I just have one quick link to drop before we get to Taya’s notes on this week’s puzzle, which we began working on in January of *2020*. It’s artisanal, so you know it’s good. It’s also good because Taya is a conspicuously good egg.
This evening my buddy Parker and I are launching a crossword stream on Twitch. We’re calling it Cursewords Live (after the solving software Parker wrote), and you can tune in tonight at 5:00 pm (eastern) for some live crossword solving and crossword-centric chat.
So! Spoilers and discussion for “Couldn’t Hurt to Try…” after the jump.
Taya: Ross, thank you so much for having me on your blog! If crossword constructing was Top Gun, you’re obviously Maverick — and I’m honored to be Goose for this puzzle! Also like Top Gun, your mentorship involved a lot of beach volleyball with Kenny Loggins playing in the background, which I was both surprised and delighted by. You are a mensch, and I’m so happy to know you.
As a long-time enthusiast, this was my first attempt at constructing. I love everything about crossword puzzles, from the way pen ink bleeds on newsprint, to the bits of trivia I learn every day, to the little pang of frisson I feel when a correct answer fills the squares. Constructing puzzles had always been a curiosity, but I wasn’t sure where to start. When Ross graciously put the word out offering guidance late last year, it felt like the perfect opportunity.
For as much as I had wondered about what must go into the creation of a crossword, there were a lot of aspects that I had never considered, like the overall balance of clue ‘types’ in a puzzle, and the surprising attachments you can get to certain answers during the process. Mostly though, I learned as with any other new skill, crossword construction takes a lot of time and patience to get the hang of, especially given the constraints of the medium. Observing how Ross had a certain ‘muscle memory’ to his editing and a honed intuition for word choices, put into perspective how much of a craft this is. The fact that my ‘beginner’s excitement’ was matched by his excitement to share his knowledge was a genuine bright spot in an otherwise tough 2020.
To think that a completely new NYT crossword iteration with a unique theme is published daily (and has been for yeeeeeears) feels especially mind-boggling to me now, and I’m excited to keep practicing. I love to see the growing diversity of published constructors and to have found a community of fellow crossword nerds. I hope you enjoy our puzzle — and again, my most sincere thanks, Ross!
Ross: So, it bears noting that the revealer and the first themer that Taya and I came up with — WORTH AND SHOT and FLU VACCINE — predated the COVID-19 pandemic. It seems appropriate that we were only recently ready to post this puzzle now that vaccination is starting to become an option for some folks. Go! As soon as you can! Worth it!
I quite like this theme set, especially because PENALTY STROKE and DRINK TICKET get so very near to the meaning of “worth,” and KODAK MOMENT fit so neatly with the theme set. Almost as neatly as Taya’s curiosity fit with my enthusiasm for yammering about xwords!
Happy solving, friends.