Oct 30, 2009

Q & A with Don Gagliardo

Don Gagliardo has provided answers to all of our questions regarding his SHOE BOX puzzle and other crossword related queries. Hope you find them informative. Thank you so much, Don.

Questions from C.C.: How to pronounce Gagliardo? Is the second G hard?

When my wife decided to take on my last name, my father sent a one page dissertation on how to pronounce it. He was dismayed in his later years that I could not pronounce it, and I blame him partly because he Americanized it when we eight children were growing up. The easiest explanation is to think of the opera Pagliacci. Listen to someone who sings Italian opera. Yes, the second G is silent, but not really. It is part of the diphthong, GLIA, which means "lion". Our name has connections to Gallahad, according to my father.

What kind of music do you listen while constructing crossword? Or do you prefer total silence?

It is funny that I have never thought about playing music while I construct puzzles, even though I am such a music lover. I suppose that I prefer silence. Sometimes it helps to listen to the words in my head when I am filling a grid or composing clues. Music would distract that.

Is it wrong to say "I like some of the long Down fills (rather than fill) today"? I noticed constructors use singular "fill" when they refer several or the whole non-theme entries.

I have always heard or read "fill" in the singular, even though it may imply many. You can talk about several down answers, and I don't think constructors even refer to "down fill" (unless they're talking about pillows). When the term "fill" is used, I think it is really just talking about all of the non-theme entries that go into a puzzle. At least that is the way I have read it.

From MJ: In yesterday's Barry Silk puzzle, I noticed many clues referencing cities and states. (Seven total if you count 30D Riyadh resident.) Would this be considered a sub-theme? If not, what constitutes a sub-theme?

Hello MJ,

The only sort of sub-theme that usually happens in puzzles is two or three clues that have some common connection. For me, it happens only because I see an opportunity and act on it. I don't know what other constructors do, so you would have to ask them. I think it would be very difficult to come up with a significant number of secondary theme answers. Sometimes it is nearly impossible to just get the primary theme answers to work out. I did notice all those cities, especially when two of them crossed (ST. JOE and TULSA). I'll go out on a limb and say that it probably was not Barry's intention to create a sub-theme. We should also remember that if there is such a thing as a sub-theme, it would have to be as strictly consistent as a puzzle theme. So in this case, we have a state and a foreign resident thrown into the mix, so it doesn't work as a consistent theme. Did you happen to notice the word SHOE in the bottom center, presaging today's puzzle? He couldn't have planned that!

From Carl: Why do you only contribute to LA Times?

Hello Carl,

It is true that my puzzles have appeared only in the LA Times. When I first started puzzle construction, I noticed that I was really enjoying the editing of the LA Times puzzles. I thought I would send a puzzle to Rich. Even though I was a newbie, he gave me great feedback and encouragement despite rejecting my puzzle. I feel as if I have been a student since that time and still have much to learn. Rich is very patient and has a great deal of insight as to what will go over well with solvers. I am staying busy enough trying to keep up with him. I am delighted to report that I will have a puzzle published in The Crosswords Club some time soon, which is a new venture. It does help that Rich edits that publication as well.

From Lisa (Ingersoll, Ontario, whose paper only carries LAT Sunday): When will you construct a Sunday puzzle? I loved your Alfred Hitchcock.

Hello Lisa,

Thanks for the compliment on the Hitchcock puzzle. A lot of luck went into making that one work. I have just had one LA Times Sunday puzzle accepted for publication, and have another that is accepted as a work in progress. That means it is probably four to five months away from publication, I am guessing. If you read the response to Carl, I will have a Sunday-sized puzzle in the Crosswords Club in the near future. Sunday puzzles are really quite a different animal. I didn't have crossword constructing software until this past summer, and it has made quite a difference. On the small scale, I could easily do daily puzzles with paper and pencil. But doing a Sunday puzzle was mind-boggling. I don't know how constructors kept their sanity before computers came along. Now that I have the software, it gives me the kind of vision that I need to set up a grid. I would like to do more Sunday puzzles because I enjoy the challenge that they present. They really are more difficult to construct than a daily, at least so far in my experience.

From Anon @ 1:38pm: Is EEEE arrangement intentional?

Hello Anon @ 1:38 PM,

I did not notice that there is an E in each corner of the puzzle! What was intentional, and explains this coincidence, is that I made the pattern of SHOE vary in each corner. The letters appear counter-clockwise, and the pattern changes one letter at a time as one proceeds in a counter-clockwise direction around the puzzle. It could just as easily have been an S, H, or O in each corner.


Anonymous said...

Don, Thank you. I had hoped EEEE arrangement is intentional.

Anon @1:38pm

C. C. said...

I had always mispronounced your name as GAG-liardo. Thanks for the "lion" explanation.

Many times we fail to see the nuance or extra tricks the constructors embed in their puzzles, but sometimes we see stuff that are not intentional. It's all fun though.

Bill G,
I hope Don's answer is sufficient for your question regarding fill last Monday as well.

Good to see you. Sorry about Dodgers' misfortune.

Clear Ayes said...

A very interesting Q & A session with Don Gagliardo. I had thought the quadruple E must have been intentional, since S H O E was arranged so carefully. I was also interested to see that constructors don't call individual answers "a fill", or a group of answers "fills". Nice to know about the pronunciation of his name too. Live and learn.

MJ said...

Thank you for sharing with us. It certainly helps me as a solver, and I'm sure others as well, to understand a constructor's approach to crossword creation. Thank you also for yesterday's SHOEBOX puzzle. It was delightful!

Crockett1947 said...

Dan, Thank You for taking the time to answer the questions that were posed. I enjoy your puzzles.

Anonymous said...

Mr Gagliardo, thank you. We get Sunday puzzle a day ahead of CC's.

Ingersoll, Ontario

Jill said...

You make beautiful and innovative puzzles, Don.