I'm especially honored and pleased on this anniversary to be publishing what may well be the most revealing record in existence of Eugene T. Maleska as an editor. Thanks to pre-Shortzian and now Shortz-era constructor Jim Modney, the entire correspondence between Jim and Gene is now available, and Jim has generously allowed me to post it on Scribd. This is truly an invaluable document, showing a little-recognized side to Maleska as both an editor and a person. I encourage everyone to read it, even if your interactions with Maleska were less than ideal. Click here for more.
I'm also thrilled to present an interview with Jim Modney himself. Jim's story is fascinating—he took a 30-year break from constructing, and it's great to be able to solve his Scrabbly constructions with clever themes once again! To read Jim's interview, click here or on the Pre-Shortzian Constructor Interviews tab above.
Thanks so much again, Jim, for saving all your correspondence and making it and your interview available to the crossword world on the second anniversary of the Pre-Shortzian Puzzle Project!
Although Jim Modney did an excellent job of describing all his puzzles, I'm still going to highlight one this week. Today's featured Modney opus was published Saturday, September 12, 1981; edited by Eugene T. Maleska; and litzed by Mark Diehl. It's a splendid pangrammatic 70-worder that even contains a minitheme! The minitheme, which consists of QUARTERFINALIST and HALFHEARTEDNESS, is fractions contained in larger (15-letter, in this case) phrases. Jim added multiple levels of consistency to his minitheme by placing the two fractions at the fronts of his theme entries and by ensuring that both theme entries are single words. As for the nonthematic fill, Jim squeezed in tons of fresh, Scrabbly entries without having to use a large number of subpar ones, which is very impressive given that the grid is so wide open! My favorite entries include EQUINOX, GUANACO (which gets far less attention than CAMEL or LLAMA), EXOTICISM, EJECTABLE, BENZENE, and JOKER! I don't love GIRTS (clued as "Measures the circumference"), LATESTS ("Avant-garde styles"), or SYCES ("Indian attendants"), but all three of these entries were used in other pre-Shortzian puzzles (in the case of SYCES, in the singular). The real trade-off with the fill is that the grid has a handful of cheater squares, but I think Jim made a good call in going for the cleaner fill rather than for the less chunky grid. All in all, this is a fantastic pre-Shortzian puzzle with a strong minitheme and minimal junk in the fill! The puzzle can be viewed or solved on XWord Info; also, as usual, the answer grid (with highlighted theme entries) can be seen below: