At this point, you may or may not have filled in 99-Across, the long entry above 103-Across, which is innocently clued “‘As you can imagine …’.” If you haven’t, you might want to look away; if you have figured that out, then it might be NEEDLESS TO SAY how important it is to the puzzle.
Continue directly up the grid, looking at each across entry that touches the one above it, stopping at 73-Across. It’s a sequence that almost reminds me of a word ladder, but we’re looking at a much different structure. From the top down:
99A: NEEDLESS TO SAY
103A: NEEDLE IN A HAYSTACK
Ouch! Did you find the needle or did it find you?
The pertinent metaphor (as well as the endearingly messy STACK of HAYs in this grid) makes me think of Don Quixote (windmills? Haystacks? I really don’t know why). There is evidence that Cervantes used the phrase, but if you look online for an origin for “needle in a haystack,” you’ll find loads of content, but no one, true, shining and definitive answer. Which is entirely appropriate.
(One other note: The seed entry here at 103A makes its sophomore appearance in the Times crossword puzzle; if you want to find its debut, it’s somewhere in this 1961 Sunday grid, now magically solvable online).
So happy to be making my New York Times debut! This has been a goal of mine for quite a few years now. I’m not exactly new to crossword-making though, far from it. I’ve just mostly been making them in a different language. I was born in Stockholm, Sweden, almost exactly 30 years ago, and have probably been making crosswords for well over 20 of them. I don’t even really remember at what exact age I first started, but I was very young. As a kid I used to make crosswords in my native Swedish for a solving audience consisting mostly of my parents, but at the age of 20 I started contributing regularly to a Swedish crossword magazine, which I continued to do for a few years. Over time though, I started to grow a bit bored with Swedish puzzles and felt that I needed a new challenge, so around 9 years ago I decided to try and see if I could solve an American crossword. Turned out I couldn’t. So I continued trying until I could, and ever since then I’ve been solving The New York Times and other American puzzles daily. Coming from a constructor background, it was always a no-brainer for me that I wanted to learn to construct American crosswords as well. We Swedes may be very heavily influenced by American culture, and are usually ranked as some of the best nonnative English speakers in the world, but there are obviously still some culture/language barriers I have to deal with when it comes to American puzzles. But part of the fun in doing crosswords is getting to learn new things, and I’m probably learning just as much from making them as I am from solving them, and am really enjoying myself in the process.
I started making this particular puzzle back in September, submitted it in November, and it got accepted just over a month ago, in early March. It came about very spontaneously, inspired simply by hearing someone use the expression “like trying to find a needle in a haystack,” immediate realizing its potential as a basis for a theme, and within seconds I started working on the puzzle, without even so much as an idea as to what to actually do with it beyond the central gimmick. I honestly didn’t even have much hope that it would actually work, as it required stacking so many theme answers directly on top of each other, which is never an easy task. So I was really pleased that it actually did turn out to be doable, and that it eventually made it all the way to getting published in The New York Times. I had another puzzle (a low-word-count themeless) accepted at the same time as this one as well, so you can definitely expect to see more from me in the future.
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What did you think?