When I first started out, I actually pored through old issues of "GAMES" magazine to find suitable black and white grids that would work with the themes that I came up with. Looking back now, I don't know what the hell I must have been smoking. That seems so inconcievable now. It seems like such a rigid exercise of rote forced Scrabble playing. A bout of self-torture where I forced myself to come up with some spanning entry with locked unfriendly letters.
It didn't take long for me to realize that I really should design the pattern as I'm placing the theme entries in the blank grid in the first place. Sure, part of it is nothing more than making my job easier as I'm making the puzzle. Making the spanners to come out _ _ R _ E is always going to be friendlier than _ _ W _ J.
But another reason is that I just hate, detest, dread cluing a puzzle. Okay, hate's a strong word. Let me rephrase that. It's the least-pleasurable part of construction for me. So, sure, I might have a pattern that looks good once I've sort of "locked in" the theme entries, I often systematically see if I can remove the black squares. Partially to allow for longer words (read: more interesting entries), partially to reduce to word count and therefore number of entries to clue.Anyway, if you haven't guessed by now. This is one of the few puzzles where I started with the black and white pattern first. Enjoy this one. New one on Wednesday.