Look Both Ways
"Midrash" by Tim Croce (July 2014)

One day, I got this crazy idea that I was going to tie or set a record that would be impossible to break in crosswording history: construct a puzzle in which 100% of the white squares were theme squares. I initially dismissed the palindrome idea, but it just kept popping up in my brain. Mirrors started appearing in front of me. I started dreaming of Janus every day of the week. Nothing would play in my head except for that mini bass solo near the end of "You Can Call Me Al." It was as if one part of my brain was taunting another: "C'mon... you chicken?!" I knew going in that it would be ugly, that it would have to involve some concessions that I'd never put in a normal grid. A ton of cheater squares! Many partials! Several awkward abbreviations! And what crossword would be complete without ... obscure avifauna! Despite all this, I went ahead with it anyway.

Will Shortz said no to this one, though he called it "impressive." I kinda had a feeling about that—though the grid has a highly unusual feature, the compromises I had to make to fill it may have weighed it down too much. It drifted off into the netherworld for three years—see, this thing just would never leave my head!—until after I got happily involved with this group. I'm so happy to have found a home for this. This is so far outside anything I would ever normally do crossword-related, but some outside force told me twice not to give up on it—first, after coming up with the idea, and second, after having had it rejected by the New York Times. I'm very pleased to have an outlet like this, especially for a puzzle that something, somehow, wouldn't let die.

GB adds: This wonderfully creative puzzle by Tim is exactly the sort of effort that we are proud to publish on our quirky website, where we are willing to bend the rules (word count, number of blocks, etc.) a bit in the service of a greater "aha" to our solvership. Our beta testers (listed on the puzzle's main page) absolutely loved it, although one did point out that Tim's record of 100% theme coverage of white squares has been tied, in a puzzle that used only 1-point Scrabble letters and in another puzzle where all across clues had the same format [links require access privileges to xwordinfo.com; alternatively, search for Peter Gordon June 5, 2001 and Joe Krozel December 8, 2009 Times crosswords]. As to the timing of our release, we wanted the date and time to be a palindrome, and must rue the missed April Fools' 2014 opportunity (4/1/14)—but what can one do?!

If you want to tell others about this particular page, refer them to http://tinyurl.com/lookbothwaysmidrash

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