It looks like you're using an Ad Blocker. Please consider supporting our site by purchasing an account.
Will Shortz
Will Shortz

Thumbnails

50 puzzles with comments from Will Shortz — 1/11/2014 to 9/13/2014

...out of 229 total with editor comments. Use links above to see more.


Sat 9/13/2014
ADEPTCOLUMNIST
TOSEAPRONOUNCE
TWOAMLETTERBOX
ANTHEMINSERT
CHEESEBALLITEM
KERNSINESNARE
ERISCOATING
DECBADGIRLCAT
COLORTVCHIA
IMHIPMAGIBERG
NOUNLEMONGRASS
COMELYGRAPPA
INAMORATAIDEAL
TENACIOUSMINCE
EYESOCKETMOSES
One tricky answer to clue here was BAD GIRL (34A), as almost any clue could be seen as sexist. BAD GIRL has a negative connotation that BAD BOY does not, which seems unfair. The clue I ended up with, "Biker chick, perhaps," was my attempt to be neutral — which I think it is.
Thu 9/11/2014CHANGE OF HEART
MOOSEAGOPEACH
AVAILLEACURIE
TAKESPARTPRIDE
VIEAHSSEL
GREETERASNER
FOECADGLO
LOTBARONALOHA
ADAATTOSSFOX
BEGETHUNCHAVE
DHLPERGED
TRYSTSTATLER
BEERAWPOL
INTERFIREWATER
GORMETNNEMERY
DROIDAGAROXIE
This year's Lollapuzzoola tournament was the first one I've missed in its seven-year history. On the day it was held, I was flying to London for the World Puzzle Championship. Patrick and Brian visited me before the tournament to borrow some supplies, though, and they told me about some of the cool things they had scheduled, including this. I asked if I could run it in the Times. But for when? It didn't feel wacky enough for a Sunday variety puzzle, or open enough gridwise for a Saturday. So I scheduled it for a Thursday (today), which is typically the hardest theme day. I know this hybrid of a crossword/variety puzzle is not to everyone's taste. I'm prepared for the "hate" comments! Still, solvers who love this will probably really love it, so I think it's worth running.

BTW, I changed a few of the tournament clues to make them slightly easier and less trivia-oriented than the originals. For example, not all solvers may know that "Pinky or The Brain, e.g." (Patrick's clue at 1A) is a MOUSE, or that "Guitarist Saul Hudson of Guns N' Roses, familiarly" (28D) is SLASH. These would have been stumbling blocks for many solvers. So I tweaked the puzzle here and there (not much) to make it more accessible.

Meanwhile, I'm just happy to introduce Lollapuzzoola to a wider audience.


Tue 9/9/2014
LOBDACHASCRAG
AMOUPHOLDHELL
MANNERISMSUNIE
BROILCESABABA
NEMODUBLIN
ACCEDENATTY
SALTWALLSOCKET
AREEDSEASHAMU
POWERSTRIPERIN
NANASRCCOLA
PASSGOTOOK
ANTISTWOSEPIA
STYXFIELDTRIPS
TILTUNSEALKOI
ACEYRATTLYEDS
Anytime a puzzle contains triply-checked letters, like the circled ones here, there are likely to be compromises in the fill. The middle section of this grid has more unappealing entries than I like — especially CES, SDS, NLERS, ALAI, ASTA, SNO, and DAL. So the question becomes ... is the "aha" strong enough to outweigh the puzzle's weaknesses? In this case, obviously, I thought the answer was yes.
POW Fri 9/5/2014
OLDAGEPENSIONER
REEDUCATIONCAMP
RACETOTHEBOTTOM
VOSSKENS
WENTFEARHMO
ASSETALLOCATION
ITTOZMAISOLDE
TORINOCAPLET
IDUNNOROAMBRO
NICKELANDDIMING
GETDADAALDO
CHAWPOLA
PATRONAGEHIRING
GREATGRANDNIECE
STEMLESSGLASSES
I have a feeling today's puzzle won't be liked by some of the crossword bloggers, as the grid's vocabulary isn't the most scintillating, and it has a lot of three-letter words. Still, the fill is solid, and 17A, 38A, 25D, 26D and 43D are quite nice, so to me this is worthy. Most of all, the gimmick with the black squares is just ... wow!

Wed 9/3/2014
DEPPDECORMICA
OVEROCULOASAN
CANOFWORMSGANG
SCHMORECREATE
PRIVYCOUNCIL
DAKTARIENTS
ETASOCTANATTY
LIZWCHANDYERA
ITALOYETIPROD
KAOSOCEANIA
JOHNFKENNEDY
EASTSIDEIDOSO
SRTAHEADSTARTS
SEANAMPEDYEAH
EDNATASESSOYA
This puzzle reminds me of a supposed "themeless" crossword that Will Weng once ran, in which each of the long answers contained a synonym for "rear end." After publication, when the hidden theme was pointed out to him, the proper-minded Weng embarrassedly expressed regret about publishing it. I wonder what he would have thought about today's theme?!
Tue 9/2/2014
DAMNPLASMNASH
ODIERASTAUMNO
TEXTBOOKEXAMPLE
SNELLWIPE
ROOMTOIMPROVE
STRIVELABEL
PITSMREMELONS
LGABEERNUTEOE
ALBEITDESISMS
NOLANHUSTON
BOARDMEETINGS
FLATCEASE
COLLEGEEXPENSES
AREAIRKEDUSES
PEEPCOEDSEYRE
I'm very impressed with Ethan's clues. Most of these are his. Lots of good ones, but my favorites are 10D, 12D (I did not know that!), 32D and 38D. I also like 64A, which is a tricky answer to handle. When I consider submissions, I pretty much ignore the constructors' clues, which I know I can revise myself, if necessary. But I do give some preference to contributors (like Ethan) who I know write good clues, and I tend to publish their puzzles more quickly after acceptance.

Mon 9/1/2014
GIZAJAPESEGAD
ACEDIWONTMALI
PERLEMESTAMSGS
COALSHIPMATES
SUSIEQTHEARE
ABUMUSTYRUNIC
MEMOAKAPICKAT
DELIMEATS
NAPALMERRBASE
ETHYLSSGTSPEW
TRAIANYUPPIE
LOSESTEAMILES
OPELLEGALTEAMS
SHIMAZUREASIA
SYNSSEATSDECO
The published puzzle today looks quite different from what the constructor sent me. Allan had the theme answers running vertically, which I didn't see any reason for. So I switched the Acrosses and Downs, so the main theme entries would read the usual way. A couple of corners were polished, too. The thing I probably like most about this puzzle is the bonus, "explainer" theme entry, TAMES, at 30D, crossing the "M" of DELI MEATS. A very elegant touch.
POW Sun 8/31/2014HEARD AT THE MOVIES
MISSUSABROWSBVDTAG
ENLACESRENECLAIRAPR
CHALLAHBOWEDHEAVEBRA
CANVASOORTFBIMOON
ALTOHONDAWATTAFFRONT
SESBELSPOLEAYES
SALAAMINCELEM
DWELLFIERCESUSSLAVE
GRAILSTOONPAYTELL
NUTSOCAROLJINNENTO
AGETHUGODDFODDERTOR
SLRSYEASWUSSYUTURN
HARTPITCAREASHAME
WARDENHAIRYPEEPHOLE
STARAREHAMPER
INRECRABSAIDJAM
HOWTOUGHHAVERIGALOSE
AMISBEAOTOENLEAST
ZENBESTPICTUREWINNER
EGGINTERNEESSARDINE
LASOSSENTREEYELETS
My assistant Joel and I edited this puzzle together over a large pizza at a local pizzeria a few weeks ago. There wasn't a lot to edit, actually, as Joel writes good clues.

Fri 8/29/2014
CROWDSOURCEALE
HONORSYSTEMLAX
INANUTSHELLORC
REGMATELEBEAU
PLEBRERINEVIS
SYRUPRICOBEDE
CAPNEDROREM
RACHAELTOSPARE
EDHARRISMVP
ADENMACYPETIT
RICANTHARDAME
ETHNOSMMIVIGA
XINMARIACALLAS
IVYANDTHENSOME
TEARESTASSURED
While I don't place any arbitrary limit on the number of proper names in a puzzle — it all depends on how familiar they are, how they cross, and how they're clued — the high number of names in this puzzle definitely pushes the limit. A particular concern here was the combination of LEBEAU, EMLEN, and NEVIS in the upper-right. If you don't know these names, two of which are sports-related, you could be in trouble. This is the reason for the extra help in the clue for 21A.
Thu 8/28/2014
ADPAGESARBSIC
NEARISHMAESTRO
NOTASTEINATRAP
ARIBOLDNAVY
NOELOUTERARM
NEPHEWSRECUE
ITTROANISNTIT
DIARISTMODERNE
EGRESSWAWAESS
SEETOFACADES
TRAINCARRSVP
TWADDLEASIA
TANLINEOFFSETS
SISENORMODELAS
ARCGESBRASALE
Is BRA SALE (63A) a legitimate crossword entry? Is it a "thing"? I debated a long time about this, ultimately deciding it sneaked by. Sometimes a good clue can salvage a weak entry, and I thought this one made the answer work.

Tue 8/26/2014
PRISMDEBTHAUL
SANTAAREAOGRE
ADARKMARCOPOLO
LILIESTONE
MILKPUNCHADLIB
EELERSFINE
TETATNOAMOEBA
ONEACREIFORGET
PENNEYACROEDS
IMONSHEETS
CYRUSMISSPIGGY
LASEHONORE
MENLOPARKINDIA
PANECREENERDS
SUEDASSNTRYST
Two for tennis A few weeks ago Vic Fleming visited me at my home in Pleasantville, N.Y., on his drive from the South to New England. We played table tennis at my club, had dinner together, and talked shop. Good fun. He's not a bad table tennis player either! Dinner would have included Vic's friend Bill Clinton, who's a big New York Times crossword solver, and who lives in next-door Chappaqua — but, unfortunately, Clinton was away that evening.
Mon 8/25/2014
STEMASSTPABST
TOTEPOLOROUTE
ALTAPROFELMOS
BLUNDERBUSSBLT
TRAYSTETLEY
ZESTERTENSE
INTOWGAMETABLE
NYUMYBADEAT
CAMERAMANUPEND
BEAMSPHASES
APLOMBAKRON
LIEBOBBLEHEADS
LABELONUSLEAK
INUSELETTERIE
NOMADORZODOSE
One tiny thing I debated on this puzzle was whether or not to clue UH-OH (42D) as "Oops!," as the main theme answers are. But doing so would naturally have led solvers to look at its symmetrical mate, DREW (21D), which cannot be clued as "Oops!," causing a letdown. It would have looked like the constructor had tried to do something but failed. So ultimately I decided to clue 42D nonthematically.

POW Sat 8/23/2014
AMBITFOULBEDS
PEACEADZEARIA
EACHCLUEINPSST
XTCSACTATAMI
FADPEPSSITAR
ERROLTHEPUZZLE
SEAGODATONE
PETSULLIEDSTY
MEDEATEMPER
ISMISSINGROLES
QUASIAXONBIT
TINCTSAAATEA
ETTUTHELETTERN
SOREAUDIOWNED
TRASTRUEPADDY
Big props to Frank Longo for helping me edit this puzzle, which jointly took us many, many hours. More than half of the clues are editorial changes. Our goal was to write clues that sound as normal as possible. Most of them, I think, turned out pretty well. And the ones that don't sound normal (like "Umber at the opera," "Sci-fi character remembered for her large bus," and especially "Program that asks 'Are we aloe?,' e.g.") show a wacky humor. I know some solvers will hate this — it's not a crossword, blah, blah, blah — but once in a while, it's nice to shake things up.
Fri 8/22/2014
BBQSANDWICHHEH
SAUDIARABIAINO
TRAINSIGNALBAM
AHIGAVETEAMO
ROLLEEWESDCON
SPAYFRANKGEHRY
STEALROYALISM
MILSLR
ITSMAGICIPADS
DEEPTHROATARTY
CATETRAPPHYLA
AMIGARAGAFUN
RUNBLISTERPACK
DSTLAKEONTARIO
SAOEZERWEIZMAN
As I may have mentioned once, SDI (4D) is an entry I'd like to ban from crosswords, as it's a long out-of-date initialism. But here, since it crosses the lovely stack of BBQ SANDWICH, SAUDI ARABIA, and TRAIN SIGNAL, I had to make an exception.

Tue 8/19/2014
MEDALSCAPTURES
BIALIKGROUPONS
ARTIFICIALBRAIN
SEETHAENDS
QUASHPDA
GETUPTHECOURAGE
OREORUSTKIX
LASDOROTHYIVE
ASLATOIAVER
NEARTOONESHEART
USEENTER
STABZACDRE
YELLOWBRICKROAD
NAKEDEYEKLUTZY
CLASSISMSENSES
This Tuesday-level puzzle is timed to coincide (as closely as possible) to the 75th anniversary of "The Wizard of Oz," which will be next Monday. The intersection of HEROINE (23D) through three theme entries is particularly elegant. The circled O-Z in the lower-right is a nice touch, too.
Sun 8/17/2014SITTIN' SOLVE
WHATNASASWABTLC
PHILOODINNOBUHEE
WRITINWRONGAWAYWEGO
DEISTIOSGORPCIARA
JACKINCOKEROCKINROLL
SKYNOSESWATHELDOPA
IMFROTISASHAKAN
SPATIALLOLLTHARIDE
NEWSSTANDLEDAGGRESS
AREASRAPVIDEOEEO
GEDSBARRINGRILLBING
INOCONGEALSHOMIE
EVENINGSERISTHATALL
LEAPERMSAHLSOURCES
MRSPREOPCASESLY
STYLIGRAVENMINIZEE
TIMINAGAINSHOWINTELL
COMTEYNEZAJAOASIS
MANPURSECUTTINPASTE
ALECITEKNEENUTTY
PSYKEELSEERAPSE
At one time Caleb was the youngest crossword constructor I had published in the Times — just 15 years 3 months old when he made his debut in 2008. When 14-year-old Ben Pall came along and debuted in 2009, beating Caleb's record, Caleb shook his fist in indignation and screamed "No-o-o-o!!" Or so he told me. Anyway, I replied that Caleb will now have to live to be the oldest New York Times crossword constructor in order to hold an age record again. This past Monday, Bernice Gordon set a new "oldest" record of 100 years 7 months, so Caleb (or anyone else) has a real challenge.

As for the puzzle, Caleb, in his typical way, packed the grid with lots of modern culture like CIARA, KESHA, SASHA (Fierce), EMOJI, VINES, ZUNE, a character from "Inglorious Basterds," a quote from "Anchorman" (the last two of which I removed), and one or two "young" references I didn't even understand myself.

I do think there's a place in the Times for a puzzle like this that skews young — just as there's a place for puzzles that skew old. Over time I hope things balance out.


Fri 8/15/2014
ZAZUPCBSBABKA
SLIMERLEAPLAN
APPLEPIESNOURI
CARIBBEANSEA
AMOUNTSRETTON
REDTEAHAIRLIKE
CHESSMOCSETES
TIRADES
ATMSMERCHAJJI
RHAPSODYAILEEN
RELIEFRANLATE
PACIFICOCEAN
TIRESSUPERGLUE
ILIUMABELEURO
CLAPSKARLSCIS
I think Jeff intended 16A, A PLAN, to be a bonus theme entry, since it's part of the classic palindrome "A man, a plan, a canal — Panama." Also, 37D, MALARIA, is sort of thematic, since this disease famously plagued the construction of the Panama Canal. But I couldn't think of a way to clue these in reference to the theme that wasn't awkward or that didn't give the theme away. The fact that they didn't have symmetrical theme answers on the other side of the grid was a concern as well. So even though the entries relate to the theme, the puzzle doesn't explicitly say so. They're Easter eggs, of a sort.

One clue note: Jeff's original clue for 48A, RELIEF, was "Marketers spelled it with seven letters ending in an S" — in reference to the old Rolaids catchphrase "How do you spell relief? R-O-L-A-I-D-S". My 22-year old assistant Joel had no idea what this clue meant. Apparently the old Rolaids ad campaign has not stood the test of time. Since I generally like solvers to understand clues, at least after they see the answers, I decided to do something else.

Thu 8/14/2014
LTDSERRPALS
SHOPALEAHOLIC
DELIBEPIERATE
GENTVALLEBEN
TAOSAIRDARE
EMUCITROENMAR
LETMEBEANOMALY
REEDDEMO
DELILAHTRAITOR
EMOOMICRONOBI
LEARGREHOED
UNDERHUSPASS
IDIDNWITTDOIT
SENDSASLANOTE
EDGYYEEONYX
As Jason noted, when I first accepted this puzzle last spring, the answer at 16A was PEROG/ATIVE. Perhaps I didn't notice the misspelling because the entry was broken into two parts. Anyway, it wasn't until I came to editing that I thought "Hmm, that doesn't look right." I returned the grid to Jason for a fix — which he managed to do with even better fill than before. I hope the puzzle's trick gives solvers a nice "aha!"

Wed 8/13/2014
STEPPEBUGJUICE
MENIALUNIONREP
ANGERMANAGEMENT
CARTINSILOS
HERBRICWISP
ANDIALLATINGLE
STENTUSERNOW
SHORTHAIR
MOBANATSEEYA
THEBREWERSICED
GOYAROCKLSD
ONCEABROKAW
LANGUAGEBARRIER
OCCURREDWEIRDO
DEEPENDSLASSOS
I debated for a long time whether or not to highlight the four hidden language names in this puzzle's grid ... but ultimately decided it would be more enjoyable if solvers had to find the hidden names themselves. Hope I'm right!
Sun 8/10/2014NUMBER-ONE FRIENDS
ESSBETAARFBACHROZ
MOPAVOWBYUENYAEWE
BIOHEREXCELLENCYXER
ORTSRISEOPALOHSO
SERAPENADIRORNATE
SEEFITONENDPEDROS
MATTSNOLLEUSHER
BOORSTESTRIDESACIDS
OBVIATESCIEDRINKSIN
ROEWHITEHOUSEDOGOEO
GERMANAGCLAWSNUB
INNBOWWOWACU
MALLOALTAROEGUNSER
ONELBSIRIOPIEENTRE
ANGIEASIFTESSBYAGE
NEWELLHPSERSPISTOL
MASSESSODIUM
PERMTOMATOPASTEDEEM
RAMABUDDYSYSTEMETTU
ORELESCAPEROUTEUTES
MARLACMEOFFSPERK
An earlier version of this puzzle had the answer CHECKERS MATCH at 24A, clued as "'Jumping' competition [the Nixons]". One of the puzzle testers, though, Frank Longo, pointed out that the Nixons' dog Checkers died in 1964, five years before Nixon took office, so Checkers was never a WHITE HOUSE DOG (62A). That was a great catch, preventing an error from getting into print. On top of that, Frank reworked the upper-middle portion of the grid with the new theme entry HER EXCELLENCY. Thank god for Frank!

Fri 8/8/2014
GANGNAMLEAPSAT
AMERICAOILRICH
SOMETHINGSFISHY
OREEDYSASTER
HOSESOSMISO
OSISONEUPSNOI
LOSERSTAILEND
ROCNGO
ALLTHATSONNETS
LEEERITUINRE
ATANSTANCAD
MINEDRUBEALIA
ONTHEWATERFRONT
DOORMATLOOKSEE
ENSUITETOPSEED
In the first version of this puzzle, which I sent to test-solvers, the clues for 17A and 58A did not reference the three swimming "fish" symbolized by black squares in the middle of the grid. However, after only one of the four testers noticed the fish, I added bracketed remarks so that solvers could appreciate the extra layer to the mini-theme.
Thu 8/7/2014
LENDSMCATLUSH
ADOUTARCHASIA
DITSYNOCOMMENT
ISITJUSTMEOR
DOOMOPSMUNIS
ANNIKASTORAGE
TACKIERMOW
ARETHEREOTHER
FLUINSPIRE
SANREMOKISSER
UNSETCIAGAYE
ANAGRAMSOFEM
KATESPADEITISI
FLAWAGRAVIRUS
CABSSEENSTEPS
While I don't usually like quip themes so much, this joke seemed fresh and made me laugh. It's a shame about the three entries containing "IT" (20A, 58A and 38D). But because "it" is such a minor word, this duplication doesn't bother me so much.

Wed 8/6/2014
JUJUBLOTFRAS
EVANROTHCLOTH
TAXIRITAAETNA
CORNONTHECOQ
ASHENKANT
THEFAQFOURESTA
MIATBARBROIL
OFTISADORAINC
STUMPERASTKO
TYPOJERRYQUILT
DORMUPSET
QUEENSIZEQED
UTILENONUICBM
INNERELOIKOBE
DEEDMASKESQS
I've noticed that the crossword blogs often comment on constructors jamming in the high-value Scrabble letters (J, Q, X and Z). It's a good point that these shouldn't be used to the overall detriment of the fill. However, by virtue of their rareness, they tend to increase the freshness of a puzzle's vocabulary. So all things being equal, I like them. Case in point: the upper-left corner in Brendan's puzzle, which has two J's and an X.
POW Tue 8/5/2014
COBSHOSTMARSH
ALOEABLEALOHA
PETERSOUTCAMRY
NOTSOERRSDEED
LAMBPATSDOWN
BREWPUBALI
OAFSGISTINSEL
NNEJACKSUPOXO
ODDJOBYETOREO
AGOTEMPEST
MARKSOFFSAUL
IDEASALTGLOSS
LIARSCARRIESON
NORTHERIENEHI
ESSAYTEMPTROT
Lynn Lempel is always a joy to edit because a) her grids are so clean and b) her clues are so good. I rewrote only eight clues in her entire puzzle.

POW Fri 7/4/2014
TAKESTOBOATER
ONALEASHIMBUSY
AGRICOLAPIERCE
DEMOSOVIETNAB
SLATEENDPERE
NOVASFUDGE
MARGINOFERROR
BEFOREIFORGET
BATTLESCARRED
ETHELFERMI
STARPOTSALMA
TEDFURROWSAAB
IROBOTIRISHPUB
RUNOUTPETPEEVE
SPEARSSTANLEY
Hi Jeff,

While I don't award "points" to crossword entries (as in your example), your general way of assessing crossword quality is the same as mine.

When I look at any crossword submission, which I prefer to do on paper, I mark up the answer grid — a check mark for an entry I like (on rare occasions two checks for one I really, really like), a minus for an entry I don't, and an "x" for one that's wrong or truly awful. The size of the mark indicates the depth of my feeling about it, so a bit of crosswordese might get a small minus, a stupid obscurity a big one.

When I'm done, I pull back and look at the puzzle overall to make a decision. An "x," of course, almost always means rejection. If there are no x's, then I judge whether there are enough entries that excite me to outweigh the ones that don't.

You're right that too many minuses will sink a puzzle even if there's lots of good stuff. I don't set an arbitrary limit on weak entries, but more than five, especially if they're bad, will put the puzzle in dangerous territory.

The bar for acceptance keeps getting raised. Many of the puzzles I published 10 years ago wouldn't be accepted today. Even marginal yeses of a year or two ago might be nos now.

That said, to me crossword quality is a matter of balance. Unlike some other editors and commenters on the crossword blogs, I will accept some crosswordese and obscurity in a puzzle (assuming it's fairly crossed and clued), if the upside is strong enough. Sometimes I think it's worth having a subpar entry in order to set up other material that's great. The greater the great stuff, a little more subpar there can be. Squeaky clean isn't always best.

My bottom line is that a puzzle should be judged as a whole, as ordinary solvers judge puzzles, not on just the least appealing entries.

Mon 3/24/2014
BLOWADIEUWOES
YOGANESTSILSA
FILTHYRICHLEAN
ARETOOTHECLOUD
REDANGRAD
GREASYSPOONS
CEDEDSTEINVAL
EXAMSPURNPEPE
LITGHENTACNED
STAINEDGLASS
RAEERNCHA
SPLITPEAGENDER
IRASDIRTYWORDS
ZONEONEALLOGO
EWESGESTEOMEN
This week's Monday-Thursday puzzles were used for the Akron Crossword Puzzle Tournament. Here are some notes from the organizer, Deb Papa:

"Before we began Puzzle #3 I shared your information about Alex Vratsanos being a 21-year-old college student that you had purchased a first puzzle from when he was 18-years-old. The room buzzed with excitement as the competitors discussed this amongst themselves. Thank you for this information, everyone enjoyed learning something about the puzzle maker.

You had also emailed that Puzzle #4 had a tricky theme. I didn't let anyone know until after the championship round. This was the first time no one finished the championship puzzle 100% correct! None of the finalists answered 28 across correctly. (They didn't get the "2" in the first box.)

Since this was our 5th year of tournament, I have also compiled some statistics. In 5 years we have had 10 different people on the Auditorium stage for the Championship Round. Of these 10 people, 3 have been on stage twice and 1 woman has been on stage an amazing three times!

Before we began, during intermissions, and even afterward at least six different people approached me thanking the library for having this tournament. They appreciate that it is well-organized and enjoy working the crossword puzzles that you send. Thank you once again for the crossword puzzles for the 5th Annual Akron Crossword Puzzle Tournament. We are already looking forward to next year!"


Thu 2/27/2014
SCARCEFACADE
OHIOANAMAZIN
DONTTALKABOUT
MASTSMOEARRID
APEYEAPLENTY
YOURSELFWESALE
APPALLSOARLED
GOLFOPEL
ARPBOBSODISTS
SEATWILLDOTHAT
IDIOCYOASRNA
ARDORAMYWHINY
AFTERYOULEAVE
FOODIEPORTER
TROOPSSTEELY
While I have the greatest respect for Stan, both as an editor and a person, I don't completely agree with his puzzle philosophy. Specifically, I don't think crosswords have to avoid all difficult words. A crossword consists of two parts, apart from any theme — the grid and the clues. In my opinion the challenge can come from either part. Completing an interesting difficult answer can be just as rewarding to the solver as solving an interesting difficult clue.

By an "interesting difficult" answer I don't mean an insect genus or a 50-mile-long river in Russia. I mean something that's stimulating, amusing and/or useful to know. Honest people can disagree about what words meet this criterion. But presumably someone who likes crosswords also likes learning words and exploring the richness of the English language. This means that crosswords don't need to be limited to the 10,000-20,000 most common words — which can get overused besides.

Another problem with Stan's philosophy is that it can lead to blandness of vocabulary and overcaution in themes. I don't judge a puzzle by its worst entries. I judge it by its overall effect. An ambitious theme may require compromises. A great entry or combination of entries may require compromises. I think average solvers judge a puzzle on its balance. I do, too.

So I admire Stan's "fussiness" and attention to using only common vocabulary. I'm happy to publish crosswords of this sort. I just don't think every crossword has to be like this.

Tue 2/4/2014
HODSBASKJOJO
ANONILIESODOI
JKROWLINGBOSOM
JPMORGANMAHALO
ZOESSECLAN
EXJETLAHTI
ARBEATSINENVY
RAFTCROCIAGEE
LYLEHANKERERS
ENJOYABRAM
POTJOSMONA
INCAPSJMBARRIE
NEHRUJCDITHERS
ELECTATITOMIT
BROZISISPOSE
(Will is taking a break from contributing Notes so he can focus on preparing for the upcoming American Crossword Puzzle Tournament.)

Mon 2/3/2014
ACTSLADYPORCH
LOOPELIAADIEU
EMIRAMOKROBOT
CALENDARYEAR
ELSADDIMP
IMOCHUCKYEAGER
SARASOTASINAI
ARCSTENPMDINO
ASHESDIAMETER
CHICKENYARDERS
SYDIOUTSP
CANARYYELLOW
GATORNOIRAERO
OHARECOPETACO
PARKAEKEDORAL
A little crossword news: the 15th Westport Public Library Crossword Contest was held this past Saturday. About 120 crossword enthusiasts from Connecticut and New York competed. The puzzles consisted of the Monday-Wednesday NY Times puzzles (Feb. 3-5) plus the Thursday from the following week (Feb. 13).

Andrew Kravis, of Manhattan, was the first in the room to finish each of Puzzles #1-#3, in approximately 3:05, 3:15, and 3:40, respectively.

On the playoff puzzle, #4, conducted on large boards among the top three solvers, Glen Ryan was the first to finish, in 8:05 but sadly, he left a square blank. Andrew finished right behind him, in 8:17, and his solution was complete and perfect, so he won. Jesse Lansner finished perfectly in 10:37, so he was second. Glen took third.

Here's a photo of me with the winners.

Sun 2/2/2014TOIL AND TROUBLE
HAWSLEERSATUNUM
OLINSINREACHWHOLE
REDEEMTERMITEKAHUNA
EXERCISERSDURANDURAN
BANDOLEROPOLOSHIRT
KIATCMBIC
HOWCOSTEAUOAKSTSA
INHALFINAKNOTKOSHER
HEAVEHOOLEICENTREES
ANTEUHOHTACOASTO
TDSBMINORROCOCOCON
DORAEPITAPHKATO
SNOWINFELICIAWRITHE
IONESKYEESEREHEATED
NEEKIELDHSMOODIRE
GLIBNELLTENSASSN
SENDSEABIRDTOSH
ORDAINWILLFULHOTPOT
TOODLEOOIONICEHOLES
TANSSHOCOOFORRANK
ODESOPEDTEWEYOS
This puzzle has everything — a fresh, literary theme, beautifully executed, with a bonus visual element, and a handsome construction to boot. Besides the theme I like DURAN DURAN, POLO SHIRT, IN A KNOT, HEAVE-HO, IONE SKYE, HOT POT, TOODLE-OO, NO HOPE, and THE ROBOT. This should make for a relaxing few hours for most solvers ... or a "relaxing" 6-8 minutes for crossword champion Dan Feyer!

Sat 2/1/2014
BARBARABUSHBEE
EQUIVALENCERRR
FASCINATIONOIL
OBESDRAFTWAKE
GASMOMMYLEDS
MAMBAMADCAP
AHEADEXFOLIATE
CARROLLLEADSIN
EMILNOLDEKITES
DOCENTEXMET
MANAFSTARMEW
ZEKEKLEINPISA
ALAYOURMAJESTY
GENOLIVEGARDEN
STEUNDEREXPOSE
This puzzle by Canadian Will Nediger has a lot of fine vocabulary. My favorite entries, besides BARBARA BUSH at 1A, are YOUR MAJESTY, OLIVE GARDEN, HAM OMELET, ERICA KANE, ALARM BELL, BETAMAX, FLEX-TIMER, L.A. LAKER, ERIK SATIE, and WE DID IT. And hardly anything undesirable. That's expert puzzle-making!
Fri 1/31/2014
LETSDOTHISTHING
ANIMATIONSTUDIO
HADALONGWAYTOGO
AMICISTALUNGS
BEEKBEINGSOLE
ALSVALETEDTED
NEUTERDOTES
ADPAGESFELTTIP
XAXISVOYAGE
AMASAMISENCOT
RANDMULANNOTE
ARAILLEUGABOR
BANDEDANTEATERS
ICANNOTTELLALIE
CASTONESSPELLON
I accepted this puzzle by Chris only recently, but liked it so much that I moved it to the top of the pile. A gorgeous construction.

Thu 1/30/2014
PISMOBURYERGO
AMPEDAREAPEEK
WHATSBLACKWHITE
NOMEELLAEENSY
OSAYLOAM
ANDREDALLOVER
LEETYROHERETO
AMAJDUDACID
NOLOSSSOARADO
THISNEWSPAPER
ADIAAKIN
VERNERAGEKIEV
ASUNBURNEDPANDA
MANENOIRARDEN
PUTSOWLSWAYNE
This is only the sixth Times crossword I've published that has two different "correct" solutions (these are the other five). This time, tho, the two different solutions hinge on just one square. The critical clue at 24D is quite pretty. I like the punchline at 63A, too.
Wed 1/29/2014
SALAFEDUPJPEG
EMITILOSEOAST
ROBEVITAEHYPO
ULYSSESSGRANT
MEATYESQONE
SNEAKUNPIN
PRSELGINBAYLOR
HOHOSINAICABO
ADAMSANDLERYEN
SIDEASALAD
ENOBITVEILS
WOODROWWILSON
DEBIEATERMOPE
ENOLACTIIALEE
WAXYSKORTRAZR
How did Michael find the four examples of this lovely theme? I have no idea. For consistency's sake I do wish they'd all been either like 37A and 59A, with the three circled letters together, or like 20A and 44A, where the circles are separated. But that's probably asking too much. Anyway, having two of each type at least maintains a balance.

Tue 1/28/2014
STEMILKSSITUP
PAPANOAHCOWLS
ACIDFORARUINS
SOCCERMAMBOSAT
AVASTALOT
SAPPERSPLITUP
NTHREACHSNARE
AEONDROOPKEGS
FINEDCLEARBET
UNEARTHRIGORS
BRANDIANA
PSISTRUCKDUMBO
ALLOTOBOECOAT
RABBILANEHART
STOICLISTONTO
Themes like today's that work phonetically are usually funnier than ones that go by spelling. And going by my funnybone, all four theme answers today are good.
POW Mon 1/27/2014
STABUHOHMACHO
TRUESOLOALLEN
AIRTRAVELGEESE
LEASEIDUNNO
LDSPEACEKEEPER
PENNMETAMA
LIFELINEOATEN
IRISDOLCEBRED
KABOBFACECARD
ENOLOSROWS
DINNERTABLESHE
AENEIDRAPID
NICADTIMESHARE
CACTICELLADEN
ONIONHUBSBEDS
While "words that go with" sorts of themes have become quite common, this one is a cut above the rest, in my opinion, because the shared word, TIME, connects with both halves of the other theme entries. That's elegant. Also, there are five theme examples, besides the "revealer," which is a lot. And the revealer itself is fun.

Sat 1/25/2014
ZOMBIESWAMPED
ANOMALYSOSUEME
GETINTOWRITEIN
ATOSODADAINTY
TORANEWTONS
ROCCOLOAFMSGS
AMYTANLPGAULU
TACITUSSOBERUP
ENLSMOGDELETE
DYESBOOBSHEER
TESTBANINNS
UNLOCKSNEEOFT
RAINOUTDRLAURA
NUTELLASTINGER
STERILESASHES
I accepted today's puzzle by James Mulhern in August 2012. A few weeks ago, just as I was editing it, he wrote me again out of the blue that he wanted to improve the construction. Was there time, he wondered? Well, yes. Good timing. And he made the grid better, too. I admire James's attention to quality.
Fri 1/24/2014
ARCTICWHOSTHAT
WAHINEHOWAREYA
STANCEAMENAMEN
PLEARTESDARK
AOKSMOTEHENS
MILEHIGHCLUB
ISISSUESTOPIT
CONCISEYESORNO
ONEARMSUVKOOK
PEERPRESSURE
TRESAETNADDS
HEIRAWESLIME
ESPOUSEDSITARS
PLEASEGOAVERTS
SANDBAGSCANYON
Not surprisingly, Ian's puzzle is the first Times crossword ever to have the entry MILE-HIGH CLUB. The term was probably a little too racy for my predecessors. But how to clue it? Ian's clue was "Group getting some air play?" I liked the misdirection of this, but the usage of the word "play" here felt too loose — and maybe too racy for the Times audience. Another clue I considered was "Group whose membership qualifications are up in the air?" — but that felt too easy. And "Set of screws on an airplane?" was just too rude. So I finally settled on what you see here.

Thu 1/23/2014
FIGJONASSUME
INOAVECSLURRY
EVAMIMITENSER
NEWKIDONTHEBADE
DRAINDUETS
STYXSHEBOOZE
WHEREBUXOM
BUTCHERBPARTIES
ATSEAAQABA
AZULLUNEDREW
LANDOSUEDE
ICEBBUSTERMOVIE
DONALDELOIEBB
APOGEESEARALI
SEWERSARKLET
This is the second day in a row in which a Times constructor is making a debut. Michael Hawkins hails from Gastonia, N.C. The print and online versions of his puzzle necessarily have different numbering. The print version is the first puzzle I can remember in which the solver is supposed to number some of the black squares — either present or (as in this case) missing!
Wed 1/22/2014
LOBSHISTTHESW
ACREINTOABATE
STANGUAMLETUS
HANSCHRISTIAN
ANDERSENRAMONA
TESLABUSFIX
EVICTEDCAKE
HANSELANDGRETEL
ONESLESSEES
SKATENLAMER
THROWSPANORAMA
BROTHERSGRIMM
ABEARATTYITIS
TIETONEONTATE
HBREWKROCZITS
Constructor Jared Banta of Superior, Colo., makes his debut today with a very clever theme idea. Generally solvers (especially new ones) don't expect a rebus element on a Wednesday, so I'm girding myself for complaints about the lower-left and upper-right corners.

Tue 1/21/2014
WORDWOODWOOT
CIDERABLEEBRO
OLDIETEEMMEMO
REENACTSIMARET
DERIDEEASED
NEDSBENEATH
CABDAVISSICKO
OWENRESETTITO
REVELLENINDST
KEYWESTTEES
STEEPRUPIAH
CARWAXLISTENTO
OGEEUPASRETRO
ORNEALTAADRIP
KOOKLOOKLOOP
Todd's grid ended up with a lot more crossword-y stuff than I like — especially WILE E, OBER, OR ME, ORNE, UP AS, AGRO, A-WEE, ISE, ADRIP, and A TRIP. But a theme like this, with fixed answers around the perimeter, is difficult to pull off, and I think the result here is worth the compromises. On the plus side, I like KEY WEST, CAR WAX, NEWSWEEK, and especially WE MADE IT.
Mon 1/20/2014
HDTVTUDORPUPS
AROOIRANIAPIA
LINCOLNMEMORIAL
SPEARPAIRINGS
BEDELETTEA
JETCIVILRIGHTS
AMAKEENZOE
MIKAMLKJRDAWN
ETDEPOSIII
IHAVEADREAMRNA
NESUSEGRAB
ATTACKADREMIX
WEAREFREEATLAST
ARNEOMANIOMAR
YODARENDSWAWA
11D and 29D in this puzzle both run through two horizontal theme entries. I appreciate it when a constructor takes the time and effort, as here, to find lively answers for these important spots.

Liz, btw, is the first Times constructor to benefit from the paper's new pay rate — $300 for a daily puzzle. That's still not a lot, considering the amount of time and skill it takes to create a first-class crossword. But it's a lot better than the $40 that The Times paid when I started in 1993. And it's much more than any other daily newspaper currently pays. I will keep working to increase the rate further, because the contributors deserve it.


Sat 1/18/2014
BANANAGRAMSUSM
ADOBEREADERGEE
TIJUANATAXIGAG
EDITERASABRA
SAVCLUTCHSOON
SETHPALOPOUF
AECTERZETTO
ILOVELAFAIRSEX
FACEPALMENS
IVARREUPGEEZ
DARNACROSSRAG
ITISIDIPWANE
DONTAXONOMISTS
IRAEJECTORSEAT
TYSSASHAFIERCE
David Steinberg, who turned 17 in November, was the most published constructor in the Times last year. He had 15 puzzles published in 2013, nosing out Ian Livengood, who had 12.
Fri 1/17/2014
SHOREHOTELBARS
MOPEDANIMALFAT
ONELSSANITARIA
GENIEASIRECALL
GYMCLASSESKIEL
IBISMEIRTODDS
EEKBOASFOP
REENACTLISSOME
OTOMANSPAY
SAABSLEVIJAKE
ARGODIMESTORES
BEETHOVENRATSO
ONTHEMENDANION
TOWELETTEINSUM
STORMDOORLATTE
Kevin Der makes a crackerjack themeless. Entries here I like include HOTEL BARS, ANIMAL FAT, AS I RECALL, GYM CLASSES, DIME STORES, BEETHOVEN, STORM DOOR, HONEYBEE, OPEN MIKE, NO BOTHER, BLACK OPS, OP ARTIST and EYES ON ME. That's a lot of nice stuff! Nothing really bad either.

Thu 1/16/2014
HOGADAMLARSON
ANECDOTEAMANDA
CANOEISTDOTEON
KNEWTEEDICERS
REFARFHRS
STARESLACES
CATSUPGODOT
HOEDOTTEDIREA
PAIRSUNBELT
BELLAPEOPLE
VANPJSDRE
DOTAGEATMZAHN
AIMLOWYOUDOTOO
PLATTENUTRIENT
SANYOSETTUDEE
The thing I like most about this puzzle is that every one of the six I's in the grid has D-O-T immediately over it. In other words, there are no I's left "undotted."
Wed 1/15/2014
JACOBCODABABA
AROMAASAPAFEW
GEOGRAPHYBSTAR
SAPBLEATPIETY
LATHOSIER
EMBEROWNUPNSC
VOLTAIREMEMOIR
ADAMONLYUAONE
DECEITLIPSYNCS
ELKBADGEHATES
ERASELOON
FOYERCADRECUE
EVENCARIBBEANC
MADDONINOWETO
ALPSSTAGXENON
Bernice Gordon turned 100 last Saturday. This puzzle makes her the first known centenarian ever to have a crossword in the Times (or anywhere else for that matter).

I had the honor of attending a beautiful birthday party for Bernice in Philadelphia on Sunday — an elegant affair at the Four Seasons hotel downtown. About 70-80 people attended, mostly family and friends. I was the only puzzle person besides Bernice herself. The event was covered by the AP, the Philadelphia Inquirer, and the local ABC station. The Inquirer reporter asked me why I published Bernice's puzzles — what makes them special? Well, I said, first, she still constructs a mean puzzle. I think today's is one of her best. Second, a lot of solvers know Bernice's story and are thrilled every time they see her byline. And, third, I just revere Bernice and want to honor her 60+ year record of making crosswords for The Times. I hope to keep publishing her when she's 101 and beyond.


Tue 1/14/2014
JIVEJAZZHOKUM
UBERAGEEACURA
MARSINNSDERAT
PRATTLETWADDLE
ROWBMTA
HOTAIRANDRAPS
ADOUTGLASSNAT
BILGEROTTRIPE
ILLRHONEREGAL
TESHIKEBUSHWA
AOKYARN
BLATHERHOGWASH
LEFTSATYAECHO
ATRIANSECBLIN
HOOEYTOSHBUNK
An 82-word construction is four words over my usual maximum for a daily puzzle, but this is done to accommodate — count 'em — 16 theme answers. They're all nice ones, too. A very elegant construction.
POW Mon 1/13/2014
OFFERPLUSCOP
NOLTEEONSEROS
TREATPHONECALL
HAWIOTAVILLA
ESSRHONEVALLEY
GOOSESAIDYDS
ONLYSERIES
GONEBALLISTIC
CALMLYERAS
FARSOBFAMINE
STONEWALLEDSIP
TOMEIOUZOHST
ONEANDALLPASTE
PARTACLUTWEET
LOOBESSSEARS
For someone solving this crossword from top to bottom, the puzzle's structure is like a joke. You wonder where the theme is going and then … boom! the punchline comes at the end (58A). Very pretty. As always, Lynn's construction is gorgeous, too.

Sun 1/12/2014IT'S ONLY "A" GAME
DEWARFLOWCHAPMALE
EXILERARELABANIMAL
CASABLANCAFALALALALA
OMENONESCANTODDSON
ATOZNEALSSMEE
TABLETBOLTSSTARWARS
BLADECLUCESARBOT
SOFATHATCHONUPERDE
PETCHOCULAIDDODAHL
ASHEKROSSMETRICAL
AMANAPLANACANALPANAMA
RAWONIONKAMENIPAD
CRAWTUDETOADIESABS
HIRESITSCARATSABLE
ENDSATCHELSENRON
RASTAMANICOSAISAACS
UTESSLANTSMOG
ADORESPAINEGPARAJA
MAGNACARTABALACLAVAS
PYROMANIAICESAMICI
MOENLIMNTEEMOSAKA
In 2002 I published a crossword by Patrick Berry in which the only vowel in the entire grid was A, so I wasn't so impressed here that just the theme answers are univocalic. But the twist of the theme clues also having A as the only vowel? Love it! Fourteen theme entries in a Sunday puzzle is impressive, too.
Sat 1/11/2014
CANADABLUEGRASS
TRADITIONALIRAS
NAVALENGAGEMENT
STEMLESSGLASSES
LAYHIES
CDRSKISOSPAD
RAIDRAPSNEALE
INNOWAYITSALOT
SIGMAORZORENO
POSSUMOERSEX
KERTSAT
OBSCENEGESTURES
POTASSIUMIODIDE
ELEPHANTTRAINER
DENTALASSISTANT
I love a puzzle that has supersmooth fill. But at times I also like to see how far the English language can be pushed, even if there are a few compromises as a result — as long as the overall effect is good. Martin Ashwood-Smith is a master of quad-stacks, and this construction is gorgeous.