Puzzle #44: "Distance Learning" (by Richard D. Allen)
The streak of guest puzzles continues! I've been keeping busy publishing in other venues — you can see a list of those puzzles here (or via the "More" tab at the top of this webpage) — so I'm happy to post a puzzle by a guest constructor in the meantime, and this is a good one. Richard may be a newer constructor, but he's a familiar face on Crossword Twitter, and the theme he presents today is ultra-topical.
If you're joining us from today's New York Times crossword or from the most recent episode of Crossnerds, welcome! (And if you're a regular at my site but haven't yet checked out those things, I'd love for you to do that after solving Richard's puzzle.)
Please wear a mask,
I've been solving and constructing crosswords seriously for about two years, but I have a lifelong interest in word games, trivia, codes and esoterica. The year before I got into constructing I was simultaneously trying to build my own escape room in a box and making multimedia art based around anagrams, so when I discovered constructing I felt like I had been looking for that particular outlet without knowing it. (Not that any of it translated neatly to crosswords: my first 15×15 puzzle had two theme entries, no revealer, and several two-letter words, which I hadn't even figured out were off-limits yet.)
After a few months of daily NYT solving, two questions popped into my head: "I know there are indie board games. Are there indie crosswords?" and "Is there a crossword community on Twitter?" Cut to: "Oh wow, these puzzles are really clever and fun, and mostly free!" From Will Nediger's monthly indie puzzle roundup, I discovered a new blog called [audience yells "SID'S GRIDS DOT COM"] Sid's Grids dot com. Solving Sid's puzzles and seeing them quickly progress from good to superb was very inspiring for me, as I know it was for a number of other new constructors. Sid has also been very kind about answering my noob questions about the Crossworld, critiquing grids and theme ideas, and the like. I think he did four rounds of editing on this puzzle from the original grid I sent him, substantially improving it at every turn.
My first three official publications all came in the past two months — one with Universal and two with Spyscape, including this week's, which I hope you will check out. I'm also finally taking the plunge and working on launching my own little puzzle site at lexicondevil.live, which I hope you will bookmark and follow, even though it may still be a parked domain name if you click through to it today.
Finally, you can follow me on Twitter @ambivalentricky and on Twitch at twitch.tv/r_b_t_m, where I occasionally stream-solve indie puzzles as well as pre-Shortz NYT puzzles, New Yorker puzzles, and others. If you need a test solver, want to collaborate, or have any questions, feel free to get in touch. (I'm still a noob myself, so I may not have the answers you need, but maybe I can direct you to someone who does.)