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Robyn Weintraub author page

43 puzzles by Robyn Weintraub
with constructor comments

TotalDebutLatest
433/28/201111/18/2022
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12321286
ScrabblePOW
1.5915
Robyn Weintraub

Robyn Weintraub, of Rye Brook, New York, has been constructing crosswords for more than a decade. She's a member of the in-house puzzle team at The New Yorker. When she's not making puzzles she's volunteering for the League of Women Voters trying to save democracy, or playing in her garden.

Fri 11/18/2022
HALOSFACECTRL
THANKSALOTARIA
MONEYCLIPSRASP
LYEDOTTYDESKS
MINETROPHY
ALLOVERTHEMAP
DIANERANCATS
ARKSSPITEKNEE
MEETHATCADRE
HEREWEGOAGAIN
DORIANELSE
GRUMPSHADEPOT
ROSASHORELEAVE
IVESPOMERANIAN
MESHAPEDWORLD

I hope you enjoy my latest contribution to the New York Times puzzleverse. My favorite entry today has to be the debut of TRASHPANDA. It was a hard one to clue because I think it's an "either you know it or you don't" type of entry.

Nevertheless, I wanted to do something fun with it, so I searched to see if there were other animals with silly nicknames. I found a great one for snake … danger noodle. C'mon, DANGER NOODLE?? That's just awesome. So I clued it as an analogy:

snake : danger noodle :: raccoon : TRASH PANDA.

Sadly, danger noodle was not a big hit with the editors and the clue ended up on the cutting room floor. But my love for danger noodle lives on. I don't typically begin my puzzles with seed entries, but I very well may have to start my next grid with DANGER NOODLE.

Fri 7/29/2022
ATARIBEESCAB
BASICCABLEBOLO
ITSMEAGAINAMIE
TATSROYCAREER
HALFTAMRON
ISPOKETOOSOON
DELTARAGESDDS
EROSPITASPORK
AFTBICEPNOWAY
DRINKSAREONME
SEENASROTH
DIVESTATLPLOP
ANISAPRILFOOLS
MACESHOESTORES
PIESIDSCHEST

Hi solvers, IT'S ME AGAIN. I hope you enjoyed today's puzzle. My favorite clues I contributed are the ones for TOGA PARTIES (fun times between the sheets… tee hee) and PLOP (can't you just see/hear that failed stone skimming attempt… or is that just me?).

Of the ones I didn't have a hand in creating, I like the clues for BEE and ELI — great sneaky/clever wordplay always makes me smile.

POW Fri 6/3/2022
LOGICOTISTILT
OPENINGACTEMIR
BANKROLLEDNONO
OLECREEPDUVET
SUMSLAUREN
CANOLABARTER
EBOLAFANCYTHAT
LEVARIREFREDO
STARFLEETRARER
SPIELSDECENT
SCALEDWEEK
PHONETEENSMOM
RATECRUNCHTIME
EVILBIRDHOUSES
PEASSPOTPEONS

I hope you enjoyed today's puzzle; it has a few fun facts (yes, Jimi Hendrix really did open for the Monkees!), a few misdirects, a few softballs, plus some debuts… everything I like to include in a Friday puzzle.

If you had fun solving my puzzle and would like to try more of them, please check out my new puzzle book coming out on June 7: Sit & Solve Hard Mini Crosswords. The "Sit and Solve" series is marketed as puzzles for the bathroom (who am I to argue with a successful marketing campaign?), but you have my permission to solve them in any room of the house. You can also take the book wherever you go because it's a pocket-size collection of 10x10s. And it makes a great stocking stuffer (if you're one of those people who likes to plan ahead).

Pre-order it today from your favorite book retailer, and then please let me know if you enjoy the puzzles @Robynw414 on Twitter. But seriously, no photos if you do decide to solve them in the bathroom.

And if easy puzzles are more your thing, my friend (and fellow New York Times constructor) Adesina O. Koiki has a book of Sit & Solve easy puzzles coming out on June 7 too. Or better yet, pick up a copy of each and give them both a try!

Fri 3/11/2022
PABSTFICAMBAS
IHAVETORUNERIE
TABULARASALIME
ABEKENTODES
WOESORANGE
DEFINITEMAYBE
OVINEREVEALED
GENTATARILOCI
GREENLITALARM
DROPDOWNMENUS
BIGTOEROAR
RONAPLANFEW
SWIMCOUPONCODE
VINEBONUSROUND
PEGSSLAPATLAS

I debut a few fun entries today, though DEFINITE MAYBE is definitely my favorite. Also, a not-insignificant number of my NYT debut entries thus far are food/cooking related, and today I add an amusing one to the list with MELON BALLER.

Today I also earn the dubious distinction of being the first constructor to have a RONA clue referencing our current times. When I submitted this puzzle in November of 2020, I clued it as "Scourge of 2020, colloquially". Sadly, here in March of 2022 it needed to be updated to read "the 2020s". Hopefully, this version of the word will soon be a distant memory, and we'll be back to cluing RONA as Ms. Jaffe and Ms. Barrett very soon.

Fri 1/7/2022
ACNEGAMERUSTS
THOROPENIDAHO
TONITHATSSOYOU
ICANDOITCENSUS
COPENDSRA
HORSECOINFLIP
SOLOSWARPDRIVE
ELOPEERRSIMON
TIGERLILYHAIRS
ICYSTAREDIRTY
WMDTONECO
ANEMIASHEEPDOG
DOZENROSESURAL
AGREEUNTOMUSE
MOATSISAKANTS

Hope you enjoyed this first New York Times Friday crossword of 2022. Just a few thoughts to share:

My favorite entries/clues were LIMITED RUN and CHOCOHOLIC. I also liked the clue for AGREE because it's always fun to twist words and grammar (preaching to the choir here, I know).

I have a few nods to my alma mater with mentions of Cornellians TONI Morrison and Carl Sagan… and you can bet that I submitted a different clue for EZRA.

And I've surely completed some Trekkie trifecta with today's debut of WARP DRIVE to the puzzleverse, after previously introducing MIND MELD and TRACTOR BEAM.

I'd share more, but I'm working on a new puzzle right now, so it's back to the grindstone for me. Live long and prosper, y'all!

Fri 10/22/2021
AMPLEELLATHU
RELAXLEASTAOS
NAILPOLISHOKRA
INEARNESTEYES
ETSEONLASSES
MSNHEATAMY
CASEDISMISSED
LETTHATSINKIN
GENERATIONGAP
EFTANATAFT
STUPIDITOCHO
TRONPOKERCHIP
SOILGOONSTRIKE
EWOKOUZOWOVEN
ANNDREWOPEDS

A few things of interest in this puzzle (at least to me… ). Clues for 28 Across and 12 Down are bits of new knowledge I obtained while sharpening my trivia skills in the past few years. I find more and more that if I can't come up with a clever misdirect or punny clue, my next preference will be to find some interesting bit of trivia.

Over the last decade I debuted both POKER TABLE and POKER TABLES to the NYT crossword; today I add POKER CHIP to my collection. One might think that I actually played poker for all the times I've introduced references to that card game.

And speaking of card games I don't play, the clue to 31 Down clearly isn't mine. In my 2018 constructor profile, I was asked about entries I'd never put in a puzzle, to which I responded "I recently removed a common five letter word used in the card game bridge because it also happens to be the name of a certain current political figure, and I don't want to see that name while I'm in my happy place." Whether it's a reference to bridge or SKAT, or anything else, I wouldn't put it in my grid and I wouldn't put it in my clues. Fortunately, this term never shows up in my game of choice, mahjongg!

POW Fri 8/27/2021
STAMPCODAGRIT
AILEYATONOENO
CLEARSKIESEDNA
SEXTAPESWASHED
MATTEETER
MARGINOFERROR
ALOUDPALMORBS
COSISPREEFIAT
HEEDPECKSANKA
BEFOREIFORGET
RUBENSNEO
BOSONSBELTSOUT
IMHOOHISTHATSO
LEEKROTIESTER
LOSSSEESSHORT
POW Fri 7/9/2021
LAMPOPTEDBLTS
OHIOPARSEREIN
GOLDMEDALSOSLO
EYECANDYCLOSER
AXELMEEKEST
BEDSIDEMANNER
ROOTSBYRDSEPA
INNSCORKSSVEN
ESTGLAREPOISE
GOWITHTHEFLOW
EPIPENSPERT
DIVINGFREESPIN
IDEASNAILSPACE
TAUTTWICEOPEC
HYPEOAREDTASK

Hello solvers! Hope everyone is having a good summer so far. Here's a Friday puzzle to kick off the weekend.

Not too much to say here other than to give credit where credit is due—I absolutely adore the clues for PI DAY and OPEC, neither of which I wrote. But I guess it's a little like playing tennis against a better opponent… you improve your game by learning from stronger players. Seeing such simple yet clever clues inspires me to up my game the next time around.

Sun 6/6/2021 OLIO
ACTORSADREPSCAMPERS
FROMEARTOEARPOWERNAP
LINEITEMVETOAMARETTO
AMENDTOEDPARERPIET
TESSBASSFERRIEDCAL
BRITHOLDONUNITE
SPATIALMELLOWCRANES
HIGHESTBIDDERCOSIGNS
REHABHOGGEDMOOLA
IPADRENNERSAILEDOFF
NASPERNODBARNEYNIL
ENTERTAINWINKEDHALO
COUPEBONDEDDOULA
BIGOTRYFORGETABOUTIT
ALANONBROKERPATRONS
LOGONTEEMEDRHYS
DVRSPEAREDHERSLORE
NEETALTERPEPAMANIA
EYEROLLSASIWASSAYING
SOLARIUMNOTEVENCLOSE
SUSPENSEGLADELEANER

When I'm constructing themeless puzzles, I like to jam in as many long, fun/cute/conversational entries as possible. To accomplish this, I typically have to break up the rest of the grid with shorter entries which then results in high word counts. Low word counts and big white spaces have never been part of my repertoire. But when contemplating a themeless 21x, for better or worse, I needed to get out of my comfort zone and try an open grid with a low(ish) word count.

I spent two weeks spinning my wheels with different layouts, word counts, and seed entries. Eventually, it became clear that I was getting nowhere; I decided that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and "borrowed" this framework from Patrick Berry's 2018 126-word themeless grid (with a few adjustments, bringing it to 130). With that grid, I spent another 2-3 weeks filling it over and over and over again until I was satisfied with the content, saving any version that I thought had potential. I believe this puzzle is version #19 of 22.

Ultimately, I am happy with the fill, and although the white space consists of many crossing 6s— which aren't necessarily the most sparkly entries— I tried my best to provide amusing and clever clues wherever possible. Plus, I still managed to squeeze in some smile-worthy long entries, including debuts like FORGET ABOUT IT, LINE-ITEM VETO, AS I WAS SAYING, NOT EVEN CLOSE, COINED A PHRASE, HIGHEST BIDDER, and RETAIL THERAPY. I know a themeless Sunday isn't everyone's cup of tea, but I hope I've been able to provide some entertainment and maybe even encourage a few reluctant non-themeless solvers to give a Friday or Saturday puzzle a try.

Last but not least, with this themeless Sunday puzzle, I have finally hit for the cycle, with NYT puzzles published on each of the 7 days of the week. But I'm not crossing "Sunday NYT Puzzle" off my bucket list just yet… not until I get a regular themed Sunday published. So, keep your fingers crossed for me, and hopefully, I'll be back soon!

POW Fri 4/23/2021
ABETSAMEXRIOT
DRAWLLIMEWEDGE
AERIEBRUSHFIRE
MALTESEAUDEN
SKYPARAPETS
FRONTROWSEATS
STRIVEBEEFFRO
ERODEDIMOTTER
TISROOTPRIEST
HOTAPPLECIDER
MASERATITIM
FIBERMANCAVE
IDONTCARENOSIR
TEDDYBEARENTER
SAYSSRTAREEDY

So... what are you doing this weekend? If you're reading this before noon on Friday April 23, it's not too late to register for the 43rd Annual (but first virtual) American Crossword Puzzle Tournament. I'm one of the puzzle constructors and I'll be hanging around the chat rooms with over a thousand lovely puzzle enthusiasts. I'm incredibly sad that another year is going by without an in-person ACPT, but it looks like Will and his team have managed to pull off an impressive weekend filled with fun and interesting events.

As for today's puzzle, it feels like it should have run in October rather than April with HOT APPLE CIDER and concerns of an EARLY FROST. I submitted it last April so I'm not sure what was going on with me then... other than the fact that by April of 2020 time had begun to lose all meaning.

I'm glad TIM the Enchanter stopped by for a visit (and I implore you to take him seriously when he warns of dangerous creatures with nasty big pointy teeth). I also liked the editors' clue turning EMU into "lemur".

Anyway, despite my mini fall theme, it's definitely spring here, so I'm going to go play in my garden for a while, figure out WHAT'S FOR DINNER and then hopefully see you at the ACPT this evening!

POW Fri 1/29/2021
FEZESPSTAMP
EXESSLEEPERCAR
ATRATERRACOTTA
TROMBONETRUSTY
SACEVADEET
SHARESENTOPT
PANTPUBTRIVIA
PINTAEMUERECT
ACCENTRUGCORK
LYEDEPPMINTY
LENSMOPHEF
SATIREDONEDEAL
PARENTHOODATTY
CRISISMODELOEB
APPLEMRSPRY

I see from my files that you're solving version 6 of this grid. Versions 1-4 have been lost in the ether, but I do have v. 5, and in that iteration, 8 of my 14 long entries are already in place. Also, I originally had so many food and cooking references that I felt compelled to remove some (plenty remain) for fear of this puzzle looking like it had been commissioned by "Bon Appetit" magazine!

The reason I clued EVA with the somewhat obscure meaning of "extra-vehicular activity" was that when I submitted this puzzle in January of 2020, astronauts Christina Koch and Jessica Meir had recently completed the first all-female spacewalk, a story I had been following after the earlier debacle of not having enough spacesuits for women astronauts onboard the space station in 2019 (my original clue featured both their names). Of course, January of 2020 was about 10 million news cycles ago, so I'm surprised I remember any of those details today.

Finally, I'm happy to have introduced some fun entries to the NYT puzzleverse today: EXTRA SPICY, ZERO CHANCE, PUB TRIVIA, PICKY EATER, ACCENT RUG, SECRET RECIPE, and those wild and crazy guys, BERT AND ERNIE.

Happy solving!

Fri 11/27/2020
AMONGIGAASAP
POKERFOOLDULL
STONEHENGEBRIO
EEKAMOUSEBLEEP
LSDTHROWN
CARRIESATORCH
ARIANALEGKYLO
LENDSHERTENAM
MAGIMIXCORONA
BANANASFOSTER
SELECTILL
STATEHULASKIRT
NORIBILLTHECAT
OVERANTSENEMY
WEREMTADORAL

Welcome to today's puzzle, in which I channel my 15-year-old self by including references to both "Bloom County" and "The Far Side."

I landed pretty early on the two long across entries CARRIES A TORCH and BANANAS FOSTER because I liked that they are both things that get lit on fire (my understanding is that BANANAS FOSTER is typically served flambé — though, in fairness, I have no firsthand knowledge of this because I detest bananas).

My original grid had a few issues, including the embarrassingly stinky partial OF TEA ("Cup ___"), so I was asked to make a few revisions. I'm pleased to say that the new and improved grid features a far stronger and entertaining NW corner, with STONEHENGE — which has my favorite clue of the puzzle — EEK A MOUSE, GREMLINS, and GO GETTER.

Fri 10/23/2020
PANELMIMIAPBS
ASIDEEVERLSAT
TAKEABREAKLONE
SHORTLISTFORK
YINHOTARTIST
CEOACNEAHA
WORDPROCESSOR
PINSTRIPESUIT
FAKEEYELASHES
CPIAPPSTIS
CAPOTECOPAKA
BEDSSTARPOWER
REDORISKSITALL
PAIRBRAENOISE
IRASGIRDGETON

My favorite clue from the editing team was "Tree toppers" for ANCESTORS. My favorites of my clues is "Batting equipment?" for FAKE EYELASHES and "Grp. that watches TV" for FCC.

I will now interrupt this note with a public service announcement. As a board member of my local and county League of Women Voters. I'd like to remind everyone to vote, and VOTE EARLY if possible. Early voting in New York begins tomorrow, Saturday October 24. You can find out about early voting in your state, or what's on your ballot, your polling locations, or many other important election details, at the LWV website.

We will now return to our regularly scheduled programming.

POW Sat 9/19/2020
WISHTOPUPGAP
ACHEELISECOGS
SEAMONSTERHORA
NEVERFEARBADE
TSEIONDARTED
ROOPERTADA
DONTBESOHASTY
PASSPORTPHOTO
RAREBOOKSTORE
ARKELMSHUB
TEMPLERESLOP
DOLTWOEBEGONE
KONAHALFASLEEP
OWENENGELOWNS
ANYPEARLPEDI

I hope you enjoy this Saturday crossword, my 30th puzzle in the New York Times. Overall most of my clues made the cut, including my favorite clue/entry in this puzzle: "Shot required for international travel" for PASSPORT PHOTO. Unfortunately, a reminder of my unused passport makes me sad, but hopefully soon, we will once again be able to travel to distant lands. Until then, be safe, stay home if you can, and solve more crossword puzzles!

POW Thu 7/23/2020
SUNSPEDRAMA
LSATMALIOMITS
UHOHERINTENSE
REMOVETHECRUEL
PRIMAYURTITAL
ARCHOUNCE
OLESHAMROAMED
STLLETTERWERA
ORACLENYECNET
BECKSETNA
TRONSITSBRAVA
BIRTHFROMCLUES
SPARETUNAOTIC
PUTINELMSSOLO
PECSDYESSST

I'm very excited to share my Thursday debut. This is just a basic ‘drop a letter' theme, with the twist of moving the drop-a-letter part to the clues, and then incorporating the instructions within the grid.

In deciding which letter to nix, I knew it needed to be a less common letter of the alphabet, but not so obvious as to give itself away (I suspect that if there were a dozen clues containing the letter Q solvers would have caught on very quickly). And although the drop-a-letter gimmick only applied to the clues, it seemed inelegant to include the letter anywhere in the grid, other than the instructional "LETTER ?" entry. But I would need a crossing word using the mystery letter, and it bothered me to include a random word that contained the letter. I decided to go with W because a few years back I had a Sunday puzzle (in another publication) that did the drop-a-letter thing with the title NOWHERE ("No W Here"). In homage to that puzzle I went with a shortened form of the revealer, parsing NOW as "no W", so that both the across and down entries containing the W would be part of the theme.

In addition to the entries REMOVE THE/ LETTER W/ FROM CLUES and the NOW mini revealer, I had 11 entries that came from W clues. I thought 11 was a good amount (and allowed the editors to nix one if they didn't like it and still have an even 10). Instead, Will and the team somehow managed to add 5 more W clues to entries already in the puzzle! My favorite of their additions is "Swaying just before a disaster" for UHOH.

Some clues/entries in my notes that I couldn't manage to fit in include "Warm cover" for SLEEVE and "Group of swingers" for CHORUS.

Finally, I remember seeing puzzles where constructors have altered their names in keeping with a puzzle's theme. I thought about requesting "Robyn Eintraub" for my byline. But aside from making the gimmick too obvious, it would have also necessitated changing the editor byline to "Ill Shortz" and that just seemed like a bad idea.

Fri 6/26/2020
ALMAYPILEECHO
SOAPOPERASSOON
ALLPURPOSECOME
PALVAUNTDALES
KEMPSTOPBY
ASPICSSTONER
BERTHRARETREAT
BRITAONALOEWE
RAVENCLAWOUZOS
ANGOLAMOTELS
ATHENAPOKE
KNEEDGEENAHES
ITBEMADEATOAST
WOOLFIELDMOUSE
INXSANNEEFLAT

Another puzzle from me already? It's only been two weeks since my last one. I cranked up production last year, so I have a bunch of puzzles in the queue, but now I'm afraid you'll all get sick of me!

I really like this grid — I was very pleased with the 14 long entries, 8 of which debut today. However, all my gratuitous sex and violence got edited out of the puzzle. Wait... gratuitous sex and violence… from Robyn? Indeed!

For MOTELS, my clue was, "Where some got their kicks on Route 66?" and for FIELD MOUSE, I had "Little Bunny Foo Foo victim."

Okay, I recognize that on the respective gratuitous sex and violence meters, a double entendre from a song written in 1946 and a reference to "bopping mice on the head" from a children's ditty don't rate all that high. But on the cute meter (definitely my favorite of all the meters), I think those two were adorable, and I figured I'd share them here.

POW Fri 6/12/2020
GMANCITISPACE
RIFEOMENEATIN
ACTVPORCHSWING
FREEWIFIEASTER
TORHEFCAM
SPEARLOVESICK
SCANTRIDESHARE
LORDSEKETIMOR
UPTOSPEEDRESIN
REYNOLDSPESOS
FEYORETSA
HOTTUBCHITCHAT
ANYONEHOMELENS
HERONALASARTE
AGONYDENTMESA
Fri 4/17/2020
JEWELGOTTACID
EXILEADHOCASI
DIGITROADATLAS
ITSASTARTCOLIC
RAGLIPIDS
PROPOSEATOAST
LIFELESSONCAPS
OFFALASUNODAT
WEBBELECTORATE
AREWETHEREYET
SILAGETAE
ONAIRANYTAKERS
RUNNERSUPSIDEA
ESCTOILEOWENS
SEESEALSNINTH

There are 16 words of 8 letters or more here, and not too much junk (though I recognize that my opinion of junk and your opinion of junk may differ). I've culled many partials and crummy stuff from my word list, but sometimes you need a little partial like AS I to hold the rest of the fun stuff together.

I hesitated about PEABRAIN because I don't like to include negative or insulting words, but it allowed PROPOSE A TOAST, LIFE LESSON, ARE WE THERE YET, LET'S ROLL, OFF BALANCE and RUNNERS UP, and as insults go it's somewhat amusing, so I thought it was a pretty reasonable tradeoff.

That's all from me today. Stay safe. Do puzzles.

Sat 3/7/2020
MACYWRAPSDAFT
AGUEHOLEYISAO
GOTASECONDSKIP
MOTHERHENSCAR
ADOSEESSPONGE
PAWTWOYAK
HOMESWEETHOME
PAPERAIRPLANE
CASESENSITIVE
SYNEWEAGE
APOGEEBASHENE
HINDFISHTACOS
CODAJELLOSHOTS
CNETREBARELIE
SEASSTONEMINX

I typically fall back on a few basic grid designs, but this triple-stack layout is a new one for me — though in keeping with my usual style of packing in many long multi-word entries. Don't be surprised if you see it again (and again) from me. No quibbles on the clues; many are mine, and those that aren't are an improvement over what I submitted. The only one I'm disappointed that didn't make the cut was my clue for PAYPHONE: "Anathema of free speech advocates?". Free speech/pay phone… get it? Ok, I admit it, some of these jokes are just for me.

This is my 25th puzzle in the New York Times. Reflecting on this quadranscentennial (yes, I googled it) milestone, I realize that what began for me ten years ago as nothing more than a whim and an intellectual challenge is today a central part of my identity. I'm so glad to be part of the wonderful community of crossword constructors, solvers, and editors, and I look forward to many more years of arranging black and white squares and moving letters around for the amusement of others.

Finally, it's an honor to be included in this week highlighting women constructors. Thanks to Will and the team for making it happen, and three cheers to my fellow constructors whose puzzles ran this week. And to all the women who might now be inspired to begin constructing: I look forward to solving all your puzzles in the years to come!

Sat 12/28/2019
HIPSTSPSILIAD
OCHOSPASCOMMA
LAOSHITTHESPOT
ONNOTICEODESSA
GREWRYJOTS
REDHOTMAKESDO
ALIASCAMEALONG
MATSCOREDETTU
STINGRAYSLETHE
ENTAILSRUPEES
ALMSBUSDRS
ORACLECASHFLOW
TOPLOADERSRICH
ONEUPNONEANKA
HADESASSTTEST
Fri 11/1/2019
LIESLALPSDADS
ARTHISTORYEDIE
RICECOOKERCOAX
ASHKUNISDOLLY
TELECHIDES
SLITSSHORES
SLIMYSHOWERCAP
ROBESLAOCRESS
STRIPMALLTINCT
ASLOPEMONTH
ARMIESBERG
IDIOTTOUTSLEE
OMANMINORCHORD
NINEACTYOURAGE
ETSYTKOSTENON

I was very pleased with myself for my clever clue for DECODER RING: "Handy cryptography tool?" — if only I'd been able to take it a step further to the absolutely perfect upgrade that appears today: "Useful cryptography tool to have on hand". To have on hand! I was so close.

Some of my favorite clues today: "This might sound sad" for MINOR CHORD, "Shopping destination that sounds risqué" for STRIP MALL and "Marine mollusk exoskeleton vendor, in a tongue twister" as a twist on an old clue for SHE.

I was 99.9% certain that my original ART HISTORY clue wouldn't make the cut: "Major for those who want to learn Manet things?". But I just thought it was so stupidly adorable that I submitted it anyway (does this qualify as a bad DAD(S) joke?). At least I got to share it here.

Fri 6/21/2019
OASISTBSPUVEA
GROUPPHOTOROES
READYORNOTBILK
ESPCREEPMACYS
TATEALONE
CLAIMSSHERLOCK
ROVESSEENOEVIL
EGADPITASGENE
DONTBEMADMERCI
ONTHEDOTDANSON
GETINFORD
CHAKASTAIRBLT
HORNFAMILYTREE
UPDOBYANYMEANS
MEETISNTEATAT

First of all, despite both MARRY ME and TIED THE KNOT appearing in the grid, this is not one of those hidden proposal puzzles (or are those just an URBAN LEGEND?). That said, if anyone does decide to use this puzzle for such an occasion, please let me know!

A lot of my "clever" clues ended up on the proverbial cutting room floor, so I might have gotten too cute with my misdirection this time around. "Something relatively complicated?" for FAMILY TREE and "Big shot?" for GROUP PHOTO are both smart and succinct and vast improvements over the strained clues I submitted. Though for TIED THE KNOT I had "Unionized?"; "Wed" seems unexpectedly easy, so I am curious about that choice — perhaps the phrase isn't as ubiquitous as I think it is? In any event, I'm in the process of cluing a new puzzle right now, and I'll try to incorporate the lessons learned here today.

Happy puzzling!

POW Sat 5/11/2019
TRIPSSOSONCIS
BORATCROCBONE
STICKSHIFTANNA
POSTITNOTETEL
STRINGTHEORY
TEATATSUMUP
OVERSIZEDBARED
MIRONEVISIMAY
BLINGLASTPLACE
GADOTPORPED
HELOVESMENOT
ANISCARECROWS
LISPLETSSEENOW
LUTEANTESACRA
ESSASEEDSTEEP

This puzzle went through not one, but two rounds of revisions. The first time I needed to get rid of a bunch of unimpressive fill in the SE corner, which included ESAI, SHIA, ENLAI and other junk — but which held together, amongst other things, the totally adorable entry I LOVE TRASH, a favorite tune of mine by Oscar the Grouch. Sorry Oscar...

The second revision was requested because my solution to fixing the unimpressive fill in the SE corner unfortunately yielded a series of unimpressive longer entries. It was hardly my best work, and I completely understand why Will sent the grid back again (and thankful that he gave me the opportunity to revisit it one more time).

Ultimately I had to pull out about half the grid and experiment with endless variations of cheater squares to get something that scored both high on my "that's cute" meter and low on the "dreck" meter. Fortunately, it finally came together and I'm pleased with the puzzle you're seeing here today. I hope you like it too. Happy solving!

Sat 12/29/2018
THUMBLASETSP
GARBAGEBAGITEM
ITSALIVINGMENU
FHACRIEDREACT
GODSPLUMMET
AMAINBAOBAB
CURVYPOPPYCOCK
CITESEXESHALE
TRIMESTERLITUP
FEAREDINSET
AVIATORCAPE
LOCHSSLURPMOM
ELIADOUBLEWIDE
EVANJUNIORPROM
OLDSTATSMORE

This puzzle originally featured DOUBLE DIPS instead of DOUBLE WIDE. I was sorry to lose DOUBLE DIPS, which I found considerably more entertaining, but it was accompanied by a corner of less than stellar fill: TSE, ESME, SIETE, DPI. I traded those in for DOUBLE WIDE and a far better corner overall.

Recently I've had a few grids sent back with the request to revisit a corner or two due to a few meh entries. I've been told that the bar continues to be raised on accepted puzzles, which is a great thing for solvers — and forces me to become a stronger constructor in the process. It's also made me get far more aggressive about removing junk from my word list. But with each Roman numeral or obscure government agency acronym that I delete, I can't help but wonder if that's the bit of unsightly glue that could someday hold together a 54 word masterpiece. Or, more realistically, yet still lamentably elusive... a perfectly nice Sunday puzzle.

Happy almost New Year. May you find solutions to all your puzzles in 2019 (crosswords or otherwise).

Fri 11/30/2018
CROCEALTAANT
HOLDMYBEERSAWS
EPICPOETRYCNET
ZENTUTORCONEY
SYNSACOLYTE
DEFANGAPHIDS
ALIVEALIENATED
FIRESBONOSAGE
TESTTUBESPITON
THERESRECESS
ORDERLYTORE
HEADSRAISAGTO
MYNATONEITDOWN
SECTCANINEUNIT
SEEUDONDIEGO

As a mom, I know I'm not supposed to have a favorite child, but I'm quite fond of this puzzle. I think all ten 10-, 11- and 12 letter entries are solid, and nine of them make their New York Times crossword debut today. I especially like HOLD MY BEER and SAVE THE DATE. Admittedly SYNS and ARY are terrible, but even the happiest of families have a few black sheep, right?

POW Fri 11/9/2018
CLOWNCARSTIAS
TREEHOUSESONME
RETROGRADEUDON
YDSGOAPEGRINS
FOODFOLIAGE
ARGUEDMIDAS
SEANSCONESTOGA
TAUNTALESTRAW
IDLEHANDSCREPE
LENDSTEASES
AMSCRAYSHIP
PUPAECREELSPA
PREKWAITLISTED
LACEINSOMNIACS
ELKSTEENAGERS

Recently I was asked about using seed entries in my themeless puzzles. I replied that I don't do seed entries — instead, I focus on crafting the best stacks and go wherever my word list takes me. It never works well for me to fall in love with an entry and force the rest of the grid around it. I've gotten pretty inured to "killing my darlings"; good entries resurface when the time is right. I've tried to include both WHO GOES THERE and GLASS CEILING in previous grids, but they never survived to the final cut. Today those two great entries finally get their debut.

POW Fri 10/5/2018
ANDWEREOFFSITE
PERIWINKLEETAL
STALEBREADTONY
ESMECADSMALES
LAGHAIRDYE
STOWAGEMONEY
CAPONEGOLDCOIN
ALERTDABMOUSE
TINKEREDPERSON
SERTACOLDONE
SCORNEDLAD
CLUBSLAICALBA
HEREWITCHTRIAL
MACEINTHEWINGS
ORESGENERALTSO

Both the first and last across entries/clues are my favorites in this puzzle. AND WE'RE OFF fell into the "gee, I sure hope I can keep this here at 1 Across" category, and fortunately it remained despite a number of grid revisions.

As for GENERAL TSO, the clue came to me immediately, but I second guessed it a few million times — it was so groan-worthy, and, I think, a rather obvious clue. Eventually I gave up trying to find an alternative, because none of them made me smile the way this clue does. I figured if Will hated it, he'd find a suitable replacement. I am very pleased that it made it to print, and it is my sincere hope that solvers also find it both smile-inducing and groan-worthy.

Fri 7/20/2018
BARBIEDOLLSPAM
AVERAGEJOETONE
LIVINGWAGEAKIN
MASTHAIGPRESS
FURERITREA
RAISINSDUNST
UPNEXTWORKMATE
BORATHANSABRA
SPATULASBALLOT
RURALPELLETS
THEREOFART
HAFTSDONAOGLE
ENOLNOSETOTAIL
FOREROLLERRINK
TIMSCROSSBONES

I have no interest in poker, yet curiously I have now debuted both POKER TABLE and POKER TABLES to the New York Times crossword puzzle universe. The singular entry shows up today, and the plural one appeared in my first published NY Times puzzle in 2011 — which feels like a million years ago.

I do love cooking, however, and this puzzle is chock full of food related terminology: EATS, SPAM (ew…), ANISE, SABRA (hummus), RAISINS, PINK SALT, SPATULAS, NOSE TO TAIL, and that's without counting EGG HUNT or DEWARS. Hmm… this write up is making me hungry. I'm going to get some breakfast while you enjoy the puzzle.

Fri 7/6/2018
CLEOPATRAEJECT
AISLESEATMUNRO
INTERLACEASTIN
NODESESITSBY
SWEETTALK
ICECAPOILISNT
ARIASTRENDIER
MEETINTHEMIDDLE
SPITTAKEKILLS
OTOENOBHONEYS
REASONING
CHASMSTANIBM
LETHESTATETREE
ARMORVOCATIONS
PASTYUMPTEENTH

Today's puzzle, a mini-themed Friday, came about purely by chance. I set up a random grid with two intersecting 15s, a departure from my usual layouts. I then spent many days in search of the perfect phrases to populate the two 15s. I rarely begin with ‘seed entries'; I just prefer to create a blank grid and see what develops.

I had fiddled with MEET IN THE MIDDLE early in my search and didn't love it. Although I thought it was cute that it ran across the middle of the grid, that by itself wasn't enough to warrant my keeping it. It was significantly later that I stumbled across RACE TO THE BOTTOM running from top to bottom, and miraculously, it interlocked with MEET IN THE MIDDLE! I did a little happy dance, thanked the crossword gods for their assistance and then proceeded to work on the other 68 words in the grid.

POW Fri 3/16/2018
CHIPEASYKEPT
LENOFREEHILLY
AMANFRESHENSUP
SONDHEIMENGAGE
SPYETDURSA
CHEVREFLOORSIT
LIVERMACINTOSH
OLEGBIDENHUME
WINEMAKERTUNER
NATTEREDGIRDLE
ASISBAMBLT
CHARONJEREMIAH
LIVINGDEADETRE
ALIASIDLEREAR
MOANMIENESTE

Jeff, I think you will be pleased to see that we have finally arrived at my post-divided-thru-the-middle themeless puzzle design. I give you 100% of the credit for pointing out that crutch, which I didn't realize I was using. Though there may be exceptions in the future, I certainly won't revisit that design without having an imaginary debate with you about it first.

In my puzzles, I always look to incorporate at least one exclamation, question or "conversational" phrase, as I think they add a different dimension to mix. Over the years I've included: DO ME A FAVOR, ARE YOU DONE, IT FIGURES, DO I HAVE TO, KEEP TALKING and IMPRESS ME. In this particular puzzle, there are three — and it turns out that together they comprise a little story, the gripping (yet brief) tale of one character consoling another after a distressing and suspicious incident: THERE THERE, IN ANY EVENT, I SMELL A RAT.

Also, I don't usually go looking for interesting word intersections, but I find it incredibly amusing that VEGETARIAN runs through LIVING DEAD. I keep seeing images of zombies feasting on quinoa bowls and avocado toast.

POW Sat 9/23/2017
HIGHSCORESPSAT
AREYOUDONEAWLS
DEEPFREEZEWEEK
UNSEATYIPPEE
PEERCOMFORT
DRAPEWISPS
SPICIESTPENPAL
NOTONCEPARTONE
ALFREDDIGESTED
POINTSATED
GETBUSYJAMB
TUREENBMOVIE
GIRLHOUSEPLANT
OREOACROBATICS
VESTRONWEASLEY

My previous 5 puzzles have been Fridays, so I'm very excited for today's puzzle, my Saturday debut. Another debut I'm happy to mention: today RON WEASLEY makes his first appearance in a New York Times puzzle. HARRY POTTER showed up twice in 2000, and HERMIONE GRANGER arrived in 2011. Poor Ron. How many horcruxes do you have to destroy to get some timely recognition?

Fri 7/28/2017
BESTMUSICALDJS
ETPHONEHOMEOAT
THREEINAROWILE
TOASTSTAICHAT
ESTEDUELSLAP
TROISIVES
CROSSOUTPREENS
HUBCAPSCOUNTON
ENTERSCOINTOSS
WARNNORSE
FUELELLETSPS
MESSYWOEGETAT
OVIMICROMANAGE
NEVPLAINSPOKEN
OREHORNETSNEST

Ok, Jeff, I know what you're going to say: look at that big ugly diagonal thing sitting in the middle of the puzzle. I know, I know— but in my defense I didn't realize it was an issue until you pointed it out in one of my puzzles last December. This grid, and my previous offending grids were already submitted before I knew better. But I assure you that now when I create a puzzle, I have a little invisible Jeff Chen sitting on my shoulder, reminding me to avoid dividing grids in half. I also strive for grids with 14 eight-letter words or more, another strategy I learned from you. Those two guidelines have definitely made my puzzles stronger, and I have you to thank. So… thank you Jeff!

As for commentary on this particular puzzle, not much to say, other than I'm glad I finally snuck BETTE in the grid, which is my mom's name. My mother has been solving the NY Times crossword for more than 60 years, and even though I began solving (and constructing) relatively recently, the Times puzzle has always been part of my world thanks to her. So this one's for you, mama bear!

Fri 5/26/2017
CATSPAJAMASMFA
ATOMICCLOCKOIL
FORINSTANCEONT
FLUTERITEDEO
ELSETIMESTAMP
LACESCURE
CONVENEDCOUSIN
AVOIDEDSOARING
BETRAYFUNFACTS
SRTAROMAS
SOLDIERONLESS
ELOALECBALOO
WEBRIDESHOTGUN
EPAKEEPTALKING
STDODDSANDENDS

When I opened my Crossword folder to review the history of this puzzle, I was surprised to find just one lonely little file in the folder. Most of my puzzles go through many variations, with file names that include "rev.", "v.6" or other indications that I've gone back to the drawing board multiple times.

Even with puzzles that fall into place relatively quickly, I still often pull out my least favorite 50% or so, redo those sections, and then compare the two versions side by side; the better version gets clued and submitted. Apparently, this one was a keeper from the get-go. I hope you agree.

Happy Memorial Day Weekend!

Fri 12/23/2016
TRACTORBEAMDSL
CASHADVANCEETA
EMPIRESTATEFAD
LIETOCBATTERY
LENAARALENG
CRAVEBASAL
SKILODGERESIZE
INMATESGETEVEN
TOPTENHIPSTERS
ACRESTALLY
KENORLYHORA
NOSTRILSTYLER
IVSINTHEMIDDLE
GEMGREENSCREEN
HRESECRETSANTA

This is my third puzzle in 2016, and my third Friday overall. Although I will happily return to themed puzzles when an interesting idea comes along, for now, I prefer focusing on the grids and cramming as many fun entries in as possible. Also, I learned a while back that female constructors are underrepresented on Friday and Saturday (not that we're all that well represented during the other five days of the week...), so by concentrating on themeless puzzles I'm doing what I can for the team.

As for this particular puzzle, my favorite entries are TRACTOR BEAM, CASH ADVANCE, KNOCK OVER and IMPRESS ME. I like the clue for BATCAVE, even though ‘Robin' isn't spelled correctly. And finally, I can't help but wonder if this puzzle's publication date of December 23 is in any way related to the final Across entry: SECRET SANTA.

Happy 2017 everyone!

Fri 10/7/2016
JEDIMASTERSPAM
ALOHASTATENONE
MIRACLEMAXALAN
EXITAPPSPACS
SITENSAINAROW
ROILACETONE
TOYBOXESIDA
ASHGOALIESDAR
UTAJURASSIC
DENMARKEARL
IMGAMESMUSEES
EWOKOTOSEVAN
NAVECHORUSLINE
CREDDOMEAFAVOR
EEROSHALLOWEND

One day I got bored with my usual conventional grid layouts, so I decided to experiment with something a little funkier. I began playing around with black squares, and came up with this design. It's hardly earth-shattering, but I'm pretty happy with the general swoopiness (can I use that word in my next puzzle?) and will likely continue experimenting with more interesting grids in the future.

As for the fill, one would think I was a big "Star Wars" fan, starting with 1A JEDI MASTER, plus the cameo appearance of an EWOK at 53A. Truth be told, I've never seen a single one of the movies. However, I do adore MIRACLE MAX from "The Princess Bride", so I'm glad he has finally made an appearance in the NY Times Crossword.

Hope you enjoy this puzzle, and have fun storming the castle!

POW Fri 4/22/2016
SMARTYPANTSGPA
MADEYOULOOKRAM
ORDERONLINEESP
TITLEEDGINESS
ENOSRARENENE
CONGAPEDI
BIRTHDAYDRAGON
OVARIESNAILGUN
ZYDECOSOLOISTS
OLINWILES
EACHANOSPUMA
CATHOLICFINER
AGOLIVEALITTLE
FUREMERGENCIES
EESSPREADSHEET

I'm very excited to have my first published Friday puzzle. After banging my head against various hard surfaces over the years while trying to come up with clever themes, I finally decided to focus on themeless puzzles. I think end-of-the-week is where you'll find me hanging out in the future.

This being my first themeless though, I'm not that surprised that my clues got a major overhaul from Mr. Shortz. I think my favorite clue that did make the cut (and one that I thought was a goner for sure) was "Fox coverage that may be controversial" for FUR. I also contributed Norwegian Ridgeback (though not the Chinese Fireball) from Harry Potter for DRAGON. I was a huge "thirtysomething" fan, so that's why my OLIN is for Ken, and not Lena. And my love for Dr. Seuss knows no bounds, so I'm glad to have introduced GREEN EGGS to the puzzleverse.

Tue 3/24/2015
PEARLTHAWLARA
INTHEEASEEVER
SCHOOLCLUBGAZE
TOLDAHAFARO
IDEALSLIFELINE
LETOTSSLUICED
DESKHERAZEDS
TIMETABLE
MODEPACEADDL
PARAPETLTDIAL
SKYLIGHTREBATE
TWASWOEALIS
CRAWSTICKSHIFT
DELAEACHSANAA
RELYAXESNIGHT

Initially, I was playing with the concept of "Opening Night," in which NIGHT would be the 'opening' for various other words. I had accumulated quite a list of words that could follow NIGHT, and then had that lightbulb moment when I realized that I could combine quite a few of them into their own entries. Cue my happy dance.

I remember the first time I had seen a puzzle with the double preceder theme, thinking that was brilliant and how could a constructor ever find a word that could precede both halves of the entries?! This one just fell into my lap when I wasn't expecting it. Looking back on it now there are definitely fill words that I am cringing over, but I still like the theme very much.

POW Mon 10/6/2014
BSAOBOEISAAC
OASNETSMORPHS
LYINEYESPROPEL
THAIORESBALMY
SINGININTHERAIN
ETDROTUSE
HEREAPARDTS
REXMISSINGERS
ARCWHITEDDY
MCIGOTSRA
PUTTINONTHERITZ
ALARMNYROINRE
REBELSMOVINOUT
TALKEREVERIMA
NESTSTEDSLPS
Tue 8/12/2014
AHAENDRATTLE
DEMPSEYSEYMOUR
ARIETTAIMEANIT
MONTEDIDINYSE
SNOREDNENE
IMNOTADOCTOR
ADZARRSNOOPY
CREAMBUTSWORE
TIARASDOGLYS
IPLAYONEONTV
ONORPRIMPS
AFARALSOIDIOT
REGATTANUTELLA
KLUGMANCLOONEY
STASISDENEDS

This is my 5th published New York Times puzzle — I'm half way to double digits! Currently I'm away on a family vacation in Europe, and I am especially excited this time around to see my puzzle in The International New York Times.

I don't remember much about what inspired this theme. It's just one of those silly phrases that got stuck in my head, and fortunately the letters cooperated on the grid. I played with various combinations of TV docs/actors (determined to include at least one female doc/actress who was widely known, Jane SEYMOUR) and eventually it all came together. Hopefully George CLOONEY and Patrick DEMPSEY also appreciate their appearance in the puzzle. If they would like to share their appreciation, they should definitely give me a call to let me know!

Happy Tuesday!

Wed 10/23/2013
ARCHISLESBADE
SOHOSAUTEARIA
TWISTERCHECKERS
ISPREDPUENTE
MBAIOUTRAYS
CLUEMONOPOLY
AINTREFINENEO
FAKEIDSTEELS
ERSGEORGEVIAL
SORRYOTHELLO
REMITREOARS
ELICITDONIDA
BACKTOBACKGAMES
ETRECOLORSOUP
LEONKAPPAINXS

I started 'playing' with this game theme a long time ago. I had SORRY OTHELLO from the very beginning, and would crack myself up constantly with that one — clearly I don't get out enough. But I couldn't find the right other entries to work with it and had to shelve it for a while. Some possibilities that didn't make it, but had great cluing potential, were CANDYLAND WAR (I decided card games didn't qualify), and RISK PERFECTION. Once I found the giveaway BACK TO BACK GAMES, however, I knew the theme was ready for primetime.

I've always been a huge NEIL SIMON fan. I'm glad he's made it into the Shortz era. I'm sure the CHIPMUNKS are excited to be here too.

Wed 7/17/2013
SKITBOYSCROWD
PERUUPUPUHURA
UNIXDELADOZEN
ROSESAREREDONE
DOPETALE
VIOLETSAREBLUE
RODESTEDAISY
ELEMTAMEDYEAR
AVAILIMNOTIE
POLLENISBADFOR
ETASATOI
CAPMYALLERGIES
ELOPEYAMSHORA
REORGSUETTWIN
ACHOOODDSSACK
Tue 7/3/2012
DRAMACLIPLABS
OILERDECOARLO
GOTEAMSTERDRAB
ATRAIDEALIZE
ORRANUTNEVER
WEBSTERBROWSER
LAOSGEENA
SPYWAREHERETIC
FENDIDATA
MINISTERCOOPER
TENORLEANEMT
HACIENDALETS
ADOSYOYOMASTER
NOMEPREPCARGO
EWESDADSTRYON
Mon 3/28/2011
TOWERMALIBOOB
ERODEALANACME
MAVENOLDDISHES
PLENTYDIVERGE
FEMARESEAT
POKERTABLES
EXILEIMACSTAG
REDMEATSTATURE
UNDOTAMSTOTAL
BRITISHPUBS
BALBOAVEIL
ADORINGREMAKE
SHOULDERSTENOR
KOFIONCEISTOO
SCANMEANCHIPS