I am a crossword constructor from India. Professionally, I am an investment banker. My wife Rupali Ghogre and I stay on the outskirts of Mumbai with our daughter Eva (named after my favorite crossword answer) and son Advait. I have been flirting with American crosswords since 1997.
This is easily one of the biggest moments of my life. As an Indian, I feel lucky to get this opportunity to celebrate a great global icon like Mahatma Gandhi. And what better occasion than his 150th birth anniversary! While I have had bylines in NYT before, this crossword is also special in another way — it's my debut solo crossword for the New York Times. This is the day I have waited for all my life!
This puzzle is an outcome of the very encouraging response I received for the Fourth of July puzzle with Brendan Emmett Quigley in NYT in 2017. Having celebrated American Independence Day, I wanted to celebrate India. How cool will that be — a puzzle made in India, by an Indian, on an Indian personality who has such a wide global influence across generations. I immediately wrote to Will Shortz that I had a puzzle idea to celebrate a momentous occasion. Will liked the idea and the thought of celebrating this noteworthy occasion.
I aspire to bring more meaning to my puzzle endeavor. This puzzle is a step to drive home that point — just like the three letters GHI snug closely in a single box. It epitomizes that we can also make space for more people in our lives if we open our minds and hearts. There is space for other ideas. And that only makes the crosswords of our life more meaningful.
This puzzle and the historic occasion have special meaning for me. In today's world, marked with conflicts and violence, every moment devoted to spreading Gandhi's message of peace and non-violence is a small step to make this world a peaceful place.
MANGESH: I am from India and stay in Mumbai with my wife Rupali, kids Advait and Eva (named after my favorite crossword answer), and my parents. By profession am an investment banker with degrees in mechanical engineering and MBA Finance. I began solving syndicated LA Times crosswords in Times of India in 1997 to improve my GMAT score. After a dozen years of solving, I moved to construction and (after dozens of rejections) had bylines in NYT, WSJ, LA Times and Games magazine.
Inspiration for this special puzzle was two-fold. First, I wanted to use crosswords to bring people closer, to cross-pollinate ideas. My daughter Eva loves the song Fireworks by Katy Perry which has this phrase FOURTH OF JULY as symbol of achievement and victory. I thought what better day than Fourth of July to celebrate the idea of bringing people closer.
In November 2015, I happened to meet Brendan over coffee, and I bounced off this idea with him. He agreed to play ball. So an Indian and an American decided to come together to make a crossword for the US Independence Day. We thought that was one cool crossword friendship.
We quickly put on our thinking hats online (email and WhatsApp chat) — given the 12 hours time zone difference and around 12k kilometers between us. I came up with the idea to use FOURTH OF JULY with the four theme starters (JAY, YOU, ELL, WHY). Brendan quickly smelled, with ELLE, this idea could be sold. Brendan suggested the theme entries. We traded a few grids with theme entries and realized we had to ditch FOURTH OF and live with JULY. I was green at construction and Brendan could have graduated at Brown in construction :) He took the lead in filling up the grid.
My dream came true the day Will sent the acceptance mail. After years of rejection, that YES was something I really had waited for.
The second inspiration for me, personally, is the pride I take in the Make in India campaign launched by our current Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Making this special puzzle in India for the US was my way of contributing in a small way towards the Make in India campaign. Another cute play on the US-India confluence in the puzzle is that TAJ (the symbol of India) joins with JULY (the revealer answer).
For me, this crossword is special in many more ways. NYT is celebrating its 75th anniversary and I cherish the opportunity to contribute in a small way to this cultural heritage of US. I realized how deep crosswords are ingrained in American culture when I briefly contributed to the Pre Shortzian Puzzle Project. Crosswords are truly culture carriers. Studying them gives you a sneak peek into the culture and society that enjoyed those times.
I dedicate this crossword to my father who celebrates his birthday on July 3. He learned to write the English alphabet with me in my kindergarten. He is a proud father today!
BEQ: I've hung with Mangesh at ACPTs before, where we were both judges. Nice guy, and I was happy to help him make this one.
Frankly, I have grown up solving Doug's puzzles. So it was a privilege when he accepted to collaborate. This is my first themeless. The best learning, when working on a themeless, is the stretch it gives to your imagination. Not just in filling the longest entries of 15, but others like DEAD ON (which Will appreciated in his "Yes" mail). I wanted to improve on BALINESE to something more exciting.
Doug and I divided (or rather halved) the cluing. He went for Across and I for Down. I prefer cluing over constructing. Again, imagination and creativity get a wide canvas. The thrill is multiplied when you can come up with a cute clue and it tickles Will enough to retain it in the published version.
This is a grid pattern that I've found is good for themeless collaborations. One constructor fills the top (or bottom) and hands it off to the other constructor to complete. Sometimes it works, and sometimes you have to go back to square one (pun intended). If I remember correctly, I filled the top half and then sent it intercontinentally to Mangesh. It was a pleasure to finally meet him at the ACPT last year!