Each puzzle that you see on The Rackenfracker starts as a channel on a Discord server. Those channels are formatted #nn-name-of-puzzle. So for example, the first Word▶️ puzzle was #18-on-first: the 18th puzzle that the two of us worked on in this current iteration of our cryptic collaboration.
We wrote the puzzle you are just about to solve on the channel #01-a-functional-cryptic. Meaning it is The Rackenfracker's ur-puzzle.
How we got a clue
Jmsr had this idea kicking around his head all the way back in 2012, when he put together an original grid and some draft clues. About five years later, he finally got the courage to pitch it to Roger Wolff, editor/publisher of Cryptic All-Stars.
It was rejected with the note that it needed a revealer; jmsr regridded, adding the circled-letter aha of today's puzzle, and got approval to proceed to clueing. Upon completion, the puzzle was again rejected, on the strength (or, rather, weakness) of the clues' surfaces.
That's when jmsr turned to dadgumituh, who at the time was flat-out unable to help. And so, not wanting to just turn over his puzzle idea to others, jmsr retracted it, accepted the rejection, and moved on.
From Discord to rescored
Three years later, two things happened in short order. 1. The pandemic meant that everything slowed down for everyone, and 2. Both of them figured out how to use Discord. We got it together to write clues that did not suck and sent it off to Roger, hoping they would be better received. They were! — but, alas, Cryptic All-Stars' final edition was already off to press and we had missed our chance.
We then got to work on #2 (you know it as Look Over the Manuscript) and sent both puzzles to our longtime mentor Bob Stigger. He indicated there wasn't really a place currently publishing cryptics that took themes like these. So we wondered if we could self-publish a set of pop culture puzzles … and that experiment is ongoing.
So, sincere thanks to Roger Wolff for the rejection and for the editorial oversight that matured this puzzle. Thanks to Bob, Andy Stilp, John Sams and joeadultman for the test solves, and to Bill MacDonald for his edits. This puzzle made the rounds to some other folks when we were trying to find an editor; thanks too to them even if they didn't suggest any changes. Finally, thanks to you, the solvers — we're approaching 100 paying subscribers and we're so pleased with the feedback and support.