No introduction needed, really. I mean, it's Joon Pahk. Everybody knows him. And to know him is to love him. So if J-Pa sends me a puzzle that he'd like run in the guest column of the site, then, dammit, it's getting run posthaste. The fact that it's a beauty (shocking, I know) made the decision even easier. When you're done with this one, peep his other guest puzzle we ran a few years back. Okay, onto the interview.
BEQ: Whatcha been up to lately?
Joon: Lots of stuff. Since the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament, I've helped write/run one puzzle hunt and played another. I've backed a number of fun Kickstarters, including Patrick Berry's The Crypt and, just this week, got my hot little hands on Neville Fogarty's The Games People Play. Still solving lots of crosswords, too, of course. and there's also the rest of life! My job [at Harvard] has gotten quieter since the end of the semester, but with three kids at home (Leah is now pushing 2 months old) there's plenty to keep me busy.
BEQ: How do you go about making themeless puzzles (or this one specifically)?
Joon: I keep a Google Doc of entries I'd like to use in a crossword some day, either because I love the entry or because I like the entry and I love a clue that goes with it. I update it sporadically, but I construct even more sporadically, so this puzzle ended up with a bunch of "seed" entries culled from that list: 1-Across, 14-Down, 30-Down (for the clue), 33-Down, and 55-Across. Sometimes I go for Scrabbliness, but on this one I was just trying to pack it with as much fresh stuff (with good cluing potential) as I could while keeping the short stuff clean. I'm pretty satisfied with the balance on this one.
Once the grid was done, I gave myself a couple days to clue it. I am pretty delighted with some of the clues in this one: 9-Across, 55-Across, 1-Down, 6-Down, 9-Down, and even slightly subtler tricks like 11-Down, 14-Down and 34-Down pleased me.
BEQ: How's the speed solving going?
Joon: The speed-solving continues apace, but according to my times, I'm leveling off on easy puzzles (although I am still improving at hard puzzles). That probably doesn't bode well for my prospects of ever catching the hares at ACPT; Dan [Feyer], Tyler [Hinman], Anne [Erdmann], Howard [Barkin], and David [Plotkin] can definitely beat me in a flat-out sprint. For no particular reason, I switched over my solving of the CrosSynergy puzzles to Downs-only this week. So far it's been pretty manageable—I did Wednesday's in 3:02 on paper with no Across clues, which is faster than I thought possible. But we'll see what happens when Bob Klahn's byline shows up.
BEQ: You really made your mark in "Jeopardy!" a while back. Are you still doing trivia?
Joon: There's Learned League, which you know about. [BEQ: Knew.] I try to play in The Big Quiz Thing when it comes to Boston once a month. I still Sporcle regularly. The World Quizzing Championship is coming up in a week. I had fun with that last year, so I'd like to try it again if their Boston venue gets their act together. That sounds like a lot, doesn't it? Maybe i'm forgetting about another one.
BEQ: But are we going to see Joon Pahk on another game show soon?
Joon: Soon? No. Ever? Maybe. That's a long time. But now that you mention game shows, this curious page has some people wondering if there is going to be another bring-back-the-champs "Jeopardy!" tournament.
BEQ: Lastly, I know you're a big soccer fan. What team are you going to follow now that your Queens Park Rangers got relegated out of the Premiership?
Joon: Odds are it'll be Chelsea. I just really like Jose Mourinho, although of course I can understand why some people can't stand him.