In the preambles to previous puzzles, we acknowledge that we’ve remarked “oh, how few clues” or “oh, what short words” in a way that might give the prospective solver false confidence in how easy the task before them is.
But this one has to be easy — just look at those instructions!
Our editor this time is Will Eisenberg, fresh off his second-place photo finish in St. Louis’ inaugural Crossword Puzzle Tournament. Will makes delightful cryptics, but is better known in the indie crossworld for his conventional puzzles (however unconventional they might be), including work for Universal, AVCX and Spyscapeand a bevy of collaborations with other setters on his blog and elsewhere. His Twitch stream usually finds him hosting a dinner party’s worth of great cruciverbalists while knocking out solve after solve. It was a pleasure to have him on this puzzle, all the more so because he hails from our ancestral stomping grounds, the Twin Cities.
Ambiguity is a puzzle maker’s stock-in-trade, but in order to be ambiguous you must first be precise. It’s easy to get so carried away with a feint — a jokey definition, a verb masquerading as a noun — that you misjudge whether the fundamental pieces are fair. For instance, in one published puzzle, we defined the word OUGHT as obliged, when really it should have been is obliged. Cryptics are an endeavor where every jot counts, so we’re trying to grow as constructors by interrogating those substitutions and definitions, and no one has as sharp an ear for that as our neighbors who make conventional crosswords. So for this puzzle (and, we think, for our future puzzles), we’re expanding our test solver pool to pull in indie constructors from the Crossweird community to help us kick tires and kill darlings. For this puzzle we appreciated working with hagabaka, Kelsey, norah, howard_b_xw, and meat — thanks again for your help, and thanks as always to Andy and John for the test solves.