Jerome loves anagrams. And he has a terrific sense of Norwegian humor, being a great grandson of an Olaf. Last time when Dennis brought up "Water a Flower Day", Jerome responded with "Baloney! Why would anyone put more water in a river?" - one of my favorite blog Comments.
I also enjoy and value Jerome's analysis of each puzzle. He always brings out the highlight of each grid and helps us to appreciate every constructing effort.
I love imperfection in art/life, and I am really touched by Jerome's "tiny flaw in a Navajo rug" & blemish fill in a perfect puzzle analogy.
Today's puzzle is very different from the original submission. The first draft had TEASE hidden in TEA SERVICE. Rich canned that because tease split two words and the other theme words were contained in just one. Big mistake on my part. So tease was out the window and replaced by RAZZLE DAZZLE. That change led to altering, by necessity, a large part of the grid. The constructor is the one responsible for having to deal with that. It's not the editor's job to redo a puzzle. It's the author's responsibility.
Tease was the seed word. It simply occurred to me that you could take other words that meant tease and use them in a clever way by hiding them in unrelated phrases. I wanted the solver to have to work a little to catch on even though the theme is staring you in the face, right smack-dab out front.
The theme entries were fairly easy to come up with. How many phrases start with RAZZ, JOSH, KID and RIB? That easiness was pure luck. Not often does it work that way.
What's your background? How did you get involved in crossword solving/constructing?
When I was a lad my heroes were Jack London and Maxim Gorky. I was going to be as adventurous as they. Turns out that I never sailed the seas or walked the breadth of Russia. But I did land a job as a short order cook in a funky little diner. After two days training I was left on my own to handle breakfast and lunch. It became clear really quick why it is said all cooks are drunks. Each morning one of the waitresses would come in early and do the daily puzzle in the San Francisco Chronicle. I got into the habit of helping her. I don't think we ever finished one but it began a lifelong love of crosswords. In 2005 I made one and managed to get Merl Reagle to take a look at it. I thought the puzzle brilliant. A couple of days later he sent me a detailed critique. He pretty much said it might have been the crappiest puzzle he'd ever seen. His honesty (I still owe him for that) compelled me to improve. For two years I did every puzzle I could lay my hands on, and continued to make puzzles. Which I showed no one. I constantly compared the puzzles of the pros against my own stuff with the purpose of discovering the difference between the two. In 2007 I sent Nancy Salomon a few theme ideas and she liked a couple of them. In fact, she co-wrote my first puzzle and it appeared in June of that year in the Los Angeles Times. To this day she's gracious enough to respond when I ask for a helping hand.
As I was trying to be London or Gorky I wandered around a lot from town to town. Mostly in the Southwest and California. I had many jobs in my teen years. From the age of twenty to twenty nine I was an organizer for the United Farm Workers Union and a Teamster. For the last thirty years I've been a union carpenter. I live in a small town called Healdsburg. It's about an hour north of San Francisco. I'm blessed to be married to an extraordinary woman named Roxanna.
What is a perfect puzzle to you? What kind of themes/fills fascinate you?
The perfect puzzle would have Dan Naddor's cleverness, Merl Reagle's zaniness, Cathy Allis's humor, Nancy Salomon's fabulous fill, and the clues written by Bob Klahn.
I was fortunate to have lived on the Navajo Reservation in Arizona for two years. While there I learned that some rug makers purposely weaved a tiny flaw into the rug. The idea being that humans were not perfect, only the gods were. The flaw was simply a statement of humbleness. My puzzle today has the word ETES in it. It's my offering to a higher power. So I don't want to hear about it.
I enjoy any well crafted puzzle regardless of the theme. However, my favorite crosswords to solve are ones with a lot of whacky words and phrases. The whackier the better. I also love the tough Saturday type puzzle. When it comes to fill I'd rather see a phrase than a word.
What kind of references books do you use? And where do you get your puzzle inspirations?
My dictionaries are Random House Unabridged and Merriam Webster's. On line I use Onelook quite a lot. These sources are mostly for cluing and making sure my spelling is correct.
Inspiration and ideas can only come from your mind. There are an infinite amount of puzzle ideas to draw on. You simply have to find a way to tap into the billions of possibilities just sitting there unused. I don't believe that puzzles are an art form or that they take exceptional talent. I certainly don't believe you have to be a brainiac or highly educated to create one. I'm living proof of that. Most people are talented in something and most people have a good imagination. I firmly convinced that almost anybody could learn to make a crossword puzzle. Ultimately, I suppose you have to inspire yourself to accomplish anything. The inspirations of a muse are only you talking to yourself.
If anyone has a question I'd be delighted to respond.