Jun 1, 2012

Interview with Joe DiPietro

Today is our second encounter with Joe DiPietro, one of the most prolific NYT constructors in the Will Shortz era. Since 1995, Joe has had 109 puzzles published by the NY Times; 22 are Sundays.

Besides the NY Times and LA Times, Joe also makes puzzles for
the Wall Street Journal. In fact, his "LIKE MY NEW OUTFIT?" ("Sets in Order" WSJ, Sept 3, 2010) is one of my favorite theme entries. So creative!


What's the inspiration for this puzzle? What were the other theme entries you also considered but discarded?

I think I just heard the phrase LEAVES IN THE DUST and worked it from there. I got the first three theme entries pretty quickly, but it took a long time to find the fourth (PLANT IN ONE'S MIND). I could have stopped at three. But who would interview someone with just three theme entries?

My only alternate entry was TURN IN ONE'S GRAVE, which was what Maleska would have done if he saw the clue I had for it.

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

Strictly old school. I remember using my brother's old marbles as black squares. Not easy.

Themed puzzles are easier to make and nearly all constructors' debut puzzles are themed. But you started with a themeless on your first try, made a then-record low 20-black-square in 2001 and continue to make more themeless than themed grids. What's the special attraction of themeless?

Making a themed puzzle is a tender, loving experience. Good work if you can get it. Themeless puzzles are more -- to put it cruciverbally -- Onanistic.

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

My daughter. She can't fall asleep because she has Words With Friends boards in her head.

What kind of theme and fill excite you and what kind do you try to avoid in your grids?

The only themes that excite me are the ones I haven't seen before. As for fill, I tend to favor trickery over Scrabbliness. Think SILENT I, or WENT TO BED (a past-tense phrase with -ED at the end). Wide-openness doesn't do that much for me anymore since so many people have become good at it.

As for grids, I despise partials. And the letter S in the lower right corner. I made a weekly 17x17 for two years and none of them had either of those.

What puzzles do you solve every day and which constructors constantly inspire you?

I only solve NYT Saturday and Sunday. I don't time myself, and the goal is to do them in pen without any write-overs. I used to solve more, but then I got hooked on Sudoku (and now I'm even worse with KenKen).

Inspired by? I hate all the other constructors. How DARE someone be more clever than me!

Besides crosswords, what are your other interests?

Actually, I'm not interested in crosswords at all. It's just the most surefire way to put three kids through college.

8 comments:

Lemonade714 said...

This is a man who puts sarcasm to the test. Thank you Mr. DiPietro and C.C., it is good to hear from a rich constructor who honors the man who bridged the NYTimes Will gap, from Weng to Shortz.

MJ said...

Fun, fun, fun! Love the tongue-in-cheek humor in both the interview responses and the puzzle.
Thank you C.C. for continuing to introduce us to the amazing constructors out there, and thank you Mr. DiPietro for taking the time to visit and respond.

Anonymous said...

This guy is my new hero.

SOB-Sweet Old Bob said...

I just get a KICK out of all these constructors. Please keep the interviews coming.

Jazzbumpa said...

Wow. Joe is a real smart ass.

I love it.

JzB

Abejo said...

Enjoyed reading the interview. Joe is an in-depth person. Keep up the good work, and make lots of money.

Abejo

Lucina said...

What an entertaining interview! Thank you, Joe, for your commitment to my pastime passion. I hope you make a pile of money doing it.

Anonymous said...

best. corner. interview. ever.