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Puzzles for July, 2015
with constructor comments

Wed 7/1/2015
THAWNARYTHICK
NILEISEEAISLE
UGLISHEAIDLER
THIGHSOFRELIEF
HBARLEN
ANCONECARDBET
SICEMHOOARLO
THUMBEROLYMPICS
RIPSXIIIONIC
ALSRUGRATSEDA
REDSETS
THEMESOKAYTOME
TRACEILSAEMAG
SOSADFDICARIA
PUPPYTENTMILL

First, let's get one apology over with: the highly constricting 4x4 southeast corner. I slaved to avoid OMRI at 57-Down, figuring I'd need to clue it as a young actor (Katz) now long retired. To me, OMRI is akin to golfer ISAO Aoki (now age 73) and ESAI Morales (a fine actor, still working) for providing us with some elbow room for confined spaces, but I know constructors hate dipping that deeply into the crosswordese bucket. Me too. Fortunately, Omri was a historically important King of Israel, and that's how he appears today. Apology over.

The "seed entry" for this puzzle was THICK / PUPPY — including the clue, which Will has left intact (thanks!). That's where it started — with me laughing a little too enthusiastically at my own wordplay. But when my wife heard it, she was also in stitches, so I felt a surge of confidence that others would laugh too, and that I could carry the theme through with four more entries.

20-Across came to me pretty quickly (another hearty self-satisfied laugh, imagining turkey legs as life-sustaining), 38-Across was next (mild chuckle), and 53-Across was dead last for the longer ones (tiny chortle, wrinkled brow).

1- / 68-Across was the final touch, and Will and I actually went back and forth a couple of times to find the best pun. I had, earlier, THAW LOGS and also THAW FISH, but neither was very funny and couldn't hold a candle to the outrageous silliness of releasing a philosopher from cryonic suspension.

You'll see that the three long themers all have the letter "s" in them, so obviously this is not a strict letter substitution puzzle. Good thing — otherwise it would be undoable. I also hasten to add that I now have some software help, and I'm striving for much longer (and more interesting) down-crossers. Stand by. Thanks.

POW Thu 7/2/2015
CHAOSDIMPLEFDR
LIANAARARATORE
ECCENTRICITYUMA
ACEDEEDSEMINAR
NULLAMINOANDRE
SPLITSECONDNEIN
ESSAYRENTROD
MEDIUMRARE
MICSENDORALS
UHOHSTOOLPIGEON
GENUSENROLOOZE
GANGWARIVESLEA
IREINVISIBLEINK
NYCSNAPONIMAGE
GATSOLONGTUNER
Fri 7/3/2015
WHITECAPSTHETA
RUMRAISINHALEN
EXPURGATEADDED
SLEEPSCAUTIONS
TENDPHDSTRAC
SYDRHODAMAGE
QUITITLADEN
ALBUSDUMBLEDORE
VERASSEAICE
EVOKERLBSCCS
MEMEBAALPOLI
ALARMINGDRIVEL
RINGOTAKEAPEEK
INCUSEPICVERSE
AGENTSEXKITTEN

I am very happy to be debuting my first themeless today! Being a themeless neophyte, I worked with just the single seed ALBUS DUMBLEDORE and let the subsequent fill take me wherever it wanted to go.

I spent a long time writing the clues for this puzzle, so I'm happy to see many of my favorites — THETA, DECK, BROMANCE, T-BALL, CIGS (though brilliantly edited to sync up with KIX), and CLEESE — make the cut. I was sad to see my more devious "Vessel of the 'Odyssey'?" for EPIC VERSE, "They call for a change of address" for PHDS, and "Subject of a noted 2007 outing" for ALBUS DUMBLEDORE get altered, but so it goes. I particularly liked the new clues for SEA ICE, RINGO, SLEEPS, and POTUS (which of course post-dates my submission!).

Since writing this puzzle, I've tried to be more careful about words that are almost always clued as part of a common phrase, e.g. POLI and RUSSE. I tried to save the former with the clue "Greek cities" and the latter with "French Russian," but no dice.

I hope that you enjoyed this first effort, and I'd be eager and grateful for any feedback.

ADDED NOTE: I completely agree with Jeff about SEX KITTEN. I would certainly not use that entry (or anything else of its ilk) in a puzzle today, and am sorry that I chose to a year or so ago when I made this puzzle.

Sat 7/4/2015
BROSWHIMSMOT
BABAGHANOUJEXO
SPELLINGBEEGYM
TYSONGAYDRAGS
OWESBIBLE
MISDIDMIAMIINK
ADMANNICKITMI
MIATHICKENHAT
MORHARRYDLIST
ATTHEZOOSTOCKY
BADDYBARF
HOLLAAMIRIGHT
AXERECORDCROWD
RECKLONDIKEBAR
TSKIPASSNOSY

This puzzle was constructed just over a year ago, inspired by the interesting intersection of BABA GHANOUJ and JEDI MIND TRICK at the J. I believe I wanted to do something similar with a Q, X, or Z in the 56A square, but that clearly didn't work out. In all honesty, I don't know what I was thinking, going with the black square pattern that you see here. Yes, it was practically built around the BABA GHANOUJ / GLOW IN THE DARK / JEDI MIND TRICK seed entries, but whoa, I still can't get over how weird it looks.

As with many of my puzzle successes, I can't believe how lucky I got with some of the fill. Sure, let's just try KLONDIKE BAR at 56A and hope something nice comes out of it (LOFGREN / AM I RIGHT). Let's spend hours monkeying around with the top-left and stumble upon the lovely SPELLING BEE and TYSON GAY, both never before seen in a NYT puzzle. Oh look, IDIOT right next to SMART at 25 & 26D. A Scrabble average of 1.98 without anything terribly forced! It's almost as if I know what I'm doing!

One more thing: My apologies to all the solvers that combed this grid looking for an Independence Day mini-theme, and were left disappointed … I must appear so unpatriotic. Truth is, I was quite surprised to see that Will had slotted this for today, though I'm stoked for its appearance on a nice, memorable date! If you are looking for something July Fourthy, however, perhaps today's offering on my website may interest you :)

Happy solving, everyone!

Sun 7/5/2015HEADS OF STATE
RIMTRUSSTHAI
KOKOMOHERODHARDHAT
IKEBANAEDAMSEVILONE
NAYCAMOMILEAGELIMIT
SYSTREMANWHIRNESS
HOTECRANKHEREWEGO
AKONHIHOPARIAHSFDA
SANDSCAFOTOTATAMIS
AYEIPATENOREMTOGS
SAGANHWYFEMBRUIN
GROUNDCREWASSAILANTS
LAUDSISPDNANTEST
ASTIANTEEONCOSRAE
SPHERICOBEJAITRUTV
SYDBRITPOPUMPSASTA
ARSENALSPAPALSHIN
DOKENEETONETOAMTS
EGOIDEALWASHDOWNOUT
NETCOSTNITTIRICARDO
YEAHYOUOCTALSATEEN
SASSSKULLHAM
POW Mon 7/6/2015
BAILBALKSACRE
ELLAADIEUHOUR
WALKAROUNDANNE
IMPELSYAPFLA
TOASTPLANAHEAD
CDSONIONPASTE
HESSUPCLESSER
TAKEAPART
CAJOLETAIEROS
OPARTKERRIEVE
MOVEASIDEDICED
CSARIDSENTRA
ATMSKNOCKABOUT
SLAGHANOIERSE
TENTSPENTDYED

I think it was WALK AROUND that got this one started, when I somehow saw the phrase as walking a round of golf. Then came the realization that there are quite a few adverbs of this sort starting with the letter "a" that can be parsed as "a something-or-other." So I was off and running. Some puzzles almost create themselves — without brain-twisting efforts to come up with theme answers — and this was one of them.

Definitely Will's biggest change was in the clue for 25A. I never once thought of a lav connection. My clue was [Sketch some ideas for one's self-portrait?]. And for 51A, I was thinking along the lines of moving a product in the sense of selling it. So my clue for that one was [Sell lots of fries?].

As I've said here before, I know I tend toward Tuesday clueing in Monday puzzles. Easy is fine and I do aim for it, but I rebel against blatantly dead giveaways. So for HOUR at 16A, I submitted the simple and admittedly boring [Happy ___], which Will changed to "One of 24 in a day." Otherwise, this was probably a typical mix of my clues and Will's.

The puzzle was submitted exactly a year ago. I hope you've enjoyed it.

Tue 7/7/2015
PACERPACKCMVI
AGATEAGUEHIES
RODINTALEALIA
TRICEHILLBILLY
BALKWONATA
LEWISSCHERZO
TOATEEACEADHD
AMCILLWILLFOO
LOSEDIETEDIUM
COEXISTPIXEL
VASSACFLAB
CHILLPILLBIMBO
BELTADAMECONO
GALEWOKESIREN
BREDSLEDSTERE
Wed 7/8/2015
ITEMBAJAOBAMA
NALAATIEROBIN
THIRDDEGREEBURN
RIMELLINGTEA
ONALOUANAS
INDIANPLANTAIN
NUANCEORMAN
CLIPSHAWNESME
DENIMCRAVAT
SIGNOFTHETIMES
GLUETISLET
OWLDJSCVIBAH
WHEREISTHETHEME
NIGERIBETBEAR
STOPSESSOORNE

I am beyond ecstatic to be making my NY Times crossword debut today. I've been submitting puzzles to the NY Times since my junior year of high school — spring 2007. A friend challenged me to make a crossword during class eight years ago, and I've been hooked ever since.

This idea came to me when I was working on a composer-themed puzzle: BACHTOTHEFUTURE, HAYDNPLAINSIGHT, etc. When I saw HAYDNPLAINSIGHT had already been used in a previous composer puzzle, I started to think about hiding the phrase HIDDENINPLAINSIGHT in plain sight with the hopes of being especially clever. I used to love doing the Jumble and the NYTimes crossword with my great aunt on Sundays, so I was happy that I could get a little bit of jumble in my first acceptance. Also I'm a huge New York Giants fan, so I was excited to help ELIMANNING get back in the puzzle after a long hiatus.

The original themed entries were THIRDDEGREEBURN, INTERPELLATIONS, and SINGTHESAMETUNE, but Will prompted me to switch up the last two and I'm pleased with where things ended up. I was a bit bummed that ‘Rex Parker's gripe' didn't stick as the clue for WHEREISTHETHEME, but otherwise I'm really happy with my first accepted submission.

I'd like to thank the following people for all of their work to help me achieve this milestone: my dad, for being my constant crossword tester and slugging through my early atrocities; Frank Longo, for all of his help with this puzzle; and Will, for being a kind, patient mentor over the past eight years. Thanks for the warm welcome, crossword world. Hope to see you again soon.

Thu 7/9/2015
INSESPRITGLOB
LAIPURINAIOTA
LUNCHMONEYARTS
ERASMUDLENDEE
QUIPPEDPORTERS
OERSORES
JETTISONSQUID
AVEQUASHFRO
WEARSPEEDBOAT
ELATEMOO
PISTONSNOISOME
ENERGYOESURAL
PYLERIGHTONCUE
SOMAEOLIANANG
QUADQUESTSSAY

This puzzle started when I stumbled on the revealer phrase. I wanted the turned words to be words themselves, yet with a different sense than the base phrase (thus, drama queen was out, etc). I made a list of Q words and then checked to see which ones could form the ends of longer phrases. I rejected a few such as quire, quirt, and quint, because I judged them too obscure. It wasn't a long list, but it contained some nifty entries. Tiger mosquito, Steve McQueen, mesquite, liquid, acquit, and various squads were some of the options that stayed in reserve.

The whole grid almost died with 58-across. The saga included trying to move black squares, dream up new themers, inelegantly split up the revealer to eliminate the interlock, justify random three-letter "words" with Wikipedia (OGA, it's a peninsula in Japan! That works, right?), and even expand into two different Sunday ideas. But in the end, I held my nose and used a word, OES, meaning "whirlwinds," which is probably known mostly to Scrabble players. I hope solvers can look past this blemish.

I wish I could claim credit for that clue at 35-down ([Vehicle that may roll over, for short] = IRA)!

Fri 7/10/2015
ARIONASSISPLUS
BEEROCLOCKOINK
RESORTAREACOME
AFTMINEDIKNEW
FANGNTESTS
WADINGQUARTS
ARABSBUGGYWHIP
ACNEARILSAARE
CHARMCITYSTRIP
COERCEACCESS
SNAPTOGROH
HERTZSPEERCFC
RAVICANTONOHIO
ELECORIOLEPARK
KEYSDINNERTIME

FIBEROPTICS crossing CHARMCITY (Baltimore's nickname) were my seeds for this puzzle. Will had rejected a previously submitted puzzle of mine with CHARMCITY in it, but with feedback that he liked that entry so I decided to seed this puzzle with it. Serendipitously, I was able to use ORIOLEPARK as well, since that relates to Baltimore.

Although it wasn't a seed, I was able to use BEEROCLOCK as well, a term that I first heard from a colleague as he was finishing up his workday. I thought it was a cool term, googled it and found it was probably popular enough to be considered for a NYT puzzle.

Sat 7/11/2015
CASHESINLOGJAM
ALLINONESERENA
NBADRAFTDRAWER
DEBOMEGAMIME
INTLISASIMPSON
DIORTITLESONG
EZPASSNILENEO
MICERISE
ANTGAULNEXXUS
COUGHDROPPANT
IMNOTSOSUREMBA
DIALSTRIPORR
INCASEDIDSQUAT
TEASERONEOUNCE
YENTASGASMETER
Sun 7/12/2015START AGAIN
BURGFLASHPERPSPUR
OHIORABIESEVILILSA
CUCKOODETATRAGEMEET
AHEADTUTUOFDIAMONDS
REARSPRIEDALI
SPATULASKIEDIGETIT
ELMMIMIANDMYBIGMOUTH
SAVECAPRIISLANDER
AYEAYEDOCTORLOOEMU
MOTTOADAPHILOOF
ENSURESTROMSCREAM
PETEMMAMICHELLO
STPHUDCHOOCHOOTOYS
IRONMINEGREERSIDE
COCOACONSPIRATORSSAY
STATUSPANELPINCERS
TARSPOILASNER
BYEBYEPRODUCTSREADS
LULLBOOKCHICHIDEVIL
OGLEBONEKOKOMODONE
BOOSSLEDPITONSNOW
Mon 7/13/2015
ARLOAHABSNACK
COATDAREUPTON
LIKEWHITEONRICE
USERIDTVSTOE
GILEILEEN
ONECOMMENTCAVA
DONODIESALON
ORESDRAMAAMID
RAVENNAPAOLE
SHAREPRICESNAS
TWEETSSTD
SHESSTPEORIA
FACEBOOKBUTTONS
PHOTOREARACTI
DANDYTAMELAOS
POW Tue 7/14/2015
RUMABSCAMSNUG
ABALACUNAPOGO
HORTONHEARSAWHO
MALEEGOITS
TONLOTNYMPHS
THELORAXAIL
OOMPAOARATTA
GREENEGGSANDHAM
RANGMAOCASTS
ETSHOPONPOP
SEALABDERTES
UNAWEVEMET
IFIRANTHECIRCUS
BARIDEALINESP
MREDSAYSSOESS

KEVIN: I'm happy to be collaborating with Brad Wilber on his first themed puzzle in the NYT. Brad's a very experienced constructor, but he's only had themelesses in the NYT up to now.

I have two kids: Tim (age 13) and Kate (age 11). When they were small I used to read stories to them at night before they went to bed. We had many favorites that we read over and over, many of which were Dr. Seuss books.

My only regret about this puzzle is that I couldn't figure out a way to work in THE CAT IN THE HAT. That's 14 letters, which is sometimes an awkward theme answer length to work with.

I want to give credit where credit is due. Joel Fagliano, Will's editorial assistant, came up with the idea to use quotes from the books as clues, which I think is genius.

BRAD: By the time I came on board, Kevin had already designed the grid and filled it. I was immediately impressed with the presence of five theme entries plus a revealer. Kevin was concerned about some nose-wrinkling incidental fill (I remember RRR crossing RRS, for example), so together we did some "doctoring" of Dr. Seuss. I brainstormed different ideas for some of the seven-letter entries that crossed three Seuss titles. We tinkered with the upper middle and lower middle, especially, and did some sprucing up of corners.

Helping write Tuesday clues is kind of new ground for me, but we seem to have done all right based on what the final draft looks like!

Wed 7/15/2015
VENOMPACETOP
ELOPEOLAYSERE
REPERTOIREULEE
AVENGERSAILOR
MERROOSTS
DECIPROPRIETOR
IMACSACTEDAPO
DOMWADOSELEA
UTEERITUSEEDS
PERPETUITYASST
ALTIMAEMT
EXCESSDOIDARE
DORATYPEWRITER
EXESRAILERTES
ROWYOGISTADT

There is some debate about this, but most sources say the longest common words that can be typed all on one row of the keyboard are repertoire, proprietor, perpetuity, and TYPEWRITER.

The first commercially successful typewriter was invented by a Milwaukee newspaper editor named Sholes, and his initial 1868 model had the letters in two rows and in alphabetical order. Old people like me remember how the metal typebar arms would swing up and hit the inked fabric ribbon.

The two most common letter combinations are TH and ST, and their proximity on the keyboard caused frequent jamming. The Remington company (famous for sewing machines at the time) bought the typewriter rights in 1873, and their research led to the QWERTY layout we use today. Supposedly, they wanted technophobic salespeople to be able to peck out "TYPEWRITER QUOTE" from just the top row (to WOW the customers), so the arrangement was not completely based on ergonomics. Typewriters are passe now, but it seems the QWERTY keyboard is going to be a central part of our lives for the foreseeable future.

Hope you enjoyed the puzzle!

Thu 7/16/2015
COALDARTZELIG
ANNAENOWECOLI
LETDOWNYOURHAIR
DUDEGROOMED
SIBCRAZIES
PSYCHOLOGYTODAY
IANAPSASADORE
TIARASBRIGGS
AAMESBEAVNOES
THETHRILLISGONE
CARLITODTS
RESERVEMALT
ILLDOITTOMORROW
CLEEFTONIIOWA
HADNTALYNMINX
Fri 7/17/2015
PUBLICSCRAPE
ENIGMAKAHUNAS
DIGSINBIGAMIST
AFITIMECOPTSO
NODETICKSCROP
TRENTNASCLANS
MADABOUTYOU
SOMERSAULTS
WALTERMITTY
ASNERHITCERES
LEADARCEDREAL
ORGCLEARUPARI
MAGELLANMASKED
APESUITATHENE
REDPENSHARDS

Hey, XWord Info! I'm a 15-year-old student, and I'm glad to be making my NYT debut today.

Interestingly enough, this crossword had the same inspiration as this gem by David Phillips (despite similarities, this puzzle and that puzzle were constructed independently). I also happened to read Patrick Berry's comment, where he said that themeless crosswords with more open centers were more manageable than those with open corners, since open corners had equally-open symmetrical counterparts. That led me to experiment with freestyles having long entries stacked up in the middle.

Predictably, I started the grid with the staggered stacks of three 11's in the center. I started off with the stack of KICKSTARTER and BECAUSE I CAN, which created promising letter pairs for the crossings. By a process of trial and error (mostly error), I was able to find a promising intersection of six 11's, as well as a pretty arrangement of black squares. After that, the rest of the fill was basically segmented into four corners, which I tackled from the SE, and proceeded clockwise. Aside from the two seeds, I was pleased to include TIME COP, MAD ABOUT YOU, WALTER MITTY, and APE SUIT. I was less pleased about SAGOS/ANITRA/ESTOPS, etc., but I think the good outweighs the bad here.

Will and the crew did a great job of sprucing up the clues. Surprisingly, about half of the clues I wrote were either unchanged or given minor edits. My favorite unaltered clues include those for 45A, 57A, and 48D. Plus, I was glad to include a reference to "The Imitation Game," one of my favorite movies. Among the edited clues, I'm a fan of the ones for 7A, 8D, and 22D, but [Buff runner?] is my absolute favorite clue of theirs, no contest. I legitimately laughed when I saw it for the first time.

Thanks to Will, Joel, and the rest of the NYTeam, as well as my long-suffering family, who has been my sounding board for many a possible entry/clue. Hope it was an entertaining solve!

Sat 7/18/2015
RESPROMA
DACHAAVOID
VETOESMAORIS
DECANTSOLDBATS
ANATOLIANSABOU
SALAMANCAILLIN
TESTINGSOCLOCK
CDIANA
ALADDINSENDSON
GOTRESTSTROPHE
AURICLETHEMAGI
STELLARAILERON
SALINETRACED
RINDSETTAS
NESTDYER

I revisited this grid off and on for about eight years thinking my ever-growing word list would help out. Then I finally decided to focus my effort and seed the grid with various entries at 4-Down containing common ending letters: S, R, E, T and N. The left side — and minor variants — is what emerged. The right side presented a much easier task... even with thematic content at 24-Down.

Wide open puzzles like these will have their share of awkwardness, which I'm sure others will discuss. But solvability inevitably comes down to packing a high percentage of familiar words in each quadrant. Common words can be clued in many different ways, and I like to give the editor the flexibility to adjust the difficulty level of these to meet solver need. Will always has a knack for smoothing things out with his adept clue revisions.

Sun 7/19/2015THE SHORT FORM
SAHIBTEMPGATEASHEN
IRAQIHAILAMURSTALE
FIRSTPERSONSINGSENSE
TARTAKETWOLISURGED
USERIDSNAANOMNI
ADMIRESDONTGIVEANIN
POPDENSITYDEUCETSE
ETHERSCHATSPINCHHIT
SOSOHEINOUSARENT
NORAINOCTJANEROE
ELITURNOFTHECENTEND
DEMOTEDUARPREYON
EMOTETRUSSUPTAFT
NEUTRALSLETUSPAULIE
INTTONNEAPTCOMPLEX
CUTQUITEAFIGORALIST
AUNTAMTSCENTRES
PSHAWIKEARALSEALOP
OTERILOOKOUTFORNOONE
LARKSLUNANEILTOSCA
OBESESTETERNEHOTEL

The original clue for POP DENSITY was [The stupidity of a cereal mascot?]. Although I like the new clue better, I thought I should mention the change so that my dad would not take umbrage at the answer.

Originally, the title was PULLING OUT ALL THE STOPS, but I think the name change was a good move because some non-theme entries (like AMTS) should still have periods in them.

Thanks to Jim Wood, whose lecture on "number one" inspired the theme (which started with 112-Across).

Mon 7/20/2015
SWABSACREENZO
CAPRIPHATDEAD
AKIOMORITAHUGE
MEEKVOLTFAT
PUCEANDYMURRAY
SPENTARRIVE
IFIMAYINON
MORNINGPERSON
PALOROMERO
TIDBITWARDS
ALMICHAELSGEEK
ONEGLEEEASE
MENSALIMACGRAW
OREOBOZOLAUDE
BRYNSWANUPPER

The concept for this puzzle began a rainy summer morning in 2011, vacationing with my grandparents on the Jersey Shore. We had Wimbledon on, and somehow my semi-somnolent brain made the connection between the initials of one of the players (Andy Murray) and my current state of grogginess. I spent most of the day brainstorming different people with the relevant ante-meridianic initials; my grandparents contributing a whole host of actors and celebrities I had never heard of. I had not constructed too many puzzles at this point, so actually filling in the grid with my theme in place was a challenge. School resumed, and I forgot about my offhand efforts. About two years later I rediscovered this puzzle as I was transferring old files over to a new computer, and despite the gut-wrenching fill it caught my eye as a puzzle I might be able to rework.

The first submission Will liked, but was worried that many of the people I had included were too obscure for the NY Times crowd. He gave me a list of alternates (helpfully all ten letters), that I had overlooked in my searches. By that time, I had started to realize that making a worthwhile puzzle was more than including an amusing theme and a few tricky clues. I urged myself throughout the revision process to included longer, spicier fill, with a minimum of bleh. I settled on the grid here, with two 8s in the NE and SW, and relatively open corners opposite. I'm still wondering if I could have done without the rather obscure CLU and overused INO, but at least the latter comes from an Ithaca-related myth…

The result you see here is perhaps the seventh or eighth revision — I hope you all enjoy!

Tue 7/21/2015
ABSBURMAOJO
BOPSAENEASSAO
BOOKEMDANNOTMZ
ONSITEGEOFFREY
TEAPARTIERLIS
SIRNICKS
LADDCOMARCHIE
ICEROADTRUCKERS
DACRONVIDASKS
SIOUXNAB
BUTSANDCASTLE
REPHRASEICKIER
ORAITSINTHEBAG
ARGFINNEYDEVO
RYETESSARET

Not surprisingly, I got the inspiration for this theme after noticing a few sandbags on the side of the road. My first snarky thought was something to the effect of "How much use do these things even get? This place [the Twentynine Palms USMC base] is on the edge of the Mojave ... how often is flooding a problem?" (It happens occasionally as I later learned.) After this, I switched to mocking the sandbags themselves. "And what good of a bag are you anyway?" I thought. "If you lose your sand, you just become a regular, old bag."

Snark soon gave way to curiosity. Were there other bags whose identity was solely dependent on what they held? From the outset, I prioritized including ICE and SAND, since the ice bag and sandbag best illustrated the theme concept I was going for, i.e. a bag specifically designed to hold only one item.

After ICE and SAND, theme answers were a bit harder to find. I initially thought AIR would be a good choice, but airbags typically get filled with pure nitrogen or argon gas and not the 78% nitrogen, 21% oxygen, etc. "air" to which we Terrans are accustomed. Also, technically speaking, even ice bags and sandbags contain air. There were also a good number of "___bag" entries that didn't work with my theme definition, e.g. shopping bag, windbag, handbag, and a few others too lewd for me to list.

I ended up choosing TEA and BOOK but also liked MAIL and MONEY. (I didn't like BODY or GARBAGE due to the unpleasant imagery.)

As for the fill, it would seem that I tried to squeeze in some long downs and/or a tinge of scrabbliness. This resulted in a bit more glue than I'd allow in my current submissions; nonetheless, I hope the longer answers and lower word count add a little variety to your Tuesday solve.

Enjoy the rest of this week's puzzles. I know I certainly will!

Wed 7/22/2015
RISESEERSPITZ
ONEDAMMOHENRI
SHAGLAIDRETAG
SUPERVILLAIN
IMOAOLASLUSA
NARCSSAVILEROW
INTOTOLETANNE
NAVELRING
FRETEXOSOLELY
DEVILRAYSBELIE
AXEADMHIEEVA
CHOPPEDLIVER
ZORROLORENANO
ARBORESPNSTUN
GRIPESEATPEPE

Does CHOPPED LIVER go bad after two years? I hope not. That's how long this puzzle has been waiting for publication. In the acceptance email, Will's assistant (at the time) said the fill was good and Will was happy to give it a thumbs up, but this kind of theme was getting overdone. So either I just slipped in under the wire or I'm the guy who killed the genre.

My clue for NOBEL was [___ Prize (Tutu won one)]. I realized at the time it was an unnecessarily fussy clue, but I loved the sound of "Tutu won one." Maybe I should play 2211 in the daily lottery today.

My Aunt Annie, who thinks I use too many sports and popular music names in my puzzles, will be happy that I classed things up a bit with ROSSINI and HENRI Matisse.

ZIG and ZAG landed in opposite corners — for no particular reason. And I assure you that INHUMAN leading directly into REX is not a reference to anyone in particular. Honest.

Thu 7/23/2015
ASTAJAILSULTRA
GOUPANNULROHAN
ATNOMAGNIFICENT
SHELFDEADBEAT
SERIESEILLUSE
INSTRUMENTEXPO
IMFNORASEEN
SPCIFILTEPAIDC
DISSETTEETD
ATIPASSOCIATES
BEARDSHENRYVI
NAILGUNSEERIE
MARYPOPPINSYANG
GLUTSAOKAYONCE
MAGOOSNIPSUTES

Chris McGlothlin did a sweet puzzle four years ago where he partitioned ANTIDISESTABLISHMENTARIANISM into 11 chunks and rebused it across the middle of his grid. The obvious candidate for doing something similar with a longer word was PNEUMONOULTRAMICROSCOPICSILICOVOLCANOCONIOSIS, a 45-letter term that refers to a lung disease caused by inhaling silica dust and fine ash, as from an erupting volcano.

Just kidding. (I'm saving that bad boy for a Science Friday crossword.)

Incredibly, a 1970 puzzle actually WAS built thematically around that word, stretching it across three 15-letter spanners. [Miner's ailment]—fun times!

The fill turned out pretty well. You always try to get rid of bits like NORAS and ITA, but adding cheaters or moving squares around to turn NORAS into NORA and SETTE into ETTE didn't lead to a clean fill in the SE, as nothing helpful built off of AL- (37D). The central blocks have to go above SUPER and below DOCIOUS, because nothing starts with CIOUS-. And if those blocks are fixed in place, you're very limited in how you can arrange the grid around the other two themers.

It took some confused thinking to come up with a thematic 11 to offset MARY. If her name were one shorter, Julie Andrews would have been the pick. Her singing partner, Dick Van Dyke, fit, but I wasn't sure if I could include him if she wasn't somewhere in the grid herself.

Parsing the main entry by its 14 syllables struck me as the only fair partition, even though it meant three squares would contain single letters instead of rebuses. The problem is that nothing larger than two divides into 34 except 17. Splitting SUPERC into SU / PE / RC, or IDOCIOUS into ID / OC / IO / US—which would force solvers to enter unintuitive, unpronounceable chunks into half the squares—seemed a miserable choice compared to this segmentation.

In other words, "He chose ... poorly" is the general sentiment I was hoping to avoid.

Fri 7/24/2015
INSIDEMANMAFIA
NEWMEXICOATALL
CHASTENEDSELLS
HITORMISSCASIO
SOPSMAMET
GOTOITDEARTEE
INERTCOTTAGERS
LEARALLAHHEAP
DARYLHALLPOTTY
ANGOOPSFISHES
DARBYGENT
LOSESSKELETONS
INSETANTINOVEL
ALEVECOMPUWARE
RYDERSWEETNLOW
POW Sat 7/25/2015
TIMEBOMBSERVOS
EGOMANIAAROINT
ALSORANSMIMOSA
COURTVISIONLAG
HOLYEVITATALE
BRASSBASES
FLAGRANTWETONE
OILRIGSBIBELOT
OBLATETONEROWS
TROISTEXTS
BAWLFRESHFRAN
ARABOUNCEHOUSE
TIBIASPOWERNAP
HALVESORANGINA
SNEEZEPERSONAL

This grid pattern has potential for liveliness due to the extra-long entry in the 4-stacks (COURT VISION and BOUNCE HOUSE) and overall a total of 20 entries that are 8 letters or longer. A previous version had only the same NW corner, but it didn't feel like a strong enough submission overall. After gathering some dust, it was reworked starting with the opposite 4-stack corner.

I hope solvers enjoy the result!

Sun 7/26/2015NO ESCAPE
COPAYPLEACRYCDC
OHMAGEEUROHEETOILE
HEARTOFDARKNESSRISEN
MENALEXUSBRIMUNARM
EPISODEIMAUDEEPPIE
ANENOLOBUNKUPCS
ALFIEGROUPIEAFRESH
BAALISMBOSOMLHASA
OTTLIENPETCANTERED
LOANAILEIPASIDE
ISLINTHEYEDIHNAB
SCALAPINEROBGSU
HATEMAILTKTAGEDANS
TABLESACRESTANCES
DARNITKARAOKERETRY
ORANAARPLPGABTW
NACRECALEBSLASHERS
OPTINAKINDRYADALIA
RAIMICENTEROFGRAVITY
SHOEDINGTAXIARETES
ONSASSSTYXPINES

Jeff is so patient with me and my crazy ideas.

This puzzle was inspired by our previous "Fire in the Hole" puzzle. As I was looking back through my notes, I noticed that it was about one year ago when we first started discussing this idea. It took us over 30 revisions and a couple of months to reach a point of satisfaction with the fill.

I enjoy researching puzzle ideas, facts, clues and definitions. I've even been known to skim though a thesaurus. (To which my husband comments, "I wonder how it ends. Har! Har!") While I was researching the actual definition of a black hole, I realized it was way beyond my grasp. I think I'll just stick to the simplified version I know from Star Trek.

Thanks again to Jeff for his help and his sense of humor!

Mon 7/27/2015
RECAPRATEDGET
ECOLIIGIVEERA
MONICASELESORR
MAVENNIMROD
ADORETOSUGLY
GRANDENOLTE
RORYNAMEATTAR
AMYYOKOONOEGO
BALSARENUGNAT
HIPPODAREME
OMANINSGRATE
BANGORPAEAN
ANNPALINDROMES
MIAATONEALAMO
AAHLEPEWTAROT

SCOTT: We made this puzzle last August and it was accepted on Oct 3, 2014. We were happy to give YOKO ONO such a place of prominence after all the help she has given constructors through the years, not that we had better choices for a central entry.

POW Tue 7/28/2015
CHATATBATTBA
CERESCHECKELL
CRISPTIGHTKNIT
POLTROONNONO
BURRSPRUNG
ATTACKSTART
VERNETHECREEPS
ICISWIMSCSI
SHOTHOOPSGROSS
RUFUSGRUNTS
AAAMAPFRAS
STEWFRESHETS
PHILIPIIIPITHS
OOOROOSTSNOOT
TSUKLUTZGNUS

I'd like to dedicate this puzzle to Matt Ginsberg, Wei-Hwa Huang, and all my fellow word-rankers. Thanks!

I have no qualms about having computer assistance with filling grids; this crossword is an extreme example. Unlike most constrained-letter crosswords (that simply require creating a sublist, then using standard software), this puzzle presented a tougher problem: it would need 10 sublists, and then a program that could select which sublist to use based on the position of the slot being filled. So, it was a good excuse to write my own grid-filler.

Even after my program was functional, it was still nearly impossible to find worthwhile fill. I became convinced the theme had to be A, E, I, O, U, and sometimes Y. Finally, after days of searching, I had hashed out a reasonable grid and sent it off to Will. Luckily, Will liked the idea, but, unluckily, he did not like the Ys. It was a dark day when it became clear I would have to either give up, or start fresh.

After mourning my old grid, I went back to basics with black-square placement. I analyzed the word-length distributions on each of the 10 sublists. After examining lots of old Monday grids, I settled on the diagonal band through the middle. A band going NE to SW was preferable because letters occur in the same position (beginning, middle, or end) in the Across and Down words.

Filling proceeded over many iterations: Adjust starting position… tweak minimum word score…. blacklist a word…. nudge a cheater square… I would get a promising fill, then rip out the entire eastern half and re-fill… rip out the northern half … rip out the western half...

Eventually, I was happy enough to send it off, and now I hope you're enjoying the result!

Wed 7/29/2015
UPCASTZEBRANPR
NOOGIEEAREDELI
STANDARDTIMEGAG
TEEASADARENO
CARWASHTAKEOVER
ABOARCLEST
CROSSTALKSTIGMA
TAMPAHOYTANOUT
IMSOLDPLAYBILLS
OARSETADEE
BACKDATETHERESA
EBAYGRUELCON
LBJDOUBLEDOUBLE
TAUUNTILALTOID
SSNESSESYESYES

I don't remember the exact genesis of this theme in March 2012, but of course it was inspired by all the "word that can follow both parts of …" puzzles that came before. I submitted the puzzle in October 2013 and it was accepted in January 2014.

My original idea for the DOUBLE DOUBLE reveal was to stack the two DOUBLES on top of each other in one answer, resulting in six adjacent rebus squares. But I couldn't get it to work, especially because of the limited possibilities for answers containing UU.

I put the puzzle aside and took my dog for a walk and was fortunate to run into my crossword consigliere, Brendan Emmett Quigley, in the park. Brendan suggested keeping it simple and to just go with the DOUBLEDOUBLE answer you see today.

With six theme answers, the first and last of which are 12 letters long, I had to widen the puzzle to 16 squares instead of the standard 15 to fit all the themers in. Perhaps another constructor could have done it with some themers going down.

This puzzle benefitted from considerable editing, with not just clues, but several answers changed in the SE corner. Two of the best new clues, IMO, are movie-related: 36-Down (American Sniper) and 48-Down (Fargo). One of my favorite clues that didn't make the cut was also movie-related: "Delta __ Chi (‘Animal House' frat)" at 69-Across, as I am an unrecovered Animal House fan. My other favorite clue that was changed: "The majority of the answer to this clue" for ESSES at 73-Across was actually improved by the clue that references the whole bottom row of the puzzle and the general crossword phenomenon that many S's tend to accumulate there. Finally, on one more movie note, I was happy to see ELI still clued in reference to my cousin, director Eli Roth. I hope Eli Manning's family is not too disappointed.

Thanks to BEQ, Will and Joel and to Jeff and Jim for XWord Info, which is a real boon to fledgling constructors!

Thu 7/30/2015
PEPYSAJARHAM
UNLOCKMAMAAGO
TOUGHNUTMEGRAT
GAITSUNEARTH
ALUMSAMPLIES
BIGAMYBUSINESS
BELTELLLOX
ANYKNELLEDGAS
AGTAAARUPP
MACBETHNCHEESE
PALEUSAESSEX
ACCRUALTARTS
BROTRAVELBANJO
SOTANNALAGOON
TNTHEELLETBE

So I was making this puzzle last fall and I fielded a question to my Facebook friends (real and otherwise) as to whether or not the base phrase at 28-Across was fair game. Shortly afterward, Jeffrey Harris IMed me as he thought he'd figured out what the theme of my puzzle was just by that one answer. He was wrong, as his guess was the theme for this puzzle that ran today. As a shout-out/thank you, I put HARRIS at 10-Down, symmetrically opposite the ALCOTT reveal. How about that for an Easter Egg?

Fri 7/31/2015
DRAGSHOWSTACKS
AUTOTUNETOILET
SNOBALLSEUDORA
BAMBAITCARSPY
OMARSNEAKMELD
OONAKERBGATOR
TKTSIANSNOOPY
CARDKEPI
ATLASTTEXSPEC
ROILSKATYTACO
TOPSCELEBSCUM
IDSCANKLESHAM
SLYDOGBOATRIDE
TENUREINSEASON
ESCHERGETWEIRD

ASHTON: This puzzle started off as a collaboration between me and David Quarfoot, but started to gather dust when we both got too busy with our respective PhDs. Later, I asked him if it'd be OK if I finished it with my partner in crossword crime, James Mulhern, and he said sure. The result is what you see today. James did the SE and I did the rest (except for DQ's seed at 1A, so thanks to him for that!).

The gem of this one for me is, without a doubt, James's SE corner. It's ridiculously fun and surprising and clean. It's a great feeling to collaborate with someone who can pull stuff like that off.