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Puzzles for June, 2016
with constructor comments

View these same grids with comments from:
Constructor (25)Jeff Chen (30)Jim Horne (4)Hide comments
Wed 6/1/2016
BLEWITCMIXMAD
JANICEEASEAXE
OYSTERDREDILE
RBIINTIMESTR
KAGANILOFAROE
RNCALLTHEBEST
ESTRADAELUDES
ENESLO
ASGARDSPINACH
CIRCUMFLEXDUO
USAINRENSORTA
ENDSAIDAHASU
ANORANGGARCON
LOLINCHUMLAUT
IRAMEETAESOPS

Did you know ANO in Spanish means something very different than AÑO? Like kind of a big deal difference. When I learned that, I realized I'd been entering a dirty word in crossword puzzles for a long time without knowing it. Hence was born the idea for this puzzle: what if a puzzle treated letters with diacritic marks distinctly from the same letter without? What followed was an in depth dive into English words with diacritic marks and what subtleties they carry (like whether the Ä in HÄAGEN DAZS is an umlaut or a diaeresis). The result, my first NYT crossword and a life goal achieved!

Thu 6/2/2016
JASSAMAJJPOTS
FRATTARACOMBO
RAVEMUSICHOGAN
OBIWANKEEL
SLOLEONINEDIE
TERSERUNSSHORT
ASSETLEADON
SPOTPLEBERONA
ALKALILIRAS
SEATURTLEWHELP
SAYMAHALIARAH
ABLEBRAINO
OVATEBELIEVEIN
FAVOROYEZEPEE
FLAPJXENACARJ
Fri 6/3/2016
SCAGGSSCALPS
CAPULETALCOTT
AVENUEBMARACA
MERCEDESPETRI
PACOYANGSHUN
STUNTMARTSIL
TICCABOOSE
SHERLOCKHOLMES
COLONELSANDERS
ONELOVEMEH
FOGWARSSINEW
FRATLIESCOLE
LANESCRACKPOT
ARTLABFLOORIT
WILLDOSUCROSE
SAYYESDAYBED
Sat 6/4/2016
ADOLESCENTSMAD
CESARROMEROIRE
TECHNOMUSICSTP
IRATEESTISSEL
VERISMOECOCIDE
TOPCATADIT
BARBICELSTRATI
OLEANNITWAHOO
HINDEROHIOBORN
EMERELSEIF
MOGAMBOBIODATA
INEPTSMURAMON
AIDWATERLOVING
NEOTROMBONISTS
SSNFINESSESHOT

BYRON: Fun as always to work with Brad. He's so meticulous in his craft, but always in an easygoing manner. I love the things you learn when you construct, and the story behind 15A (CESAR ROMERO) may be one of my all-time favorites. MARTI pops up in crosswords often enough that I was quite surprised I hadn't run into that fascinating bit of trivia before.

BRAD: This puzzle began its life as a solo submission of mine with UPSET VICTIM / NATURE DEITY / FRAGILE EGOS in the upper left. The 1A had a misdirecting sports-related clue, but Will felt that the entry was not quite in-the-language enough to green-light. My subsequent revision hinged on at least one abbreviation he had decided to relegate permanently to the "no" list. The whole thing sat for a while, and on a whim, I sent the stack from the opposite corner across the country to see if Byron liked it (FINESSE SHOT / TROMBONISTS / the Ayn Rand title "WE THE LIVING.") Byron replaced the literary reference with WATER-LOVING to spare everyone involved ERI at 60D, and we were off.

I don't consider wordplay clues my strength, but I think I chipped in 31D and 53D to try to keep pace with Byron's brilliant 25A and others like 13D. It's also nice to scan the puzzle and see validation of our combined relish for pumping life into common entries with trivia-based clues. (In case you were wondering, a puzzle with that old NW did find favor at another venue.)

POW Sun 6/5/2016 WORD SEARCH
AWNUTSBASICSJUSTNOW
RHINOSORIOLEASTRIDE
FOLLOWINGSUITWHOOPEE
SEEDTAOISMBELL
ALSOBEFORELONG
CLOSETOHOMEBUNCIO
YOOHOOADORABLEMECCA
ROMEOPROVENVALUED
UMPSCHERIDNAEXALTS
SSAHUEEASYANITTY
BETWEENYOUANDME
SPACEGRIEFEOSMAE
STALKSGAGOWNERTILL
WEEKLYHARHARDHABI
ERASEFOOTSTEPSEAMUS
EENIRRAHEADOFTIME
POSTOFFICEEXES
ABETMASALAATMS
RELIEVENEXTTONOTHING
ICANSEETREATSBEARUP
POSTERNHYDRASIDTAGS

Crossword themes tend to work best when they are as symmetric and consistent as possible. For this puzzle, then, I put the lone "between" theme answer in the middle of the grid, while the top and bottom halves both have one "before" answer, one "after" answer, and one "close to" answer.

This theme has been sitting in my idea notebook for a while, so I was glad to finally implement it.

I hope you enjoy!

Mon 6/6/2016
PBJTAMPAASFAR
LIEHASONUTILE
ENDRESULTTARSI
ASIANLIGHTSON
MERCLOST
ATHROOSTERBET
TWELVENOONKERR
BYAGEMARAGGIE
ALDAREVERTBACK
RAHMINERVANAS
OHIOOSLO
BANISTERALTOS
LUCREREDUNDANT
OTHERINERTSTY
GOODSKOALASOX

This puzzle was inspired by an NPR segment on pleonasms. After hearing about them, I came up with a list of potential theme entries. Once I decided on using REDUNDANT as the revealer, the puzzle came together fairly quickly.

I am pleased to finally construct a Monday puzzle as it has proved the most elusive for me. I hope you enjoyed solving it.

POW Tue 6/7/2016
RODSCOMFYESSO
UTAHISERETTOP
HOMESWEETHOME
REORGACELAPEL
NEEDLEPOINT
UTANUTRTEHAD
PINATAOLDELI
CEDILLAPHOEBES
PSYSTEWFL
IDYLTHREEIEDS
NITESTORYBERT
DOHHOUSEDER
IDIAMINALUMINA
REAPERSTENANCY
ASSENTTHIGHS

This one went through six iterations before it was ready for prime time. The editors even asked me to consider ripping out my NEEDLEPOINT. It certainly constrains the fill near the apex of the SLATE ROOF. I begged and pleaded, and eventually Will and Joel allowed NEEDLEPOINT to stay.

In order to keep SWEET, NEEDLEPOINT, and the angled SLATE ROOF down the center column, I had to fill ??W?LT and ??E?PR. For the first one, the solution I came up with was Patton OSWALT — perhaps not a household name in a lot of households. Joel and I had to twist Will's arm to get OSWALT to stay — and just for the record, we twisted his left arm so as not to impede his table tennis career. For the second, I needed to pull FREE PR out of thin air. I was quite proud of that entry until Byron Walden stole some of my thunder. He debuted BAD PR while my puzzle sat in the queue. Is there a grumbly-faced, fist-shaking emoticon? If so, insert one here.

Overall, I hope the grid has a COMFY, cross stitch vibe to it (IDI AMIN notwithstanding).

Wed 6/8/2016
BUCKOANTIEHUD
STEERTEARNAME
HOLDENTANKDIPS
APESBITFORTE
RIBBACONPOWDER
PASSEUAEYET
CRATERSMENS
DANSONSHOES
NAIRINSEAMS
ELAGAGSALSA
WALKENSTICKLOL
AMTOOONEABLE
GOODLANDONGEAR
EDNAASTITRACT
REEKWHOAHANES

I'm happy to see BERN clued as something other than the Swiss city, and I wish I could take credit for it. Nope. This puzzle was constructed a full two weeks before Bernie Sanders announced his candidacy, and it was Will who made the apt edit.

Thu 6/9/2016
TALCUMDEFKNOB
IMPOSERDARAVE
AISLESANIOPED
ORCPARTNERS
CARRIAGEGOO
LIEIDLEBARRELS
AKINSLLAMAMAP
WINGFAIRENITA
ADEMATTECOLIC
TORTONILEONINE
BOZHYMNBOOK
MAJORITYASA
ECONNAPJOSTLE
LAKEEXEOLIVIA
DIEDSISRECANT

Silent letters: The English language's stoic warriors. Without them, a buffet would always be confused with a musician who sings about margaritas, and the name "The Colbert Report" just wouldn't make us chuckle. I thought it was time to properly honor these quiet, but useful characters — honor them in puzzle form. This is their story. I hope you enjoyed it.

Fri 6/10/2016
NEOPETSCAUCUSED
EMPERORPALPATINE
BATTLEOFTHESEXES
UNITEININKIMS
LACYLIZARDBRIE
ATATINEPTWOOER
EELYERRSMAINST
RAGEGIRL
ESTATEBEAREWES
BORNETABLERASP
OMITBYROADMISO
NERTURBOOATEN
IHEARYOUKNOCKING
COMPOUNDSENTENCE
SWEETPEAGEORGES

Wow, this puzzle goes way back! I'd been experimenting with triple-stacked 16-letter entries at the time, and I was frustrated that I always seemed to ended up with a ton of "meh" short fill, so I decided to switch things up a bit by doing a double stack of 16's. My two main goals were to ensure that my 16's were really snappy and to keep the short fill as clean as possible.

I was very happy with how the top stack turned out: I had just watched the Star Wars movies for the first time, so I was thrilled that EMPEROR PALPATINE fit on top of BATTLE OF THE SEXES! Unfortunately, after placing the rest of the blocks to make the fill in the top as smooth as I could, I ended up having relatively few options for the bottom. I HEAR YOU KNOCKING was new to me, though my parents assured me it was well-known. So at the end of the day, NER was the only entry that really got on my nerves! I ultimately decided that one short stinker was a fair tradeoff for an otherwise-smooth double stack.

My favorite entry in the puzzle is definitely NEOPETS, because it brings back so many fond childhood memories! I used to spend hours playing Ugga Smash, Turmac Roll, Mynci Beach Volleyball, and so many other games on that site. My pets eventually "starved" as I moved on to other interests, but Skiywoof the Gelert will always hold a special place in my heart! On that note, I hope you enjoy my puzzle.

Sat 6/11/2016
SALAMISWALDO
RATSBANEAMIENS
ALOUETTEKISMET
GUNSELFIESTICK
ETONINNSJAI
DEFORESTSSORT
PARITOPTHAT
ACCURSTINTENTS
TOOLATELEAF
HUMPMALLSANTA
ESPSOARNEER
ICANEXPLAINGAT
SODOPEINTIMATE
MURRAYSKELETAL
SEALESAMESEX

I am surprised by how quickly my second puzzle appeared. It couldn't have come at a more fitting time. I'll be graduating from Dartmouth College tomorrow! Crosswording has always provided a needed break from all the essay writing. It was also the way I began writing for the school's newspaper. I mostly just published the puzzles Will rejected (sorry, Dartmouth solvers). After my puzzles started getting accepted, I didn't have much material to send to the paper, so I became the film critic instead. Go figure. I can't wait to construct a few this summer on our back porch with my cat sunbathing next to me.

This one was accepted in April of last year. It was my first foray into the sub-70-worder realm and it was actually not as nightmarish as I had anticipated. The seed entry was SELFIE STICK (or as my friend aptly calls it, the narcissistick). Unfortunately, David Steinberg beat me to it with his February 6th puzzle. But I'm much happier seeing selfie stick used in a crossword than in real life.

I was pleased to get MALL SANTA, I CAN EXPLAIN, and SAME SEX in there as well. Will and Joel were uneasy about SO DOPE, but we all felt like it's tossed around enough to be included, which is so dope!

Sun 6/12/2016 ATTENDING PHYSICIANS
ASSUMEABACKPSYCHIC
DOUBTSPOMPOMTEAMUSA
DRPEPPERSPRAYATSIGNS
UTEROTEESLOMFINITE
PARCPASBABYDRRUTH
BOORSPEASLEESOON
BOONECOALJANETUMP
DRWHOSYOURDADDYINTER
OILSSEXTSMAYISEE
IBMGENEPOTTERNS
EVANSDRJCREWTREAT
PREOPALSHAHANAB
MINORCACHOIRAFRO
GROSSTHEWIZARDOFDROZ
MEHSLAYSTALLGREAT
SABEATTGERELEANN
DODRNOHARMDENTCIG
GOOGOOMTAGMENBRICE
INHASTETHEDOCTORISIN
FLORETSNAVAJOSOCCER
SYOSSETMAYORASHORE

This is my first add-a-letter-and-create-a-wacky-phrase puzzle in the Times, and my 10th Times puzzle overall. Considering my penchant for puns, I'm surprised it took this long! DRWHOSYOURDADDY is definitely my favorite themer. (DRWHOSONFIRST was another contender for the Dr. Who entry, but this one fit better... and made me laugh more.)

Sundays can be a slog to solve sometimes, but they are certainly a lot of fun to construct given the larger canvas to play with. I really enjoyed fitting in entries like SUPERBOWLMVP (so many consonants!), SETHROGEN, SANFRANCISCO, FRATBROS, HUGITOUT, and OHBOOHOO, as well as introducing shorter stuff like JDATE and JLAW (and who doesn't love those J's?).

Pleased that Will and Joel kept probably 90% of my clues. I've always preferred gridwork to cluing, so it's a nice affirmation to see that I'm getting more on track with variety, difficulty and length of clues.

Mon 6/13/2016
SPUREDITDISH
ALSOVISASEDNA
DOUBLEPARKASIS
TREEAMITAFT
UTEDUNCANPHYFE
FERRARICSASAN
ORSOGPALOOTS
CHESTBUMP
SANKAALPEASE
UMAISRUTENSIL
MOTORNEURONASK
ARIAUSBGORE
TOOKFOOLAROUND
RUNEFLAILPLOY
ASSNETTESERE

Maybe I've finally gotten the message about writing sufficiently easy clues, because this puzzle is hardly changed from what I submitted. Yes, there were a few slight rewordings and a few rewrites—but nothing I'd consider significant.

Once I realized that "fool around" had good crossword potential, I was happy to find four reasonably common phrases that worked—and mostly for words of five letters (i.e., not too short, like ASS or OAF).

I sent in this puzzle just before Christmas, so it's been in the queue less than six months. You never know how long it will take. I hope you had fun fooling around with this one.

Tue 6/14/2016
ATBATKATESOFT
WALLSOLAVAVIA
EBOLAZAIRELUNK
SLOTOLEFTLEE
EMILIANOZAPATA
MOCMIXITUP
DICEDINNTINA
ANAEDZWICKOER
NANSCEOERNST
CROUTONINA
EROGENOUSZONES
SEDGEPOOGLEE
TALEEASYDOESIT
ERESSHEADRANO
PSSTPATSESSEN

The seed entry for this puzzle was the revealer EASY DOES IT which was inspired by my Maryland E-Z Pass. Phrases with the E-Z pattern were few and far between and the puzzle sat unfinished in my Crossword Compiler for quite some time until I watched Legends of the Fall for the umpteenth time and came up with director ED ZWICK for the center entry.

The puzzle was accepted July 2015 with an email from Will and Joel that read: "Good news — we're happy to say yes on your EASY DOES IT 15x, which has a nice theme. It's not a revolutionary concept, but the revealer is fun and the set of themers you've found cover a wide range of subjects (geography, history, film, whatever category EROGENOUS ZONES is in...)."

Hope you enjoy solving my puzzle!

POW Wed 6/15/2016
OBIFRILLSLPGA
FUNLATOYAELEC
FIFTYFIRSTSTATE
SLURTSAAMIS
ITSYSIXTHSENSE
DIEOFHAHEEL
ENSUESMOMARTS
THIRDRAIL
RBISNOSSOLDAS
ERNWETSCANT
FIFTHWHEELASTO
TIRETBASHOP
ANDANOTHERTHING
REEDCHARGENIA
KYLEDENTEDGNP

The idea for this puzzle came while enjoying a cold beverage at a "nineteenth hole". That's golf lingo for the bar at the course. This got me thinking about similar cases, in which adding one to the typical number of items in a familiar set yields an entirely new thing.

This puzzle is a revision. My original submission lacked a revealer, and Will and Joel felt one was needed to help solvers understand the theme. That submission also had SECOND HOME, which doesn't fit the theme well, and TWELFTH MAN, which is a little boring compared to the others. I would have liked to work NINETEENTH HOLE into the puzzle, but 14 letters is a killer here. I'll have to make do with LPGA, ACE, and ELS in the NE corner.

Finally, since this puzzle has an ordinal theme, it's appropriate that it is my 10th published puzzle. I hope you enjoyed it!

Thu 6/16/2016
DOCKSTYROJAN
OBOESROARCORE
MOPEAROUNDRUGS
LAPCIRCAALOT
CASAHIPNESS
COATIADONAI
HUBNOIRSLUBES
ATAERGOGIMLET
LINACSPLUMORE
KEANUTIETOOIE
ARGOTSNADER
GORGEONMYMY
LIARTEASEUMP
ALDASANTACLAUS
REAMERTEBERLE
ERRTMENSTYLE

The normal progression for a themed puzzle is that you accumulate your silly little set of theme answers first, and design a grid around them second. Here, besides a short revealer, this grid had no pre-determined answers or structure. There were a lot of options for clue words, and those words could clue a lot of entries. You could take this idea in a thousand directions. The puzzle was my oyster. And I hate oysters.

My vague, initial plan was to have an open grid with longer theme answers. [Cubit, e.g.] = NATIONAL LEAGUER as a grid-spanning 15, for example. While brainstorming through the list of suitable words, though, many of my favorite clue/entry duos were 10s. When I saw that two pairs would intersect, I decided to make MOPE AROUND, COPACABANA, SANTA CLAUS and BLOODY MARY seed entries, and go from there. Symmetrical themers generally went in two at a time.

A minor editing change swapped TRIBE/AEGIS at 10-/11-Down for JOULE/ARGOS. This must have been done to excise the grid's sole I-T sequence (A BIT was at 21-Across). I wasn't sure whether to worry about an I-T in the fill (there are none in the non-theme clues), but if the powers that be found its removal an improvement, I'm glad it was in an easy-to-fix location.

Actually, oysters are OK. It's onions that are abhorrent. Onions, Donald Trump, and selfie sticks. In that order.

I hope people have fun with today's puzzle.

Fri 6/17/2016
ESPNRADIOTEBOW
STONECOLDEMOTE
TAKESHOLDRIOTS
ATETOMBKITKAT
DIANOSIRISSWE
OCTETTIMACAN
VOICECOMMAND
COARSEONIONS
WINDOWSPHONE
RASAEARTBARS
ABCNARITAASHE
PARLORMODSSON
STEAKCARDIGANS
UTERIATMINSIDE
PANDABEETSALAD

This puzzle was accepted in Feb 2015. Since then I've learned not to be obsessed with packing grids with never-seen-before entries for themeless grids. Cleanness should always be the #1 priority, then freshness. Otherwise, junk fill will follow me wherever I go. I doubt this puzzle would be accepted with Will's high standards these days: two partials, one plural name, etc.

Sat 6/18/2016
BARBACKONEL
ALLUSIONHONOR
MAINSTREAMMEDIA
IKEAALLISLOST
DENGLLDSCLI
VANESSASRAN
STAYINNING
STPETELEONES
PARSECEAVE
ETEHARASSES
LEDAMENLYIN
MRAMERICAESTA
ATTENTIONGETTER
NOONSADULTERY
TRUETANDEMS

This puzzle is all about the grid pattern. Somewhere I got the idea of a grid where all the blocks are square-shaped, then it took some work to create a grid that was pleasing to the eye and not impossible to fill. Twenty percent of the grid is black squares, but there are only 60 words and the grid is all interconnected.

My starter entry was ATTENTION GETTER, which I thought hadn't been used before, but it's appeared 4 times in the NYT. Oops. That means the less-than-whimsical ENDOCRINE SYSTEM is the only new 15-letter entry in the puzzle. At least 1-Across is a fun fresh entry.

And yeah, there are lots of unfortunate short entries, from AIT to ETE, ELD to ENSE, and ONEL to LLDS, and maybe the worst of the bunch, NEAS. I'm sure it would have been smoother had I used the XWord Info Word List.

♫ ♪

For crossword fill that's clean as a whistle

Use the XWord List like a guided missile

♪ ♫

I need to go download my copy now, before ALL IS LOST.

Sun 6/19/2016 TRAFFIC INTERSECTIONS
BANDBACKSSHEAFED
SERIALSNOOPSTALLONE
CAMAROITCHYTENYARDS
AKATOMGIRLSINKGUS
RENTDENSEBEETSCARE
FRIEDTOMATOESBEAVER
NORROTORSTENSEST
MADLIBGODSEARTH
HOVOVIDRATEDPGBEST
ETEREGISYAYASGARTH
WINTERGUMLETJERSEY
TOGASHIRAMSEWONARM
ONELEATFROMSALTTEE
LEVISGUYSSLEAZO
ASHIVERAIRMANYES
NOONERRUNNINGALIGHT
TURNSHOTSSTUNGSOAR
ORSTOGOSTAYSINSNO
ISITTRUEAPACEACCOST
NONEVENTYUKONNAPLES
ENGAGEDEDENTALON

This theme idea arose when I started picturing the crossword grid as intersecting streets. I tried to think of a way to represent a stop light in the grid somehow, and have certain answers stop on RED in one direction and continue through on GREEN in the other. I realized I couldn't have the stoplight squares as rebus squares without some unconventional cluing or grid numbering, so I settled on hiding stoplights in the black squares.

I then found a number of phrases where GREEN could be represented by a black square while the subsequent letter string would still be a perfectly acceptable crossword entry (such as BERG in HANK GREENBERG). Finally, I decided that this puzzle could use a revealer that might give an assist to any solvers who were stupefied by the theme. (Note: Will et al. decided to obviate the intersections, replacing the black squares with red and green colored squares. While I sense that this will make the puzzle eminently more solvable, I wonder if it doesn't also remove a certain aha moment from the solve.)

Symmetry for all six stop lights was impossible, though some ended up with a symmetric partner anyway, mostly because that's where I could fit them. The North and South open sections were the most challenging to fill, though no part of this puzzle filled easily. In spite of the challenges, I was pleased to be able to include CASH BAR (after having CASH BARS in my debut a few years ago), NON-EVENT, and SANTA CON.

This puzzle went through two revisions for the fill (getting rid of things like TA-DAH and HEY MA (crossing at the H) and HEALEY and YGRITTE (crossing at the Y) before it officially was accepted.

I hope everyone enjoyed the puzzle and that the challenge/payoff ratio was worth it.

Mon 6/20/2016
AWECINEMABIAS
LILICEMANROME
ELIJAHWOODOWEN
CLEOTREWAND
WAFFLEIRON
SAIDIDOSMIDGE
ATEGILDAGEORG
WASPCLUBSSWAG
TREADSONARNCO
OILRIGEMERGES
ADAMDRIVER
SOLDBAANAIL
THAILEMONWEDGE
AIMSEVOKEDEON
ROPESENSESDRS

This puzzle's theme is, as explained by the central entry, people and things that end in types of golf clubs. It took several revisions to get the longer non-theme fill in the grid just right. My original drafts of the puzzle had the theme entries running downward, so as to resemble clubs in a bag or clubs being held at address.

Tue 6/21/2016
AROMABROMECCA
SUPERFOODAQUAS
PETITIONSNURMI
RENTASCALIA
AGTMAINSAIL
FRAGILEHUNSLO
RAMOSHOLISTIC
ABABSCOOTLENT
ILLINOISLANGE
DEEEATSPATOUT
EXPIATESSAS
ADAPTSBASTA
VALIDGUITARIST
ERICAATROCIOUS
SASSYPSSTAUPE

I have always liked words games. As an adolescent, I played Scrabble with, and made crosswords for, my uncle — I am Quebecoise, so this was in French. Newly married, I moved to the States, and my husband introduced me to the Sunday NYT puzzles — he doesn't regret this, but he now calls the pastime torture. Of course, we also came up with theme ideas and, eventually, I decided to try composing one… And I was hooked!

I've submitted a number of Sunday ones now, but nothing ever "tickled." Despair! One day, I was lighting a fire with old NYT pages, and came across a weekday puzzle with a hidden "fee fi fo fum" theme. Just nonsense syllables… I could do that, and it was accepted to boot! And the review and improvement process was surprisingly enjoyable.

POW Wed 6/22/2016
PANAMEMBEDJON
EBOLATOILEAHA
GINANDTONICZIN
STORMOUTKAZOO
MARLIENS
HOWDATEANDTIME
EVOKERIMSENID
MIREBEGOTUGLI
INKYOAHUSPENT
NEATANDTRIMRES
HAWKSMOT
FLORAEVILEYES
OILKISSANDTELL
UPIEVIANERASE
ROCNEXUSRARED
Thu 6/23/2016
PEDIELLENSOAP
ALECNEARSINGA
ROBERTFORAPPLES
ENTREATSOHYES
INITHALO
PENELOPEPINCH
YORKEROLESHEM
ERASJIBESMELD
WETLOGONSARIS
DOROTHYMATRIX
ERSTIRAS
UPPEDARMYBASE
SYLVESTERASAFOX
ERIEAIREDREFI
DOESLEONASWAT

DAVID: Proud to be a part of Megan Amram's debut!

We had entertained a bunch of other entries as well: WILLIAMOFHEALTH and THEODORETALKS, the latter which was nixed because TED is an acronym. Also, I was advocating for a nice third 15 letter long entry in DOROTHYMATRICES, which is the correct plural! But I don't think that ever would have seen print.

We hope you found it funny (Megan) and clever (Megan and me)!

Fri 6/24/2016
BLADESYULELOG
REGINAFIRELANE
EGGNOGREAWOKEN
WARESBELLEMT
SLEDLAIDOVAL
UPSGANGSALINE
PASSEDTHETIME
DONTLETMEDOWN
ROBERTPRESTON
ANNOYSRINDEVA
MEATBAREPREY
SATBRIEWORMS
TRIALRUNCASABA
ETONIANSPRICEY
LONGESTASTERS
Sat 6/25/2016
DONTSASSMESKIM
ALOHASHIRTTROU
LEMONTORTEYENS
IOSRHEESUMMIT
LEMANSPILAR
GOMADCODEINE
JUNODARIONSA
HUNGPIXELDIED
OKSSOCLEBONA
TENBESTNROTC
SHREKSTEADS
YOOHOOARMYCAM
RUSEHOLDSASALE
USESOLIVERREED
PESTHEADSTONES
Sun 6/26/2016 SPORTS PAGE HEADLINES
COATRACKCHUTESADOBE
OHBOOHOOPOPARTCRUET
MARINERSBATTLEPIRATES
ARALMESAPOINEMO
SAMSALEASPITAFAR
VOTESONMATERTMI
TIGERSCANTHANDLECUBS
HOVERCARSINGARNIE
ATOMAUTOTSARDEETS
NORSAGIDESEENIE
YANKEESDEFEATREDS
LEANNMOORRADNAB
ABODETALERATESANE
MILERMANSHAVEPITY
PADRESBOWTOCARDINALS
ELMDIARYFOCUSED
DYADTASETNTSHEBA
SETIREBUCLAEXES
NATIONALSTOPPLEROYALS
ALECKCOURICUNICYCLE
PAREEEXPELSBADDATES

PRISCILLA: To finally get a puzzle into the New York Times! I had been trying for years, always for a Sunday because they offered so many more theme possibilities. Some of the time Will wrote encouraging comments on his rejection emails. That kept me going — though I was resigned to be a wannabe constructor which was a reasonable accolade unto itself. For the most part I just played with themes that entertained me without too much consideration of acceptance. But I also really didn't have a handle on Will's preferences.

As a baseball fan somehow the image of Tigers Can't Handle Cubs came to me and amused me no end. I have found that all it takes is one entry I love –- then it rolls from there.

When I got Joel's "We are interested…" email, I was ecstatic. Will loved the theme but "the fill needed a lot of work" and various not OK words were circled. So I thought that meant change those words. Which I did — and sent it back. Rinse and repeat. Finally Will and Joel realized I didn't have a clue and suggested I work with Jeff. Little did I realize the entire grid was bad — until Jeff sent me a proper grid skeleton. Fast forward, with Jeff's help and guidance I passed Crossword 101: Grid construction, 8-letter words (that can be very creative like "Oh boo hoo"), not crossing obscure words and using more current expressions.

One thing he said that really stuck with me was "Don't let the puzzle beat the solver. You want to solver to beat the puzzle." I was trying to be a little too esoteric rather than using some basic words and cluing them creatively. Though cluing is Crossword 201. Thus Jeff changed or suggested alternates for a fair number (almost all) of my clues (but left a few of mine to be gracious. I'm curious to see if Will changed those…).

I really look forward to collaborating with you again, Jeff. And thanks for your guidance on some other ideas. I certainly would never have made it without you. Imagine — being a NYT puzzle constructor! Bucket List complete!

Mon 6/27/2016
RIOJASPUDSDIS
ASNERTEBOWECO
PEEWEEREESEVAN
TELEGARREWING
LOAFOPAL
ELLENDEGENERES
CAIROREMANDED
ITTTRIKEEGO
GETAROOMARGUE
RENEEZELLWEGER
RAGSHOLT
HABLAARABWHAM
THULIVESOFEASE
TAGIRENAYENTA
PBSAKRONITSON

For years I noticed that ELLEN DEGENERES had a really cool letter pattern in her name. The last name alternates 'E's and the first name almost does. One 'E' per syllable. Then one day I saw RENEE ZELLWEGER's name, and the similarity popped out. Not as neatly separated or matched to syllables, but a whole lot of 'E's and no other vowels. And since they were both 10 letters, all I needed was a third entry to round out a theme. PEE WEE REESE was less satisfying, for some reason — I think the lack of alternation. While only three syllables (compared to the others' six and five), it one-ups them in the 'E' department.

I assumed that even those entries, standing alone, were enough for solvers to figure out the theme, but it felt kind of blah without something tying it all together. EASE came quick, and LIVES OF EASE followed not too long after.

So... what famous people did I miss?

Tue 6/28/2016
GAMERKGBBRAGG
NEUROLEAEULER
ARLESELLDELTA
SICICELESSIOC
HEHHEHEPICENE
ARACHNIDA
PLEDREANEBULA
GELDLORENOLEG
AIKIDOEVEOMOO
BITEMARKS
BASSETTEREBUS
EDADERALTEEST
ILLGOALISOLTI
NEVEUDEMGALEN
GREETEGOEKING

This puzzle was inspired almost exactly five years ago, after I saw Peter A. Collins's OCTOPUS with eight ARMs. After several false starts, I returned to the idea at the end of 2013 to try to "weave a web" of theme in the middle, and found the CHARLOTTE / ARACHNIDA / SPINNERET combo after much trial and error (BITE MARKS came from the resulting ??T???R?? pattern). I submitted the puzzle in July 2014 using the phrase "this puzzle's theme creature" instead of "spider" in the theme clues, but I guess that wording may have been too hard for a Tuesday.

I hope you enjoy solving this puzzle as much as I enjoyed constructing it!

Wed 6/29/2016
BLAHASSCARAT
LOLAEPAMURALS
OPTIONALTRIVIA
WEATHERVANEEAR
IBISESAIR
SHEODECOLLEGE
CAMAYBOWLOVER
AMPSEMOTESILO
BUTTDIALSTEED
SPYRINGMELWEE
COGMAORIS
ASHDEADBATTERY
LEADENMISSACUE
PAINEDALEBREW
STRAPNEDSUDS

The seed for this one was "It's on the house" which popped into mind upon seeing a WEATHER VANE on a house here in my Florida community. There are more than a few which strike me as an odd home decor choice for Florida since one can act as a lightning rod. Next to hurricanes, lightning is our greatest export.

I was happy to see that Will kept my clue for SILO which I find to be terribly amusing, but then I'm easily amused.

POW Thu 6/30/2016
CARSTEMPETHER
EPEEAMORMAUVE
DEFECTIVEBULLET
ERIKARENOLARD
EMISURGE
ADOREDSUPERSTAR
TIPSNAPATALE
ONETOPOFFROT
MARSHSALEDNA
SHAPEDLIKEANEGG
ONEILABC
EARNBELAELIZA
BRIGHTLYCOLORED
BEDEWOMENSORE
SASSYWEDSENOS

What a thrill to have today's New York Times crossword run under my byline, and to have my debut on a Thursday!

Will and Joel reacted to my submission with a "wow" on May 4, accepted my final grid on May 9, and apparently bumped the finished puzzle up in the queue. I'm grateful to them for their willingness to work with a novice constructor, their suggestion that I revise the grid with cleaner fill, and their expert edits to the clues. I hope solvers enjoy this puzzle and its unusual theme.

In developing the "TOP OFF" effect, I found only seven letters that could be "hidden" in a way that looked natural to me: D, I, J, L, O, U, V. I used these to make a list of about 20 words that might be good candidates, and settled on DUD, IDOL, OVOID, and VIVID after finding that each had a simple definition that could span the grid. (In retrospect, I realize that I overlooked some nice J words in making my list, and could have used the clue J0B8 B8J8 (or B8J8 by itself) with the answer MARTIAL ARTS SITE.)

In cognitive psychology, there's a concept called "functional fixedness" that may explain the difficulty in "seeing" the four words hidden in plain sight: we have a mental bias for associating a tool only with its most common function. We tend to see letters and numbers only as representations of sounds and amounts. Their shapes are arbitrary and used only for recognition, and not as possible hiding places for other information.

A bit about me: I live in the AU Park neighborhood of Washington, D.C., with my wife, son, and dog. For the last 11 years I've been privileged to serve as a Senior Counsel (in house attorney) for the American Red Cross.