What a relief to have spent some time working with Nina on this lighthearted grid. Looking back, in the last year I’ve unintentionally devoted a *bunch* of energy to creating puzzles that I hoped would have some sort of political efficacy.
One for Ed Markey’s campaign here in Massachusetts.
One about The Squad’s legislative agenda.
One about the historic women’s caucus of 2018.
One about protest.
One about democratic elections for Common Cause.
But the truth is that much of this work has been a salve for my own anxieties about the state of our wounded democracy, rather than any kind of meaningful political action. (Though the $68,000+ raised by the Grids for Good collection to which I contributed a puzzle is a notable exception.)
Starting on Monday, I’m taking a two week leave of absence from my day job (I work for an education non-profit here in Boston). My plans for how to spend this time are still molten–texting recently enfranchised folks in FL, daily phone banking–so feel free to leave a comment if you’ve got any bright ideas. The goal, broadly speaking, is moving the needle on voter turnout.
So while crossword puzzles aren’t necessarily the medium of political action, they serve a purpose in a healthy democracy: making folks smile! That’s where Nina Sloan comes in. She just started her freshman year at Dartmouth, and she’s already making waves in crossworld. I have it on good authority that you’ll see her byline in conspicuous places in the coming months…
This week’s puzzle, “Comfort Food,” isn’t political. It’s about finding a little diversion and cheer in 2020. Spoilers and Nina’s thoughts below.
Dropping a dope crossword in the mail.
It’s a vibe.
Hi all! My name is Nina Sloan, and though I’m originally from New York City, I’m currently a freshman at Dartmouth College. I’ve been solving crosswords for some time now, but I only recently started constructing. I’m super excited for this puzzle to be out in the world!
I had been mulling over this theme idea for a while before reaching out to Ross––I had HAPPY MEALS in mind for a fun revealer, and wanted to create a tight theme set around it. Ross suggested building a 15×16 grid with HAPPY MEALS at the center, which allowed much more flexibility with the placement and selection of the other theme answers. The set went through several iterations before we got around to building the grid, and (tragically) answers such as SMILEY FRIES and ALMOND JOY were left on the chopping block. This was, of course, all for the greater good, but it’s always hard to kill your darlings. Though we hit some minor snags along the way, I was especially happy to work some interesting fill into the puzzle, with some of my favorites being BUSY BEE, PIANOLA, and LEGO SET.
A huge thank you to Ross––I am so grateful for all his guidance, and this puzzle certainly couldn’t have come to be without him. I’m so excited for you to try the puzzle, and I hope you have as much fun solving it as we did making it!
Happy solving, everyone.
-Ross & Nina