Spoiler Alert! If you don't care to know about the puzzle, how it was constructed, and my thoughts about watching it be speed solved, you might want to stop now. Thanks!
My contribution was a 25 minute 17x puzzle that more than a few people felt was one of, if not the best puzzle in the Tournament (Rex Parker's take for one, "Steely" Dan Feyer's take for another). I was pretty psyched to have this one as it was supposed to be one of the harder puzzles that weekend, but one not so hard that you couldn't finish.
It took me three efforts to get a theme approved by Will Shortz. The other ideas (which aren't worth rehashing here) just probably weren't Tournament-caliber enough. But when I found that CHIANTI minus the I's was CHANT, and IDIOTS minus the I's was DOTS, I was off to the races. The theme was add the letter I twice to a word at the end of a phrase. GREGORIAN CHIANTI (“Monk's wine?”) came first, and shortly thereafter CHOCK FULL O INUITS (“What the Arctic Circle is, population-wise?”). I especially liked that one because aside from the image it creates, more than a few people goofed and put in an F to make it OF. I felt that there were ample things I could have done with DOTS (changed into CONNECT THE IDIOTS for this puzzle clued “Put two complete morons in touch with each other?”); it was just that dastardly TAIPEI left. After rummaging through numerous sources, the only thing that seemed plausibly clueable was INSULATING TAIPEI (“Making Taiwan's capital livable in the winter?”). That's the thing with these kinds of puzzles: the gimmick only works if you can come up with some sort of plausible clue.
Making the grid itself took a little bit of time, maybe about an hour, hour and a half. Almost shortly after I began, I noticed I could, if I wanted to, debut KENKEN in crosswords. And seeing as I like to be the first guy to use certain entries, I took the bait. Needless to say, I got a lot of flak for that one. Seeing as the KenKen puzzle (for many) was also making its debut this Tournament, and the inventor of the puzzle was a guest, I got dubbed a sell-out corporate yes-man shill by one of my idols, Frank Longo. (Frank, I love ya baby. If were talking about logic puzzles with Japanese names, I only have eyes for your Sudoku books, which are so friging good, they should get a specialty Pulitzer for them. Peter Gordon: if you are reading this, publish another one of Frank's Mensa WTFF? Sudoku books.) Well, whatever; there's a lot of neologisms I keep on my list of “Must Put In A Puzzle,” and KENKEN happened to be one of them, thank you very much. (They went on the list shortly after Pat Blindauer brought them to my attention. They don't do much for me, but my wife, who is clearly not a puzzle person loves them. Go figure!)
Cluing went along fine, I was told to go for a Thursday-ish difficulty. It was just the title and blurb that really slowed down the process. The original title was “Aye, aye!,” and the blurb was, well, we couldn't come up with any. In fact, the test solvers got it like that: “Aye, aye” / “Insert blurb text here.” I think some even thought the “Insert blurb text here” was part of the final product, as it came back with: “huh?” responses. After we started getting feedback, I proposed for the blurb what eventually became the title: “Allow me to introduce myself.” (The final blurb drove the double I point home with “And if you didn't hear me the first time ...”)
So all told, from creative spark, theme creation, grid making, and editing, the whole puzzle took roughly five hours to make.
I was slightly curious about the reaction of the contestants when Will announced my name, which was greeted with a nice round of applause. Part of me was hoping for maybe a few boos, or even a “Fuck You!,” but they never came. Eventual champion Tyler Hinman was kind enough to raise the MC5 white panther party solidarity fist. For whatever it's worth: all three A finalists blew through it in less than six minutes. (Humbling!)
Anyway, I am battling a serious head cold so we're going to have to dig into another one from the oldie-but-goodie file. (I'm pretty sure for most of you this is brand new. Put it this way, I'd be shocked if the number of people who did the puzzle when it first ran in Time Out New York matched the number of people who come to this site). Lots of vitamin C and sleep and (God-willing) brand spanking new puzzle Friday.