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].
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.
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.