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37 puzzles by Will Nediger
with constructor comments

TotalDebutLatestCollabs
375/27/20064/11/20216
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
16027219
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.77133
Will Nediger
Sun 4/11/2021MERGER MANIA
CIRCEABRAMOBJECTORS
UBERXHUEVOBEAVERHAT
LIFECOACHESINBALANCE
DETERSYRUPTONEPOEM
RELAYDYLANUSS
UKETEARNOOKTIBIA
SINGLESBARSDRIVENUTS
UNDEADATEAMBEELIST
ADULTSCEPTERSSTELMO
LAMEMMAISOSPUTTER
TROUBLESHOOTERS
MIGRANTOAFPARMTSP
AQUILADOCILITYOPINE
SUITCHEHEIDIMIAMOR
TIDEPOOLSSPAMFILTERS
STORETIEDBAILCEE
ALEARROWBLAIR
BARESALLSIZEDENNUI
ANIMATIONPOLOGROUNDS
GETINHEREUNLITDICES
SWELTEREDPESTOETHAN

DICK: I "met" Will Nediger by requesting his mentorship, freely offered on a Facebook group of cruciverbalists. That led to our collaborating on a number of already published and pending publication puzzles, and we have developed a pattern for our collaborations, which held in this case. I come up with a theme idea, and related grid entries and clues that I think will make most editors jump for joy, and Will shows me how wrong I am while suggesting how to take my idea and make it ideal.

We then trade back and forth about theme entries within the construct Will has outlined, and when we have an agreed set, Will constructs the grid and locates the theme entries in it. I take the first crack at filling the remainder of the grid, and Will takes my draft and improves it dramatically.

I then take the first crack at drafting all clues. Will revises to create contemporary references for some of the clues, eliminate my tendency toward verbosity, make necessary grammatical changes (co-authoring with a linguist makes one wish he had paid more attention to grammar in grades K through 6), and suggest substitutions where he believes the approach I have taken can be improved. Because his suggestions are always improvements, after his round of revisions, we submit them.

Collaborating with Will is always a learning experience, which is a precious experience for an octogenarian.

WILL: This is a deceptively simple theme — it was much harder than expected to come up with a set of consistent theme entries (brand name + generic product, where both words have sufficiently different meanings in the base phrases, and where the brands are owned by companies with a lot of name recognition). The editing team didn't like a couple of our original options, so they gave us the go-ahead to stick with 7 themers, with a pretty low number of theme squares for a 21x21, which let us focus on keeping the fill as clean as possible. I hope we succeeded!

I was pretty sure the editing team wouldn't keep the clue [Capital in the 21st Century?] for CEE, but I had to go for it anyway. I'm in love with the [Birkin stock] clue for BAGS, though — thanks to whichever editor came up with that gem!

Wed 3/10/2021
MOSSMICSBIGIF
ETTUECHOAROSE
NORMAKINLITHE
TOOMANYCOOKS
ALKALIMESHUGA
LEEONEBADAPPLE
SEGERTUDOR
WASPSKIFFBOBO
ALLOWDALIS
SPARETHERODSEW
HOTTAKEOEUVRE
SPOILERALERT
JUMBOFILMCLAN
ASIANEMMAETTA
YEARSRESTREAP

NANCY: I initially had an idea for a puzzle about "spoilers" but my many theme answer ideas were all over the map. Nor did I have a really good method for how to clue them smoothly. I think I remember that I had a lot of cross-referencing between the clue and the answer and that the clues tended to be overlong.

Enter Will Nediger. First, he whittled down my theme ideas to come up with the three that were the strongest and the most internally consistent. And then he found this incredibly elegant way of cluing them: brief, clear, simple, and completely fair. Provoking curiosity but giving absolutely nothing away. When I saw his solution — one I don't think I would have thought of on my own — I may have actually shouted "Eureka!"

My second "Eureka!" was when SPOILER ALERT turned out to have the same number of letters as TOO MANY COOKS. From such serendipitous occurrences comes the untrammeled joy of the puzzle constructor :)

WILL: I'm really proud of the construction and the tightness of the theme here. In retrospect, though, I regret including "spare the rod..." in a wordplay theme (my responsibility entirely, not Nancy's!). I tend to think of it as a quaint saying because it's now widely understood that corporal punishment is harmful and wrong, but of course, it's not entirely a thing of the past — I apologize to anyone whose solving experience was soured by its inclusion.

Sat 2/13/2021
ANGSTYHUESPAT
RESTAURANTKERR
BLUESMUSICINTO
OLIVEMOTHSUFO
RITELIVEHAMUP
SEEZINEGOBBLE
BIZARROWORLD
SNAPATONEDAY
PEERPRESSURE
LARDEDLETSCPR
ARDORSUMSCARE
TOPSUNRACASED
OURSREPROACHES
OTOHGEEYATHINK
NEMOERETEENSY

My seed clue/entry pair for this puzzle was [App store?] for RESTAURANT, so this is a rare example of a puzzle where the seed doesn't end up in the final grid. But I'll admit that as much as it amuses me, [App store?] is a stretch, and the editors came up with an excellent replacement.

I'm honored to have a themeless in the Times, especially these days, in the company of excellent recent puzzles by constructors like Robyn Weintraub and Nam Jin Yoon. I can't hold a candle to those, but I hope solvers find this one enjoyable and smooth.

Wed 12/2/2020
OMENSTOADLGBT
HAYAOHAVEIRAN
SKETCHESOFSPAIN
NEWKEWWONOUT
AMEXRAFAELMID
PEAGRAVELMANO
RAILEDWRONGS
MEDSIRIS
EXCELSGRINDR
CFOSZEITGEIST
OILSHEESHFOCI
NOSOAPHERTEE
RIGHTTHISSECOND
ETNAHYDEFRUIT
DYEDARIASYSCO

There's not too much I feel like saying about the grid here, but I'm always grateful for the opportunity to shout out some of my favorite pieces of art — in this case, Miles Davis's great album Sketches of Spain, and The Waves, which is one of Virginia Woolf's very best novels (even if it's not as heralded as To the Lighthouse and Mrs Dalloway). I highly recommend checking both of those out, if you haven't already!

Thu 8/27/2020
HIJABBASKSCAT
AMOURUCLAHATH
TALKINGOUTECHO
EMTDOORMENHEN
BARONEKING
IMPELIOWANS
MIENWHADDAYNOW
INNFEARNOTAHA
NINJARRIORITIS
SEABEEPREOP
PEPSIALPHA
ERAOATMEALALE
PISACHATTERBOX
PETSMESAGOUGE
ASAPEASTMOTES

NANCY: Rebuses tend to be my favorite puzzle type, so in this instance, I consciously went seeking a rebus idea. Using a phrase with "box" in it seemed like it would work well. There were many possibilities, but as soon as "chatterbox" crossed my mind, it seemed that that would produce the most amusing results.

I came up with the three short "chatter" words, but I'm sure there must have been snags along the way in incorporating them into themer answers. (Who can remember from so long ago?) But whatever they were, they did not remain snags for long, because my incomparable collaborator found ways to make everything work as he always does. And, of course, Will also constructed the grid. It was a smooth-as-silk collaboration as it always is.

I will now go and try to solve this puzzle when it appears, avoiding the theme answers and working on everything else — because, being me, I've, of course, forgotten everything else:)

WILL: I imagine CACHINNATE will be new to a lot of solvers. Normally, I try to avoid obscurities, but CACHINNATE is the sort of delightful literary word that I enjoy and that I don't mind including on a Thursday (with clean crossings, of course). If it's new to you, I hope you're happy to learn about it!

On a completely separate note: Nancy wisely talked me out of my half-serious idea of cluing BEN and EKING together as the singer of "Stand By Me." But man, I wish there were more ways to clue EKE.

Sun 3/15/2020READY, SET ... GETS LOW!
ABBAICUSCADSAPCALC
DEEDFOPOAKENHOORAH
ALLHAILHALLALEARMANI
GLIDELIBELGAGKANYE
EYEITALORAKEDCAF
BOOBLURREDBLUEBIRD
DEPAULTEAPOYBRANDO
IMANICEIMOELITISM
SONERVOUSNOSERVICE
UTEDENCHNEMEANAXES
SERRACHANDENSHUEVO
ESAUWARREDNOIREDEW
STEVEDOREDIVASTORE
SALTINEPATREDOUST
AGEISTAGENTSIDOTOO
DUTCHTOWNTOUCHDOWN
TIMOREOSRAISESPF
ALEUTRECSTONYEMCEE
LETTERBCHORDKEYBOARD
ERRATAIHOPEIREONCE
SAYHEYTIPSYESPSTYX

NANCY STARK: It wasn't until I had finally finished coming up with all the theme answers and all the clues for all the theme answers that I finally got a decent night's sleep. I'd lie in bed in the wee hours, night after night, as random, not to mention ridiculous non-Spoonerisms would cascade through my head. I found myself trying to create a Spoonerism out of every two-word or two-syllable phrase I'd ever heard in my entire life: BOATING VOOTH; DATER ME; COARSE MODE; POLE GHOSTS. What was worse, I couldn't stop. (If you try it tonight, people, I can guarantee you a night of pure insomnia.) My first thought when Will Nediger said he liked the final 18-letter theme answer I sent to him was: Thank God. Now I can finally sleep!!

The one thing you know working with Will is that, no matter how constraining and challenging the theme and theme answers you give him, he'll find a way to build a grid around them. He's a genius in doing that. He even asked me, after I had sent him about four or five 18-letter possibilities and about four or five 14-letter possibilities, whether I'd prefer him to create a grid with four 14s and two 18s or with two 14s and four 18s? Assuming that the latter would be much harder for him, but also more challenging and interesting for solvers, I requested the latter. "But only if it won't be a problem," I said. "Fine," he replied, and provided it with no further ado and in record time. You can see for yourself how good it is. I do hope you understand that not everyone would be able to do that.

WILL NEDIGER: As always with our COLLABs, Nancy came up with the theme for this one. Spoonerisms have been done before, of course, but I quite like these theme entries, because all of them involve spelling changes, adding a little bit of an element of surprise, and because they all came straight from Nancy's own brain. It would've been easy to just look up lists of spoonerisms and find hundreds of possibilities, but these are all originals. Plus, I learned that STEVEDORE is pronounced with three syllables!

Sun 1/5/2020STRESSED OUT
LARDSSWAGFROGSNASA
AFOOTAIDEIONIAOPEC
PROJECTGUTENBERGHOAR
SOSORRYTVSALEESSO
ESTEARACHEERSALTON
DOGPRESENTCOMPANY
URGESUPONYOHOHOTAM
PERFECTSCORESUNREELS
SHEATHEDIFSTOOL
HEATERICDUMAULTRA
OASPRODUCELABELSHER
TRYTOEROSGENESEAR
WOLFSHOPANATOLE
MAHALIACONTRACTTERMS
ARETENSORCOLTTRYST
DISCOUNTSTORESEEN
ESSAYERADUGOUTSPSA
ATITADAPOITATTLES
BIASCONVERSEALLSTARS
EDNATUGONERIETONGA
TESTSTEWSRELYOPTED

It was really tough to come up with a good set of themers for this one. To be as consistent as possible, I wanted all the themers to involve words that become an etymologically-related word with a different meaning when the stress is switched from the first to the second syllable, and I wanted all those words to be at the beginning of a two-word phrase. I'm happy I was able to come up with seven themers that worked symmetrically — but at the same time, I'm not sure I'd still submit this puzzle today. Phrases like CONTRACT TERMS and PRODUCE LABELS aren't exactly exciting, so there's not as much of an entertainment factor as I'd like. Still, I hope there's enough good stuff in here for solvers to enjoy!

Sun 8/4/2019CONSTANT CONSONANTS
HANGSCLEANSTEEPEST
CAGIERHOUSEORDNANCE
BRONTOSAURUSBUDDYCOP
GLUTSTRIOAREAONE
BETHLOISACRIDSPREE
MISQUOTESMOSQUITOES
UGLYAPTUPTOP
ARIOSILEAVEPREAMP
FRONTIERFURNITURESAL
IMAFANELDESTFORSALE
LOREAPUADOCUBA
MISREADFROLLOALINES
ERASCARFACESACRIFICE
DETACHASKTOHABITS
POESYIANAIME
OVERSELLSVERSAILLES
TWIXTTITHEASPSEXPO
REDPLODFREETAPIR
ASISEEITBRAINTEASERS
STOUTESTMOUNTSTEREO
HOTLANTAWINGSCASTS

This one was fun to brainstorm theme entries for. My original submission had IMPRISONED AMPERSAND and PIANISSIMO OPEN SESAME, which the editors found too contrived, so I switched those ones out. Other ones in the running at various points included SISYPHEAN SOUSAPHONE and TREE STUMP TOURIST MAP.

Wed 6/12/2019
WARMINDEBTOLD
ASEANAIVERCEO
THELADYVANISHES
TELEVISEPARKA
NORAPROFESS
RUNAWAYBRIDE
ATOMSLOGSPDA
GATEJEEPSCLAM
SHEAIMSCRUDE
INVISIBLEMAN
VERMEERSLAV
AXIOMPRURIENT
LACKOFCHARACTER
ICENAPIERECRU
DTSEXALLYSHOE

NANCY: Remember me? I'm the co-constructor of the March 14, 2019, NYT "Black Hat" puzzle, created with the very talented, versatile and delightful-to-work-with Will Nediger — cruciverbalist extraordinaire. We're back together again for this latest collaboration — with him once again entirely in charge of the always-challenging and difficult grid-making and with me happy to have been able to come up a theme that inspired him to want to do so.

Last time I, tennis player that I am, compared myself to Peter Fleming playing doubles with the great John McEnroe ("The best doubles team in the world? McEnroe and anyone," said Fleming.) Since that went over the heads of many readers unfamiliar with tennis, I'm choosing a different analogy: Creating a puzzle with Will Nediger is like dancing with the great Fred Astaire. Never mind Ginger and Cyd; Fred could make the broom look good.

As for me: I'm a former editor of the Literary Guild; the author of "Upward Nobility", a corporate satire published in 1979 under the pseudonym "Addison Steele"; an alum of the Advanced BMI Composers and Lyricists Workshop, and a lyricist whose songs have been performed in NYC cabarets but not, alas, on a Broadway stage near you. Some of my theater songs are online on the composer David Delaney's website. Put in him + me + DOWAGER HEIGHTS, and you just might find it. :)

This is my second puzzle to be published in the NYT. Will has many, many more.

WILL: Last time, I was one of the people who didn't know enough about tennis to appreciate Nancy's McEnroe/Fleming analogy. I'm glad she chose a Fred Astaire analogy this time, because it's much more in my wheelhouse, but also because it gives me an opportunity to remind her that Ginger Rogers did everything Astaire did, but backward and in high heels.

Sun 4/14/2019LEFT/RIGHT SYMMETRY
GASPMEDAYCHAIMECIG
ODIEOXIDEBUTNODANO
TATALANDSSMEARABIT
OPUSACESSOFAMOTO
PTASSTSADSFUSSTIP
LETPSASPECSNSACAR
EDIFIESPINUPKEYNOTE
STOATSWINSBIGSIEVES
SONJADANGANNADEEDS
ITSODDDADBOD
SCATTESLAARTIETKOS
KATANASYUMMYONPOINT
ODEANTINIAISISSTU
SEABEDNETIZENGIBSON
HTMLINCASEXCONRYES
ANNALSARNICA
SPACYPETSSMEESCOWS
TANKUPMAWTIMAIKMAN
ASTIOBESEONENDIAGO
THISGENIEKENYASHOO
EACHONTAPESTESHAND

This one was brutal to construct because the non-theme fill couldn't have any L's or R's; avoiding one common letter is hard enough, but two is a nightmare. So there's more stuff like SMEE/SSTS/DOEST than I like, but overall I'm happy with how the fill turned out.

There's one entry I'd avoid if I were writing this puzzle today: OBESE. My strategy used to be to clue it matter-of-factly, and I'm glad to see the editors kept my clue, but I've since just removed it from my wordlist entirely since I think it's an inherently loaded word that implies a negative judgment.

Thu 3/14/2019
LAIDAWAYBARCAR
ALTEREGOEXHALE
MAINMENUSEEFIT
ASSEDITSEAR
SHOWINGUSSY
LAPTOPDUKES
ACHEBEWRITAMP
CHEWONTEMONGER
YEWBLOCONAUTO
SAYAHNINEAM
SHRUGDESOTO
HOODMYTHMAD
IMGONEJARLOOSE
PEEKINOLDLATIN
SYRUPSBLACKHAT

NANCY:

As a passionate lifelong recreational tennis player, I have always loved the comment from Peter Fleming, winner of an astounding 52 doubles titles including seven Grand Slams with his partner John McEnroe: "The best doubles pair in the world is John McEnroe and anybody." And so, too, I have found myself fortunate enough to collaborate with Will Nediger — surely one of the best crossword constructors working today. In addition to being a consummate professional, he is a joy to work with — generous, good-natured, laid back, and seemingly without ego.

Knowing that I couldn't construct a crossword grid if my life depended on it, I wondered if having a good idea might "earn" me a top puzzle pro. Of course, having a good idea is not so easy: as one constructor/blog friend told me: "Ideas never come when you're trying to think them up. They come when you least expect them." As did this one. I don't remember the moment of inspiration, but once I sat down with the idea and saw that the symmetry would work, I thought: this is the one for which I should try to find a collaborator. Thanks to Lewis Rothlein and Erik Agard for getting me to Will Nediger.

As a solver, I like my puzzles tough and, even more, I like them tricky. That's the kind of puzzle I wanted to bestow on the puzzle-solving community. Hoping that it will give solvers the big "Aha Moment" that the best trick puzzles always give me.

About my background: I'm a writer, lyricist, and former Book Club Editor. I'm a lifelong Manhattanite and have had had Home Delivery from the NYT since 1971.

WILL:

Admittedly, I don't know anything about Peter Fleming, but Nancy is surely selling herself short here. The theme is the most important part of a puzzle, after all, and Nancy is a theme-making machine. She's also a delight to work with, and we've already got one more upcoming collaboration in the Times, hopefully not the last!

Wed 2/27/2019
PROBEHAHASCAM
ROUENEGADCUBA
OOZEDRANSCARED
FOREWORDAMBLE
NAANPERP
AUGURYDICTION
SPOTSBACHSCAP
APTSPINKOPUMA
PETSERTSSELIG
DICTATESCRIBE
OATHSOAK
EARLYMATURELY
GLASSWAREADAMS
GOGOORCABUICK
STUNOKOKSPRAY

I'm always happy when I can include a trendy contemporary author in a puzzle, so I was happy that Will kept my Colson Whitehead clue — COLSON's been in the puzzle before, but always clued in reference to Chuck Colson. (It's unfortunate for Celeste NG and Yiyun LI that two-letter words are a no-no!)

Sat 11/10/2018
STRIPPERSWARES
THEMOLDAUABOVE
YOGAPANTSTIMID
LUNAHOTDATE
OCTILEAIRLINER
FLUVIRUSNENE
FIRESRICOGMCS
ANNMAGNETOPIP
LEESREIDBSIDE
RIDENEWSCREW
AGERANGEWOOERS
COSPLAYWELT
TOQUEOPERETTAS
USURYZAPATISTA
PEERSALTWEEKLY

This puzzle is a rare case where the seed entry didn't end up making it into the final grid. Especially ironic since the seed entry was SEED ENTRY at 1-Across! But Andrew Ries suggested I replace the top-left corner entirely, and he was right since it was the weakest part of the grid. I'm much happier with how the new version turned out.

Sun 7/29/2018THREE IN ONE
WARTPSASDAWGSFROCK
AREARENEILIACDONOR
IMAMEXTERNALLYALAMO
LADENYOINKDULLESPN
NYSETINAARMLETALE
MISTAKINGPROPAGANDA
USERIMEWOOSHALANIS
MUTABLEDEMMEITEMONE
PIGPENJUDEAANISETTE
STORESOFTGDINODESK
REINFORCEMENT
ACTVPREYALTARHARDR
PRAIRIESSNOOTGALORE
BOBCATSTHANXFATIMAS
SPLASHBRUTELASSAMI
PERPETRATEMANHATTAN
DIDSTRIVEWANDLOOM
INHDSATEGOTTALOMAN
AGORADISCONTENTBAJA
LUTESESTERERGOATON
SPEWSSHYLYSNOWDORA

I almost never go below 140 words on a Sunday, but this one's only 136, thanks to the theme being relatively light. Hopefully, this allowed for some fun fill.

I originally had SEX SWING at 6-Down, which was just a bit too graphic for the editors. (In my last puzzle, I tried to sneak F THAT into the grid, so I guess it's becoming a recurring theme.)

Sun 5/20/2018RHYMES, SCHMYMES
BUGBITEIGLOOTIPSTER
AFRICANBROODIMALIVE
BOOZESCHMOOZEAPPAREL
ASKPERUUKECREAMERY
BOSOMTOOAAA
TAGUPAOLNUTSSCHMUTZ
IGORSCREWTETHEINIE
DEERSCHMEARARTEFACTS
YESSIREEVEEAIDMOLT
RODDESPITEHIRES
MACEDNOSCHMOMUSKS
BOGUSTECHIESWIM
ARABDEWINSSIXPACKS
RESIDENCEDUCKSCHMUCK
BASSOSOLESPIEDEBAY
QUITSCHMIDTABCSNARE
HOEAHIARMED
BASEPAIRMENGAYEBUC
OUTRUNSHALTSSCHMALTZ
SNIGLETAMOREKATRINA
STROLLSDETOXSTOPPER
  1. SCHMEAR was a theme entry in my last Times puzzle, which means I've had two in a row with schmear-related theme entries. Maybe I should just make it my thing.
  2. I originally had F THAT at 99-Down, although I figured it probably wouldn't fly in the NYT. And indeed, Will had me replace it. Luckily, it was an easy fix.
Sun 2/25/2018LETTER RECYCLING
FIFESWATSMAKESCAB
ERRORKEYUPIRATEOXO
GEORGIANERAKESHABIG
BENTONTSKNATHANHALE
EBAYMUSHWADEINELLY
RIGPISTACHIOSAORTAS
TEEODEAHALFLUB
PTAGRATEKILTJEW
WASSAILENIDORESASH
EYESTRAINFIGMENTRCA
RECTOCHERTUBAASFOR
EARCDTOWERSURFNTURF
OYEHEAPCOLTMODELTS
NETITISADIOSRIM
SPEDNEEOVENSLR
ACCESSASTOUNDINGCUE
DOURTOPTENIAMSTHRU
DADBLASTEDBCCICEMEN
OCDIBSENCREAMCHEESE
NHLALISTHENNAANAIS
SKYMEETSIDESTDARN

The inspiration for this theme was noticing that CREAM CHEESE and SCHMEAR share the same set of letters, and can both be clued as [Bagel topping]. So I had the idea of a bunch of pairs of entries that share both clues and letter banks, and I brainstormed for a while and came up with around a dozen pairs. (ETHAN ALLEN and NATHAN HALE was a fortuitous find — they were both mentioned within a few seconds of each other on an episode of Outlander.) The only problem is that I needed many, many more pairs to be able to make a theme that fits symmetrically, and coming up with enough by myself would have taken years, so I enlisted a friend to write some code for me — shoutout to Samir Khan for making this crossword possible. Samir generated thousands of pairs from my word list, and I combed through them to find ones that might work.

Will liked my first submission, but there was one pair that didn't fit with the rest - SILENT K and TELEKINESIS, which I had clued along the lines of [Something a Jedi Knight has]. That clue involved trickery, unlike the rest, so he had me replace it. Easier said than done to find a pair that would fit in that exact spot, but eventually, I found a replacement. Anyway, I've gone on for a lot longer than I usually do, but that's because a ton of time went into this theme!

I'll just leave readers with a few pairs which didn't quite work for the theme, but which I enjoyed coming across anyway:

  • COASTAL ELITES / SOCIALIST STATE
  • APPASSIONATA / PIANO SONATA
  • FORNICATING / GRATIFICATION
  • NATALIE PORTMAN / EMPEROR PALPATINE
  • FOOT FETISH / IF THE SHOE FITS
  • IT AIN'T OVER TILL IT'S OVER / IT'S NEVER TOO LATE
  • GASTROINTESTINAL / INTERNAL ORGANS
  • DOPPELGANGER / EDGAR ALLAN POE
Sun 7/9/2017FIRST FOR KNOWLEDGE
ASSUAGESBETCHAAMANA
CHIPMUNKFAILATSOLED
TOXICITYFREEZEACROWD
SECDEETDDAYFENNEL
HOVERERRORFINAGLE
ONAPARSPOOFNEEDY
KARENCHEAPFRILLSSAW
IRANBALEDACIDBELA
ECCEHOMOSPACEXORALS
TRIREMERBIARARAT
BAEFELONIOUSMONKCHE
AFRAIDTOMMADDASH
WISPSKRONOSTEENWOLF
DRIPBEAMABUTSAFAR
YENMIFFBUSTERSSNAKE
RELITNAIVEORKNEY
DONEFORRENEEFROYO
INAFIXNEARLARAFBI
SECURITYFRETLANDOFOZ
CURESISITMEANGELENO
SPELTMETHODSKEWERED

Sound change themes are one of the oldest tricks in the book, of course, but I think they can still be great if executed well. When I thought of FELONIOUSMONK, I just had to write this puzzle. I had a devil of a time coming up with a title — anything that seemed like it was making fun of speech impediments would be unseemly, so I figured the title would have to be just another example of the sound change. I submitted "Oaf of Office," not least because of the implied dig at Trump, but I like "First for Knowledge" better.

Back when I wrote this, BAE had never been in the puzzle, so I wondered if Will would go for it — but I see it's been used twice since then, so I guess it's hit the mainstream.

Sun 5/14/2017PLACES, EVERYONE!
CLASPSDRASTICABATE
BISTROREBIRTHPLANER
SCHOOLAMERICAHANDER
THIRDSKALOOSDEARTO
VENIALEPPOUSPSNEER
NEEDLESHIPPERLAIRS
SOLEDONELITIS
AMITYPEINWEBCAMPCP
LANCEOLMECSOKCORRAL
IDAHOANGILSOSOAIDE
BEHINDMANAGERMINDED
AWOLODAYSAGGANGING
BALDSPOTISSUERFENCE
AREATESTSMETIMEGED
BUSSALDASMURF
SPARKIKNEWITASSETS
PUMAATOZENRICHERIS
IPECACRAULICEEDINA
TACKLEENGLISHCLICKS
ETHELSSILENTADENIES
DEETSHAIRNETVAGARY

It's nice to be back in the New York Times — my last puzzle was all the way back in 2014, since I was on a hiatus from constructing for a while. I'm back in the swing of things now, and even have a blog where I post a free puzzle every Monday.

I like that the theme for this one produces a nice criss-cross pattern. The downside is that when theme entries cross each other (as every single one in this puzzle does), it makes the grid hard to fill. So there's more gluey fill (ALAE, ELEA) than I'd like, but hopefully, some of the long answers make up for it.

Sat 2/1/2014
BARBARABUSHBEE
EQUIVALENCERRR
FASCINATIONOIL
OBESDRAFTWAKE
GASMOMMYLEDS
MAMBAMADCAP
AHEADEXFOLIATE
CARROLLLEADSIN
EMILNOLDEKITES
DOCENTEXMET
MANAFSTARMEW
ZEKEKLEINPISA
ALAYOURMAJESTY
GENOLIVEGARDEN
STEUNDEREXPOSE

I wrote this puzzle a long time ago, and looking back, there are some things I don't like about it — all the you-know-it-or-you-don't proper names in the bottom left and the roll-your-own EX-MET — but there's still a lot of stuff I'm happy with, especially the top and bottom stacks. I'm hoping that the puzzle will introduce some solvers to the works of Emil Nolde (who makes an appearance sometimes as a clue for EMIL). I especially like his woodcut The Prophet.

Wed 1/30/2013
QUADSJEWSBRIE
EFRONIMOKMENU
DOCTORNONOAFAR
HOAXBANJOJO
ACCEPTLILARAP
BOOMEMAGCOMMA
ELLADAYBRR
LETMYPEOPLEGOGO
BEGVIAAJAR
GOGOLWEEDNARC
AVALAHRELMIRA
DISCOCODIEU
DECOMAKEITSOSO
EDAMEMILHIJAB
DOPESIDEECOLI
Sat 12/15/2012
HALFANDHALFCCS
INAUGURATORALI
NINJATURTLEPAN
DODIMENLOPARK
INSWCSONICE
CEEALPAIMS
SHOELACEZZTOP
CHANDLERARIZONA
HISSYRIPAPART
INDOHODUPS
TILDEFLYCCL
TOBEEXACTELIE
HISCAVEDRAWING
OSOANIDIFRANCO
RMNFEDEXKINKOS
Tue 3/20/2012
HUBBUBMABEWOK
ONLINEACEVIVE
ODENSEJUSTAFEW
KINDERGARTENER
EDDAHAAIRS
FLAPSREVAMP
ABBALEADSINAI
CRIMELABANALYST
TIEINTORALASH
SELLTOTWICE
YANKILLISO
POLICEINFORMER
JUBILANTIRISES
ASOFLYELOVEME
WHEELAMEXETER
Wed 3/23/2011
ASNAPESTMALTS
THEIRPEEADIEU
METRODOMEZONED
EVENINGDRESS
EMOIVYALAN
VIVIDIMAGESAGO
OLEVELKEEPMOD
KARENSIRELITE
ENDTOWNDRAGON
DOORSIDVICIOUS
EDOMEPHSTE
JULIUSCAESAR
INANEAKRONOHIO
VISITPIECASTE
ETHNOSODENTER
Sat 1/8/2011
CRAZYTALKCUJO
XENIAOHIOATONE
IMALLEARSDESEX
LIDACHEEMO
ALFIEIONJON
MILOSCHULZIRE
EBANCLASSAMER
NETSLISZTBETA
DRSREMAKEUNIT
MATORATORMEME
ELOSAXFAZED
NAMALEGFAR
TRAWLSATIRIZED
ITCHYALANADALE
SHANTAPEDECKS
Sun 11/7/2010LEADING ARTICLES
SAVALASJAMJARPLEBE
IGIVEUPAMOEBAREEVES
RESISTINGARESTARDENT
STORETAROTMEANIE
DIERIPSYELLSATINS
UNDERATACKDUETTON
ADEXECLUNGTOILINGAT
DYNAMICMOOTNEUBADE
MANESXOUTSATATOP
MERIGLOODREWURSINE
ODEONLOVEAFAIRAERIE
EITHERNUTSKNEADESS
STUDDEDMONOKALEL
HEREPEPNEAPPOWERPC
ADNAUSEAMWHIMHAVASU
ARMPROFUPONARIVAL
ANDPISTOLSEROSITT
DERMISICEAXOUTER
OMEARACHECKINGACOUNT
LESLEYLECHERATOMMAN
FASTSEDESSATENPAST
Sat 10/23/2010
WALTZINGARCADE
IDARENOTFOLLOW
NONONONOFOOZLE
OPALINEVASSALS
STILTUNITER
SHATNERESQUE
ADSSTOICREARS
MOASMOCKSTWAS
ADIOSHOERSILO
TONYAHARDING
TAVERNARABS
THEBARDJAIALAI
HELENECURLIEST
ARMANIANGELPIE
NOONANWOODSHED
Sun 9/5/2010TURNING BACK
CALCMCATGEICOATPAR
OREOARGOOXFAMCHOSE
MEASURINGSNOOPSHEMIN
PARTBSOSOCRAKEPEAT
AUNTSJPEGSTOLGA
STANOATOUTOFTHEPOOL
PRIZESLIPUPTIRANE
AERATECORALCURDTOT
TAJAGEINTUITPISANO
SOXAAHELCIDNICER
TURKEYTORTLIVINGMOOR
ARDENSLOESERESSR
BEASTSSTEPPETUNAMA
URNRIFTMYRNATAILOR
PENDEDCOSMOREMARK
INDIANARECAPINAIDES
TODATELIMAWELDS
SIRSRABIDNEROASADA
EDITHLOVEMELOVEMYGOD
LEVEEAZERAKNEWOUZO
FAERYNORSEOGREUEYS
Wed 7/7/2010
JALAPAUSCGAPE
ABACUSRIPABOX
BIZETSIGNALSOP
STYTEHEEPAOLO
VITOWHARF
ASWANPLAYLISZT
DOINGSYVESTOO
OOZELORENPERK
PTASAKIAMOEBA
THROWBACHALLAY
DAISYOPIE
BOOKSBORISHMS
ELFHAYDNGOSEEK
EGOELMOGUILTY
PAZDEERYIPPEE
Sat 5/22/2010
MASSBFLATMAJOR
EMITAREWEALONE
MILALEANNRIMES
OLEGLEVIESAMI
PANGAGENTBROD
ATTENDINGSUCRE
DEBRIEFSCASHED
METCAB
STUPORPOTROAST
PINEYSUNPARLOR
ENIDDANCEBLUE
CFCZINGERIMPS
TOOKORDERSTACT
RIDINGINTOELAL
ALEXKEATONRENE
Sun 11/29/2009CUED UP
DOCSSPOOLZINEVISE
OPAHPLANATONALINCA
SQUEALOFAPPROVALSMOG
SPRITIDEAMANSHAWL
ONEHITTERTIEDGENTLE
ROWESEXWILDEBEQUEST
GUARDDEBITEMU
SNYDERCODOMANEVIAN
SNIPBEAVISFLANGE
SKIPSIPSBENICENCAA
LOCIQUEASYRIDERQUIP
IRAQUSAGESGERMURNS
DANUBELETSGOTATI
ENTERBETHALITASMAN
EAUINFRACHICA
QUALMSGIVINGOUTISMS
UNDIESMEREINDIANTEA
ASHENAPROPOSIMAGO
FEELQUAINTMISBEHAVIN
FAROBELLYATOLLCEDE
STEWSLAYRILEYTROD
Sun 4/19/2009EXTRA! EXTRA!
BEATLEORBSPYSTOWE
MARIAMARIAPOEAMAZES
WRECKINGBALLOTBIPODS
KENNYOARSYRINGE
SPABOOSPOTLITSCREEN
YESSIRNIASALISH
DRAKEPULLAWILACDC
OTHELLODOLLYALCATRAZ
WHITELISTAIDRAMADA
CAMETOERRMARNOR
JOHNMAYNARDKEYNOTES
COPNIXMMESALINE
ONEGINKEOGHGIAASHE
CARNEGIEROYALFLUSHOT
ASAPGNUSPREENEATH
SOLDTOEATRIDLEY
BLACKFOOTRESTROOELL
REPLYTOEMSSEGNO
AEROBETROTOUTQUINTET
IRONONHENPREDESTINE
NYNEXODDTIPSTONED
Sat 9/13/2008
JUICEBARALLOYS
ANNERICELOOKMA
REDLIGHTSTALAG
FAILEDUFONASA
USESPREPSHUM
LESEBONYPROMO
ISLETALOMAR
QUANTUMOFSOLACE
USURERRAISE
ESTEEBERTHCAN
EMOMCRAEMEMO
NABSAOLCOUSIN
MIAOWSIPODNANO
UNHOOKTIREIRON
MENTOSYEARZERO
Sun 8/10/2008INSIDE JOKES
VANCAMPALAMEDAGETZ
OVERLOUDSENATORAQUA
LEGALDRINKINGAGETURK
GREWIDOSLETMEIN
ATVTITUSHQSSHEMP
ESCAPEROUTEALAMOS
PAQUINSIMIANSINEPT
NATURESBENYOWSNAY
ECLAIRMUSICRACKSTHX
HEALSFOPNEACRAWL
ISNTERGOTSTEEPHOJO
TOSCANASORRBICEP
FRITOPRANKINGMUSKET
LACALPOTITFORKERS
OCCAMESTREETRISERS
GEHRIGYOURMAJESTY
ARNAZEMSPOETSAPB
CREATORKERFPERI
JUTSSWEEPUNDERTHERUG
ABETBIZARRELOWERING
WARSYEARONEMONKEES
Sun 6/8/2008Q & A SESSION
URSADEADCALMIPANEMA
NOESUNLOADEDRAVAGED
QUAKINGASPENSALAMODE
UNROBEBARNSSTEYIP
ODIUMSAGAQUEBECACT
TENTAPSESOUPLLANOS
ERGBLOTSKUAOUST
QUATERNARYAGECHAS
STURMRIOTSIRSHORT
STOOGESGOESRISESRA
QUAILINGATQUESTAFTER
UPSENOLSLUGHEWLETT
IOTASCEEYELPWAULS
BRYNQANTASAIRWAYS
GLUTAMOKOARSFOE
STRIPEOPALEXITMANX
QUEENANNETAILHASAT
URNSEESWARMGENTLE
ANTONIAQUIETAMERICAN
STAINERVERBATIMLARD
HOLLERSCRYOGENSARKS
Tue 4/29/2008
SKIBUMROLLJAG
HADAGOASIAASH
ALLTHATJAZZCHI
SKITBEAKEWOK
TANYACHARABED
ANGLAHNEWLINE
SEINETARTAN
ALEXRODRIGUEZ
BLAREDTUNES
MCGUIREPARSFC
WARMYUMASLYER
TASKROUTEZRA
URNAPOLLOSOYUZ
ZAGTYPEJINGLE
IZEEXESOBEYED
Fri 4/6/2007
OFLATEALMANACS
KLAXONMOONUNIT
LAMENTPUNITIVE
AMPLYQUITSMIR
HERSWELSHPUCE
OWECODEXLASSO
MAYHAPSITIN
ARSENALVERTIGO
MOTIFPASSON
MCGEEFLIESROC
EARNCEASEJADE
XLIHASTOPIETA
IVEHADITPALLID
CIVILIZEOPTIMA
ONEDOZENMASSEY
Sat 5/27/2006
JOSHEDJEROBOAM
APPEARISABELLA
CELERYMOBILITY
KRILLZETASVAN
FENSTENETMIRO
ITTRYDERYEAST
STEPUPZIPPY
HARRIEDCUREALL
INBOXPERDUE
POEMSVEEPSRCA
URSAGERRYPERP
NIPCOCOAMONEY
JORJAFOXLAMAZE
ALIENATEAMELIA
BETTEREDVASSAR