Mar 20, 2010

Interview with Will Nediger

One of my favorite LAT Sunday puzzles is Will Nediger's "Watch the Birdie", in which he placed ONE under PAR in 10 different places.

Will is a 19-year old college student from Canada. Since April 2006, his puzzles have appeared in LA Times, NY Times, NY Sun and probably other newspapers/magazines I am not aware of.

Can you tell us your thought process on this puzzle?

I remember solving a wonderful Paula Gamache puzzle in the New York times with a similar grid (stacks of 11-13-15 on the top and bottom). The great thing about Paula's puzzle was that the bottom stacked entries all rhymed: CULTUREVULTURES, GEORGIEPORGIE, and GREENSCREEN. And the top stacked entries were all crisp, fresh phrases: THEONCEOVER, FOOTBALLWIDOW, and SAYTHEMAGICWORD. That kind of grid has lots of possibilities for a themeless, because it's a lot less constrained than stacking three 15s, and 11s and 13s don't get that much currency in themelesses. My puzzle didn't end up as fresh as Paula's, but I'm still pleased with it.

What is your background? How does it influence your crossword style?

I'm currently at university studying linguistics and Spanish, and playing Quizbowl on the side. So I like to include all the usual things in my crosswords: pop culture, in-the-language phrases, and so on. But because of Quizbowl, my puzzles tend to skew more academic (and the same is true of Joon Pahk, who used to play Quizbowl back in the day). This usually happens in the cluing, though, rather than the entries, so a lot of my academic clues get changed in editing. I eagerly await the day when one of my Kierkegaard clues for EITHEROR makes it into print!

How did you first get interested in crossword construction?

I've been interested in construction for as long as I can remember. Of course, I shudder to think of how terrible my early efforts were. I used the old-fashioned pencil-and-graph-paper method, and I erased through a lot of sheets of graph paper. I was also in the habit of putting in entries that seemed like they might be words, and then hoping that they would turn out to be in the dictionary.

Is theme more important to you then the quality of the fills? What is a perfect puzzle for you?

I think I differ from most people in the business, in that I value fill quality over theme quality. Of course, for themed puzzles, the fill is really just a vehicle for the theme, which is primary. But I find that the real art in constructing crosswords is creating a fill that's relatively free from obscurities and other unwanted entries, but that still contains lots of fresh stuff and Scrabbly letters. Actually, maybe I just think this because I'm terrible at coming up with themes. My favourite puzzles are themelesses, of the sorts that Frank Longo, Karen M. Tracey and Matt Jones make. (And yeah, those three people have wildly divergent styles, I know. But they're all great.)

Besides crossword, what else do you do for fun?

All sorts of things: Scrabble (which I'm sure can be said of lots of other constructors, although the two activities are really very different), anything to do with literature, most racket sports, foreign languages...

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

I am saving you some Google time. EITHER/OR is book by Kierkegaard.

Anonymous said...

Gave up after 2 hrs of floundering. Thanks for teh help.

Tom

JD said...

Zipadeedoodah worked for me. Enjoyed your c/w and interview. Wish I had seen/done your one under par c/w. Clever boy!

C. C. said...

For those who are interested, here is the Paula Gamache puzzle Will referred to in his interview.

Lucina said...

Will:
Congratulations on your accomplishments. As a passionate, yes, addict even, of xwds, I look forward to your bright future which no doubt will provide us with many brilliant puzzles.

This one was great fun, providing me with just enough of a challenge and some amusement. Keep up the good work!

C.C.:
Great interview!

Annette said...

Will,

Thank you for taking the time to respond to C.C.'s questions. And thank you C.C. for taking your time, and sharing the responses with us. I enjoy hearing more about the people behind their puzzles!

I remember the ONE under PAR puzzle, and thought it was awesome! Golf runs in the family, so any reference will bring a smile.

I look forward to seeing your future work!

Thanks,
Annette

Carl said...

@Will, Thank you for the great interview. It's always fascinating to read constructors' thoughts.

Robert said...

Not A Tree growns in Brooklyn, but "I think that I shall never see a poem lovely as a TREE"

PJB-Chicago said...

C. C. and Will N:
Fascinating interview with a rising star! Will's studies in linguistics and C.C.'s love of languages & words come through loud & clear & bright in the interview and the puzzle. The fill was fresh and the stacks of long words/expressions all show great talent!

C. C. Expect to "see" me this week posting on your blog. I'm hoping to need less help writing/typing very soon. I miss you and all our blogmates!

Frenchie said...

Wow, great puzzle! Amazing constructor! In the some 5 months I've been following, I've never seen this spot like this...as naked as a jaybird!!!