Nov 18, 2011

Interview with Bruce R. Sutphin

As Lemonade mentioned in his write-up of today's DROP IN, this is our third Bruce Sutphin puzzle. His previous two Friday grids also involved letter string addition (TAG) & deletion (RS, with a great LOSERS as the last Across entry to tie things together).

Bruce only started constructing in 2010, but you could feel his passion and talent for construction
from his theme selections. His desire to constantly improve himself is also evident in his blog comments the last several time he visited us. I look forward to more challenges and fun from Bruce.

How did the LOSERS idea come to you? It's such a brilliant unifier. Very unexpected two consonants dropping.

I had really enjoying a NYT puzzle (12/1/09) by Vic Fleming and Jonah Kagan where they parsed BREAKFAST as BREAK FAST and a couple of times afterward had toyed with similar themes messing with word breaks. Obviously LOSER would have made for more possible theme entries, but I thought I would see what I could come up with for LOSERS. I made a version of this "LOSERS" puzzle and sent it to Rich Norris at the LAT and he rejected it, but commented that the theme was cute and he liked the ONEHOETOWN entry. I redid the whole puzzle keeping that one entry and after some revision had it accepted.

Tell us a bit about your background. How did you get into crossword construction?

I had solved crosswords a bit off and on growing up, but with no regularity. In August 2009 I found all these different blogs and Ryan and Brian's "Fill Me In" Podcast. I was completely hooked. In the spring of 2010 I decided to attempt constructing. My first puzzles weren't very good, but I really enjoyed making them so I kept at it. I came into contact through the blogs with Doug Peterson and he and I started working on a puzzle last summer. Working with him has been a blast, we have a couple puzzles we made together in the LAT pipeline and a couple of others out that we are waiting to hear back on. Although my first 2 puzzles accepted were solo efforts, there is no way I would have made publishable quality puzzles without Doug's support and feedback. He is a true Crossword Gentleman.

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

I definitely would say the theme brainstorming. Early on I was quick to try and make a puzzle based on half baked or incomplete themes which was setting the puzzles up for failure from the start. I have enjoyed collaborating with Doug (I also have a puzzle in the NYT pipeline I co-constructed with Neville Fogarty) and find that the bouncing of theme ideas and theme entries off someone else makes a huge difference. The gridding obviously poses its own challenges and it can be annoying when things don't quite work out as you want, but I do like finding good entries. I especially like cluing a puzzle and even though it is the last portion of the creation, there isn't a temptation there for me to rush it since the clues are the solvers entry into the puzzle and if they don't grab them, then they might not bother solving the puzzle.

How does constructing change your solving experience? And what kind of themes/fill fascinate you as a solver?

When solving a puzzle, I don't really think that I notice that much difference now. I am far from a speed-solver, but I find that I appreciate themes more when I am done with a puzzle, especially if it is something really unique that I wish I had thought of. All the puzzles with added elements I find interesting, whether it be a picture created, or a neat trick where the entries aren't just entered in the "usual" way. Fresh fill is always great, or even commonplace fill clued in a new and interesting way always gets me. When my first (or even second or third) impression of what a clue wants isn't right, I like that. You can always clue something I don't know in a way so that I won't arrive at it easily, but cluing an entry I know in a tricky way that takes some thought, that's the best .

What puzzles do you solve every day and which constructors do you find most inspiring?

I solve the NYT, LAT, Newsday, and CrosSynergy everyday. I do all the Brendan Emmett Quigley puzzles, the Fireball, WSJ, Boston Globe, Phil Inquirer, Post Puzzler, Matt Gaffney, ISwear, The Onion, InkWell, Chronicle of Higher Education.... I think about 43 a week. They take me a heck of a lot longer than the elite solvers, but I also spend a lot less time on them then I did two years ago. I have seen great improvements in my own solving time. Obviously I am a big fan of Doug Peterson's puzzles. I also think all the stuff put our by BEQ, Matt Gaffney and Peter Gordon is top notch.

Besides crosswords, what are your other interests?

I am a 35 year old married father of 3. I have two daughters 8 and 6 and a 1 year old son. I am a stay at home dad during the day and I teach a mathematics class for a community college at night each semester. I enjoy reading, movies, and getting out to golf when I can.


Lemonade714 said...

Another youngster drawn to the puzzle world, and with math in hi background. Thank you for sharing Bruce.

Anonymous said...

Is this Bruce Sutphin from CP, NY?

Bruce S. said...

@Anonymous Yes it is, do I know you?

Dennis said...

Bruce, thanks to you both for a great puzzle; it was a fun challenge that really beat me up, but that's how we get better. Nicely done.

Anonymous said...

Jerry Adams Bruce. Nice work. Very cool

Bruce S. said...

Thanks Jerry. I still live around the corner from Barney Road. The kids love it there.

JLK said...

I really do not like puzzles that do this with words - drop letters, make bad puns, etc. Just my humble opinion.

Anonymous said...

Interesting to see your train of thought Bruce.

Anonymous said...

Dr. Frankenstein was not a monster. He created one.