RG2015.17 Hardest/Harder - Solution
RG2015.17 Easier/Easiest - Solution
This may have been the best puzzle of the bunch this year so far. At the very least, I think Row B is the best Row I've dropped in a while. B1 was the seed, and I was very fortunate to be able to include B2 as well (with a colorful Row A answer as well). I realize it was a bit car-heavy, what with Row D and the entry at I2, so I apologize to non-drivers.
The puzzle recap takes a back seat, however, to saying a few words about Merl Reagle, the legendary constructor who passed unexpectedly last Saturday. I never was able to meet Merl in person, even though I did trek to the ACPT for a couple of tournaments, and only had brief interactions with him over e-mail. I'm now regretting I was unable to know Merl better, based on the accounts of other crossworders that had the pleasure of having a long friendship with him.
But I feel indebted to Merl for blazing a trail for independent puzzlers and I've tried to implement the elements of his business plan as I've forged ahead in my puzzle career. For instance, where I have had the negotiating power, I've retained rights (or at least a portion of them) to my puzzles, something that I took from Merl's playbook so to speak. These sorts of considerations create an ecosystem whereby the puzzle constructor can break free from the chains of traditional media and work independently. In many senses, Merl was the original "indie."
Aside from his business savvy, he was a master humorist who imbued his crosswords with his rich personality. If you were stripped of an author's byline prior to solving, you'd still probably figure out it was a Merl puzzle by the time you hit the first theme entry. That's the mark of a true auteur, and his basic philosophy of a puzzle as primarily an entertainment is something I try to keep in mind at all times. In this regard it's difficult to find a constructor that hasn't been influenced by Merl.
The world of puzzles was lucky to have such a presence, and it now has a chasm without him in it. Rest in peace, Merl.