Given the theme, I originally made this a pangram, but with answers that Will thought were too much for a Monday — ergo, a Z is nowhere to be found. It's funny — I'm usually told to redo a grid because it's not good enough; this time, I was told to dial it down because it was too good (I think?).
As far back as I can remember, I've always been a huge fan of Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune. I had both Nintendo games as a kid, and I would tune in to watch every night at 7 pm — a tradition I'm currently passing on to my son.
Once I realized how well the symmetry worked, I was honestly shocked that this theme had never appeared in an NY Times puzzle before. After all, Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune go hand-in-hand, airing back-to-back for the past 30+ years, so it seemed like such an up-for-grabs theme for an author to jump on. As such, I don't consider it a gameshow theme — the gameshow aspect is more of a subtext. The theme, I think, is more about how well these two shows complement each other. I mean seriously, can you think of one without thinking of the other?
I was very happy with the outcome because not only do the theme answers fit symmetrically, but their order is not forced or random. The shows and corresponding hosts group in a smooth, top-to-bottom pattern of show, host(s), show, host(s).
And here's the interesting kicker — crosswords incorporate the same aspects these gameshows do, from the clues on Jeopardy! to the blank spaces and letters on Wheel of Fortune. Kind of makes the theme all the more fitting — and makes sense as to why I could never like these shows without liking crosswords, and vice versa.
Note: Turns out that in certain parts of the country, Wheel of Fortune airs before Jeopardy! I never knew (or even thought about) that before constructing this puzzle. Ah, ya learn something new every day.
Well, it's been a while, but it's good to be back. This is my fifth puzzle — my last one ran a little over four years ago, my first one ran in 2010. At this rate, I'll have joined the exclusive "Ten Club" in 2026.
A lot has happened since my last publication — I became a father, I made my way on air as a news anchor and sports announcer, and I met Will Shortz.
Being that I have more on my plate nowadays, I don't submit as often as I once did, but if a good idea crosses my mind, I will try to put it to paper.
This idea just sort of popped into my head one day. I thought it was worth trying it out, but admittedly, I had trouble figuring out theme answers for VISA and DISCOVER. Maybe ELVIS ANDRUS for VISA? Maybe if this were a crossword in Baseball Digest.
Truth is, the suggestion box under the Google search bar is what really helped me with these two. I began typing "ELVIS A" to see what would come up and did the same for "DISCO VER." The results I found seemed like legit answers, and Will apparently agreed.
A couple of cool things I realized recently with this puzzle: by total coincidence, the TEX in VORTEX crosses into RITTER, which is neat. Also by total coincidence, PAPI is at 34-Down, and Big Papi's number was 34 (my favorite jersey number).
Oh, and I'm sure there will be nitpickers out there who will find fault in my lack of MASTERCARD, but that just wasn't gonna happen. As the commercial says, that's for everything else.
Though it took me three tries to get this puzzle accepted, I was glad with the final result. Looking back on the first two submissions, I have a "What was I thinking?" mentality; so although it meant more effort on my end, I'm glad Will did not accept either of the first two. I mean I actually had "THE NAME GAME" (the Shirley Ellis hit song) as the revealer in my first submission — weak, weak, WEAK! That entry helped with symmetry at the time, but that's a perfect example of rushing, being overexcited and submitting a puzzle that isn't all it can be.
In my second submission, I got rid of the reaveler. With this entry gone, I had to come up with new people to reconstruct the symmetry. Like my first submission, I wanted to try and use four people from four different categories (e.g. music, acting, politics, sports). I was able to do that, but with an obscure entry or two that Will wasn't buying. It was then that I realized how limited my palette was with this theme.
I had to sacrifice the idea of getting people from four different categories and double up on one — and then Woodrow Wilson came to mind, who I think has the coolest name for this theme, with WWI right in the middle. It meant having two presidents in the puzzle, but when it came right down to it, I figured, "So what? It turned out just fine."
The one thing I really like about this puzzle, which I've done in a Times crossword before, is taking words in their natural state and creating wordplay out of them. I didn't have to do anything to the words themselves; I was simply able to allow everyone to see these words in a different light.
My favorite clue in the puzzle is 5-down: Word after "take" or "give me". That is Will's handy work. My favorite answer, far and away, is SABO, as in Chris Sabo the baseball player. I always try and include one in my crosswords — the names usually get re-clued as non-baseball players, but there's no alternative for this one since he's the only well-known person with this last name. It's also my second pangram of my four accepted NYT puzzles (which I forgot until I looked at it recently), and it's the only puzzle thus far in which Will has not modified a single letter.
Thanks and hope you all like it!