My second BuzzFeed crossword puzzle ran today. Hopefully it will not be my last, but we shall see. I don't have anything pending, and I don't have plans to submit anything in the near future. In fact, it's unclear to me exactly what is the submission procedure now. The puzzle is evidently going through some growing pains, and so the BZF crossword editor (Caleb Madison) sent out an email to BZF contributors detailing some possible changes on the horizon -- particularly a move away from the traditional 15 x 15 crossword puzzle toward smaller, more novelty type puzzles. Currently BuzzFeed is still running three crossword puzzles per week (easy, medium, hard), but it's not clear to me if that is only until the current backlog of accepted puzzles runs out, or if that is the new normal. So ... I dunno.
I do hope the BFZ puzzle sticks around for a while in some form that approximates a traditional crossword puzzle (smaller grids would be cool, if they are 13 x 13, or something like that, but I hope it doesn't become like the NYT Mini). I've every much enjoyed constructing my two BZF puzzles, and I also enjoy solving them regularly. Yeah, sometimes the tone, the forced "hipness" (which often means awkward jack-off jokes and drug references) can be a turnoff, but I still think they are fun -- and some of the themeless puzzles have been downright tremendous so far. I'd like to see that continue. (Note: see addendum for more on this topic.)
But anyway, on to today's puzzle, my puzzle.
For some reason, I really like the phrase LIKE WHITE ON RICE, and it happens to be 15 letters, so I decided to make it the center of a crossword puzzle. I then got the idea to stack things in the gird that are white on top of things that are rice, but there was a big problem in that the only thing that is really rice is rice, because rice isn't an adjective. So all my rice things ended up being people with the last name Rice. So it occurred to me to just make all my white things people named White, and then I would have a legit theme idea.
But the transition from theme idea to workable grid was substantially more difficult with this puzzle than it is with most my other puzzles. I spent hours and hours -- entering and erasing, rotating the grid, flipping theme entries, moving around cheater squares, etc. -- just trying to come up with something that was workable. I finally did, but the residue of my strain is evident to the savvy solver.
For instance, one might notice that each "white on rice" pair its own little subsection with only a single white square providing an entrée. I don't like this, but it's the only way I could get the grid to work. Also, there are many short answers that got locked into place by some of the weird letter combinations imposed by the theme (e.g., NYY, DRJ, OMG, UNM, CNN, MTA). So the fill isn't quite as clean as I would like it. And lastly, some of the Whites and Rices are not as famous as I would prefer -- BETTY and JERRY, yes; RON and JIM, eh...
So this puzzle isn't perfect -- I probably wouldn't put it in my personal puzzle pantheon -- but I do think it is pretty good, and I'm proud of it.
Some bullets before I go:
- The vast majority of the clues are mine, although one thing Caleb did is add the names "White" and "Rice" explicitly to the theme clues. In my version, these were absent. I like the way I did it better, but I understand what Caleb was doing. He was making it less opaque for the solver, which is not necessarily a bad thing. Also, I would've liked circles around the Whites and Rices, but the BZF software apparently can't do circles in grids.
- Another notable Caleb clue is "Inanimate opponent of a costly American war with many prisoners," which I very much appreciate and agree with politically (Johann Hari's book on the subject Chasing the Scream is fantastic), but, in this case, I went with something easier, because I was worried that little section could be unsolvable otherwise (again, Ron White and Jim Rice, aren't exactly Walter White and Condoleeza Rice). Also, I would have used the word "in" instead of "of" in the clue. Using "of" makes it sound like the drugs are part of an anitwar movement.
- I like my clue for TRUMP.
- When DEPECHE MODE came out with their album Violator, I played it so much at my friend's house that he crushed it with a skateboard. It was his CD.
- Caleb didn't like EMERSONS as an answer, but ultimately let it stand. I don't mind plural last names because we use them all the time -- "Keeping up with the Joneses" and whatnot.
- Jim Rice, fine ballplayer, not a deserving Hall of Famer.
- Glen Rice, fine basketball player, also probably really did once hook up with Sarah Palin -- not that it's any of my business (but I read the Deadspin article on it all the same).
- In my last post, I described Queen's "Another One Bites the Dust" as "number one on the 'Songs that are Actually Really Good But that You Can't Stand Because You've Heard Them Over and Over and Over Again' list." Well, if that's the case, "Seven Nation Army" by the White Stripes is a close second. Let's go out on a different cut from Jack and Meg instead.
Addendum: A few hours after posting this I received an email Caleb sent to contributors stating that the BZF puzzle will continue in its three-puzzle-a-week format (MWF), and that Tuesday and Thursday will be devoted to smaller puzzles. Cool! He also said to keep submitting puzzles as usual, so I will probably do that. All I need is a great idea -- anybody got one?