Tuesday, 5/28/13 & Behind the Puzzle

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

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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].

Monday, 5/27/13

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I wrote Tuesday's NYT crossword! Check back tomorrow for exclusive inside information.

Monday, 5/20/13

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Today I'm headed back to New York!