See the 24 answer words debuted by Priscilla Clark.
When I ask a collaborator to explore the solution space for a theme, I usually get a couple of ideas. Maybe a dozen. Rarely, a Word document.
Pris created a spreadsheet. Awesome!
The spreadsheet grew and grew … doubly awesome!
… to over 300 entries. HEE HEE HEE SQUEE!
I love it when a collaborator is more than willing to put in the work. There are so many *pretty* good movie titles on that spreadsheet, but Pris was never happy until we found one that made us both laugh out loud. Took a long time to hit on LICENCE TO KILT, but man, do I love that one.
Tough grid to put together. I wanted the circled P L O T T W I S T letters (hopefully you noticed that hidden phrase?) to look like they were twisting, like a DNA helix. Crossword symmetry didn't make that perfectly possible, but I hope this layout came close.
My stubbornness to stick with this twisty layout meant we didn't have much flexibility in themer placement. I ended up using more cheater squares than I like, but hopefully it doesn't look too overrun by black squares.
Nine themers is never easy to work with in a Sunday 140-word puzzle, but we tried to include a little bonus fill for everyone. We debated whether TERMINATORS was too close to the theme? But both of us enjoyed that one so much. And then BLACK OPS, EAR CANDY, SPEED DATE, MUSCLE CAR, CELTIC HARPS, ERIC IDLE seemed like they were from different enough walks of life.
Who knows, maybe there's even some SYNERGY there …
Will sends some newbie constructors my way, usually when they have a decent idea but can't provide him with a satisfactory grid. I like going back and forth with the person as we trade ideas on how to build a nice final product. And sometimes I learn something, which I absolutely love. Nothing like unexpectedly picking up a little tidbit.
That was the case in working with Pris. Not only did I really enjoy working with her on this fun theme, but she challenged me on a couple of pieces of long fill I suggested, giving me rationale on why something else might be better. The best example: HAVE PITY. I had HATERADE in that slot at first, feeling good about introducing a newish piece of slang (haters drink the haterade, a play on Gatorade). Pris tactfully mentioned that she worried about it being a negative term, and she preferred to keep her crosswords upbeat and positive.
What a great reminder! Sometimes I get too focused on incorporating entries that are fresh and new, at the expense of the main goal: providing people with an enjoyable and uplifting solving experience. Many thanks to Pris for helping make a course adjustment as we filled this grid.
For any Sunday 140-word puzzle, I'm not happy unless I work in at least four long bonus entries. And for a wide-open grid like today's, I really want at least 10 snazzy bonus entries — given that there are only five theme entries, it's important to me to give solvers a lot of pick-me-ups to keep up their interest. There was something amusing about balancing a UNICYCLE over BAD DATES, and I liked the variety of OLD MASTER to LAWYERS UP to HOVERCAR to TSA AGENT to HOT PANTS. Something for everyone.
We tried a couple of fresh entries in the upper right, my favorite being OTTER PUPS. But we couldn't get that to work to our liking, and although OUT OF TUNE wasn't as squee-worthy, it seemed like it would lend itself to a fun clue. It also allowed us to incorporate CREED. If you haven't seen it, Michael B. Jordan is amazing ... and surprisingly, so is Stallone!