Friday, May 12, 2017

Bill Clinton Didn't Want His New York Times Crossword To Be Boring

Bill Clinton, in his pre-presidential life, with a crossword and a snack.CreditSteve Liss/The LIFE Images Collection, via Getty Images
Today’s New York Times crossword — for Friday, May 12 — is a collaboration between former President Bill Clinton and the Arkansas district court judge Victor Fleming of Little Rock. Judge Fleming is a regular Times puzzle contributor. This is the first time any U.S. president is known to have had a crossword published.
Although the crossword is themeless, as most Friday Times puzzles are, the answer grid has an “Easter egg,” or secret message, which I won’t reveal here. If you solve the puzzle, see if you can find it. None of the puzzle’s testers noticed it — although, in fairness, they weren’t looking for anything hidden.
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    Today’s collaboration is a natural extension of the friendship between Mr. Clinton and Mr. Fleming, which dates back to 1984, when their daughters, Chelsea and Liz, took swimming lessons from the same teacher. They have remained close ever since.
    President Clinton, famously, is an accomplished crossword solver, “always” doing the Sunday Times puzzle, as well as the Thursday through Saturday puzzles when he can. He was featured in the 2006 documentary “Wordplay,” in which he said, “At some point in my life, we began to get the Sunday Times. When I was president, I worked no telling how many hundreds and hundreds of crossword puzzles. I find it very relaxing. For a moment you take your mind off whatever you’re doing.”
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    In the case of today’s puzzle, Judge Fleming constructed the grid, with some input from Mr. Clinton. The president wrote most of the clues. When the judge proposed tweaks to certain clues, Mr. Clinton objected: “Too easy and boring. Might as well print the answers in the puzzle.”
    This is the fourth “Celebrity Crossword” that The Times has run, as part of a yearlong celebration of the Times puzzle’s 75th anniversary. Previous ones in the series were created by the actor Jesse Eisenberg (Feb. 15), the astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson (Mar. 20) and the pianist Emanuel Ax (Apr. 19).
    Upcoming collaborators include a pop singer with a No. 1 hit, a noted fashion designer, a standup comedian, a venerable TV journalist, a morning TV host, a six-time Emmy-winning actor, and a sitting U.S. senator, among others.
    That senator with a puzzle in the works, like Mr. Clinton, is a Democrat. This leads me to wonder: Are any noted Republicans also regular puzzle doers? If any high-ranking Republican officeholder is reading this and would be game for taking part in the celebrity series, which will continue through December, please contact me through The Times.
    Note: For today’s special puzzle, the usual crossword paywall has been lifted.
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