This week on the City Paper Podcast, host Alex Gordon speaks with crossword-puzzle builder Brendan Emmett Quigley, who's created puzzles for outlets ranging from ESPN to McSweeney's. Like Alex, Brendan's love of crosswords was born out of excessive free time, and grew into something of an obsession. You can solve his puzzles every week in the pages of City Paper, or on his website at http://brendanemmettquigley.com/.
BONUS: My first question to Brendan was "what makes a bad puzzle?" I ended up cutting that portion of the interview, but in his answer he described pretty much everything that I did in my attempt (above). I was hoping to create a crossword which used the three parts of his name, and then build off from there. Super simple, right? I ran into headaches at every point in the process, from writing clues to understanding the basics of the grid. My clue for "Quigley" (spoiler) ended up being "Former Secretary of the Pa. Department of Environmental Protection, John." Everybody knows John Quigley, right? Great policies, that guy (I haven't verified this).
Another challenge in writing the hints was originality. Inadvertently, I found myself shamelessly biting off clues/answers I've seen before. And when I wasn't plagiarizing, I was lobbing softballs like "______ The Universe, Beatles tune." There were some middle-ground hints that made it in, Goldilocks style, just right. But they're few and far between, which, as a phrase, might make a good crossword answer. "Few and far between." (Seldom and uncommon, idiomatically).
I Googled every *free* crossword generator under the sun and found they were all fairly simple, in this "price range" at least. Regardless of the sloppy, not-great product I ended up with, it was pretty fun. I definitely have even more respect for Brendan and puzzle builders in general now. Building a puzzle is exhausting and frustrating, which are also words I'd use to describe solving them.
Personally, I'm going to leave it to the pros. Strips in a club! Fantastic.