As a lot as I preferred the concept, the Occasions rejected the puzzle in April 2012, with the temporary response that the theme simply didn’t excite Will Shortz sufficient. Which will have been partially as a result of I attempted to disclose the theme with the reply SMALL CHILD in two separate five-letter slots, which even on the time I didn’t really feel was a powerful sufficient phrase for what I used to be trying to do. I don’t keep in mind why I initially considered the concept; it wasn’t as a result of I had children of my very own, nor was I considering I might even turn out to be a dad or mum quickly. It could have been as a result of my niece Aurora was born in November 2011, however I’m undecided it got here from something apart from a want to mix a Schrödinger puzzle and a rebus puzzle into one. Regardless of the case, I’d at all times remembered it and held onto it in case in the future I may use it for a extra pertinent cause.
Quick-forward to March 2023, and immediately I had that cause: My spouse, Vicki, and I came upon she was pregnant. After which just a few weeks in the past, we discovered that our child can be arriving sooner than we anticipated, so if I have been going to publish the BOY/GIRL puzzle that I’d first tried 12 years in the past, now was the time. It’s totally different from its unique incarnation, and it’s now 19×19 in dimension, however the core thought is similar: Pairs of phrases that may begin or finish with both BOY or GIRL, and an remoted BOY/GIRL Schrödinger rebus sq. within the middle.
- 8A: [Retriever in foul territory] might be both BALL BOY or BALL GIRL.
- 20A: [Archetypal neighbor in romantic stories] might be both BOY NEXT DOOR or GIRL NEXT DOOR.
- 36A: [DC Comics protagonist] might be both SUPERBOY or SUPERGIRL. Hopefully you didn’t fall right into a SUPERMAN lure right here, though the crossing MANFRIENDS at 37D in all probability wouldn’t sound correct.
- 50A: [Enthusiastic devotee] might be both FANBOY or FANGIRL.
- 82A: [Alex or Morgan, e.g.] might be both BOY’S NAME or GIRL’S NAME.
- 12D: [Sitcom with the characters Cory and Topanga] might be both “BOY MEETS WORLD” or “GIRL MEETS WORLD.”
- 20D: [Time to grow up] might be both BOYHOOD or GIRLHOOD.
- 37D: [Some significant others] might be both BOYFRIENDS or GIRLFRIENDS.
- 40D: [Parent’s phrase of encouragement to their young child] might be both “THAT’S MY BOY” or “THAT’S MY GIRL.”
- 53D: [Group whose members earn badges] might be both BOY SCOUT TROOP or GIRL SCOUT TROOP.
I threw in a revealer of kinds at 98A: [Child represented in six squares in this puzzle (in either of two different ways)] is LITTLE KID. Functionally the identical thought as SMALL CHILD, however LITTLE KID is extra in-the-language.
The observe above the puzzle comprises its personal announcement: Subsequent week’s crossword might be my final puzzle of the 12 months, and the remaining puzzles of 2023 (Nov. 5 via Dec. 31) might be revealed by a gaggle of visitor constructors. Truly I ought to make clear that the Oct. 29 puzzle just isn’t going to be a brand new one; it’s a rerun from just a few years in the past that I notably preferred, however I completely wanted to take a break on writing a brand new puzzle for that date. You may in all probability guess why — it’s proper in the midst of the puzzle:
- The middle sq. at 60: [“It’s a ___!” (either one of two celebratory birth announcements shared by new parents)] is solely both BOY or GIRL.
And now I can say it formally: Our child was born on Monday, Oct. 16, at 10:28 p.m. Six kilos, 8 ounces of happiness, fright, surprise and pleasure, all constructed into an incredible, advanced little being.
I threw in loads of child- and baby-related clues all through the puzzle to present it extra of the flavour it wanted. Although I’ve been a dad or mum for only some days, I’ve already skilled what lots of my readers already know: It’s each very rewarding and extremely exhausting, with every day bringing new considerations however little victories as properly, and Vicki and I are studying rather a lot as we go. The puzzle could have been tougher than a standard crossword, however then, elevating a new child child is difficult. I simply really feel terribly fortunate to be doing it with somebody as great and affected person and understanding as Vicki Jones.
Lastly, this puzzle is one that might hopefully apply to any dad or mum, however if you happen to have been questioning which of the 2 rebus choices applies to Vicki and me …
Meet my son Elliot James Birnholz. His first title ELLIOT seems at 13D: [Young Billy of a musical].
I hope you get pleasure from subsequent week’s rerun puzzle, and I’m actually excited so that you can clear up the guest-constructed puzzles in November and December. I’ll see you all with new puzzles in January.