Today’s puzzle is reactive and autobiographical. No two ways about it.
Back in December I shared an essay about my personal struggle with Schwannomatosis. I was ambivalent about relating some of those details for predictable reasons, but the reception that piece got from you all erased any lingering doubts I had about being open about that stuff. I remain deeply humbled and grateful for the support I received from the puzzling community. And it’s why I feel okay sharing another further detail that’s been front of mind for several weeks now.
Last year I was part of a pain medication study for a drug called Tanezumab–originally intended for arthritis sufferers–which over the course of several months offered me a modicum of relief. Not exactly a game changer, but the only effective therapy among a dozen or more I’ve experimented with since my early-20s. Unfortunately, an FDA panel rejected the drug for osteoarthritis pain management and the study was closed.
2022 has therefore felt like something of a square one, and the last few weeks have been particularly challenging. As a result, I’ve been spending somewhat less time being active and social and somewhat more time making crossword puzzles. As I described last winter, developing puzzles exists in a sort of sublime Goldilocks zone between entertainment and rigor, and is by far the best medicine for getting my mind of the hurt. Sometimes that’s chasing a theme pattern, and other times it’s entering a fugue state and grid building. But it’s a daily routine. At this point I have more than 100 unclued themeless grids sitting in a folder; maybe this spring I’ll enter my Themeless Era? And one frustrating day a couple of weeks ago, I put today’s grid together as a sort of meta reflection on my most reliable form of pain management.
Don’t worry too much on my behalf. I’ve got excellent caregivers, chief among them my soon-to-be-wife. On Sunday mornings after I push the weekly Rossword live, I can hear her giggling (or rolling her eyes) in the bedroom as she looks at the puzzle and the blog post while I make her coffee. This morning will be no different. I’m a lucky guy.
Ok, it’s just a gridded up version of me being a Big Baby. All I really wanted to do was to maximize the OW sounds in the theme answers, which meant excluding all O-W strings that didn’t evoke a Big Baby when spoken aloud.
HOW NOW BROWN COW with 4 examples is obviously the crown jewel, though I do like the trifecta of BOWCHICKAWOWOW. And as Matt pointed out at the test solving phase, there’s a lot more attestation for “bowchickawowWow,” which fairly necessitated the “variation” tag, which I further find high-larious unto itself.
If your puzzle itch hasn’t been scratched, I’ve also got the 21x Wall Street Journal puzzle this weekend, and on Thursday my 50th New York Times grid goes to print.
Happy solving, friends!