Anyway, that's him up above. I didn't want fame to go to his head, so I ran that picture. Oh yeah, heads up, we talk a little bit about this puzzle so SPOILER ALERT come back and read it later if you wish. Onto the interview.
BEQ: So, you've got the constructing bug now.
Michael: Hmm. I guess. A little. Damn blog takes too much work, so I can never really get "The Sickness" (that's a "Killer Inside Me" reference). Kind of obscure. You should read that book. For sure. I'm teaching it. Which is why the quote came easy.
BEQ: What made you want to start constructing?
Michael: The Glory? Let's see, I wanted to know (more) what I was talking about. A little knowledge is a bad thing. Now I can't help noticing when people Easily could have done better. It's made me a more appreciative but probably also more critical blogger.
BEQ: Do you consider yourself a good constructor? If you were reviewing this puzzle, what'd you say?
Michael: Oh my God, I am not telling you I am a "good" constructor, no. HA. If I were reviewing it; I don't know. I don't like EDINA / EADIE crossing at all. Everything else I tried in there was worse, if you can believe it. Pretty sure a superior constructor could've fixed things in there, but not me.
Oh, Peter Gordon showed me a Sun puzzle that had a similar theme, but it wasn't a rebus—fruits were just buried inside phrases. I think DELI MEAT was one of them. Otherwise, none of the theme answers were the same.
BEQ: You've dabbled in a little bit everything puzzle-wise: you blog the Times puzzles, you used to test-solve the Times puzzles, and now you've written a handful for the Times (among others). What's the best and worst parts of each?
Michael: Best part of blogging is the community. Meeting and interacting with editors and constructors and solvers—a real treat. Some of my readers are interesting famous people — people I likely never would have met without the blog. Worst part is just the grind. Every single day. Tough to stay enthusiastic and not get tired.
Test-solving was enlightening, in a way—nice to get to see how the puzzle gets polished. Downside, there wasn't much of one.
Constructing is a rush when things (especially themes) fall into place. But if you're like me (and many constructors are on this point), you can get sucked into an okay but kinda weak square and rework it over and over and over and wonder if it's really any better. Perfectionism sucks, worse than a windowless, clockless casino.
BEQ: How many pulp fiction books do you own? What's the most valuable one?
Michael: I own vintage paperbacks, not really "pulp fiction"—I mean, they are "pulp" in genre, some of them, but not pulp in material (i.e. cheap pulp paper—those are an earlier format, big during the 1910s-1940s). Most valuable is probably "Take a Lesbian to Lunch," which is strange since the cover is not at all pulpy and it's from 1972, well outside the main time frame of my collection (1940-1965). It's just a very rare cultural history of lesbianism by a lesbian writer (Ann Aldrich aka Marijane Meaker aka M.E. Kerr aka other things, I'm sure). I'm told the phrase "lipstick lesbian" was coined in this book. Cover features a stubbed-out cigarette with lipstick on it. It's worth several hundred dollars. I paid one. $1. And didn't know what I had until years after I'd bought it. But I don't collect them for monetary value. I just love them.
BEQ: So you have a slew of Rexites who step in and guest blog now and then. One instant classic post was a flame war between Caleb Madison and Natan Last. I'll leave you with this one: Are you on Team Caleb or Team Natan?
Michael: Team Natan.
UPDATE: I've changed the difficulty from Medium to Hard. Thanks.