Thursday, April 28, 2022

Puzzle Fifty-Four: Schmear Campaign


Another puzzle from the vaults. There's a story behind this one that follows below beneath the PuzzleMe applet. Thanks to Steve Mossberg for test-solving. 

Congrats to Abide and benchen71, who won the most recent meta contest for "Don't Hold Your Breath." An explanation is posted on the X-Word Muggles forum.

Reminder: I have a collection of 15 9x9 midi puzzles called MIDI CONTROLLER available on a pay-what-you-want basis over on GumRoad. Big thanks to everyone who's already bought or downloaded it!    


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I submitted this puzzle to the NYT a while back, feeling very good about my theme set. They wrote back and explained politely that it was a nice puzzle but they'd run one with the exact same theme and mechanic by Jacob Stulberg  in 2018. I was horrified, as I'd even searched the XWordInfo database for the revealer to make sure no one else had done it (it did seem surprising that no one else would have hit upon it). As it turned out, Jacob, as I ultimately did as well, split his revealer into two entries, CHEESE and SPREAD, so my search for CHEESE* hadn't turned up his puzzle. (Searching for DEADCALM, the one theme entry we both used, would have turned it up.) Upon consulting with Steve, who test-solved the puzzle, we concluded that we must both have solved Jacob's puzzle and just not remembered it. Apologies to Jacob for the inadvertent plagiarism. 

The story doesn't end there, however. Some time after putting the puzzle aside, I was reading Ben Tausig's 2013 book The Curious History of the Crossword. On p. 33 he mentions a puzzle by Aimee Lucido, not included in the book, with the revealer CUTTHECHEESE, in which "a different kind of cheese [is] 'cut up'" within each theme entry. EDAM, for example, appears within NERDGASMS. So I owe an additional apology and acknowledgement to Aimee, who came up with this theme at least five years before anyone else!

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