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Oct 17, 2011

Interview with Kelly Clark

Argyle said he "was struck by the imagery and the lack of abbreviations and yet still a doable Monday" for Kelly Clark's "Ouch" puzzle in June. We both adored Kelly's "Birds Do It" grid so much that we continued our discussions of her effort after the blog post was published.

Besides constructing for the LA Times, Kelly has also made puzzles for the NY Times (13 published) and the Wall Street Journal. Kelly constructed puzzle #1 for the 2011 ACPT (American Crossword Puzzle Tournament).

Both of your LAT puzzles we had this year have five theme entries: three Acrosses (one in central row) & two Downs, and a bonus 1-Across entry. Is that your preferred puzzle style? Is 1-Across an afterthought in the filling process or pre-arranged at the beginning of the gridding?

In the first one, it was an afterthought, to be honest. I'd finished the fill and realized it might be fun to have a sort of "intro" at 1 Across. Since 1 Across was a four letter word, it was pretty easy to work OUCH into it and refill the corner. In the August 22 puzzle, the 1 Across CHIRP was deliberate. In fact, I'd originally had TWEET as the final Across answer, but had to let it go after making the changes Rich asked for. Between you and me -- everybody shut your eyes for this part ;-) -- Rich was the soul of patience with me during the August 22 puzzle construction. According to my records, it took four versions to get it right. Okay, everybody can open their eyes now. ;-) Seriously, Rich is a fantastic editor. He's also a fantastic constructor.

To answer the other part of your question, though, yes...I like to incorporate a central theme entry whenever possible.

What's your background? How did you get into crossword construction?

My husband and I own a small advertising/design studio. He's the designer, I'm the copywriter. I got into crossword construction primarily to entertain my fellow parishioners in our weekly bulletin. This was back in the late 1990s. 'Course I soon realized I didn't know what I was doing, and fortunately stumbled upon Kevin McCann's incredible forum. I was mentored by the whole group...primarily, the great Manny Nosowsky. My first puzzle -- which took me *months* to construct -- ran in the New York Times in 1997.

What kind of themes and fill fascinate you and what kind do you try to avoid?

Until recently, I'd been fascinated with "trick" themes...generally Wednesday/Thursday level types. And puns...I love puns!

But about a year ago I realized I'd never even attempted a Monday-level puzzle and really wanted to make one. That's when I realized how difficult it is to construct an easy puzzle. Will bought my first Monday puzzle, but then ended up using it as the opener for the ACPT last spring. Rich bought and published my very first Monday puzzle last June...it was like a dream
come true!

Which part do you normally spend the most time in the construction process: theme brainstorming, gridding or cluing? Which part do you enjoy the most?

Oh, theme brainstorming, no question. That's the most time-consuming -- and for me, the most enjoyable -- part of the game. It's very stimulating. Filling the puzzle, on the other hand, is fun in a different kind of way...oddly enough, it's very relaxing for me.

What's the most proud puzzle you've made and why?

That's a toughie! I'd have to say I'm proudest of the June 20 LA Times puzzle, since it was my first Monday puzzle. Tied with that, though, is my debut New York Times puzzle of Wednesday, October 29, 1997.

What puzzles do you solve every day? And whose byline do you most look forward to?

The New York Times and the LA Times, daily. I love Merl Reagle's Sunday puzzles, along with those of Henry Hook and Cox & Rathvon -- they run in the Boston Sunday Globe Magazine. My favorite constructors are Manny Nosowsky, Rich Norris (these two guys haven't been seen for awhile and I miss them!), Harvey Estes, Nancy Salomon, Paula Gamache -- gosh, there's too many to list!

Besides crossword, what else do you do for fun?

I love to walk. I live in Boston and it's a walking town. My idea of a good time is tromping mindlessly along the streets. I like to speed walk, too. I love working with my husband -- advertising is fun! And I read a lot. But my great joy is working as a volunteer chaplain at Mass General Hospital a few afternoons a week.

5 comments:

Lemonade714 said...

The diversity and goodness of the constructing community is awesome. Thank you for letting get to Ms. Clark beyond her puzzles.

MJ said...

Thank you, C.C., for another thoughtful and insightful interview, and thank you Kelly Clark for taking the time to respond. It's always interesting to get to know the constructors beyond their published puzzles, to learn of their other interests and muses.

Chickie said...

Thank you C.C. and Kelly Clark for a terrific interview.

An interview gives us a look into the lives of the people who work hard to give us our daily crossword. It makes us feel we know them personally.

Next time we see your name you will be like an old friend.

Kelly Thatcher said...

I'm extremely grateful and very flattered. Thank you so much!

Kelly

Argyle said...

My pleasure to do your puzzles.