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50 puzzles with comments from Will Shortz — 11/5/2014 to 8/18/2019

Will Shortz

Showing 50 out of 258 total with editor comments.

Use the older and newer links above to see more.

POW Sun 8/18/2019REVOLUTIONARY
REGIFTSICHECKQURAN
ICESHEETTHESUNUSEBY
POTLATCHGOESFORASPIN
ELSEOTERIDEFCONSTY
NITUNSHORNKOTB
HOPSOOLALAKIRSCH
UBERSATMTENAMCAMEO
RABATELBATILLOVALS
NILLASLAPSTABSABLE
SLRRIOTPOLARINDUS
OCTOPIABOKAZOOS
BLASTMARIOABETIRE
VOLTAROMASONYSONIA
EXITSBRATENDSOMENS
GENOAGENESENSRISKY
ARGYLEADAGIOARTS
SETHCADBURYOPS
SAWSTAKEDRAIMISWAT
TURNTURNTURNTASMANIA
UTICASENATEEMERGENT
BOTOXHEALERINSERTS

David Steinberg sold his first crossword to The Times in 2011, when he was 14 and just finishing the eighth grade. A prolific contributor since then, he has had 94 crosswords in the paper altogether.

A 2019 graduate of Stanford University, studying psychology and computer science, David recently moved to Kansas City, Mo., to edit crosswords for Andrews McMeel Universal syndicate.

Sun 8/11/2019BIRD PLAY
POSTCHARSTSAAKA
EULERTAIWANHILARYSK
SCENEORGANAAMESIOWA
THEPLOTTHICKENSEATAT
PIANOTHEYSALON
OPENTOSPEDESSO
FARSIVERDISCOFFBIO
TACNEALEPOPULARKIDS
EVANGELIZEROBSIEGEL
NORALEGMAOTAIANDSO
PSSTGERMSPORN
VESPASHORTEOHMETDS
EXCITEELIOFFONALARK
SPREADEAGLERUNITKOI
TOYNEWTOSPOSEEMEND
NESTCAGEDAISES
PLEBSHEALSALSA
PROBEHEADLESSCHICKEN
COCOAMIXGATEAUVANDY
SWANDIVEATTENDELENA
SLYRECREEDSLEAD

Alex Eaton-Salners is an in-house attorney for Western Digital, a technology company headquartered in San Jose, Calif. When he's not creating crosswords, he enjoys escape rooms, reading and spending time in nature. He says the starting point for this puzzle was 84-Across, with the title coming shortly thereafter.

This is Alex's 21st crossword for The Times (not counting two diagramless puzzles) and his first Sunday.

Sun 8/4/2019CONSTANT CONSONANTS
HANGSCLEANSTEEPEST
CAGIERHOUSEORDNANCE
BRONTOSAURUSBUDDYCOP
GLUTSTRIOAREAONE
BETHLOISACRIDSPREE
MISQUOTESMOSQUITOES
UGLYAPTUPTOP
ARIOSILEAVEPREAMP
FRONTIERFURNITURESAL
IMAFANELDESTFORSALE
LOREAPUADOCUBA
MISREADFROLLOALINES
ERASCARFACESACRIFICE
DETACHASKTOHABITS
POESYIANAIME
OVERSELLSVERSAILLES
TWIXTTITHEASPSEXPO
REDPLODFREETAPIR
ASISEEITBRAINTEASERS
STOUTESTMOUNTSTEREO
HOTLANTAWINGSCASTS

Will Nediger, of London, Ontario, is a professional crossword constructor and writer of trivia questions. Since early May he has edited a free weekly online crossword for Spyscape, a spy museum in New York City.

Besides an unusual theme and a more wide-open construction than usual, this puzzle has some particularly fresh, imaginative cluing, including 40-Across, 100-Across (which made us smile) and 50-Down.

Sun 7/21/2019FIFTY YEARS ON
TSASCANTRANATMAT
RIPSAUDIOALERTMAUI
OTOHTRANQUILITYANTE
OSLOSAGUMSGILNOOB
PALEOTELEPATHSOUNCE
ETONOOSEASTINTRA
ROEEARAPARTEVEHAM
SPLASHARAMAICEGRETS
EDMUNDRBGYESIAM
NIVEACOOKIEJARADORE
PRELLARMSTRONGNIOBE
RENALANARIOTONIC
ISPENACTEDELS
IHADTODISABLEBEERME
MUDEELSPBSNBATEAM
ARMPOOLSGRASPIII
CLICFOODCHAINGNAT
THEEAGLEHASLANDED
ITSAGOIDLESSEAENEAS
NOTIONNOTATEDSTEELE
SMOMSNAPESSTRAP

Jason Mueller, of Lincoln, Mo., has degrees in physics, math and economics from the University of Missouri. He loves trivia and was captain of his college's quiz-bowl team. Nowadays he creates puzzles and works on his family's farm. Jeff Chen, of Seattle, is a writer and professional crossword constructor.

This is Jason's sixth crossword for The Times and Jeff's 100th.

Sun 7/14/2019ARE WE FINISHED?
RAPEAGERSCAMCACAO
APESAGAVEKALEATOLL
ISTHISABADTIMERLEMME
DEPOSITSDUMPSLIMBS
RENEETERAHIPPO
ABORTSWORKSFROMHOMER
DEJATHAIKRONOSENO
ELECTISLAMEWESHANG
PICKUPTHEPACERVALUE
TETLAMAPULPTHATSIT
CITADELORPHEUS
RIPOPENNEATORALODE
ETHOSWATCHYOURTONER
APOPEDAMLEERSSHIER
CRTSTEREOSETSGORE
TOOKTHEPLUNGERWARNED
BERETTOESSAVOR
SORERHELENCODEWORD
GIMMEFIVESECONDRULER
ORBITEDITVOCALPLAN
TESTSEELSADORESRO

Caitlin Reid, 35, is a stay-at-home mom with four young kids in Santa Ana, Calif. She says, "When I'm not herding cats, you can find me playing Chopin on the piano or dancing to the Beatles in my kitchen." The inspiration for this puzzle was 89-Across. Her favorite theme entry is the last one she thought of — 23-Across.

This is Caitlin's fourth crossword for The Times and her first Sunday.

Sun 7/7/2019HIDDEN TACTICS
TIDEPODTHERANGESPRAT
ICONCUROOZESOUTEROSE
KERATINKNIGHTTOBEIGHT
IBMSOREKNEESANNUAL
BLACKANSELSMEDICINE
AUNTIEEMVEXTESTY
RETOTALCHIPSAHOYHIS
DISHONOURANA
BRAVOSPERKUPMAKESIT
OATERMORNRESINPANIC
ADOREAKUTERESAHUMPH
RINDSTABLEDPTSENOTE
DUCATINSETSPYSWINOS
SENESCECHOPUPESTOPS
TSACHEROKEES
BTWNOSFERATUCOWBIRD
IRISHBICGOSSAMER
FANTASIACMAJORWHITE
OCTANEPROMINENTTIS
CHECKMATEINONECOLLARS
AERIEFREETOGOAMPUTEE
LASERLANDEDONABSCESS

Jack Reuter, 25, is a freelance app developer for Android devices in Montrose, N.Y. He says he likes crosswords that have an extra layer to them — which this unusual puzzle definitely does.

It is Jack's debut for The Times

Sun 6/30/2019FLIP 'PHONES
SEASLUGIDIDITONBASE
INDIANANICOLEPIANOS
KNEEHIGHHEINIEUVRAYS
HIESMOESANTLER
SORTAERRBADAREATOT
ALFSIREEGUNREAR
MOISTENTEATREETREATY
ANNONEISHNERDASSES
MPAACABADAMASHIEST
BOWTIETAEBOOATERS
ATEAMSRESULTSEATRAW
PRISSYBEEFYPHOEBE
OCARINAOATHOVIRAIL
COMICCTRLMORENOCDT
TOUCHYCHEETAHSTASHES
ELSEEARRONDAOSO
TSEMADISONESCTRIBE
NOHELPBAILTNUT
SCREAMLOAFERFURLOUGH
IGUANAESTEEMBEGUILE
PIEPANDELETESCATTER

Emily Carroll is a 2016 medical-school graduate now finishing her residency in New York City. She finds crossword constructing "a nice stress reliever in the little free time I have outside the hospital." This puzzle was initially intended for a weekday (15 x 15 squares), but when she couldn't make the theme work satisfactorily, she came up with more examples and expanded it into a 21 x 21.

This is Emily's seventh crossword for The Times and her first Sunday.

Sun 6/23/2019TAKE TWO
THETWITICBMTUNES
HANDHANDMORALOMENS
USDAORCSPLACEPLACE
GIOVANNIBEIGESCAPE
STRINGSTRINGSCOUT
SEASHOREPIRATING
MESERATALLNETDEO
AIMSPASMOLDAGEAERO
IDEATEDPERSONPERSON
WINNIPEGTROPEYUM
ASTORRATERATECISCO
RINBERRASAYHELLO
BANANABANANATORSION
IMOKGOESATSPINEDNA
GOVLAURELSTENHEE
SKIPANTSHEDGEHOG
THROBNATURENATURE
BIASACESITSMARTIES
CLASSCLASSATEMUTES
MATEOKARENBASEBASE
STERNPSSTELALREX

David Liben-Nowell is a professor of computer science at Carleton College in Northfield, Minn. Victor Barocas is a professor of biomedical engineering at the University of Minnesota. They met a few years ago at a crossword tournament at the St. Paul Public Library and have collaborated remotely ever since.

For this puzzle, they divided each part of the effort (theme, gridwork and cluing) evenly. They describe their process as "write, email, tweak, repeat."

Sun 6/16/2019NOT IN SO MANY WORDS
FATHERSDAYCOMPACTS
IPHONECASEINTERRUPT
SPEEDCHESSVENERATION
COBISOMETRICLOGONTO
ASIGNLOREALNEWSROOM
LETOPANTRYPHDSSURE
TRESSEDPALOMATON
SOPHISTDARERFISH
ELLIPTICYEAROFTHEPIG
ADITOCHOTRONHEARME
TISCHSUBSISTEDDRIPS
ASSHATROARSURFTOUT
CHEESESLICERPARTERRE
DARKSHEAFMOMMIES
ADUTRYSTSTABASCO
REPOOPUSATCOSTJOSH
INTHEREDSELENEFIVEO
ANIONICVICEVERSAERA
LIGHTSABEROEDIPUSREX
SHORTLINEFIREENGINE
THESLOTSFLYSWATTER

Joel Fagliano, 26, is the digital crossword editor of The New York Times and creator of the paper's daily Mini. Born and raised in Philadelphia, he often sneaks references to the city into his puzzles, such as 83-Down here.

This puzzle is unthemed, which means, without preset answers that constrain the fill, it has a more open pattern of fresher, livelier vocabulary — all clued with wit and a fitting level of challenge. According to our records, it ties for the fewest number of answers (124) ever to appear in a Sunday Times crossword.

Sun 6/9/2019DON'T QUOTE ME
MACHISMOOSMOSISGEDS
ABLATIONTORNADORAIN
FLYMYPRETTIESFLYERMA
IUDSTAYONPEESCLIP
AREASERRPECSHOOTS
BEAMMEUPSCOTTYFRA
SAMOANNIHIDIGIT
EVETESSLEAPSGEER
MOTTWICKEDWITCHDEBS
ICAHNERATSNOUTSYAW
NARCOSIROPATASTE
ADZBITMAPEASTLITHE
LOADCAPTAINKIRKLOTT
NOVASELMATOURKOI
SPYCAMMICREDEYE
TAOSERGEANTFRIDAY
ETUDEEARSIONDEISM
DEJAAPSOAPEXAMRPI
MRAZJUSTTHEFACTSMAAM
ANNEATEITUPNASCENCE
NOESMERCYMEENTITIES

Seth A. Abel is a lawyer based in Columbus, Ohio, who works in commercial and industrial real estate. He has been making crosswords since 2003, often with themes involving gags. He thought of this one in 2008 and kept tweaking it over the years — "which has to be a record for incubation time for me," he says. The title [DON'T QUOTE ME] was his starting point.

This is Seth's 13th crossword for The Times.

POW Sun 6/2/2019STONERS' FILM FESTIVAL
ALOFTATTNTVPGWAFTS
SOFIATAROHEROELLIE
PUFFPIECESAXEDBOONE
CITELATERONPOTSHOTS
ASHELMGAWKFRIAR
VERDEUTESALITMIA
HIGHDRAMASMOKEBOMB
ELROYGERMIHAVEEDIE
ELISLANDOMATESTENT
LEDSEISDUPLESCOLDS
JOINTRESOLUTION
CASABAEASESRUNTTCU
LLAMAKNITEMITSROOK
ALIAKENNYDOSEGUIDE
ROLLINGINTHEAISLES
ATMDISSAFROFLEES
ALISTPEAROLDTWA
BAKEDHAMCHICANACRIT
AVIANNOAHDIRECTHITS
MONDODOPEETTANIECE
ANGSTSTEMDYEDTASHA

Erik Agard, 25, is a professional puzzlemaker from Gaithersburg, Md. He mentors new crossword constructors from underrepresented groups, especially women and minorities, via a crossword puzzle collaboration page on Facebook.

This is his ninth Times crossword so far for 2019 — the most of any contributor.

Sun 5/26/2019BUZZ CUT
DIANACRABATHOSSTAB
EMBERRICECHASEHELL
JURYOFYOURPIERCEOLGA
ASAMOPREEDDATAPLAN
STARTDATESCRODMED
LEIATIETATIILRE
TWOPIECEINAPODTEENER
DENIMPLOBIEBRHODA
RIBMEATSCRAMALIG
HOWGRANNIERABBITS
ERAHISSANDHEARSECOO
PIRATESYUPPIESERN
COMOFIRESESPORTS
ALARMFUMEVOLOPART
TENTERDOWNONALLFORCE
DARAITSAUAEOMAN
OAFGIMMECANDYCANE
BRUCELEEORLEOHMNEE
ALSOCANTBELIEVEMYICE
MESSARTIEOGLEAMAHL
ANYARASPYWHIRNANOS

Ruth Bloomfield Margolin, of Westfield, N.J., began constructing crosswords after having an "I can do that!" reaction to a puzzle she solved. It took some time (and a couple of what she calls "polite rejections") before she got her first acceptance. This is now her 10th crossword for The Times.

In her non-puzzling life, Ruth serves on several community nonprofit boards and tutors in an adult literacy program.

Sun 5/19/2019HOOK-UPS
TBSCITYIMPSBOLAS
BRAHOBOEMOLEAPART
COOLEDDOWNSTORMSURGE
PAULSIMONCOLDFISSION
ARTMOOKBARESNLEAST
WHIRLTREYYEASTY
CROONLEGUPDESI
LARGETYPEMOIRASATIN
ASKSEDENAUGURTRULY
PHOPALEDGRUBMAINLY
USEMEELISEPANDA
DRIERSCROCSWIFTCOT
IONICTHERESAKISAMS
YEESHAUDITSTEAMPUNK
SANGRIOTSAEGIS
GROUPSTWINDENCH
SIOUANHEADSSPITWEB
AVOTRESANTEFOURALARM
BETAGAINSTCANNERYROW
LIEGEFOOLERICARES
ENDEDTIRELECHYES

Natan Last, 28, is a founding member of the International Rescue Committee's innovation lab and a researcher and advocate for refugee resettlement and humanitarian aid. A frequent contributor — he sold his first crossword to The Times when he was 16; this is his 29th for the paper — Last says this puzzle's theme germinated while watching people fish in Sheepshead Bay in Brooklyn.

Sun 5/12/2019MEASURE FOR MEASURE
TONIWONTBAUMSTOLE
ATITMACROALSOHADAT
MINERALHARDNESSAVERS
POTLUCKSCOAXSOMEDAY
ASHENSHUNOCCUR
ESSTEMPERATURENATS
THEROADATALLNHL
SPOILERSISMBOOSTER
TARPINAALUMSTOPIT
ENOLCONNOBISSNAPUP
RSTUWINDSPEEDDADS
PIERCESERTAAAHEPOS
MCCOYSWEIRSUITART
RETHREWEATTINFOILS
TOETREESSECTION
ENDSEARTHQUAKESRAG
BASRAAUNTGETUP
IMPARTSFLAKTIAMARIA
BIERSONASLIDINGSCALE
ENEROFIVESERGEHITS
XENONFLAYTWEEDNYE

Victor Barocas is a professor of biomedical engineering at the University of Minnesota. He is married with two teenage children. He says that crossword constructing "reminds me of the research I do for my day job because I'm trying to do something that I don't know is possible. The constraints that my idea places on the puzzle may be too much. That uncertainty is somehow gratifying."

This puzzle, whose many circled letters appear in words across, down and diagonally (not easy to do!), must have been especially satisfying to create.

POW Sun 5/5/2019PAPER WORK
CARATALCOHOLSPRAWLS
EVITABEGUILETRAMWAY
LOTTERYTICKETREMAINS
SWANKESTHERWINELIST
WASURANUS
ANCHORBUILDINGPERMIT
MORANEMMAPTASHADE
BOARDINGPASSORGODOR
LDSOLEOSELANTRAELI
ELHILENERASABBA
RECORDDEALSHEETMUSIC
YUGODISHDVISPAR
CAMSIGHSATSWANSLGE
REBATRASEATINGCHART
ORALBERSEDENHOSEA
COLLEGEDIPLOMASOTHEN
DONATEMAO
CONTRACTTSKBELLYRUB
ONEIOTABREAKFASTMENU
TURTLERAIRLIFTICEIN
SPOOLEDSEABASSEASTS

Samuel A. Donaldson is a law professor, specializing in taxes and estates, at Georgia State University in Atlanta. Doug Peterson is a professional crossword constructor in Pasadena, Calif. They met at the 2008 American Crossword Puzzle Tournament, became friends and started making puzzles together — working back and forth by email. Doug attended Sam's wedding in 2012. They are prolific contributors both individually and with others.

Sun 4/28/2019WORDS OF INTRODUCTION
ALIASESTHRIVEABCB
NOTMUCHCHEATEDSHERA
KOHINOORDIAMONDLOYAL
AKINSWORSTIAMAROCK
RENONCAAOATSIVANKA
ARKHEARTANDSOULDEN
PASSKEYVANSYEARS
PLATTEEMIREASEL
SHIRESEMAILASWELLAS
HIKERSLAYSINFERDIA
ALESBELIEFINGODMOOT
MIACUEINENTERJOULE
UPSTARTSFETORFORBID
OOMPHORDOSLANTS
CARNERIDETOUCANS
AMERUNOUTOFTOWNTWO
TATTOOUNDOFIRSCRAB
ETHERNETFEELSWOOLS
REUELSETAFINEEXAMPLE
TUMMYPRETENDSORTIES
ORBSNONFEEEXPECTS

Brendan Emmett Quigley is a professional puzzlemaker in Brookline, Mass. He says he'll make puzzles for pretty much any market that will cut him a check — "not to mention a few others that still owe me money." Brendan sold his first crossword to The Times in 1996, when he was a senior at the University of New Hampshire.

This is his 183rd puzzle for the paper.

Sun 4/21/2019THE INSIDE STORY
SNORTPBANDJPRADOCDS
IEVERVOLAREHONORREP
THELITTLEMETERMAIDALI
ARRIBATSESLAPDENYIT
RUSSMADSIKESMARCO
THEPROSMINICARSONS
AHAWETWIPEANISETET
BOTHERINGRATGATSHAGS
CLEANSENONETSAKECUP
SADRSPOTROMECORTES
PICTUREINPICTURE
ASPISHPAIDHMOSIFAT
CHESTERNIHAOATLARGE
MOTTOUPSGETSCREAMOUT
EPIIBEAMISAIDNONAE
STARTEDWARSSTOPSAT
EPEESSNITSYMABLAB
MIRIAMSLOPMAPSTRINE
ESPDOCTORSWALLETRANGE
ALAUNPEGAORTASIDEST
DENPERPSWETONEPESTS

Grant Thackray (rhymes with "daiquiri") is 25 and lives in Portland, Ore. He lists his day jobs as writing pub trivia, designing T-shirts and house-managing live theater. To create this puzzle's theme, he spent countless hours poring over lists of (well, you'll see) to find combinations that worked.

This is Grant's fourth crossword for The Times.

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.