I'll leave Jim with the last word, a spoiler of sorts, about how the puzzle came about:
Being puzzle solvers, we stubbornly insist on taking on the challenge and aggravation of figuring out our own taxes each year. Lately, the federal return has been especially entertaining, because of the totally arcane Alternate Minimum Tax worksheet. Kind of elevates the whole process to a Friday/Saturday NY Times solve level. So at some point, I quite naturally got inspired to inflict this type of mayhem on a crossword-solving crowd.
Almost seemed like it needed to be a super-Sunday-sized puzzle, to do the pure insanity and tedium of the process justice. But even My sadistic tendencies have some limits, so I settled on a standard 15 x 15 offering. No sense making folks take the silly crossword to H&R Block for help, after all. And it might not be deductible.
So I started mapping out what a tax form-instructions-equivalent crossword experience might be like. Sensed that I needed the input of numerous greedy corporations and special interest groups to get an authentic feel. Also, had to think what twists a congressperson would put in, to keep his voting constituency happy, while still managing to scratch every other congressperson’s back, in the spirit of political compromise. The implied level of research was daunting, so two beers later I threw up my hands and winged it. Just make the whole thing ridiculous, I reasoned.
Soon I had mapped out the necessary morphing of facts and figures to (symmetrically) satisfy the crossword gods. Cluing was going to be quite bizarre. Good. Fits the subject matter. Built the whole thing and gave it to the wife to test-solve. “Ewww,” she said, “who wants to solve a puzzle based on tax form instructions?” Test solved the puzzle by myself. Undaunted by wife’s high-level critique, but knowing the results were pretty wacky, sent the whole mess to BEQ. Amazingly, he sort of liked it.
Solvers: Enjoy. And many happy returns.