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Puzzles for October, 2022
with Constructor comments

Sat 10/1/2022
MAINBDAYSLIM
EAVEBLARETIRE
CROWDSURFSAVON
HORSEMENYELENA
ANYLESONESEC
PITCHOUTADE
TONELOCPLOD
GERTRUDESTEIN
BASKEGALITE
ALTPOSENUDE
BLAMEDVMIJAY
YEMENISUPEREGO
FREESHOOEDAWAY
AINTTBONDMEMO
TATSSONGALES
Sun 10/2/2022 Le Puzzle
ASSHATFEELOKAYSHIP
NIKOLAADVOCATESTENO
TRICKLEQUESTIONHARPO
SEPALTSEANHORMEL
YDSLOEWSSVELTETINS
AGINOLDIEOHMLOCI
URBANERIOTSTEPENID
SEEMEADDSDATAADELE
ILAYNILEPAYEXTRA
NITMIMESOWERNOTPC
GELCAPOHHENRYOMEARA
FELLAFOOTSPITALAB
ATTEMPTSSINEMANY
GRASSFOESKICKHACKS
EARSPLUSHONKHONEYS
STETEATEASELERIC
TEARATHENSWEANSOKS
ADRIFTCROPAPEUAE
TAUPEALLOVERTHEMAPLE
EAGLEDIABETESCALLED
SASEALTEREGOKNEELS

I got inspired to try crossword construction when Diagramless puzzles came along. They are a favorite of mine. When the NYT bought Wordle in January, I wanted to incorporate that somehow into a puzzle theme.

Shout-out to fellow Seattleite Jeff Chen who mentored me on some other puzzles at the start of the pandemic.

Mon 10/3/2022
BELBERGSACUTE
EMUIDAHOMATEY
HINGEUPONPRONE
EGGONSIPGPA
AREAMATCHPOINT
DEADMANDEBATE
SETAIOLIDANSE
TINDERDRY
UPDOSEIEIOPCS
SLAYERNOSWEAT
BUMBLEBEESINTO
GMOFIXANDSO
ASIANDATINGAPP
MINTYELECTNAT
ANGSTSTAKETWO

This puzzle is the culmination of an unexpected journey from designing crossword-themed knitting patterns to constructing actual crosswords! Coincidentally, both pursuits involve putting colored squares in grids — and have led to lots of lovely new connections in the "crossworld" on Twitter! I'm especially grateful to Ross Trudeau, without whose mentorship you wouldn't be solving this puzzle today.

They say to write what you know, and I am certainly well acquainted with 59-Acrosses, having tried all the ones featured here except 25-Across. 17-Across is currently my platform of choice, where I imagine you may soon see a profile picture of me holding this crossword! I was lucky to find a relatively constrained theme set here with a lot of fun in-language phrases. The shorter 9- and 10-letter themers gave me the flexibility to include a lot of answers longer than 7 letters while maintaining clean fill. I'm really happy with how this puzzle turned out, and hope you enjoyed my debut!

Tue 10/4/2022
IBMPRODLPGA
POILEOICOHAN
ASTROPHYSICIST
SCRAWLEVIL
SHESYANNIICE
PLAYEDCUPID
CRUSLEWRPGS
RUPAULIVLINE
ANTIMICACAL
ZOOMEDALONG
ENSRAVENETAS
PURRCIARDI
EYESONTHEPRIZE
STEERSODAKEG
ODDSAGEDESE

I wanted to include JULIA WARD HOWE in the middle but could not make that into a workable grid.

Fun to have two skinny mid-week puzzles in short succession; it's a bit of an unexplored space — by my count, 15x16 and 16x15 puzzles are ~10 times more common than 15x14 and 14x15 puzzles.

Wed 10/5/2022
OSLOATBATMEME
RIENROACHOVAL
ARABELITELEGO
LIFEANDLIMBO
IRONSITSON
FINETOOTHCOMBO
FANGSNEEVAIN
LICOCTARCLSU
OLASARFHELPS
JUSTPLAINDUMBO
OPERACHIRP
ALITTLELAMBO
CAINSHIFTTOON
BLOGNOVAEHEDY
DANETRENDSTYX

I had dabbled in constructing before the pandemic, but once COVID hit, I decided I was determined to get a puzzle accepted in the Times.

I'm a comedy writer by trade, so I wanted my themers to elicit at least a slim to moderate chuckle. Turning COMB to COMBO was my way in, and after running through a bunch of -MB words, was pleasantly surprised to find the phrases I turned up worked out neatly for symmetry.

I'd originally had PHANTOM LIMBO as a themer until my editor suggested LIFE AND LIMBO, which is way better. Serious bucket list item crossed off today — hope to be back in these pages soon!

Thu 10/6/2022
CIVETDDTARCO
ACIDIFIESLOLL
MERGELEFTLOUD
EDIEAUTOMATES
OILINGRAY
STENOALMAESC
ANTEMUCHO
HAWTHORNEPOOL
IRONDATAMINED
NERTSIOTA
TSKHANSSLUGS
SIDTHENOW
COREVALUENCAA
UNIXPARESDOWN
TEATTRADITION
SSNSSALROLLS

When I started toying with this idea ("zipper words," which can split into two common words of equal length, neatly interspersed), the 6+6 ALTERNATIONS was the only viable 12-letter candidate I could find in the universe of 12-letter phrases**. The fact that its dictionary definition is "repetitions of two things in turn" seemed like a miracle with no purpose but to inspire a crossword with precisely this theme!

(** Not strictly true. I also found UPRUNS + NOOSES = UNPOROUSNESS. Yuck + yuck = yuck!)

The editors introduced two key changes, presumably to yield a smoother or more enjoyable solving experience for more solvers: they re-clued MERGELEFT as an early, explicit hint to the theme (I had originally clued it straight, then referred back to it at the end of the puzzle, within the PARESDOWN clue), and they introduced the " — " clues (in lieu of straight clues in those slots). I'd be interested to know how solvers felt: was the early hint too much, too soon? Did you find the " — " clues frustrating?

I found this puzzle unusually challenging — but also unusually satisfying — to construct. Hope you can say the same about solving it!

Fri 10/7/2022
ZEBRACLEAVAGE
APRONSHANGERON
ISAWITESTEEMED
ROVEOFFSRASP
EMERALDOMGDAL
KERRATTILA
KETANJICOOLLY
BOGOBROWNELIS
ANGORAJACKSON
CABLESASHE
ICEDEFTEASHOP
LOAMEPEETUBA
LATEGAMESHAMES
USERNAMEEILISH
STREUSELMEDEA

MARY LOU: Many thanks to Jeff for helping me feature KETANJI BROWN JACKSON in this grid, no easy feat given the limited number of options when the three parts of her named are stacked in the middle with those J's. A grid I had been playing around with separated the names with a line in between but didn't pull them together the way I thought they should be.

My clue for CLEAVAGE: ["There is a ___ and a divide in America like I've never seen before." -Mark Shields] sadly holds true and will, I fear, for some time.

One of my three clue options for KETANJI BROWN JACKSON was [Judge who wrote "Presidents are not kings"]. Another was [SCOTUS member with experience as a public defender]. The editors chose what I thought was the easiest of the three. I wish Judge Jackson well during her tenure.

I hope that you've enjoyed your Friday solving experience.

Sat 10/8/2022
CREDOREDDBRB
LOCALCOLORCREE
IMAREALBOYAONE
PERKBEARMARKET
SODATAXPORTER
LOLDRUMSOUT
TVSETWAITSPSA
HUESZHUZHWEST
UVALEONECANOE
SUNBURSTTOY
ZEALOTPOLARIS
PETCUSHIONHINT
ALTOTEMPAGENCY
GALSARABLEAGUE
ESEREMYODORS

The foundation for this grid was 33A (which I hope solvers will enjoy uncovering) and the central pattern of black squares.

POW Sun 10/9/2022 Rise to the Challenge
INACOMAHSWEEPSCOT
MILITIAINHORRORHART
SHARONAMAHAYANARUDY
CHIMNEYHDIESEL
TATABEATHCOMMANDER
UVACAMPHONDAUSA
BELARBORHPICKERSFO
ARMORELISHAEGESTED
SUBMARINEHCAMOPILE
EDSELGAHOVAARTS
CLIMBSTHELADDER
DIEUARIHUBENEWS
USSRDCONHREPAIRMAN
NICEJOBCHORALAESOP
ETACHERRYHTULIPAWE
PERTOOTHLILTBIC
TELEPHONEHOVALOINK
SCRAWLHPAINTER
PEONULTRAHOTCENTIME
CLODSEARCHESELBOWED
ALMSHOUSEHSLYNODS

JESSIE: Ross has a long history of rocking my socks with grids that creatively deploy letters-as-pictures. He pitched me on this (ahem) word ladder in the summer of 2000, and when we found the central intersection with CLIMBS THE LADDER, we knew we had something fun.

ROSS: I love when Jessie's research agenda shows up in her puzzles, as in the clue for NAPOLI ("Mafia : Sicilia :: Camorra : ___"). She also reliably drops cute autobiographical pearls in her fill (see: ESCAPE ROOM)!

If you're interested in learning how to make your own crossword puzzles, feel free to reach out via Twitter or my personal site Rossword Puzzles.

And! I'll be live solving indie crosswords with Parker Higgins on Sunday even at 8p eastern on our Twitch stream Cursewords Live. Drop by and say hello in the chat!

Mon 10/10/2022
PRIMPSAPEDMCS
AERIALNATOAHI
SPARRINGPARTNER
TOTEMPOLEARIAS
ATEHERBAPP
TACOYESEWE
SEASCAPEFOODIE
PARALLELPARKING
ASTRALMALTESES
SYDMILPLAY
PEPNAPABAR
SEGUEBOYGEORGE
PARTSDEPARTMENT
USEPULPINANER
DYENOSYPARTWO

Don't delete your calendar app! Yes, it is indeed my byline on a Monday. Had the lower right corner with the revealer not worked out, I had the backup plan of PAR 2 as the revealer, which would have probably pushed it to a Wednesday. Since the theme entries weren't PARticularly sPARkling, I tried to put in a lot of fun stuff outside the theme. The challenge was keeping everything as Monday-friendly as possible. Hope you all enjoy it.

POW Tue 10/11/2022
LIARCLADPASTE
ORSOLUCAASPEN
GOODFAITHCHARD
INFEARLEEMRI
COYROCKINROBIN
AREAHEATKONG
LETSPLAYABATES
STARLILY
GATEAUFILTERIN
ADINROOMDINO
PRETTYPENNYPHO
KEGENTYEETED
INANESUPERGIRL
DAMONISITODIE
SLEDSNAGSSETS

As a high school student, I pick up on a variety of language throughout my day, ranging from Gen-Z slang to calculus terms. This provides a plethora of inspiration for crosswords! One day last year, I overheard a conversation about AMAZING GRACE in the cafeteria. As I let my mind wander, I came up with other phrases with an adjective + girl name, which led me to this SUPERGIRL theme.

While AMAZING GRACE didn't make it into the grid, I'm glad it lent itself to other fun entries like ROCKIN ROBIN and PRETTY PENNY. I hope this puzzle is lighthearted and enjoyable across demographics, from my classmates just starting out to NYT followers around the globe.

Thank you to the Diverse Crossword Constructor Fellowship and my mentor, Joel Fagliano, for helping make this puzzle a reality! I look forward to constructing more crosswords.

Wed 10/12/2022
KALEBASRULERS
IDEAALYENAMOR
LOWRIDERFORAYS
LSDMARIEVIAL
MUSTANGSALLY
SLUMPSTAPES
TOGAAMIGACEL
ACLFASTCARALE
TOYIGIVEAMMO
TAXEDBIDSON
MERCEDESBENZ
CLUESPLATQED
JETSETAUTOTUNE
ONHIRETRIMAYA
BASTEDESTCYAN

Determining which car-related songs to include in this puzzle was the biggest challenge in constructing it.

First, the song titles had to have 15 letters or fewer to fit, so despite trying as hard as I could, I had to leave out "Little Red Corvette" by Prince. (Unfortunately, I couldn't split it symmetrically because LITTLE RED has 9 letters, and CORVETTE has 8.)

Second, the songs had to be iconic enough to be recognizable to the puzzle-solving audience, so I couldn't scour the "Car Talk" archives on NPR for any of the humorous deep cuts Tom and Ray used as bumper music.

Finally, I wanted the songs to mention cars explicitly in the title, so sorry, Boss, but I didn't include "Born to Run" despite its great lyrics like "chrome wheel, fuel-injected, and stepping out over the line."

Considering the limitations, I'm happy with the four songs that made the cut, especially one of my favorite songs ever — "Fast Car".

Thu 10/13/2022
CODANBAFABLES
ADAMOEDLIAISE
REBUTTEDOLDMAN
BASSOBLAREDOUT
EGOLADEN
NORMBBALLACT
CHEERIESTALERT
IFCYEAHIGHLIE
SUITEHOMESALES
NPRMETEDTOSS
RADARSEE
PROVOLONESILOS
RECANTSKIPTOWN
ELAINEFEDUGLI
POLLEDWDSPOST

I avoided super large cities for this puzzle. Even though the reveal's TOWN can indicate one, as in the song "My Kind of Town" (referring to Chicago), I usually think of a town as something cozier in size.

This puzzle is brought to you by the letter O. I've never seen so many long O's in a 15 x 15 before — and I look for things like that — 19 of them! CHEERIEST reminds me of the show "Cheers", and it makes me happy to see NORM sitting on top of it.

The theme was given to me by my dog and best-bud Chester, who unfailingly brought me to zen during our walks, allowing clues and themes to tap on my shoulder. Chester left this world a half year ago, and was an angel to everyone who knew him. This puzzle's for you, big boy.

Fri 10/14/2022
HATHAYOGAPLOYS
ILHANOMARROBOT
STUDYDATEENSUE
SODAENEWSGERM
BALIENDUSE
BULBBDAYSAP
TUBASPOOPEMOJI
AYESPRONEOVEN
DIRTYJOKEAVERT
ANDATMSDIRK
GROWONSHOE
ATITPINTOSLAB
RIVERGOINSTYLE
CMEREHANKAARON
SERIFTHESTREET

I filled about 75% of this puzzle's grid back in 2020 but wasn't entirely satisfied with any options for the lower right, so I relegated this puzzle to my "graveyard." About a year later, I rediscovered the puzzle and decided to give the lower right one more try. I was particularly excited about the snazzy answer GO IN STYLE, and everything went smoothly from there.

Well, not quite: Joel Fagliano informed me that the Times's editorial team liked the puzzle but felt the clues were too easy! I realized I'd become so focused on editing the Universal Crossword (which stays at a constant Tuesday-ish difficulty) that my hard cluing skills had gotten rusty. Undeterred, I cranked the difficulty up to 11 and was pleased to see many of my toughest clues make the cut. My favorite of those clues is [Cramming together, e.g.?] for STUDY DATE.

Sat 10/15/2022
MAGICSHOPSTAMP
AMERICANOPOPUP
RISKTAKERAMISS
ARTSINESSCAST
CIAETCETHNO
ATLASMEHCOLOR
SETTERPETABYTE
HVACSODA
WHALEPODYESMAN
EATENDUHTEASE
BITITPSALIM
LUSHITWASNTME
LINUSEPICPOEMS
ENEROCANTUNSEE
OGDENENGINEERS

I really like this kind of themeless grid, with the 4x9s and boxy corners. I've wanted to make one since May 2020 after seeing a similar puzzle by Patrick Berry.

An older draft had THE APOLLO, HALLOWEEN, EVIL PLANS, and RADIO EDIT in the top-left corner, but the fill wasn't as clean. Editors also — surprisingly to me — flagged EVIL PLANS ("Contents of a villain's notebook") as too contrived. After that, things were stuck until I injected a black square above ACT I (originally, CACTI). This opened up a host of new options.

TOMATO BASE and SEVENTH SON are two entries worth highlighting, I think. As marquee entries go, neither one is particularly current or flashy. But both felt off the beaten track in a way that I found interesting.

Two editorial changes went in opposite directions on the spectrum of "original vs. accessible":

  • My clue for OGDEN was [Humorist Nash], which became [First permanent settlement by people of European descent in what is now Utah].
  • My clue for LIM was [Sleight of hand master Shin ___], which became [Abbr. in calculus].

In hindsight, maybe [Las Vegas headliner Shin ___] would have carried more gravitas and made the cut!

I hope you enjoy it!

Sun 10/16/2022 Terminal Connections
MUCHOSEMIMINORPAPAL
EBOOKIRENECARAATARI
NEWTSDEARMADAMSHRED
RATIOLEONAOSAKA
BIGNEWSLICHENS
BLUENILERELRAMSDOWN
IONTEACEREMONYDIO
TOGACROISSANTBARR
EMARKETINGTRADENAMES
LESSENIGOTIT
STREETREHOUSEILIADS
THUSFARDUNSTDESKSET
EONTASGUVWONAMA
MUSTIESTUSSHONDAFIT
SANDSTONETHEMEROOM
GTAAWEAYEALL
HERHASTRITTRBILAG
ISOGONSCARIESANGOLA
AQUAOTTOMANSETSAWOL
LUNGTHERONETTESZUNE
LEDSETDSSOILAPES

I can rarely track how a theme idea evolved into a full-blown theme, but here's the relevant section of my Notes app. Not pictured was the draft I tried with TOGETHER AT LAST in the circled squares before Adam Aaronson pointed out that SUR[VIVAL] going into [VIVA L]A VIDA isn't too exciting if you look at their etymologies. So, I learned a valuable lesson, started a new draft, started a few more drafts, took a break from the puzzle for a few months, then returned to it post-grad and somehow finished the grid that night.

A few assorted finds for this and other drafts:

  • A C[APPELLA] + BE[NOIT] = APPELLATION
  • POLI[TESSE] + SCOU[T CAR] = TESSERACT
  • HYPO[CRITE] + CAFE [NOIR] = CRITERION
  • BRU[TALISM] + CES[SNA] = TALISMANS

Finally, shoutout to Splits and Mergers, which gets my vote for one of the coolest Sundays of all time. Something about letters that parse differently in one word versus in another word just hits different.

Mon 10/17/2022
ABELEVILAWAKE
TODODANALEGIT
BUGSBUNNYALONE
AGITAMARC
TIEMICKEYMOUSE
SERBDONNEMCED
UTILERELAY
ALFREDENEUMAN
SNAFUCARTA
ITMECOATITRAP
MISTERSPOCKEVE
MAYSANGER
REFERIMALLEARS
AGENTFOREALSO
NODUHYMCATEEN

I've been an avid puzzle solver for as long as I can remember. During the pandemic, I decided to use the extra time at home to tackle the #1 item on my bucket list; getting a puzzle published in the New York Times. I signed up for an online puzzle construction course and began my foray into constructing soon after.

The inspiration for this theme came to me as I was about to tell a story to a friend, and she remarked, "Go ahead — I'm all ears!" Suddenly an image popped into my head of a person whose ears were the dominant feature of their face. This led to a brainstorming session in which I came up with both real and fictional candidates who fit the bill. Ultimately I decided to stick with fictional characters to not insult any actual people.

I'd like to give a shout out to my puzzle mentors, Matthew Stock and Rich Proulx, as well as a special thank you to my daughters, my husband, and finally, my dad, who instilled in me my love of puzzling. I hope you enjoy!

Tue 10/18/2022
PALGARAGECAPS
ALAICONICOLEO
IFIMBEINGHONEST
LADIESGINGKO
ELSWIENER
BOYOHONDOAHAB
APEMORTDATIVE
RESERVEONESSPOT
BRONTETERPPIT
SANDREARMHYDE
GOBALDGOD
BEAVISEERIER
ANDMAKEITSNAPPY
PAGEEUROPEPEA
TIESSPAWNSYEN

It's always a thrill to have a puzzle in the Times. This one took a circuitous route to publication. I submitted version #1 back in 2017; revised it based on comments only to see it rejected again in 2018; then set it aside for a few years before dusting it off, reviewing it with fresh eyes, and coming up with an improved version that finally made the cut.

Because the Times Crossword is deservedly recognized for its erudite, high-minded puzzles, it may come as a surprise that my pre-publication correspondence with the editorial team focused on whether to capitalize the "Head" in "Butt-Head" in the clue for 49-Across. (Actually, for those who know me, it probably isn't that surprising at all). Thanks to the team for engaging with me on this critical question, and more generally for their upgrades to many of my original clues. I hope solvers enjoy the result!

Wed 10/19/2022
DISCSEDGYSMOG
ASAHILOLAPAUL
INVERYPOORTASTE
STEWIAMBADORN
TAPSALANON
INCONSOLABLY
SEEYAILLSASS
INNLATEFEEWOE
SEARVATCHOUX
UNIRONICALLY
LEANEDONES
MAGICTWODAIDE
FRANKLYINCENSED
ATITOKRARILED
OHNOPEENENEMY

Inspiration is often born of scarcity, and such was certainly true here — the scarcity in question being that of PlayStation 5 consoles on store shelves, which led me to the tongue-in-cheek INCONSOLABLY answer (we gamers can be a temperamental lot). That clue has aged remarkably well in the year or so since I submitted this, though I understand availability is finally improving (just in time for the new God of War — woo!).

I built the grid around that centerpiece, thinking it would be fun to give a lively glow-up to the tried-and-true Swifty formula. I hope the answers elicit ample chuckles or at least groans.

I continue to enjoy gaming, moviegoing, creative writing--screenwriting in particular--and, of course, crossword construction. My best friend recently helped me launch my own crossword blog, which has given me a rewarding outlet for some of my more idiosyncratic creations.

I hope to be back in the NYT with more puzzles soon, said Ryan enigmatically. Thanks for solving!

Thu 10/20/2022
RCAAGESHAPPEN
ARMMORAIGUITY
GUYIVEGOTAPLAN
UMPEDCARSULLY
BOXSETGPS
ETTAHAIRBOW
ASHTWAINBLUR
COLAEONGAZE
THEYHELIOCON
SORORALRISK
EVATAMEST
CHEESDGEHAHAS
HARLEMSHAKEENT
UNABLEEMIREGO
BASALTESTEPOW

Thrilled to be back on a Thursday! For this theme, I wanted to black out one instance each of LAMB, RAM, and EWE. Selecting theme entries had an extra degree of difficulty because adding the obscuring black squares couldn't leave behind any unchecked squares or two-letter words. LAMB had the fewest options, so that crossing largely dictated the placement of the other theme entries.

Hope this one doesn't pull the wool over your eyes and you enjoy the solve!

POW Fri 10/21/2022
EBAYBASTELAWN
SOSOONTOEIDEA
PLAYITCOOLLURE
NONOTTHATBALE
USACLOTFACADE
BAEBARTON
HANGONASECOND
WAITRIGHTHERE
WINTHELOTTERY
ANDUEYRAN
RETURNBEADINA
COLTCONCERTOS
DAWNDRUNKDIALS
UVEAVENUEPLIE
GELSREDIDEYES

I got into crosswords when I saw a friend post a screenshot of a sub-10 minute Friday solve. I thought I could probably do that too (hubris!) so I downloaded the NYT app and was humbled to realize even Mondays were really hard.

I persevered and, over a year later, got the elusive sub-10 Friday solve. Now, though I'm trying to PLAY IT COOL, it feels like a full-circle moment to debut with my very own Friday puzzle!

I know there's tough competition today, with Taylor Swift's album "Midnights" dropping just two hours after this puzzle, but I hope everyone can find some time to solve. I included a Taylor Swift reference in one of my original clues (can you guess which?), though sadly, it didn't make the cut.

If you'd like to discuss the puzzle or the album, follow my other puzzling pursuits, or share your own crossword origin story rooted in being overly competitive, please say hello on Twitter (@rafaxword)!

Sat 10/22/2022
ADDISABABAEVES
COASTLINESMALL
ISTHATAYESPLEA
DEABASINSTUNS
PAIREDUHYEAH
DOLLSEASON
TOILETAPUECHO
HINTSATPROSHOP
ANTIIAMPHTEST
MALBECREST
WAGERSLOSERS
IDAHOVISTAMIX
SEMIPOSTALCODE
PLUGITSALLOVER
SETHNEARLYWEDS

YACOB: Collaborating with Brooke on this Saturday puzzle was a blast! I am so thankful for how open and warm the crossword community is because it's allowed me to make amazing friends and collaborators like Brooke!

As for this puzzle, we started it last August, and Brooke laid out the grid and started with the beautiful stack in the SE. I then worked to fill the NW stack and connect the two; from there, it was pretty smooth sailing! As an Ethiopian-American, I couldn't pass up the chance to put in ADDIS ABABA at 1-Across once I saw the option pop up. I'm very proud of the fill on this puzzle because filling high-quality themeless puzzles can often feel like an impossible task, but I am super pleased with our end result.

Brooke is a magician with her clues, and it was a wonderful learning experience to clue this puzzle with her and learn from her cluing skills. My favorites of the clues she wrote that made it to the final puzzle are 15A, 50A, and 1D.

I had such a blast constructing this puzzle with Brooke, so hopefully, you'll see more Brooke-Yacob collaborations in the future!

BROOKE: +100 to everything Yacob said above! I'm so glad to have gotten to know and become friends with Yacob, whose puzzles I had long admired from afar, through the process of creating something together. He's just as amazing a person as you'd imagine from his thoughtful and deliberate constructions!

The most memorable part of the filling process was our constant refining of the fill after Yacob connected the NW and SE stacks. I massively appreciate his unwillingness to settle for anything iffy and also am also beyond happy with the result — I think this was part of why it was so fun to clue! I love the interplay of the statements in the 40A and 9D clues and the icons highlighted therein.

Sun 10/23/2022 To Be Continued
ANTIQUESTORESAROMA
LOOMURGESTAXICAPED
LIONENOCHODINHYENA
OCTOPUSTIMETCBYNAG
WESTIEMIRACLEONICE
ALSIOTAHARPONES
SACRACONSNONEARG
ALOOFACEHYPEMUSCAT
GARBAGEDUMPSCREEDS
ANNODINISPYBRARDA
BETWEENTHELINES
PERFARPALSNOBIMUS
HATTERKALEIDOSCOPE
INHOMEIRISNEDDENTE
ETATAKEBDAYRAYON
ACMEMESAPOORHON
DRAMALESSONSUNDOCK
MAREXEDFIREFRESHEN
INKEDCOVEISAIDLADE
NIECEONCESISALORAL
SATONMARTHASTEWART

DAN: Bonus puzzle for the day:

[Attire, 4] + [Spearheaded, 3] + [Soldier's meal, 4] + [A long, long time, 4] = [Some of the entries in today's puzzle?, 7,8]

In the summer of 2021, I wrote some code to identify entries that could be broken down in multiple ways. BET-WEE-NTH-ELI-NES was a notable hit. I sat on that for a few months, then approached Jeff with it. We wrestled with the idea, trying to come up with a tractable presentation (seeding large grids with small entries is such a challenge!). While brainstorming how to present the entries creatively, we serendipitously stumbled on some grid art that strongly resembled the Lincoln Memorial and got sidetracked for a few months. After that escapade, we returned to BETWEEN THE LINES and settled on the presentation you see here. It's fun to see how one idea can lead to another totally unrelated idea, as it did in this case.

Big thanks to Jeff. This is our third puzzle this year in the Times. Having an experienced mentor to filter and process ideas with is such a help. If anyone is looking for someone to bounce ideas around with, feel free to DM me on Facebook.

Finally, big thanks to my parents (Mark and Holly) for their support and willingness to test-solve some of my less-polished ideas.

Bonus Puzzle's Answer (Backwards): SEGASSEM DELBRAG

Mon 10/24/2022
SANSCLEFTACTI
EMITHELLORUED
ROPEODEONMBAS
FRANCISCOGOYA
SETTODAMN
SELMANASAL
ADDDIEGORIVERA
PROPSTAREYANK
PEDROPASCALTOE
SWOONPALAU
PUMAINCUR
JOSEFELICIANO
PSISCRAIGTRIO
DIVACOSMOATOM
AXELASTERSANS

Count me among the many cruciverbalists who were inspired by the documentary Wordplay, in particular the constructing process of Merl Reagle (RIP). I first saw the film around 2010 and started constructing myself not long thereafter. More than a decade later, it has been quite a journey to reach my New York Times debut!

The idea for this puzzle hit me while I was on vacation in California, enjoying the beauty of the San Diego waterfront. I found myself preoccupied with cities named after saints, probably because I was born and raised in the Philadelphia area (go Phillies!), where there is a conspicuous dearth of Spanish missions. Later, brainstorming theme answers, I considered Antonio Banderas, Salvador Dali, and a slew of Juans before realizing I could have a set of answers all fittingly about California locations.

A thank you to Will and team for maintaining the spirit of so many of my clues through the revision process, especially 40-Down, which was my favorite clue to write. Happy solving!

Tue 10/25/2022
DISCRASPMAPS
OREOANTEPURSE
LOEBCAENIDEAS
ANSYELPREHASH
POPTABSAUCE
SNOBBYUNTENDED
TABIPOSELY
TERRANODAPPLE
ICURUNEFOO
SONICAREOOPSIE
CRIESWOOING
SPIKEDGENTTAR
ELSIELAOSVIBE
AILEDOMNIMOOT
REARTESTINXS

ASHLEIGH: A while back I was solving a NYT puzzle with "Highway to Hell" and "Stairway to Heaven" step answers. This was the kind of music I grew up listening to, so I of course, LOVED this puzzle. It got me thinking of what other things would work as "steps" in a puzzle and the phrase "step your game up" came to me. I also really love board games, so I ran with it.

At first, I also experimented with some video games as the theme answers (which would have been a nice gift for my husband and his best friend, Nick, who wrote the clues for the puzzle), but the board games made for the nicest grouping.

I then just fiddled around with making the games fit in a way that would allow for a nice grid, and once that was all done, I passed the puzzle off to Nick Shepard for clue writing.

NICK: I'm a software developer with a love for wordplay. I spend most of my time either in the coding matrix or editing my emails to use some periods instead of all exclamation points so that I don't sound crazy!

My friend and co-contributor, Ashleigh and I, are major board game enthusiasts, so a puzzle featuring some of the classics seemed like an appropriate nod. My favorite clue in the puzzle is "Inner ear? COB" because I am originally from Indiana and am forever a sucker for a corny pun.

I hope everyone enjoys my first published crossword, and there will be more fun to be had in the future.

Wed 10/26/2022
ROOMBATHATSUCKS
AMPLERHOLEINONE
MARKETRESEARCHER
PRYRHONELOEB
AMUSEOSLO
MASTERSTRATEGIST
CRAMOHIOMOO
JONALLFOURSPAD
OATMOOTMEMO
BRANFORDMARSALIS
OMNICLEAR
DRNONAVALOPS
READILYAVAILABLE
APPLIESTORODEIN
MOSEISLEYSWAYED

There are dozens of terms composed of 4+4+4 common, unrelated components (FEAT+HERB+RAIN, say). But I could only find a handful of good 4+4+4+4 candidates where the compound answer is also crossword-worthy. This theme begged to have four themers (4x4x4... "ALL FOURS"), so there were just enough to make it work.

The original submittal included COVE+RING+MATE+RIAL ("covering material") and the editors wisely asked me to keep digging. GOOD+SAND+CHAT+TELS, HOTS+TONE+MASS+AGES, and THUR+GOOD+MARS+HALL were all flawed contenders. Thankfully, Branford Marsalis showed up to save the day.

My penultimate submittal eliminated the Star Wars reference at 68A: I had second thoughts about a long proper noun with no inferable spelling. But the editors asked that I keep it in, saying "... yeah, it might be a polarizing entry — but its inclusion will also be many solvers' favorite thing in the fill..." I found that interesting. Puzzles try to entertain a wide variety of solvers… but the editors know they won't succeed for all of them at once, with every clue or answer. Still, hopefully all solvers find enough goodies in each puzzle to keep it fun!

POW Thu 10/27/2022
VOIDSOUTHORCS
PINAOUTDONOLA
SLOTCREPEECON
BREAKADIPOSE
RAGBRAYSFACES
ERACAFESFROST
DONTWASLYE
ONCEERIVONCIS
NPRCISTALL
AMANAMANICTOW
POWERINONECVS
UNASKEDGOTOE
SAKSCACTIENDS
ICEEHIMOMEDIT
CONEORATESOTU

This is my first rebus puzzle. It got its start when I thought of BREAK BREAD and JUNK DRAWER together, with that fairly uncommon KD string. I didn't think I had seen this as a reason for a rebus before. I couldn't get JUNK DRAWER to work, so thank goodness socks also have a drawer.

When the editing team asked me to replace one entry, I reached out to Jeff in my quest to make sure I was looking at all the possible replacements. In our conversation, he pointed to one of Matt Ginsberg's, but that's a Schrödinger puzzle, so that's not quite the same mechanism.

I tried to confine the possibilities to phrases that were not sing-song or rhyming, so it was more of a surprise that the two halves of the phrase were only one letter apart. I also didn't want to use entries where one of the words could have the same clue as the whole phrase (sorry, Galileo Galilei). Because the theme answers appeared short, I worked to get more long down entries into the grid.

Fri 10/28/2022
ATSEAOHMSBAT
DREAMHEELALDO
MUDRAGREYNOHO
ICANTLOOKDOWEL
TENEIDDINARS
FUNTHUSFEE
BURNERACCOUNT
CINNAMONTOAST
ROOKIEMISTAKE
URLGUYSANY
BROTHSAPTSIT
BIGOTLIFEHACKS
IDIGTOFFELENA
SOSOWIFIMINOR
HRTONYXSTEWS

Submitting a puzzle with a three-letter entry that's never been used in the Times, especially an acronym, is always a dicey proposition, so I'm glad to be able to debut HRT in the Times with this puzzle.

I'm grateful, as always, to the editors for introducing some great clues and keeping the extremely corny dad joke in my clue for AMATEUR NIGHT.

Sat 10/29/2022
SOCIALCLASS
MIRANDARIGHTS
SUNRISEMOVEMENT
ACTINLBSSONIA
KHANMASTSOOPS
SOXHAITIANGEE
CONDENSES
THREEWISHES
SHUNTYIPES
ITEMSCRUSIXAM
DOHSFEINTASTI
OLASINGLETCIS
LIVEINTHEMOMENT
DESSERTSPOONS
SPIDEYSENSE

I had to wrestle this one into existence as I had some darlings I refused to kill, and I was very curious to make this slightly off-the-wall grid work. Since I constructed this puzzle, some of the debut answers were, in fact, published by other constructors, which gave me a moment of disappointment. Still, I'm happy with the unusual stacking, and the sense of flow, with entries whooshing you around.

There was some discussion around the cluing that I advocated for — some more whimsical, some that were perhaps too obvious or not obvious enough (I recall asking for [Be here, now] as the clue for LIVE IN THE MOMENT, it being a sly reference to the Ram Dass book of the same title). I think we ended up with a challenging but fair compromise overall.

I like that the top section feels thematically in the political sphere but then is supported at the bottom with far more lightheartedness.

Sun 10/30/2022 Sending a Message
STAIRSGOITERDESIRE
WENTUPAIRTIMEUSENET
ELNINOMAITAISMELTED
ALANTURINGSTEAMFIX
ROWSEENATALKAMAD
NISSANIMITATIONGAME
NUCLEIIRONSPORTIA
JITSUGNUAPTFRIEND
INOILEASEDEPIAPSE
GRUELSTELELOOKS
SIREVERSCLUNKDAM
BYSEXSHINSCHEME
AEROETCPINGSHITON
STRAYSANIEEKAVERS
MONGOLCLARKSISTER
ENIGMAMACHINECASSIS
WEEANASTURBANOLA
SPYDRAGSCRYPTOGRAM
OFYOREBLINKATADRATE
FOLDERAAMILNENEATEN
TREADSSMILEDASSESS

I love meta-puzzles, and I was inspired by Jack Reuter's "Hidden Tactics" chess-themed puzzle on July 7, 2019. I wondered if it was possible to embed a cryptogram — a different newspaper column puzzle — into a crossword.

I succeeded through a combination of stick-to-itiveness and luck. I had the idea to use an Alan Turing quote from the beginning, along with the four theme entries that aren't part of the cryptogram. (Lofty ambitions to use additional entries like BENEDICT CUMBERBATCH (19) went away quickly once I started the grid.) The quote couldn't be too long (preventing finding a crossword-friendly encoding) or too short (not viable as a solvable cryptogram). I liked the reference to puzzles and games in this movie quote.

Finding an encoding scheme that translated to crossword entries brought me back to the pencil-and-paper days; I came up with the final cryptogram during an airplane flight while my laptop was put away. I hadn't initially imagined blocks of five — a traditional ciphertext construct — for the encoding, but that was what somehow worked. Luckily, the quote I'd chosen had exactly 40 letters.

BY SEX was the key entry I needed to get the encoding to work; the two new grid entries cross at the X. Interestingly, the final cipher has room to be different. For example, the P could be a Z or W, which would let the C be a P. Or otherwise, the L (two locations) could be an H.

I hope this puzzle encourages more creative meta-puzzles out there!

Mon 10/31/2022
MEMESNARESHOD
EXAMHODORPAVE
NEMOATHOSARIA
SCAREQUOTESPDF
ASSAYPCSTEE
PERTIAGREE
ALIDOOMSCROLLS
DINEPIETASEAT
DEADLETTERSEND
SUNGODPECS
YENGASAWARD
PICGHOSTWRITER
IMAMONTOEPACE
LASESNOOTEROS
EXESEARLSSINS

My first encounter with a GHOSTWRITER was the PBS show of the same name, whose plot literally interprets the word. Imagine my dismay to learn later in life that real ghostwriters are much less fun and hardly ever communicate with '90s Brooklyn kids via refrigerator magnets to help them solve mysteries.

But, if there's ever a day to pretend and let your imagination run wild, it's today. Happy Halloween!

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