KATE: Woo hoo! I took up constructing during the pandemic and am eternally grateful to the welcoming, generous crossworld community for helping out a clueless newbie. I'm ecstatic to have my NYT debut with Scott, whose skill is matched only by his kindness. This was my 22nd submission — I finally wore them down!
This theme was Scott's idea, and we had fun going back and forth on themers (Can you read body language over Zoom? Does a silent movie have words? What's your favorite obscene gesture?). I'm so grateful to inimitable, hilarious mentor Ross Trudeau. I reached out cold to constructors I admired who were foolish enough to list contact information — thank you to collaborators Ross, Scott, Jeff, Adam, Matt, and Laura. In conclusion, woo hoo!
SCOTT: Kate has been a fantastic collaborator. I tend to construct freestyle [i.e., themeless] puzzles, so noodling on theme ideas with a creative partner like her has been a delight. This puzzle went through several revisions to make it more Monday-friendly — including a last one by the editors, thereby losing the fantastic CORI Bush — and being able to debate the merits of many, many fill options with Kate made the process much more enjoyable!
Hey y'all! Glad to be back…and on a Saturday this time! I write puzzles with the goal of a Friday's breeziness in mind so was surprised to see this slotted for the tougher day. Then again, every puzzle seems easier when you create all the answers. The editing team did a great job adding extra trickery to some clues — I hope it allowed for some "aha moments" that make Saturday puzzles so enjoyable.
This puzzle began with the NAME SIGN/DRAG MOTHER combination. ASL was my favorite subject in college (thanks Professor O'Donnell!) and I'm lucky to live in a city with great local drag performers. As an avid runner and Survivor superfan, it's always fun to leave my personal touch on some clues as well.
Happy Pride month, with special gratitude for trailblazers like Edie Windsor and Marsha P. Johnson, just to name a couple.
I'm excited to be back with my second puzzle in the Times! This puzzle was my first attempt at using a staircase stack and I was happy to work in three entries that I wanted to highlight. Luckily, their letter combination also allowed for a lot of flexibility in grid design — so much so that it resulted in almost twenty different versions of this puzzle. This iteration was the one I labeled "final final" ("final" through "final 4" were already taken); perhaps I need to find a better naming system when saving my puzzles?
Since writing this puzzle over a year ago, I've found more joy in the clue writing process and hope I can more of my playful clues survive the editing process in the future. Continuing to develop my crossword constructing chops has been a very rewarding process, and I'd love to offer support to any new constructors or anyone curious about getting started. I would be happy to collaborate virtually, or if you're in the Austin area, coffee and crossword construction is always a great combo!
One last note: if you enjoyed this puzzle, my next themeless puzzle is tomorrow's Universal crossword as part of their #UniversalXwordPride month. Hope you check it out!
Hey, y'all! It's a joy to be making my NYT crossword debut. I'm Scott, a resident of Austin, Texas, where I work remotely for a global non-profit and am a leader of our city's November Project, a free and inclusive fitness movement.
My first ever published puzzle was with Queer Qrosswords, a wonderful collaboration of folks from the LGBTQ+ community making queer puzzles to support LGBTQ+ charities. The entry LOVESIMON was originally a theme answer in that puzzle, and while it didn't fit in that final product, I noticed that it alternated favorably between consonants and vowels and sandwiched nicely in a triple stack. Working on these two puzzles at the same time influenced my fill here. While my personal favorite Carly Rae Jepsen got swapped out and Brigham Young found his way in during the editing process, I'm happy I was able to include some other icons in the queer community.
About two years ago, I crafted a themed puzzle involving related idioms that were inspired by thinking of the clue "one who may leave you out in the cold?" for BLANKET HOG. I ended up scrapping that puzzle but was pleased to work the entry into this themeless. Funnily enough, that clue was left on the cutting room floor, though I am thankful for some of the much wittier clues that the editing team added elsewhere!
Looking back at this puzzle now with an extra year of constructing experience, there are some sections I wish I filled with extra sparkle. My end product could have benefited had I been less shy to ask more questions from the editing team during revisions or found a mentor in the "Crossworld." If any new constructors are ever doubting themselves and need a sounding board, or want to collaborate on a puzzle, I am happy to be a partner! For folks from underrepresented groups, I also recommend the Crossword Puzzle Collaboration Directory as a fantastic resource.