15-Down in Monday's puzzle was seven letters long and its clue was [Spread that (justly) made its creator the wealthiest person in Italy]. Answer: NUTELLA.
Why do crossword writers choose certain words for their grids over others? Often we need to put the reliable standbys in there just for the handy letters -- ERIE, AREA, OVAL -- you know the ones. But when we have a wide choice, we like to use words that will imbue our puzzles with a positive vibe — things that solvers have good thoughts about, such as fun movies (MOANA, JUNO), happy words (LOVE, SMILE), and beautiful places (JAMAICA, ARUBA).
This, of course, includes universally beloved food and drink. So when I placed my theme entries in that puzzle and looked at my word list for a seven-letter entry fitting the pattern N??E???, I weighed the possibilities. NOTE PAD? That's fine, though not thrilling. NAME TAG? Perfectly good, but again, doesn't conjure up much joy.
And then, NUTELLA appeared and I said, yep! I can't prove it, but I'll bet half (or more) of solvers grinned or salivated or laughed or commented to someone within earshot when they filled that one in.
And when they did, I'd done my job well. As the late crossword legend Merl Reagle used to say, a crossword writer is a "long-distance entertainer," and if you smiled when NUTELLA showed up, I did my job.
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