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50 puzzles with comments from Will Shortz — 10/3/2014 to 4/14/2019

Will Shortz

Showing 50 out of 241 total with editor comments.

Use the older and newer links above to see more.

Sun 4/14/2019LEFT/RIGHT SYMMETRY
GASPMEDAYCHAIMECIG
ODIEOXIDEBUTNODANO
TATALANDSSMEARABIT
OPUSACESSOFAMOTO
PTASSTSADSFUSSTIP
LETPSASPECSNSACAR
EDIFIESPINUPKEYNOTE
STOATSWINSBIGSIEVES
SONJADANGANNADEEDS
ITSODDDADBOD
SCATTESLAARTIETKOS
KATANASYUMMYONPOINT
ODEANTINIAISISSTU
SEABEDNETIZENGIBSON
HTMLINCASEXCONRYES
ANNALSARNICA
SPACYPETSSMEESCOWS
TANKUPMAWTIMAIKMAN
ASTIOBESEONENDIAGO
THISGENIEKENYASHOO
EACHONTAPESTESHAND

Will Nediger, of London, Ontario, has a Ph.D. in linguistics from the University of Michigan. These days he makes his living by constructing crosswords and writing trivia questions. His quiz bowl team won the 2016 ACF Nationals and the 2017 Intercollegiate Championship Tournament.

The reason for this puzzle's unusual grid pattern with left/right symmetry will soon be clear.

Sun 4/7/2019HELP!
PASSRUSHDSHARPZIPPO
AUTOMATAINAWAYETHAN
SCANNERSSAMEOLDSTORY
TRYUNFURLEATTEX
LITPUTTOSLEEPMALONE
POOABTPESTERSANTS
GNULEEKSCONMAN
ASTORDAMCSPARMESAN
SPAONLOANOKAYSURE
MILEYUSEDTOSEZLIE
SHONERADICCHIOACTED
NEWASSSHORTICLASS
BALLASTSTONSILEON
CRYABOUTENEOSTYSER
NONFATANARTONE
SOCKFTBRAGGLESFRO
PRAYEDEASTERWEEKSOS
ADSBATTENORSAWL
SAILONSAILORIMBECILE
MINEOAVENUETAUTENED
SNOOKRESETSENGORGED

Peter A. Collins is the chairman of the math department at Huron High School, in Ann Arbor, Mich., where he has been teaching for 39 years. He has been creating crosswords for The Times since 2006. This is his 108th. When he can, Peter likes to incorporate some of the black squares into his puzzle themes, as he ingeniously does here.

Sun 3/31/2019TAKE ONE FOR THE TEAM
MAUDEONICECHITSOAR
ELSOLKASHAHANOIBRO
SLUNKSNEERASPIRATES
MEATSAUCEGOSPELTUNE
ELLSPRYTAPERESTSON
RESHAPECASTROSTREET
OROLOOMHOBOS
SCRUBSUITSKRONATADA
TOATIVESTIAGRETEL
IMPSTUDCONVOYADLAI
LPSTELEVANGELISMALE
LOTTAARENASDEPPNIN
UTAHNSEELOILYUTNE
PERIAWARDFREDSAVAGE
SACHSRAGSTUB
PAIDRESPECTSFOGLAMP
LETSDIEALASERROREL
ELHIFLYRODGRAYSCALE
PORTWINESONLAYAKRON
ESOACUTEMOOSELEANT
RIBFETIDEBBEDARTSY

This crossword by Andrew J. Ries, of La Pine, Ore., comes with special instructions: [See notepad.]

Andrew is a lifelong baseball fan — his favorite teams are hidden in 90- and 107-Across. He's excited about the new season that's just started.

Sun 3/24/2019CODE SWITCHING
BEARPITSTASHESSPUD
ALSORANDOORPOSTHOPE
BOSTONTANGOPARTYEATS
EPEESSAGENAENACRE
LETPEAKYANKEEBOTHER
SENDSSISETHENE
JAKARTAGOYAASTIDDT
UNIFORMBETGELCAPS
JOSELOTHARIOTATI
ITSIFSOARITHROWON
THEPRINCESSANDTHEPAPA
SERRANOTATASHYSLR
URSAOUTLAWEDSHIA
TILTSATBRAVOSTING
IOSTOYSAGARALIENEE
NOTBADCIAAVAST
CHARLIEWORLDNAVYRAW
ELROYTRUARMYPRADA
NATOPHONETICALPHABET
SLEDHATTREESCRUMBLE
EARSONEYEARDOSSIER

Trenton Charlson is a 2018 graduate of Ohio State University with a degree in English and a concentration in creative writing. "Sadly," he says half-jokingly (I think), "there is no crossword-puzzle major at Ohio State." Five of Trenton's previous nine crosswords in The Times were named "Puzzle of the Week" by the blog XWord Info.

This is his first Sunday puzzle.

Sun 3/17/2019THAT'S ANOTHER STORY
LISAFINKPOOPLEST
ECIGOLSONSHRUBOTTO
SELAMARLEYANDMEROEG
CEMENTALITOPERDUE
GONEGIRLTPSLIFEOFPI
ARTOOAASGOTOFFED
REEFSTITOALOUSTENO
PSSTSERIFNAPPYHESS
HBOSEMIDRYOWE
SCROLLGIMMESKIFFS
STOODOUTCOEOPENLATE
CANNYNIKENINEDIJON
ACMESGPANYCFEINT
RHESUSSPANDEXFASTER
YENREPOTHERFORARE
AFAREWELLTOARMS
GANGSTERRIMSHOTS
OBIEATRIABLAREAVIA
THEONCEANDFUTUREKING
HOTLYETDSFROSLUNGE
ERODENAYEREFREES

Sophia Maymudes is a junior at Carleton College in Northfield, Minn., studying computer science and math. She's been making crosswords since high school. For this one, her first Sunday puzzle, she teamed up with fellow Seattle resident Jeff Chen, who writes a daily crossword blog, XWordInfo.com. They jointly brainstormed theme examples. Jeff laid out the grid. Sophia did the fill. They each wrote half the clues. Sophia says, "The entire puzzle took nearly a hundred emails back and forth to create."

Sun 3/10/2019MATH HYSTERIA
COEXISTTACONICGRUB
PHARAOHSHAPELYCLARA
LOSANGELESTIMESAIDAN
SKYYGREOBOETATTING
CAYMANRISKDETAIL
EDGARSAMEDIFFERENCE
SEAMOSSCEESCALER
SEVENTHGRADEDERALTE
OPERAMIECLUETORY
IAMTOOZOOSHEINIE
APTROOTOFALLEVILEOS
LEADERTRIPRAFAEL
INGEBOBSSIRINIKI
SHOPPERCASHDIVIDEND
ROSITATHOGENESEE
THREEPOINTSHOTFATWA
YEASTYSTATPAVLOV
RAMSESIIPOSDIEOATH
ELMOSPOWEROFATTORNEY
SEERSAMATEURRIPENED
ERRSDEROSSIONADIME

Adam Fromm lives in Providence, R.I. He works for a pharmaceutical company and moonlights as a singer/songwriter. This puzzle is a throwback to his college days when he briefly majored in math … before switching to literature. He prefers subjects that "don't require the right answer, only a reasonable one."

This is his fifth puzzle for The Times.

Sun 3/3/2019D.J.'S SPINNIN'
PECANSMISDEALSCALAR
IROBOTITSONMECOSINE
SALOMELEANSINRISING
HOOVERJAMJUSTBUNNIES
FRESNOLUISUNAS
ASEACAANUSCGPXS
ETALROLLINGINTHEJEEP
MILLSEONSPAYETNA
AMITATASCLUESTEAM
JOCKOFTHEBAYGMAIL
REALTYTERRAONEACT
RIALSGRAVEJIGGERS
ALOADHESSALONELAP
COATCLOYTIOSWEDE
MAKETHEJEANSLISTIBEX
EMSRAVILIPSPOLS
AIREGAPSARLENE
GARBAGEJUMPJUNEBUGGY
ICEAGEONEIDASREPAGE
BANTERSIDEONEOATIER
BREEDSSTARTEDSNOODS

Tony Orbach is a construction manager and musician in Upper Montclair, N.J. Andrea Carla Michaels is a professional namer (of companies and products) in San Francisco. They worked together on this puzzle by email — bouncing theme ideas, crossword fill and clues back and forth. Tony sneaked in Andrea's favorite word at 75-Down. (Note her initials.)

This is their second collaboration for The Times.

Sun 2/24/2019EVERYTHING EVENS OUT IN THE END
CHEWBACCACLUBLIDS
DEVIATIONRIFECELIE
SMALLTOWNSALONWHILST
LSUSOLDSEPIAULT
PASSANTYULERPIMOL
IMPMEWLREINDEERRIDE
GEARDOITDARTSONG
SCREWPLUMBGAOLLAIR
THEFARMTEAMAGRIETNA
YESSIRSWINGINGSIGN
SANGTOVOYAGE
ISNOTTOOINTOONIONS
NAANETREPROTESTPOET
KITSDODOSYRIASOLAR
LIESFIFAGASPDATA
FOOTNOTEFONTSERTLEN
URNAVELEADLEEWARD
MMARENEWSTAYCRO
BOLGERWHATARETHEODDS
LOTUSEASELOSESLEEP
ENVYSPUDAWKWAFINA

Erik Agard, 25, is a professional puzzlemaker from Gaithersburg, Md. He is the reigning champion of the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament. On average he finishes a Sunday New York Times crossword in a frighteningly quick 5 minutes. Last October he won $66,802 in a three-day winning streak on Jeopardy!

This is Erik's 32nd crossword for the paper.

Sun 2/17/2019TRIVIAL MATTERS
MADESODAPARMJARS
IBETCHRISTENDOMAMAT
ALWAYSHASFOLIAGEPIMA
TAIPEIPOMESULYANOV
AZTECEVERALLINONE
SETCIVILVANOPERAS
OHMANAPINGWES
MOCKHENSTATESEA
ENOLASOWSELMVSOP
TRUANTSLEDAIAMITLL
HIGHSCHOOLSECRETCODE
OCHOMOILACEERITREA
DEEMOLECOLSMOIST
DANPRETTYINRATS
SOBUMASSNOISY
ARMOURMATRELETWKS
CHOOSEUPBOWLAGAIN
CORNEASTIMONINESSE
EDGEDELAWARENICKNAME
SEARSTAYINALIVEUBER
SSNSOPENTYPESITS

David Kwong is a professional magician and crossword constructor. He was the head magic consultant for the hit 2013 film Now You See Me (see the sly nod at 96-Down.) He is currently performing in a one-man magic-and-puzzles show, The Enigmatist, in New York City. Audience members must solve four puzzles in an anteroom to get into the show. (Hints are available if needed.)

This is Kwong's 19th puzzle for The Times.

Thu 1/24/2019
RCASAIMBAHAIS
ERICIDLEARARAT
VODODOLLSCHEMA
SNAPETISATF
SEALFOLPROF
ODDREGINAL
CRITICALDECCA
TORICHFORMYBLOD
OPERAMOUSSAKA
ENCASESDEM
FOTSTOLSTAG
ALILETLANDO
CAMERAGOGOEYES
ELEVENINAFLASH
TAXACTFABSHIA

Hi Stu,

Thanks for your nice note.

Usually when we'd like extensive changes in a grid, we return it to the constructor to make them.

In this case, though, your puzzle had already been on file for a year. We selected it to edit the clues. In looking over the grid, we thought it could be improved. Entries that felt overly crosswordy or subpar included REVE, ENATE, OMS, ILONA, DAREST, ALOP, LENYA, and SCAG. At this point we didn't want to return the puzzle, which would have delayed its appearance even longer. So Joel made the changes himself.

One important thing to keep in mind is that the standards for fill keep rising. Puzzles that we accepted in the past might not make the grade today. And your puzzle, whose fill we thought was not bad at the time of acceptance, we thought by today's standards could benefit from a brush-up.

I hope this explains a little further — and that you're happy with how the puzzle turned out.

Tue 1/1/2019
ABELFIGABROAD
GENEONEPRONTO
HATTRICKPISCES
ANIALIKEGEE
SERUMTORCHSONG
TREMBLEVATVIA
ALAEINLENS
TIMESIGNATURE
CANISNOPEN
ABASINTEACHER
BUCKTEETHSHOVE
TOOSAREEBOD
EPILOGPASSABLE
SAVAGEASPLIVE
PRESETSHYITEM

(copied from Wordplay)

I'm very sorry for the distraction about BEANER (2D) in today's fine puzzle by Gary Cee.

Neither Joel [Fagliano] nor I had ever heard the slur before — and I don't know anyone who would use it. Maybe we live in rarefied circles.

In researching this puzzle, we discovered the other meaning of the word as a slur. Later, Jeff Chen over at XWord Info brought it to our attention as well.

My feeling, rightly or wrongly, is that any benign meaning of a word is fair game for a crossword. This is an issue that comes up occasionally with entries like GO O.K. (which we clued last April as "Proceed all right," but which as a solid word is a slur), CHINK (benign in the sense as a chink in one's armor), etc. These are legitimate words.

Perhaps I need to rethink this opinion if enough solvers are bothered. I want your focus to be on the puzzle rather than being distracted by side issues. But I assure you this viewpoint is expressed with a pure heart.

Meanwhile, for any solver who was offended by 2-Down in today's puzzle, I apologize.

Wed 2/7/2018
HANSGIZMOPLAY
UTAHONIONLENE
MAKECONNECTIONS
OBERONDIETED
RODEOTEACRATE
MILEPULLASRTA
ELYOREILLYDER
WISETA
DYSLEDAWAYWAS
RATARADIITAMP
AMOCOYOSRHYME
FARCRYGOESON
THETIESTHATBIND
EARNCHAIREDIE
ESSOHONEYSEAR

Will Shortz posted a correction at nytimes.com reproduced here:

SPECIAL POST — Lots of complaints about the answer LENE (16-Across — "Voiceless consonant like "b" or "p") in today's crossword.

In short, those who wrote in are right: It's a poor answer, and the clue is wrong to boot. Here's what happened:

In the late stages of editing, we noticed that the grid contained both CRIERS (5D) and FAR CRY (53A). While this doesn't officially break my rule about duplications, which I can discuss sometime, it seemed inelegant. The simplest "fix" was to change CRIERS to PLIERS, making PLAY and LENE reading across. LENE is an old bit of crosswordese, used 90 times in the Times crossword before I became the editor, usually clued as "Unaspirated" or "Unaspirated consonant."

Because I figured few solvers today know what LENE means (the last dictionary it seems to have appeared in is Webster's Second New International in 1934, where it was already labeled "rare"), I decided to spell it out with examples. Unfortunately, the example "b" is wrong. That is a voiced consonant, not a voiceless one.

In retrospect, as the commenter Byron suggested at Crosswordfiend.com, I should have left the semi-duplication FAR CRY/CRIERS as it was. That would have been preferable to the obscure and ugly LENE.

The online version of the puzzle has now been restored to CRIERS/CLAY/RENE, which all future solvers will see. Of course, nothing can be done now about the print version of the puzzle. A correction on the clue error should appear shortly.

Mon 4/10/2017
RAISEABODECOB
ORCASCOREDACE
SEANCONNERYLEI
HANGMEDIAPLAN
TSADISHING
TIMOTHYDALTON
ATEEASESIT
ROGERLUGMOORE
RNACADSWII
PIERCEBROSNAN
LIBERALINK
IRASMEDALINTO
FINDANIELCRAIG
ENDDICERCUTER
RAJSCHMOSNORE

There is an old joke that prisoners make good crossword constructors because they have a lot of time on their hands.

In my 23+ years at the Times, I haven't found this to be the case. I've rarely gotten submissions from people in prison, and Lonnie Burton is the first one I've ever accepted a puzzle from.

Lonnie's theme of 007 actors is straightforward and unremarkable. I'm sure it's been done before. What tickled me about this version was the grid number "007," as well as the elegance of crossing the answer there with one of the theme entries. That's brilliant.

I asked Lonnie to tell me about himself and how he makes crosswords — which can't be easy to do in prison. A condensed version of his response appears below.

I'm a strong believer in redemption and the capacity of people to change. No matter what Lonnie has done in the past, which landed him in prison, I admire him for what he's doing now.

POW Fri 9/30/2016
SCRATCHTWOCAR
ALABAMABARNONE
TONELOCORIENTS
YTDINKBLOTVEE
RHODAAAASSEAT
SEMIOTBHURTS
VICHYSSOISE
GHETTOBLASTER
LEBRONJAMES
FORAYOMSMASK
UBERPERPLETHE
TUGBAGNOLDTON
ILOVELAESOTERY
LIEABEDTAPINTO
ENSLERSTANDIN

Before scheduling today's puzzle, Joel and I gave a lot of thought to the answer GHETTO BLASTER (33A), worrying that some solvers might object. Certain sources, such as Wikipedia, say it's pejorative, and it's not my goal to disparage or hurt anyone.

But after a lot of discussion, soul-searching and research, we decided it's fair game.

First, an online search shows thousands of recent uses in BBC News, Slate, GQ and other respected media. An article last March in Rolling Stone magazine used the term in its very first sentence. And the entry on "political correctness" in the style manual for The Economist — after declaring "Do not labor to avoid imaginary insults" — specifically mentions "ghetto blaster" as an example.

We also asked a prominent African-American crossword constructor about the term, who personally had no problem with it.

The Times itself has used the phrase 15 times, including in 2004, 2005, 2007, 2009 and 2012.

On the plus side, GHETTO BLASTER is a lively answer that has never appeared in a New York Times crossword before. It did appear last year in a diagramless puzzle in The Times. It also appeared in a 2010 crossword in The Los Angeles Times, indicating that another quality venue has also approved it.

All things considered, I think it passes muster.

Tue 12/8/2015
RABBIEDAMPENN
PALEDLIRAALOE
MAUVEFAIRYDUST
EYEDATMDEW
GPSFAMILYCREST
ROTIROCRAO
ALAXENONBROS
FATHERKNOWSBEST
TREESCOREDAR
STLUNIXSKA
FALSEARRESTHAY
ARIABETAXI
BREAKFASTPORED
LOGSEMIREXTRA
EWESESPYSOSAD

[Continuing from yesterday] My assistant, Joel, taped us editing yesterday's and today's puzzle, and he transcribed a bit of our discussion each day. It illustrates our process as well as our back-and-forth, which sometimes goes off on tangents. Below, we're working on the clue for 61-Across, BREAKFAST. The constructor's clue was "Morning meal ... or what this puzzle's theme entries do?"

Will: Hmm, well, that's awfully easy. Shouldn't we hide the revealer a little bit?

Joel: Right.

Joel: "IHOP speciality."

Will: "24-hour McDonald's offering, now."

Joel: That's kinda fun.

Will: Yeah. That's like an ad for McDonald's, though.

Joel: Well, I think they're doing okay.

Will: [laughs] You don't think they need us? Their stock price won't go up because of us?

[long pause]

Will: Morning ritual?

Joel: Ritual … hmm.

Will: Comb your hair, shower, breakfast.

Joel: I was looking up quotes about breakfast. Steven Wright: "I went to a restaurant that served 'Breakfast At Any Time.' So I ordered French toast during the Renaissance." [laughs]. All right, I thought there might be some quotes about breakfast, but, wasn't meant to be.

Will: Morning tradition? Morning staple?

Joel: Breakfast, breakfast, breakfast. Well … waffles, cereal, oatmeal, pancakes ...

Will: "Oatmeal or waffles, e.g." You think those equal breakfast?

Joel: Let's keep thinking. Breakfast … [pause] It's sometimes skipped in the morning?

Will: Rope.

Joel: Yeah, I don't know what the hell else that could be.

Will: I really don't mind "IHOP specialty," except it feels so commercial, especially because it's a theme answer. The whole puzzle hinges on this.

Joel: Hmm. This bothers you more than it bothers me. Because in my minis all the time, there's just brands left and right. I never feel like I'm selling out to them or doing them a favor or anything. It's just something me and the solver share in common. We both know what this thing is, so it's like a touchstone.

Will: There's a lot of brand names in the main crossword, too. I just try not to put too much attention on them. They should be incidental. And here, since it involves the key answer in the puzzle, it's sort of like throwing IHOP in your face.

Joel: That's why you don't like the McDonald's thing either?

Will: Yeah, even more so, 'cause that's new, so it's even more of an advertisement. "Hey guys, McDonald's has this new thing ..."

Joel: "After this commercial break, you can continue solving …"

Will: At least with IHOP, breakfast there is part of our long-standing culture.

Joel: Could say … "Coffee go-with"?

Will: "It follows a shower"?

Joel: It might not. I usually eat something before I shower.

Will: How's this for an ad … "Free Hampton Inn offering"! [laughs]

Joel: That's not a terrible idea, actually. We could do something like "Motel freebie."

Will: Uh-huh. "Motel freebie, nowadays." "Freebie" is weird, though. Freebie's like a mint on your pillow.

Joel: … "amenity"?

Will: That's better. O.K. … "Modern motel amenity." [scribbles it down]

Will: You know, when I started at the Times in '93, and I introduced commercial names into the puzzle, a lot of people really hated that. There were complaints for a couple of years, especially from older solvers. But I knew people would eventually come around. Either that ... or they'd die! Now maybe I'm on the conservative end of things.

Joel: Maybe it's just that brands are part of my … they're just everywhere, and they connect with people on Twitter and stuff. So I don't really think twice when I see one in the puzzle.

Will: Yeah, times have changed.

Mon 12/7/2015
AVASTMEOWLEAD
CEDARAMMOAXLE
TROYAIKMANITLL
IDSIMEANIDEAL
VIETNAMGAUNT
HOMERSIMPSON
CESAREELSINC
ALOTILIADFOCI
REPADENCANES
ACHILLESHEEL
TORTEONRAMPS
ROMEOLINDAYEP
ARONPARISMETRO
SARIAVONIMHOT
ALECRANGCOSTS

In case anyone is curious about how crossword clues are fact-checked and edited, my assistant, Joel, taped us editing today's and tomorrow's puzzles, and he's transcribed a bit of our discussion each day. It illustrates our process as well as our back-and-forth, which sometimes goes off on tangents. We work together at a desk in my office. I'm on an iPad, surrounded by dictionaries and books. Joel sits next to me at the main computer. Below, we're working on the clue for 2-Down, VERDI. The constructor's given clue was "'Rigoletto' composer."

Will: Verdi. Hmm. [Reaches for the Oxford Dictionary of Opera]

Joel: How many people do you think own the Oxford Dictionary of Opera?

Will: Not many, not many. You know, I was thinking the other day ... I have not updated my reference library in a while. I think it's because ... I don't feel I need to. Just about everything is online. I wonder if most of these books are even being produced anymore. If I go to the bookstore and look in the reference section ...

Joel: [pointing to another book on the shelf] Well, you're not going to find Milton Cross's "Complete Stories of the Great Operas," probably.

Will: That's out of print. Great reference, though.

Joel: When was this made … oh, two dollars, good for you. Oh, 1952. It smells like an old book.

Will: It's still worth having, because I feel, first of all, I can trust it. And, second, I know my books so well that sometimes I can look things up faster in books than I can online.

[pause]

Will: [Thinking back to the constructor's clue for 1-Down, "When Carmen dies, in 'Carmen,'" for the answer ACT IV] Is there any operatic character who dies in Act IV in a Verdi opera?

Joel: Phew, jeez, what a question. What a question to make me go and research …

Will: [newscaster voice] Over to you, Joel!

Joel: Okay, Verdi operas ... [sound of typing]

Will: Let's see … how many acts are there in "Rigoletto"?

Joel: Well, Verdi did do "Otello," and definitely a bunch of people die in "Otello," so ...

Will: "Rigoletto" has only three acts, so that's not going to work.

Joel: So when do, like, Desdemona or Iago, when do they die? [muttering] Act IV, Act IV …

Will: Ah! "Otello" has four acts.

Joel: Yeah, Desdemona dies. And then everybody dies in the last act as per Shakespeare's every other play.

Will: Hmm.

Joel: So we can say "When Desdemona dies, in 'Otello,'" and then we can say "'Otello' composer" for VERDI.

Will: Yeah. Actually, I like your first idea for ACT IV, or the first thing you said: "When everyone dies, in 'Otello.'"

Joel: [laughs] Well, I don't know if that's true, if everybody dies.

Will: Well, obviously not everyone.

Joel: It looks like in the opera, Otello is about to commit suicide and then they do a fade-to-black thing.

Will: [quoting the book] "Otello stabs himself, kissing Desdemona as he dies." Huh. How about "When Otello dies, in 'Otello'"?

Joel: Yeah, that's snappier.

Will: [laughs] Yeah, it's got that echo. Nancy [Schuster] will love us for back-to-back opera clues.

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

As John indicates, we spent a lot of time working to get the best set of 10-letter names of famous people with the initials A.M. Ethnic diversity and gender balance were serious considerations, as always, but other factors are just as important.

ANNE MURRAY was on our short list for this puzzle, but we didn't consider her to be nearly as famous as ANDY MURRAY. Anne Murray's last hit was in 1981, 34 years ago, whereas Andy Murray is a current tennis player who won Wimbledon as recently at 2013. ALICE MUNRO was also considered — but for a Monday puzzle we judged Andy Murray to be the best known.

Also, as a general matter it has to be acknowledged that there are a lot more famous men than famous women. In the "Noted Personalities" section of the World Almanac, for example, men outnumber women by more than 5 to 1. So naturally themes based on famous people's names are likely to have more men than women.

My main goal in a puzzle like today's is to have a broad range of generally familiar names, and I think today's set achieves that. To expect 50/50 gender balance is unrealistic, and insisting on such a balance in every puzzle would lead to inferior work.

Tue 6/9/2015
WOMBATMMECOST
APOLLOAASINCA
REDEEMCITATION
ARCHNEWYORK
SEATTLESLEWNEE
AXISALLYUSSR
GADINGESPA
AMERICANPHAROAH
DIYDOOMMRI
MUSSAEROONES
ISUSECRETARIAT
KEROUACDIRE
AFFIRMEDNEGATE
DUELEDUGNOMES
OLDSSEESANTAS

Roy constructed this puzzle shortly after American Pharoah won the Preakness in May. We had an understanding: If American Pharoah wins the Belmont (and, thus, the Triple Crown) on June 6, I will then rush the puzzle into print. If not, his beautiful work will go to waste.

In a sense, Roy had a $300 paycheck riding on the outcome!

Fortunately, American Pharoah did win. The race took place on Saturday evening. I edited and typeset the puzzle on Sunday morning. The testers solved it and got me their comments by afternoon. I polished the clues. Ellen Ripstein went to the Times on Sunday night to prepare the files in all the formats for both print and online. Et voilà! Done with time to spare.

Conceivably, we could have rushed the puzzle into print on Monday, bumping the puzzle that was already scheduled then. But the Times crossword now appears in so many formats that a last-minute swap isn't easy. There would have been a serious chance for a screw-up somewhere besides. So Tuesday was safer, and the puzzle's theme and fill felt more Tuesdayish anyway.

A couple of notes on the clues:

  • While the puzzle has no specific mention of the "reveal," the Triple Crown, the clues for 22A ("Home of the Belmont Stakes") and 10D ("Louisville and Baltimore") do suggest all three legs of the title. I was pleased with that.
  • For 1D, WAR, I debated a long time about using the clue "___ Admiral," referring to the Triple Crown winner of 1937. I finally decided not to, as that would have muddied the theme. But I did include a backhanded reference to War Admiral's sire, and a great racehorse in its own right, with the ship reference "Man-o'-___."
  • One other semi-thematic clue was "Infield, for one" (AREA), referring to the interior part of a racetrack.

Altogether I think this turned out well. Thank you, Roy (and American Pharoah)!

The previously scheduled June 9 puzzle will now appear on June 30 instead.

Wed 5/27/2015
OBAMATRADETVA
VIDALWAKEDOAR
AGORAANIMUSTNT
EPIMIAMIPEG
CATSCANTSKIBOB
DREARYPEERAGE
LSDOASESNIGHT
BUSHWASNT
OCTETOESTESTA
LOWNOTEATRAIN
ALIGNSMATHISNT
GSAHOOFSTHY
KATYDIDNTQUITS
ITETRITETAMIL
XEDSTEERSLIMY

Is today's theme consistent? It depends on how you interpret it. By spelling, no ... but phonetically, yes, it works.

KATYDIDN'T, MATHISN'T and BUSHWASN'T are pretty tight. These all add -N'T to familiar words/names to turn a verb at the end into a negative contraction. So far so good.

CATSCAN'T is slightly different, but not in a bad way. Because CAN already ends in an N, you only need to add -'T to complete the contraction. Probably not many solvers will be bothered by that.

The sticky example is ANIMUSTN'T, which adds -TN'T. That would be a deal-breaker — reason for instant rejection — if the theme's consistency were judged solely by spelling. But since the first T of ANIMUSTN'T is silent, this theme example works likes the others when said out loud. So the whole theme is consistent in that way.

Some solvers may object to the puzzle's loose phonetics. Technically, MATHIS ends in an "s" sound, which turns into a "z" sound in ISN'T. Also, the "a" sounds in BUSHWAS ("ah") and WASN'T ("uh") aren't quite the same. You have to say these two examples quickly for them to work.

I'm willing to do that for such a fresh, amusing, and otherwise super-specific theme.

Sun 5/17/2015TO-DO LIST (ABRIDGED)
BREADSROMAODDSSTEM
MARINECORPSKEEPSCOOL
WINDAWATCHAPLAYAPRANK
NOELTIATHANROADS
AMENHEESTOW
THUMBARIDEAWAVEAFLAG
LESSSORPMEELTUG
CREDFLATCRIMESCENE
DOAFLIPACOINAPHRASE
SNOOZEHUESSETSIN
MTMNOWSIPBOAETA
ARARATSALECHANTS
RUNALIGHTAFIREASHOT
CITYSTREETSUMSRULE
SSRABASAMBATBOY
MAKEACATCHABUSATABLE
ACNEARKPADS
WORLDAGRIALBTOOL
FILEARETURNABOOKATRIP
TVANTENNAKARATEKICKS
DEFSATOMSHADYESSES

It couldn't be "Field a fly," because that repeats the "a."

If anyone has a better suggestion than mine, I'm all ears. Joel and I spent quite a while on this!

Fri 5/15/2015
DARKANGELTRAP
INACLAIRECHEMO
KIMJONGUNHERBS
SIONADDTOCART
PENNEHILOATOI
BETESETUNREST
ADOSTRESPASSES
ARTYEP
GQMAGAZINELAPS
SUITESNTSODIN
TESTSASHICALL
RESIDENCEMAWS
INUREDATAPLANS
NISEIOLIVETREE
GEARRECEIVERS

For anyone who's curious, David's original clue for KIM JONG-UN was "Whom Dennis Rodman called 'a friend for life' in 2013." The reason I didn't keep the clue is ... it's not quite accurate. What Rodman actually said was that he, Rodman, was Kim's "friend for life." I didn't see a good way to reword the clue to make it correct, and it wouldn't have been as interesting the correct way anyway.

Tue 4/21/2015
GPASUPPERLEO
AIREDMACROEXC
SATURDAYSABBATH
IRAISESONAR
SESAMESEEDLINE
MOTTSTREPENTS
UNECLAMOR
SIMPLESIMON
CDRATEAPU
CASHIEROUTGUN
ALTISOLIDSOUTH
ELANDEMOTER
SURGESUPPRESSOR
ADEMUSEENIKON
REDSNARLNIPS

To me, GPA'S is a fine entry, since the letters are spoken, and it's a common term besides. For the record, I'm less enthused about abbreviations that are only written — like JCT or APPT.

SPAS/SAS was OK, but a little bland. I think GPA'S/GAS has more pizzazz. Personal taste, of course.

Tue 4/14/2015
GAGAAIRESTEES
AGESGRETARATE
THATSGREATISHE
EARHIESTASTER
SIEGTITTERS
STRESSSIGHER
HEATHSETHSEEG
ARTIEIGHTAGRI
HATRAREESSGTS
ERASERGETSET
STREETSTITI
TERESAHARTAHS
ERISSTARTERSET
TREEIRISHATRA
SIRSAEGISGREG

As I wrote for yesterday's Beatles-themed puzzle, the stacking of 15-letter entries at the top and bottom adversely affected some of the fill. Not too badly, but still. It definitely had some non-Mondayish and subpar answers.

Today's puzzle has a different issue with the fill. The "stunt" of constructing the grid using only eight different letters of the alphabet resulted in a blander, more crosswordy grid than usual. Nothing truly awful, I think, but you've probably seen most of today's entries dozens (hundreds? thousands?) of times.

On the plus side, every answer here of eight or more letters is good to great. Bruce chose these with care. The puzzle's girders are genuinely strong, which is important even for a stunt. Having the simultaneously thematic and explanatory EIGHT smack-dab in the middle of the grid is a nice bonus.

Then, above everything else, there's Bruce's feat of producing a pretty-clean grid using only eight different letters of the alphabet.

Wow. I doff my hat.

Mon 4/13/2015
SLEEPSSOONBUS
YELLOWSUBMARINE
SHESLEAVINGHOME
TIMEAUSSIETAS
GRRQUANT
BRAVASALBUM
MURALUVULAFAB
WHENIMSIXTYFOUR
SRALISLELORRY
TERRAGERMAN
ANCHOIRS
LBARAMINOMINE
PAPERBACKWRITER
HERECOMESTHESUN
ARIAYESHONORS

Crossword constructing is a little like writing a palindrome. You want to write something as sensible and natural as possible. Still, there's the constraint that the thing has to read backward and forward the same, and chances are it's going to sound a little awkward.

Straw? No, too stupid a fad. I put soot on warts.

No one writes this way normally. But I look on a long palindrome like this and I marvel. It's a stunt, of a sort, and a very cool one.

Similarly, the Monday and Tuesday crosswords this week are "stunt puzzles," in which the constructor has started with some peculiar thematic constraint that compromises the fill.

The constraint in today's debut by Alex Silverman is the stacking of names of 15-letter Beatles songs at the top and bottom of the grid. I don't remember seeing thematic stacking like this before, and it bowls me over . The puzzle's subject, the Beatles, gives me good feelings besides.

The downside of the constraint, of course, is some non-Mondayish or less-than-stellar vocabulary. You can list it as well as I can.

For any stunt puzzle, I weigh the amazingness of the theme, and the difficulty of the constraint, versus how compromised the vocabulary is as a result. It's a balance. For an amazing stunt, I may make major allowances. For a smaller one, not so much. Both today and tomorrow, I think, the compromises are fairly modest and well worth tolerating to get the wow.

I won't spoil tomorrow's puzzle, but will say only that it involves a different sort of stunt with a different issue with the fill.

In both puzzles I hope you can make the same allowances I do to appreciate what's cool.

Sat 3/21/2015
JUMPINJACKFLASH
AHOOSIERHOLIDAY
NOCAUSEFORALARM
EHSZAPSACTSIN
FUNINK
ITEAUSMMAGE
ORANGEPOPSICLES
TURNEDTHETABLES
ATTENTIONPLEASE
SHODLTDAYES
MOTDSL
YESBUTEDUCSLO
ONEAFTERANOTHER
GETSTOFIRSTBASE
ISTHISSEATTAKEN

I remember when I accepted my first triple-triple-stacked crossword for the Times. It was by the illustrious, triply-named Martin Ashwood-Smith back in 2000. I rushed it into print on May 19 of that year, because I thought it was so cool.

Over time, though, I've become a little less enchanted with triple-triple stacking, partly because, well, it's been done multiple times now (22 times, including today, according to XWord Info). Also:

  1. Today's grid design is inherently flawed, because there's so little connection among the three parts of the grid. Just two letters link the top to the middle, and two others link the middle to the bottom. An elegant grid provides greater flow among the sections, giving the solver more options for how to proceed.
  2. This grid has an oversupply of three-, four- and five-letter words. Of the 70 entries here, 56 (or fully 80%) are of these short lengths. And almost necessarily there's a lot of crosswordy stuff, like EHS, ITEA, USM, EDUC, ENES, SETT, EAR TO, POA, EDT, SO HOT, EFS, ADAS, IAL, LESE, OREN, etc. Altogether these don't make for lively solving.

What sold me on this puzzle, when I accepted it in April 2012, was the liveliness of the nine 15s. Every one of them is a gem, in my opinion. So the puzzle does provide some genuine pleasures, and I give Fred Healy major kudos for these.

But this is to report ... today's crossword is the last triple-triple-stacked puzzle in my files. And it's likely to be the last one I publish.

I'm still a sucker for elegant construction challenges, including crazy stacking, but it's time for this design to be retired.

Tue 2/24/2015
BLASSUSMCHOWL
LANCENCAAOPIE
ENDUEDANLRUNG
EARLSSUNGLASSES
PIELIKEAARE
ENANCOOFF
BRERIDEALHUE
LADYJANESBLINDS
AGEEMCEENODS
HENABUOWN
SNUBSTOOLIE
ZANESLAMPCOVERS
IMAXATIEDANES
NOSENOTASTONE
GRADTREKYESES

Hi Jeff,

Your description on XWord Info today sounds about right. When Joel and I look at submissions, we mark them up with our reactions — check marks for entries we like, minus signs for ones we don't, x's for things we won't accept, question marks for entries we have to think about (like, hmm, is this really an in-the-language phrase?), and "ck" for stuff we need to check.

The size of these marks indicates the strength of our feelings. For example, OONA might get a small ding for being crosswordese, whereas E LEE would get a big demerit for being something we really, really don't want to use.

When we're done, we look over the manuscript as a whole, weighing the pluses and minuses, in deciding whether we want to accept the puzzle or not.

As for Elizabeth's puzzle today, we liked CALL A CAB, MANGANESE, SCULLERY, and WOODSY. On the minus side, PIELIKE gave us pause, and the grid has a modest amount of crosswordese. Joel revised the lower-left corner to remove the crosswordy ZASU and ANAS. He also looked at improving other areas, but didn't see a way to do this without making wholesale changes in the construction, which we didn't want.

The theme is really what sold me on this puzzle. I thought it was different and amusing. Of course, we timed its publication for the release of the movie "Fifty Shades of Grey."

I believe Elizabeth constructs without a computer (her grids are hand-drawn), so I give her big props for that.

--Will

Thu 2/5/2015
TAPASGIRLPAMS
IVANAEBAYERIQ
FORYOUREYESONLY
FWIWKALEUPEND
SHERRIBELLES
STIEGDECODE
ARARATVIAALOU
LONELYTEARDROPS
SISIKOIDEEDEE
WHENCEAPERS
CACAOSANKLES
EDENSSNOWOTIS
LEADEROFTHEPACK
ELSEIDLEELREY
BEERDAYSKESEY

Somehow over time, Thursday has gotten the reputation of being the "trickster" day for the Times crossword. This is when you're most likely to encounter a rebus, answers that read in unorthodox directions, letters getting entered onto black squares or outside the grid, etc.

In truth, though, at least to me, Thursday is just supposed to be harder than Wednesday and easier than Friday. That is all.

Today's puzzle has about as untricky a theme as you'll find — three 15-letter song titles Across intersecting three other 15-letter song titles Down. Amazing. How did Mike find this?! All are titles of truly big songs that are familar to me (although 4D, just barely — that's a little before my time). The construction is pretty damn clean, too.

What makes this a Thursday? Partly it's the puzzle's 72-word word count, which is low enough to meet themeless Friday/Saturday standards. And partly it's that not everyone may know all these titles, in which case they're not so easy to fill in. Naturally, the cluing level has been pitched to a Thursday level to keep everything in sync.

If you like your Thursday themes trickier than this, hang on for future weeks. I've got some doozies on the way. But sometimes a Thursday theme can come in a straightforward variety, too.

POW Sat 12/20/2014
POTFARMSWAMPUM
AFROBEATIGUANA
STARBASECALLON
TENTACLECREEDS
ANKHHILDASOUL
MINEODEA
POPGUNDOCILITY
APLENTYMOLIERE
REALGOODULSTER
TRYWASPS
YAMSCLUEDMEME
TRACERPRENATAL
ROTATEHATEMAIL
ALERTSIPADMINI
YESYESNETSALES

(Mr. Shortz's detailed notes are on a separate page.)

Sat 11/22/2014
FOSHIZZLEKNOWS
EXCUSEYOUEOSIN
WARMONGERSUSIE
ELIEDOSGENOME
RIBPATSDRYBOZ
CECEEEROMUTE
RRRREPLACED
FRACASDEIMOS
BREZHNEVSTE
AIDECRANHTTP
REDRIOLOBOAFB
SNIPEDESLTRIO
EDWINDROIDRAZR
ALIKEMIAMIAREA
TYPEEZEPPOMARX

By my count David's grid has 19 proper names out of 72 answers — a higher percentage than I like, honestly — and it's tricky to know exactly how hard to write their clues. Most proper names involve either-you-know-it-or-you-don't trivia. If the clues for SUSIE, ELIE, CECE, EDWIN, RENEE, and VALERIE, for example, reference obscure people, then you probably have to piece them together letter by letter from the crossings. That isn't much fun, especially when you have to do this repeatedly. On the other hand, if their clues all involve well-known people, then the puzzle becomes too easy. I hope I struck a happy balance here. But hitting just the right difficulty level for solvers on a name-heavy puzzle is an almost impossible task.

With that said, David's puzzle is still excellent work. Besides 1A, I like EXCUSE YOU, PATS DRY, BREZHNEV, DROID RAZR, ZEPPO MARX, REDDI-WIP, OSSO BUCO, WIIMOTES, and PFIZER, and other things. And there's very little in the grid that's bad. That's expert puzzle-making.

Fri 11/14/2014
APPSCIFIJEB
TOOROAMOFFARR
AWLENDPOSTMEA
LEOVIIITACTICS
ERTEALLBYWETS
PESTLOASILO
CAPITALLETTER
MUSICALNOTE
CHESSMOVE
DECADEALERTS
NOTIVISSHAH
EGOPRINCESAVE
GENERALHOSPITAL
RAISEDLETTERING
ORCASERSCESTA

Joe Krozel never makes a "normal" crossword. Everything he does has some unusual constraint, usually something completely new. Here, the constraint consists of curiously related clues for the three Across answers that are stacked in the middle. In addition, two 15-letter Downs run smack through everything. Pretty amazing. One of the puzzle's test solvers, btw, objected to LETTER appearing in both 31A and 55A — but this doesn't break my rule. I don't allow any entire answer to be part of another answer (or appear in a clue, for that matter). But, generally speaking, I have no problem with part of an answer being part of another one. Most solvers don't seem to mind either. I'm more concerned with getting the best quality of fill, even if that means a semi-duplication like this.

Mon 11/10/2014
JAVAQUESTSTUB
AVERUNDUETARO
DONTMAKEMELAUGH
ENDAKINUTTER
EVENIDLE
FUHGEDDABOUDIT
ONIONLEISCOG
RIPSTWIXTPITA
AFTGRABHONEY
YOUREKIDDINGME
NIKERANG
STRIPBANDFYI
THATSRIDICULOUS
OOZEINANEURAL
PRESABYSSGENE

The Monday to Thursday puzzles this week were used last Saturday at the 4th annual Arlington Puzzle Festival at the Arlington (Va.) Public Library. During the past 12 months I've supplied unpublished Times puzzles for 12 events like this around the country — mostly for libraries or other nonprofit institutions. Crossword contests are happy affairs, and I'm happy to help.

Sun 11/9/2014COLORFUL CHARACTERS
HOLESBLUEJAYBRICK
WAHINEYOTEAMOETHANE
AGASSIFEELBADLEONID
TARTSLAWTEALPANE
TRAILMIXESMILLIHELEN
NEILTOEPEAS
MAGICACETATESTONE
YIPPROMINENTELI
ASPENYELLOWSEAEDGER
ONSTAGEBESETBTWELVE
MOTHERRESELLSRELIEF
IMOSITARSLANAISGNU
NERDFESTBULBSETS
GREENTEAHAPBLACKEYE
LOSSATLASELOI
LIGHTHARMONICABERRY
ALAIFORMLETTERSDIEU
RIBMOTELBASALBEL
VULGARNEONGASLIABLE
AMELIAATPEACEEMBOSS
SONYSTORKMOON

Tom McCoy is a sophomore at Yale, co-captain of the Yale Road Running team, and a 2013 U.S. Presidential Scholar. Two of his five previous puzzles in the Times have been named "Puzzle of the Week" on XWord Info, and this one might make it three out of six. It's definitely a wow.

Wed 11/5/2014
REELBRERMASTS
ALLEVIATEINUIT
DOWAHDIDDYDIDDY
OPENSHORSEX
NESTCIALIS
OBLADIOBLADA
SSNOATERATOM
IKOIKOSHBOOM
AIRSAERIEPRO
MMMMMMMMMMMM
STIRINORAL
ABCCSAPRIMO
DOODOODOODOODOO
DUNNOINTERSECT
STEAKOTTOEROS

How Gareth Bain, a South African, understands American crosswords — and culture — so well, I will never understand. This is his 12th puzzle published in the Times, with more in the pipeline.

Tue 11/4/2014
HALTSHIGHRAP
ALOHAEGRETISA
CAVEDMOONROCKS
KNEWPERUATOMS
BARONPRITHEE
SNIVELRHINO
TOTEMHOUSETOM
APEBLOGGEDIVE
YESRULESEAMES
SATYRTYLERS
IPHONESHEELS
NOENDYOUDDUFF
BIGSTINKSVOCAL
USESTORKANKLE
DELDDAYTESLA

Is this puzzle a little hard for a Tuesday? The test-solvers thought so. But once you catch onto the clever theme, it goes faster. The clues are almost all Joel's. He's become a first-class clue-writer — precise, colorful, imaginative, sly on occasion, and modern without overdoing it. A real pleasure.

Mon 11/3/2014
PICTSLAVSLATE
ADAYWAVEAILED
ZINCAMESREARS
COMPASSCOURSE
SHEBAEENMEL
COLBYCOLLEGE
ALLSODASKIMS
LEERDEBARGNAT
ADDEDOREODNA
COLORCOPYING
IWONTHTOGAS
COUNTRYCOUSIN
IONIAELLSCABS
NECKSAIDEKNEE
GREEKHOEDSTEW

Janet Bender, of Somerset, Pa., is one of the old guard of crossword constructors, starting at the Times during the end of the Maleska era (1992), and, if memory serves, appearing in Games magazine before that. I assume she constructs without computer assistance, because her submissions come with hand-printed grids. Until relatively recently, our correspondence was done entirely by U.S. mail; I don't think she had an email address. Her puzzles have a quiet, unflashy solidness that's comforting, especially on a Monday.

Sat 11/1/2014
ELATESCIFICOLOR
LETONAARONINANE
BATTLEFIELDCOSTS
OPIEREMDELEHOT
WARLARAMPURE
STENOSNEUTROGENA
ELEMASHEOVER
MARTITATARETILE
IDESTMRBIGVILLA
NOMAAMMANYESSES
ORALONELPERT
REPEATEDLYALSACE
SNOWSALTYRAD
SPFGRAFSOUCANI
PLACEGROSSPROFIT
RIVALEERIEBEANO
YEARSREARSINTER

This 17x17 crossword (a first for the daily Times) has a curious history. It was originally slated for Puzzle #5 at last March's American Crossword Puzzle Tournament. By tradition, Puzzle #5 is the killer of the event — the one that separates the champion solvers from everyone else. Trip sent me the puzzle by email on Jan. 8. I loved it, printed it out, and, because it was early, set it on top of my office printer.

A few weeks later the website Business Insider came to interview me at my home. We'd agreed beforehand they would interview me in my living room, but after wandering around my house, they asked if they could set me up in my office instead. At that point I had forgotten all about Trip's puzzle, which was nowhere near the desk where I sat anyway, so I said yes.

Well, wouldn't you know it, during the course of the interview the cameraperson panned around my office, including the printer, stopping, in fact, to dwell for four seconds on Trip's puzzle, which just happened to say across the top: "2014 ACPT Puzzle 5." Sometime after the interview was posted online, a friend who'd seen it emailed me, "Can that possibly be Puzzle #5 at this year's ACPT?" Arrrgggh!

At that point Trip didn't have time to make a new Puzzle #5 for the tournament, so Brendan Quigley stepped in instead. Meanwhile, I still loved Trip's puzzle. Since it was spoiled for the ACPT, I asked him if I could run it in the Times. He graciously agreed. It's probably better suited for the Times, anyway, because this way you have more time to appreciate the theme. It's not something meant to be raced through.

Fri 10/31/2014
ROCKBANDSJACK
WHALEBOATTOPOL
ADVISABLESEPIA
NEONSRAWTALENT
DARKRAISETAC
ARTLEIAWEIGH
COGNOSCENTE
BURIEDALIVE
HORRORSTORY
LOOSENETSCDS
APBAMISHTREE
METALLICAKOALA
OFUSEMOUSEOVER
NOBISINCARNATE
TRESCOEXISTED

In Mary Lou's and Jeff's manuscript for today's puzzle, they clued COGNOSCENTE (29A) as "Fortunato vis-à-vis Amontillado, e.g." I almost kept this so the clues to all three central Across answers, including 32A and 33A, would relate to Poe's "The Cask of Amontillado." That would have been neat. But in the end I felt their clue sounded too strained. I went with something more general instead. (Sorry, guys!)

Thu 10/30/2014
FLUIDROBE
PEARCEASONE
SINUSESWHOAMI
CPENDALESDANCERS
PYRESRCATEAT
ECOLPOTATOCRNA
WAGCINRAPMUSIC
ARIZONIANPUP
ETEVERONIQUE
ARCELAGOASKUNC
SISELOCUTELIPO
ECHOKENSOCAL
CHOCOLATECCOOKIE
ETCHERSPORTED
SAINTCENTER
MOSSOREAD

In the print edition (and maybe some other versions) of today's puzzle, the six squares in each corner of the grid, which would usually be black, have been removed instead — to accentuate the cookie's roundness visually. This sort of effect used to be common in grids in crossword magazines, but it's a rarity in newspapers.

POW Tue 10/28/2014
FALCOAMISSGST
ILIACZOWIELEI
ALLTHATJAZZIMA
TATARSOSESTIR
LETOUTTA
DAYSOFTHUNDER
SINSLOANSROY
PSSTTONYATAPE
ACEAERIEOTIS
OLDBLACKMAGIC
GUAVAATE
ANDINBASHTETL
UTABEATTHEHEAT
DEMEXTRANERDY
YDSETHANAROAR

Andrea's puzzle today does something I like. It involves a complete set of things — in this case N.B.A. teams whose names don't end in the plural -s. There's something neat about completeness that appeals to a puzzle solver's mind. Or at least my mind. And as the N.B.A. season opens tonight, this puzzle couldn't be timelier.

Mon 10/20/2014A SIGN OF THE TIMES
GADBROMGMTSP
APELETOUIAPU
SPLITSECONDXER
ENSURELITES
TOGAMINUTERICE
HUARTESERAPHS
ACTORSPAN
THEWITCHINGHOUR
HAIRLAPSE
OPTICALCORPSE
DAYTRIPPERLORD
ELROYOREGON
SEAPASSIONWEEK
SSNTOPCLUNYE
ATTSKYHESTEN

Every autumn since 2008 I've run either a themed puzzle week or a Sunday puzzle contest in the Times. In 2008 it was a week of daily crosswords constructed by teens. The following years were, successively, crosswords by Times contributors for 50+ years, members of the Brown University crossword club, all-Patrick Berry, and Sunday crossword contests by Caleb Rasmussen and Mike Selinker.

This year I've returned to the 2011 format with a whole week of daily puzzles constructed by one of the greats of crosswording, Patrick Blindauer. The first five puzzles, Monday to Friday, look like normal crosswords. As the instructions explain, though, they contain the start of a hidden message. The Saturday puzzle completes the message and has cryptic instructions for finding it.

Can the hidden message be identified before the Saturday puzzle is published? I'd be astonished. But then I've been astonished by Times solvers many times before, so we'll see.

BTW, the contest prizes this year have been upgraded to 20 one-year subscriptions to the online Times crossword. These prizes are nice, but (as you'll notice) still modest. Federal and state laws don't allow large prizes for contests that involve any significant element of luck, which this one does. You have to be lucky to be randomly selected from those who submit correct answers.

Still, it's really the fun of the event that's important. Also, if you win, you get your name in Wordplay next Friday.

Happy solving ... and good luck!

Sun 10/19/2014WHY NOT?
BUTTEDGRILLSSHARIFS
ONRICEREDDITGALATEA
OEUVREIDOLSOFTHEKING
HASOUTESSAOLKINDA
IRTAVEGEMESAI
STETCLEARTHEWEIGH
SHECRABEMOOWNCRO
SUNDAEBESTULTRAHIP
UNISENDAKPETRESAVE
PADSTENDTOTTOLKIEN
STEPSSARISTATEOESTE
TAKEONEACELANDDEER
ALICIAAPETILDESRDA
RICKROLLDEVILRAISE
TEKMOLINAINCUBUS
GUISEANDDOLLSVENI
ITLLEGGSOSLIZ
ODOULEONABASHULTZ
NORIMEORREASONAERIAL
ENSNARLASPIREALGORE
DEIGNEDSTRANDBLENDS

An unusual theme today that took me awhile to wrap my head around — puns involving homophones of words containing the letter Y. The Y's are all gone. Usually themes are based on what's in the grid, not what's not. But once you get it, the result is nice, and the puzzle has a perfect, explanatory title. I also like David's elegant touch of avoiding Y's anywhere in the grid, not just in the theme answers.

Sat 10/18/2014
MESSKITSCROTCH
AGELIMITLAURIE
NOSECONEASTUTE
SEEKAPPSSTEP
PSYCHOPATH
AWLTUTEEURIAH
VIAAMINSTINGO
ALSORANCOOPERS
SCENTSCALCSEE
TORTEROLEOSEA
DIRTYHARRY
CRIPTEEMRAFA
HUSTLERAREBIRD
ASCOTSERICBANA
DESERTDICTATED

Evan's handsome construction today has quite a few names, some of them uncommon, which is always cause for concern — especially when they're in the same area, and especially especially when they cross. LAURIE (16A) crossing RAS (10D) may give some solvers pause, but I think "A" at the intersection is the most likely letter to guess. I also worried about SOLER (35D) crossing the difficult STINGO and ROLEO. Evan's clue for SOLER was "Baroque composer Padre Antonio __," who, I have to admit, I'm not familiar with. So I changed this to something more inferable, even if it's rare. Overall Evan writes excellent clues. The ones here for 15A, 36A, 43A, 4D, 12D, and 28D are all his.

Thu 10/16/2014
CALAISNUDETRE
ALUMNAEPICURES
MENTALWHOOPIES
SCARLETTERAPSE
ALMALSDLEX
LICKWMDEVE
ADOCANEFRAPPE
PERCYBYSSHELLEY
DANUBESTAGAPE
UTENYEBYES
ZACRBIESAU
AWOLLANDONOVAN
PAPALACELOYOLA
PRIMERIBADULTS
ADADENSREPEAT

John's manuscript had the overlapping three-letter parts indicated by circles. I thought that made the puzzle too easy. Anyway, I'm always in need of fresh Thursday-ish gimmicks, so the circles are gone, and — voilà — a Thursday!

Wed 10/15/2014
STABDOCKSDILL
COSIYAHOOELOI
HUCKLEFINNCLOT
ICRIEDREALIST
RHINEMBAPANEL
RUBIKELDERWINE
APEBOATOE
STRAWBLONDE
YULBENABA
RASPBERETAARON
AIMEEEDSHELLO
PRESSEDSAGGED
ISLECHUCKBERRY
DELTHOKEYAEON
SAYSOTROSNYSE

I don't usually run puzzles in which the mutilated theme answers don't themselves make sense. But the reveal to this one was so charming, and the mutilations so clear, I made an exception.

POW Mon 10/13/2014
PORSCHESPACELY
CROQUETCANASTA
SECUREDONETERM
ALLGNAWS
PSATSLACYCARS
ANDSCOMEVALET
NODSAKEGENEVA
DOSTWISTERRET
OKAPISEELYTRI
RELAXTVADALSO
ARTSCHERKEYIN
SALONHER
CHEATERHEROICS
HANGMANMARBLES
INVESTSSPIESON

I've been saving this puzzle for about a year, to run around the time of the baseball playoffs and the World Series. The double nature of the theme — that the grid contains seven games and they're all seven letters long — is what sold me on this. Simple and elegant, with a funny reveal, perfect for a Monday.

Sun 10/12/2014INNER WORKINGS
RAWDEALWATUSICALAIS
INHASTEAMINOROVERDO
COALCANARYMINENEATEN
ENTRINDTAPASTOAD
ROUNDSQUAREPEGHOLE
MCLEANUPSATREE
ALACKRELITMTEVEREST
CANDYKIDSTORESESAAH
ASAAVIDERATARGO
WHITEHATSAWINRAPPER
MILLIONNOTYEARS
NAGANOORIONTRIFECTA
ERINSNAPPIUSOON
REFCPOTEATEMPESTPOT
FATCHANCEBERETOESTE
AURALREAOBSESS
HANDGOTOHELLBASKET
AMADDATEDEDIENUS
RAPINIHAYNEEDLESTACK
STEERSEVENUPOFFENSE
HISSATSEDERSSECLUDE

This puzzle has an interesting history. Pawel and I went back and forth on the theme many times, as he progressively refined the idea and got better examples. In the end I thought it turned out great — very tight, with all familiar, lively phrases. He constructed the grid, I edited it, the puzzle-testers did their thing, etc. And after the puzzle went to the Times and was all set to be published ... I learned from a solver who got an advance copy that I ran a puzzle with the same theme, using two-and-a-half of the same theme entries, three years ago. :-(

Well, at least I'm consistent in what I like!

It's still a fine puzzle, with an expanded theme (Sunday-size rather than daily), and a solid construction besides. Still worth doing, I think, despite the accidental theme duplication. I hope you agree.

Fri 10/10/2014
FREEWAYDEAD
PLEASEDOPANTY
TROUSSEAUARISE
ROASTEDCRUISER
OPTIONCHOCULA
UMINNCHEMISE
PANGCHIANTI
ENGCHANTEYRDS
CHUTNEYBEET
CHARTEDPRIMA
CHARREDMOANED
WARRIORBALIHAI
APOLOBARCELONA
COMETOVERALLS
ONESXEROXED

Do you like the "stairstep" of CH- answers running through the middle of the grid? David's construction is very handsome, but I worry that the CH- pattern makes the puzzle a little too predictable.

Thu 10/9/2014
CASHJEANCAPE
RATEAMIEPOWER
OBAMACARELDOPA
PARASKITRAKPS
CELTONEEYE
CARROTWYATT
ABEETFEELYOLK
KENTBREADMPAA
EDDYOEDSSOUTH
PIXELBUNSEN
FREEZEEHUD
ROBOSUARAPAHO
AVOIDSKINNYDIP
MENDSPIKERAKE
EDYSSPUROMEN

As far as I can remember this is the fourth "uniclue"-type crossword I've run in the Times. That's one in which all the clues (in the print edition anyway) appear in a single list, combining Across and Down. When two answers share a number, they also share a clue. The previous three times I did this are listed on XWord Info's latest summary page. The theme of Joel's puzzle today is similar to John's, but with 10 examples rather than seven, and some of them intersecting. Very elegant.

Tue 10/7/2014
RIGCLIMBSALUD
AAREELERATONE
NCORAISEUTTER
DOWNTHEHATCH
ACTIKEYEDUP
LCHAIMSTATOFU
LASPESCILOGON
BOTTOMSUP
BROODAREASPEA
AEROCNNCHEERS
GOESMADSLIP
TOYOURHEALTH
ALIENUNIONERA
GENRETIPPITEL
TOASTSTEEDSAT

I hope I didn't stretch this puzzle's theme conceit too far, as L'CHAIM (28A) would be an odd thing to exclaim at an Oktoberfest. But at least the theme is timely!

Fri 10/3/2014
ARSONISTSDCCAB
NOTSOFASTEARLE
GOATRODEOALARM
LTDILLTRADEYOU
ERINDOSESBOSS
ROUENTESTYLEE
STMARKSUREHAND
MOHSPONE
DIMETAPPSTASIS
UNOCLAROERNST
NAPAICONSTADA
ALPHAFEMALERUS
WIESTBOJANGLES
ANTICATANYRATE
YESNOREGGAETON

Curiously, only 1%-2% of themeless submissions I receive at the Times come from female constructors. The genre is almost entirely handled by men. No one knows why. I think it's healthy to have diversity, though, in all ways, and I welcome more female-constructed themelesses. It's unlikely a male constructor would have used the fresh and lively ALPHA FEMALE (55A) as a seed, which is a perfect example of why diversity is a good thing.