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Puzzles for February, 2016
with constructor comments

View these same grids with comments from:
Constructor (17)Jeff Chen (29)Jim Horne (4)Hide comments
Mon 2/1/2016
AMFMNOTEOFTEN
CORAERIECARVE
COEDWALLSTREET
ESEPELTHOMERS
SHOALSBUB
SUNSETBOULEVARD
BSAOPTRILEY
LUAUBETELSE
ERICHBROEIN
MULHOLLANDDRIVE
FEEADAGES
ADRIFTMYMYHST
ROADMOVIESATTA
APNEAISLEBEAT
BEGANPOLLERLE
Tue 2/2/2016
PLANESKYBRAWL
COREAYOULAVIE
SOFTGNOGOPALS
FLOCKOFBIRDS
TOILERSSRDICE
MOLITOROILCAN
CHEXNARCNYETS
HORIZON
HTESTEDAMMEMO
IRAISERAMADAN
PARTSPANOCUTS
SCHOOLOFFISH
THANKNILATONE
EERIEDREIWERE
RATTYSEACORAL

Into which category does the theme of this one fall? There is no wordplay in the usual crossword sense — it's the location of the themed entries that gives them relevance. Is there a name for this kind of puzzle?

The theme has quite a lot of three-letter answers (25), which was necessitated, to a large extent, by HORIZON and its neighboring black squares in the center of the grid (forming a visual "horizon," I hope). Will and Joel asked me to rework the grid to try to lower the three-letter word count, which I did. However, in the end they thought the fill in this original version was significantly superior — enough to counterbalance the short-answer overload.

When first constructing the puzzle, I tried to include additional themed material — CLOUD and SHARK in the top and bottom rows where BRAWL and RATTY are — but that's when the fill really started to groan.

I'm happy to debut NO CUTS today. I don't know about you, but the phrase always immediately transports me back to waiting in the lunch line at my junior high. Ahh, I can practically feel the wedgies and the noogies ...

And, honestly, I didn't intend for poor Amelia EARHART to end up nose down in the SEA. In fact, it didn't dawn on me until well after I'd finished constructing the puzzle. Yikes! But I decided to leave her there. What? Too soon? At least she took a HIPSTER down with her.

POW Wed 2/3/2016
SPIELPUNTSSKI
GECKOALOHATOM
TAKECONTROLORE
SKYDIVERAREA
UMATHURMAN
REPELRANT
MIDDLECLASSARF
SCIFIAIDAGREE
SETCENTERFIELD
SILOEENSY
ALLATINGLE
RAIDEASTASIA
USEDEATHEATERS
BEGORBITSTEAK
ARECACTIEARNS

My worst fear as a constructor was realized when, as I was putting the completed grid into an envelope to submit it, I noticed that I had misspelled UMA THURMAN as UMA THERMAN. To fix this, the crossing answer would've had to become ERMINU. There was no good way to turn ERMINU into something that was actually a thing, so I redid the grid from scratch.

If Ms. Thurman is offended by the misspelling, I hope she will be mollified to hear that the song named after her is currently the most frequently played item on my iPod.

Thu 2/4/2016
RAFTSADSHEMEN
ELIHUTILMYOPE
HOLEINONEMEDIC
AHEMOAKENDECK
BARACUSPECOS
FANTASTICTWO
AMBITSGISTFEN
SALADDENATEAM
TIAOBANADHERE
ONCLOUDTHREE
KARMAOILRIGS
KILOPIONSAPSO
ANITASWEETFOUR
ROSSITISOLDIE
OTTERSETMUSTS

You know you're an engineer when:

1.) You assume everyone knows the abbreviation SQRT. It's on every scientific calculator, by Newton's Apple! (I can just hear all the youngsters asking what a calculator is. And what the heck "by Newton's Apple!" means.)

2.) You work a square root symbol into your original grid, assuming that everyone will follow the "blatantly obvious" S Q R T sequence formed by the vertices. Blatant. BLAAAAA-TANT! (Or, maybe not.)

3.) You think DID THE MATH is absolutely perfect to tie the puzzle concept together. The theme answers are under the square root symbol, thus the puzzle DID THE MATH! Unless ... wait … the presence of the SQRT symbol means that the theme answers should be SQUARED in order to produce an accurate final result, i.e. THE FAB SIXTEEN then becomes the THE FAB FOUR after the puzzle DID THE MATH. Wait. Maybe it should be the other way around. Which is more logical? There is no logic! (brain lock shutdown initiated)

We engineers are a funny bunch.

Fri 2/5/2016
GAWPODICUNGER
ACHEHORANAOMI
GRANDSTANDSEATS
AETNASENATTSK
MERCENOLA
AMODESTPROPOSAL
MARDIARYSONDE
PREVSKIRTNADA
ASCIIEMORYILK
SHAILENEWOODLEY
NILLAUKES
ANIBEBOPEXPAT
JESSICACHASTAIN
ABAFTCHINECRU
ROYCEKOLNREST

The third try was a charm with this grid. I received an encouraging response from Joel on my original version, submitted in June 2014. He noted that it was a near miss. One longer word, MARGERY DAW, which Joel said neither he or Will were familiar with, as well as some of the shorter fill — MAWR, LELY, TYE, E MALL, RHEO, SLA and LEFAY — were mentioned as reasons for the rejection. That version had CHANCES ARE SMALL running across the top.

Will noted that my second version featuring BEATS ONES BREAST was a close call, but too many of the shorter entries were unappealing — TPS, MARA, ITO, AVI, SLA, ARN, INSP and SSTS.

A minor change was made in the accepted version with GRANDSTAND SEATS. The OZS / ZORA crossing I had was replaced with OHS / HORA.

I was pleased to work two strong women, SHAILENE WOODLEY and JESSICA CHASTAIN, who have triumphed over early difficulties to success, into the grid. GO AT A SNAILS PACE is also new to the NYT database. GRANDSTAND SEATS was last used in 1975 by Maura Jacobson. (She was quite a prolific cruciverbalist — great role model! I discovered her puzzles in some old NY Magazines at the library and found them quite addicting.)

I appreciate the concise feedback I received from Will and Joel on the earlier versions of this puzzle as well as their acceptance and editing of this final version. I'm still working on clever cluing. I appreciate their clues: "A dance that might give you a lift?" (HORA), "Setting for fans" (GRANDSTAND SEATS), "They might work at a revival" (EMTS) and "Doctor seen by millions" (PHIL).

Sat 2/6/2016
ACIDWASHRABBIT
DOTOATEEATTACH
DRUGWARSBOWSER
INNALIRIMIMO
NEERLEBONGLIB
GASOLSRSSAILS
SELFIESTICK
MADEINCHINA
LONGINGEYES
BOONEAIRSOMME
ACNEALTERNACL
TARDREMOIRAM
IROBOTHOWSLIFE
KNOLLSONELINER
SOFTLYPYRENEES

Short note this time since school is keeping me busy. I constructed this crossword fairly recently (April 2015), so I'm pleasantly surprised to see it come out so fast! My seed entry for the center stack was SELFIE STICK. At the time I constructed the puzzle, I was almost certain that another Times constructor would beat me to SELFIE STICK, but I somehow ended up being the first to use it. I find this kind of ironic because I hardly ever take selfies — in fact, my Instagram would probably be completely blank if one of my friends hadn't cajoled me to post some pictures. I don't personally own a selfie stick, and my roommate's broke so quickly that I'm not particularly inclined to purchase one. The struggle of college life is real!

Anyway, other entries I'm especially proud of in this one are MADE IN CHINA, ROSE CEREMONY (which is especially timely), ACID WASH, MOON ROOF, HOW'S LIFE, and BRING IT. I wasn't thrilled with the LE BON/RABIN crossing, but I'm hoping that Saturday solvers will know one or the other.

I hope you enjoy my puzzle!

Sun 2/7/2016ADDING INSULT
TAILFINDOMEDBATBOY
ALTOONASELENEADHERE
DISCREDITCARDSCARINA
ATYAARRANIHOPENOT
TABLEOFDISCONTENTS
CAMERAFMSMEATOSE
AREABOUPERHURTERS
DISPLAYSFORAFOOLADIA
RATESLEEPONTUNAROLL
ELANDREBSOSADFEE
DISBANDONTHERUN
SUMSTUBSSEAEAGLE
IRISHALEACTRESSAEON
MDXCELLADISENCHANTED
PUERILEIRSCHATIWO
DESTUDEFLAWINNER
CAMEODISAPPEARANCE
OPENLINEOMITSURSA
REDOAKDISBARANDGRILL
PAIUTETOOOLDAREAMAP
SKATESONRYEPELLETS
Mon 2/8/2016
FROMIDOLLANDS
BAKEMAJAORION
ITSYBITSYMETRO
ELSALABTKO
MACROSCATALYST
AVATYRAPRIG
POPSOARSDERN
SWIMSUITEDITION
STUNDRNOOTTO
ARIAIDEATMI
GOLFCLAPSLAYER
ACCKIMEGOS
STILEITCOUPLES
PETERSOHOCOVE
STYESHOODALEX

This puzzle came from the urge to put FITBIT in a crossword (This was back in my early construction stages, when if I found an entry I liked, I built a theme around it, instead of, y'know, putting it in a themeless). After noticing the duplicated ITs and stumbling upon the IT COUPLES revealer, it was off to the races. The first effort was rejected because of unfamiliarity with themers LITE BRITE and… wait for it… FITBIT. After some theme re-brainstorming, I sent out the version you see here in July 2015, and it was accepted in October 2015.

Not much to say about the construction process, except that it was a major pain to avoid IT anywhere else in the puzzle (Heck, while I was writing the cover letter, I noticed a stray IT in a corner and had to redo the thing). And, as usual, I love the edits Will and Joel made to the puzzle (especially the meta clue for 71A and the quote in 9D).

Hope solving this puzzle wasn't a bITter activITy (hey, they can't all be winners).

Tue 2/9/2016
TALCHAZYAPOLO
ODINAGUEVIDAL
BOMBSHELLAROSE
ERECTUPSTARTS
YESRAHSEAT
RESETWRECKS
TIMESHARESSHIA
ROADSTIMSHINS
ITCHCHOPSTICKS
MAKEDOSTRAP
ROOFYONJAB
BEARSKINCRUDE
ATRIAEYESHADES
STINGNAPAKEPT
HEDGEDDAYEATS
POW Wed 2/10/2016
VERBSJAMSMAT
ITALICURGEODE
NATURALDISASTER
EERIERAILS
WHOLEBEANCOFFEE
IOWAEAVE
CREWSSNIPECBS
CNNINTEGERLIP
ASSPOOCHSNARL
WHOMANTI
RATIONALTHOUGHT
ORRINERUPT
IMAGINARYFRIEND
DOMNOGOFALLON
SRSGREYHILDA

I had this math theme sitting in my notebook for a couple of years. Hope faded that I would ever find a phrase that started with INTEGER. One day the thought popped into my head, "why not make the missing phrase a revealer of sorts?" And that's what you have here.

I love what Will and Joel have done with the clue for the revealer, which strikes me as much more interesting than my original. Also, as more accurate, since it helps hide the fact that I didn't/couldn't do anything with irrational numbers. I'll hush now, before I reveal the true depths of my math ignorance.

Thu 2/11/2016
EBBSPRONGOILS
REAPSAUCEKNOW
MARIEANTOINETTE
AMSTELCOYOTE
TOMARNOLD
TRACNEOLOLA
AMOKADMITKINK
LAYETTESILENTE
ENOAMAEMODEN
ROBINSERTA
LEBRONSERENA
OMIGOSHMINIVAN
COSAIOWANPANG
ATONDRANKUNOS
LENSEASESPSST
Fri 2/12/2016
LOCAVOREHIPPO
LOADEDUPAENEID
ALSORANSNEATLY
MOIBYEGODDESS
ANNELOUARES
GOLDILOCKSZONE
MIDAIRKESEY
ASTDABALIERS
CORDSOOZING
CRYYOUREYESOUT
ICANHEDORES
DECATURMBABEN
ERASERHEATWAVE
NESTEAONEOWNER
TREYSBUZZFEED

In case it isn't obvious, this puzzle's seed was Goldilocks zone. I'm more than a little biased as an astrophysicist, but I really like how it captures science creating new words. We have only been able to find exoplanets at all for about two decades, and we are only just now beginning to discover distant worlds that may support life by having liquid water on their surface. To do so, planets have to be just the right distance from their parent star so they're not too hot or not too cold. Hence, Goldilocks zone.

(I actually study interstellar dust grains, so not exoplanets directly. However, those dust grains are what coagulate in protoplanetary disks to eventually form planets! I spend my time thinking about how those little dust grains affect light coming from distant parts of our Galaxy or even other galaxies, as well as the light emitted by those dust grains themselves.)

This puzzle started out as a 68-worder with the northeast and southwest as you see them today. Despite being a bit closed off from the rest of the puzzle, the remaining two corners were very uncooperative. Eventually I broke up two crossing sevens in each corner into two pairs of threes, upping my word count to 72 and my three letter word count from 12 to 20. However, this allowed me to get in "locavore" and "Buzzfeed" without much strain. Worth it? Hope so.

I really dislike the sexist overtones in cluing "goddess" as "bombshell" and was disappointed to realize it was in fact one of the two clues I submitted (the other being a straight mythology clue). Ugh, sorry about that. If I were to redo the puzzle, I'd also pass on the entry "go crazy," colloquial as it may be. Language matters.

I am very proud of my clue "Butt end?" for "tees" (spelled out letter; haters gonna hate) and like the somewhat kooky LL and OO beginnings of the first two downs. I wish I could take credit for the brilliant "Casting director?" clue, but that goes to Will and Joel. I hope you found things you liked, too!

Sat 2/13/2016
WEMETFAZESLAB
IVORYTOWERTIVO
NOSYPARKERAMEX
SLAKEDOWNERS
AVIASMOIREATE
TECHBANGCADET
BIODEGRADED
CAMDENYARDS
JUDGEWAPNER
KABULAMOKEONS
INSADREPFSTOP
DECADEMUSTDO
ODONBUTTERBEER
ROUTISMELLARAT
YETITACTSRSLY

I like this puzzle a lot! Once the central triple 11's and 7's were in order, it was easy enough to tackle each of the four, now contained, corner quadrants on their own. It's much easier to fill chunks without worrying how the whole grid is going to connect.

Both WINSAT and WEMET gave me some pause, though not necessarily because they're deal breakers. They're fine I suppose, but below average almost-partials like that are going to get extra scrutiny from their prominence as the puzzle's 1-Across and 1-Down. In the end, I felt like their inclusion was worth it to get those longer marquee entries in that section. Hopefully, the solvers feel the same way.

In the post-acceptance correspondence, Joel mentioned he and Will had a back and forth between KIDORY and SRSLY, with each arguing for one while needing convincing on the other. It's great to see that the New York Times has such a broad appeal where both entries are expected to be known to the average reader.

Sun 2/14/2016ALL YOU NEED
LMEDOSHUNSPARBEMYL
BARICTAPEAEROADIOS
UNAPTOGEEILIABINGE
GETSAROUNDDEALWITHIT
VALENTINESDAY
ABASEDONOCAREER
NOMASCMDLCABREUNE
ZOOMBRIEFDAREDPLOP
ALUMLADLEERTESLOCO
CANYOUFEELTHELTONIGHT
TCMTATTOOERSICI
RESANDRETURNSAGASSI
ISTHISLSIGNSLLETTER
NEONATALPHSSTARESAT
CEOLHOR
LTAKESTIMETOSIRWITHL
SILENTUINLETARABIAN
ONELIRACREAMNAVARRE
NIXGELRAISEGTEABS
GEEMALOGLESLETDOT
SRIAMYNEARSEDOERS

On December 31, 2012, shortly after submitting THE DESCENT OF MAN puzzle, I sent Jeff another idea. It was a 15x grid with the heart you see in today's puzzle. Jeff immediately realized my heart was too big for the 15x grid and placed it in a 21x adding one black square to the inside tip of the heart for two descending black squares instead of one. I suggested a HEART rebus but Jeff was not keen on this idea at all, noting Will has too many rebus puzzles. After several more emails back and forth I conceded defeat.

The idea lay dormant until this summer. Jeff and I were on a BINGE having just finished a few other holiday-themed puzzles. I remembered this grid and realized it would be perfect for 2016 with VALENTINES DAY falling on Sunday. I sent him the resurrected 21x grid using a LOVE rebus this time. He still wasn't buying it and was headed off on a family trip. So, I persisted with this labor of LOVE on my own.

I did not like having 4 REs and 4 TOs in the fill but after spending quite a bit of time trying to eliminate some of them, I decided they would have to do. I hope you can DEAL WITH IT. I laughed out loud as I plopped HOT MESS in close proximity to LOVE TRIANGLE.

I appreciate Jeff's help with the grid as well as his advice and encouragement. As always, I appreciate Will and Joel's acceptance and editing of this puzzle. Their cluing changes ramped up the difficulty. I'm not sure I would have gotten 40-Down "Kirk Douglas, Robert Wagner and Gregory Peck for Frank Sinatra" for EULOGISTS or 53-Down "What's the point of marking things?" for FELT-TIP!

I hope you've enjoyed your solving experience and have a VALENTINES DAY filled with even more LOVE.

Mon 2/15/2016
POLKAMTSBELIED
OVENPORKEVOLVE
IAGOPLAYREUSES
SLITEASEINPARK
EOSDARKCASE
FLAILSDARTPQR
FAWNSWENDYOUI
TITLEDAFTLACED
ECOTHEFTPICKS
XERTAFTGASKET
AEROTARTTIS
TORTRELATEAVOW
IDOIDOEBONLENO
DIALEDFORTITER
YENTASTOSSFORD

My "connection" to presidents goes back to the time in the late 90's when Bill Clinton, who's a big crosswords fan, talked about one of my Sunday NYT puzzles at a White House conference on technology and the Internet. Since then, I've written several president-themed puzzles, including one to commemorate the opening of the Clinton Presidential Library in 2004. And my latest book of (40) puzzles, "White House Crosswords", came out a few months ago.

Word ladder-themed puzzles have been done before but this puzzle is a little different by adding a third president between the top and bottom ones. I was about to stop there but OVAL OFFICE and POCKET VETO interlocked nicely with POLK and FORD respectively. I then needed two other parallel Down answers, which took a lot longer to come up with. But sometimes you just get lucky.

Tue 2/16/2016
DECCARHOSSHEA
IMOUTEAVEHODS
FULLNELSONEVIL
DORIAARENA
ADUEACTIONPLAN
KANSASSADA
INLAWDONHOTSA
STICKTOYOURGUNS
SETWRESTRATES
FAIRPAMELA
GOFORBROKEEELY
AWARDBATHS
BLUEFIGUREHEAD
LENSENYAFORCE
ETATRANITWEEN
Wed 2/17/2016
NEIGHSCABENDS
ARNIEALFAVEEP
KOALAYARDAWAY
EDWARDSNOWEDIN
DEEDUHOXEN
JODIEFROSTER
MOTIFSTODDORO
RAHMCHETWIX
SHEAPSEBOUNCY
CURTCHILLING
EVERUNAEPA
BARRYCOLDWATER
POLOGALLHIHAT
ELMOISLEIDOLS
POEMATADMESSY

I started thinking these cold thoughts last winter when New England was covered in many feet of snow. And now here we are again, as the snow piles up in Boston. The first theme entry I thought of was EDWARD SNOWED IN and wanted a way to try to use that. Then I thought of how Dwight D. Ice in Shower inevitably melts into BARRY COLD WATER... and decided I was definitely making this puzzle, if only to inflict that on everyone. Two 12's and two 14's aren't ideal for a breathable grid, but I wound up liking this theme set best.

I've been a Tuesday short of the cycle for many years now and was hoping this could be the Tuesday I've been waiting for. But Wednesday it is.

In the unsolicited, fill-based Netflix recommendation department: besides being "Like a recent transplant," NEW IN TOWN is also the name of a funny John Mulaney standup special.

Thu 2/18/2016
ADELPHTEMONE
LITERATCEMAKER
ANDSODOONIZING
SOSMAUCALEEO
PONTONIA
JAMESITALICS
ATITPLANSENCE
DANOHOBIG
ERSTKNAVEMENU
NIKOLADBADGE
GOTTLIED
WCSTROOTAFEE
HOTCHILNITSELF
OPERANDGNOREIT
SAMURAGNITES

My day job is ophthalmology, so you might think this "I" surgery puzzle would be right in my wheelhouse. That was not really the case, as it was a long hard process. The first version of this puzzle looked much like this version, but the only entries that used the I's were the four horizontal corner entries. Anna Shechtman (Will's assistant at the time) wrote back and said Will was not overly impressed with the four entry tie-in, but if I could do the trick with all 24 horizontal entries that touch the I's "that would be cool". This was great news, sort of, and I remember spending a minute wondering whether the lovely and talented Anna thought it would be cool, or just Will. Hmmm...

The puzzle probably seems like it would be nearly impossible to construct, but it actually was pretty easy once I realized I could utilize "heavy bars" like the ones used in the puzzle of 12/19/13, and as mentioned by David Steinberg in his constructor blurb of 1/1/16.

Will and Joel decided not to use my idea to clue BIG at 40-Across as "like two of the letters used in this puzzle", but Nancy Schuster (one of Will's testers) told me she would NOT have wanted that revealer. Hope you experienced a nice aha moment when the Big I's came into focus. Matt Ginsberg, if you are out there, I'd be interested to know how Dr. Fill (crossword solving software) did on this puzzle...

POW Fri 2/19/2016
FIATACAICOLA
ENNISHOLDOVAL
MONTEVERDIKEEL
BRANOMDEGUERRE
OBLADISRISATA
TIERODSSTOUTER
TENFOURTESS
OFFENBACH
EMILSYLLABI
DAWDLESECONOMY
IDACLUEONTIME
BENEDICTXVILEA
LITESCHOENBERG
ERIKHOAXGORSE
SANSARNOYSER

In 1833, Jacques Offenbach moved from his birthplace of Cologne to Paris, where he spent most of his remaining 47 years as (per the New Grove Dictionary) a "French composer of German origin." I never thought that decision would affect me personally, but it had one major implication for today's puzzle: while "Italian composer" and "Austrian composer" would have worked as theme clues, "German composer" would not. In other words, Offenbach is the sole reason this puzzle's theme clues contain the word "born." (For real accuracy, I would have clued the theme answers as "Composer born in territory that's now [Italian]/[German]/[Austrian]," but that seemed like overkill.)

Sat 2/20/2016
HASITMADEPERSE
EPIDERMISALETA
FIXIEBIKELAMAR
NETMINTTARP
ECHOGUACBERTH
RESINSTATUSQUO
LOBSLOTUPN
BROSNANMALTESE
REFAJAXDEE
INFOMANIARECUR
STYLEAPTSNOSE
TRODHOESBEE
LOUSYBONEHEADS
ELGARMIAMIVICE
SLOWSIDLEHANDS

This puzzle started with FIXIE BIKE, which I'm less psyched about in retrospect — seems like FIXIE and FIXED-GEAR BIKE are more common. I have a feeling FIXIE BIKE might be more common in British English (?). This happens to me a fair bit. Despite self-identifying as a true-blue American, constructing has made me realize that the two forms of English are pretty jumbled in my head after living in London. Occasional hiccups like this are one symptom. I can't imagine how non-native American-English speaking constructors do it.

I think the SE corner is my favorite here. The stack is pretty nice, and a friend of mine often proudly cracks his XIPHOID process (or so he says), so that entry brings an extra smile for me.

Sun 2/21/2016AWESOME!
EVILSRUNLATESPYCAMS
BLOATOPHELIAHAIRGEL
BAWDYBUILDINGEXPIATE
DAYLITGEARSPED
GIGPOPCORNPAUPERS
ORCASTAXIEDCALC
NAUGHTYPINEMISPLACES
EZRAOPEDSPOEADLAI
NOVFRERECANNEDWORN
DREWONSHUTTLECAULK
BARONSHUSHSWORD
STALKFOOTAGEDRESSY
HELLFSTOPSTORRECPA
ORLONHOEROMEOBAIT
DISPERSEDPAWEDPEOPLE
CELLBEGINSFUELS
CHALKFULLONUTSOFT
AIDAMOATINUITS
STEPMOMTHEMAUDESQUAD
TOPSIDEHELOISEEUBIE
ENTEREDERITREADEALS
Mon 2/22/2016
APACHEFIXEMEH
POSHERLORDALI
POKINGFUNATOPT
SHAMSRESTDRAM
NOSESELOISE
REVENUEDAWSON
AWAYCLVMON
JETSKYOTOASAP
WEENEVNOPE
APPEARMINDSET
MADEUPSPEED
TRIPURALTIBIA
RADUNITEDFRONT
ADDACTIOUTAGE
KEYWHENELYSEE
Tue 2/23/2016
CHEESEWSWSKIL
MARBLEAKAULNA
DISBARDUGDENY
LORELEIPIE
SALVOASKSAFTER
TRIUMPHMOO
ANTICRUMBUMPS
MITTPATTYLALA
PELTSHEETUNUM
EONTENPINS
CARNATIONOSAKA
ASHBUSMAPS
KAOSLANEOCENE
EDDYIIICARROT
SAYSPDASPONGE
Wed 2/24/2016
LIMEURBANDUES
EMACLORNAINST
TECHTAINTPISA
TAHOESTAGGTEN
ENOLSTSENBANC
RINGINBOURREE
TEAHOUSEADS
SUBMERGES
ABSPANELIST
SLEEVESSALAAM
CITRONKITTSPA
REAARTOOETHER
INMEASANAKIRI
PEASPALINOMEN
TEXTTRACTSIDE

Naive constructor wanders unknowingly into the quicksand of a tricky-to-implement perimeter theme. Whichever path she takes, the theme idea leads to murky fill. Will responds in a manner that is simultaneously encouraging (i.e. he likes the theme) and discouraging (i.e. he says that perhaps it can't be done), and the constructor flails around for a bit, gasping for good fill, wearing down Will's admirable patience, until finally emerging safe and sound and published.

I know that you've read that story in these notes before. I am clearly not the first to discover that a puzzle with perimeter theme answers is really hard to fill! Having fixed letters all around the perimeter severely limits the options for words that can fill in the rest of the puzzle. I just didn't know that when I began this project, and it seemed like such a good idea. Will clued me in after my umpteenth revision attempt, and I think he probably wanted me to throw in the towel.

But a few months later, I couldn't help trying again. Will then brought in an expert, Frank Longo, to consult, and Frank offered some suggestions (Thank you, Frank!), some of which you see in the puzzle's northeast. At the end of it all, Will gave it his approval, and here we are. The story has a happy ending!

Thu 2/25/2016
STIFLEMRROPER
POGOEDWAYABOVE
LOUNGEAUNTIEEM
AMAZONVINEETNA
YENITAISP
YAHOOPOLITICO
SOPHNOBUTS
VAYAAIRS
HEROINZOOL
VULTUREGAWKER
DOSTGICHE
ILKSCRASHSITES
SAILBOATEASEUP
CREAMPIEEXARMY
SERBIANDENNYS
Fri 2/26/2016
CAPEFEARNEWTOY
ALOELACEOXHIDE
VAMOOSEDTAILOR
EMPRESGOMPERS
BOOMEDJURIS
ADULTGEMINIS
TOSSBETWEENUS
SMAPENSETSRIG
ESCAPEKEYFETA
SUBARIDLOYAL
TATASROBOTO
NOSTRILBOAUHS
IMLIKESANDRAOH
SEAMENOHDEARME
INVERTUSERFEES
Sat 2/27/2016
THISJUSTINCALF
HAVEITMADEOLEO
ATALLTIMESSPAR
YENLETINTASK
ERISREATAACHE
RSVPSSMITHILE
EEKITSASNAP
DREAMUPYELLOWS
ROCKIDOLAVE
IMOSOWEDAWAIT
NANSSHOEDSINE
KNOTAPRILRTE
SIMISTAMPALBUM
TAILPARISIENNE
ONCEANDSOTOBED
POW Sun 2/28/2016COURT JESTERS
DECLAWAPNEABANSFIB
AQUILAGLOVEAIRPLANE
BUZZERBEATERIDARESAY
SICBASISOOZEATTS
POWWOWDOUBLEDRIBBLE
HOWLSBREDONERUN
ASPENOCTALPTUIEMO
POINTGUARDTRONREAPS
ANADITTOSHOTCLOCK
RANSOMLONIALAMO
TROYBALLHANDLERLIMP
BLADEMIKEEMINOR
FIELDGOALMAGDACUE
MARLOLAINNOLOOKPASS
OLEHELLWASATEASES
ALECTOSIAMSEMIS
NOTHINGBUTNETVOTARY
CHADOOPSDEFERHOP
MARSBARSPERSONALFOUL
ATOMIZESAROSELOONIE
DEWTONYTAPASEXPEND

I played basketball in 7th and 8th grade. Coming from a small school full of Jews, it was a wonder the team didn't win a game in two years. As perhaps the shortest, least athletic Jew on the roster, it's also a wonder that I failed to score more than 7 points in my rookie year, or 6 during my second campaign. To the relief of sports fans everywhere, I hung up my spurs before high school, confident there weren't many no-look passes or buzzer beaters in my future.

The idea for the twist for NOTHING BUT NET, this theme's seed, came from the part in "Forrest Gump" where Forrest and Lieutenant Dan haul in garbage when they're first attempting to shrimp.

My original draft had PERSONAL FOUL in BUZZER BEATER's place and MARCH MADNESS at 116A, as a themer/revealer. That setup seemed OK, but I was a little worried the revealer was superfluous (something I got creamed for last time). OFFENSIVE REBOUND ("New lover taken to spite an ex?") sure would have been nice to include somewhere (tough with an unpaired 16!).

A few wonky comments:

  1. J could've been shoved into MA? / ?EW for the pangram, but that wouldn't have justified MAJ.
  2. My knees start wobbling by the third rung on a stepladder, so it's great to see an acrophobia shout-out in 88A's new and improved clue. The clue kinda reminds me of "Lost Horizon" (lovely book).
  3. ALECTO (toughie) could've been ELECTS, crossing M/COEN and HSN. One of the things, however, that the inimitable Joe Krozel inculcated me with was the desirability of limiting boring propers, both from a cluing standpoint, as well as from a solver's perspective. Here, ALECTO is fairly crossed, and in the aggregate results in one less name, so it was my preference. For this same reason, MIKE and TONY are clued as non-propers.

I've also been lucky enough to work with Jeff on a couple of things, and he too is an invaluable font of wisdom. Seeing his notes every day, I always ask myself WWJD? But, as a LOX-loving non-Gentile, the J stands for Jeff, and not Jesus.

Mon 2/29/2016
SIMIANISEEGPA
ICEAGEMENDRAM
BONMOTHERSTORY
SNUBLOKIYUKS
IMSETCAPN
LASCALABOREDOM
ORENOKIAMAZDA
VOXLEAPDAYEIN
IMPEIGOTTARUE
NAIVETERANSOMS
SIREWIDTH
IOTAASAPASST
PHONEBOXINGEAR
AILWANEBIGEGO
DOSEGGSMAYDAY