Harper's cryptic

September 25, 2022

A few years ago, my boyfriend Robert proposed to me in the pages of Harper’s Magazine—his words embedded in the cryptic crossword! As an homage to my husband’s proposal, as a thank you to that puzzle’s author (Richard E. Maltby, Jr.), and as a gift to our wedding guests, I wrote a variety cryptic in the style of Harper’s. I emailed a copy to Mr. Maltby Jr., and a week later got the thrill of my life: an invitation to print the puzzle in the pages of Harper’s Magazine!

The puzzle—shown below—ran in the October 2022 issue. It differs from my original draft: Maltby greatly improved many of the clues, which were written with greater devotion to the theme (love, weddings, and references to our family members) than to elegance. Thankfully, the most important family reference was preserved in 14 down:

14. Rob and I, united in vigor (4)

It was a thrilling experience, and a rare delight, to collaborate with my cruciverbalist role model! I was chuffed with every drop of his praise — he was fond of 46-across, 9-down and 32-down, which were published unaltered. In other cases, he liked the central wordplay but with some rewording was able to make the surface reading much better, or the wordplay fairer (e.g., 40-across, 6-down and 8-down). And, naturally, several clues had to be rewritten completely (such as 5-across, 29-across and 42-down), and I’m really fond of his inventions.

I won’t comment on the clues in any more detail, lest I spoil any.