Apr 3, 2013

Interview with Erik Agard

If you have not seen this video crossword Erik Agard put together, please make sure you do. Click on the numbers, the clues will show up. 

Erik is a student at the University of Maryland. He finished 14th in this year's ACPT. Erik has been published by the LA Times & NY Times. He also publishes a new puzzle in his blog (Glutton for Pun) every Wednesday.


Left to Right: John Beck, John Wilson, Erik Agard, 2012 ACPT

How did the POWER COUPLE idea come to you and what were the other theme entries you considered but discarded?  It's always challenging to come up with natural "in the language" entries for this type of both words precede/follow theme type.

I have absolutely no idea. I rarely know where these things come from. I know I really wanted to put BLACK in one of the theme entries but I couldn't find a match for it. 

I just love this grid. 6 theme entries (60 squares!) & PHOTOSHOP & PAPARAZZI. What's your philosophy in grid designing & filling? What kind of entries do you love and what kind do try to avoid in your grids?

Thank you! Me too! My approach is: design the hardest possible grid to fill. Fill it. If you can't fill it, cry a little, maybe have a bath, and then try the next hardest grid, and so on. Being a narcissist, I think the puzzle is a canvas for self-expression, so I love entries that relate to my life (for example, I like 22-down music, and the 20-across is one of my favorite snacks). I try to avoid stuff I never would have heard of if I didn't do crosswords, though it doesn't always work out (53-down, 56-down).

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

For high school I got sent to a math, science, and computer science program, which was suboptimal, being that I suck at all of those. But I got something out of it. Mr. Stein - calculus teacher, ACPT-goer, Puzzlepalooza co-founder - shared his love of crosswords with the class, and it stuck. My constructing career, then, evolved as a series of attempts to stump him (or at least take him at least ten minutes to solve).

Can you tell us a bit behind-the-scenes story about the making of that video crossword puzzle you helped produced? It's so fun to watch.

In a nutshell: I constructed a 42 word grid, found 42 brilliant volunteers, and nagged them for a few months until they each sent me a video clue. Crossword people are seriously the best.

You've been publishing a fresh puzzle every week in your blog since last September. Where do you usually find theme inspirations? 

Again, your guess is as good as mine. Sometimes there's a phrase I want to use (like BRACKET BUSTER or MILA KUNIS), so I build a theme around it. 

You're a fast solver. How long does it take you to solve a typical LAT Wednesday puzzle? Do you always grok the theme while solving or speed is your only concern? 

Usually two to two and a half minutes. The fastest puzzles are the ones where I don't pay any attention to the theme, but I do try to take a look when I've finished.

How many puzzles do you solve every day and who are your favorite constructors?

At least seven. Double digits on a good day. I have far too many of those to not leave some out, but here's a few (they all have something important in common): Matt Gaffney. Brendan Emmett Quigley. Ben Tausig. Neville Fogarty. Andy Kravis. Peter Broda. Matt Jones. Pete Muller. Patrick Blindauer. 

Besides crossword, what are your other hobbies?

People keep asking me this and it's making me think I need to find another hobby. Yikes.


Added later:

Please click here to see a wonderful Washington Post interview with Erik.

4 comments:

Lemonade714 said...

It is comforting to see all the young constructors who are entertaining us with words rather than putting out new video games or apps.

I thank you Erik and C.C. for another fun peek into your lives. 2 minutes for Wednesday, after 50 years I have never come close.

Anonymous said...

oops, posted my comment on the interview, not on the puzzle comment area, CC feel free to delete the comment at 7:51. There may be some way I can do it, but I don't know how....

C.C. Burnikel said...

I just did. You can't delete your own posts unless you turn blue.

Anonymous said...

Just as I finished sending C.C. a comment about DRED
followed by".scott" I realized I sent it to the wrong person.
Going back I saw that the ".scott" addition had been taken down.
Talk about timing!