I think it's fair to say I've been a crossword fan--a cruciverbalist, in Latinate parlance--since I learned how to read. To this day, I buy a fresh copy of Games magazine before every flight. I work an average of a crossword a day. I began designing puzzles in grade school. I'd hand them out to my friends and then slump when no one bothered to attempt them. For my production of Sherlock's Last Case at Lakewood Playhouse, I constructed an entire puzzle contest, including a crossword, word find, "wordoku," and word scramble. I quite enjoyed that challenge; and so, apparently, did hundreds of eager solvers in multiple states.
The apex, of course, of crossword puzzle construction, is getting published in the New York Times. The Times's puzzle editor, Will Shortz, is also one of Games magazine's editors. If you know crosswords, you know Will Shortz. This summer, I added "have a crossword published by the New York Times" to my bucket list, so I spent much of a week obsessing about my first professional submission, "Hot Stuff." I sent it in on my 46th birthday. About three months letter, I received a lovely email from Shortz's assistant, who told me Shortz liked my fill (that is, the non-theme-related words, the shorter words that "fill" in the rest of the puzzle) but wasn't crazy about my admittedly non-revolutionary theme. The puzzle was, therefore, narrowly rejected. I do want to give you a chance to solve it, though, if you care to, because I intend to submit a new puzzle and could use the constructive criticism.
So here it is. Let me know what you think. You may need to tap the Java applet to activate the .puz file reader.