My First New York Times Crossword Puzzle

Today is a big day in my world—like really big. Today is the day my first crossword gets published in the New York Times. This is like getting drafted by your favorite NBA team (but with way less money). Or winning the lottery (but with way less money). Or performing on stage at Carnegie Hall (but, again, with way less money). This is a dream come true, an accomplishment that I've diligently worked towards and finally achieved.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. All the mushy stuff aside, it's still pretty neat. It was over 3.5 years ago that I first submitted a puzzle to the NYT (post here). Since then, I've gotten puzzles in various other publications (L.A. Times, Chronicle of Higher Ed (twice!), Uptown Puzzle Club) and learned lots in the process (through the help of some really great editors). This puzzle was maybe my fourth NYT submission (and actually a reworking of a previously submitted theme) and an idea I've been stoked on for a long time. So 11 months after I printed it out and sent it in, here we are.

Crossword folks always want the juicy details of what crossword creation and getting published is like. And while they might not be at all juicy, here are a few details. NYT pays $300 for a daily crossword. (Others generally pay less.) This crossword probably took me 40+ hours to create (accounting for making the rejected first version and the totally reworked second version, cluing, printing, communicating, etc.). That works out to less than minimum wage. The editor has final say on the grid and clues. Will Shortz (the NYT puzzle editor) changed one square in the grid and about 80% of the clues. That's his job, to tweak clues to account for difficulty, audience, style, etc. And I get that. But some of the clues I liked better before (ex: mine: Great Scott! vs. his: Scott in 1857 news* or mine: Glass with glasses vs. his: Part of a financial portfolio (for short)*. It's kind of funny, not really understanding all the clues to your own puzzle. But that's the way the game works, and as I get more savvy, I'm sure my clues will be tweaked less and less.

Another really neat thing about this experience is all the attention my puzzle gets out in the blogosphere. I'm writing this the night before it comes out and I've already read 4 reviews, all of which were more good than bad (xwordinfo.com, NYTs Word Play blog, Diary of a Crossword Fiend, and Rex Parker). I was actually pretty nervous about these reviews as my last puzzle (in the Chronicle of Higher Ed) got somewhat panned in its review, but I was really pleased with how this one was received. (I think it helped that many of the reviewers are constructors themselves so can appreciate the difficulty of the theme.)

So now you want to do the puzzle, eh? What, you mean you weren't waiting for Starbucks to open so you could pick up your copy of the NYT? That's okay. You can download the PDF of the puzzle here (but I do encourage you to support those who make the puzzles possibly by buying a paper every now and again). The puzzle will also run in syndicated version in about 5 weeks, so you can catch a copy of it then too.
Wednesday June 1 2016File under: crosswords

Toggle Comments (6)comment?
on Wed 01st Jun, 2016 04:26 pm EDT steve said:
Saw it, bragged on it, did it! Way to go

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on Wed 01st Jun, 2016 04:40 pm EDT Horge said:
Awesome! Since they don't have the NYT around here, I think I'll avail myself of your pdf. Next stop: Trebek?
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on Wed 01st Jun, 2016 08:15 pm EDT Chris R said:
DUDE!!!!!! I did this last night as part of my ongoing goal to get a seven day streak on the NYT app. Was looking at it just now waiting for the Thursday to be available and randomly noticed your name, did a double take, ran down and told Jenn and found out I'm the last one to the party to know about this! Good job and? More importantly, good puzzle!
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on Wed 01st Jun, 2016 11:30 pm EDT Andrew said:
A Chris R. comment AND your puzzle got published on the same day! HUZZAH! Congrats, friend!
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on Wed 01st Jun, 2016 11:37 pm EDT Caitlin said:
Wren! You are amazing and accomplished and thoroughly fascinating! Way to give us all a great story to share and puzzle top solve!!! Congratulates!!
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on Thu 02nd Jun, 2016 02:31 am EDT mom said:
really fun to read the reviews and delve into nerdiland--love it!
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