June 20, 2019 - "Themeless #3" - by Stella Zawistowski

Puzzle Notes

Dear friends,
June is busting out all over, and so is this themeless -- our third! -- from the stunning Stella Zawistowski. We think you'll find it challenging!
We'll let Stella tell you a little about herself:
I made my first puzzle way back in 2002. I started solving competitively in 2001, and making a puzzle seemed like a natural next step after I'd amped up my solving training. Shortly after my first puzzle appeared in the Los Angeles Times, I started working with Bruce Venzke. From 2002 to 2010, we had a super-productive collaboration in which either of us would come up with themes, he made a grid, and I wrote the clues. We published more than 300 puzzles together, but eventually I got tired of writing clues on a deadline and decided to step away from puzzlemaking indefinitely.
In the last couple of years, I've really started to pay attention to the underrepresentation of women and people of color in puzzlemaking and solving. As I said in my interview with Man Repeller, "sometimes I think that if puzzles as a whole were a little less 'bro' then we would see more women champions." I started to feel a little guilty about not having made a puzzle in so long. Plus, at least 20% of my Twitter feed has got to be me complaining about how the New York Times Friday and Saturday puzzles have gotten too easy. So, I've got to be the change I want to see in the world, right? After this year's ACPT I felt really energized -- I started to feel both like being on the podium as a solver one day was within reach, and also like I should quit thinking about learning how to make grids and actually take steps to do it.
I firmly believe that puzzledom could do with more drag queens, classical music, literature by women, fashion, etc. in clues. I also think there aren't nearly enough hard f'ing puzzles out there. I will do what I can to make both of those things happen.
So here we are, with my first solo themeless publication! I'm stoked to be doing this for Inkubator, whose editors I knew would find my choice for 1-Across a delight and not an obscurity.
Find Stella on Twitter at @stellaphone.
When you're done solving, check out Diary of a Crossword Fiend for a write-up and discussion, every Friday after an Inkubator puzzle is published. For general updates, follow us on twitter at @InkubatorXWords, and visit our website. Thanks to all of our subscribers for your continuing support, feedback, and kindness!
Coming up next, on Independence Day: a celebratory debut puzzle from Allison Uttaro.
All best,
Laura and Tracy