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Trent H. Evans author page

10 puzzles by Trent H. Evans
with Jeff Chen comments

TotalDebutLatestCollabs
109/3/20183/18/20241
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0520021
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11.554229%
Trent H. Evans
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Constructor (10)Jeff Chen (9)Hide comments

See the 42 answer words debuted by Trent H. Evans.

Collaborator: Beth Rubin
Alternate name for this constructor:
Trent Evans
Puzzles constructed by Trent H. Evans by year

Trent H. Evans, originally from Fort Worth, Texas, is a clinical psychologist (trentevans.com) living in Catonsville, Maryland. He is also a semi-professional musician and runs the indie crossword site Grid Therapy.

Mon 3/18/2024
ABBIETOYSJILT
DRUNKABETUBER
SISTERCITYMEGA
EYEATEMOPTOP
BLOGFITS
ECOPURPLESTATE
PADMEALASALEX
ORIONTAUKRONA
CLEODOINETHEL
HOSTCOUNTRYATT
PANTASAP
ESCORTFYIBAA
DALIALIENWORLD
IRANSILLARTOO
TINTKEEPSTYES
Sat 2/25/2023
FROYOITWASNTME
ROBINSOIGATHER
AGLETHIDEYHOLE
TAILORLESSREC
BIGDEALPEET
ONESNOCAMERAS
YESHOWAREYOU
RIVERCARD
CARENGINEODD
GETERDONETHEO
GEREGSTRING
ANTCALLTWITTY
READALOUDISSUE
TRIALDATETHORA
HANDMODELSANER

This grid pattern reminds me of an explorative set of themelesses by David Steinberg. All of them had central parallelograms, the first with a wide one, another that was more sectioned, and yet another tuned in with learning gleaned from his prior work.

Trent's parallel splash into paralellogram themeless world more than GETs ER DONE — five strong entries across the middle, especially for those hold 'em players out there. (RIVER CARD is slang for the final card, coming after "the flop" and the "turn card.")

There's not much running vertically through these marquee entries that's exciting, but there's nothing gluey, either. Such a smooth solving experience.

Like in some of David's works, the corners of Trent's creation are sectioned off, the NW and SE especially so. It was much easier to flow into the other two corners, and I appreciated the amazing color in the upper right: IT WASN'T ME / SO I GATHER / HIDEY HOLE paints quite a picture.

Sectioning presents such trade-offs. I'd love more flow heading into each of the four corners, but letting a constructor work on a subregion independent of the rest of the grid can result in greatness. I'd take READ ALOUD / TRIAL DATE / HAND MODEL any day for the price of some bottlenecking.

Nice results in the heavily choked-off corners, too. I doubt those giant 7x5 chunks would be possible if Trent opened things up, like moving the black square below YIELDS up one and the black square below ON TOE down one.

It's frustrating to get stuck in an isolated corner of a crossword, but if it's going to happen, I want subsections as strong as each of Trent's.

Fri 8/12/2022
SPACECAMP
THEDOGATEIT
MORNINGRITUAL
FAKETANFLUBUB
AXEDBATPHONE
VININDEXYOGA
AMSCRAYSPHASER
LIVETWEET
ATEASEIWONTASK
CRAMTEENSCIN
MARSALISBETE
ECTDENPARADOX
THEDOCTORISIN
YOUNAILEDIT
SPINCLASS

Been a while since we've had a themeless featuring symmetrical black square chunks in each of the four corners. I like the spherizing effect, almost producing an 8-ball visual. Not as 8-ballish as an EIGHT TRACK TAPES mini-theme, though!

(Our Calendar page makes it easy to browse themeless patterns since thumbnails handily pop up when you mouse over them.)

With a layout like this, it's critical to squeeze every last drop of juice out of the precious few long slots. Trent did well, with so much SPACE CAMP, SPIN CLASS, MORNING RITUAL with a winky crossword reference. I'd nearly say YOU NAILED IT!

Why "nearly"? Given the sky-high threshold for Friday themelesses these days, even minor nits stand out. THE DOG ATE IT is a solid answer, but it feels dated, given that so much homework is done electronically these days.

And this Charlie Brownesque guy loves THE DOCTOR IS IN, but cluing it as a song from a 1967 musical made it a bit Charlie Browny for this theater moron.

Trent's mid-length material, though = ACED IT. Six and seven-letter slots are challenging to make sing, but FAKE TAN, PARADOX, CARFAX, PHASER, TABOOS are so evocative. I appreciate the care he took in all those selections.

(Will Shortz typically doesn't care about short dupes like YOU NAILED IT / ACED IT, even when they cross.)

Black squares eating away at the four corners makes construction so much simpler. Three blocks per corner ease things by a factor of five, and six blocks per corner is more like an order of magnitude. The constructor in me thus increases evaluation strictness proportionally. But even with that considered, Trent did a great job of eking so much sparkle out of almost every possible slot.

Mon 1/3/2022
HARMNOMSGEASE
OREOARENAGRAM
MINDREADERGERI
ESTEESETSBAIL
YESLETSZETA
SLEEPERAGENT
AAATEAMETER
ALLOVERTHEPLACE
HIPPOIOSSKY
STOPITYOUTWO
OCHORAINMAN
BADSEEDSLEONI
ACAIGUTFEELING
LINTADIOSARIE
EDGEPEROTPEEL

I was sure I'd crack "Name That Theme" after spotting DREAD in MIND READER. Over the years, I've gotten tons of emotion-based theme queries, so it had to be one of them: FEELING UNDER THE WEATHER? Nope, no weather phenomenon above DREAD.

MIXED EMOTION? No — DREAD isn't anagrammed, and anagrams would be too tough for a Monday.

UNEMOTIONAL? Hey, calm down! It was just a guess. I'm not overthinking things, you're overthinking things!

FEELING DOWN? Ah! DREAD is a form of FEELING DOWN! It would be perfect if it ran vertically, but—

RAGE? Well …

LOVE? Uh. Love hurts?

GUT FEELING is a perfect revealer, expressing that an emotion is hidden within a phrase. HIDDEN EMOTIONS would have worked, too, but it's not nearly as snazzy.

"Hidden words" are commonplace these days, so they have to feature outstanding finds. Length can help — DREAD's five letters is strong, although common letters like A E R take away from the neatness.

Spanning across multiple words can also elevate. PITY in STOP IT YOU TWO (which I unconsciously shout every ten minutes) is a winner.

Wonderful gridwork. You can almost always work in a couple of long bonuses — EGG BAGEL and OPPOSITE would have sufficed, but SETS BAIL, RAIN MAN, BAD SEEDS = YES, LETS! To incorporate all that with only ESTA sticking out on editors' specs sheets is exemplary. There's no trick except hard work: testing a layout, reconfiguring black squares, iterating ad nauseam.

A "hidden words" theme has to have something exceptional to stand out, and while this doesn't have tightness (so many other possible feelings left this one not quite sparking joy), the quality of finds and strong gridding make it a solid Monday debut.

Tue 5/19/2020
ACHOOTCBYBESS
TRACEAREAEXIT
WITHRELISHAPSO
AMESALSOIMEAN
REWCRYPTICALLY
ATENUB
ALTARSPUROPEN
LACKADAISICALLY
ASHEEDGEAROSE
TSADDT
OFFHANDEDLYHAS
ALLEYERIELOFT
SOARMERCIFULLY
TARATROTONEAL
STEPVERABASTE

Trent brings up a good point — let's talk about what makes for strong early-week short fill. Just like a great editor, the short fill should be unnoticeable, otherwise it's not doing its job. Although I score many words at 50 — my "it's generally fine" level — I err on the side of liberty. I don't downgrade an entry unless the word is definitely going to be dinged by most editors.

Constructors have to be more careful, though, when it comes to early-week puzzles, where you run the risk of turning off newer solvers. Any one of the following words would likely be fine on its own, but as a whole, this set could easily make a newb walk away:

  • BESOT
  • SISAL
  • CADY
  • DICTA
  • OASTS

INRI is definitely to be avoided, since if you're not Christian, it's impossible to figure this out. (And I'd be curious to know what percentage of Christians know it.) A FLAT, on the other hand, may seem arbitrary, but it's easy to fill in. It's a fine entry.

On to the theme. Ah, Tom (Swifty), so often employed throughout the history of crosswords. Tom is always so helpful when I get lazy in my writing and need an easy way out.

"Why labor to provide evocative descriptions when you can simply use an -ly word?" Jeff said authoritatively.

Mic drop.

Tue 4/7/2020
SPANSTRAWTALE
HARELAILAOLAY
ACERASCOTYORE
HEADINTHECLOUDS
FETEHOT
STEEDSODWALLA
OWNSCANOEOAR
FEETONTHEGROUND
ARMMORALUPDO
SKYMALLMETEOR
ANOLAMA
MINDINTHEGUTTER
ORALGROWNIOWA
ROTIEERIEMOET
KNOBROASTELSE

(Body part) IN THE (place). Easy enough theme to explain! It's much tougher to figure out why it didn't work as well as I wanted, though.

Tightness is highly desirable in a theme. If you can't think of any other phrases that would work, that's a mark of success. It took me a long time to find others, and they weren't all great. HANDS IN THE AIR (like you don't care — word up!), FACE IN THE CROWD, EYE IN THE SKY.

Although Trent's three themers are fairly tight, they're missing something: an a-ha element. Tightness isn't enough, if the given pattern isn't that interesting. It needed some other layer, perhaps a progression of CLOUDS to GROUND to … HELL? GRAVE? Hmm. that doesn't work.

Ah! How about having all places up above? For instance, EYE IN THE SKY, HEAD IN THE CLOUDS … is NOSE IN THE AIR legit? Not sure, but that sort of extra layer makes a theme stand out.

With just three themers, I expect a sparkly and smooth grid. Trent did well with the former, treating us to WATCHDOG, NERDFEST, ODWALLA, and my favorite, OUTATIME. What can I say, I'm an 80's movie fanboy.

As for the latter, the grid would have been fine if this had been a later-week puzzle, where experienced solvers wouldn't even think once about HORA ROTI ONEL LOUPE. For newbs, though, these can make a puzzling experience … puzzling.

Even the cluing felt too tough. OSHA or the FDA are WATCHDOGs, yes, but why not a clever clue that's easier and more fun for newer solvers? You could play on "boxer" as a type of dog, for instance.

It's a fun start of a theme concept, but it could have used more brainstorming to help it evolve and flourish.

Mon 11/4/2019
BEARDKNEEEARS
ARRAYABELATOP
NICKELBACKGOYA
ACHEOUTALLAN
SILVERBELLS
COSTASBIAS
ASTORTEESCOOS
PLATINUMRECORDS
NONEALOTLUZON
MBASMOTORS
TINPANALLEY
AFOOTALAJEDI
MILLMETALMUSIC
PLIEITEMINANE
ALESTARAREUSE

I was sure the revealer was going to be METALHEAD. Sure. SUUURE! I was so confident that I filled it in and paused only briefly at the empty square left at the end. Crossword constructors do all sorts of kooky stuff, I reasoned.

Like convincing oneself that Will Shortz would allow a purposeful blank space in a Monday crossword.

IT COULD HAPPEN!

Monday crosswords should lure in unsuspecting novices — why don't you try this one, oh yeah!, didn't you get such a rush from filling in every box correctly? Why not try another one? Heh heh heh — huh? No, I wasn't evilly chuckling.

Zynga's Crosswords with Friends pushes far to the side of easy-peasy-[Sour yellow citrus fruit]-easy. Every single entry ought to be so gettable that if you can't fill in every box, perhaps it's a sign that you can't actually speak the Englishes. It's not an approach I'd recommend for the NYT, but it does make their puzzles accessible to a tremendous slice of folks.

Should a novice NYT solver be expected to know (or at least have heard of) SARI / NAAN, LUZON / KABUL, IFILL? Yes ... probably? However, having so many of these together risks leaving the newb with a feeling of "This can't be correct." I'd have cut some of these, even if it meant tossing in a couple of (easier to figure out) partials, abbreviations, etc.

I appreciated the attempt at tightness, linking all the metals to music instead of using METALHEAD to describe "anything that can start with a metal." It's a shame that METAL MUSIC isn't a stronger phrase, though, and that the assortment of a band, a song, a musical achievement, and a locale felt only tenuously connected.

Fri 8/30/2019
OFFICEWIFECBER
MELLOYELLOLIVE
EVILGENIUSAGES
GENSTATSMART
ARCEDFLESHPDA
SHAVERSCAMPER
TRUESAMULET
SUEREACTLEN
JUSTSOMOHEL
EIGHTPMCELEBS
STRAEAEASTEEP
TEARYCECESNO
EDDAARROWHEADS
RUEDDOILOOKFAT
SPASSNEAKPEEKS

Ha ha ha, do you look fat? Don't ask questions if you don't want the answers!

I soon as I typed those sentences, I RUED it.

Seriously though, DO I LOOK FAT hit me the wrong way. First of all, isn't the stereotypical joke "does this dress make me look fat?" Second, it's a stereotype. Third, let's be honest, maybe I have EATETH too much.

72-word themelesses have to be near perfect, given the ever-escalating bar. I enjoyed OFFICE WIFE and MELLO YELLO, a bit of EVIL GENIUS. I did wonder if OFFICE WIFE held connotations of cheating? Made me uncomfortable, but it's fine, if not as amusing as "work spouse."

As did MOHEL, EDDA, ILIAC, and the bizarre strings of EATETH AEAEA. That last one looks like the result when my 3-year-old son gets onto my computer.

Even EVERDEEN might be tough for some. As much as I loved "The Hunger Games" (remember all those ridiculous questions about "does Jennifer Lawrence look too fat to play the role of near-starving Katniss?), I wonder if its specific names will stand the test of time.

#TeamPeeta

I enjoyed some of the long fill, SNEAK PEEKS and EVIL GENIUS in particular, but both of them are hard to clue in clever ways. For a puzzle featuring EVIL GENIUS, there wasn't a lot of wickedly clever wordplay going on.

Mon 3/11/2019
COLICSASSNEWS
OHAREALTOOLIN
LIVINGDEADDINE
TOASTEDTAPIOCA
ELLIEACTED
RECORDEDLIVE
ODORSADELIL
LIPBALMWARHERO
LEEROOFAVON
FOUNDMISSING
APLUSERODE
CRUDELYAERIALS
RINGOPENSECRET
EDGETIMENOONE
SEEDSTUDENDOW

This puzzle is no GENUINE IMITATION! Wait. I didn't mean to say that. Or maybe I did. I'm such an (oxy)moron.

Four (awful) good oxymorons featured today. It's tough for me to get excited about straight-up oxymoron themes, given how many puzzles I've made about them, and how many people have asked me for help with their own oxymoron puzzle. There are tons of lists out there, chock full of hundreds of oppositional phrases, including one that's my go-to.

Although I liked the four Trent chose, I did hitch on FOUND MISSING, as it made me think right away of pictures on milk cartons. As a parent, I don't want any hint of that in my five minutes of recreation. (It was also on the aforementioned list, so no points for freshness, either.)

Execellent execution on the grid. It's rare that I fly through a Monday so quickly; such buttery smoothness. Even after a second pass, I couldn't find anything even minorly objectionable in the fill. It's common to have just one or two blips but to have zero deserves high kudos.

And jazzy long fill, too. LIP BALM and WAR HERO are excellent. STATE LAW and MONEY PIT! Even NO DICE and FUDGED were fun. The added spice was much appreciated, especially given my oxymoron burn-out.

Check out what Trent did with his themers. Instead of alternating left-right-left-right, he has two on the left, then two on the right. That often makes for a tougher construction job. Here, it (indirectly) led to having to segment the grid up into a top mini-puzzle and a second bottom one. Not ideal — solving flow is compromised.

It also made it tougher to work in long downs, since it's much easier to have a long down go through just one themer rather than two. I bet Trent could have worked in even more long bonuses — and even juicier than the ones he had — if he had used standard themer alternation.

Overall, nice work. I'm always happy with a smooth, well-crafted Monday grid. I bet most newer solvers won't have encountered oxymorons as much as I have so the impact may be stronger for many.

Mon 9/3/2018
CHASESTORMAPP
AESOPIONIAWAR
SITTINGDUCKKEA
ERASENDSELWAY
SOHOASIANS
STANDINGORDER
AERIESRICODAB
AARPAOLTAME
BROAURASPIGOT
WALKINGPAPERS
INHALEEARS
GEESESONIAPAW
LEARUNNINGJOKE
ODDGRACEOLLIE
OSSYIPESNOEND

Fun imagery, someone SITTING, suddenly jumping to a STANDING position, WALKING in alarm, and then jolting to RUNNING. I'm imagining it as a Festivus miracle!

(Awesome clue for POLE for us "Seinfeld" fans.)

Let's start with the feats of strength. Great choices for themers, SITTING DUCK, STANDING ORDER, WALKING PAPERS, RUNNING JOKE all phrases I'd happily work into any crossword. SITTING DUCK is particularly colorful to me, as my two-year-old son doesn't say much yet. But man, does he QUACK like the dickens when he sees a duck!

It's cute. And a little bizarre.

I also appreciated that Trent maintained consistency in his themers: (verb in ING form) + noun every time. Some might gripe about WALKING PAPERS being the only plural, but when do you ever see a singular walking paper?

ARROWHEADS and AWKWARD AGE, both nice bonuses. The latter caused me a pause at first — AWKWARD STAGE or AWKWARD TIME felt more spot-on — but I can buy AWKWARD AGE.

(For me, that's pretty much any age.)

Now, for the airing of grievances! Not many, but OSS, ASTA, and NEHIS are stale entries, ones that constructors ought to phase out. AMOR is tough too, for newer solvers. I don't mind AERIES so much since it's a word heard on "Game of Thrones" recently, but I've heard complaints about that being esoteric too.

Nice debut, overall. Not a ton of extras outside the two long downs, but PARAGON, MAKES DO, and the Festivus EPISODE of "Seinfeld"? Good stuff, all.

Now if someone would just work THE HUMAN FUND into a crossword.

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