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Rich Proulx author page

8 puzzles by Rich Proulx
with Constructor comments

TotalDebutLatest
86/29/20172/16/2022
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Rich Proulx
Puzzles constructed by Rich Proulx by year
Wed 2/16/2022
BLOOPSMASHSASS
MAHALPIXIEECCE
WHITECOLLARCTRL
SRODARNARIEL
GREENSLEEVES
JOYLESSECARTE
ATEATTORIPREP
COATOFMANYCOLORS
KERROARSHALOS
SAVEUSVAINEST
SILVERLINING
TRAITISEEAPU
IOTAYELLOWTAILS
CNETDRIERINDIE
KYRASEUSSTASER

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat was my high school musical. My theatrical skills skidded to a halt at song and dance, but watching my friends perform that show many times planted a seed — which Sam Ezersky confirmed bore fruit with the nicest acceptance email.

This will be my last puzzle in the NYT for a while — and that's a good thing. Will has been very intentional about making space for new and more diverse constructors. In 2021, 20% of submissions were from women, but women constructed 30% of published puzzles. Last year, 92 constructors made their debuts; 35% were women. If you have ever considered adding your voice to help grow the diversity of the crossword constructor community, you can apply until March 7 for a chance to be mentored by one of the NYT crossword staff. I feel fortunate to be part of this community at a time when such progress is valued and when so many continue to fight for progress. Crossword construction is the greatest hobby.

But, if you think solving crosswords is the greatest hobby, I understand that too — because this is the golden age of solving. After extending your daily streak, if you're still thirsty for more, there are so many great, free, indie crossword puzzles out there. At www.proulxsclues.com, you'll find a few of mine and links to some great constructor sites which have lots more — plus links to other indie crossword sites. If you've never explored the rabbit hole of indie crossword sites, you have a treat in store.

My father-in-law — who was instrumental in hooking me on crosswords — passed away last year. Today would have been his 93rd birthday. He was a New York City school teacher, author, and WW II veteran. This one's for you, Gus.

Thu 9/30/2021
ADMINDULCEABE
LOAMYASSOCSAP
TWITTERBUZZTIS
ANNODISYESIDO
ASAPINHUMDRUM
ARTSETPAPAS
IRATEKARTUPDO
DOGRINGPOPLAX
AWEDMOESORATE
ORALSBUENAS
LOWROLLHARLEM
ANIMALAILARIE
LIZSOUNDMIXING
ACETUTEEVIDEO
WENSTEWSSNERT

As I mulled how to make an auditory-centric puzzle, an idea clicked. I snapped up my scratchpad and scraped together a list of every sound ever made. I thought knocking out a list of zippy theme entries would be a snap but finding combinations that sizzled was a grind. Can you think of any other sound pairs that aren't in the puzzle?

Interestingly, quite a few of the sounds I collected are also the names of tech companies (e.g., Twitter, Yelp, and Zoom). If you are a tech startup looking for a name and wanting access to my highly proprietary list, please make a generous contribution to Rachel Fabi's fund to help Texan women deprived of access to safe abortions. She'll send you a bunch of excellent crosswords to boot.

Finding clever clues for common fill words is tough. My favorite by the NYT staff today was "place to live and learn." Speaking of which, Joel was a pleasure to work with on this puzzle.

If you've already learned how to construct a puzzle and are wondering how to hone your craft, I highly recommend finding a constructing buddy. Different from a mentor, a constructing buddy is someone who is at your level of experience — someone who you can freely bounce ideas off and who does the same with you. This can be helpful for a few reasons:

  1. Constructing can be pretty solitary. Bringing someone into the mix can make it much more enjoyable. (There's a reason collaborations are so popular.)
  2. Helping someone else is an excellent way to learn. Having to express what you like/dislike about your buddy's theme idea, grid structure, and fill will deepen your own understanding of what makes for a great puzzle.
  3. It's easy to lose perspective when you are excited about a theme idea or puzzle grid. You need someone to help you kill your darlings.
  4. The process of bouncing ideas back and forth can lead to new insights. Your buddy might steer you in a new direction or rescue your theme by finding a match for your orphan theme entry.
  5. Dealing with rejection is a huge part of being a successful constructor. The five stages of grief go down easier with a friendly ear.

For me, that person is Simeon Seigel. His insight, creativity, and patience have been a godsend to my constructing. This puzzle would not be here without him.

If you want to try working with a constructing buddy, reach out to me on FB or Twitter and I'll find a match for you.

POW Wed 10/14/2020
ASSAYALPPLAZA
CHUTESHEOATES
TANTOHANGLOOSE
IMGAMESARIPTA
VULCANSALUTE
AKNOTEGGON
MOSSKUSHLOIRE
OKSVICTORYVEX
ARESOKYRANEST
BASICAFROS
CANIGETALIFT
APULYLESPITON
HOPEFULLYIMAGO
OLDERBIODIGIT
KOOKYEDUSTONE

One aspect of this idea I thought might be fun for solvers is, in some cases, needing to actually place fingers as described in the clues to decode the answers. I certainly stared at my hands a lot in making this puzzle. Does [2nd, with 1st extended out] work, or only if on a forehead? My original idea for [2nd and 3rd crossed] only works behind one's back. Here are a few other clues from the cutting room floor: [1st — 5th]; [2nd and 5th]; and, [2nd — 4th] (answers below).

As a fan of The Big Bang Theory, it's hard to see a series of hand gestures that include VULCAN SALUTE without thinking of the game "Rock, Paper, Scissors, Lizard, Spock." The expansion of the original game includes rules such as "Lizard eats paper" and "Paper disproves Spock." If you are ever challenged to play, I suggest paper as your first move — it can be hard to resist an excuse to make the VULCAN SALUTE.

Erik Agard's Facebook group (Crossword Puzzle Collaboration Directory) to increase constructor diversity has paired almost a hundred aspiring constructors with mentors. If you have ever considered giving construction a try, come join the party!

(Answers: LOSER; JUST KIDDING; STOP or HELLO; HOOKEMHORNS; and, BOYSCOUTSALUTE)

Fri 7/17/2020
SWABGAGA
STENOSAEOLUS
CHARACTERSKETCH
RATECARTSNORA
EVEGERITOLPAL
DELTALEEADAPT
NEARDISASTERS
GLOATCHEST
TILTMECHANISM
HASTORRENTSEA
ALLENSURESTAX
JOANDONE
INTIMATEAPPAREL
SOLOPERFORMER
REPUTATIONS

There was a time when I would see a crossword puzzle, and think "Oh, fun, a crossword puzzle!" All too often now, when beginning a crossword, my mental temperament turns fierce. I pause for a moment to appreciate that the speed in which the puzzle is completed somehow identifies the victor in today's battle of wits. Then, I'll bash my brain against the puzzle until it's done.

My hope is that solvers like me will see this grid and be struck by the whimsy — before digging in for intellectual battle.

This puzzle was a rare success from my experimentations with grids with interesting layouts of black squares and low-word counts. I appreciated the challenge of building a puzzle around interlocking spanners. Although AUTOPARTSTORES isn't the most vibrant entry, fun cluing options increased its appeal. My favorite clue was by Will & the NYT crew: [One who might grade on the curve].

POW Wed 2/12/2020
OKRAATETHREES
SNOCONESHEAVEN
LOVECONQUERSALL
OWEHITPOMP
SONSOLEEMO
DEATHANDTAXES
DOWSOXSIXERS
REINSWEBCIRCA
ALTOIDLABOTS
THUNDERSTORMS
SIPEPIGTOS
ALLAUTAGPS
WARTOENDALLWARS
IMEANTONEDOZEN
NOODGEGODKEYS

At age 9, my son seemed ready to write his doctoral thesis on Greek mythology. Our typical bedtime routine had morphed into him delivering pop quizzes like "Name the 14 Olympian Gods and their areas of influence." (Thanks, Rick Riordan!) The questions became progressively harder. Hoping he'd start asking me some questions I could answer, I encouraged him to broaden his knowledge of other civilizations. It was then that I noticed "Thor" and "thunder" started with the same two letters. In developing theme entries, I tried to select gods from different mythos and whose realms of influence were well known to most.

This puzzle was originally submitted in December 2017, rejected with an invitation to revise in April 2018, and accepted in July 2018. The suggestion I received was to replace the original reveal [ACTOFGOD] with the more apt [GOD]. Fortunately for me, I was able to make that change with only a minor tweak to the SE corner of the grid.

Wed 6/5/2019
ACTSQVCBREAD
TAREUAEORACLE
OVERFILLNODOFF
NEVERLETMEGO
CRONUTSCHANTED
ENRAGEAGINAPR
DADAARTLIEU
LAPELBRAPELEG
ACIDSLOWJAM
NRAITANDROITS
DEFACEROPENSEA
SEVENWONDERS
LADYDIYEWTREES
AMELIEUTEOISE
WOMANKORPTAS

I had been wanting to do a puzzle about SEVEN WONDERS for quite a while. I just couldn't figure out how to squeeze "Mausoleum at Halicarnassus" and "Hanging Gardens of Babylon" into a puzzle. It wasn't until I finally accepted that I couldn't fit the wonders into a grid, that this idea was born.

All credit for the cluing goes to the NYT staff. Some of my original clues were a bit trickier (e.g. [Flag holder in Congress] for LAPEL, [England's Rose, to Elton John] for LADYDI), and some of my thematic clues were harder to unravel without the reveal (e.g. [Amazon heroine] and [Where to find a magic mushroom] for (WONDER)WOMAN and (WONDER)LAND, respectively).

The calculation appears to be that the difficulty of the theme + day of the week + low word count = easier cluing = a more enjoyable solve! I particularly liked [Subdivision of a subdivision].

Mon 8/14/2017
HIPSPECSTWIST
ACAIAXLEVESPA
RENTALCARTIEUP
MUSHROOMBURGER
SPYSONRAH
WOKCOSYEAT
SPINACHLASAGNA
AIRSLEILATE
BLACKBEANCHILI
STYLOFTRUT
LUIAIMASH
MEATLESSMONDAY
WALTZBIKEROUTE
IRATEBREAPLAN
GENESSEWNETNA

This was the first decent puzzle I created. When mining for ideas on how to make a better puzzle, I came across Cruciverb's list of theme types. It's pretty rare to see many of these themes in the NYT these days, as Will likes it when constructionists bring innovation to the medium. So, I was delighted he gave the nod to this puzzle which has a couple of those old tropes (repeated clues for themers and a revealer which includes the day of the week).

This puzzle was initially submitted about a year ago and was revised a couple of times. One very helpful bit of feedback from Joel was making long, non-theme entries more interesting through the use of two-word phrases. I previously had been so proud of my multisyllabic mouthfuls; this puzzle — and ones I have made subsequently — are much improved by their absence.

As a committed foodie, I have a deep fondness for food-themed puzzles. My household is pescatarian. (Although my son calls himself a hotdogatarian, and eats them at restaurants any chance he gets.) The central-themed entries are regulars in our family's food rotation. But, as a mycophile married to a mycophobe, I only feed my craving for the first themer in the same place my hotdogatarian feeds his.

Thu 6/29/2017
JACKSWHAMASTRO
ALOESHIYABARED
KENYAGIVEMEAHAND
EXECITEMUTANTS
ANGEPACERS
BAHRAINWASHAIMS
LEEDSEERRANTAT
AGAABRIDGEDIRR
MIDDLEMOLEBOLA
ESSEGHANAFLYNOW
HEALERSLAG
STAPLEDASUODES
TAKEMYWIFEBELIZE
ARENAIMAYPLAIN
BOSSYGORESYNOD

It is a humbling honor to make my debut today. For the past 15 years, I've been regularly traveling to Long Island to visit my in-laws. The mornings always begin with delicious bagels and a copy of the NYT puzzle for everyone. It's not a competitive affair . . . but let's just say you don't want to be the last person to complete the puzzle. I came home after Thanksgiving a couple of years ago and decided to give constructing a try. My mother-in-law remains one of my indispensable test solvers of new puzzles.

The inspiration for this puzzle came from a playdate my son was having. I overheard, "Jamaica me crazy!" which got me wondering. I printed out a list of countries and capitals, and put on my pun hat. I came up with more than could fit in this puzzle, such as "DO A ONE HAITI," "ACOUSTIC QATAR," and "Suggestion for a Mexican who can't stand the heat? - NORWAY JOSE." I still have the list of countries, and pull it out on long drives to quiz my kids on international geography. I'm sure by now I've completely squelched any desire they may have had to see the world.

One area I need to work on is gauging puzzle difficulty. I was surprised to see this puzzle pegged for a Thursday. When it was, I was expecting my clues to be made more difficult. Instead, they were made clearer/easier. For example, specific geographic hints were added to the themed clues. (e.g. The original clue was "Request for clean up in the Gulf.") Obscure allusions to the actual name of the "Theme from Rocky" and Henny Youngman's trademark one-liner were replaced with universally-understood references. Clearly, I owe flowers and a note of apology to my mother-in-law.

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