Everyone remembers the first time. The first time. It was amazing. Sparks flew. The earth shook and then, a warm afterglow. A cigarette, a sip of champagne. I was in love . . . and could hardly wait to solve my next New York Magazine crossword.
The first puzzle I ever solved -- from beginning to end, with no aids -- was a Maura Jacobson puzzle in New York Magazine. Huge accomplishment for me, as I could barely make a dent in The New York Times puzzles of the early '90s.
Maura's extensive puzzle-ography has had a profound effect on my confidence as a solver . . . and later, as an aspiring puzzle writer. Seeing a woman's byline over that big New York puzzle each week made all the difference. Maybe I could make a puzzle some day. And if Maura B. Jacobson uses a byline with a middle initial . . . so will I.
After 30 years of punning, trickery and puzzle-icious entertainment, Maura has stepped down as New York magazine's crossword editor/contributor. Cathy Allis, whose wildly imaginative puzzles also inspired me to construct, will take over for Maura. Cathy is the perfect successor. Kudos to New York magazine for choosing excellent women to write the weekly crossword.
Years ago I tucked this New York puzzle (above) in my "favorites" file. It made me smile. It's called "Love Among the Insects" -- one of Maura's punning masterworks of 2002. I rarely keep puzzles, but this one was too beautiful to let go. A professional, elegant job from A to Z, as is Maura's tradition.
At the time, I drew a star on the finished puzzle (highest rating), and wrote "Feminine" on the grid. That's funny . . . I don't remember why I wrote that. Perhaps to appreciate a puzzle with a woman's touch. And yet, her puzzles appeal to men and women. That's the mark of a real pro -- Maura includes something for every solver to enjoy. (The crossword teapot next to Maura's puzzle is a beautiful gift from Nancy Shack.)
Thank you, Maura, for constructing puzzles to the beat of your own drum.
P. S. My favorite clue in "Love Among the Insects" is a little one, 112-Down . . . so clever, so elegant, so Maura:
Runaway insect? FLEA