Wednesday, November 14, 2018

"Thoroughly Themeless III," by Evan Kalish

Constructor's Comments

I've never found stacks of 15-letter entries satisfying to work with, so I thought I'd tweak the form to get some underappreciated 14-letter entries in on the cruciverbal fun.  The first phrase in the grid was YOU ARE NOT ALONE, which is both a) a statement many people need to hear, and b) a subtle reference to Doctor Who (series 3).  I was pleased with the entry directly underneath that as well.  Of course seats are limited.  Everything is, ultimately, limited!  Ah, marketing.

That stack in the middle allowed several long entries to shoot vertically through it, 4- and 10-Down being my favorites among them.  I tried to throw in some fun with those tight SW/NE corners; hope you weren't seeing double in the bottom left!

Fun fact:  16-A has never appeared as a New York Times crossword answer in any form!  We’ll resolve that little oversight sooner rather than later . . . right?

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

"Thoroughly Themeless II," by Mark Diehl

Constructor's Comments

I'm honored to be part of the All Themeless All Week Long Extravaganza here at The Puzzle Society.  It's not often you get to see a seven-day stretch of wide-open freestyle puzzles in a quality venue like this one—thanks for having me, David!

I peppered in enough rare letters to achieve a pangram in this 68-entry offering while still maintaining a fairly medium difficulty level, I think.  Maybe that's why it's running on a Tuesday.  FIJI WATER and RUM RATION make symmetric-paired appearances in the grid, which felt fitting to me, and [Old Navy share] was one of my favorite off-the-top-of-my-head clues.  Looking forward to the rest of the week as a themeless-solving fan!

Monday, November 12, 2018

"Thoroughly Themeless I," by Will Nediger

Constructor's Comments

This themeless started out as a themed puzzle, sort of—I constructed the top-left corner for a themed puzzle I was working on and really liked it, but I couldn't use it because YOU DO YOU duplicated the 8-Down entry, which started with the word YOU.  So I just changed 8-Down to YOUTH and repurposed it as a themeless.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

"Sunday Freestyle XXXVII," by Sam Ezersky and Neville Fogarty

Constructor's Comments

Sam 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.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

"Free for All XXXVII," by Annemarie Brethauer

Constructor's Comments

For lots of constructors, the most compelling part of crossword construction is creating clever themes or lively clues (both good things).  But I get most excited by collecting words and phrases and creating themed dictionaries to put them in.

For this crossword, my debut with The Puzzle Society, I looked in my "themeless" dictionary—"A for effort" through "zoot suit"—hunting for words and phrases I hadn't been able to work into a themed puzzle.

I found COCKAMAMIE, which made me think of my father, the electrical engineer, who used this word to describe anything not up to his standards.  Originally I had THINGAMAJIG in the puzzle, but David Steinberg had me rework the puzzle to clear out some obscurities, and I just couldn't keep . . . whatchamacallit?  Oh, yeah, THINGAMAJIG.

However, I was able to keep SEE NO EVIL crossed with GONE GIRL.  (I recently read the book—couldn't put it down.)  Since there aren't too many television characters whose names are instantly recognizable, I was happy to work in OLIVIA POPE.

The entry I like the least:  NAIL BED.  I hope you enjoyed the solve.

Friday, November 9, 2018

"Ad Breaks," by Paul Coulter

Constructor's Comments

My original title was "Ad Lib."  As in AD has been "liberated from the rest of the word."  I imagined Ad Lib as a social movement for commercials.  Picture a bunch of ads marching on Madison Avenue with protest signs.  David's title "Ad Breaks" is good, too.  You can do lots of things during an ad break, including crossword puzzles.  And it's an apt description of the theme.  My favorite of the bunch is IPAD DRESSES, which was my seed entry.  I didn't come up with this myself, but I can't remember where I saw it.  Has anyone else seen this somewhere?

Thursday, November 8, 2018

"Quartet," by David Steinberg

Constructor's Comments

English is such a weird language!  I noticed one day that the letters -our are sort of like -ough—when placed at the ends of words, they can take on a variety of sounds.  I noticed FOUR OF A KIND when searching my word list for -OUR entries, and I was off and running from there.  I considered using TOUR DE FORCE for 17-Across, but having three four-letter -OUR words (TOUR, SOUR, and FOUR itself) paired with one seven-letter -OUR word (GLAMOUR) seemed inelegant.

I got lucky with this grid pattern.  Usually higher word-count grids have smooth short fill but little to no interesting long fill.  In contrast, lower word-count grids typically have lots of interesting long fill but at least a few eyebrow-raising short entries.  After about an hour of designing and test-filling possible grids, I stumbled across a 78-worder with more longish nonthematic slots than usual.  This pattern gave me lots of flexibility with the short fill while still allowing me to seed in several more interesting longer entries—not quite the best of both worlds, but closer than usual to what I'd ideally want.