Constructors' CommentsSam Ezersky: Neville has a knack for whipping up a mean themeless, and I'd wanted to make a puzzle with him for quite some time. The one you see now was born over a brunch we met up for in Charlottesville, while I was still attending UVA. I can't remember my exact thought progression, but it was probably something like me begging Neville for a collaboration, Neville generously accepting, and us actually getting serious later on when we realized through our other nerdy, mathy conversations that ABSTRACT ALGEBRA was 15 letters.
Our real starting point for the gridwork was that gorgeous SW stack: Neville had BLOG????/LIFEHACK/ENTRY FEE written down in a notebook, which he showed me that same day, and I was able to cobble together a black square pattern around it that preserved our central seed. That NW corner is all Neville's as well—CLOUD CITY might not resonate with every last solver, but it's one of my favorites in the puzzle nonetheless.
Meanwhile, my main contribution was one that Neville had no control over: procrastinating for months and months instead of SITTING DOWN TO WRITE HALF THE CLUES UGH C'MON SAM SRSLY GET IT TOGETHER. Since our brunch, I've 1) graduated from college, 2) become the New York Times's assistant puzzles editor, and 3) dabbled in other puzzles along the way. That's all to say . . . I'm so thrilled this is finally seeing publication, with a great home under David's top-notch editorship to boot.
Huge thanks to Neville for the joy of stitching this one together. Hope you enjoy the puzzle!
Neville Fogarty: Most of what Sam said is accurate, but there's a point of contention here. Sam's the themeless expert between the two of us. Dude's had over a dozen killer themeless puzzles in The New York Times, and I remember an excellent Puzzle Society themeless of his from just a couple of months ago. I was definitely the one doing the begging! He is far and away the real MVP here, and it was a pleasure to get to collaborate with him. My favorite clues in this puzzle are Ezersky originals, and they were certainly worth the wait.
Big thanks to David for running this puzzle, and I hope every solver enjoys an AHA moment or two while solving.