When I was a kid, I remember seeing my grandmother solve entire books of crossword puzzles in ink. Nowadays, I have a friend who is always flying across the country to crossword competitions. Somehow, these two people in my life sparked an interest not so much in solving puzzles, but in constructing them.
In the wee hours of a West Hollywood, Calif. winter night (yes, there is a winter season in these parts), I downloaded CrossFire and started tinkering. Before long, I had built three puzzles and, aiming for the stars, sent them to Will.
He burst my bubble promptly — "bland" was a descriptor — but regardless, I felt this one had promise. I revisited, revised, resubmitted, and this time, received a more encouraging response.
Compound answers like BBC AMERICA, SALARY HIKE, POCKET COMB, and TIME TRAVEL sang to me. SQUILLIONS was a lot of fun, too, all the more so because it is a debut (along with BLOWS APART). I had to put in a lot of work to get the crosses up on their feet.
As I prepare these notes, I see that my grid is identical to one by David Steinberg, and I am pretty sure this happened because I had seen his name as a prolific constructor, and thought, well, heck, I can tackle four long triple stacks, too. My puzzle is now running the day before a new one of his tomorrow, so thanks for the inspiration, David. You have a new neighbor!
By the way, I'm really excited because this is not just my first puzzle to appear in The Times, it's my first anywhere. Talk about a feather in my cap! I hope everyone enjoys it.