PROGRAM: [Across Lite]
Jeffrey Harris IMed me last month to say that he had a puzzle for the guest column that would have a tenuous connection to me personally. After the chill left my spine, I asked him to send it along. And once I saw the title, I roared. For you see, my nom in the National Puzzler's League is Beck (a phonetic pronouncement of BEQ), and "Odelay" is probably his biggest record. Music reference + inside joke = a happy BEQ. Thanks, Jeffrey, glad to run this.
In case you haven't figured it out by now, that's him in the middle of the above photo. I've protected the identities of the others, mainly for legal reasons.
Speaking of the NPL, the convention is going on right now in Portlandia. I managed to get Mr. Harris to say a few words before boarding a plane heading west.
BEQ: Give me a brief background please. Where you're from, how'd you get into puzzles, where've you sold/worked/etc.
Jeffrey: I'm originally from Nashville, Tennessee, and currently living in Norwalk, CT. I got into puzzles via the NPL at a fairly early age. I've worked at Puzzlewright (the puzzle division of Sterling) and Penny Press, and am currently trying to make it as a freelancer. Most of the crosswords I've sold have been to the New York Sun, with the Chronicle of Higher Education in second.
BEQ: How do you go about makings puzzles anyway?
Jeffrey: I use Crossword Compiler for grid-filling with my own database, and use Alex Boisvert's collaborative word list project and OneLook as backups. I am currently working on beefing up my entry database.
BEQ: Your website is mostly dedicated to free crosswords. Though I think you shine in some other forms, be they block crpytics, variety cryptics, a Rows Garden variety, heck even a number logic puzzle. Which of these forms the most fun to work with?
Jeffrey: My favorite puzzles to make are variety cryptics; unfortunately, they are also the puzzles I have the fewest ideas for. Beyond that, crosswords are pretty fun ... I was lucky to come out of making the Japanese logic puzzle alive. I just don't have that skill set.
BEQ: Tell me about your latest book, "Sit & Solve Pop Music Crosswords".
Jeffrey: It's a book of 42 10x10 crosswords with pop music mini-themes (usually two entries), and with pervasive pop music cluing and trivia throughout. Also, some of the puzzles have non-symmetric grids. I've always enjoyed pop music, though I'm nowhere near as well-versed in it as you, Ben Tausig, or Francis Heaney. I think I managed to get a good spectrum of music in the book, though.
BEQ: There's rumors that you have a near-encyclopedic knowledge of every theme that's been done in puzzles, and can recall this information on command. Feel free to disprove, or demonstrate this rumor.
Jeffrey: I think I'm pretty good at remembering themes; not sure what I could say to prove it, though.
BEQ: What's on deck for Jeffrey Harris in the back half of 2012?
Jeffrey: Mainly I'm just glad that I have the time and energy to be making puzzles again. I'm going to try to submit more to the Crosswords Club/Uptown Puzzle Club (if I can come up with acceptable themes).