See the 24 answer words debuted by Priscilla Clark.
PRIS: This is my second puzzle in the NYT — both collaborations with Jeff. My first one was a bucket list goal which took almost ten years to achieve. I honestly thought I was done after that, but I found I missed the daily mental wrangling with themes and words, so I started sending Jeff themer ideas. There were some very polite "I'm not sures ..." but sometimes I got a "very funny — are there others like this?" In spite of our best efforts, there often weren't more "like this" but the search resulted in new possibilities.
I have found that what appeals to me as a constructor is humor. I want to laugh when I'm making a puzzle and hope solvers do also. It's what keeps me engaged. I so enjoy working with Jeff and learning from him, and the pleasure that comes from sharing creative energy is a wonderful added benefit.
PRISCILLA: To finally get a puzzle into the New York Times! I had been trying for years, always for a Sunday because they offered so many more theme possibilities. Some of the time Will wrote encouraging comments on his rejection emails. That kept me going — though I was resigned to be a wannabe constructor which was a reasonable accolade unto itself. For the most part I just played with themes that entertained me without too much consideration of acceptance. But I also really didn't have a handle on Will's preferences.
As a baseball fan somehow the image of Tigers Can't Handle Cubs came to me and amused me no end. I have found that all it takes is one entry I love –- then it rolls from there.
When I got Joel's "We are interested…" email, I was ecstatic. Will loved the theme but "the fill needed a lot of work" and various not OK words were circled. So I thought that meant change those words. Which I did — and sent it back. Rinse and repeat. Finally Will and Joel realized I didn't have a clue and suggested I work with Jeff. Little did I realize the entire grid was bad — until Jeff sent me a proper grid skeleton. Fast forward, with Jeff's help and guidance I passed Crossword 101: Grid construction, 8-letter words (that can be very creative like "Oh boo hoo"), not crossing obscure words and using more current expressions.
One thing he said that really stuck with me was "Don't let the puzzle beat the solver. You want to solver to beat the puzzle." I was trying to be a little too esoteric rather than using some basic words and cluing them creatively. Though cluing is Crossword 201. Thus Jeff changed or suggested alternates for a fair number (almost all) of my clues (but left a few of mine to be gracious. I'm curious to see if Will changed those…).
I really look forward to collaborating with you again, Jeff. And thanks for your guidance on some other ideas. I certainly would never have made it without you. Imagine — being a NYT puzzle constructor! Bucket List complete!