See the 17 answer words debuted by Rachel Fabi.
We are delighted to share our first puzzle collaboration with you! This puzzle was developed in summer 2021 as we were wondering how it was possible that we had never made a puzzle together. Rachel had the initial theme idea with EMUS/EMULATES, and we worked together to nail down exactly how we wanted to execute the SHIFT mechanism. Together, we equally shared the work of selecting the theme entries, laying them out, and filling the grid, and then we wrote the clues together over Zoom, bouncing ideas off of each other and laughing a little too hard at the "Chicken king" echoing clues. We're delighted that our original clue for 40D made the final cut (representation matters!).
A little about us: we are the proud owners of the crossword blog Just Gridding, where we post our own puzzles, occasional collaborations with other fine crossword folk, and the occasional "Just-The-Grid," where we crowdsource clues to create a finished puzzle. We have also worked together on the fundraising crossword packs These Puzzles Fund Abortion and These Puzzles Fund Abortion Too. We are excited to be working on our next TPFA puzzle pack and encourage you to check out www.abortionpuzzles.com for more information about this project!
REBECCA: Theme ideas come from crazy places. When a friend texted me "Zoom zoom!" about her new car at the height of online hangouts last year, I did what any good theme-brain would do. I marched right over to Twitter and asked, "ZOOM ZOOM ZOOM (12) [Conference call for Mazda's marketing team?] Is this … anything?" Rachel was pretty sure it was; she was right. Rachel also encouraged me to stop tweeting out theme ideas; she was right. So now I send them all to her.
RACHEL: I got a whole column to talk about this puzzle, so I will just say that working with Rebecca is a goddamn delight.
Although I write the Wordplay column about the early-week themed puzzles, I most enjoy constructing themeless puzzles — I can't resist a pretty block pattern. This puzzle started with the two 15-letter entries, and then I built a pretty grid around them.
I'm thrilled with how the puzzle turned out, and I'm particularly happy to feature 44A (icon!) and 17D (my hometown team!). My favorite clue that survived editing is 56A, and my favorite clue written by the editors is 32D.
I recently co-edited a pack of 16 reproductive justice themed crossword puzzles along with Claire Rimkus and Brooke Husic called These Puzzles Fund Abortion Too (TPFA2). All donations support the crucial work of seven abortion funds around the country that help people who cannot afford abortion and its associated costs (like travel). Donate by the end of May to get the full pack!
I started constructing in early 2019, right after achieving my lifelong goal of appearing on (and winning an episode of!) Jeopardy!, with the support of the Universal Crossword Equal Representation Project (UCERP). Fun fact: my very first puzzle, through UCERP, was co-constructed with the very Jeff Chen on whose blog you are now reading this note!
Since then, I've constructed and published puzzles for other mainstream venues, including the USA Today crossword, where I coincidentally also wrote today's puzzle. I've also worked on a few indie crossword publications like Queer Qrosswords, the Inkubator, and Grids for Good. I'm grateful to the editors of all of these publications for their mentorship and guidance, and crossword Twitter and the wider crossword internet for being such a supportive community. Outside of crosswording, I am an assistant professor of Bioethics and Humanities at SUNY Upstate Medical University, where I work on the ethics of immigrant health policy and teach bioethics to medical and Ph.D. students.
Today's puzzle started with the seed entry THE MANDALORIAN, which I desperately wanted to be the first person to put into an NYT puzzle. Mission accomplished! I'm really pleased with the long entries I could pair with it, especially PRIDE PARADE and DON'T GET CUTE. I'm grateful to the NYT crossword editing team for excellent clue edits, and for preserving some of my favorites, including [High anxiety?] for ACROPHOBIA and the reference to the "plum pudding" model in the clue for ATOM.