto a blank grid, and the black squares were tossed in (with some leeway). Unfortunately, the Scrabbly letters now came out of the woodwork, but the challenge was a manageable one.

Tue 11/4/2008
ADESACROSSFAT
TERILEANTOALE
ELECTIONDAYNIL
AIMEETORABES
SLIMMEDPREVENT
EATLOWEVOLTA
HEMLINEVICTOR
CASTAVOTE
LOUVREVACATES
ANNIVVENAYEN
BEREAVEELGRECO
CPASIIIAHERO
OATBALLOTBOXES
AGEONEIDADATE
TEDODDESTAMES
Sat 9/20/2008
JIBEDGLINDA
EMOTERSPEEDERS
BETCHAHIMALAYA
BASHININSPIRES
UNWISEPATENTS
STANCEIFORGOT
HINGEANON
TASSELREDANT
NICEEPEES
SCEPTERIMPURE
TANLINESARTRE
NARRATEDANORAK
ARTICLEIADVICE
PRICIESTKEENER
SYNODSDROSS

This was my first effort with this puzzle genre. I had seen how solvers had complained about artificial-looking fill with similar puzzles ... particular if they contained RE- or -ER. Plus, I noticed how these sorts of words tended to muscle themselves into puzzles almost automatically, so I downgraded all such entries in my word list to varying degrees before starting.

As the puzzle progressed, I was happy to see some lively fill enter the puzzle: ARTICLE I, JEB BUSH, I FORGOT, BETCHA, GEM STONE, TAN LINE, JIBED, GLINDA. Since this was rather rare for the genre at the time, I tolerated a few entries ending in -ER ... but limited myself to only ones that sounded natural in conversation: SPEEDERS, SCEPTER, KEENER and to a lesser extent EMOTER and SEEKERS.

In the end, I still received a certain amount of criticism over the latter, as if it weren't balanced out by all the good stuff. So, my advice to fellow constructors is to downgrade those less-than-Scrabbly prefixes and suffixes before getting started. (And that would include the -EST, -ESS, and -EE endings).

Thu 8/7/2008
ABAAAMATMSGS
LEIGHDOTOATIT
TONEITDOWNMESA
RUNNINGONEMPTY
CTNEROS
DARYADJSATTEN
ERETHROWITHOME
NODSIONICSOAR
TOOTHENAMELLIV
EMCEEESSAISLE
TMANADM
CHOCTAWINDIANS
LOBEGOLDENMEAN
OPELARIAGABLE
GIRLTEAKNOTE
Sun 8/3/2008OFF WITH THEIR HEADS!
TEEMALOADMLIXAGASP
AXLEVALLIEINESHINE
REVERENDEVERENDSOREN
PRETENDSELITELISTEN
STSYUMHISTORYISTORY
UNEATENEMIT
SAWTOSEATACAWEOLAV
SPOTLESSPOTLESSSWORE
REWEDSWONTGENOME
RSTUPITSTOPITSTOP
ISAASKINERREDSRS
MANDATEANDATEGETS
ENGINETOILORELSE
ATESTFINALISTINALIST
NARCEEENYMPHSVIDEO
JIVEPEDAGOG
LABOREDABOREDOILSHE
UNOCALGOFORMANTOMAN
ENOKISONATINAONATINA
GENESOREGLATKETROT
OXEYEBASESTAIDOKIE
Wed 7/16/2008
THREEMENINABOAT
HORNSOFADILEMMA
URSUSTMENBEAK
MTRAISESPONTI
BOLEYNSIPTN
NNEENSTATEREG
AHADEPOSITERL
IERRURALMOI
LANMERRIERAFB
SRSCATERTOICE
KSCARTAILOR
EATINSCRODSUT
TWOSOPIEHOURI
CHOCOLATEMOUSSE
HONORARYDEGREES
Thu 6/19/2008
OTTOSPRANGCAD
NEONHOAGIEIRR
ERRSENFANTGTE
SEEPLEASESAUS
ESSEESAURRS
CATCHAGLIMPSEOF
ICUETTO
LEAGUEERECTOR
OUGHTSREPRESS
GRATESILIESCU
AAATMAC
SEEINGEYECONC
TOLLGATESOKIE
RESILIENTDENS
TENERIS

More than one solver has told me that this is their favorite puzzle, and they mainly have Will to thank for transforming the theme. Yet as constructors we never experience our own puzzles the way solvers do; when a puzzle runs, we already know the trick to the theme, so we rely on solver feedback to help us enjoy a vicarious experience. But, oh! The feedback to LIES was nothing short of intense dissonance: Strong like, strong hate and even a little flip-flopping of opinion! (go figure).

For my part, I enjoyed presenting the first full word as grid art ... and what a doozy of a word. I thought Will might have to run it as a diagramless, but the grid appeared with its SHOUTING letters, and no small bit of solver criticism suggested that I forced the NYT to print, well ... LIES! (Add that to the dissonance level.)

Grid construction presented its own set of problems. Spelling a word out in a grid using different sized letters in a two-line staggered arrangement means that some solvers will completely miss it; I still find people who struggle to identify the word LIES when I show them the blank grid.

Another feature common to these grids is that some of the letters can't be placed flush with a wall (or each other) and this often forces heavy concentrations of 3-letter entries ... frequently with triple- stacks of 15's. This is the main challenge to achieving lively fill.

Given my memories of some construction challenges and the intense solver reaction, it'd be hard to call this my single favorite puzzle, though I take great pleasure in showing it to people who have never seen it before. It's definitely in my top five.

Thu 3/27/2008
SPUDSHOPEPCBS
ALLATILERRARE
LOTTAGINNIEMAE
STRETCHONESNECK
AZALEASOUR
INSBALLPARK
ADENSEEPEDSHE
NOVELISTSTEPHEN
EREANTHEMAYES
WARBRIDEEAR
GUSFINANCE
LARGEWADINGBIRD
ONEONONESLOGAN
DIEUVOLTELENA
ISNTEXESDARES
Thu 12/6/2007
RITEOBOEORBIT
ORALWINGBEEPS
TALKINGTOTAHOE
ONCOMETONCUPID
PROASSN
ALOHAPADREDES
REVOLTGIAABLY
ONAGAINOFFAGAIN
MILSREGEVERSO
ANOMEDOCASSAD
FOTOART
OFFOFFBROADWAY
EMITSALLORNONE
PACESNOOKANNA
ARENASGTSSTIR
Thu 11/15/2007
ERASSLOEALETA
LOSEATURNBESOT
MUSTSAVEVASTSUM
SENSORSIDEBETS
NEOERNE
PAGEGAWKSATWHO
EDAMTEAWEARON
TAMMINYCELIST
IGUESSAAHONEA
TETTASKWAGEGAP
SHUTSSR
FROMATOZBIGTEN
AERATEPIPETAREA
SPARSINSESSION
TONTONEINPOCO

This puzzle contains three of my original palindromes. I also have a 75-page manuscript which illustrates numerous others. I'll mention three other original palindromes which appeared in my Lollapuzzoola 3 puzzle since they are now in the public domain:

TAMMY GOT NINE MEN INTO GYM MAT

BAR CLIENTELE LET NEIL CRAB

TURNING, I SPOT STOP SIGN IN RUT

Thu 9/13/2007
AMSSWAMIBOOZE
CAPITALOFFENSES
THEDEFENSERESTS
ORLEATEAAA
RELAPSAYEAR
AULDELSA
ADMISSIONTOBAIL
COURTAPPEARANCE
MOTIONSTOSTRIKE
ERESESSE
HIREDEASTLA
ALGVIMTIOS
JURYOFONESPEERS
EXPERTTESTIMONY
TESTYESQUENER
Thu 8/23/2007
BOULDERBARRED
ONSECONDAPIECE
LEGALESEREVSUP
DIRKSODSTAR
ERABASEDBODE
RONALEXEIOROS
NTESTSSEWERS
ITESBALE
BORDERABIDES
OBOESOVIETNIS
ASTRVILLETNT
RCABEATBEAR
DUTIESALACARTE
ERODESLABORERS
RERATEPOSEDAS
Thu 7/26/2007
ONEGHOSTSNOT
RANRANTEDALSO
OUTEMCEESTEST
STORYRPMTHREE
ISLESIOR
BARSIDOSPORTS
ELEEPINROBERT
FITDSTOAFSEE
OCASEYAPESEAN
GERMANRELWEST
INCSNIPE
APPLEPEAADAMS
NOSEHENRYIBYA
OKAYENAMELITS
NETSALSASTHE
Fri 7/7/2006
ATAUSAFSHANIA
GODSPELLRECOIL
APASSAGETOINDIA
NAPEIDOSEE
AZTMBAEMTPPS
SAOLAOBORO
EVILUNDERTHESUN
RETURNOFTHEKING
ENEMYATTHEGATES
CARPRDSREA
TEAFDAESLSHE
TIESPAROAM
RAISETHETITANIC
APOLLOSUREFIRE
HONESTOPENAYE

I constructed the middle stack of this puzzle by developing an algorithm in an Excel spreadsheet. First, I created a list of hundreds of 15-letter movie titles in Excel with one letter to each column. Above that list I had a working area to build a hypothetical triple stack. For the sake of brevity here, I entered good candidates for the top two movies in the stack and evaluated the goodness of fit for all the remaining movies as the third in the stack.

The evaluation was to determine whether the 3-letter combinations of each column could produce viable (vertical) entries. For instance, in the solution grid the successive letter triples which cross the middle stack are: ERE, VEN, ITE, LUM, URY, etc. These were assigned numbers from 0 (= worst) to 9 (= best) for their capacity to form numerous words ... ERE = 8, VEN = 7, ITE = 9, LUM = 4, URY = 3, etc. The net score for the word ENEMY AT THE GATES was assigned the lowest of these values, 3. A non-zero net score meant that the stack was worth transferring to graph paper to build a puzzle with.

For constructors interested in more details, I eyeballed numerical values for all 17676 (=26x26x26) 3-letter combinations ... which include the numbers mentioned above. (This wasn't such an insurmountable task since over 90% of them are 0 anyway). I placed these numbers in a 676 x 26 table which could be accessed with the VLOOKUP function in Excel. I configured this function to use the first two letters (ER, VE, IT, LU, UR, etc.) as the Lookup_value and the third letter (E, N, E, M, Y, etc.) as the Col_index_num ... Enough already!

So, that's what I did before I owned a copy of Crossword Compiler software. Today, I could build the same puzzle quite trivially by removing all the 15-letter entries from my word list except for the movie titles!