The Wednesday May 7 puzzle (answers) is the second in four days for Richard Silvestri. It's back to the ballpark today after only thinking we might be headed there yesterday.
Other than the dead center, this was a fun and easy romp with so many clues I enjoyed. The "man of principle" is PETER. Back in 1970, The Peter Principle was one of those aha books that suddenly made the world make sense. Everyone you have to deal with is an idiot because they kept getting promoted to just beyond their level of competence, or so goes the theory. It's absurd or at least overly simplistic in retrospect but it made a big impression at the time since it's such a satisfying explanation.
Three recent blog posts have generated A TON of mail. One was yesterday's Sudoku discussion. It turns out there's a lot of passion around that topic. For the record, sudokus are fun, at least when they're not absurdly hard, but the point of my stupid essay is that one aspect of crosswords that makes them special is that they are conducive to interesting conversation afterwards. That's what crossword blogs are all about. The genius of sudokus, on the other hand, is that they require absolutely no special knowledge and no special skills except the ability to think hard for a while. It's a completely different kind of cranial exercise but one that can also be satisfying. What it shares with crosswords and Rubik's cube is the joy of creating order within constraints. Nothing wrong with that.
My second email magnet was the mini-biography on the dark side of Will Shortz. Not surprising.
What I didn't expect was the flood of email when I talked about Nancy Salomon. Ms. Salomon is the Queen of Collaborators. I didn't know is she is the Much Loved Queen of Collaborators. Several people sent private mail telling me how much she had helped them, often pointing to her essays at cruciverb.com as the best collection of advice for beginners. Nancy herself sent me a gracious and modest note, but I hope she knows how appreciated she is. My favorite quote was forwarded by Orange who pulled some remarks by Stephen Edward Anderson from the NYT forum. With Mr. Anderson's permission, I'm including them here. It's an inside look at the creative process. The discussion refers to the recent April 23 crossword (puzzle, blog.)
Having found the four theme entries and arranged them horizontally in a grid, I sent it to one of the most remarkable persons I have ever known. Nancy Salomon sent it back, in her signature lightening turnaround time, with the comment that it might look better with the twin elevens running vertically.
In an almost incidental sort of way, she dropped in the grace notes that make this more than just a run-of-the-mill themed grid built around some rather dated movie nags. Checking the database, I found that HADABIT was spanking new. Nancy sagely advised me against giving it a theme-related clue, and likewise steered me away from the flatfooted temptation to clue the theme entries with mention of horses or cowboys:
"That's what RIDE 'EM COWBOY is for," she wrote.
What I deserve credit for is having stopped arguing with my wise and kind mentor, who has declined my suggestions of co-authorship: "Looks like a rocky road," says she, self-protectively.