Tuesday, 5/28/13 & Behind the Puzzle

Add your times here.

I hope you've enjoyed my third (and possibly final) New York Times publication. Scroll down for the backstory!

[spoiler space]

[spoiler space]

[spoiler space]

This puzzle was conceived in October 2011, birthed last April, mailed in May, and accepted in June 2012. I got the "yes!" email a few days before the Napa Valley Puzzle Challenge, which spawned my previous published puzzle. It's too bad there isn't another Napa tournament this summer, because I would have asked Will if he could schedule today's puzzle to run that week. (Oh by the way, we're not doing another Napa tournament this year. Or probably ever. Our friend who spearheaded it has moved away!)

The theme literally came to me in a dream. I woke up with the idea of "add GE" in my head, but I can't remember if there was a "seed entry" provided by my subconscious. That morning I jotted down some of the words that could be used in such a theme. There aren't too many, because something like CAD/CADGE doesn't work as part of a phrase. The best one that didn't make the puzzle was RECYCLING BINGE.

So I forgot about it until six months later, when I had some time to kill in my hotel room in Auburn Hills, Michigan. I pulled up the notes, made a list of phrases, and picked a symmetrical set of five. I don't generally have the patience for theme development, but the options were limited, so it wasn't hard to exhaust them. I considered having GENERAL ELECTRIC as the last themer/revealer, but that would have been unnecessary, and I didn't have any other 15-letter possibilities anyway.

I borrowed from the Crossword Compiler stock a grid with three 13-letter slots, and removed a pair of black squares to make room for the 10-letter answers. As you can see, I totally lucked out being able to overlap those two pairs of theme answers. (This is what emboldened me to try stacking three in that Sunday puzzle.) The only tricky letter combination created by the stacking is the "NW" in ANWAR. It's not ideal to have four long Downs that each cross three theme answers, but (again, dumb luck) I could use the fun entries IBLEWIT and BREWSKI, which are both NYT debuts. The other two, ORACULAR and GARDENIA, are much less interesting; the best entry for 3-Down would have been SPACEBAR, but that's already theme fodder!

Fill-wise, there are definitely too many proper nouns, and the THICKE/ECKO crossing at "K" could trip people up. But I like proper nouns, and this was the most lively fill I could get. Plus, STEELY. The entry I most wanted to get rid of was ROBB. And of course I love having Breaking Bad dead center.

I submitted it thinking this was probably a Wednesday puzzle (since there's no rationale for the theme), so I expect more of my clues to be tweaked than if I'd aimed for Tuesday. Hopefully it will play as a hard Tuesday, in contrast to my first puzzle, which was a very easy Tuesday. Once I get a look at the published version, I'll update with clue notes and any further thoughts...

UPDATE: About what I expected with clue editing - 23 all-new, 20 tweaked. I'm most proud that all the theme clues went through verbatim.

Trying to be Klahnesque, I had a few more clue "pairs" in my submitted set:
--YUL and ROLE were consecutively clued [The King, in "The King and I"]
--ICE and SALT were both clued [Preserve, in a way]
--ERNST and ARP were both clued [Contemporary of xx-Down]
--but INGEST and EAT weren't both clued [Consume], that's all Will

Other comments:
--The TOP GUN clue was ["Danger Zone" film], clearly not a Tuesday clue but an attempt at an Archer reference.
--I didn't write the "EGBDF" music clue!
--Will changed the clue for INEPT from [Like a schlemiel] to [Like a schlimazel]. Is he wrong? I'm sure it's dictionary-supported, but my Jewy-sense tells me I was right in the first place...
--Of course I had [___ Dan].


Anonymous said...

EGBDF clue, yikes. Poor at best, if not totally wrong. Good to know you didn't write it!

Dan said...

"In Yiddish and Judeo-English parlance, a schmuck is not haplessly inept like a schlemiel, an inveterate blunderer like a schlimazel or a pathetic sad sack like a schmendrik."

--Philologos, language columnist for The Jewish Daily Forward, 5/21/2010

andrea carla michaels said...

I missed the STEELY!!!!!! Now I love it even more if that's possible.
Here is what I'll write on Rex if I get the chance:

"GE brings all good things to life!"

What a wonderful puzzle!!!!
Tho the THiCKE SEAVER thing will give folks fits...I mean I wrote a
spec script for them and I didn't even remember their name!!!!

CHARLIECHANGE!!!!! Oh, I guess that's the whole puzzle... SPACEBARGE
to get us started.

SO glad you got in ZOOT and it was ORACULAR not ORACLING which I
feared for a second...

ANIMA, very sophisticated...so smart...you HEPCAT!!!!!
So proud to even know you!

Nancy S. said...

Why is this possibly your last NYT? That would be sad!

Huda said...

Great to hear the back story! And I agree with Andrea's characterization-very sophisticated and smart! I also echo the question: why would it be your last?

Dan said...

Oh, I'm just not that into constructing - or good at coming up with theme ideas. Haven't made any more puzzles since...

Neville said...

Dan, you know I love a puzzle with two consecutive "Growing Pains" references. Great puzzle!

Jeff Chen said...

Nice puzzle, Dan! I think you're right, isn't the schlemiel the one who spills the soup on the schlimazel?

Hasenpfeffer Incorporated!

PuzzleGirl said...

Aaaand ... now I have the "Laverne & Shirley" theme song stuck in my head. Thanks a lot.

Great puzzle, Dan! The theme answers made me chuckle and it's awesome that he kept your theme clues. Nicely done!

pauer said...

Nice one, (EGB)DF! Thanks for the backstage skinny, too.