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Puzzles for October, 2018
with constructor comments

View these same grids with comments from:
Constructor (29)Jeff Chen (31)Jim Horne (13)Hide comments
Mon 10/1/2018
LAPDAFLACSWAB
AREASMIAMIMICE
DRAMATISPERSONAE
EARHIGHCORGIS
SULTANOFBRUNEI
IRTROOSSNUB
SUNDAEYAWGRO
THEENDISNIGH
ANADOHNEATER
GORPSOBALXI
FIGHTINGILLINI
ASASETGENEXER
BATTLEOFTHESINAI
LMAOTRUERSOARS
YELLLENNYNYSE
Tue 10/2/2018
DARNSISMSLASS
ORIONSTEPOWEN
BIGCOMPANYVEGA
BOOHOOGUIDEDOG
STRETCHNUS
HAIRGREASE
NAMBASTEEARED
SCALAFIGSTOLE
FARADUSERSDAN
WICKEDNINE
EGOTAGALOG
MAKEGOODDEFUSE
UBERFROZENONCE
SIRIUSNATOGAS
ETRESOAPSTERE

The working title for this was Double Plays, of course. However, as I developed the theme, I decided to make it all musicals. So this title may have muddied the waters if the grid had run in the WSJ, for instance. I had DUETS in the central Across spot, with the clue, "Musical partnerships." I liked this as a revealer, but Will felt it wasn't necessary. I wrote this in 2016, when Frozen hadn't reached Broadway yet, but I felt confident it would. Thanks to Joel and Will for helping me improve the fill enormously.

Wed 10/3/2018
THEMGROGYACHT
IOTAEAVEAGREE
DAHLTHENEREIDS
EXILEDRENDSGT
OSLOSOLACES
GAPKNEWKILOS
UNIXEXAMINE
SNARFIDAEXPAT
AUSTEREAONE
BRYCESXSWSON
LEASHEDTOTE
AHISTEMUNRIPE
CASSIOPEIAIDOL
EVITAOMARCOPS
SENDSTONYKNEE

I considered other constellations for a puzzle theme, but Cassiopeia won out because it has only has five main stars. Soon after this puzzle got accepted, Jeff Stillman's May 22 Ursa Major crossword was published, and I thought it would be a good long time before this one appeared.

Thu 10/4/2018
LGBTACLUAMAIN
OLIOWOOTNANCE
BUBBLEGUMTONOW
STIEBOCARINA
JUDASPRIEST
ERASSEATAC
GASPIPESTOLLS
AGAINSTLAIDOUT
DEPTHMARCECKO
IMGAMESKEW
BASEBALLBAT
AMERICAINEPT
SITATSODAMIXER
INUSESHAGNINA
LOPEDYOLOETSY

apparently it's been three years since my last NYT puzzle! lest anybody think i've dropped off the face of the earth, or at least from puzzleworld, i can assure you that is not the case. i've been devoting most of my puzzlemaking time to outside the box puzzles, where i construct variety puzzles for an audience of email subscribers.

having said that, i've been trying to get back into making "regular" crosswords on a "regular" basis. i'm pretty sure this one started with the observation that EKCO is an anagram of COKE, and then wondering if there were other people whose last name is an anagram of a soda brand. there weren't really enough to support a whole theme of just people's names; in fact, it was in researching this puzzle that i learned that JUDAS PRIEST is a band, not the stage name of a solo artist. but broadening the search to two-word phrases enabled me to go to five theme answers plus a revealer, so i was satisfied—but i think the puzzle would not have been worth making without both COKE and PEPSI represented.

POW Fri 10/5/2018
ANDWEREOFFSITE
PERIWINKLEETAL
STALEBREADTONY
ESMECADSMALES
LAGHAIRDYE
STOWAGEMONEY
CAPONEGOLDCOIN
ALERTDABMOUSE
TINKEREDPERSON
SERTACOLDONE
SCORNEDLAD
CLUBSLAICALBA
HEREWITCHTRIAL
MACEINTHEWINGS
ORESGENERALTSO

Both the first and last across entries/clues are my favorites in this puzzle. AND WE'RE OFF fell into the "gee, I sure hope I can keep this here at 1 Across" category, and fortunately it remained despite a number of grid revisions.

As for GENERAL TSO, the clue came to me immediately, but I second guessed it a few million times — it was so groan-worthy, and, I think, a rather obvious clue. Eventually I gave up trying to find an alternative, because none of them made me smile the way this clue does. I figured if Will hated it, he'd find a suitable replacement. I am very pleased that it made it to print, and it is my sincere hope that solvers also find it both smile-inducing and groan-worthy.

Sat 10/6/2018
OFFEDSAHLSZA
DRIVESOREOTHIN
SERIALSCATHING
SELFIMPORTANCE
OHHICIATATTER
IMONERDOSSODS
NESTEDSHALT
KNEECAPONTHEGO
NONOSDREXEL
ATITDREAMSCAD
DENIEDTRIPARS
LABORINTENSIVE
IRONICALDORADO
BARSCENESPITUP
STNADOSSTEPS

A few years ago I decided to make a Mother's Day puzzle for my mom, a longtime fan of the NYT crossword. Hi Mom! I ended up building so much stuff — filling algorithm, word lists, etc. — that I decided to see what else I could do with it, and so here we are. It was an amazing process working with Will and Sam, and I couldn't be more grateful to them for the opportunity to appear in this venue.

The first puzzle I submitted was a different 66-word grid, about which the less said, the better. The grid you see here with the arrangement of six 14s is the second one I submitted; this puzzle is my third attempt at it. When I got the response to the second try, and the subject was "Crossword — good news!" my heart jumped — only to sink a minute later when I saw, among the generally encouraging feedback, a request to redo the NE corner to remove OREOTHIN and SWA. I knew the former was impossible, given how much the 8s and the 14s in this grid interact with each other.

I made a hard-fought effort, including going up to 68 words and adding cheater squares in various places, but there was no way to remove that singular cookie. I felt it was a great opportunity that Will had invited me to submit my next revision by email, and I didn't want to waste it, but after a week all I had was a version that was identical except for the one letter changing SWA to SZA. I found that rotating the grid by 90 degrees opened up some new possibilities, and so I made a brand new puzzle to accompany my revision and sweeten the deal. I was curious to know what the editing team thought of that one — I felt that the 14s were stronger and the 8s weaker, but I wasn't sure how it balanced out — but I never found out; they accepted the single letter change and all my dreams came true.

I hope you enjoyed solving this puzzle as much as I did making it!

Sun 10/7/2018MIND THE GAP
GURUSTREATYSEPTET
EPIZOAEENSIEUNREADY
RSAILSPLITTERTONEDUP
MELOCTAOUTQERSPACE
STSHEAVEDPLANET
TONIRISENSMARS
ROUOMDIVIDERDISPOSAL
ARMRESTNAASALCAVITY
TAPIRSEATITSUNEASE
ELSESORTRNAFBINOR
SECURRITYBREACH
SLOALTONELARSOHNO
TOWAGEPOIBEERBROOD
PAEPERCUTTERIPLANTO
AFTERALLSPAFECRACKER
TSOSOSOANONENE
NOBAMADOCOCKUSB
LUCKEYBREAKOVENNEE
ONLEAVEGRANGDOPENING
ADOPTERAGLARETSETSE
DOGTOYSHEERSSWEET

The idea for this puzzle came from the phrase HOLE IN THE WALL, although that specific theme entry did not make it into the final version. (I decided to avoid any theme answer with HOLE in it, to avoid repetition with the implied "IN A ROUND HOLE" that follows the bonus answer).

I always prefer when Sundays have something extra on top of the main theme, which is why I went for the bonus answer spelled out by the circled letters. At the same time, adding such a bonus can really constrain the puzzle: in this case, it required having nine theme answers to accommodate the nine-letter bonus answer, and nine theme answers is a lot to cram into a puzzle — it doesn't leave much room for long non-theme answers. I decided that the trade-off was worth it, but it's always tough weighing the theme against the non-theme fill.

Mon 10/8/2018
ELBOWFROMTWIT
BEENERAVERITA
BATTERYTERMINAL
SHAHEISNERELK
ERINTACIT
GOLDENGATECOCO
IWILLSOASTO
GEMAIRPORTLPS
PRYNNEADELE
TCBYCANNERYROW
ILIEDOPEN
PEZILLINIAMPS
TAKINGABACKSEAT
OVIDBRIMATARI
PETSTASETYLER

The Northern California mini-theme in today's puzzle is sheer coincidence. I couldn't pass up the chance to name-drop my adopted hometown via CANNERY ROW, and GOLDEN GATE just happened to have a matching length.

Another coincidence: today's puzzle may be the first to contain the first names of both its constructor and its editor. (Neither was in the version I submitted: 34-Across was originally STILL, and 2-Down was clued as "Rebecca's daughter-in-law.")

Tue 10/9/2018
DAMNSIMACNEAP
EBOOKGAIAORCA
BUNNYOURSBILL
EPLURIBUSUNUM
DYLANNAPE
SECURITYBLANKET
PALSTWOTOOTH
ALITEASETSSHY
HIPPOHRHCHEM
NOSURPRISETHERE
TREEEVERS
HIDDENFIGURES
OREOCUKEORALB
SKEWISEEOILER
ESPNLEAKMOTTO

ANDY: At the beginning of the semester, we set out to make a Monday puzzle (the only day of the week JASA hasn't yet had an NYT puzzle run). Monday is possibly the toughest day to construct for: the theme has to be accessible to all solvers but also interesting to Will & co., plus the fill has to be squeaky clean. We ended up with a smooth, low-word-count puzzle that we think is very appropriate for Tuesday.

It's a joy to work with the JASA students. We always end up with an embarrassment of excellent clues, and it's a challenge to winnow them down for submission. We just started a new semester at the end of September, but anyone who wants to know more about the JASA class can get more information here.

Wed 10/10/2018
JOTAGERPLASTIC
ONOBRAERIHANNA
DODOBIRDINSPOTS
INOUYEOHOKTOT
EELSSOSOREVIEWS
HITHERVIDEO
BASSIADEINSTIR
ANTLALALANDUMA
EDSELSYSLOKRAS
REHABSARONG
SOHELPMEGODOTIS
ANALADEESPANA
NAILGUNALPHABET
DILEMMAROTOLEE
PRESSESSXSWERS

This puzzle began life as a different piece of music. And the solfège notes came at the end instead of the beginning. That iteration, however, had a problem. The solfège notes in one of the theme entries were (despite orthographic identity) pronounced differently in the base phrase. It was tough to let that version go, but the resulting consistency in pronunciation makes the theme a lot stronger. Good thing that DODO, SOSO, LALA, and SO sound the way they do!

This puzzle's revealer could also have come from "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star," which shares the same first seven notes as "The Alphabet Song." Both (along with "Baa, Baa, Black Sheep") derive from the French children's song "Ah! vous dirai-je, maman."

I hope the non-thematic music-related entries, RIHANNA, ONO, BASSI, TURNTABLE, EAR, LES [Misérables], and SXSW are a nice plus for solvers. It's fun to sprinkle theme-adjacent material into a grid, but sometimes I worry that it might be a distraction. Hopefully I struck a good balance here.

Thu 10/11/2018
CCSQBSCLEVER
FOLKUAEIONIAN
BRAIDINGNODOGS
ISMELIAEFILE
LABRATSBRAVERY
AGEESHERAETTA
BERETMEMOSOY
LEFTBRAIN
LBJDARELEASE
IROCSIDEBCRAG
VIBRATOBRAKING
SHELFOBIEADD
STUDIONOBRADAY
ELNINOCUEINRE
WETTEDETSLET

It is such a pleasure working with Jeff. I am so happy that he wanted to help me bring this puzzle to life as it means a lot to me to support this month's important cause — hopefully in an interesting and entertaining way. I thank Jeff. And I dedicate this puzzle to my mom, Margaret Allen Hawkins, who was not only a great woman but also a brave breast cancer survivor.

POW Fri 10/12/2018
NESSADAGEPRAT
OCTATUPACFISH
WHATSTHEBIGIDEA
LOTIONGAZEAT
EBERTMCSMESSI
TOMEPEONSRHYS
MOOBAGNOLDOAT
EMTIRAQWARTSO
SETDEDUCTSGAS
EROSDEEREJUBA
ESSEXTSAFANCY
LIGHTBULB
LATINOROBUST
AVENGENAENAE
BADASSSTRODE

ERIK: Can't spell "Bruce Haight" without "bright"! As a solver, I'm always excited to see this multiple Orca nominee's byline on a puzzle, so it's an honor for me to join him for his 43rd NYT crossword.

BRUCE: Erik is the reigning ACPT champion, having blown thru a super tough finals puzzle in the record time of 4 minutes 58 seconds back in March of this year. So many people wanted so badly for him to get his first win there, and for him to do it in such dramatic fashion was amazing. Also in March, he was named as one of the two crossword constructors of the year (for 2017) by Diary of a Crossword Fiend. When you work with a brilliant 25-year-old like Erik you try to stay out of his way and not embarrass yourself.

The "grid-art" here was my idea, but Erik came up with the fabulous second theme entry WHAT'S THE BIG IDEA. He also came up with about 90% of the fill on this grid — the inside of the bulb was particularly hard to fill cleanly. I wouldn't have even known how to spell MEGADETH, and since I am 65 years old, you would be right in guessing I don't have much of their music on my iPhone. The clue for 31-Across was Erik's idea also — pretty funny I think.

It was a ton of fun working with Erik, and thanks to Will and the editing team for allowing BADASS and making us fine tune the fill. I'm super pleased with the way the puzzle turned out - hope solvers enjoy it!

Sat 10/13/2018
SHONDACHEATDAY
TOPOUTROGUEONE
AMENDSALANALDA
REDOSEWENTTOIT
GAPSACLUARES
ALIPIPETS
ZOEKAZANNOTBAD
ENCASESCORELLI
SEETHEKESTRELS
YESANDWAH
CROPDEEPFATE
LIMEADESISOPOD
OVERLAPSMURANO
MAGRITTEAPERCU
PLAYTESTSEXTET

This grid is actually a revision. The top right was the same, as CHEAT DAY / ROGUE ONE / ALAN ALDA was too good to let go. But ZOE KAZAN used to be in the bottom left, which created a corner filled with so many proper nouns and difficult words (e.g. ENFILADE) that I was asked to redo it. So ZOE KAZAN moved up to the middle area - I simply could not pass on those Z's - and finding a quad stack that connected with it was very time consuming. Discovering that delicious combination of LIMEADES / MAGRITTE / PLAYTEST, the last of which could pass as a seed entry, was pure luck. Overall, my notes grew to over 250 partial fills that were good enough to consider submitting, an indicator of how stubbornly I clung to my seed entries.

For the clues, I decided to forgo a self-imposed deadline for finishing them, and instead simply selected a few unclued entries at random each day to clue and only finalized something if it was really good. Only about a third of them ended up being changed whereas in the past it's been half or more, which is encouraging. For instance, I'm pleased with 26-A, 1-D, and 32-D. One category of clues that tended to be changed were tricky clues for entries that are less well-known. For example, I had "Fast break?" for CHEAT DAY, which would be quite difficult for a person who's never heard of the term; the same is true of "They're related to hobbies" for KESTRELS. To me these are fair for, say, a tournament final, but it seems that they're too hard even for a Saturday.

Sun 10/14/2018GAME HUNTING
BETTIESPICERUBTGIF
UNHURTMONOMANIAREBA
THERISKISTOOHIGHUNIX
TAFTSATESEABEDS
ELALETHANETOGACE
ONEBCSORRYNOTSORRY
DIGUPBEAKSSELFIE
ARMORLESABRECOROLLA
IHAVENTACLUEHASRUES
MEREMORTALSHAJISI
SAGEMAILSMAROONDAG
IFSMEDSADDLEJOINT
EDNAFARPLEASEDONTGO
TESTBANTOASTERKEYES
ALOHASCOOPTTYPES
LIFESTOOSHORTOSCAR
ERSUMSNORMALOLES
ARTISTAIANBLIGE
YURIASKINGFORTROUBLE
ATOMNEEDARIDEOSMIUM
PORETRIBUNESTENSES

My original title for this puzzle was "I'm Not Playing Around!," and the final theme answer was GUESS WHO IT IS. Much credit is due to the editorial team, who massaged the idea into its present form.

6 theme answers is low for Sunday, so I tried to keep the word count low as well. IS I, GTOS, INT, TSO'S were the compromises that yielded a glut of longer bonus material. I personally dig: GENDER FLUIDITY, TRUE COLORS, MERE MORTALS, NEED A RIDE, FATHER TIME, MARGINS OF ERROR, SPICE RUB, MONOMANIA, SADDLE JOINT, ULTRA MAN, CAJOLERY, TURTLE DOVE.

Mon 10/15/2018
INCUBUSAKITA
MOONINGSIDEBET
APRICOTANATOLE
CENSEINDMIA
OPTICALFIBER
SCANUTEYAM
PUGSTAGEKIOSK
AREYOUKIDDINGME
SEDANEAGERROY
RICNAVBEGS
JOHNCOLTRANE
ACENYSYEAST
WHATAMIELMTREE
SODACANREPLIES
YOUNGATHEART

It's cute that different animal young have different names. And the phrase "young at heart" is such a lovely sentiment. We were very pleased to find fun phrases where the "young" was exactly in the middle, and also that they all had the hard "c" sound. Thanks as always to the editorial team for their help!

Tue 10/16/2018
DOSEAFRORESET
ETTUIRONELENA
BOARDGAMEMELDS
TENORGEARCFOS
PAARCARTIRE
BREAKFASTCEREAL
OHMETNAKOI
BOOBTLCCARA
ARMERATMAC
PICTUREMAGAZINE
ADOPTEDBONE
SETHDISCKAZAN
SATONTHATSLIFE
ATONEOAKSOMAR
TENETRHEATARO

I got the idea for this puzzle after seeing my young grandson sprawled out on the floor playing Life with his dad, my son. That brought back memories. Needless to say their kitchen cabinet was stocked with Life cereal. The magazine (1936-2000), cereal (1961-), and game (1960-) have (had) been around for a very long time. In my submission I had used a reference to Sinatra in the "revealer" in keeping with the nostalgic aspect of the puzzle.

Looking back at this one I do wish I had put a little more "sparkle" in my fill, but did make an effort to make it consistent with an easy monday-tuesday effort. I suppose the puzzle might appeal more to an older solver, one who remembers playing board games with his kids or leafing through the glossy crisp pages of the oversized magazine with its inky smell, but then there are a lot of us "older" solvers still out there. C'est la vie.

Wed 10/17/2018
MAGICPATJOINS
ICALLESEUBOAT
TESLANIXVINNY
TSPPANCAKESAX
STAYSSANE
AURALFAITH
SCUBAAOLLOUIS
HENPANCAKENNE
ESTALEDGEHGTV
STJUDEGUERRE
ALEXASASTRYON
LAMPANCAKEJUS
AVIDSEEYARABE
DIMEALLINUCLA
YEARPLATEEKES

We like to break the rules, as long as it's for a good reason, so this started with the desire to do a repeated word theme. Various sandwiches with their layers of BREAD were discussed, but eventually a stack of flapjacks was selected. The theme square count was a little shy, so a couple of syrup options were added. Maybe we'll do a tribute to waffles next.

Thu 10/18/2018
THEDABCHANDUD
MERIDAFATELINE
SLIDERLGBTICON
MENLOGABFEST
TENHITAT
GLAMEGOSLEPEW
RIRITOTELVIRA
ABCSCOLONEXIT
DRESSYAUGRICE
SADATEVIEYEAR
BECCALEV
LATERALBLOAT
OCEANIANEDITOR
SANTERIARECODE
SITRORYTRENDY
POW Fri 10/19/2018
SIXPACKBOOHISS
COROLLAONVACAY
ADAPTORDEADEND
NEYOSEEYAIMIN
TVSBENDSSTATE
RIPPEDGUAMNYY
OCEANSERIES
NEXTGENFRATBRO
SAMOASGABOR
CARLOWSTORQUE
OPENSYODELJLO
BANASOFARPOET
ATECROWNEOLITH
LOGROLLASHANTI
TWEEZESEASYTEN

I started this puzzle with X-RAY SPEX, and once I built out the upper-left corner, I noticed BBQ JOINT might work well in the symmetrical location. From there, it was a matter of finding a layout which would cleanly connect the two sections, and then filling the remaining two corners.

Like with my last Friday puzzle, there are some aspects of this one that don't quite resonate with me now. For instance, I doubt I'd choose to intersect OREO THIN and EASY TEN in the lower-right corner, along with some tough proper nouns nearby, if I were making this today. The upper-left also feels strangely heavy on technology-related vocabulary for a puzzle I made (trust me). However, with regard to the upper-right, I remember not being thrilled with ONE-A or NYY but going with them because I thought that the six and seven-letter words in that corner seemed particularly lively and well worth the compromises, and I still stand by that decision.

One cool thing about themeless construction is that the constraints that have already been placed on the grid sometimes bring to mind lively entries that I most likely would not have considered otherwise. SNOWY OWLS was my favorite option for 32-Down, and is perhaps my favorite entry of the whole puzzle. They're such majestic creatures. I'd be glad to encounter one in real life— unlike the SCANTRON, which I wouldn't mind never encountering again now that I've graduated, but I think it makes for a fun crossword entry anyways.

I'm pleased to see that my favorite clues of mine— those for 1-Across, 13-Down, 14-Down, 25-Down and 36-Across— made the cut. I just competed in my first Scrabble tournament, so it's nice that my clue for STAR survived as well.

Finally, it might be of interest to some that I originally constructed this with SCANTRON at 1-Across, but flipped the Acrosses and Downs upon completing the grid as, for some reason, the layout of black squares looked strange to me, and I also preferred the top row of SIX-PACK and BOO HISS. I'm not entirely sure I'd do the same thing today. The longest entries in the puzzle are Downs, which is a bit unorthodox— but then again, so am I, so I guess I'm down with it. Happy solving!

Sat 10/20/2018
CRIPMANTAPSIS
LENTAREELOHNO
ANTOINETTELIMA
STILLLIFEBARAK
SAFELYLACERATE
ICAMEBITESIZED
CODYTUXEDOS
SPARATATATLAC
PARTNERWILL
GREATODDSHASTO
NEUROTICTORTES
APLANAHOYTHERE
WOOSFLIPPHONES
ARGOBELIELUGE
TTYLIDLESSPOT

We decided to build the puzzle when Ben realized that the phrase "Netflix and chill" was 15 letters. It felt a little risqué, so we were delighted when the puzzle was ultimately accepted. Our initial construction effort, however, got off to a bad start: Ben had misconfigured our construction software such that it only offered single-word fill — no phrases!

We eventually figured out how to use computers properly, and when we were able to pair BUTT DIALED with FLIP PHONES, we knew we were onto something. We struggled a bit with the north-center — we're not particularly proud of the AREEL/AREI intersection — but we hammered away until we had something we were happy with.

Cluing the puzzle was especially fun. We each took a copy of the completed grid and, working alone, wrote up a full set clues. Then we compared clues for each entry in a series of TETE A TETES. Our cluing was helped by a simple shell script James wrote, called `cross`, which let us see all the past NYT clues for any entry we were considering (basically a worse version of this site!).

On to the next one!

Sun 10/21/2018YOU'RE GOING DOWN
FIBBERLIBIDOSTRAP
AMARNAUNITARDSCHAFE
KIBITZCROSSBOWRETRO
ENYAOAKENHIDEARSON
SNARKYICETDOME
OTTERABACUSMENSSHOP
WRENCHRESTVINETORY
LIPOUBEREGADASHLAR
SOSALLACARDIBLEDTO
EBOOKUSAUSAARIES
NOLITABRATZDONUTS
BALEDTHEFBIPARTB
LEDGESAVEUSUSESJIF
INVADENEWTAPSOTATA
GAINABELTRIPSEIZED
HECTARESTOILETSEZME
LUSHPUNTTWITCH
ARBYSEGANEPSONLAMP
LEAPSSANDRAOHEMINOR
ENNUITHEREIGOPOPDUO
STATEMADDOWTOSSED

Given that my two favorite themers (BABY STEPS and JAZZ HANDS) were both nine letters, I imposed a cap of eight letters on the rest of the fill. That led to a lot more mid-length fill than usual, which was a nice challenge. I like the array of 5's and 6's in the center, which was the first section I filled (welcome to the Times crossword, CARDI B). I know the Z of the BRATZ/VADUZ crossing might be tough for some, but hopefully, the clue on 67A led you there! A fun feature of this puzzle—something I only noticed ex-post-facto — is the intersection of five words in the bottom-center that all end in an "oh" sound. Hope you got a few laughs out of this theme!

POW Mon 10/22/2018
HOMEEBBSCUBES
UNITTRONASANA
MERCURIALMERCI
ORAGAGSVENIAL
RONALDTOOESSO
MUDPIESPLATTER
ESAUCITGOADS
MARTIAL
IMPPRISMYELP
WORSHIPAPPAREL
ONITETSLAKOTA
JOVIALPOORSSN
IMALLSATURNINE
METESECIGBOOT
ARESOTESHANTS

As originally submitted, this puzzle contained two stacked revealers intersecting the final N and E of SATURNINE: ROMAN GOD and PLANET. That arrangement necessitated a couple of cheater squares under PLANET and made the fill a bit rough in the lower-right corner. Therefore, I was asked to revise the puzzle to just use the single revealer PLANETS.

At the time, that seemed like a reasonable trade-off — sacrifice the second revealer to remove four cheater squares and get better fill. Looking at the puzzle as it goes to press, however, I realize that without the additional ROMAN GOD revealer, the theme feels a bit incomplete. Although the Earth isn't named after a Roman deity like the five planets alluded to in the puzzle, it is nevertheless a planet. I wish I had added EARTHEN or EARTHLY once the ROMAN GOD angle was lost. It would have even been symmetrically balanced by MARTIAN.

Perhaps this puzzle is better suited to the Ptolemaic system where the Earth isn't a planet, you say? Alas, that arrangement doesn't quite match what I've presented either. Under a geocentric model, the observable celestial bodies are arranged in concentric spheres around the Earth: Moon, Mercury, Venus, Sun, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, the fixed stars, and then the Primum Mobile (which accounts for the diurnal motion caused by the Earth's rotation).

Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto weren't included because they aren't visible to the naked eye and were only discovered after the invention of the telescope. By the way, Uranus is the only planet in our solar system (besides Earth) that isn't named after a Roman god. It's named after Uranus, the primordial Greek god of the sky.

Tue 10/23/2018
RASTAEDGARARC
ALTOSTIARACAR
FLATSTANLEYTKO
STENOENEMIES
ITEMGEENADAVIS
FALSEALANENE
SRADIREGIS
WINONARYDER
DANNOMEOWE
EASYKOIACMES
SMALLWORLDRATS
COULEESEDENS
REDATHLETICCUP
OBIDRESSTHEIR
WASSYRUPZESTY

After I couldn't find the reveal (ATHLETIC CUP) ever appearing in any crossword, I wanted to use the "holy grails " awarded in hockey, tennis, golf and ping pong...oops, I mean soccer. When researching cups, I learned that there is a Table Tennis World Cup. (Perhaps that was a factor in this puzzle's acceptance. Only Will knows if it refers to ping pong or soccer.)

It wasn't difficult getting phrases containing DAVIS, RYDER, and WORLD. I was stuck on STANLEY until I remembered a book I read to my kindergarten classes...FLAT STANLEY. That resulted in the 11-10-11-10-11 themer length. Hope solvers don't mind the high 3-letter word count that this layout creates.

This week, my husband and I are moving to Asheville, NC. We are looking forward to seeing more of fellow constructor Lewis R. and his wife. Here's to Asheville!

Wed 10/24/2018
ADDRESSPOPUPAD
PERIDOTORINOCO
AVOCADOWANDERS
ROPEOPETIME
TESSIDEROAD
OOHDECENT
TARSALDARKRED
BATCAVEORANGES
BREADEDNICEST
CANIANNEE
NOTSOBADMOP
TOILTREMILL
LOONIERZAMUNDA
BAZOOKAELASTIC
ODYSSEYLOOKSEE

Hi Crossworld! Thrilled to be making my debut. My fascination with crosswords started at an early age; as a kid I cut my teeth on Newsday puzzles in my hometown of Baldwin, NY. At some point when I was 8 or 9 years old, I remember trying to construct my own puzzle. The only thing I recall about that attempt was that it included the answer OMS, which I clued as "Orange Mammal Society." I know - so many questions. None of which have good answers I'm afraid.

Years later I turned to crosswords as a diversion during a 90-minute commute to NYC every morning, but as a technologically-challenged Xennial, it never occurred to me that an NYT app existed. So there I was, crammed in with grumpy Long Islanders like a human rebus, bumping along towards Penn Station trying to write my answers legibly in a copy of Will Shortz's Wittiest, Wackiest Crosswords.

Eventually, I realized that I could be doing puzzles on my phone instead. I downloaded the app and was stunned to discover that I suddenly had access to 20+ years of NYT archives. After plowing through hundreds of puzzles, I started toying with the idea of making one of my own. Three years and seven submissions later and here we are.

I must take a moment to thank Will and team for their patience and encouragement along the way. It would have been easy to quit after multiple rejections, but they were always careful to call out some positive feedback and leave the door open for future attempts.

Once I settled on this particular theme, I set out to find the most colorful entries that would fit the mold but was constrained by a self-imposed rule that both sides of the [AD] be valid standalone entries. The four themers didn't end up as snazzy as I would have liked, but I hope that some of the livelier fill makes up for it. As a personal bonus, I was happy to be able to incorporate my wife's name (32D) and birthstone (15A). I was also pleased to see that roughly half of my clues made the cut, including my faves at 38A, 8D, and 27D.

One final note — I tried every which way to put the revealer at 63A or 64A and failed miserably. Three P's and a U in the bottom row = permanent dents in my wall and forehead. The 61A/62A row was no picnic either. Moving the revealer to 8A took all that pressure off and allowed me to load up on some interesting 7-letter entries, albeit at the expense of saving the revealer for last. From the solver's perspective, this seemed like a worthwhile tradeoff. I hope you agree.

Happy solving folks! Hope to be back soon.

Thu 10/25/2018
LIAMTETESFRAT
ACNEECONOAONE
PAGELOSTLIQUID
SNORKELSDRILLS
ESLACADEERE
DOASLOWBURNTHE
HEMLASERTAG
PEPASELAERO
BROMANCESEN
SAWGOUPANDDOWN
EDICTLAGNEU
MORITASCREAMED
INSEARCHOFKING
SLUGBRAVEOKIE
TYPOSOWEDNEED

I submitted this puzzle to The New York Times at the end of April of this year, and I learned of its acceptance in early August. I'm grateful to Will Shortz and his team for accepting this puzzle and the work they put into editing it.

I think a 2011 puzzle by Henry Hook subconsciously inspired today's theme. In each puzzle, the solver is misled by a well established crossword cluing convention. I hope you enjoyed the twist on cross-referenced clues and don't feel too betrayed.

My original clue for TYPO was [Rocks for jocks, maybe], thinking about the usual nickname for Geology 101. I appreciate the musical reference in the revised clue, [Tears for Fears, e.g.], and I suspect more than one solver will write in BAND or TRIO here. Tricky! (Yes, I am aware that Tears for Fears has been a duo for some time, but DUO doesn't fit in the boxes.)

Fri 10/26/2018
TABLESCRAPASIS
ALPINELAKERICA
KALECAESAREDEN
EMUASAPPHTEST
IOSSONBWAHAHA
PENGRAYAREA
BIASSAILSMEN
LINTSKUNKBETA
UGHSUINGAIDS
SPARESETCFO
THROATSSACMTA
SAMOSAPUCEOWN
FROMIVECHANGED
OMNINOPRESSURE
RAYESWEETTALKS

In the crossword world, low-hanging thematic fruit can be hard to come by. This makes building ‘freestyle' puzzles an attractive proposition for many a budding constructor.

Development of this puzzle began with the lower-right corner. My goal was to stack three jazzy, new, and perhaps even quasi-related entries (see: Matt Ginsberg)—with minimal to no fill compromises. That corner, which I filled manually back in 2015, established the grid's block pattern. The puzzle's layout is comparatively straightforward from a constructor's perspective because it is relatively segmented. This means you can start building out from any corner, and you likely won't need to tear out your work later on.

I would revisit and complete the grid two years later. The awesome chain sweetgreen introduced me to the KALE CAESAR salad; once I discovered it on other menus, I figured it was worth a cruciverbal shot. I hope that entry was, at a minimum, inferable/worth a chuckle! I was thrilled to be able to incorporate BIG PHARMA, PERP WALK, PH TEST, and "BWAHAHA!!!" My one real fill regret is HAYS, though today I might replace LUSTS FOR as well.

I've always enjoyed wordplay, and I attempted to clue up this late-week puzzle with a hefty serving of linguistic gymnastics. In the end, most of my submitted clues didn't make the cut. Will & Co. came up with great clues for 1-A and 44-D; you can blame me for 39-D. For those gluttons for pun-ishment, here were a handful of my sneakier concoctions:

10-D: One might accompany a charge

26-D: Lightly push back?

41-A: Sore spots?

51-D: Veiled remarks?

Sat 10/27/2018
SCHLUBBYPOTASH
PLEASUREOPORTO
YOUDAMANLEMMON
BURLMISSEDWORK
ODIEENIACARKS
ALSPREGNANT
TITLEDNATESTS
SKIERSSCORED
ECOCIDALKNAVE
PETODORSGEM
ARCOCROWEMIRE
BILLBOARDSICAN
APEDOMNOTALENT
REFILMESURANCE
ENTITYDEPENDED

When I started the puzzle with SCHLUBBY, I had in mind cluing it as [Like many sitcom dads], but SITCOMMY precluded that. SITCOMMY was the linchpin that finally allowed the grid to be finished, so that clue had to go. My original clue for STORK was basically [Frog predator]. I can't take credit for the macabre twist from Will and Joel and Sam, but I did enjoy it.

The last time I used a historical royal who was largely unfamiliar to me was Queen WILHELMINA, who was awesome to learn about. Turns out LEOPOLD II was as villainous as she was heroic. Hoping for a better one next time.

The juxtaposition of PREGNANT and DNA TESTS is fun, but I like the combo ECOCIDAL PET ODORS even better.

Sun 10/28/2018MATCH PLAY
TRACTSAPBSDOCTERI
BACHATABOLTONOREAD
SWEETANDSOURNEGERGO
ANTEHEARTANDSOUL
ERRSTILTJPOPARTS
SHEESHLEIABLACULA
PEACHESANDCREAMEATS
NAPTIMETAKEYOGIRHO
BANEDSSUNNIER
TARANDFEATHERSTONER
DALAISURFAGUAELEGY
IMMUNERIGHTANDWRONG
APOLUNESHEDIS
NONSEASAAHSONESTEP
ANDYSTANDUPANDCHEER
CUESTASSHAMOTELLO
OPRYRSVPSPEWMESS
STOPANDSTAREETRE
WIKICOPMIXEDDOUBLES
ARIEUNOONITSCROOGE
BEESPETSGTSKOWTOW

Here are the clues for some scrapped theme answers:

  • [Jacked in]
  • [ABC powers]
  • [Ring-a-levio]
  • [Arlen Specter]
Mon 10/29/2018
GRABACADSTESTY
LENASOBERALTAR
OMITPUFFINBOOKS
SAMOAGAIALICE
SKUNKCABBAGEKOD
YESBARASTRIDE
AASASHANDY
ZEBRACROSSINGS
BALEAMYTNT
ONELUMPRYEMBA
AIMPANDAEXPRESS
NEATHILLTAXIS
PENGUINSUITBIDE
OSTERACMESACES
ESSENPOSSETOSS

How cool would it be if this puzzle won an Orca Award?

Tue 10/30/2018
ATOPSPAPAGED
RIPOSTESORONO
TRIPTYCHSIFTS
SEEPYSOCIAL
ELSROTYIP
MRRIPLEYDAMA
AYEZAGAOKAY
GRAVEYARDSHIFT
AIDEDMAPTAO
PASTSUNRIPEN
EDAURNERL
LENAPEAUSSI
BROADEGOTRIPS
OFUSEGIVEARIP
ODDERSSALENS

This puzzle and another one published in The Chronicle of Higher Education on 1/10/14, are the direct results of solving one of my all-time favorite NY Times crosswords. That puzzle was by Joel Fagliano published on 8/1/11. Joel's was a 15x15 with 8 10-letter theme entries and a 15-letter revealer, quite impressive. This puzzle's skeleton remained in my folder for years until 2017, when I finally fleshed it out ( both puns intended).

Thanks to Will and Sam for their editing, and to Joel for the inspiration. And, oh yeah…. BOO!

POW Wed 10/31/2018
SHAGAGASPTIFF
CUJOREVUERAIL
OLAFELENAOGLE
TAXLAWSKGBMOLE
ALERAP
NESTEGGVALETED
EREROOIVSELI
ADATOMDEAAFT
ROSEDOWELOBIT
SCENERHOBRINY
ROTARYCLUBS
PCPARAMAICCAR
AMEXTHEMEBURY
PONYRIGA
ANTZCRYPTATON

I remember sending a punny Halloween puzzle to the NYT about a year ago. They replied that the puzzle was OK, but they already had a Halloween puzzle in mind for 2018 - sorry, Charlie. That was disappointing but then, a couple of months later, they wrote to say this CRYPT puzzle was accepted for Halloween, and I had never even thought of that possibility. You just never know, and the pun puzzle is running today in the LA Times.

I see the editors punked my crossword FILL again, at 12-Down, calling it "Truckload at a garbage dump". On 6/7/18 they rated my FILL "Dirt in a dump truck, perhaps", so really not much improvement....

I remember with this crypt puzzle I was having a lot of trouble finding room for five theme entries and still being able to fill it cleanly. I eventually added a couple of blocks above WHY ME, and it worked out. It wasn't till I was cluing it that I noticed that I had accidentally made a cross directly above the crypt, which brought back memories of touring crypts below cathedrals in Europe a few times. For Halloween, I guess it's more like a tombstone marker over a crypt in the graveyard — at midnight, with spider webs. It's useful to have a good word list and practice your construction a lot, but sometimes luck plays a huge role in puzzle production.

My son Ryan was laid to rest in 2001, but he is remembered in a small way today, at 59-Down. More importantly, the Ryan Haight Online Pharmacy Consumer Protection Act of 2008 (introduced by Dianne Feinstein and signed by George Bush) continues to save lives.