A buddy of mine showed me this puzzle he'd been working on this weekend. It was pretty good overall with quality fill and an amazing break involving some current events. He wanted to know if any paper would take it, and I unfortunately said they probably wouldn't. By the time any editor finally sees the puzzle, there's no guarantee he'd rush it to print. So, their argument would be how current would it be at that point? (FWIW: when material does warrant immediacy, like David Kahn's Michael Jackson tribute e.g., it's done by people who are already well-entrenched in the puzzling world.)
But, for the most part, stuff that happens today (say Monday) doesn't warrant appearing in the puzzle tomorrow (Tuesday). A brief story: In the fall of '03, the baseball world almost had an (at the time) all-time-biggest-loser World Series matchup: BOSTON RED SOX against the CHICAGO CUBS. But two people fucked it up: GRADY LITTLE and STEVE BARTMAN. As dumb luck would have it, those split up symmetrically, so I pitched it to the two people who could turn it around immediately if they really wanted to: Will Shortz and Peter Gordon (New York Sun). Will balked (get it? balked!) because of the Time's syndication policies. Peter passed because he's a Yankees sycophant. I ended up making it anyway and sending it out on Cruciverb and the Time's crossword bulletin board. (Stuff on the Internet doesn't die, I've found out. If anybody has a copy of it, e-mail me and I'll post it here.)
I don't really understand the Times' syndication policies. Apparently stuff in the puzzle needs to have a years-plus shelf life. I guess the explanation is for things like the syndication (some six weeks later than the original date it ran). And the other reason is they can republish the same work in perpetuity in books or on cookie jars or whatever. In today's print-on-demand world, this seems like a cop out reason. Just run the ripped-from-the-headline puzzles now, and if they don't jive on a cookie jar or in any of the books, don't use those puzzles then. </editorializing>
Having said all that, the Times crossword recently affected events happening on the same day the puzzle ran. Wired held a contest earlier this year where a reporter, Evan Ratliff, was going to shed his identity completely and start a new life for exactly one month. If any of the readers found him during that time, they won some $5000. Kind of like a modern-day version of "The Running Man." And like in that novella, Evan had to check in with the magazine to say what he'd been up to (it was at the editor's discretion to share with the hunters) and receive tasks to accomplish. One way Wired communicated "goals" to Evan was through the Times's crossword puzzle. Puzzlemaker Mike Selinker had the Times puzzles for the week of 9/7-9/11 and sent coded messages detailing tasks that could only be deciphered after solving the puzzle.In fact, the Monday puzzle was the final piece the hunters needed to catch Evan. Cool stuff. Read about it here and here.
Share the puzzle. New one on Wednesday.