In February of 2017, The New York Times celebrated a landmark in the history of puzzles: the 75th anniversary of the NYT crossword.
And ever since, to commemorate that puzzly milestone, top constructors and Times favorites have been pairing up with celebrity fans and puzzle enthusiasts to co-construct puzzles for the Times!
This year, you might’ve encountered some of these collaborations, like news pundit Rachel Maddow’s March 2nd puzzle with constructor Joe DiPietro, or “How I Met Your Mother” star Josh Radner’s meditation-themed puzzler from January 31st with constructor Jeff Chen.
Over the last year, names as diverse as John Lithgow, Elayne Boosler, Joy Behar, Lisa Loeb, Neil deGrasse Tyson, and Bill Clinton have contributed their puzzly efforts to this marvelous project.
And yesterday, another famous wordsmith and master of punnery made his New York Times debut.
[Image courtesy of Instagram.]
Yes, the immortal “Weird Al” Yankovic teamed up with Puzzle Your Kids mastermind and friend of the blog Eric Berlin for a cheese-themed Wednesday outing that delighted fans and solvers alike.
Al has certainly been keeping busy lately, launching his Ridiculously Self-Indulgent, Ill-Advised Vanity Tour — his words, not mine; I loved the show I attended! — and working with Lin-Manuel Miranda to create The Hamilton Polka, an ambitious and hilarious take on the wildly successful musical.
The puzzle was Eric’s 40th Times puzzle, and Al’s first. Not only did the puzzle feature those signature cinematic cheese puns — like A FEW GOUDA MEN and THE PELICAN BRIE — but there was plenty of nerd culture featured in the fill and cluing.
Tom Lehrer and John Cleese were both name-dropped, as well as Legolas, Wile E. Coyote, WALL-E, Mr. Clean, and Bones from the original Star Trek.
Eric offered some insight into the puzzle’s creation while discussing the puzzle with Wordplay’s Deb Amlen:
My very first attempt at the grid included one of my favorites from his list, QUESOBLANCA. I was under the misapprehension that queso is not just the Spanish word for cheese but also a specific kind of cheese. Whoops, not quite. (This was entirely on me, I should note — Al, not knowing during his brainstorming that the end result would be restricted to specific cheeses, had several cheese-adjacent puns in his list, including FONDUE THE RIGHT THING and CHEESY RIDER.)
And appropriately enough, Al had a bit of fun promoting the puzzle on his Instagram, claiming, “If you’re REALLY good, you don’t NEED the clues!”
For the record, I needed the clues.
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