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Puzzles for August, 2022
with constructor comments

Mon 8/1/2022
BOOEDELSARAFA
MATEYVOOMAMEX
WHOLEBEANCOFFEE
SUEVENMOHTML
WALKFAYE
CARETOELABORATE
LEADWEESUSSEX
IIILILANI
NOSTRACOPIDOL
GUERILLAWARFARE
OSLOPIES
TRUELWORDUSE
THEPRICEISRIGHT
SANEDARNURGES
KITSSTETMESSY

I'm a rising high school senior at Riverdale Country School in New York City. It's beyond an honor to have today's puzzle!

I'm not certain, but I'm pretty sure I thought of this theme on a Sunday night while I was sitting on the red chair in my living room trying not to do my homework, although, admittedly, that's how I come up with most of my puzzles. I sent this grid in with a bit of trepidation — since I know a hidden word theme is a tough sell these days — I was so happily surprised when the team told me this one was going to be a yes.

I want to thank the editing team, especially Wyna Liu and Tracy Bennett, for giving me kind and thoughtful feedback on my puzzles. Most of all, thank you to Andrew Kingsley for being the best cruciverbal partner-in-crime (and English teacher!) in potentially the history of cruciverbal partners-in-crime. Collaborating with him has made me the crossword constructor I am today, and for that, I am eternally grateful. Andrew and I have some cool stuff in the works, so hopefully, you'll see us under the bright lights sometime soon.

Happy solving!

POW Tue 8/2/2022
MUSKDWARFEVIL
UBERVENUEAIRY
FOROLDTIMESSAKE
ALINEPLIE
STEAMEDDUMPLING
ASSNORSETOE
STYLELIESL
REPEATAFTERME
SEDANMEATS
APEUVEASASA
CONSUMERREPORTS
AEONOGRES
JIMMYKIMMELLIVE
ARGOACIDSEVEN
BAMAYEASTDENT

JAY: With this puzzle, I had the phrase "Repeat after me" bouncing around in my head for a while, and naturally thought letters that repeat after the letters "M,E" might make for a nice puzzle. But I just wasn't sure it was NYT-worthy, so I forgot about it.

When Dan and I got together, as we often do (we are not only co-constructors but good friends) to catch up and talk puzzles, I mentioned it to him. His eyes lit up, and he said, "This is a great idea. We should totally do it." Dan has never been shy about giving me his honest opinion about my puzzle ideas before, so the fact that he sparked to it got me excited about bringing this one to life.

Unless you're a constructor, it's easy to assume the harder a puzzle is to solve, the harder it is to build, but building an easy puzzle can be more challenging because the parameters are more limiting. The high theme letter count (73) also contributed to the challenge.

Wed 8/3/2022
ORALADZMOMS
TACOSCUEREVEL
INASCRABBLEGAME
SKITRIPRIVALED
PIMPABIT
SEEPELFEROS
WHATTILEISWORTH
OARSSLASHNORI
ONTBAAHUPMAN
STARRYTAKEIT
HYGIENEVISIONS
TWOPOINTS
STRAPODDEMBER
UHURUDIELEAKY
RANDBECOSTREE

My solo debut! A multiple choice test, mid-summer? *Sheeesh*

I must confess that I look back on this puzzle with mixed feelings. On the one hand, the critic in me frowns on the blindly clued, seemingly random trivia question. On the other hand, I really do like how this puzzle pushes the envelope. Giving solvers a solid reason to break the norm and "shade" in a square was one clear aim of this puzzle (I'd have preferred for solvers actually to blacken the square, but the rebus is as close as you get on the digital platform I guess...). In any case, I hope this puzzle finds you well and gives you something new to chew on. Big thanks to the editing team for their input and suggestions.

Speaking of STARRY, have you checked out these images on the Webb? Incredible!

...and just in case you were wondering, the combined scrabble score of my commentary here is 1246... I'll show myself out now...

Thu 8/4/2022
HAMPOBOYGSPOT
UFOSHOVERAIMI
BRITISPENOTTER
SORENPRDWAYNE
SASHASCOTT
LIPEUPHORIA
IDTAGHERESPING
AAHHOYESPFOE
GRASSPPERUBEND
ONTIPTOEPRO
LIESLSTORK
ACCORDROEKEYS
TORIIPOPUPSHOP
ICANTGLADEATE
TONGSALLOTBOW

I tried and failed to make this puzzle quite a few times before it came to be. I had thought of the revealer but couldn't figure out how to implement it — considered having synonyms for shop pop up, or types of shops, or specific brands, but nothing worked. And then I decided to try the simplest version, and here we are!

I am not a shopper, but I am a walker, and I love when pop-ups pop up and change the landscape of a familiar street. I also love pop-up Halloween stores and holiday markets.

Shoutout to the Roll The Dice puzzle from 2020, which I loved and was the first time I remember seeing this mechanic. Also, shoutout to the editorial team — they changed a ton of clues this time, and it's fun to have a puzzle that feels so collaborative and to learn new things (like 15-Across or 12-Down!) from my own puzzle. Hope you enjoy!

Fri 8/5/2022
SMUSHSCIBOLTS
HENNATANAVAIL
ALTOSRNALETGO
WEIGHTEDBLANKET
LEETHEYSAYERS
PAYTHETAB
CRAIGFENGASPS
HARESOATELTON
ACESDORISKIWI
PENREDTAPELET
SADDENORDERS
HEAVYSECURITY
HELMIOTASATOM
BALENOTRENOGO
ODESGNATSASAP

ERIK: My friend Brooke is also one of my favorite constructors, and I'm honored to be involved in one of her brilliant creations. Happy so many of our tricky clues made the cut — hers at 33-Down is my favorite. Hope you like it!

BROOKE: I'm indebted to Erik for reaching out to me in early 2020 to encourage me to create crossword puzzles. I'm so grateful now to have created this puzzle with a friend! Thanks to the editors for preserving our voices — my favorite of Erik's clues is 29-Down.

Sat 8/6/2022
GARBJUMPFORJOY
ULEEOPERAHOUSE
SPCABIDENOMICS
TAUNTSITCHCAD
ACTIVEDUTYPERE
VASECTOMYBUBBA
HAWSREPAIR
CLUEINDOTARD
THENFLBELT
RAFTSFALLISSUE
OTTOPUTSONHOLD
OLEYALTAGENTS
PINBALLERSBORE
ENDOWMENTSORAL
DESKPERSONPASS

I'm guessing the entry that will garner the most attention is 26-Across. Although I'm also the person who debuted CONDOM in the Times, there's no agenda here. It wasn't, um, a seed entry.

I had a whole grid built with UP IN ARMS, but when I thought of UP IS DOWN, I decided it would be a better entry, and that led to using VASECTOMY. The clue [Form of birth control] is from the editors, but I like it because I think it is a useful exercise for solvers to think of how many forms of birth control for females they thought of before considering forms for males. My clue was a bit of trivia I found interesting: [Procedure legalized in France in 2001, but banned in Iran in 2014].

Sun 8/7/2022 Letterplay
MANORSJAKOBJOISTS
ANIMALSOCIALSAGLARE
CINEMAALLTHATCRIMEA
ATANANGLEUNIQUEUSER
WASGRANTSCRUZMASS
IDAIDEATESIZE
SAMADAMSFORMTINHAT
IROBOTTWOAMZEROG
ANNSTARSIDRABYLINE
MOESAPERTERNAMIDST
TRIPLEADOUBLEU
RELYONISNTWAILMAPS
EXALTSETNASLOONLEI
FIVEOFOURHTEABAG
TETRISNAPAHUSHHUSH
SPASLIMPIDIAM
ELLEHUMPTERRORCAB
VOODOODOLLOINOINONE
IBADANLAYDOWNTRIVIA
TONITETIMELAGHONEST
ASSESSNEWERSNORES
Mon 8/8/2022
SAFESPRATISNT
AFROORALBNAAN
BLUSHWINESLIST
ROTASECPAL
EATITSHADOWBOX
STIRSTEREOOPT
AVESTALEAIR
LISTENSICEDTEA
AMNESIACODD
PHOPOLLENIAMB
POWDERKEGREBAR
SIRARGOAKA
POUTLINERNOTES
TWITOFUSEDEUS
ALTOTIPSYESPY

This is my second puzzle for the Times. My first was a collaboration with my daughter, Tess Davison that appeared in January 2020. There have been many rejections in between that one and this one!

I began working on this puzzle in January 2021. I seem to remember a small controversy about a clue for the entry PAD that would be immediately obvious to most women and girls but completely puzzling to most men. Some commenters pointed out that since most puzzle constructors are men, many puzzles are very male-oriented. (I know I get hung up when a theme is sports-related.) So, as a female constructor, I decided to think of a theme that would be familiar to more women than men — and came up with makeup!

My original attempt has gone through a couple of revisions, and I'd like to give a shoutout to the Puzzles team — especially Tracy Bennett — for their help and encouragement.

Tue 8/9/2022
SEWTINCTADS
USAENDURESDIP
MARGOLIATHZOO
OUTVOTETRABERT
AMERICANO
JOLLAISHTOILS
ONELSCSIYKNOW
RIDESHOTTORTE
GOTYAOFUSE
ENVOGUELOWSNAP
FESSANNA
JONESESYESMAAM
URALDAVIDUCLA
METATYINGEMIT
POSHOSAGELETS

Two months ago, I had a puzzle with biblical verb wordplay (PUBLIC TOILETH et al), now another biblical theme!

This puzzle was unusual in that the editorial team did not request any changes to the original grid submission. They said they liked the slingshot grid art and the unique grid configuration. It's wide open for a Tuesday, at 71 words, but mostly pretty accessible, I think.

I clued EN VOGUE as the "Hold On" rock group, but the editors felt they were too obscure. That entry Googles very well, probably because it is a common phrase in France.

USED TO and OF USE are dupes, but they do have pretty disparate meanings.

I like taking my grandkids to the beaches of La JOLLA!

POW Wed 8/10/2022
STEALSAGSCUB
MELLOWHURTORE
SALUKIERIEAGE
MINERALWATER
AMENGAPLSU
MEDIUMRARETUBS
BAGFALSEMONET
USEONOGTASEE
SLURSBRAWNATE
HYPEFEELINGILL
AHASIRADES
WELLACTUALLY
OXYREELEUDORA
RANPUNTDRAWER
DMXOPTSERECT

"Well, actually…" is the pedant's favorite opening phrase, and maybe some puzzle writers/trivia buffs have used it too (ironically, of course)? Occupational hazard, right? It's even become a verb, as in, "I well-actually'd Andre 3000, explaining that a Polaroid picture requires no shaking."

So I zeroed in on the phrase and thought about what questions it could answer on its own while still maintaining its status as a phrase used to correct someone. Then, I just had to get the themers to make sense as questions that might really be asked.

By the way, I fully expect that anyone commenting on this puzzle will find a way to "well-actually" me, so I'm bracing myself...

Thu 8/11/2022
BLOCASAPATARI
MATTBRIDEMELON
WITHOUTSINBAILS
SCOURGEENLISTEE
LABGUESTHOST
MATHLETEDIO
OAHUARTOOOPAL
THEBREADPANDIE
SOLISTOICBERT
EGOWETNOSES
FIREBRANDFAX
ADORABLEOATCAKE
CABINTRANSLATED
THINKEVICTROTI
SONGSREDDSPOT

False friends are the reason this puzzle exists. They're pairs of words in different languages that seem related to one another but whose meanings are completely different. So, 'pan' in Spanish isn't related to 'pan' in English, and it doesn't have anything to do with cooking vessels. False friends, in short, looked like one English word but meant another.

In finding theme material for this puzzle, I went through lists of these words, which had been compiled as a caution for language learners, and whenever a false friend and its English meaning formed a valid phrase, I added it. False friends were also invaluable in avoiding the trap of 'redundant' translations, like 'chai tea' (since chai already means 'tea') and the dozens of place names meaning 'river river' or 'hill hill' (look up tautological place names for a very confusing read), plus false cognates, in which two words do have the same meaning, but through pure coincidence rather than sharing a common ancestor.

In all, I'm surprised that this extremely rigid theme had as many valid entries as it did, and especially that almost all had the English and non-English word occur in the same order.

Fri 8/12/2022
SPACECAMP
THEDOGATEIT
MORNINGRITUAL
FAKETANFLUBUB
AXEDBATPHONE
VININDEXYOGA
AMSCRAYSPHASER
LIVETWEET
ATEASEIWONTASK
CRAMTEENSCIN
MARSALISBETE
ECTDENPARADOX
THEDOCTORISIN
YOUNAILEDIT
SPINCLASS

It's been ten years since Wynton Marsalis was in a New York Times crossword. While playing in the jazz ensemble during my college days at TCU, I had the privilege of attending a master class he taught for our trumpet section. It made quite an impression on my 19-year-old brain, and I'm happy to be able to put him back in the puzzle after an extended absence.

I'm still plugging away at my psychology practice and posting crosswords and cryptics on my puzzle blog, Grid Therapy. I hope you'll drop in and check it out. Have a fantastic weekend!

Sat 8/13/2022
MEGAFANAGAINST
ILOVELAWIIMOTE
ACTEDONHMMISEE
HARSHJIMTEEN
SELAADORESSPY
PAIGEIOLANI
APGERMANSOMA
OHGEEZPECANS
TUBADECAFTEA
YUTZESTRICK
PBSSHAFTSAURA
ARABEXTTHINE
TAXICABARIDITY
THEBODYHANSOLO
YESBOSSAPTONYM

This puzzle is brought to you by Zaxby's, the official fast food chain of the National Scrabble Association.

Sun 8/14/2022 In the Money
TRUDDTDIVASSLAVS
RESTORERUNPAIDPANIC
ABSOLUTECASHREGISTER
MARKOMEARASEWONEWE
EOSRATONNADADEE
PLOPOMESDOASLOWBURN
DANALINBOONTWERPS
QUITCOLDTURKEYNBA
ROILISEEWASWAR
DENTISTANNALOYALFAN
ANDCHAIROFTHEFEDTWO
STICKONSSLOETRIDENT
SPATIMNATEEIRE
RCATIMBERINDUSTRY
COLONSDEUSREASAVE
MAKINGALISTGIRLSXES
ETCNOVOATEINMIA
STUORINGDOGHANDLER
CAPITALGAINSOUTTHERE
ALICEEEYOREFRIEDEGG
LODESRENALTARKOS
Mon 8/15/2022
MCRIBBOMBATMS
ARENAOWIEDRAT
NEWBALANCEDUNE
CAREUSERMEDIA
ASIDESDONEDEAL
VETAHSSEWACT
EDENSLILYPUSH
STRIKEONE
SELAEPEEEPICS
AGEANNPOMNAP
YOGAPOSEDOODLE
STOUTLETOSOON
IRANMINORCHORD
DIRTEDITEERIE
OPTSTEESLASER

When cluing 63-Across, I took inspiration from the musings of the great musician Nigel Tufnel. Here's a short video where he discusses his "Mach"-style piece.

Tue 8/16/2022
GABINGECLASP
IROCREADAEGIS
STIRCRAZYSTUNS
TYLERTASTETEST
WAKEBYE
ARAWENDYSRAIL
MUSCLYRIPMINE
INCASDENJADED
GOOFBUSDINERO
ANTELOSINGSTN
TOOCASH
SUPERGLUEAORTA
SPAREELBOWROOM
TONICSNOBAMMO
SNEAKTAXIPER

I'm pretty sure I finished building this puzzle at 2 a.m., covered in eraser marks and pencil lead. Imagine if you had 15 children and had to remember the exact moment each was born — recalling the inspiration behind this puzzle is kind of like that even though it was CHOSEN for publication — my first. How was I to know THIS would be THE ONE?!!

I remember intending to make it visually fitting for the theme. I remember brainstorming room types, and I still have the page of all my scribbles. I was intently focused on the symmetry. When it all came together, I felt the thrill of satisfaction, but truly had no idea this one would make the cut.

I'm not sure how others construct their puzzles, but I print out blank grids and pencil everything in, erasing words that don't work, rearranging black squares as needed, consulting my phone or laptop for word lists, etc. When the grid is done, I punch it into the software for clue writing and submission formatting.

I love the act and the challenge of hand building the grid. I love erasing and writing in new words over the eraser marks. I wait to firmly color in the black squares until the puzzle is completely finished. It's like the final touch. In the end, it feels like a piece of art.

I hope you enjoy solving my puzzle!

Wed 8/17/2022
TOWSILICAGYMS
UGHADIDASREAP
FROOTLOOPSETNA
TEARETSREIGN
BOSTONREDSOX
EELPTAEOS
TREATSATTIGHT
AMERICANPHAROAH
LASTCALLRASTA
IRESEEHEW
MORTALKOMBAT
ONIONFIBALDO
TAFTDEFLEPPARD
TILEOCTETSPEI
ORESWOODSYSIC

"Pharaoh" is one of those words that I'm never totally sure how to spell, like "camaraderie," "occasion," and "hors d'ouevres." Hors d'oeurvres? Whatever.

In assembling my theme answers, I initially set out to find misspellings that occurred organically, like 39-Across, or Dan Quayle's "potatoe" (ask your parents, and then kindly see yourself off of my lawn). That didn't yield much, though, and while the rest of the themers are of the stylistic variety, I think they make for a much livelier set.

In other news — excluding a single Sunday puzzle, this is my fourth consecutive Wednesday puzzle. Nothing else, just Wednesdays. This hasn't been my intention, but evidently, I'm a Wednesday kind of constructor. Wednesday is also objectively the hardest day of the week to spell. Coincidence? Yes.

Special thanks go out to a 64-year-old registered nurse in a tiny central Missouri town, without whom this puzzle wouldn't have been possible.

Thu 8/18/2022
ALBSETCHERBEE
BAITCHROMECAST
CUKEHEAVENARTH
TRIESOUTTVTRAY
VANLASEPIAESL
DISCSACDC
BENSANDSAPIAN
ARESLAESTANTE
ONSETICEITBOW
COMECAROM
ROBPARSEMAXIM
AVATARPANPIZZA
JACUZZARTYSEEN
ALONEAGAINERRS
SSNSNOTTYDOSE

Cracking a theme idea usually gives me an endorphin rush, a sort of cruciverbal runner's high. (Punner's high?) (Sorry.) (Actually, not sorry. No shame in my game.)

With this idea, though, it was more a rush of tentative dread because I was certain someone must have beaten me to the punch. Heck, Jeff Chen himself had even tweeted about it six months earlier. And yet, despite checking every resource I could find, it seemed like the theme hadn't been done.

So I set out to make the grid... and quickly realized why.

I must've made over 25 versions of this puzzle (I only submitted three—don't worry, I don't waste the editorial team's time *that* much). An early rejection had NADA (GEENA DAVIS, ALL IN A DAY'S WORK) and SQUAT (SASQUATCH, LOUIS QUATORZE), which the eds thought were more analogous with "nothing" than "zero." I tried LOVE (ALL OVER, DONALD GLOVER) as a fifth rebus, but the fill buckled under the pressure. Even ZIP was almost a non-starter (you may have doubts about JACUZZI PARTY, but I promise it's one million billion times better than the only other phrase that hides *ZI P*).

Why spend so much time making a crossword? Because it's fun. And challenging. And, in my opinion, kinda beautiful. I'm lucky to have found a hobby that so perfectly suits what I'm about and a community of people with whom I really feel like I belong. Love you, crossworld. See you next time!

POW Fri 8/19/2022
FIJIBEARDFUSS
ANEWOLDERONCE
SMOOTHMOVEEXLAX
TIPJARSSWAHILI
DAISTOKES
BARMENUCOOLEST
AIDAINGENUE
TRYMEFIRSTLIP
GALILEETEVA
ATHEISTSTPETER
SWORNRASH
POTUSERTHOREAU
IWONTMINCEWORDS
RANDTABBYOVID
EYESSLAYSMETA

I happened to be submitting this puzzle right around the time of the Who Will Replace Alex Trebek? imbroglio and the Mike Richards mini-scandal that followed, so JEOPARDY was very much on the brain. That ended up being my favorite clue to come up with, and thankfully the editors liked it too.

That said, the puzzle really began with SMOOTH MOVE, EXLAX. I enjoy the corniness of it, plus it being a fresh 15-letter entry. The top half came together smoothly around it, so I was happy the whole thing didn't end up getting rejected for the, uh, somewhat crass imagery it implies.

The bottom half was definitely harder in trying to keep the other 15-letter entry lively, but without the bottom corners becoming tortured. Some compromises had to be made, but I was happy with the end result. Enjoy!

Sat 8/20/2022
UMSMALALAFIGS
PROMOCODESOPEC
SHRINKWRAPORNO
HYDRABEDFLEUR
ODIECAPTOSSIN
TEDMATSHOGUN
DONTLIETOME
FORCEDSMILE
IUNDERSTAND
STARRYEGGBAR
SAUTESSRIMOVE
HIREDMACSAWED
IDIDNOVISITORS
PSSTONETIMEUSE
SOTOGODYESTEA

Many thanks to Hide The Pain Harold for inspiring the middle entry. Feel free to tag me in your FORCED SMILE pics on Twitter.

My cryptocurrency clue for FOOLS GOLD was taken out. Sad emoji.

The replacement clue for LOW BATTERY made up for it. I'm mad I didn't think of it first. So clever!

The original clues that came to mind linking 20-Across, 39-Down, and 49-Across were never written because this is a family-friendly newspaper. You're welcome and/or I'm sorry.

Sun 8/21/2022 Stacking Up
BLEATAFROLATINA
PIERREPREPARATIVE
HATTREETIMEWILLTELL
RESTOATHAIRBALLMEA
EASEINHUNTAODAMP
FDADEVELOPSOLOORES
USCBOHRATOMKATNINE
SPAREUSDOWELTILTAT
ARGOTSFACETATTOOS
LILOCONCRETEISLAND
SNITCONCURRENCESEES
GAYPRIDEPARADESOTO
THEMARINERSTAMPED
BIOLABSEGARMODERNA
KETOMRSDEDICATEOTC
LAITSAUDREVIVALNIA
ETSYPODRATLAGOON
INSCATEREDLYRENUNS
NIAGARARIVERMEDIANS
KILLINGTIMEADULTS
DOMEASOLIDPOPES

We're always delighted to share a byline — this will be our 13th joint creation out in the world, and the process of collaboration is always a great pleasure. We're especially grateful for the rare opportunity to construct a 21x themeless for the Times; we love the wide-open center, of course, but we also worked hard to keep the corners interesting and creative, too. (If you want more similar grids, check out this and this on Will's site.)

If you're in NYC for Lollapuzzoola next weekend, for which we both wrote puzzles (and for which Brooke edited), come say hi!

Mon 8/22/2022
OWLSTRIPTOSS
THAIGUIANAACTI
SUBWAYSANDWICHES
PSALMSINDOORS
SONSWEETANY
METROAREADAD
YURISOLIDGOTTA
TRIGTOETAPGARY
HOOHASCOURGLEE
TUBTUBESOCKS
ASAGUESTLEN
MANDELAEUREKA
UNDERGROUNDFILMS
STEWETRADETUMS
EASYSHOESMOE

This puzzle had a revision in the left part. We originally had ALAI (32A) crossing MAPO (26D). Tracy and the team felt it was tough for a Monday.

Boomer was an avid golfer and bowler (20 perfect games). Now he can't do either due to cancer. He enjoys solving, blogging, and brainstorming crosswords with C.C.

Tue 8/23/2022
SLATGOTUPEDNA
TECHINANEARAB
AIDEVAPORTRAIL
RACHAELSINGLE
UNIONDUES
LANDINGGEARDAB
EXISTOLDLOLA
MINOANSLETINON
MOONEYEHOOHA
EMSCONTINENTAL
VOLCANOES
BOLEROGLUGGED
FLYINGTIMEALSO
FINNIOTASTEST
SONSCOORSENOS

As an American who lives in the small country of Croatia, I spend an inordinate amount of time describing the vast distances and differences between places in my home country. I guess it makes sense that I'm making my debut with this puzzle inspired by American geography.

Once I came up with the idea of connecting two state abbreviations with a transportation word, I began looking for words and phrases that would fit the bill. Some crazy concepts didn't get into the puzzle (like a MAGLEV TRAIN connecting Boston and Indianapolis) but might work as brand names (Who wouldn't want to fly HIGHTAIL, the only airline with daily flights from Waikiki to Kankakee?). I would write more about this puzzle's theme, but I've got to get to a pitch meeting for PALIMONY, my startup limousine service that transports divorced dads from Pennsylvania to see their kids in New York in style!

Wed 8/24/2022
APTSCADSPABLO
HERTENETAARON
STUDIOAPARTMENT
REEFCLIOIAGO
FIVEFLOORWALKUP
EDAMANYSUN
LILNODSGESSO
LSUASAPAHCHU
AHEADTACTOAT
VIAAREJOKE
MAJORFIXERUPPER
OMENTORNRENO
REALESTATEAGENT
INNERATALLCIV
ASSAMSELLSKTS

Hello out there! Glad to be back with my second NYT puzzle. I am currently away from my desk in Seattle and being as old school as one can be with out falling off the face of the earth, I am not close enough to my notes to remember exactly how this theme got started. Most likely, I noticed that REAL ESTATE AGENT is a lovely spanner and took it from there.

All thanks to Cruciverbia for three very common housing options also being spanners. From there, jokes about overzealous sales people are easy. PEEK A BOO VIEW was also in the running but besides not being a spanner, it is a feature of a property instead of being a property, so it lacks the tightness of the theme as published.

The other notable thing about this puzzle is that my original submission was soundly rejected in a good news/bad news kind of way. Good news, we like your theme. Bad news, dull short uninteresting fill means no. So I took out some black squares to open up 2-, 3- and 6-Down and reworked it to a happily accepted grid which I hope you enjoyed solving.

Which leads to the question on many a constructor's lips... why not have a stage of submission to get approval of themes before filling and clueing an entire grid (especially in the realm of the SUNDAY)?!?! Obviously "Yes, we like this theme" isn't a guarantee but "No, we don't like this theme" could save one a lot of time. Thoughts?

Thu 8/25/2022
ANTISIZERANDY
LOOMACEROLIVE
SANDLATECOMERS
OHIOWALABAMA
WEDUSBABU
MAINEBRASKANSAS
ORDPAILSUTRA
TICKROPESBEAU
ISAIDHITSRCS
VERMONTANALASKA
ENDGEEROW
TRISTATEAREA
TOMCOLLINSROMP
SWABSALTODOME
ONRYESEENSTYX

OLIVIA: It has been such a pleasure to work with Andrea on my first ever NYT collab! When I started in the biz, Andrea provided me with invaluable guidance, and I'm thrilled to share a byline with her today.

This is also my first Thursday puzzle! I was definitely out of my comfort zone (Sundays, Mondays, Tuesdays), but I'm really happy with how it came out.

I love the playfulness of the theme entries — they're just so fun to say. I remember we struggled with the best way to clue them — initially, we thought of describing a road trip route via cities and using something like INTERSTATE [Type of travel used in this puzzle] as the revealer. But I think the revealer we landed on makes for a tighter theme since it specifically calls out how we got three states in each entry. And as someone who has lived almost all her life in the NYC tri-state area, this revealer feels cozy to me, like coming home. Hope you enjoyed!

ACME: I met the crazily brilliant Olivia Mitra Framke when she reached out on the Fb mentor/collaborator page.

From an offhand remark of my being intrigued to discover a shared four letters between MiNNESota and TeNNESsee, Olivia was inspired to create a long list of overlapping states!

(My fave is the fact that the two shortest named states OHIO and IOWA overlap into OHIOWA)

From there we wrestled with best way to clue as well as a dead-on reveal.

Here's a quote from one of our earliest back-and-forths that gives a peek into the process:

  • Ideally they should look slightly Un crazy and maybe even fun to say!
  • Like the FLORIDAHOHIO 12 is a bit trippy bec at first it just looks like you've stuck an H between Florida and Ohio.
  • I can't tell if that's great or the opposite!

I look forward to more collaborations. We've bonded (Oliviandrea?) but have yet to meet IRL, as the kids say!

Fri 8/26/2022
ALPHADOGBRYANT
WEREDONEBOOGIE
OVERPLANSOURCE
REEDBLURBEAN
DENSYESINDEEDY
REPORT
NANOBOTSRECOIL
SMOKERTAHITI
APTESTSCHMALTZ
YOHOHO
HARDTOTELLFROM
OREOSLOERICE
MONKEETRAVOLTA
ESTEEMITSADEAL
YESYOUEVENODDS

This one started one day when I randomly ran across someone else's grid design and noticed all the 4-letter slots were downs and all the 5-letter slots were acrosses. Of course, my little nerd brain kicked in immediately: "Wonder if a grid like that's been done before? Wonder if it can be?" I thought I might be on to something when the answers came back — surprisingly: "Not that I can find" and "Yup."

Theme development is my constructor kryptonite, but even I figured out pretty quickly that — while a nice technical feat in grid design — as a theme goes, I've had more substance in hospital broth. And that was the end of it. I put it away.

But then the fill. It started to call out to me. Unbidden. At all hours. I realized I had never actually tried to fill that beautiful grid. It's only seventy words. No theme required. Maybe if I just see how clean I can get it...

When all that positivity popped up, my mind started wandering to retirement spots on alluring tropical islands with rum, pirates, sheepdogs, and sappy 1960s television... I knew my soul was home. I hope you found a little comfort as well. Cheers!

Much gratitude to my mentor, Jeff Chen. I wouldn't be here without his support, patience, kindness, and sage advice.

POW Sat 8/27/2022
DIYTHATSAFIRST
EMORELEASEDATE
SAGIMAXTHEATER
KWAMESTEELTAM
JAMESIELMS
ORALMASTERKEY
BETFACTORIES
HUGUENOTS
WATERRIDEBAG
JAZZDANCEGALA
BODYSHAZAM
RADSPOTSABODE
ONLINEPOKERODD
ONEMORETIMEKIA
MEDSTUDENTSANY

Thanks to my friend Michael Menz who made a C++ tool that helped fill the center section of this grid! Michael is one of my favorite people to discuss puzzles with and was a big part of this construction.

47-Down is the only country that can be written on one row of a keyboard. Supposedly, TYPEWRITER is the longest word with this property.

Sun 8/28/2022 Animal Hybrids
TARTANAPESARIDPIN
ABUELOGASHSOMELOSE
BREAKTHEICEHODAALEX
SADAMANDAWETBLANKET
SLANTPAWNSMICA
PARKINGSPACETHEMEDIA
ONEASYADETAMIBOND
PITTWATERMELONPATCH
AMIEURNSARKASSAD
RUNSAMOKGLAMGAGS
TSABATHROOMSCALEGMO
INREOOPSOVERCOOK
ALEVETBDSPECALAS
GENERALHOSPITALMENU
EARNMOATIRAPREFER
SHOOTOUTGLOBETHEATRE
LIEUSIRENROOST
GOLDENGATEGOATEECEO
ICEETILECROSSBREEDS
RHEATRIMSINEEVADES
LOSODESIPADSERENA
Mon 8/29/2022
GALGLARESGASH
HBORADISHABLE
OHOECHOCHAMBER
SOFATOTWEEDS
TRAFFICARTERY
RECCORDRYE
SPLITTOOGOUT
PIECEOFMYHEART
ALTAHALINDIA
YESSODAIRE
INTHESAMEVEIN
ARTIECFOADDS
SAFETYVALVEDIY
HILLECLAIRION
EDYSTRACERETC

CHASE: While this may not be the most heart-pounding theme ever, hopefully you <3 it as much as we do.

Video game clue? Check.

Marine Corps clue? Check.

Success.

p.s. Jeff thinks if you squint really hard, the black boxes near the center actually look like hearts, but to be honest I'm just not seeing it.

Tue 8/30/2022
ADIOSEATSLARD
BRAWLCNETIGOR
BUNNYOGEEBITE
ABSENTISRAELIS
DOWSEOGRESS
DREIDELALAI
RUSTRAIDMAZDA
AHSSPLURGEEEG
BROTHODIEUSER
REAMELANTRA
AGREEDSNITS
BOASTFULDONTBE
BUNSECONDAREI
EDGEELBADRIER
YAYSSASHSLOPE

As someone with weak ankles and a strong respect for gravity, skiing's not really my thing. So, the closest I'm getting to the BUNNY SLOPE is making this puzzle.

Prioritizing including longer diagonals like ENERGIZER and EASTER rather than sticking to just 3- and 4-letter types of bunnies definitely led to fill that is less than smooth in parts, but hopefully it's still a fun time whether you‘ve ever ridden a T-bar or just written it as a crossword answer.

Wed 8/31/2022
MENIMACSPAMS
UNONASACADET
TVDINNERANISE
EYESCAWREESE
OSUIVFLUID
AVCLUBNESS
LEADSIDITBD
FIVESECONDRULE
ALELAWMINUS
IMINRVPARK
JVSQUADASP
COATSRUNLOWS
RITESEVCREDIT
ELISEAEONDRY
WANTSMARSSEX

First draft of this puzzle was a vowel progression; unfortunately O. V. WRIGHT ended up on the cutting room floor in the final version.

The consonant crunch at the intersection of 45-Across and 45-Down is my favorite part of this puzzle.