Okay let's do this.
BEQ: You both started the L.A. Times Confidential blog, but now it's predominantly your thing now, Angela. Why dontcha give the BEQ.com readers a quick history of that site.
Angela: Back in March 2009, a bunch of newspapers across the country started publishing the L.A. Times syndicated puzzle instead of whatever puzzle they were getting before (which, as I recall, was ... not a good puzzle). Rex, Amy [Reynaldo] and I started talking about it and decided this turn of events would dovetail nicely into our Secret Plan for World Domination. (Yes, our Secret Plan for World Domination involves blogging crossword puzzles. We’ll let you know how it goes.) We started out with each of us blogging certain days, but eventually Rex and Amy remembered they had their own blogs and left LACC to me. That was almost a year ago now.
BEQ: Since you've written about puzzles daily now for years now (Mike for even longer), how do you find the inspiration to keep things fresh?
Michael: I am not a good judge of that. Writing is a discipline—or maybe "habit" is a better word. A habit I created and foster. It would be harder not to write now. And I "keep it fresh" (if that's what I do), by not having any great ambition for any one write-up, by not taking the write-up too seriously, and by focusing on the things I want to focus on more than the things I think (or anyone thinks) I should focus on. I can't write from a place of "should." Total death. Also, I give myself license to jump off-topic if that seems like it might be interesting. The jumping is usually related to something in the puzzle, but that relationship might be highly tenuous (e.g. going from a KITE-themed puzzle to Kirsty MacColl's album "Kite," which has nothing to do with kites, as far as I can tell)
Angela: I definitely feel like some days I’m having more fun with it, and mostly when I’m not it’s just because I’m suffering from life stress. I recently went back to work full-time after being a stay-at-home mom for about eight years, so it’s been kinda tricky getting into a groove. But obviously LACC is modeled after Rex’s excellent blog and I almost always have fun finding random, tangentially related pictures to go along with the write-up. That’s probably the most fun part of it for me actually. And what really encourages me is the people who show up every day. The audience has been steadily growing since Day One and we have a nice group of regular commenters now. I also get personal notes from readers sometimes that really make my day.
BEQ: Angela, tell me about your constructing history.
Angela: I submitted my first puzzle to Will Shortz back in 2007. The theme was incredibly lame and the fill was mostly crosswordese and surprisingly he rejected it! Even with the rejection, though, I felt like constructing was something I was capable of. But I didn’t really try again seriously until Rex and I started working together. We made several puzzles together and then Rex started cheating on me with other collaborators, starting puzzles with me and finishing them with young guns like Caleb Madison, stuff like that. So I said to hell with him and started working with Doug Peterson. Doug and I also had a couple puzzles rejected, but last summer one of our puzzles was accepted at the New York Times! My first acceptance—very exciting!
Unfortunately, there’s no telling when that puzzle will actually run.
In the meantime, Rex and I had a puzzle run in the LAT in January this year, and one of my collaborations with Doug ran in the LAT in February. Doug and I have also had a puzzle accepted for one of those Mega Puzzle Books that I think will come out next year sometime.
It’s definitely time for me to try coming up with a solo puzzle, but I don’t feel like I have a lot of time to focus. And, for me at least, constructing takes a lot of focus!
BEQ: Michael, you've been branching out a bit in terms of selling puzzles.
Michael: I wanted to have one in the NYT just to say that I did. So I did that. And I've had four accepted now (two out, two forthcoming). I sent Rich [Norris] one and he ran it. (Just sent two more his way this morning, actually). My first Sunday-sized is coming out in the Wall Street Journal on March 18. I figure there are several great editors and several important puzzle venues, may as well try to spread my work around. I'll send more stuff to the NYT again at some point, probably. I want to try to use my blog more (in the future) to direct people's attentions to these other venues. More puzzles! Better puzzles! That's the idea.
BEQ: Both of you are competing in this year's ACPT. Tell me about your training, your expectations. Give me your predictions of who wins the whole thing.
Michael: Training? Ha. Expectations? Pfft, I don't know. Top 50 would be cool. Top 100 at a minimum. It's always possible I could tank.
Angela: All I’m really hoping for this year is to do better than last year and to finish Puzzle #5 (which so far I have been unable to do). I do kind of get wrapped up in the whole scoring thing once the tournament starts (Spreadsheets? Why yes, I do have spreadsheets!) but the part that’s most important is hanging out with My People. There really isn’t anything like it and I look forward to it all year.
I think Dan Feyer squeaks out a win this year. Who will be on the stage with him? I’m guessing Tyler Hinman and, hmmm ... oh what the heck, Joon Pahk!
BEQ: If a tree falls in the forest and lands on a completely shitty puzzle, does it get solved?
Michael: I don't know. What do the circles say?