Tough Nut to Crack – The New York Times

A standout themeless crossword is so tough to make these days. Increased diversity in constructors has brought more to the table in terms of interesting fill, and word lists continue to be expanded and optimized. There are so many weekend-level puzzles I review and set aside, noting something along the lines of: This is obviously a well-made puzzle that Id probably enjoy solving but is there room for it in our files? We simply cant accept them all.

Im thinking a lot about cluing lately, which I truly believe can add just as much to the solving experience as the grid itself. A constructors ability to write clues might serve as the tiebreaking factor for my final vote on whether to accept or reject it, though Im also talking about cluability can these answers get fun, imaginative clues in the first place?

This sort of mind-set has gotten me more interested in mid-length stuff like THRILLER, SYMMETRY, TROPHY, TRENDS, ANIMAL and CLENCH, along with a short fill buildup like HIM / SOLE / CULT / SCAN. Its not that Im anti-name in any way look, I started this puzzle with TYREKE, and as a solver I love when I can resonate with a puzzles references but I do believe that a preponderance of names will lead to cluing inflexibility. The same can be said for crossword-y mainstays like VIE and RNA; perfectly cromulent, sure, but theres only so much you can do with them. In fact, Id place ON A (partial phrase) and HUD (abbreviation) in a slightly higher tier, as they can at least get fresh angles in their clues.

At the end of the day, the art of making crosswords is one giant balance. And I find my philosophies behind it to be ever-evolving, so Im eager to engage in these discussions with solvers and constructors alike. Hope you enjoyed the puzzle, and thanks for hearing me out!

P.S.: In case you havent heard, theres now a way to submit your own Times crosswords digitally. Find out more here.

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Tough Nut to Crack - The New York Times

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