I'll let Ria and Brooke take the floor.
brooke: i’m forever the biggest fan of the ria/paolo (of Grids These Days/NYT fame) power couple and their notes on ria’s recent debut can’t be topped (neither can ria’s 1A clue in that puzzle; remember her name!!!) but i would like to take this space to write my own love letter to ria. i think we were both nervous to be introduced to each other because the expectations were so high on both ends
ria: oh my god, i remember the first time we met. it was like three am for me and i was texting paolo all like “oh no brooke’s way too cool for me help what do i say.”
brooke: i think i was texting paolo, “is ria going to think i’m really weird for wanting to hang out with her?”
ria: never!!! i was also thinking pretty much the same thing, on the other end of the spectrum. but we clicked almost immediately and talking to her just felt natural? none of the awkwardness i was expecting
brooke: later we confirmed what we were both suspecting but hadn’t said: that we have a **very strong pisces energy**. relevantly, we also have a **very strong puzzle collab energy** and i am so, so thrilled that matthew is giving us this platform to run our “little puzzles” on his site
ria: yes! forever grateful to matthew for letting us do this, and let me just add that when brooke says “very strong puzzle collab energy,” she means very strong! most of these clues were thought up during an hour long chaotic video call, and all three puzzles just sprung into being out of our collective hivemind
brooke: the best/most validating part is when our go-to test solver (paolo, obv) can’t tell who wrote which clue, and we’re all on a video call together, and ria and i have nearly exactly mirrored body language and are finishing each other’s sentences and laughing. it’s the best thing
ria: it’s SUCH a good energy. brooke’s amazing and a dream to work with, and she definitely single handedly taught me how to fill a grid. her puzzles are always so clean and fresh and *good*, which all of you probably know if you’re familiar with her usa today/indie work (her diagonal grids are insane). if you haven’t already, please go check out her avx puzzle today — it’s *so* worth it. hoping you all have as much fun solving these minis as we did making them!
*We recommend solving these in the order presented. For the best solving experience, print them out.