“Every crossword in the Times is a collaboration between the puzzle-maker and the puzzle editor. On average, about half the clues are mine. I may edit as few as five or ten percent of the clues, or as many as 95 percent for someone who does a great puzzle but not great clues. Why accept a puzzle when I’m going to edit 95 percent of the clues? Well, if someone sends me a great puzzle with an excellent theme and construction—you want fresh, interesting, familiar vocabulary throughout the grid—I feel it would be a shame to reject it on account of the clues, because I can always change them myself.
This puzzle came from Elizabeth Gorski, one of the pros. Liz is great at putting fresh entries at the short spaces of a grid. That’s very hard to do. There was one thing about the construction I didn’t like, and that was at 35 Down. The answer was LORELAI, and the sirens on the Rhine are of course “Lorelei,” with an “e-i.” Liz’s clue was Rory’s mom on Gilmore Girls, and I didn’t think followers should have to know that. Sometimes I’ll do little fixes myself. But this was big enough that I asked her to revise the grid. You can see the new letters in blue, where I’ve amended the manuscript. Then the puzzle is accepted. I earmarked it for a Wednesday, because the theme consists of straight-forward English, but it’s a little playful.”