You sit down with your favorite crossword — the Daily Beast's, we hope, but do acknowledge that others exist. You start to solve...but do you ever wonder how long ago that puzzle was written? Days, weeks, years?
With the Daily Beast puzzles, the answer is generally "48 hours ago or sooner". This is not the norm; newspaper puzzles have longer lead times than digital media, meaning your paper's crossword was probably written months or even years before you solve. This isn't usually a huge deal, but we strive for timeliness with the Daily Beast crosswords. Even for us, though, last Thursday's puzzle involved some tricky timing.
I wanted to do a puzzle on the Australian Open, since both Serena Williams and Novak Djokovic were one match away from making it to the finals. Dkojovic had first won the event back in 2008, while Serena, incredibly, was close to winning a tournament she'd first won way back in 2003. DJOKOVIC and WILLIAMS balanced each other out nicely at eight letters apiece, so our theme was set. The puzzle clearly had to run on Thursday, since we don't publish a puzzle on Fridays and Saturdays, and if neither player made their final then the theme would feel stale by Sunday.
So how — and when — to write the clues for those two? Because it's Australia, the time difference was a big deal — Serena's semifinal match was set for 10:00 PM Eastern Time on Wednesday night, and Djokovic's match was starting at 3:30 AM ET, so writing the clues for those was tricky.
We came up with a plan: fudging the phrasing on the clues with [He's one match away from playing in the Australian Open final yet again on Sunday; he first won the event back in 2008] for DJOKOVIC and [She's one match away from playing in the Australian Open final yet again on Saturday; she first won it back in 2003 (by defeating her big sis, Venus, in the final)] for WILLIAMS. With these clues, any very-early-Thursday-morning solvers in the U.S. would still have a correct hint.
When the matches finished -- Djokovic won, Serena lost to Naomi Osaka -- I sent updated clues into my tireless editors, who posted the two updated clues at about 7:15 AM. So, if you happened to solve around 8:00 AM, say, you may have seen the updated clues and been moderately impressed with the speed of our operation here!
Those new clues, by the way, were [He'll play in the Australian Open final yet again on Sunday; he first won the event back in 2008] and [She came within one match of playing in the Australian Open final yet again this year; she first won it back in 2003 (by defeating her big sis, Venus, in the final)].
That's our behind-the-scenes speed-publishing story. Got a speed-solving one? Tweet it to #beastxword and we'll read it very quickly.
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