September 11, 2007

Looking back to Sunday

Patrick Merrell has posted Patrick Berry's explanation of how on earth he managed to generate the theme entries in his incredibly elegant Sunday NYT puzzle from two days ago.

I finally did the diagramless puzzle by Janet Bender that was published beneath the Berry crossword. (More below.)

When completed, Bender's puzzle looked like a big letter S, with the black squares carving out an S of words. Nine theme entries ranging from 7 letters (SEA SALT) to 15 (STEVEN SPIELBERG) had S.S. initials. "That's pretty impressive," you say. "I like it when a diagramless yields a picture rather than just an ugly answer grid." But wait! There's more! Every single clue also starts with an S. I think the puzzle would not have suffered at all to skip the S-only cluing, which surely involved a tremendous amount of labor on the part of the constructor and editor. But people are drawn to the showier accomplishments of crossword construction (when they notice them), so there it is.

By the way: I almost never solve a diagramless without taking advantage of the hint that tells me where the first white square goes. So sue me.