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46 puzzles by Victor Fleming
with constructor comments

TotalDebutLatestCollabs
463/29/20055/12/201724
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
75106666
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.55023
Victor Fleming
Fri 5/12/2017
MISHMASHANEMIA
ALOUETTEDORAGS
DONTSTOPUSMINT
MINHURELEANOR
ALEGKENTSMRI
NOTICECOSDEED
BALLOUARNIE
THINKINGABOUT
CHILENOHELP
ARALGEMREINED
NEWTONYSTERR
TEASETSEARARA
ATTHATTOMORROW
BOHEMESUITABLE
SNAPONOLDSTYLE

President Clinton and I met in 1984 — we were in a couple of daddy-daughter programs with our girls. I campaigned for him during four elections: three gubernatorial and one presidential. (I was running for office myself in 1996 and Bill, of course, rode my coattails all the way to a second term in the White House!) Occasionally, we worked New York Times crosswords together — well, he solved and I kinda acted like I was helping.

After meeting Wordplay principals Pat Creadon and Chris O'Malley at the ACPT in 2005, I encouraged Bill to take a meeting with them. He did so and became a star. (Along with Will Shortz, Merl Reagle, Jon Stewart, Ken Burns, Indigo Girls, Mike Mussina, and others.)

So, it was a natural, I guess, that Will asked Bill and me to team up for the celebrity co-write series. Still, I was totally honored. Will's "assignment" to us was a themeless puzzle, but he made it clear that he wanted something in the puzzle to reflect Bill's life and work. I hope we hit the mark.

Bill wrote the clues. I tweaked them a bit and sent them back to him for review. He circled a few of my tweaks and wrote, "Too easy and boring--might as will print the answers in the puzzle!" So, I backed off. And left the editing to Will.

Mon 9/12/2016
ABHORBRITAHAB
LOOIELOCILEVI
POLLSPOLESTAIL
ONEPIECEFALSE
ANDEMIRS
ASSNIMAMANHUB
FLESHISDUEENO
TILADDSADSEPA
EELDOLESTALES
RRSARETHASSGT
CIGARMAH
SEETOIRISHSEA
ISLEPARESPEARS
CALMICONCACTI
KISSGENTAPSES

VIC: While in Tampa for Merl's memorial service last August, Andrea and I talked about possibly collaborating on a puzzle at some point in the future. We'd both collaborated with many others, so it seemed a logical fit.

Weeks later, I ran an idea or two by her. I was impressed by her keen insight. And her quick resolve not to delve into a theme that wasn't clearly "fun." I tend to default to "complex" and then try to make it fun.

And then … I was reflecting on my first Times puzzle—a 2005 collab with Nelson Hardy that seemed both complex and fun: theme answers were punnily clued phrases in which the present and past tense of the same verb ran consecutively. E.g., SIT SATURDAY, HAVE HADDOCK. An idea came to me: 2-word phrases consisting of back-to-back homophones.

How happy I was when Andrea wrote, "This is fun!" We exchanged a few emails, developing the theme, filling the grid, writing the clues. Will liked it, but wanted some fill upgraded. This led to several revisions. When Will finally wrote, "This turned out nicely," he was holding revision no. 15!

ACME: Judge Vic and I bonded during Merl's memorial last year in Tampa. We discussed turning one of the illustrious judge's ideas into a Monday. PARESPEARS appeared in databases, but we figured the four others were fresh.

As this appears so close to the anniversary of our dear friend's untimely passing, I hope it will do him proud.

Mon 10/19/2015
EKGSALAMOSRAH
LEIAMORONSODE
CABLEOUTLETPIA
INBULKFAMDEER
DUSTSWIREFRAUD
ETALGOAD
PACTAIMSIWONT
EXHORTSKNEEPAD
TEASETAYEREBS
ISNTSPEC
LINEDANCEATSEA
ARMSTERERRORS
PEASTRINGBEANS
UNIOLDBAGAMIE
PALBESETSTIES

Vic: Bruce and I have collaborated off and on for many years, starting back when he and Stella Zawistowski (then Daily) were a prolific team.

Bruce: That's right. And continuing on through the period that Vic and Bonnie Gentry were doing great work together. Every so often, we just think of something we'd both like. We've maybe done about 50 so far. So, late last year I sent Vic a grid with a theme inserted that I thought he'd go for. I like the challenge of interlocking theme entries, and I knew that Vic did, too. I already had it filled, but knew that Vic might very well improve on it.

Vic: That's right. Bruce had done a fill, and I tweaked it some, And then he tweaked my tweaking. But the grid, the theme, and the fill was excellent from the get-go, as always. You want to see some fine Venzke grid work, look at the 1/28/2007 Sunday Times puzzle, "Having Pull," and a 2007 Schrödinger we did for Simon & Schuster called "You Be the Judge" — I forget which volume it's in.

Bruce: Vic is far too generous in his compliments regarding my contribution. Especially on that Schrödinger—Vic had a great gimmick on that one. On this current puzzle, yes, I did the grid, but a puzzle — especially a NYT puzzle — without good clues is like a two-legged stool. And I enjoy consulting with Vic on clueing puzzles like this one. He recommended we clue it to a Tuesday, I think ...

Vic: Maybe even a Wednesday?

Bruce: ... and took the lead by drafting a first set of clues.

Vic: Which Bruce tweaked.

Bruce: I doubt if I changed diddly squat. Maybe three! Anyway, Will liked the puzzle and accepted it as a Monday, which he said would get it into print within a year. So, Vic wrote another set of "Monday clues" ...

Vic: And I sent those first to Bruce, and he tweaked ‘em ...

Bruce: This time I changed two!

Vic: ... and I sent ‘em to Will. And, true to form, it looks as though Will may have used a third of them or so.

Bruce: The long and short of it is that we are always glad to be on the right side of a New York Times byline.

Vic: Right, Bruce!

POW Fri 3/13/2015
IDBADGESHARLEM
TARBOOSHAREOLA
ANECDOTESAVOIR
LESSDARKAGES
OSTRADIOSREPS
OUTOFTHEBLUE
ASTINFOOTIRE
SPILLITSTRIPED
SETONUSAPSES
ALLIWANTTODO
YLEMSIMONEESA
PACECARSTRIM
DRAGONREARAREA
AUGERSYULELOGS
DEEDEESPECKLES

Friday the thirteenth, huh? It's a great day to see and solve a puzzle in the Times!

What was on my mind two years ago when I wrote and submitted this puzzle? I tend to start with two phrases that have not been in puzzles much, if at all. Ergo, ALL I WANT TO DO and OUT OF THE BLUE. Once the grid was built around them, I'm sure I just tried to fill it with ILSA's (in-the-language stand-alones)—I count 18 of ‘em, 20 is typically my goal—while minimizing the need for clunkers to glue them in. I'm sure I agonized over IN A SENSE and HAS A SHOT, as I don't like to have even that small of a dupe in a grid's fill.

I'd have preferred to avoid OST, which I like neither as a German direction nor a bony prefix. YSL would have worked if BRESL were a word. I'm not a big fan of YLEM either at 47-Across. FLEM (short for my last name) would have worked out great if only the ASSAF, a breed of Israeli sheep, were more widely known.

As for the clues, Will did a great job as always. Eight or ten of my originals survived the edit, but the final product is A-OK, in my opinion.

Tue 10/7/2014
RIGCLIMBSALUD
AAREELERATONE
NCORAISEUTTER
DOWNTHEHATCH
ACTIKEYEDUP
LCHAIMSTATOFU
LASPESCILOGON
BOTTOMSUP
BROODAREASPEA
AEROCNNCHEERS
GOESMADSLIP
TOYOURHEALTH
ALIENUNIONERA
GENRETIPPITEL
TOASTSTEEDSAT

Matt:

Initially, I had difficulty squeezing in all the theme entries (I think I had an initial number of eight plus the entry "toast"). I was going crazy thinking I couldn't get all eight in because I was just not good at construction — even after all the years I've been off-and-on constructing. I needed Vic to slap me in the face and let me know that eight themes plus a reveal is a daunting task, even for veterans. I think I was initially writing Vic about something else when I figured I should ask for help on that theme.

I so appreciate the help Vic offered and working with him. His style of collaborating is much more methodical and different (which is NOT a negative commentary) than others I have worked with or have tried to work with in collaborations and that number has been few anyway.

I have no idea where the TOAST theme came from; it has been a while. I'd say 90% of my themes, however, come from an idea that was originally something else but developed into the final puzzle. So, TOAST may likely have started out as anything referring to HATCHES or BURNT FOODS, but the final version is what came to fruition over the then-theme development progress. For another example, I once had a 21x21 (one about anniversaries published some time ago by Rich at LAT) come out of a 15x15 because I liked a theme entry that I came up with, but, of course, the entry was longer than 15 letters.

I do like the [Oktoberfest exclamation] repeat clue idea that Will decided on, especially since he chose it for an October puzzle.

Vic:

Matt, with whom I'd had the pleasure of collaborating back in 2009 or 2010 — we had a joint byline on a Sunday Los Angeles Times puzzle called "Where the Wild Things Are" — contacted me in November 2012 with an ambitious theme: eight theme answers, 58 letters, and every answer was a toast, except for TOAST, the designated reveal. I think Matt's message to me was two-fold: (1) Would you like to help? (2) If so, I'll share the credit.

The deal looked doable to me. We brainstormed back and forth for a few days. I constructed the grid; we contributed 50-50 to the fill and the cluing. The puzzle was submitted Dec. 9, 2012.

From the outset, we were of the mind that, with short and long theme answers, this theme needed to be 100% horizontal in the grid. I think I came up with the theme cluing scheme "Word/words after a shot," since I'd had some success with repeating-clue themes before (see Feb. 19, 2008; Aug. 13, 2008; Sept. 25, 2008; and Sept. 30, 2010). Clever of Will to change that to "Oktoberfest exclamation." But then, he's a clever guy.

Tue 8/26/2014
PRISMDEBTHAUL
SANTAAREAOGRE
ADARKMARCOPOLO
LILIESTONE
MILKPUNCHADLIB
EELERSFINE
TETATNOAMOEBA
ONEACREIFORGET
PENNEYACROEDS
IMONSHEETS
CYRUSMISSPIGGY
LASEHONORE
MENLOPARKINDIA
PANECREENERDS
SUEDASSNTRYST

At some point in time, I decided that an okay puzzle theme would be two-word phrases, where the first respective letters of the theme answers' components were the same and would allow for a three-letter pluralized reveal. M.P. would have trumped MC in my book, since military police is a phrase that meets the theme's criteria; emcee, not so much vis-à-vis M.C. phrases.

My list of potential theme entries, created March 8, 2011, contains moot point, Miss Piggy, make peace, Marco Polo, Menlo Park, match play, mud puddle, milk punch, mail pouch, match point, melting pot, mobile phone, market price, massage parlor, master plan, mashed potatoes, May Pole, melting point, morality play, motion picture, mountain pass, mud pie, and mouse pad.

As a matter of style, I wanted theme entries that were "true" M.P.'s, no M.Ph.'s, M.Pr.'s, etc. I also wanted to be able to cross two pairs of answers. Being able have four 4/5 letter-count patterns crossing on P, plus two 5/4's was a tad serendipitous, but I'll take the added elegance brought about by this. The layout also facilitated placement of the reveal in a corner.

The original grid, submitted in March 2011, had only 33 blocks. Will asked for a revision to eliminate some clunkers from the fill. Adding four blocks, including the cheaters (which I don't like), did the trick.

Fri 7/11/2014
TASTESBADDODGE
SEWERLINEONEAM
ENERGYBARGUMUP
TEAMOKINGSIZE
SITSFRIDAYJER
EDYROONEYPOPO
BUTTSLEHAR
FACEBOOKFRIENDS
LIONSYEARN
ARNETOWAGEJAY
PFCCEDARSMERE
JOECAMELBARCA
ARDORSKIPARKAS
CCELLSEVENCENT
KESEYAREACODES

Sam: So, Vic, do you recall how we came up with this ANAKIN SKYWALKER puzzle?

Vic: Uh ... Anakin was a classmate of yours. He friended you on Facebook. And I said, "We should totally put him in a puzzle! I loved him in that Ewok movie."

Sam: Precisely! BTW, Anakin did well in Econ last semester. So, yeah, we designed this grid with as much lively fill as possible, garnished it with some Scrabbly flair. I even learned a word; when you suggested DEMIJOHN, I Googled for a tabloid name between stars Moore and Cusack ... since when are they an item?

Vic: When you told me that story about finding an ENERGY BAR in a SEWER LINE and thinking, "I bet that TASTES BAD!", who'd a-thunk you could jam those phrases into a crossword?! You use lots of multi-unit answers. In a themeless you did in May, there were, like, 50! Where'd you learn that?

Sam: I'll never tell. [wink] But it's not like I was working alone.

Vic: How cool is it that Will kept several of our clues! Like yours for PEEN, "Part for a whackjob?"

Sam: "What Kramer often called Seinfeld" was yours for JER.

Vic: "They might like your comments" — your clue for FACEBOOK FRIENDS.

Sam: My clue for BUTTS — "Moon units?" — was changed only slightly, to "Moon views?"

Vic: Close enough! I'll give it to you.

Sam: Loved your clue for TE AMO, "Phrase cooed en español."

Vic: And I loved yours for AREA CODES, "409 and 410, but not 411."

Sam: All in all, a good effort. I hope everyone likes what they see. It's been a pleasure working with you.

Vic! Here's to many more collaborations!

Vic: As they say in the clue for IT'D BE ... my pleasure!

Sam: That wasn't in our puzzle.

Vic: No, but it coulda been.

Sam: BARCA was the better choice.

Vic: Especially with your clue, "Spanish soccer club, to fans."

Sun 2/23/2014REEL-LIFE ANNIVERSARY
ROBERTSPASSERSALITO
OPENERAECHELONDONHO
LASTDAYTHEWIZARDOFOZ
FLOODERTEFISSURE
MUSCLEPOPOUTENOS
BOMBSHELLDARNADE
ARITIDETOHEELENACT
INNSPERAGUYNAMEDJOE
LOOMSDYERSOLIPSIST
STRUCKPOTSTAXIGTE
GONEWITHTHEWIND
ALATEARSURENTESTS
CARSTEREOUSTAOPCIT
TORTILLAFLATEREPAGO
ISSUESKOALSNEILLEI
DSTELSAJOANOFARC
LUXEBIDDERINSERT
IRANIANMUGSDREAM
VICTORFLEMINGLAJOLLA
EATITRIPOSTEORIOLES
RHODAADAPTORTEMPEST

At the age of six, watching the credits roll after the annual TV airing of The Wizard of Oz, I saw "Directed by Victor Fleming" on the screen. "Mother," I shouted, "my name's on TV." She looked up from her knitting, but it was gone by then. "Uh huh," she said. I knew she thought that I'd imagined it. Neither my parents nor any of their friends were movie buffs, and my efforts to find someone who would vouch for what I'd seen on the screen were futile. I had to wait a year to prove I was right!

I've used my name once before in a puzzle — a Thursday Themeless in the New York Sun, in September 2004. Symmetrically juxtaposed to VICTOR FLEMING was the answer CHAMP AT THE BIT, for a synonym mini-theme.

Back to the puzzle at hand: Nine theme answers, with two crossing and a total of 97 letters, felt reasonable, vis-à-vis the universe of titles directed by the honoree. Will helped a bit on this after my first draft needed revising. I don't remember the specifics, but he suggested a film that was not in my original lineup. It was either Red Dust or Bombshell. He also rewrote about half my clues. Okay, 60%. Would you believe 65?

I wanted phrases and compound words for the theme, and I think Will did, too. That ruled out Adventure, Hula, Reckless, Renegades, Mantrap, and The Virginian. And some of Fleming's early work is not known at all, e.g. The Mollycoddle, Mama's Affair, Red Hot Romance, Empty Hands, and several others. I hated not to use Treasure Island, Captains Courageous, and Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde, because those titles are well known, if only from the novels that bear the same titles.

I admit to being self-indulgent in this puzzle. But c'mon, man! Victor Fleming directed 40+ films over a 29-year period. And his 125th birthday fell on a Sunday! How could I not make a puzzle about this?

Wed 1/8/2014
BYOBSPURPARSE
ROVEOGLEETAIL
AHEMBATHSPONGE
TORIIRATBONN
THINGAMABOBUFO
YOTEAMOPASTOR
OTICSHORE
NICKELODEON
NIECETOMB
ORWELLBLINKAT
SKITIMESSQUARE
ESSAMENSTREP
BOSSYPANTSJANE
AMUSELUAUOTOE
GEENAYIPEBETS

Sam:

To my knowledge, this is the first puzzle I'd ever had accepted by the New York Times, so it has a special place in my heart. I fell upon this kid-friendly theme after multiple attempts of trying to satisfy Vic with good theme ideas; even though I was merely a newbie at this point, I had a good feeling about this one's development. Sure enough, my mentor gave me a thumbs-up, and we proceeded with construction. Vic was excellent at explaining grid design, and guided me through creating an initial grid, fill, and clues to submit to Will. Months later, Will requested a revision, so Vic designed a new grid with fill and sent it over to me. I tweaked the fill (especially in the bottom right) and clued the puzzle. Vic revised my clues, and the rest is history! It's been a pleasure working with Vic and I can't thank him enough for his mentorship.

Vic:

Sam's right — and he's talented and has been a joy to work with. He was 16 when he made this puzzle. I'd been mentoring him for a few weeks. He developed the theme. I helped a bit on construction and fill. We submitted it Feb. 17, 2012. At that time FANCY PANTS was in the theme rather than BOSSYPANTS.

On June 26, 2012, Will told us the theme needed a "revealer of some sort." We went back to the drawing board and emerged with NICKELODEON across the center of the revised product. On March 25, 2012, Sam had a solo-byline Sunday puzzle in the Los Angeles Times. Also, while we were revising SPONGEBOB, we were at work on a themeless that appeared in the Times on July 28, 2012.

Wed 9/25/2013
EBBTIDESASSAIL
TROOPERSIMELDA
HOTWATERRECOOK
ANTDEBASARULE
NCOSRUPTURE
SOMMESTEPTBSP
LOADSUPSUKE
ANAGRAMPLUGSIN
DENNTSBYEAS
SODAEDITSLEET
TABOOEDERNO
LITTERSJAIVAT
IMHEREHARDTIME
NARNIAINTERCOM
EXUDEDDOSSIERS

Vic: "Do you remember this puzzle?" I asked Bonnie.

Bonnie: Not so much.

Vic: So Jeff sent us a copy. I solved it in under an hour. Bonnie and I concluded that some time back one of us said to the other, "We need to collaborate on another Times crossword." That's a statement each of us has made many times over the years. Since my name is listed first, we think it was I who then said, "I'm thinking of a theme with 2-unit ILSAs*, in which the first and last unit can be the first unit in 2-unit ILSAs with a common second unit." Or words to that effect.

*(An ILSA is an "in-the-language stand-alone." I hope no one coined this acronym before I did, about five years ago. Here's to its being admitted to the dictionary someday! But I digress.)

LINE being the second unit in many a two-unit ILSA, we made a list of those, then worked with the first units to find our theme answers. We wanted at least six, and we wanted two pairs to be crossing in the northwest and southeast corners. The puzzle was submitted in October 2010 and accepted in December that year. Perhaps not wanting to risk comments like "That's so 2010!," Will rewrote most of our clues, though a couple of dozen survived unscathed. As always, he made the puzzle better.

Bonnie: I approve this message.

Mon 1/28/2013
IMPIDLESDADAS
NORLEEZAERUPT
FUELLEVELCAMPO
ENTOMIKEHAMMER
STEUBENSIDYAM
TIEREDPERUSE
SENATSLIPOPED
WHATATOOL
ARALSUBSBLOKE
LETSONCLONES
ABERAEIHAVEIT
MODELPLANEELLE
OXIDEFIREDRILL
DERNSIDESTNOL
ESTASNAMESERE
Tue 12/25/2012
GREGIREDPALED
TAXINEMOOLIVE
OVENSCANPUREE
SECRETAGENTMAN
ULANDIAN
SLAMONTHEBRAKES
HERMITOASTILO
IVEYSNLSTIR
PENSANEFREEZE
SEASONEDVETERAN
ARTEODES
LETTERSTOSANTA
SODOISEERWARY
ARGUEARIAEDIE
MEETSTANSDAMS
Fri 11/16/2012
TVSEASONSMCCOO
HITTHEHAYALOHA
REASONABLEDOUBT
AWNTORIPETRO
LADSRASPSHTTP
LSATSSCRIPAHI
RUEDOOLAPEC
CADDIEDGOLFPRO
ANOSAILNILE
NSFMRMETNEATO
TWPSGEARSWRIT
ERATODEMIANT
PROVIDEEVIDENCE
AMOONSTOLENCAR
REFRYTHREATENS

This was my second Times crossword with legal phrases as the theme. The first was a 9/13/2007 collaboration with Joe Krozel, in which he made a grid with seven 15-letter legal phrases! In my March 23, 2011, transmittal letter, I wrote, "Here's a puzzle you might like for a Friday. The grid is similar to puzzle 8 at the ACPT. It looks themeless and is pretty much clued as though it were. Yet, there's a theme."

If you've read my earlier notes, you'll know that for a time I obsessed over whether and to what extent my theme clues were edited. I don't even check this anymore. Factors that affect clue editing include time lapse between receipt and publication, what's in the previous and subsequent puzzle, and the editor's sense of the audience. But since I've pulled the manuscript ... Two of my four theme clues were retained verbatim! And, while over half of my other clues were changed, Will definitely improved the puzzle's overall merit with his editing!

Sun 9/30/2012CAR TALK
BARACKTHEGAPACEPOS
ADESTEHOMAGELACTOSE
CRUISECONTROLERRATIC
KIPLAMESREARBUMPER
PAPMSGBAGITEIRE
ANEMOENOTESDEMAREST
YODUDEIBAREDEL
DEVGIZMOSNINER
HEADLIGHTLEOSSALAD
ENTTOTSELENATEVYE
AUTOMATICTRANSMISSION
TRIBETEHEESCOORNS
HERODASIACRANKCASE
DELISADWAREINA
CUBAELEECARPET
INSPIRITBIDENSCLIPS
NAPEGAYERECKLIE
TURNSIGNALEDGARIST
ASININEHOODORNAMENTS
CENSORSONAGERGOOGLE
TAGNETOGRESSSENSES
Sat 7/28/2012
STARDATETAPPAN
PILEITONATHOME
IDITARODMTOSSA
FATMAKEMETTOP
FLOGHARDWON
OATERSABASH
CALORIESCRUSOE
ALIGNEDSEACALF
SELLERCHICKLIT
ASYETLEELEE
WETBARSTOKE
OSHAIMAGEDBEL
SHIRAZMONOGAMY
LITTLEINCLUMPS
ONEHITCELLMATE

SAM: There wasn't really much that "inspired" this puzzle, except for the fact that I wanted to be accepted by the Times. I also wanted to learn how to make a good themeless. Vic, who'd been mentoring me for some time, said we needed to come up with two backbone entries to build a grid around. He chose PHOTOBUCKET, as it was fresh and modern. I came up with GOOGLE EARTH. He designed the grid.

VIC: We split the task of filling the grid, almost literally, down the middle. As always, I was pushing for multiple ILSAs (in-the-language-standalones), and Sam delivered in spades, pushing our count to over 20.

SAM: I clued it all up. Vic tweaked my cluing. Will asked for a slight revision. Vic revised it. I revised his revision. We got accepted. And boom!

VIC: As we write this note (Dec. 2013), Sam has now had eight more puzzles accepted by the Times, including a terrific rebus that was published on 12/13/2012!

Sun 3/11/2012100 YEARS AGO
HAGSNLUSBREDVAPOR
INHALEDNURTUREORATE
SNOWOWLSCIATICYENTA
SASHAYJOHNJACOBASTOR
TINOAWAGEGO
OSLERUNSINKABLEABO
BPOEKINTIERRASNAP
OAFSCOTTSCECERAISE
CRTWINSATOPTSELGIN
ATHLETEXERSITPOHL
EENYTITANICSENT
SASSSODHATCOASTAL
PABLOTHEMPUTOUTOVA
FLYINAEROSPURTSREN
CASETHEMAPNAHBERG
SDSMOLLYBROWNALUMS
FANIFHEMARE
ENGLISHCHANNELPRIMPS
SALUDELECTORITSABOY
STATERUNLATECOOLERS
OLDENABSDESCNNRET
Mon 2/13/2012
CELLOAMFMMEMO
ARIELBOOPIRAN
BREADDOUGHSONY
SSNBIASRADIO
GARRYTRUDEAU
FLOATEDOVID
AUDIADENIRA
WAITINGFORGODOT
NUNTARTSEAM
ESAUCAESARS
MARLONBRANDO
EBOOKOREGAPO
LISPREARWINDOW
ODIEUGLIERASE
NEEDMODERAMEN
Tue 11/22/2011
BOPBAJASPASMS
ONOALOTOLDHAT
WEMADEITREMEDY
IAMBSNIPAID
ELECTICANDREAM
TWINRESAVES
CIVICLEWLIRR
BLTTHEYSAYLIP
UOFAIDEGOOSE
SNIPINGKERR
HEGOTGAMEKISSY
USCRANDNOPE
MARTHAYOUAGAIN
FUELEDOBEYPCT
ASSESSRITEYEA

This puzzle demonstrates how using 100% of available theme units can overcome a theme's low-excitement factor. I wanted to come up with seven ILSAs (in-the-language stand-alones), preferably all phrases (vs. hyphenated or compound words), each having as its first unit a different subject pronoun. I wanted to cross theme answers in each of two corners. The one iffy entry was SHE DEVILS, which seems to have etymologically evolved into a hyphenated word. However, if you glance through IMDb, you can find this word going both ways in movie titles over a 50-year period.

I submitted the puzzle to Will by mail in April or May of 2010. I had a cross-country road trip planned for late June, with stops in Williamsburg VA and Southbridge MA, en route to a golf weekend in Killington VT. I routed myself through Will's home town and invited him to dinner. He accepted. Before dinner, he gave me a tour of his puzzle factory, showing me his collection of old puzzles, and then pulled out an envelope with this puzzle in it. He critiqued it on the spot, accepting the puzzle, but asking for revisions in a few places. It's the only puzzle as to which I can claim an acceptance in person. (He also rejected three puzzles that afternoon, but let's not go there!) We had dinner at the Pleasantville Diner. I dropped him back at his house and then drove on to Southbridge.

Mon 2/14/2011
BALMMACBRAVO
AREAICESREVEL
ICANTSTOPLOVING
TSHIRTSRAWSTA
LOAAIMS
IMWALKINGBEHIND
DIELENDSURER
TABSSKILLBASE
AMENDROUTQTS
GIRLIMGONNAMISS
SOONCHE
BAGONOCHOOSES
ONLYWANNABEWITH
ONIONSILOETTU
REBUSBMXDEAN

VIC: I admire Lynn's thematic tautness and deft touch with early-week clues. Always have. In late October 2010 she did a CrosSynergy titled "A Bone to Pick." The title made me think of "with you." as in, "I have a bone to pick with you." Her theme consisted of ILSAs (in-the-language stand-alones), the first unit of which could precede "bone", e.g. TAILWIND and WISH YOU WERE HERE.

My idea was to use "with you" as a reveal, with four partial phrases that could end with those two words. Falling flat, this idea morphed into, first, phrases ending with "you." And then into song titles, and then love song titles. I had trouble making a grid that would accommodate the lengthy theme — a good time to seek help.

Since Lynn had inspired the idea, I asked her if she'd collaborate. Her initial reaction: "Your proposed theme is pretty far afield from a bone to pick!" But she agreed, made a great grid, and wrote the clues. We pitched it to Will as a Valentine's Day special.

Sat 1/22/2011
MASSMEDIAIMACS
ATTHEBELLCARAT
STEELBELTAETNA
HIREESHORNLTR
ERODEHANDFORT
RELYSOVSWIVEL
INFERADELE
WOMANOFTHEWORLD
ABACKAHORA
TERESAENEATOB
EDGYGLUESPINE
RIALEOSPLATTE
LEROIAUDIOCLIP
ONENDMAINTHEME
OTTOSSLATHERED
Fri 11/19/2010
STOPSFOTONOL
TANYAIBARBEBE
ALERTROLELOST
LEARSELKSANOS
ASCHDAISSCALP
GETITONTOOKTEA
CHETOUTEATS
STOVESSTYLES
CAPITOLATEE
ATECAKEREDDEER
LENTSAPERSUMO
DRNOUVEATURIN
ITERGERMASONE
NOSYLIMALAPEL
GTSINSPENEMY
Thu 9/30/2010
MRSPOCKSTACY
DECOROUSMACRAE
IWOULDNTUTURNS
RTEGODLYOTB
BEESIFIWEREYOU
ALPBRUCEROOT
REAMERSERAI
BADIDEABACKOFF
LEGGSTOAMAN
ELBAOHWOWNUM
THINKAGAINMINA
RASACORNHOV
ASTERNDONTDOIT
DAREMESUBMERSE
ENOLATALLEST
Fri 2/19/2010
OFFICEBOYTBARS
HARTCRANEELIEL
BROWNEYESCARGO
AMWAYSANACRIS
BENSOSHKOSH
YRSWAGSSALUTE
BASTEAGATES
JOETHEPLUMBER
RUPAULISLAS
EDESSAATTNHMS
RINSINGFOAL
ACLUDICEHILDA
TIARALADIESDAY
EATENDRIVETIME
SLEDSSPEEDSTER

This is probably my most memorable Times puzzle to date, as it came out on Friday of the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament. I'd no idea it was slated for that date, so it was a pleasant surprise when I saw it online at 10 p.m. the night before in the hotel. Next day, what a great feeling it was to have avid puzzlers coming up to me for hours saying, "I hate you!"

This puzzle was submitted under letter to Will dated Oct. 22, 2008. My note to him read, in full, "I call this one 'Joe.' Hope you like it." Apparently he did. The puzzle was built around JOE THE PLUMBER, which had not been in a puzzle when I submitted it. Joe showed up, though, in two Monday puzzles, as a theme entry, before mine was published. See the 12/29/2008 LA Times puzzle by David Kahn & the 4/27/2009 NYT puzzle by Joe Krozel. Easy come, easy go.

Tue 12/1/2009
CAIROOREELBOW
ALLENFEZGOOSE
ROOSTFAIRYDUST
AMIEINAPET
FALCONCRESTIRE
EROTICAAQUA
LASESALUMS
FATHERKNOWSBEST
ILIADSLOAN
REEDTWEEZES
EXOFALLHARVEST
NEARLYORCA
BREAKFASTFLOOR
ABOVEMOOAVERT
DINEDALENESTS
Tue 11/24/2009
GUMTREESLYPICA
ENCHANTTEEIDOL
ADDEDINATTHEEND
ROLFGAVEIPANA
IBMALASKA
ALANBALLWHENALL
REHABEITHERSEA
EVELISSAIDAKIN
NIACOSELLVNECK
ANDDONEKEEPAWAY
UNSEATDSL
LAIRDBOREYODA
OFTHEDAYONASSIS
AREAIRSSIMILES
DORMGASACESOUT
Thu 10/15/2009
DATANAMATHCPA
EMITARABIAHIC
BETTEMIDLEREPH
ALTARLEOIPRET
SIERRAHONOLULU
EAREXAMCABIN
APTLYPAYING
IOLANIPALACE
SONDRADONAT
AWEEKPETEASH
MAUNAKEALABREA
PCPSHERAMACAW
RIPBARACKOBAMA
ATEAKINTOEREI
SYDGINNEDLODI

Hawaii's 50th birthday as a state was Fri., Aug. 21, 2009. Six months before that, I submitted this puzzle and thought it had been accepted for that day. That day, however, featured a Patrick Berry themeless. When my puzzle ran eight weeks later, the bloggers had a field day. Rex Parker had not "disliked a puzzle this much in a loooong time, ... A bunch of random !@#@ about HAWAII. How Does This Qualify As A Valid Theme???," he asked. "Ugh."

The Crossword Fiend wrote, "I wonder if Vic hoped for this puzzle to run around August 21, the 50th anniversary of Hawaii's statehood. There doesn't seem to be any particular rhyme or reason for running this theme now, but two months ago? Perfect." And a commenter at the Wordplay Blog remarked that "I thought this puzzle might have been timed to coincide with the 50th anniversary of Hawaii's statehood, but the actual date was Aug. 21. I wonder if this was originally intended to run on or near that date."

Sat 7/25/2009
AFTAINCUMBENTS
TARPNEOREALISM
PROPOSEMARRIAGE
ACLEFTINCTSTE
RELATENOISE
RETAGSWAN
ONTNUMISMATIST
VESTEDINTERESTS
EMPIRESTATECAB
ROSEOREOS
DECAFSLOPPY
BEGAARONAURAE
ELECTRICALSTORM
NOMDEPLUMEEMME
DISTRESSEDROAN
Sun 2/1/2009GRID-IRONY
STIRHUMSABITOFBELTS
TILEDASIAROSITAOXEYE
ALLIEZEALMOLTENATONE
PLENARYHIPBALLCARRIER
LEGATECAVESMELINDA
ERAHASHMARKSOEDPOLK
DSLGUAMIPSERIPOPEN
MORALSTHEATRESLIEGE
TWOMINUTEWARNINGRUNLOW
RATEDIVANNEGLECT
ANINDOSESOCKICKOFF
IDOSUPERBOWLSUNDAYFRO
TANTEEOMNIRASPAFAR
FATCATSENGRAGENT
PROAMSPASSINTERFERENCE
OVULESTRENGTHAIRERS
LETSNOTADINATNOIRA
ERSEKEGTIGHTENDSVIS
STREAMSSOILSEASELS
NEUTRALZONEDNAESTELLA
IXNAYTENORSTRODADIEU
PETRIIBERIAEGADYENTL
SCOTTPOTENTDEFYREST
Thu 9/25/2008
PUTTRIPPOLISH
ESAIIDAOPENTO
RECEIPTSSTEFAN
GREASEILENE
TOGAEGETSCARDS
ALUMNUSHEASST
CAREERHEEL
ONUSSTIRSABBE
LUISARTERY
SACALESWATTER
PULLSAGUNIRATE
UBOATSPARTA
RUSHINSKETCHES
GRETNAEEGTIVO
ENSIGNTDSSPED
Wed 8/13/2008
DINTSFLEXIDED
INOUTGONEDUNE
ACTRESSCARLISLE
LITTLEOMOOTAJ
SALARYEXOTICA
POKERTABLEMONEY
EREAREDEN
ASNERNITDEPOT
REGGUYRNA
GUNSMOKEBARKEEP
IMITATESHEAFS
APAITRYOPRAHS
NICKNAMEFORACAT
TRIOGISTOTERI
SENSOTISSEDER

For whatever reason, I wanted to have four 15-letter answers that could all be clued with the same one-word clue. Six months earlier I'd had a puzzle in the Times with a similar theme gimmick. Not to be overlooked are these entries, which I believe made the puzzle more attractive: ONE SHARE, NOT TAKEN, GOTTA GO, IN-OUT, I TRY.

The more theme squares a puzzle has, the harder it becomes to include multiple high-quality ILSAs in the non-theme fill.

Tue 2/19/2008
YIPSLEEJGLARE
ARIAOBLAOOZES
KATYGRAFSQUAT
ONTHEGOLFCOURSE
VISINEALFA
LRONATCOST
SELMALORNINTO
PLAYINGEIGHTEEN
ALUMYANGEYING
RADIALDAWG
SLOEREVISE
HITTINGTHELINKS
ASIANRAINLOIS
STAKEEXECLILA
HOSEDTISHALLY

This crossword combines my favorite sport with the gimmick of having multiple theme answers clued identically. Under letter dated Aug. 27, 2007, I pitched this puzzle to Will as a Wednesday; thus, it's not surprising that few of my original clues were used. My proposed theme clues involved cross-referencing, so that each theme answer clued the others.

I liked the edited version so much better that, in the ensuing months, I did three more puzzles with a similar approach — see 8/13/2008, 9/25/2008, & 9/30/2010. See also 1/28/2007, a Sunday in which Bruce Venzke and I did essentially the same thing, with adjustments for singular and plural pronouns.

Wed 12/19/2007
LETEMCELEBDAD
ILONAENVOYADO
MANSTANDINGNOG
ONENESSUSING
DAYSOFPOMPEII
BEERTROOPELSE
ITALOOLEIC
OAFTHELASTNAY
ATARISTONE
BOSCROSSIETNA
OFTHEMOHICANS
GLEEMTENDONS
IANPICTURESHOW
ETOTOPUPSTORE
SEGYULESTOTIE

Submitted in June 2006, revised after acceptance in Apr. 2007, this simple puzzle came about as a whim during a late-night research session. Using onelook.com, I searched for phrases starting with "last" and listed several possibilities (BUT NOT LEAST, CLEAR CHANCE, IN FIRST OUT, a few others). At some point it hit me that THE LAST would be a nice central entry, so I culled the list accordingly.

Sat 11/24/2007
NECESSARYCLASH
OPOSITIVELENTO
MELSDINEREAGER
OEDENGRWADEIN
STOKETAVERNS
CROONSROVER
LARUEPOWERBASE
AGERSELESOREN
MUSICHALLJARED
NAILSCAROMS
ORIGINSAANDW
HELPMESLRSHBO
AGORAGOTOSLEEP
RANONINELEGANT
ANASSSERENADES

This crossword was submitted 53 weeks before its publication and became my third Times themeless. The clue that I submitted for 29A was [Source of support]. As you can see, Will added a word to that. If I can count that one, then, as unchanged, then one of twelve of my clues to long answers survived the edit. The point (to new constructors, perhaps) is that three years into this new hobby, I still couldn't write clues worth a darn. Yet, it's my favorite part of the game. It is also important to note that Will's job as editor is to make puzzles better, and he does an amazing job of this!

By this time, I'd begun to realize that the keys to gaining an acceptance with a themeless puzzle were (a) having a couple of backbone ILSAs (in-the-language stand-alones) functioning pretty much the same as theme answers and (b) getting as many ILSAs as possible into the rest of the puzzle. I began with LEADER BOARD and TOURING PROS, neither of which had been in a puzzle before, according to my research. By my count, there are 15 ILSAs in this puzzle.

Thu 9/13/2007
AMSSWAMIBOOZE
CAPITALOFFENSES
THEDEFENSERESTS
ORLEATEAAA
RELAPSAYEAR
AULDELSA
ADMISSIONTOBAIL
COURTAPPEARANCE
MOTIONSTOSTRIKE
ERESESSE
HIREDEASTLA
ALGVIMTIOS
JURYOFONESPEERS
EXPERTTESTIMONY
TESTYESQUENER
Thu 8/30/2007
NEWMANONTHEWAY
EXHUMEPIRANHAS
WHERETHEBOYSARE
SINISTERNEUTER
LIAVEALSRI
NAFTAPTASENDO
IRAISEENOSTEX
SALCHOWELEVATE
ATLENIDDELRAY
NEILSPECDANCE
NIAEERODAH
ARLENEPERMITME
WHONEEDSENEMIES
LIVEALIEONIONS
SNEERSATTURNTO
Sat 7/14/2007
BRADSHAWPRISMS
DEVILISHADRIAN
AVEMARIACASTRO
LENBEATLESUAR
TNUTENSORHANK
OGEESSTYBITTE
NESTLEHADAMEAL
HORSELESS
FIREBOMBLIESTO
OMARSEINELLER
RPMSMAGICFORD
GAPMARINERGRE
INABITDORAMAAR
VENICEENTRANCE
ELTOROASSESSED

Submitted in Dec. 2006, this was my second themeless Times crossword. The first was Nov. 18, 2006, so that one's being in print probably inspired this one. As noted at the 11/18/2006 puzzle, only one clue was retained for answers longer than seven letters ([Some cats], for SIAMESES—clever, huh?). In this puzzle, four clues for answers of eight or more letters were retained: 35-, 58-, and 63-Across and, my favorite clue of all time, 8-Down: ["Hey!?"], for WHAT'S THE BIG IDEA.

In my transmittal letter to Will I see that, in this time frame, Kyle Mahowald, as an undergrad, was organizing a crossword tournament at Harvard, and I'd been asked to help recruit a VIP speaker. Kyle had a Sunday Times puzzle in print when he was 17 (see 9/19/2004)! And on Thu., Jan. 12, 2006, he had a Times crossword with 22 rebus squares! Why am I telling you this? Because it's more interesting than anything I recall about my puzzle at hand.

Wed 6/20/2007
THEJAIIMPACT
OILWELLAREAMAP
YESISEEMANLESS
NSCTSQUARE
PAIGETOTSCI
ANNETENETENDE
LANDTAXLOTDIA
ACETICPATIOS
DIRTISNOTMANY
ENCETAROTONNO
IVETUTEBSEN
CROSSATELI
LOCKSINBUELLER
ALLEARSALGEBRA
TIEDYEDAYOAT
Sun 4/22/2007FOR APRIL -- NATIONAL POETRY MONTH
MAJORBUSLANEIAMSTMEN
ADOBEONEIRONSWAKHILO
LIKEFISHIFITSMARIGOLDS
ONEARMSEEOUTSTRAND
HYATTFRESHITSGOOD
ALETURKICEPAOSAGE
LILACRAINESINCASHTRE
TRUTHINITSSUNDAYCLOTHES
SALOONTHEUSACARLO
PRAMTRAVAILWEAR
OBIIRISHANECHOASKINGA
HORIZONTALCONTENTION
SHADOWTODANCEPEETEDDT
ORELLABELERETES
ERNIESAYIDOEPILOG
THEDEIFICATIONOFREALITY
WONEPINALMRKITEDONOR
ORRINMLIESSENEDEO
ANACTOFPEACENEARS
GARBLENEWBIESALLIE
ONINYEARSBEINGNOTDOING
DONSSIKHALLGONEOMEGA
ERGOELSEGLEANERNOSED

For this National Poetry Month puzzle, I wanted definitions/descriptions of poetry, as per recognized poets. I did not think there'd ever been a Times crossword with a theme consisting of several quotations from various sources. About twelve hours of research, online and at the library, produced dozens of potential entries. The key was finding items brief enough to effect a balanced array in the grid.

I began with a 21x21 grid and produced two or three drafts in that format that just did not please me. I asked Will's permission to expand to a 23x23. He okayed that. I then returned to the library and produced another ten potential entries. This is the puzzle on which I spent more time than any other in my tenure as a cruciverbalist (about 40 hours, I estimate).

My favorite quote from the puzzle is Carl Sandburg's remark: "Poetry is an echo asking a shadow to dance."

Sun 1/28/2007HAVING PULL
SPEWSOSIERGIBBOOPS
TOSIRCADREOTRADRAT
ALLNIGHTERSGUARDDUTY
GLAREDATOPERAS
PROBATETIASENHORA
LINENSTARSKYTOOLED
STEAKSLOFAUSTEDGE
STARTINGPITCHERSIN
APOCAMEOUTCASHEWS
TOWNCARDENDAMELITE
MONEYSMUSCLESBISTRO
ERWINFOPHAGSENECAN
HELIPADSERRATEHRS
SOICLIENTSCASEFILE
LUGSALLIEDTSVIRGO
ASHPANSNIFTERETONS
PETITESNAHRAGTOPS
EUCLIDTEENIDOL
HANDBRAKEWISDOMTEETH
BRIOEVERASSADIMAGO
OMANWEANSMOKETEPID
Tue 12/12/2006
OBSALAMOHILLS
UAWFAMEDONEUP
STONECOLDNAFTA
THROWERSHELTER
SENDRAGOYL
ESPLYSOLNAW
CANALSMIREUMA
PRETAPENAMETAG
AIMILKSHOARSE
SAYNIGELNSA
ETCTIMISLA
BAYAREASINEWED
ERITUBITTEREND
STPATEBERTEYE
TEETHTONESTAR
Sat 11/18/2006
BABAWAWAMISAIM
ORALEXAMOHENRY
NOTABENESOCCER
NUTSSTREEPHST
ESLTINYBOIL
TEESPOCOVERGE
SONIAALSORANS
FASCINATING
JETPLANEADIEU
ASHOEGMCSEAST
MIENKOBELSU
PANANDALLHATS
ASIAGOSIAMESES
COLLETSCHENKEL
KNEADSYARDSALE

I submitted this puzzle about 50 weeks before its publication date. In the transmittal letter I listed the twelve longest answers and their clues. In what was becoming, by then, something of a tradition,

Will changed eleven of those twelve clues. The one that survived, though, was so clever on my part that I feel bound to repeat it here: [Some cats] SIAMESES. This was my first themeless crossword in the Times.

Sun 7/30/2006FINANCIAL FUNNY BUSINESS
BAGSPRISONSLOBSRHEAS
OREOCONTRAEARLEHELLO
MYOUTPUTISDOWNBUTEASEL
BARRISTERARACESTORAGE
ANGELRIOAGEBURST
YSERMYINCOMEISUPITAKEA
TEEMTRATOTPACERS
POMPOUSFEBAORTATHANT
SHORTPOSITIONTIMEENER
ASNOTRESTATENANUESO
LATTEACEFILLIONA
MYEARCLASSCLOWNTRISH
XENALSTSAAAARNIE
SAWDUMAOJOSVICNIGER
AVOWTERMONTHELONGBOND
MIRESORALEIOSCOLADAS
BALBOAIDALEOSORE
ANDMYREVENUESTREAMDCII
ABBIEDNASUDMEANT
CLOSESTOLINSAUTOPARTS
OUTTAHASITSOWNCASHFLOW
SIRENEZINEAIDERSTINA
TSARSROSESREADTOONER
Thu 1/5/2006
OSCARFLITSRIMS
ROLLOAUDRAUNIT
ALIASSTOATMICR
CONSISTENCYISTHE
LEGEPSTYRASAE
EDYSUTAGREET
MARACASRILLS
LASTREFUGEOF
SNARKTRIPLET
POUTSTEESTDS
ISRIRAQRALRET
THEUNIMAGINATIVE
TIASMINEOLABOR
ERTEENDERAMAIN
RTESSOAKSWILDE

Fifty-one weeks before this puzzle was published, I submitted it to Will. The transmittal note saved in my computer files doesn't reflect this, but I am pretty sure I hand-wrote a P.S., in which I pointed out that the substance of Wilde's quotation was perfect for a puzzle that broke with the 15x15 conventional grid.

Getting quip puzzles accepted at the Times is tough. Always has been. Always will be. There has to be something above-and-beyond about the quip, other than that it's never before been in a puzzle. I suspect the only reason this Wilde quote had never been in a puzzle is that the constructor simply has to go with a 16-block-wide grid for the 16-12-16 parsing. The quip parses at 13-3-12-3-13, but in that configuration, both of the 3's are the word THE.

I could be wrong. There may be other ways to do this quip, via something other than a traditional symmetrical grid. I was just lucky enough to be the one to submit a puzzle at a time when Will had decided to accept some 16-wides.

Tue 8/9/2005
JIVESPLICEBIC
INITALANONESO
BREADBASKETLTR
SESSIONSRETTON
MTSSCRUB
SUDSESQUIETUDE
CLOTSRAZORCAL
ANGEFITINSKIM
LABSETAEBALSA
PRISONERBOLEYN
SLUGSSAX
RECAPSTAKECARE
EAUCHOWDERHEAD
MRIAUPAIRURGE
OPTNIPSEYMOEN

From old correspondence files, I see that I submitted this crossword under letter of Nov. 2, 2004, captioned "Corny Stuff." In my letter, I did not reflect on how the puzzle came to be. From old research folders, I see a document titled "Sweet Corn." The first half is devoted to ILSAs (in-the-language stand-alones) starting with CORN: CORN BEEF, CORN BELT, CORNBREAD, CORN CHIP, etc.; 17 in all. The second half is devoted to SWEET—SWEET DREAMS, SWEETHEART, etc.; 15 in all.

For most of the ILSAs in each batch, I listed words that could follow the second word. Under CORNBREAD, e.g., I had DOUGH, LINE, BASKET, etc. Under SWEET TOOTH, I had BRUSH, DECAY, FAIRY, etc. I think I had in mind a grand theme that would somehow unite SWEET and CORN in the same puzzle. For whatever reason, I decided to use only half the research and do one puzzle. I don't recall if I ever did a puzzle from the rest of the material.

Wed 5/4/2005
PAPATREEMAIL
EPICSROSYEINE
THEHOLYSEEDOSE
TIRELESSOILER
YDSVATICANCITY
BEDRUE
ACNEEHUDBARAK
POPEBENEDICTXVI
BERTLANCEASAP
ORUMUD
HISHOLINESSCOQ
ONTOPONREPORT
ADAMJOHNPAULII
RILEERIESCOOP
DALYBETAERNS

My first-ever NYT having seen print less than two months earlier, I was full of myself. The year before, the Feb. 4 puzzle by Roy Leban had honored Bob Keeshan, who had died on Jan. 23 — some 12 days earlier. I think that was a record turn-around time for a current-events puzzle. But, for sure, it inspired me to think that some themes merit email contact with Will.

Pope Benedict XVI was elected on Apr. 19, 2005. I emailed Will a proposed theme to capitalize on his election around midnight that night. Will's reply was in the affirmative, conditioned on my getting him an acceptable finished puzzle by late the next afternoon. As for how the theme was executed, in essence I made a list of words and phrases that might apply to the situation and used those that seemed most apt.

I made the decision that, because of the nature of the puzzle, all the theme answers should be horizontal, for ease of reading (by the masses). I debated whether to put blocks in the boxes that start A TAD and end BEET, giving the puzzle 78 words, rather than 76. I was even more tempted when it turned out that my best long non-theme answers were going to be EHUD BARAK and BERT LANCE. But I submitted it as is, holding the other option as a fallback, in case Will didn't like those two chaps crowding in on His Holiness. He took it as delivered, though, giving me a symmetrical story to tell: The turnaround time on my first NYT crossword was 14 months; on my second, 14 days.

Tue 3/29/2005
GAPEDWATTSHON
ABACIIDAHOAPE
SELLSOLDIERVEX
ANDESDECENT
RELIEDBASEHIT
HAIRYBRAPLATO
ERGSFOOTHOLD
ASHPOTSHOTDNA
TOUGHIESCOUP
SPLATENDGECKO
TRISTARBONKED
RETTONAGENT
OFTSITSATURDAY
DEEEMITSTAUPE
ERRAESOPSLOTS