LOREN: A while back, Tracy and I connected on Facebook about the ACPT. When the conversation turned to the inevitable "You working on any puzzles right now?" we discovered that both of us had been kicking around the idea for an ICE rebus. I was thrilled when she suggested we combine our efforts because I don't have the construction chops to design a rebus grid on my own.
Any grid, actually. My MO is to think of a theme, decide on my theme entries, and head straight to Crossword Compiler. If Compiler doesn't offer any ready-made grids that work, I ditch the whole idea and go take a nap.
So Tracy and I came up with possible themers, and then she flat went to work. And work. And work. No telling how many grids she came up with. At one point I think "we" just decided it'd be too hard. Then a few months later boom — she emailed with this grid, and I was so impressed, I immediately got up from a nap to help with the tweaking and cluing.
I like the idea for this theme because a word "written" in a black square is unexpected and hard to see, just like that patch of BLACK ICE we've all wiped out on.
It was a pleasure to work with Tracy, a talented, inventive, resolute constructor.
TRACY: Many thanks to Loren for coming up with the concept and spot-on revealer for this puzzle! I loved the idea so much that I couldn't wait to get started on a grid (Nov. 2015)…
The problems started with the revealer BLACK ICE being 8 letters and not working in the center row of a 15x grid. It also didn't work on row 13 in the lower SE corner due to its symmetrical theme entry containing a black ice square on row 3 in the upper NW corner. So, I decided to put BLACK smack dab in the middle of the puzzle with ICE directly below it. This led to the B and the K of BLACK as unchecked letters, but I thought Will might allow it. However, as much as I liked the looks of this quirky grid, I just couldn't get good fill with 4 pairs of crossing hidden ICE theme entries, so we decided to give it a rest for awhile.
Fast forward to Nov. 2016…a year after our initial conversation and 8 grids later, I found that a simple change to a 16 x 15 grid appeared to solve all of our problems. I woke Loren up from her long nap with a surprise "COMPLETED BLACK ICE PUZZLE!" email so that she could work her Linguistics Major magic on the tweaking of fill words and cluing.
Thanks again, Loren — it was fun working with you!
LOREN: A couple of years ago, Andrea emailed me, telling me I should consider trying to construct. We started working on various ideas — man, she's a bundle of energy and enthusiasm! And patience.
It occurred to me that I could take some wordplay I'd been joking around with for years before constructing and translate them into themes. I've been maintaining for years that BOOBY TRAPS would be a fun name for a bra store. So then I thought it'd be a cool revealer. My thought on its execution was utterly pedestrian; Andrea is the one who suggested going the disguise-the-bra-type-in-another-phrase idea. We racked our brains coming up with kinds of bras — training, halter, Wonder, support, plunge — until we settled on this group.
It's cheeky, but I hope solvers will be good sports as Will continues to allow the Gray Lady to, well, to bust out of her more traditional confines of propriety and decorum.
ACME: I was impressed with Loren's unbridled enthusiasm and hysterical anecdotes on "another" blog and thought she'd make a fantastic constructrix, if given a bit of a nudge. This took 3 1/2 years to "develop"! It was quickly accepted 3 years ago but sat on for who knows why! By the time it was ready to publish, we were told the fill would no longer fly. We had five entries, some starting with the bra type, some ending, so in order to get a cleaner fill, we decided four would be the new five, and we would start all the theme phrases with types of bras.
Loren created a nice new grid with CHEST in the middle. But in the end, CLINT gave us the cleanest. We are thrilled that it's finally seeing the light of day … and yes, we would like a medal AND a chest to pin it on!
First I have to say that Jeff Chen is the nicest, most generous person in Crossworld. And I am so enjoying reading his very funny comments on the puzzles. Over a year ago, Jeff had a collaboration with someone. On the day it ran, he went to Rex Parker, gave his email address and invited new constructors to contact him as he likes working with neophytes. Boy, I took him up on that and peppered him constantly with theme ideas that he patiently discussed with me.
Jeff and I remember today's puzzle's inception differently. I had been kicking around the idea of hiding ASP in a grid, first with things like BANANA SPLIT and CAST A SPELL. I'm pretty sure it was Jeff who suggested this way of doing it. He did the heavy lifting — he built the grid and placed the ASPs over the PLANES — I don't think I could have pulled that off! We both worked on the fill, and I did a lot of the clues. If it's a so-so alliterative clue, it's probably mine; alliteration is my go-to trick to perk up a meh clue. I had "Flower feature" for CALYX, "Sendai suds" for SAPPORO, "sowed stuff" for STASH. Jeff definitely clued HANG-GLIDER, my favorite clue in the puzzle. Jeff is also to thank for the YO HO HO in the same grid as MATEY.
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! Enjoy the puzzle!