My initial grid is given below. I had it completely clued up, converted to Word documents, and ready to print out and mail off to Will.
But I didn't actually do it because I didn't like UNVOICED and NONVOCAL. They're boring. I felt I needed something snazzier in those spots, so I came up with the idea of using words that follow SILENT, but cluing them as if the SILENT was actually there. In effect, the SILENT would be silent. This later got changed to a more straightforward version, in which the circles (or shaded squares) are explicitly referenced in the clue. It is a little different, but the basic idea is the same, and I'm not sure the solver would have appreciated the "silent SILENT" aspect anyway.
This gave me the grid below, which I submitted.
But that's why editors exist. Will thought a lot of solvers would find that section unfair/undesirable, and, judging by comments I've received on some of my more pop culture-heavy puzzles in the past, he's almost certainly right. Fair enough.
Let's try it again.
Very close, but this grid also has a problem -- well, not so much a problem as a small infelicity. Can you see it? It's the pair of symmetric cheater squares by AKIN and INGA. I've actually never known Will to be particularly bothered by cheater squares, so I was a bit surprised when he asked me to try to remove them. I certainly would have appreciated it if he told me to do this before I redid the grid, but, to be fair, he did say that he would accept this grid as is if removing the cheater squares proved to be too much of a challenge. But what would it say about my constructing skills if I couldn't meet Will's request? Of course I was going to remove them now.
So I did. And I finally got the final version. I'm mostly happy with how it came out. I would have liked to get more exciting answers in the long down slots containing COLORING and NONBASIC, but the theme really constrained those areas. FANZINES and FAIR GAME are decent entries, though, and there is very little dreck in this grid. The only answer I really don't like is NITA Naldi. Apparently she was a pretty big star in her day, but her day was a pretty long time ago.
Alright, some bullets, and then that will be that.
- Is the first L in LLAMA really a silent letter? Couldn't you just as easily say it's the second L? Or say that LL is a common letter combination that makes an L-sound, the same way GH sometimes makes an F-sound, so neither L is silent? I spent way too long thinking about this. Ultimately, I deemed LLAMA was okay as stands, because our convention with LLAMA seems to be that the first L is silent. As evidence, see the screenshot below, snipped from the Cruciverb database:
- As a parent of two relatively new boys (three and nine months), I'm glad my clue for COLIC -- "Woe for newborns (and thus new parents as well)" -- made the cut.
- Lots of personal likes for me in this one. I loved Rob REINER's movie Stand By Me as a kid; I very much enjoy Sissy SPACEK's work in Bloodline; and Downton Abbey (with maid EDNA Braithwaite) was probably the show my wife and I most agreed on. Although, come to think of it, I've never seen TORA Tora Tora; I'm not a huge fan of EMILIO Estivez's oeuvre (I'm about five years too young to have experienced peak "Brat Pack"); I've never seen OLIVIA Wilde in House (because I've never seen House, period); I don't have a particular affinity for ANI DiFranco; and I would have no idea who NITA Naldi was if not for crossword puzzles. So perhaps my likes are actually outweighed by my dislikes/don't cares.
- Oh, but I also love Claude AKINS. In fact, I run a FANZINE for The Misadventures of Sheriff Lobo. You should check it out. (Ha-ha, tricked you! Now you have to buy one.)
- Here is a quote from Jeff Chen over at XWordInfo: "It would have risen to the very top of my list of favorite silent letter puzzles if the down answer[s] also [were silent]. I'm 95% sure that'd be impossible to pull off though, given how many crossings you'd need to fix in place. Ah well, a guy can dream." 95%? For me it was 100%. I tried. I really tried.
- I'm seeing a comment online that the puzzle was too easy. I agree! This should have been a Wednesday. And if it was I would have completed the "NYT Day of the Week Cycle." Oh well.
- Before I go, I will leave you with Queensryche's Silent Lucidity. I really hate this song.