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  • Writer's pictureMatthew Stock

Little-ish Puzzle (by Brooke Husic and Pao Roy)

Absolutely delighted to share a fantastic collab by two of my favorite collaborators — hope you all enjoy this puzzle as much as I did! Check out Brooke and Pao's puzzle in today's USA Today when you need a Monday mood booster.

Two more quick things:

First, you can still submit your answer to Friday's meta contest puzzle for a chance to win Inkubator puzzles or a custom 11x! Submissions close Sunday night.

Second, I'm leading a crossword gridmaking tutorial via Zoom on Tuesday afternoon starting at 4:30 p.m. CT! If you're interested, come join me at the link here.

Happy puzzling,



From Pao: "I was connected to Brooke through Matthew, who suggested I reach out to her as a test-solver of some of my first puzzles. Since then, both Brooke and Matthew have both been incredible pen pals/collaborators, whom I am indebted to in helping me grow as a puzzle maker. I'm happy to have officially collaborated on two puzzles with Brooke now — this one and the one that's being released in USA Today today!

I think both puzzles that are out today are emblematic of the voice and values that Brooke, Matthew and I all share. What I love most about working with the two of them is how adamant we all are about subverting the ciswhiteheteropatriarchal standards that tend to permeate the puzzle world. Brooke and Matthew constantly push me to fill and clue puzzles with an emphasis on inclusion (of women, people of color, and queerness in all its sorts), playfulness, and unexpectedness. I'm no longer aiming to fit into the stuffy, elitist norms of the NYT crossword; I'm now aiming to break them.

The puzzle started with Brooke asking me for some 11-letter "seed" entries. Then, Brooke did her magic and whipped together this super fun, diagonally symmetric grid, completing half the fill beginning with two of my seed entries (13-Across and 3-Down) seeds. From there, she left me to fill the rest. Once we got approved on the grid, we split up cluing using a shared Google Sheet. My favorite clues of mine were 20-Across, 31-Across, and 21-Down. My favorite clues of Brooke's were 34-Across, 35-Across, and 19-Down. I hope everyone has as much fun solving this puzzle as we had making it!"

From Brooke: "Matthew connected me and Pao under the guise of Pao seeking mentorship and feedback, but as far as I can see it there's no chance that Pao has learned more from me than I've learned from Pao. They're a veteran puzzlemaker who's returning to the scene with an amazing voice and puzzle ingenuity. I'm so glad that we've been able to collaborate and that I get to appreciate and learn from their absolutely phenomenal grids and super clever and uniquely angled clues. I am thrilled that Pao's back in the puzzling world and that we all get to benefit from this — keep a look out for their name on bylines in the future.

I really want to thank Matthew for reaching out to the two of us about writing a midi for his site on the day of our USAT debut. I'm super inspired by the way Matthew uses his platform to proactively highlight other constructors (see also Amanda doing the same at Brain Candy!).

As Pao said, this puzzle started with me setting up a grid using two of their seeds. I love how much good stuff Pao was able to get in from the seriously restricted, partially-filled layout I emailed over. I love Pao's long entries 8-Down and 31-Across, *love* to see 19-Down in a grid *always*, and I really like their fun shorter fill like at 45-Across and 26-Down. It's hard to pick favorites because all Pao's clues are 🔥fire🔥, but I love 13-Across, 23-Across, 3-Down, and 7-Down."


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