I made this one many years ago. It sat in the queue even longer than usual. It looks pretty good to me now, with one major exception. 1-Across was a seed answer, and the original clue was something like "Humiliate on the hardwood." As basketball fans know, to POSTERIZE somebody is to dunk on them in such an impressive fashion that the image is worthy of being put on a poster. It's a fun, lively term evoking basketball awesomeness. Why, why, why then would you change the clue to reference a mundane, technical printing process? Maybe it helps the non-sports fan, but at the expense of watering-down the puzzle for everybody — it doesn't seem like a good trade-off to me.
But there is a good chance I'm way off on all of this and solvers won't care much about it, and instead, the main objection will be something else that never even crossed my mind. That seems to be how it goes.
HAT TIP to the puzzle magazines of my long-gone youth. One of them (Dell?) had a little word puzzle where you had to go from STARTLING to I deleting one letter at a time, always forming a new word without anagramming. (BTW, there are two solutions.)
One of my bugaboos is plural names, which I really try to avoid. This one has two! The second one came when I just had to get IN MEM out of the grid and upgraded it with TV MOM. I tried to do something about ALIS. I could replace the corner, but because of the interlock, it would require redoing the whole of the eastern seaboard, and I just couldn't pull it off. Because of a tough crossing, ALIS needed the easiest clue possible, but I like to tell myself the real clue is the first word of Oregon's state motto. I'm pretty happy how the rest turned out. Hope you all enjoy it!
Finally! After five (or six?) submissions, I got Will's blessing. After just one, relatively straightforward, set of edits, it was ready to go.
The seed of this puzzle came from "turkey trot", as I was considering participating in the annual Detroit Thanksgiving 5k race by that name. I didn't end up running, but I did get a good puzzle idea out of it! Soon I was wracking my brain for similar "animal walk" phrases. "Bear crawl" and "frog march" all came pretty quickly, plus they were a crossword-friendly 9 letters to boot!
I knew I needed at least one more, or a revealer of some sort to put the puzzle into submission realm. I resorted to my old friend Google to search for animal phrases. "Goose step", also at 9 letters worked well, but frankly "Chicken Run" was my least favorite as it did not seem as "tight" as the others since it was not something "doable" by a human — like the others.
For my debut I was excited that Will used most of my fill, though probably less than half my clues. His cluing was certainly "fresher" than mine. I mean, "Raiders of the Lost __" ? That was just plain lazy. I love his replacement! After 35+ years of solving NYT puzzles, I am positively thrilled to finally join the club of constructors. One down, hopefully many more to go!
NATAN: This puzzle was such a treat to make, even by the standards of the already lovely JASA process. The people, for one: we're joined by new faces, like Andy Kravis up at the lectern, who's so encyclopedic we barely need to research for clues anymore, and new constructors like Susan, Tom, Joe, and more, who're injecting even more humor and breadth into these collaborations.
For another thing, this was one of those puzzles where students became teachers — the JASA class came up with the revealer, brainstormed the best theme pairs, drew up the skeleton of the grid, and even bailed us out of a bad fill moment by dropping in OH MY LORD where we'd had OH MY WORD and were coming up empty or trivial.
We were also able to keep a wide-open construction with some nice long entries. Hope y'all like it!
ANDY: This was my first puzzle with the JASA class, and I'm looking forward to making many more with them.
I can't help but anagram and make wordplay with stop signs when I'm driving. It's annoying. Those big white letters just ask to be messed with. POTS, TOPS, SPOT, OPTS. Am I alone in this? I hope so. Anyway, "Stop Sign" sounds an awful lot like "Stop Sighin'!" ["Quit feeling sorry for yourself!"] " which is where this idea sprouted. Alas, the only other theme-type answer that I found which would work with it was "Finish Lyin'!" ["Quit speaking falsehoods!"]. Nonetheless, the idea kept eating at me.
It doesn't help that I drive a lot.
Rather than pursue the original idea, I decided to try a variation on it by thinking of other words I could elide to create homophones. I eventually found a set in which the vowel sound changed: LYIN' (for "line"), MOOIN' (for "moon"), PLAYIN' (for "plain"), and BEIN' (for "bean").
I am seriously bothered by the fact that I can't find a way to use "Stop Sighin!" as a theme answer. It's like an itch that can't be scratched. Any help?
As a side note, I couldn't care less about yield sign wordplay.
Delighted to have a second puzzle in the New York Times.
We're both big fans of the Golden Age of Television, so we racked our brains to find some way to sneak a classic TV reference into this puzzle. Should we use Simon & Simon or Riptide in the DETECTS clue? How about the "L" monograms that were SEWN ON all of Laverne DeFazio's tops? We could've asked which cop show was the LEAD-IN to The Love Boat for four seasons. (T.J. Hooker. Duh.) Or maybe a shoutout to our favorite NEMESES, Jo and Blair from the Facts of Life. In the end, we decided there was simply no elegant way to refer to a '70s-'80s sitcom that ran for 9 seasons on CBS and was recently rebooted as a successful Netflix series. Maybe next puzzle!
By pure coincidence, this puzzle happens to run on my fiancé's birthday, so I'll take that as an opportunity to talk about him a bit. Quinton and I met as students at Princeton, both singing in the Princeton Nassoons (a cappella group) and the Chamber Choir. After graduation he spent a year in Tajikistan on a fellowship before joining me in the DC area, where we now both work on federal contracts. Although I usually enjoy doing the New York Times themeless puzzles solo, I love him enough to save some Fridays and Saturdays to solve together every few weeks. He especially helps with foreign language, geography, and vocabulary clues. We'll see if he can finish this one solo!
This puzzle is a bit un-millennial of me in that much of the grid is skewed toward older references, which may trip up some younger solvers. I've always been a fan of wide open grids with heavy intersection, even at the sacrifice to some overall zippiness and trendiness in the grid entries. It often makes it more of a challenge to both construct and solve, which I appreciate. This puzzle is an example of this constructing style: it doesn't quite have the youthful verve throughout, but I think the overall fill quality and intersection in the middle makes up for it. The side sections were a bit more flexible — only the unfortunate plural BEERYS which I didn't like, but liked better than the inelegance of adding a black square in the corner.
Hope you like this (unexpected) birthday present Quinton!
My suggested title for this puzzle was "Gone Grr." I'd guess that anybody who reads the NYT constructor comments knows that the puzzles are a team effort, and that editorial changes are made in hopes of hitting the right tone and balance for the audience. I'm grateful for all the ways that process improves the final product — in this puzzle, for example, the clue for 80-Across is a great and fun addition to what I submitted (which is to say I wish I'd thought of that).
At the same time, the editorially-added clue for 73-Down gives me pause. I don't object to entries or clues that might touch on sex (3/3/18's NUDE SCENE with the ingenious clue "Hot take?" doesn't bother me), but I think PLAYMATES in the Playboy sense evokes an infantilizing attitude toward women that is not ok. I realize that others may respond to the clue differently.
I asked if Will would consider changing it, and he replied with a gracious note to the effect that it was too late to revise, and anyway that Playboy Playmates are part of the world, and thus fair game for the puzzle. I understand that point. But insofar as the clues constitute a series of choices about what are interesting, clever, and/or suitable ways to lead to the correct entry, I think there's some importance to *which* way the puzzle chooses. In this case, it's not the path I would've taken. Wherever solvers might come down on these issues, though, I hope they enjoyed the puzzle and had fun finding those missing four-legged friends.
This is my 3rd acceptance by the NYT, with enough rejections to give me a batting average below Bob Uecker.
I am grateful to Joel Fagliano for his patience in getting me through this. My academic background was the Classics and I always wanted to do a "one eye" theme about the cyclops. One theme answer was "sewing needle" but that was not acceptable, and I was lucky to see a deck of cards with a one eyed jack.
I've been constructing logic puzzles for a while (see gmpuzzles.com and recent US Puzzle Championships for examples), but crosswords are entirely new to me. Thanks for your patience while I'm learning, and I hope you enjoyed this puzzle as much as I did.
I started with ESCAPE ROOM---a fun entry that was still unpublished at the time, (but has appeared twice since my puzzle was accepted in August). As a computer programmer, it was natural for me to take the theme the direction I did. Once I struck on the KEY WEST revealer, I was sure this could work.
Little did I know how much effort there is between settling on theme entries and completing a puzzle. I could never have succeeded without the help of an expert mentor. Huge thanks to Craig Kasper for his patience with countless revisions. Craig also deserves credit for suggesting ENTER SANDMAN and teaching me a lot about grid design and evaluating fill.
My first revision of the puzzle was rejected for poor fill, but Will and Joel kindly encouraged me to try again. My second submission still had some unacceptable entries, but primarily concentrated in a single corner. Will had a colleague take a crack at fixing that corner and sent me the result. It was an improvement in every way, so thanks, unnamed colleague!
It's interesting to see the changes the editors made to my clues, (39 of 80 clues were changed). Many of the changes were minor, but every change improved one or more of clarity, specificity, smoothness, appropriate difficulty, or liveliness. Any clunkiness that remains is entirely mine.
One thing I will say about the clues is that if you find a turtle snapping at your finger, don't blame me!
It's kind of ironic that I made this puzzle, given that my idea of cooking MARINARA is:
It makes so much sense! You don't have to wash a bowl. You don't use any oven/microwave power. And then you can just lick the spoon and put it back into the drawer. Easy cleanup!
I hope my wife isn't reading this.
Jeff, I think you will be pleased to see that we have finally arrived at my post-divided-thru-the-middle themeless puzzle design. I give you 100% of the credit for pointing out that crutch, which I didn't realize I was using. Though there may be exceptions in the future, I certainly won't revisit that design without having an imaginary debate with you about it first.
In my puzzles, I always look to incorporate at least one exclamation, question or "conversational" phrase, as I think they add a different dimension to mix. Over the years I've included: DO ME A FAVOR, ARE YOU DONE, IT FIGURES, DO I HAVE TO, KEEP TALKING and IMPRESS ME. In this particular puzzle, there are three — and it turns out that together they comprise a little story, the gripping (yet brief) tale of one character consoling another after a distressing and suspicious incident: THERE THERE, IN ANY EVENT, I SMELL A RAT.
Also, I don't usually go looking for interesting word intersections, but I find it incredibly amusing that VEGETARIAN runs through LIVING DEAD. I keep seeing images of zombies feasting on quinoa bowls and avocado toast.
The original version of this grid was constructed in September 2016. A revision to the SE quadrant was requested, a revision was submitted, and the puzzle was accepted for publication in January 2017.
The requested revision was the removal from the SE of the exclamation AM I BEAT, which was deemed too contrived. I have said this myself while plopping down on a chair — maybe it's a Canadian thing.
The block layout for this puzzle is one of my favorites. I've had success with versions in which there are two blocks in the middle breaking up the 15s, and in which there is a single block dead center. This version has no central blocks. These puzzles are among my first attempts at wide open grids.
With open grids it's often difficult to achieve a Scrabble average above 1.50, which is typical for a NYT crossword. That certainly was the case here, with this puzzle coming in at 1.40, as did the original version. The open areas are conducive to low Scrabble score letters, namely, the vowels, L, N, R, S, and T. In a higher word count grid it's possible to find spots for higher value letters in the peripheral short fill — not so here. I decided to leave well enough alone.
As I look over the clues, 26-A PORE and 13-D ANDIRON make me chuckle, and I have Will and Joel/Sam to thank for that. I note that a fair number of changes were made to the clues I submitted, which have made the puzzle tougher, I think.
I'm super excited for everyone to see my first ever Sunday puzzle! It's been over ten years since I got my first crossword published, but the first time I tried to make a Sunday was last year. I wasn't sure I wanted to put in all the extra time and effort without even knowing how the puzzle would be received, but I finally figured I might as well try. And this is the result. Lesson learned!
I think this theme (changing the "K" sound at the starts of words to the "Q" sound) is great because the idea is very simple and the resulting phrases are... quite quirky! As Will noted regarding a previous puzzle of mine, puns with Qs are a lot of fun. I'm very surprised that this theme hadn't been done before.
I'm pleased that most of my clues were kept, and as always I appreciate the vast majority of the changes from Will and crew. A few clues I liked that didn't make it:
46-Down: Are BEINGS by definition [Sentient ones]? Would that make the expression "sentient beings" redundant? Anyway, I thought my clue was cute: [Livers?].
91-Down: I guess [Graphic opening?] doesn't pass the breakfast test, so it was replaced by [Prefix with -graphic]. Oh well.
96-Down: I think my clue was more colorful than [Bagel variety]: [Source of the headline "Area Man's Life Comes to Tragic Middle," with "The"].
Have a fun solve!
The idea for the puzzle first came to me in 2007. I tried unsuccessfully to fit seven entries that had all the colors of the rainbow, plus RAINBOW as the reveal. I looked at the puzzle from time to time, but couldn't manage to get eight entries into one puzzle. I concluded it couldn't be done, but then I was trying to fit all entries horizontally. I revisited the idea and came up with something I could make work by making two of the entries vertical.
I had had four unthemed puzzles published in the NYT by this time, but, although I've had many themed puzzles published, none in the NYT. My efforts were an inconsistent mix of easy and difficult entries and clues.
I contacted Andrea Carla Michaels because I felt I needed help with devising an early-week puzzle from someone who has a lot of experience with them. In a lengthy exchange (70) of emails, we honed the puzzle till we got something we felt worth submitting. We considered ROYGBIV as the reveal ("Mnemonic for remembering a list of seven of which the starred entries all contain elements") but went back to RAINBOW. For ?APPY, we went back and forth with HAPPY, NAPPY, SAPPY, YAPPY, and settled on HAPPY as the best word for early week.
FWIW, we think the final version contains a minimum of difficult entries.
Was in awe that Michael could get eight theme entries into a Monday! (I warned him that regardless of the difficulty WE thought this was, it would be slotted for a Monday!) That necessitated many iterations, to get the fill "simple." How nice at the end of all this to see a rainbow!
Did Will Shortz and co. decide to put this deliberately on the vernal equinox? Clever bunch! I think the favorite part of this puzzle for me is the progressively weirder look of the "season openers" as you go down the grid. Beyond that, I wonder if the unrelated span that is 7-down bothers anyone. I can attest that that made for the best fill, and it's kind of cool that it goes through all the themers. Plus, it's visually kind of like a binder, perhaps. But I won't push that reading too much...
Happy equinox, all!
This puzzle's theme was inspired by a text. I was chatting with a friend, and he texted, in response to something I said, "Bears repeating!" So I sent back a row of the "bear face" emoji:
— bears, repeating. I realized I had a 14-letter phrase, and started looking around for others that began with the criteria "plural animal name that is also a verb."The original grid had BEARS REPEATING (with the clue [Grizzly, panda, grizzly, panda, grizzly, panda?]), along with SEALS WITH A KISS [Pinniped passion?], YAKS ON THE PHONE [Himalayan cattle call?], and the revealer ANIMAL BEHAVIOR.
This was one of the very first puzzles I submitted to the New York Times, almost a year ago. Will and Joel were very encouraging in their feedback and suggested a second draft in which each entry had a prepositional phrase (bye bye BEARS!) and no revealer. I put together a new version (with much help from Erik Agard and John Lieb, both of whom have been fantastic as mentors and collaborators) which was finally accepted. This is my solo debut in the Times; much has happened since I first started constructing, and I feel very fortunate to be part of the crossword community.
I was admonished not to give a real-life villain the satisfaction of being in the puzzle, unless I was prepared to remind him of how appropriately IMMOBILE he is there in his Ecuadorian RECLINER.
My thanks to whoever wrote the clues at 16-Across and 57-Across, two of my favorites in the puzzle.
For three or so years, I've been the second most published Saturday constructor in the Times. With great fanfare, I can now say I have one half — that's a big 50% — as many Saturdays as the all-time king and all-time great Rich Norris. And it was possible to get halfway there only because he's taken a ten-year breather. Maybe it's like competing with Milton Berle — if I ever get close, he can just crank out a few more Saturdays for us. (Oh, that reminds me, in case there's any confusion, the second half of 6-Down is just the proper name, not an epithet.)
This puzzle started with CHINA SHOP. My clue was [Bull market?], so this is probably the first time the edited clue was the exact opposite of mine. I get the change, in that the norm is that the bull wouldn't be there. But norms that proscribe wanton wreckage are not quite in vogue these days, so my version might be a bit more zeitgeisty.
The seed for this puzzle (and its original title) was "Sunrise, Sunset"—with the eastern theme entires featuring a rising S-U-N, and the western ones featuring a setting S-U-N. It was important to me that none of these entires—whether the across ones or the down answers containing SUN—use that letter string to mean the word "sun." This was a bit harder than expected! You may notice that I broke a fairly rigid crossword rule in that the theme entries are not symmetrically placed, but it would have been near impossible to do so, given that they each span several rows. I did try to put them in approximately symmetrical locations, for consistency's sake.
Because the themers take up a lot of real estate in both across and down directions, filling this grid was a beast. This is the third draft I submitted, and while I wish there were a bit more room for the grid to breathe, I think it's free of dreck (REE being the only real gross entry, IMO). Phrases like SUNK COST, PROM DATES, REAL TALK, NERF WAR, and MIC DROP are fun bonus fill. I tried for way too long to get YASQUEEN at 11D (it really almost worked for a long time) but finally let it go when it came at the expense of too much bad fill).
I'm quite happy that my original clue on I SEE IT made it through; it feels much more in-the-language than previous methods of cluing that entry (variations of [Response to "Look over there!"]). In general, I like to make my puzzles contemporary and conversational, which I think I've accomplished here.
Lastly, I'm honored to have a puzzle run on the Sunday of ACPT for the second time! It's a pretty cool thing to see 600+ of the most avid crossword solvers in the world digging into your puzzle. See you in Stamford!
I know that some longtime solvers are disenchanted with the vowel progression theme type, but I like seeing it every so often on Monday if the theme answers are all fun and fresh, and if the rest of the grid is clean and breezy.
I hope folks who enjoy Monday puzzles will like this one. I did quite a few revisions of this grid to make sure it was appropriately Monday-ish, but even so, there are still a couple of crosswordese entries like ELOI and TEC that I couldn't find a way around. I'm in total awe of constructors like Lynn Lempel, Zhouqin Burnikel, and Andrea Carla Michaels who consistently produce fun, top-notch Monday puzzles.
HEAD DOVER HEELS? BOISE GONNA BE MAD? ANNAPOLIS TASTY? HELENA HANDBASKET? A LINCOLN THE CHAIN? RALEIGH FINGERS? RICHMOND POORMAN?
All rejected ideas for my "capital punishment" puzzle. Yes, that would have been the title. Maybe it's best there are no titles in a weekday puzzle as there are enough groaners here already. I do like HELENA HANDBASKET, but it has too many letters, sadly.
Only my second time in the New York Times, and I am already resorting to puns. Sad but true. As for state capitals, Mrs. Wickersham, my fifth-grade teacher, would be pleased. I can still remember studying with Emily Williams who, every time the word "Harrisburg" was uttered would cry out "Harrisburg to you too!" It made no sense at all, but somehow I still remember the capital of Pennsylvania that way. Nonsensical word associations of that ilk, when puns were unavailable, got me through all the memorization I had to do to survive medical school. Thank you, Emily, and Harrisburg to you too!
The idea for this puzzle came while testing a hangman book for Puzzlewright. The answer to one puzzle was LAST BUT NOT LEAST, and when I noticed that each of the four words ended with a T, I thought I could maybe make a theme out of that. I tried to find other letters that ended all the words in a four-word phrase but got nowhere fast. So then I went back to T and tried to come up with three-word phrases with the same trait. Having three three-word phrases followed by LAST BUT NOT LEAST, which describes itself, felt quite apt.
Having no other T's anywhere in the grid was, I felt, important. Will Shortz wasn't particular about that, but asked if I could make every clue end in a T. Having made a puzzle where every clue was a double dactyl, I figured (correctly) that making one where all the clues ended in a T would be no sweat. Using no other T's in the grid was a much tougher constraint. But for the clues ending in T, I had the additional self-imposed rule that all of the T-ending words had to be different. With that rule, it was no easy feat.
I had KEGEL (Exercise-developing gynecologist) at 32-Across, making 21-Down ASOK (Intern in "Dilbert") and 33-Down LAT (Muscle next to a delt). I prefer the ASOK/KEGEL crossing to the partial at 21-Down, but "chacun à son goût," right?
Here's a little puzzle to think about. When a puzzle gets collected into a book, a title often gets added, so I like to suggest a title when I submit it. Can you guess the title I have in mind for this puzzle from this hint? Take the last name of a U.S. president. Add a space so that the last four letters are separate from the first. Still don't have it at this point? He's a president who likes to tweet.
CLAIRE: The first iteration of this puzzle was actually for a Midi pack that David (who I have been lucky enough to have as my constructing mentor and friend!) and I constructed this summer. For the themed Midis we kept the themes pretty simple, so I decided to try a NUTTY-themed puzzle for fun. I was a pretty green constructor at the time so I accidentally split the grid in half in my attempt to keep the fill clean, not realizing it would be an issue. David got a good kick out of both the silly theme and poorly laid out grid, and so the NUTTY puzzle became a running joke between the two of us.
So when he sent me an idea for an updated, more sophisticated version of my initial idea, I couldn't help but laugh about how the infamous NUTTY puzzle had come back to haunt me. However, I couldn't turn the opportunity down! I loved David's ingenious idea to have the word NUT literally enclosed in the "shell" of the themers, and we spent a good amount of Skype hours working on the grid together to reach our final product. The result is something I think we're both quite happy with, especially some of the fun fill (PIZZA FACE, GIANT SQUID) that we were able to squeeze in.
I'm most of all thrilled to be making my NYT print debut and am happy to finally be redeemed from my initial attempt. Also, if you haven't already, please check out Queer Qrosswords, a puzzle pack I am so proud to say I contributed to and whose profits go completely to LGBTQ+ charities. Happy solving!
DAVID: Always a pleasure to work with Claire! We "met" through the Cruciverb-l mailing list when I noticed she answered someone's question about an iffy entry from a millennial's perspective. Since there are so few young female constructors, I decided to reach out and see if she wanted to collaborate. It turned out that she'd been constructing for a few months but didn't feel confident enough to submit her work. Claire did send me her earliest constructions to test-solve, though, and I could already see she had talent!
Fast forward a year. Claire's crosswords have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the A.V. Club, the Orange County Register, the New York Times app, Queer Qrosswords (a LGBTQ crossword pack I highly recommend), and now The New York Times itself. She also has several themelesses in the queue for the new daily 15x15 Puzzle Society Crossword I edit, which appears in The Philadelphia Inquirer, the San Francisco Examiner, and other papers. The creativity and modern vibe that Claire brings to our community is very exciting, and I look forward to watching her continue to blossom!
One more quick plug for the Puzzle Collaboration Society group on Facebook. If you're a new constructor, there are many wonderful experienced constructors who are eager to connect with you and/or give you tips! Don't be a stranger.
Is the term TIGER MOM common? It's super familiar to me, but I have led a ... let's say "biased" life, filled with math nerds and their helicopter parents. I hope that the metaphor is at least evocative even for those to whom the term is unfamiliar!
It's unclear to me how difficult it will be for solvers to grasp the theme, but I think two things will help: the clue for 19-A pins the answer fairly directly, and each section has answers going down or across in the normal direction which serve as toeholds. To make these toeholds more gettable, the clues are quite straightforward for a Saturday puzzle, and otherwise I suspect the puzzle would be near impossible to complete. Some of the more oblique clues were changed in the interest of solvability — for example, "Carnival offerings" for STATEROOMS and "One imagining a better future for herself" for DREAMER. Once the theme is revealed, keeping track of which rows and columns are reversed and entering those words backwards adds a twist to the typical themeless experience.
According to my notes, this puzzle sets my personal record for length in the queue — it was accepted in the summer of 2014 at the same time as the puzzle that ran on October 15, 2015. I think it's typical for creators of all types to look back on old work and wish for a lot of changes. That's the case here. In terms of grid design, I would have preferred having four theme entries going in each of the possible directions, but the pair of length 13 makes this difficult because they necessarily intersect the other pair. The 13's also necessitate a quad stack in the corners which can be mitigated with three sections, but which results in a high word count. I'm also not sure why I chose stacks of seven in each corner rather than eight and six, which I suspect could have resulted in a livelier grid.