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Todd Gross author page

17 puzzles by Todd Gross
with Constructor comments

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Todd Gross
Puzzles constructed by Todd Gross by year
Mon 7/23/2018
EMCEEISISMICE
LARAMNOSEEBON
SPUROFTHEMOMENT
ESSTAHOENERVE
ADELEIVEIER
ORDERSOFTHEDAY
LIENERAFYI
APRILYINEDGAR
RIBNOBTUNA
BOOKOFTHEMONTH
LOSEWEINYOU
ALIASLATCHSMU
PERSONOFTHEYEAR
ERIKANTERERUN
LOSSTSAROASIS

I have a few confessions to make about this crossword:

  1. I didn't know ORDERS OF THE DAY until I looked it up because I needed another theme entry.
  2. I had to look up PERSON OF THE YEAR to be sure that is how TIME referred to their annual honoree. Especially given that in 2017 (and 2014, and other times) the award went to multiple people.
  3. My first version of this puzzle had the theme entries closer together, which was harder to fill. I only moved the entries farther apart when Will's comments on my second version made it clear I couldn't fill the puzzle cleanly that way. See Deb's Wordplay article for a more thorough confession about my problems there.
  4. Yeah, DID TOO is making its NYT debut today. Another playground retort no one asked for. DID NOT has appeared twice in the NYT, but both are pre-Shortzian and neither is clued as smack talk from a pre-teen.

Given all that, despite this crossword's theme, I have no expectation of getting PUZZLE OF THE WEEK. Disappointment of the Day, maybe.

POW Thu 4/19/2018
POKEUNIVCACHE
AREANOTEHERES
BEETHOVENAHORA
SONIAMISSOURI
TOATURNCUTUP
SSNGOATEESIAM
SHUSHSMELT
COUNTTHESQUARES
AILEYSTEIN
BLUEISEEITSPF
LTCOLPIONEER
ARACHNIDRINSO
LITHOMARKSPITZ
ICEESEVILALEE
FOSSESEAMTERN

The most difficult part of getting this puzzle published might have been working up the courage to send it to Will. I've had this theme for a long time, maybe before my first NYT puzzle was published. I remember Peter Gordon said no at some point. Finding theme answers isn't so hard...if you're OK with them being short. Certainly, numbers like TRE, FOUR, and CINCO will work, as will elements BORON and CARBON (based on their atomic number...or actually, the clue would mention how many protons the atom has). But all of these are 6 letters or less. Long entries are harder.

The only decent long entry I thought of is MARTIN BALSAM, which I can clue as [Actor who portrayed one of this many angry men] (he was Juror #1). Maybe one of y'all can come up with enough good ones to make a good puzzle. Add COUNT THE SQUARES as I did, and it should work. I give you my blessing.

So, having two 9-letter and two 8-letter thematic answers feels less than satisfying. But adding shorties didn't feel like it added much, and Will seems to agree. And it does make the grid look different, and the theme answers stand out less. So that's something. I hope solvers enjoyed the change of pace, as well as the unusual theme.

Thu 4/27/2017
CENTRALSUDOKU
ORCHARDNAUTICAL
PRIESTSUNBEATEN
ASSETMTMNOLA
MARSHEIRE
SWIMITERATEABS
OHMYCARETDFLAT
CEASERATESATYA
KEYDIETARYNOSY
MUNIPSSST
CODEONONAPES
HAIRCUTSERASURE
IHATEYOUMEFIRST
PUZZLESQUARES

My original idea was to create a Sunday-size puzzle with a full 9x9 Sudoku grid in the middle. Even if you let black squares substitute for one of the nine letters, however, I'm pretty sure this can't be done. So I decided to try a 4x4 grid instead. This was definitely simpler, as I could alternate vowels and consonants and use just a few common letters.

But a 4x4 square (and the entries that use it) isn't really enough theme material. I saw that I could add SUDOKU / PUZZLE and CENTRAL / SQUARES on the top and bottom rows and that would spread the theme material out. It also gave me a lot of bottom row letters that are hard to work with! The sudoku grid is also pretty hard to work with and required lots of black squares nearby to make the fill work.

This puzzle's wacky theme (Will's e-mail to me started "Well, your "Sudoku 2x2" is crazy ... but in a fun and novel way.") is matched by the wacky grid: 16x14, no long theme entries, lots of short entries, but also several mid-length nontheme (hopefully fun) ones. I'm glad to get my tenth solo NYT puzzle published, but if it's not your cup of tea, feel free to say I HATE YOU.

Sat 6/18/2016
BARBACKONEL
ALLUSIONHONOR
MAINSTREAMMEDIA
IKEAALLISLOST
DENGLLDSCLI
VANESSASRAN
STAYINNING
STPETELEONES
PARSECEAVE
ETEHARASSES
LEDAMENLYIN
MRAMERICAESTA
ATTENTIONGETTER
NOONSADULTERY
TRUETANDEMS

This puzzle is all about the grid pattern. Somewhere I got the idea of a grid where all the blocks are square-shaped, then it took some work to create a grid that was pleasing to the eye and not impossible to fill. Twenty percent of the grid is black squares, but there are only 60 words and the grid is all interconnected.

My starter entry was ATTENTION GETTER, which I thought hadn't been used before, but it's appeared 4 times in the NYT. Oops. That means the less-than-whimsical ENDOCRINE SYSTEM is the only new 15-letter entry in the puzzle. At least 1-Across is a fun fresh entry.

And yeah, there are lots of unfortunate short entries, from AIT to ETE, ELD to ENSE, and ONEL to LLDS, and maybe the worst of the bunch, NEAS. I'm sure it would have been smoother had I used the XWord Info Word List.

♫ ♪

For crossword fill that's clean as a whistle

Use the XWord List like a guided missile

♪ ♫

I need to go download my copy now, before ALL IS LOST.

Mon 6/29/2015
NEEDSLOGSFRAT
EMMACAIROLEVI
WEBCRAWLEROPEN
TRACERSERGEANT
ARABICNORCUE
MLKALICEWALKER
ODESYAHSPY
MSDOSOUTHOTEL
LEAREVNATE
BLADERUNNERXCI
AIRPERTROMPE
KEMOSABEBLEATS
ELANRADIOFLYER
RODEUNITSEERO
SWAGGEESEERAS

TODD: This puzzle started with an e-mail to my fellow constructors about my WORD LOOP puzzle (squee!), where I mentioned I was now just a Monday short of hitting for the cycle (or, as one clever solver called it, a "Shortz top"). Andrea offered to help me create a Monday puzzle. How could I refuse?

Well, actually, I *did* refuse at first. Because at the time I wanted to hang up my spurs and stop submitting (this was *before* the WORD LOOP puzzle was published ... and reviewed). I felt like I was letting solvers down, and once my puzzle was published I couldn't fix it. Andrea said she understood, but urged me not to quit. So I suggested a couple of theme ideas to her, we went with the second one.

First, she came up with two improved theme entries, then I created a workable grid for our theme, which she filled. The grid had some nice entries we removed (like BARACK and BB KING) because it meant using entries like ABAD (a bad idea) and OTAY (less than okay). We fixed these, but couldn't fix DACCA in the upper left or EERO and SROS in the lower right.

Andrea sent Will our puzzle in late January of 2014. Will accepted it in early June, and a year later it's ready to solve. We hope everyone who crawled, walked, ran, or flew (or just logged in) to get a copy will enjoy our joint creation.

ACME: The nice theme was Todd's idea but I changed two entries (T-BONE WALKER became ALICE WALKER and AISLE RUNNER became BLADE RUNNER). He was a fun and easy to work with collaborator.

Thu 3/19/2015
SELBYINCHJAM
ONEADSELAERA
CROCSMAXEDRAN
HONKPAYTVRUBY
INSTEADTEXAS
ODIEORIGAMI
TIMBURTONISLAM
ANYASOLOSTELE
BOSSAMETACOMET
UNHINGEHIER
ACCRAILLICIT
CARSASSNSCANE
OHOSTUNGSHINS
PENAEROTENET
YMAGREWUSERS

Did you notice that (1) the theme entries are entered vertically and (2) they're arranged in alphabetical order from left to right? This is supposed to mimic the actual arrangement of encyclopedia volumes on a shelf. (The sort of "extra effort" BEQ said he was championing in a response to his Ten bullshit themes post.)

The original idea for this theme came from the old "How to Hug" joke. My first thought was to have entries spanning the whole alphabet in a Sunday sized puzzle and title it FROM A TO Z. But I couldn't think of any good entries with a Z word, so I scaled the theme back.

Why would you go by "King Philip" when METACOMET is so dope?

The main trick constructing this puzzle was coming with theme entries of the form <word> TO <word> where (1) the phrase is well known, (2) the two words are in the correct order (LEFT TO CHANCE wouldn't work because LEFT follows CHANCE in the dictionary) and (3) the two words had to be fairly close together, otherwise it would be a rather thick volume (RIGHT TO WORK doesn't work because R and W are too far apart).

Once I had a set that worked, there was the problem that I needed to use lots of black squares because of the difficult lengths of the theme entries, which is why there are only 74 words in the puzzle. I got lucky to find TIM BURTON and METACOMET to cross three of the theme entries, and two good long vertical entries (JERUSALEM and MY SHARONA) to parallel two of them.

I submitted the puzzle to Will in October of last year, he said yes to it on 20 Feb, and amazingly decided to publish it less than a month later. I'm particularly grateful for this as I'm attending the ACPT for the first time in five years, and this puzzle should still be in peoples' memories. I'm guessing Will wanted to publish this while people still remember what an encyclopedia is.

Sun 9/28/2014 FOUR BY FOUR
MAHARAJAIMARETSHTTP
ANABOLICCALORIEOHHI
SAMETIMENEXTYEARLEON
SCALIAREFICRIEDOUT
ETSNSAGALLTANEY
TIESOLLIELOINS
SANESALTLAKECITYUTAH
AREASMIIERODEROSE
COURTISAACOPENSHOTS
HORDESATLASENSUE
SMOOTHSEGGONTENACRE
WHOMEAESOPRODHAM
JOANOFARCROGETCHIVE
ABUTARGOTOREOILER
WITHARMSWIDEOPENGENY
STOICSPENDTESH
STREPSPANHUHFRA
INAWHILERBISTITLES
HERALESSTALKMOREROCK
ORALENCLAVEEVALARUE
POLLDAIRIESWILDCARD

I sent Will the initial version of Four By Four in early June. I heard back in late July, saying he liked the puzzle but wanted me to change two entries that repeated words: BADA BING BADA BOOM and KISS KISS BANG BANG. Those were the two entries I liked most ... which is why I put them in the upper left and lower right. Sigh. But that misplaced enthusiasm meant they were easy to exchange for two replacements Will suggested. First time I recall him doing that.

I mailed the updated grid in early August, and got this e-mail about a month later:

Hi Todd,

This is Joel Fagliano, writing on behalf of Will.

Thanks for sending us the revision to your "Four x Four" 21x. The theme looks good now, and you've done a great job with the fill. We've made a few changes to the grid to remove GHAT and GARS.

So, this is a yes. This should run relatively soon, as our Sunday files are pretty low.

--Joel

GHAT was at 42 Down and GARS at 97 Across.

I was happy I could include a fair number of nice entries, starting with MAHARAJA and ending with WILDCARD. Also happy I could use NOGOODNIK.

Thanks for the "relatively soon" publication, Will and Joel! This was a lot faster than I expected.

Tue 1/21/2014
WORDWOODWOOT
CIDERABLEEBRO
OLDIETEEMMEMO
REENACTSIMARET
DERIDEEASED
NEDSBENEATH
CABDAVISSICKO
OWENRESETTITO
REVELLENINDST
KEYWESTTEES
STEEPRUPIAH
CARWAXLISTENTO
OGEEUPASRETRO
ORNEALTAADRIP
KOOKLOOKLOOP

Pardon my crucinerdism, but I'm totally psyched to have my 10th NYT crossword, which means I get to be on those awesome XWordInfo lists with the cool constructors. WE MADE IT! Squee!!! (uh, I mean WOOT!!!)

Oh, right, the puzzle... I submitted it in April of 2011. Will accepted the puzzle in September, but didn't publish it until now because, well, I'll let Will tell you. (I believe the reason for the long delay is he has a lot of word ladder puzzles waiting to be published, and he wants to space them out. Makes me curious what all those other puzzles are like.) Note: I created this WORD LOOP puzzle well before Ms. Gorski's EDGINESS puzzle was published, so I couldn't LISTEN TO her (and Jeff's) advice. I don't remember pulling my hair out, but I did need to use A TRIP and ADRIP as crossing entries. Sorry about that.

Did you notice that O is the only vowel along the perimeter, and that there are no O's in the rest of the grid? Indeed, if you connect the O's, so to speak, you'll get a shape that looks a lot like an O. And since O is the only vowel in my name, it seems fitting that I would be this puzzle's constructor.

Thu 1/2/2014
IBARSALLAFLAT
RECAPDUOMOOCH
MACHINESVARACE
ARENOLTETONER
UPLATECHINESE
OPTICSSHAVERS
DOETHMOIRES
ANDIWALLMEMUS
GEAREDPLANK
FRANCISDEFTLY
GLUTTONDEAFTO
ROSIEACORNROE
ORSONTHERULESB
FEINTEARTOSEA
ETAPEDIRSASSY

I first tried this puzzle on Peter Gordon in March of 2012. He liked the theme idea, but didn't like that every theme entry would take the same form. I tried sending it to Will in July of 2012: he liked the idea more, just asking me to improve the fill in places. After a couple of resubmissions, he accepted this puzzle the same day (in the same e-mail, in fact) as David's and my recent Crossword Centennial puzzle.

I don't remember where the idea came from, but I was really glad I could use 51 Across as a theme revealer (my original clue was "Taking liberties ... as with this puzzle's theme"). I'm also interested in seeing how 8 Down will be clued: a straight (if somewhat racy) definition, or a reference to the 45 year old hit song? Also, I couldn't resist referencing Stan Newman's book Cruciverbalism to clue 52 Down...I'm guessing that clue will be changed.

Sat 12/21/2013
ANGIENEWYORK
PERKSSOLEMNER
SHEETFUNGICIDE
ERETAMPAACOW
SUNDAYWORLDESE
LUMENOLES
OMANISOWNERS
RANDDCOSTA
ORDEALCLOSED
ELOISTATE
BBSARTHURWYNNE
ELAMEWELLTEX
DALAILAMACHIRP
INEXCESSGUAVA
MCMXIIIINLET

Todd:

Unlike our previous collaboration, this puzzle had a long gestation before being published. I submitted my original version in March of 2012. Will liked the basic idea, but didn't like about 9 of my original entries.

I mentioned my puzzle to David at Crosswords LA in May, and he wanted to see if he could improve on my grid. Turned out he could indeed: we submitted our revised version in June. After several back-and-forths, Will accepted our puzzle this August! We've had to wait almost 4 months for our centennial crossword to be printed ... it's hard to wait that long (ask any kid right about now)!

Finally, I'll note my original version had FUNICELLO at 16 Across, which is definitely more FUN than FUNGICIDE!

David;

It was a pleasure working with Todd on this centennial puzzle. The grid was a real challenge to fill because it not only had a themeless word count (70) but also contained four theme entries with rather unfriendly letter patterns (I'm talking about you, MCMXIII!), not to mention the FUN arrangement. Nevertheless, Todd and I were able to pool our resources and produce a fill we're both very proud of!

Thu 7/18/2013
MINSKSWMBRAVE
OMANITAOLORAX
CAPEKARREAGLE
MARILYNMONROE
DDIAMONDS
AHNENTENTEASH
REEKEDADJURE
IRANEQUIPETTE
ARTENERVETOAD
FLODIYALG
TARTUPBEIRUT
RUESLATHERAPU
ADAMELIELIPOD
WIKIABC'SOHNO
LOSTASSUSER
Wed 6/12/2013
PONCETVADLUST
ADIOSRAMSITTO
COCOCHANELMIEN
TREKODINDECAY
IMPELOOLALA
ANGERSLEDGE
GUESSKATESMITH
EDNALAMASOMOO
SEENOEVILSNORE
DIVANBROKER
MUSCLYTHEIR
USERSNCAAAINT
NATEJOHNDENVER
RITAAVIDAGATE
OREMMAPSTENSE
Sat 2/23/2013
ROADSTERS
SAMUELADAMS
MINNESOTAFATS
LENDERSTRATI
ITERSSAPSTPAT
TRAYSENETELKS
TODSPLITSCREEN
ESOEELLIKESHO
RECONNOITERCOT
EXONTUNEDSELF
RUNESTESKINDA
SANSEIWINTER
LOTTERYWINNER
ROASTMASTER
PETEACHER
Sun 10/14/2012 MEDIA START-UPS
ASANAASSADTALLATMS
TENETTHOROIRAEDRIP
TENDERLOVINGCAREMANE
INARREARSNOTBYCHOICE
COLORISTLANAIHINTED
REDHOUSECATHISSY
BASEWAINNANAS
ALLMYCHILDRENBATHTUB
BEEWHIRSOLEOLEMAZE
USEDCARSORARESEPIA
PEARLSBEFORESWINE
AMISSPOORLYPASTDUE
BEEPCOLLIEGAOLSERN
CHRISTOTOTALBODYSCAN
COALSBEENOKLA
ANWARSTROLLERAGR
LEIBEREERIERUSHESIN
TELLNOTALESFALSENAME
MDSECAROLBURNETTSHOW
ATOMHENSONICETEENS
NONEELSENOTESONLAY
Fri 1/13/2012
MUSLIMSTEENAGE
ANTONIOBANDERAS
SPRINKLERSYSTEM
LINSEEDSSTYLE
SEP
PALISHASOFLIP
ISINTOTORABORA
DANGEROUSCURVES
ENGENDERALIENS
RTSTERNSTEREO
SAN
INTWOMANIFOLD
DOMESTICANIMALS
ELEPHANTTRAINER
DONTASKLETTERS
Sun 6/20/2010 PUBLISHING TRADE
PASSEMPAALEONBATHE
ASCARCANADADRYICHAT
JOHNNYGOTHISGNUKEENE
ANISVOLSASEAMIND
MISEOVOCLODMOUNTAIN
AAMILNEBOSSEXGIVSO
UNREALANYTBILL
HALFPENNYFASTCORNEA
AMOREDELANOTOPIC
GARETHERATOFWARBIER
ENDSRYABLTIRKACRE
NAOHAPREFECTSPYBOIL
FABLERESHODOLETA
ATTILAPRESSOBEREDUP
NEHRUDISTAMALE
TEEELANREMYSILENTC
INFINITEJETSBSCMAIL
IDOLSEATVICIENNA
IDLESAFAREWELLTORAMS
REESEHONESTABELINES
VESTSIREDOLOFALANA
Sun 9/13/2009 LET'S PLAY BINGO
BSEVENMSSPAIDAWORD
TORINOOWNAURANOSEE
WHALERHEEGFORTYNINE
EASEAGREETONEROXER
LVIVHFTRADEMANATEE
VENTIIDEAMAPENEMY
EIGENFANTASIABOAT
NETTVCOMEINTO
DYADWYOISIXTEEN
DEPOSITSDENT
TARNISHVERMONT
ETREDERAILED
BFIFTEENRNASEWS
ASNEEDEDATLAS
SUITOHMEOHMYPEPSI
NEALERETREATISLET
NEEDLEDSLOBSWIEUAW
ALTLAIDANISTONONME
ISEVENTEENTIECARDIN
LIEINOMNIEARATTEST
SENDSROANDNANFORTY
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