60 seconds with Wyna Liu
where do you live now?
I live in Chinatown, Manhattan, a few blocks from where my parents worked while I was growing up.
Where and when was your first puzzle published?
My first puzzle was published in the American Values Club Xword in January 2019. I’m very proud of it; it was the second puzzle I wrote. I had submitted my first to The Times a few months earlier, but it didn’t air until a few weeks after the AVCX.
When was your first New York Times crossword published?
My first Times puzzle was published on February 15, 2019. It was the first puzzle I built myself, a non-themed puzzle with CRAZY RICH ASIANS and CATFISHES.
How did you come to the puzzle? What is your first resolution memory?
My mom bought me a bunch of Games Magazine collections when I was maybe nine or 10. I couldn’t solve any of the puzzles then, but I loved reading the instructions and looking at the pictures. It was in these collections that I first saw the names Will Shortz and Mike Shenk.
I didn’t start solving crossword puzzles until my late twenties (discovering that Brendan Emmett Quigley’s puzzles played a big part in it), but these books planted a seed that would grow, decades later. , in my crossword obsession. I recently rediscovered them at my parents’ house and was a bit moved when I realized the profound and formative influence they had on me. Thanks Mom.
What made you decide to try doing crossword puzzles?
I became curious about puzzles as I solved them. Patrick Berry’s excellent book on building introduced me to the basics of the process, but it would take me several more years before I tried to make one in earnest.
That changed in late 2018, when I met Erik Agard at Crosswords LA and Ben Tausig at a Yo La Tengo Hanukkah show. They became my mentors. I am so grateful for their generous support; I join a long list of people who can say they got started with the encouragement of Erik and Ben. Since then, I’ve been addicted.
Why are you doing this?
The joy and satisfaction I get from doing puzzles is similar, in some ways, to the feeling I get when working on an art-related project. I feel like I’m finding a creative solution to a problem, even if it’s one of my own creations.
What do you enjoy most about creating puzzles?
I love doing grids and doing it for hours at a time. Sometimes I will procrastinate on one grid by starting another grid. There’s also the hope that someone might enjoy solving my puzzle like I’ve enjoyed solving other builders’ puzzles over the years.
Do you use construction software and, if so, which one? What do you like about it?
I do! Like many Mac users, I use Crossfire. [The most popular software for creating crosswords on a PC is Crossword Compiler. — D.A.]
It’s an amazing tool and I love it. Builders who make puzzles without software amaze me; it’s a skill that I can’t figure out. XWordinfo.com is another invaluable resource. This is not a puzzle making program, but a website with a database and wordlists for builders.
How many hours per week, on average, do you spend refining your tools, like your word list?
Hard to say. I usually spend at least two hours a day working on grids, and that’s when I make adjustments to my word list. I keep a separate list of entries on my phone that I want to build puzzles around, and add to it whenever inspiration strikes.
What is your favorite clue/answer pair?
This is a tough question! Too many to mention, but two examples are Robyn Weintraub’s “Purchase That Usually Ends Up in the Trash” for GARBAGE BAG and “Pussy riot?” by Andrew Ries. for LOLCAT (Mr. Ries puzzles can be found at ariespuzzles.com).
Which entry or entries would you make never put in a puzzle, and why?
I believe puzzles should be as inclusive as possible, so I’ll do my best to avoid anything that’s violent, hurtful, or exclusionary, as well as names of people who I don’t think should be given “time out”. antenna”.
I think it’s important to consider your audience: who are we making the puzzle for? I’m not too gross, so I don’t mind filling in what’s related to body or sex. As others have mentioned, I find entries like PATERNO and NRA much more problematic.
What else is going on?
I make jewelry and works of art; they are on my site. I’m also on Instagram and Twitter @wynaliu.
And if you don’t have enough puzzles, consider checking out and subscribing to AVCX, The Inkubator, and other independent pubs.
I’m absolutely thrilled to be joining the New York Times Think Tank this month, along with Tracy Bennett, as Associate Editor! I can’t wait to see your puzzles!