I originally had AZERA for 47-Across, the Z crossing might have created a tricky spot for some solvers. Wyna helped me tweak that area.
2022 is the Year of the Tiger. Gong Xi Fa Cai!
When I was making this puzzle, I thought back to elementary school and remembered a worksheet I had done in my third-grade class (hi Ms. Daniels!) where the design of the words was a hint to a longer phrase (e.g., "bang theory" in large font = Big Bang Theory). I had loved the assignment — the fact that I can still remember it all these years later is proof! I'd seen variations of this type of theme in other crosswords but wanted to try my hand at a fresh, fun version.
This is my first puzzle with the New York Times. During the early months of the COVID pandemic, I was home more than ever and did a lot more crosswords. I wanted to be more creative and decided to try constructing. My first attempt was an ancient Egypt themed puzzle where the black squares made pyramid shapes. Looking back, it had way too many black squares, but I loved the process of constructing, so decided to keep going.
I live in Seattle, WA, with my husband and two boys. I spend my days working on the business side of software, exploring local hikes with my family, and deciding what book to read next.
Shoutout to my brothers and Stanford freshman dormmates for sharing my love of crosswords over the years.
A few years ago my wife Anna made cake pops for my birthday. When I asked how the heck she made such perfect, Paul-Hollywood-handshake-worthy treats, she texted back that she used a "cake baller." I assumed this was a typo that was supposed to read "cake batter," but no — apparently cake ballers are very much a thing. For a good few seconds though, I found it very funny and bizarre that a digital text could make such an analog mistake as "forgetting" to cross a pair of ts. And thus a theme was born!
Big thanks to my brother-in-law Jacob for writing code to help me find l/t pairs. (If you're looking for something similar, XWord Info has since added a letter replacement tool, and Adam Aaronson's Wordlisted has one too that lets you search multiple wordlists).
By far the hardest part of this puzzle, though, was writing natural-sounding *non* thematic clues without any extraneous Ls, Ts or capital Is. That means no "to" "at," "all" "with," "this," "that," or "the" "other" "thing." To use a millennial reference, it felt like playing QWOP, where something as natural as running (or in my case, writing), suddenly became a near-impossible task, where I had to be hyper-aware of my every move, and would constantly faceplant by typing "it" without thinking about... it.
If you want help getting started making weird Thursdayish puzzles like this one, or if you just want to be my xfriend, come find me on the bird app.
I'm thrilled to be back in the NYT with another Friday!! This puzzle was largely made from the discarded parts that I couldn't fit into my previous themelesses but I couldn't quite let go of.
Hope you enjoy!
I am a fan of both Star Wars and Star Trek, so it's nice to be able to highlight both (not to mention the friendly rivalry between the two fandoms) in one puzzle. I grew up with the second iterations of both franchises (Episodes 1-3 / The Next Generation) and had a crush on both Hayden Christensen as Anakin Skywalker and Wil Wheaton as Wesley Crusher when I was a teenager, so I couldn't decide which franchise I liked better!
As Will Shortz notes, the middle of the puzzle was the hardest bit to construct due to the constraints of making both WARS and TREK work in the down answers and getting those to work nicely together. I would have liked the grid pattern in the middle to be a bit less broken-up, but oh well!
I tried to make the grid look a bit like a spiral galaxy to reflect the theme... wonder how many people will notice?
This puzzle was my first New York Times acceptance. A few months into constructing, my new hobby plus positive feedback from the larger crossword community had seemingly CREATED A MONSTER — which my nascent theme-brain recognized as a *perfect* 15 letter revealer.
The set of theme entries that I landed on is by no means exhaustive (FRUI(T ROLL)UP, BLO(G HOST)ING, etc.), but sixteen months later, I still love this theme — and its density! Though, if I wrote the puzzle today, I would strive for more Monday-friendly fill.
I hope you enjoy "taming the beast!"
ADAM: It's truly special to be sharing this byline with two real-life friends! We met in our University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign dorm (shoutout to Nugent Hall!) as freshmen, and two years later, we're roommates in what's gotta be the most crosswordy apartment in the Chambana metro area.
Last year, we were sitting in my dorm room brainstorming theme ideas when we scrolled past a note on my phone that read "BANANAGRAMS TOMATOMETER." We all thought it had potential. Only thing was, there was no way we'd find more entries to fit the absurdly specific constraint of a fruit followed by a unit of measurement. A couple of hours of scrolling through OneLook later, we found FIG NEWTON and LEMON BARS and had a theme. From there, we built the grid, divvied up the filling process, and wrote clues together on a Google Sheet. It was deeply collaborative; I hope it's proof that three heads are better than one!
JACKSON: I am from Chicago, a junior majoring in journalism and minoring in statistics at Illinois. I remember when my dad and I would open up a copy of the New York Times crossword every Sunday and get a few words before giving up. A major reason I am so obsessed with crosswords now is because of Adam, and I never thought I would ever actually construct a grid, let alone get it published in the NYT.
I'm incredibly excited to be making my NYT debut, and doing it with two of my college friends makes it even more special.
I don't remember how this theme came to fruition (pun intended). We were pleasantly surprised that our clue for TRIO survived the editing process.
P.S. Support local and student journalism!
JACK: It's super NEAT to be making my debut in the New York Times, let alone as part of a TRIO of friends! I am also from Chicago and am now a junior at Illinois studying aerospace engineering and computer science. I've always enjoyed solving and constructing any puzzles or mazes. Fast forward to my freshman year of college, where I met Adam, who re-introduced me to crosswords.
Fast forward another year to when I was celebrating my birthday with my family. Suddenly, my phone buzzed with an incoming FaceTime from Adam and Jackson. I was confused, we don't usually FaceTime, but I thought they might be calling to re-wish me a happy birthday. To my surprise, they gave me the news that our puzzle was accepted into the NYT! Talk about an awesome birthday gift!
I hope you enjoy the puzzle because we had a blast making it.
Anyone who's been following my crossword career (so, my immediate family) might remember that I've mentioned in past blurbs test-running my puzzles on my marine biologist friends at the summer camp I worked at on Catalina Island. They always complain when my puzzles' clues are too obtuse and tricky, but keep asking for more anyway. Well, this puzzle's for them! It's my earliest day of the week yet, with a fun marine biology theme inspired by those friends.
The clue for 64-Across was changed by the editorial team, from the same "that's not actually a 65-Across," which I'm glad for. I waffled a lot on including that answer, as I found arguments online both for and against it being a 65-Across, depending on what your definition of a 65-Across is, and I think the new version of the clue works the best for this puzzle's progression. Feel free to sound off in the comments if you are a 65-Acrossologist.
Also, an earlier draft of this puzzle had BURGERTIME at 11-Down, which is a classic arcade game that I have had a fondness for ever since a close friend told me I look like the hot dog from the arcade cabinet art.
Hello, puzzle people. I hope you've tolerated (maybe even enjoyed??) my first puzzle in the NYT. I live and work on a dairy farm in Western MA, and I also write publishable crosswords, apparently.
There's a lot I appreciate about this puzzle — the theme density, all of the animals that found their way into the grid, the shout-out — albeit indirect — to the USWNT. At the same time, my preferences and priorities as a constructor have evolved a lot since I wrote it, and I'd do some things differently if I were making it today. For starters, I would avoid the entry ODS (it could have been replaced here with STY, something I realized a bit too late). I'd also consider sacrificing a theme answer in exchange for a grid with fewer black squares and/or a substitute for POLKA DOTS that better conceals the string DOT.
Three things, in particular, made this grid a tough one to put together:
With all of those constraints, I'm happy things worked out as cleanly as they did.
I'll leave y'all with a few clues of mine that didn't make it into the final version:
Happy solving :)
Like with its triple-stack brother that was published last July, I came up with this puzzle's top stack a few years ago, but it took until summer of 2020 to find it a symmetrical companion. I started with YE OF LITTLE FAITH, and remember being thrilled with the narrative suggested by the top stack — a spirited debate over Nessie's existence.
I had not found anything promising for the bottom stack for quite some time, so I thought it especially fortuitous that I was able to work in the appropriately thematic IS NOTHING SACRED, which felt particularly at home between two idiomatic phrases. I was also pleased with the mid-length fill and relative cleanliness, as well as the strikingly sinuous grid pattern.
It might be of interest that my original submitted grid differed by two letters: I had DESKS instead of DELTS at 25-Down, making TASE and SANKA instead of TALE and SANTA. Though I was somewhat surprised by this change, I can see why the editorial team might see TASE as unnecessary and SANKA as a potentially difficult proper noun. In fact, I had actually saved the version of the puzzle you see here in my files as a possibility; the deciding factor ending up being that I had a fun clue in mind for SANKA (Instant success?)
In any case, though, I am looking forward to this puzzle's publication, and I hope you enjoy it (and feel free to weigh in on the aforementioned debate — I of course, am pro-Nessie).
If you're so inclined …
I hope you've enjoyed today's puzzle.
I constructed this puzzle at the end of 2020 with the goal of having it run on Valentine's Day in 2021, since February 14 was a Sunday last year. Will liked my puzzle but informed me that Lisa Bunker had beaten me to the punch with her ingenious Sealed With a Kiss crossword. Will graciously agreed to hold my puzzle for a year, and I'm excited that its time has now come.
Will asked me to try lowering the word count from 144, but I'm grateful he ultimately made an exception. Working with 18 symmetrical, interlocking theme answers was one of my biggest construction challenges to date. I wanted to be sure I kept each answer in the grid as natural-sounding as possible, even though this meant having a higher word count and fewer flashy bonuses.
As ambitious as I like to be with my themes, I never let myself forget about newer and more casual solvers: If one of my puzzles ends up feeling more like a construction stunt than an enjoyable solve, I haven't done my job quite right.
This, of course, is a very simple theme. Spoiler Alert: I listed 30 items that have essentially been obsoleted by 63-Across and went to town with the best 5. Since this was my first ever submission to The NYT, I was blown away when Tracy Bennett replied that "this hits a sweet spot for charm and interest." Two minor word changes later, and tightening up of the clues by the team and here I am!
About me: I live in Rancho Palos Verdes, California and am a soccer referee. In the off season, I volunteer at the local community center with the AARP Tax-Aide program preparing tax returns. I've been a long-time crossword solver and was inspired by a lecture given at the local library by David Steinberg. A high school student at the time, David explained the history of crosswords and the terminology used, what a rebus was, and also served Oreos — the favorite cookie of Cruciverbalists, owing to their colors. I tucked away the idea of creating puzzles until time permitted — which came during the Covid-19 pandemic.
I'm indebted to the mentors I met on the Facebook groups Cruciverb and Crossword Puzzle Collaboration Directory, especially Mark McClain and Andrea Carla Michaels for their sage advice.
Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat was my high school musical. My theatrical skills skidded to a halt at song and dance, but watching my friends perform that show many times planted a seed — which Sam Ezersky confirmed bore fruit with the nicest acceptance email.
This will be my last puzzle in the NYT for a while — and that's a good thing. Will has been very intentional about making space for new and more diverse constructors. In 2021, 20% of submissions were from women, but women constructed 30% of published puzzles. Last year, 92 constructors made their debuts; 35% were women. If you have ever considered adding your voice to help grow the diversity of the crossword constructor community, you can apply until March 7 for a chance to be mentored by one of the NYT crossword staff. I feel fortunate to be part of this community at a time when such progress is valued and when so many continue to fight for progress. Crossword construction is the greatest hobby.
But, if you think solving crosswords is the greatest hobby, I understand that too — because this is the golden age of solving. After extending your daily streak, if you're still thirsty for more, there are so many great, free, indie crossword puzzles out there. At www.proulxsclues.com, you'll find a few of mine and links to some great constructor sites which have lots more — plus links to other indie crossword sites. If you've never explored the rabbit hole of indie crossword sites, you have a treat in store.
My father-in-law — who was instrumental in hooking me on crosswords — passed away last year. Today would have been his 93rd birthday. He was a New York City school teacher, author, and WW II veteran. This one's for you, Gus.
I'm pleased as difficult-to-serve punch to be making my debut in the NYT! This puzzle began with me writing down all the examples of "synonym for 'small' + noun" I could think of. Some early candidates included COMPACT DISC (Frisbee) and TINY DANCER (Santa's reindeer). I noticed a lot of them involved food, which led to the party theme. I decided early on that the courses should be "served" in a logical order to build a sense of mounting frustration among the guests, but was left without a fun resolution. After a few weeks of brainstorming with friends, I hit upon MICRO SECONDS as the kicker.
As for the layout, having the first marquee answer be 12 letters long meant that I had to smush a lot of theme material into the middle of the grid. This limited the options for the rest of the puzzle, but I eventually found that opening the NE/SW corners for some long bonus fill actually gave a little more flexibility. Sorry for the partial at 29-Down — if you have a better suggestion to fill A_U_F, you can let me know on Twitter.
Recently, the city of Ottawa has been subjected to a prolonged demonstration that has been extremely disruptive to the people who live here, particularly those in vulnerable circumstances. If you'd like to support our residents, consider a donation to a local charity such as Cornerstone Housing for Women, where the proceeds of this puzzle will be going.
One of the many things I love about making crosswords is how a single puzzle becomes a fingerprint of who you are while you are making it. The words you choose to put into a grid say something about your interests, your obsessions, your values. For example, I think this puzzle makes it pretty clear that I'm interested in food, since TONKATSU and BOXED WINE are both given prime real estate in the grid. Similarly, this puzzle highlights my juvenile sense of humor, since both BRAIN FART and NAKED LIE are some of the first and last words you see while solving.
And, as you may know if you solve a lot of my puzzles, I absolutely love books. BODICE RIPPERS, yes, but also, mainly, children's books. I always try to sneak references to children's books into my clues (see 45-down) and this is, in large part, because children's books are my profession.
The juxtaposition of these many facets of a constructor's personality is always fascinating to me as a constructor, but it's especially intriguing to me as a writer. I've always enjoyed playing with the definition of poetry in my books, and the unique poetry of a crossword puzzle is something I've been trying to write about for years.
Today I'm thrilled to share the news that my third book, Words Apart, will be coming out in winter of 2024. This book combines poetry, comics, word definitions, and, yes, fully-solvable crossword puzzles. It's the story of two sisters, Olive and Mattie, and their sometimes tumultuous relationship, as they realize that life doesn't always have a right answer, spelled out perfectly inside of neat black-and-white boxes.
I hope you enjoyed this puzzle as much as I enjoyed making it and I look forward to sharing Words Apart with you!
The best I can remember, this puzzle took shape as follows: I made the grid look as sick as possible and then spent a million years trying to get 6/6 solid entries in the center. Apparently I also filled the corners.
A curiosity — I'm now two for two on including DEGREE MILLS in my Times puzzles (although the entry looked a little different last time). I can assure you my third puzzle won't continue this trend.
Among the clues I wrote (maybe ~50% of the total), my favorites are 34A, 37A, and 51D. Oh, and 2D, which I really didn't expect to get OKed. Nice work, as always, by the editors on others like 27A.
I was writing clues for another puzzle and had the entry OUI, for which my mind said "___ are the World." Well, maybe not, but it was the seed that grew into this puzzle.
It was a bit of a battle to get a good set of theme entries (TETE OFFENSIVE and OEIL OF FORTUNE, for example, ended up on the cutting-room floor), but I liked how it came out, and there were a couple of fill entries (LISTICLE, ANNE WITH AN E, PLAYER ONE that I particularly liked.
I hope that people enjoyed solving the puzzle as much as I enjoyed making it.
Hello! I'd first like to thank the editors — I'm over the moon to have my first New York Times publication! I'm also grateful to my father and grandmother for their inspiration and support.
In addition to puzzling, I enjoy being a wife, mother of two, and hunting for sea glass pieces to add to my collection.
This was a difficult puzzle to construct! Once I staked out the rebus squares and the central revealer, I found a limited number of grid layouts that maintained rotational symmetry while still providing varied "TWO" answers. Usually, I play around with several grid layouts and potential fill options, but in this case, I was pretty locked into the grid that you see published.
In my original puzzle submission, the fill I settled on was rather difficult for a Tuesday (as an example, I had KNORR at 32-Across crossed by NSW, EPODE, and NARA), but Joel helped me work through some alternative fill options to make this puzzle more Tuesday-friendly. One compromise we had to make is the 43-Down "TWO" answer in the SW corner; I tried to slot in CATWOMAN (which requires the removal of the bottom row cheater square), but we just couldn't find quality fill to support that entry.
Outside of puzzle-world, today happens to be my mother's birthday! She works as a piano teacher so, in her honor, I challenge you all to go out and do something musical today ... perhaps TWO music somethings in the spirit of the day!
I'm a public radio producer and artist from the Seattle area, and I'm pretty new to crosswords — I didn't start solving until last year. I got interested in constructing after reading a Wordplay column about one of Daniel Larsen's puzzles, which mentioned that he was a teenager, and thinking, "how hard can it be?" (Reader, it can be hard.)
This is the second puzzle I ever made, and it took several helpful suggestions from Wyna Liu and the editing team to get to this version — big thanks to all who helped!
I hope solvers find this theme as delightful as I did when I was first lucky enough to stumble upon it. I'm also happy with the grid, for which I owe a debt of gratitude to the editorial team for their insistence.
We did have an interesting difference of opinions on the BEGATHON slot. They would have preferred an entry like TOGETHER, which could lend itself to various clever cluing angles, whereas BEGATHON kind of only works with a clue that spells it out. I opted for the fresh, snazzy fill, maybe because I still have a way to go before I reach the master cluing ability that the NYT editors are so famous for.
For some thoughts on this puzzle and a few others published this month, visit my blog.
It's been a distressing week, but I hope that this puzzle can do what crosswords have done for decades: offer a moment of diversion amid pages of the news.
As you can probably guess, this puzzle began forming around the answer SEX POSITIVE. Looking at the final puzzle, my favorite clues are "End of a waiting list?" for DESSERT MENU and "Pro with stereotypically messy handwriting" for DOC. I want to thank the editors for their openness to discuss/revise some clues in the puzzle proof — they made the process easy and I'm excited to share the result.
This puzzle theme is over 12 years in the making, well before I ever thought about making a crossword puzzle. The fact is, I hate anagram puzzles — I'm not good at them, and I'm annoyed by the fact that anagrams rarely, if at all, have anything to do with their base words. So, 12 years ago, I challenged myself to come up with a number of appropriate anagrams for movies that gave coherent hints about their plots (I do love movies).
I came up with a pretty long list — no computers, incidentally, just me and my Scrabble tiles — but I didn't have anything to do with them until I started writing crosswords two years ago. It took a lot of versions and permutations and some newer anagrams to finally satisfy the editors, as well as multiple grid attempts, but I finally got their blessing, and I hope you all enjoy it as well!
Others that didn't make the cut:
ZACH: I'm the creator and host of the Crossword Show, in which a panel of guests solves a crossword puzzle live onstage in front of an audience, and when the pandemic hit, I pivoted to making a series of videos I called "Solos."
After releasing this Solo (about Jared Leto holding a reproduction of his own head, which in turn inspired the notion of cephalophoric words), I received an email from dear friend and Crossword Show ally Andrea Carla Michaels, who said: "Have you made a crossword out of these and would you like to???" ACM was a joy to work with and learn from, and she deserves literally all of the construction credit; I'm very grateful to her for sharing the byline, suggesting this collab in the first place, and making sure 59D stayed in the grid.
Additional thanks to Will Nediger, who helped me figure out the initial cephalophoric words concept, and to my Crossword Show co-producers Dominic Del Bene and Jessica Mozes. We'll be announcing live dates soon, including several on the East Coast in summer 2022!
ANDREA: Three years ago I went to Zach's Crossword Show" (first of maybe four or five since) and was blown away. In one of his shows was this concept of Cephalophores (carrying one's own head). It inspired the idea for this puzzle, so I asked Zach if he'd like to join forces.
Zach's original concept and Will Nediger had come up with a list of 20 of these types of words. With his permission/blessing I culled a half dozen from the list and fashioned them into a puzzle. Joel asked for a rewrite (or three!) to get rid of some vocabulary unsuited for a Monday (sigh) e.g. REIKI and a weird variation of PNOM (my bad).
We lost our inside joke of LETO at 1A but slipped 59 D HEADS in as the final word. CEPHALOPHORE didn't make ANY of the cuts… but about ten versions later, et voilà, a crossword collaboration!