Guest puzzle from Pao Roy (they/them) called "Muted Tones" at 3/5 difficulty. Some lovely words from Pao below!
First, two quick plugs: One big one for our friends at the Inkubator. Their 2021 subscriptions are here, and can be had now! Inkubator has put out amazing work all year, among the best anywhere, and remains 100% female-identified, from editing to construction to design. It's $30/year for 36+ puzzles, but they also have a robustly funded subsidized subscription fund if you need a break on the price. Second more humble plug for us. With Hanukkah (among other holidays) right around the corner, don't forget that AVCX subscriptions can be gifted to your loved ones! Or people who you want to be your loved ones!
Bio time. Pao Roy (they/them) is a New Orleans-based counselor/social worker. Pao has been making crossword puzzles since 2006 for acclaimed publications such as their undergraduate school newspaper, the LSU Daily Reveille, and the now-defunct New Orleans alternative paper, the NOLA Defender. Those puzzles (made with pencil and graph paper) had groundbreaking themes such as local Baton Rouge restaurants, Mardi Gras parades, French Quarter street names, and the New Orleans Hornets (now Pelicans).Over a decade ago, Pao made a few attempts at submitting crosswords to lesser regarded publications such as the New York Times to no avail. In 2012, discouraged by the way crosswords always seemed geared toward the interests of older, wealthier, white/cis/straight/male solvers, Pao fell out of love with crossword construction and stopped making them entirely until this year.
This year, during quarantine, Pao stumbled upon the Crossword Constructor Collaboration Directory on Facebook and found a rad group of fellow crossword lovers who similarly had a passion to subvert the ciswhiteheteropatriarchal standards of the crosswording mainstream. As a result, Pao has felt reinspired to make crosswords again, with a focus on making younger, queer/female/nonbinary/POC-identifying crossword solvers feel seen and included.
Pao would like to give special shoutouts to two constructing penpals who began as mentors this year and now are very much friends -- Matthew Stock and Brooke Husic -- without whom this journey would have felt too confusing and discouraging to keep going. Additionally, Pao would like to thank two constructors who have provided them with invaluable feedback on dozens of puzzles over the years -- Nancy Salomon and Jeff Chen. There are very many other editors and constructors alike who have inspired Pao to envision the way that crossword puzzles can actually be a force for transformative societal change, however seemingly trivial the medium may appear to be. Pao would like to give shoutouts to all those who have used crossword puzzles as a platform to subvert the prevailing crosswording norms, promote the voices of the underrepresented, or disrupt the ways that culture becomes canonized and gatekept by a privileged few.
The AV Club crossword in the print edition of the Onion used to be Pao's favorite puzzle back in the day, so this first published puzzle with AVCX is a special personal milestone for them.
Ben and the AVCX crew
avxwords.com // @avcxword