Themeless #1



My first themeless, created on 5/22/2014, made me decide to construct primarily themeless puzzles thereafter. I started under the impression that, as a woman, I would have to construct a themed puzzle in order to be published in the NYTimes given the abysmal stats for number of women themeless constructors.

I decided to try crossword construction on a whim on 3/25/2014, a few days before my birthday. I figured that because I solved crosswords so regularly I should try my hand at making one. I started on graph paper with a simple rhyming theme and made a ton of mistakes (see below).

IMG_20140328_113604With Scrabble tiles strewn about and 18 browser tabs in various states of Regex queries, it wasn’t too long before I asked Rex Parker, via Twitter, if there was any shame in using computer programs in construction; he said there was not. I had looked into Crossword Compiler, and was ready to put down the pencil and speed the process up a bit.

I quickly saw that even if you have tools like auto-fill at your disposal, the human element is absolutely essential in grid filling. And there’s certainly no algorithm that can generate a truly delicious questionmarky clue.

So off I went and started with themed puzzles. I respect and am in awe of those who make amazingly clever themed puzzles– I just don’t have it in me. Mine sucked and I didn’t enjoy the process. I mostly don’t do the NYTimes Monday-Wednesdays, and rarely Thursdays, filling my puzzling time with indie delights instead. I prefer solving themelesses and I prefer constructing them as well. So there.

Welcome to my blog!

I have studied and respect the guidelines, rules, and conventions followed by the NYTimes when constructing as much as possible, and am always looking for feedback for improvement’s sake. However, I always make faux pas that wouldn’t fly for publication’s sake and I’m okay with that. Although one day I hope to see those Fri/Sat gender stats even out, I’m currently more interested in making and sharing puzzles than I am in submitting to syndicated publications.

So I will post, one by one, the whopping seven-puzzle backlog here with varying degrees of commentary. After that, updates will be sporadic until I see if I can get my shit together enough to post, say, biweekly.


Themeless #1

14 thoughts on “Themeless #1

    1. Lena Webb says:

      Thanks! In the beginning I wasn’t thinking very much about the importance of helpful cross clues in the solver’s experience, so I plan to go through them again before I post with an eye for that.


  1. Jordan says:

    Hi there, good stuff. You do need to make sure that what happened at 9-Down and 58-Down doesn’t recur. That won’t cut it regardless of gender. 🙂 Keep them coming.


    1. Lena Webb says:

      Thanks for the feedback! The next 6 puzzles I will put up have been done over the course of almost a year, and I know for sure that more “unacceptable” things will recur. I’m not stressin’:)


  2. Jack Gladney says:

    I love the eff-the-rules-ness of 9-Down and 58-Down. I think it’s funny. The best thing about indie puzzles is how they can break any rule they want. (But yeah, it won’t fly if you want to break up the NYT themeless sausagefest.)

    It was an enjoyable solve. Lots of great clues, and definitely on the tough side. The only thing missing is a marquee entry or two.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Lena Webb says:

      Thanks! I cracked up when I did it 🙂 Although I did point out the terrible gender stats, I’m not terribly driven to get my name in lights– I’d rather have fun. Like girls just want to do.


  3. doug says:

    I did enjoy your first puzzle. Thanks, and welcome to the xword blogosphere. (I found this site from Erik Agard’s site.) I have no problem with 9/58 D. Thought that this puzzle was tough enough to need a little gimme along the way. Too tired to post any clever comments, but I have not been able to figure out the crossing of 65A/49D. When will you post answers?


    1. Lena Webb says:

      Yes, the solution! What a brilliant idea. I had completely forgotten that was something I should furnish– thanks! Moving forward, I will post the solution to the previous puzzle when I put up the new one (in this case, tomorrow).

      Thanks so much for solving! This is fun.


  4. Josh Miner says:

    I agree — fun themeless! (I also found from EA’s link.) My biggest complaint is when two very odd answers cross at a place that is not easily infer-able. In other words, I HATE guessing. If I don’t know something that I should, that’s fine (and fun, even). But if I simply guess wrong at some random letter at the crossing of two words not in common usage (MEDIUS x RASSE; TYROS x LENY) that ruins an otherwise good puzzle.


    1. Lena Webb says:

      Yeah, I started paying more attention to the importance of cross clues as I went on (for the most part). I’m personally fine with googling something if I Just Don’t Know It and want to just get on with the puzzle.

      C’mon, TYROS? That’s a great word right there. I think I first encountered it in an SAT practice test and it, along with STEVEDORE, solidified my deep hatred of standardized tests. Now I love both of those words deeply, go figure.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s