One of the weird things about human emotion is that negative feelings feel worse than positive feelings feel good. Even for somebody like myself who's generally happy and optimistic, the pain of loss is much stronger than the pleasure of victory. I have this in mind today because a puzzle of mine will appear in tomorrow's New York Times, but I also recently received a rejection notice for a few other puzzles I submitted. If we lived in a just emotional world, I would still come out on top in this scenario. Thousands of people will do my puzzle; my family and friends will proudly show it to their family and friends; I'll get a couple hundred dollars for it. On the other side, nobody cares that I got puzzles rejected; nobody thinks any less of me; it's an inevitable part of the submission process. I've received a plethora of rejections through the years. It shouldn't be that big a deal. The good is objectively better than the bad in this situation. The good should carry the day. At the very least, the two things -- one plus and one minus -- should cancel each other out. It should be no worse than a draw. But it is worse for some reason. Instead of basking in joy because I got another puzzle published, I'm feeling like a patzer because of my rejections. It doesn't seem right.
There were three rejections in this round. In one of them I duplicated a theme -- basically line-for-line -- that had been done a few years earlier, so oops... that's on me. It's strange too, as not only have I done the NYT puzzle everyday since, like, 2003 and have no recollection of this other puzzle whatsoever, but I'm usually very diligent about searching Cruciverb to ensure any puzzles I submit have original theme ideas. (Well, original enough, anyway. I will duplicate the gist of an old theme idea, as long as I thought of it independently, and I add a new twist to it.) Another one was rejected because Will and Co. thought it would be too much of a trivia test for solvers. (I happen to like trivia tests, but I've learned that many solvers do not -- so, fair enough.) And the last one was turned down for being too hard. I've never had that happen before, where an editor thought it was good, but didn't think casual solvers would catch on to the theme. My initial reaction was just run it on a Saturday then! But that probably isn't a good idea -- solvers hate it when they lose one of their two themeless puzzles for the week. Solvers also hate it when a puzzle is too hard for them to finish. In my experience, there is a strong correlation between solver enjoyment and solver success. So again, I understand the reason for the rejection, but that does little to quell the sting. I don't want a satisfying reason for rejection; I want to not be rejected.
Anyway... a bit about today's puzzle.
I think it's pretty good work, even if I didn't totally nail it like I wanted. I started with the long across -- I SAID GOOD DAY, SIR -- in the middle of the puzzle. It came from the movie Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, even though, as I later found out, Wonka never actually says these words verbatim. (I love that movie, by the way. I loved it as a kid, and it still holds up.) After that I got rolling with GO HALFSIES, HIGH-FALUTIN, WHY I OUGHTA, and GET-UP-AND-GO. If I could have finished off the SW and NE corners with a few more excellent long entries, this would have been a really dynamite puzzle. But I think I came up just a bit short. SOREHEAD isn't really something people say anymore (ever?), even if it is in the dictionary, and AMARETTO is ho-hum. DIGERATI, END TIMES, and HODGE-PODGE are all fine answers, but they don't quite have the zip I was going for. I worked and reworked those corners dozens of times. I had at least ten different "final versions" of them, before staring at them, shaking my head, ripping them out and trying again (even now I'm fighting the urge to try to make them better just "for fun"). I don't know if what you see is the best of my efforts or just the last one before I finally caved. To any event, as I said above, overall, I like how this one turned out, even if I'm not 100% satisfied with it.
One thing I did get right is the clues -- by which I mean a relatively small percentage of them were changed during edit. Whether or not the solver will like them is a different story. Personally, I'm particularly proud of my clues -- Code violation requiring an emergency exit? : ENDLESS LOOP; and One with a focus in mathematics : PARABOLA -- in no small part because I'm 65% math nerd. I also like -- Vague threat from a Stooge : WHY I OUGHTA -- for some reason.
Alright, it's late Friday night, and I have to follow the Mariners on the MLB Game Day app and wish I was doing something else. Until next time...