May 22, 2009

Interview with Mike Peluso

According to Cruciverb's information, Mike Peluso burst into the crossword construction scene in Jan 2008. Since then, he has had 17 puzzles published by LAT alone. Today is our third Peluso puzzle since the switch. (Note: Mike also had 2 puzzles published by USA Today and has about 8 puzzles "in the queue" from various sources.)

I loved the PEANUT GALLERY theme entry in Mike's last puzzle. So clever. And I decided to ask Mike a few questions. Hope you enjoy his answers as much as I do.

What inspired today's puzzle? How is the final grid different from your original submission?

I had never had a Friday puzzle published since my first publication in January, 2008. I was trying to "move up" to Friday and this theme came to me like most of my puzzles - in my sleep! I don't mean lying awake all night - I just wake up like it was a dream and the theme is in my head. This particular puzzle was one of the very few that Rich accepted lock, stock and barrel right from the first submission. I was excited about it and so was he. In fact, this puzzle had one of the shortest "turn around times" of all of my puzzles - about 6 weeks from original acceptance to publication. I changed one word in the grid.

Two of your LAT puzzles we've solved are words that precede/follow certain Across theme entries. Is that your preferred puzzle theme? If not, how would you describe your style?

Of the 27 puzzles that I've had either published or accepted in the past 16 months, 6 of them have been the precede/follow-type themes. At this point, I would call my style "fairly straightforward". I like anagrams, synonyms and a few same-clue themes. The reason for this is that I still think of myself as a "semi-newbie", and I want to be sure that my constructing skills are firmly entrenched before venturing out into anything really tricky. But Rich Norris has accepted a few puzzles that reflect more of a journeyman-level of skill that will appear in the next few months.

What is your background? Who introduced you to crossword solving and later on construction?

My background is in languages. I taught French, German, Spanish and Latin at the high school level, and then spent my last 10 years as a vice-principal in a high school in Kent, Washington, retiring in 2000. My parents were avid solvers and I caught the bug when I was about 18. I set a few goals for myself when I retired, and one of them was to become a crossword constructor. After meeting a few other goals, mostly golf-related, I finally got serious about it in mid-2007, and, like so many other constructors, was mentored by Nancy Salomon. She is still my go-to person when I'm in a pinch.

What is the best puzzle you've ever constructed and what is dream puzzle you wish one day you will get published?

My best (don't confuse "best" with "difficult" ) and favorite puzzle so far was the Monday, October 13, 2008 LAT which I called "Mixed-Up Pairs". The theme entries were DIET AND EDIT [Two ways to cut out excess], SHOE AND HOSE [Two kinds of footwear], CUBS AND BUCS [Two professional sports teams], and SHEA AND ASHE [Two Queens stadiums]. I had thousands of four-letter words going through my head for about two weeks trying to get four "pairs". That puzzle was really fun! My dream puzzle would be a puzzle where the best constructors in the field finished it and said "Wow!"

Who are your favorite constructors and why?

I am so envious of the great constructors of our day because of their wit, talent and creativity. A favorite is really hard to pick, but, with due respect to all the great ones out there, there's nothing quite as satisfying as completing an Elizabeth Gorski Sunday NYT. That woman has creativity that I can only dream of.


Dennis said...

Another great interview! I always find it fascinating how these constructors come up with their themes, and just waking up with one is pretty neat. Mike is certainly a prolific constructor, and a really good one.

I'm sorry I missed the "Mixed up pairs" crossword - that must've been a great puzzle.

Gotta run, but thanks to both of you for giving some insight into the constructor's mind.

Lemonade714 said...

Other than the pairing of words, was there any other thought that led to the LERS connection today? Does it matter that the connector has independent significance or not?

Thank you for talking with us, and thank you as always C. C. for bringing us to places we would never go without you.

kazie said...

Thanks for a great interview. I am happy that I have at least three languages in common with Mike, and taught two of them! Maybe that's why I did better than usual for a Friday today--similar thought patterns?

C. C. said...

I found it inspiring that Mike realized one of his retirement goals in such a short period of time. Here is his "Mixed Up Pairs" final grid I got from Orange's blog.

What is the connector you are talking about?

Let's solve more of Mike's puzzles and see if your conclusion is correct. I noticed that sports clue often stump you. There is no such trouble today, right?

maria said...

Very nice, and thank you C.C. for giving us an insight on Mr. Peluso' s background.
I like the languages part especially.

And thank you, Mike Peluso

JD said...

Creating themes does sound like fun, but challenging. What a great goal for your retirement. My goal is to complete a Sat.puzzle without cheating.

Enjoyable interview. CC, each one gives all of us new incites on the world of puzzle construction.

Merci beaucoup

Clear Ayes said...

It is always a pleasure to see another interview with one of our constructors.

Thanks to both C.C. and Mike Peluso for giving us another glimpse into the making of an LAT puzzle.

Anonymous said...

Our local rag has no constructor's name.

Jeff said...

Uses of BE ALL:
"Palin On Nukes: Be All, End All" on YouTube in her pre-election debate with Joe Biden & it's referenced in Shapkespear's MacBeath.

Linda said...

CC: Took a sit-down break and read the intrerview.
All the constructors/editors seem to be "regular, good people." You seem to know the right questions to ask, too

Why dont you do some constructing?

Anonymous said...

great interview. thanks for posting it.

mike, i would love to solve your "Mixed Up Pairs". Where can we get it?


C. C. said...

Anonymous @4:13pm,
You should call your local editor and suggest her/him to put each constructor's name beside the puzzle.

Ha ha, I know my limit. I can hardly solve a puzzle.

Email me. I have Mike's puzzle.