Puzzle #28: Themeless
I'm very happy with how the center stack of this puzzle turned out: three lively, delicious answers that are perfect seeds for (diversity-espousing, culturally conscious) crossword puzzles. It's unfortunate that I should hesitate at all to send a puzzle like this to newspapers, fearing the dreaded reply, this may not be well known to our solvers — or, even worse, this is not well-known enough [to merit inclusion in our puzzle].
There has recently been some very important discussion about hiring practices and editorial decision-making in mainstream puzzles, particularly the New York Times. (The discussion has largely been about the glaring lack of gender parity, for good reason: the statistics on female representation in the Times puzzle are damning.) Unlike some other constructors who have shared their experiences, I don't have a soured history with any editor in the field. But the demographic makeup of NYT's constructor pool, as well as the clues and entries featured in their puzzles, have clearly demonstrated whom the Times presumes their solving audience to be. That has been enough to deter me from submitting grids like today's to the paper.
On a recent NYT Wordplay livestream, comedian and guest solver Hari Kondabolu mused in response to a biblical reference in the puzzle: "If there are constructors out there — can we have a Hinduism clue, like, for once?" I happened to be watching and opined in the chat that surely, I was the right person for the job. In fact, I've already submitted puzzles with references to my heritage, religion, and culture: an Indian-American; a Hindu; a '90s kid who was born and raised in the 'burbs of Virginia, and enjoys curry and pizza in equal measure. Sadly, if those clues and entries don't make it to print (which I may not know of until seeing the puzzle in the paper on publication day), I'll have had no say in the matter.
Which is all the more reason I'm grateful for this space, where I can put whatever delicious stuff I want into a grid and share it with you, with no gatekeeping in between. It's nice to see my byline on a newspaper puzzle, but it's more fulfilling to know that people are solving my puzzle.