This is the only puzzle I’ve co-created with my wife, Rachel Antell. There’s no embed for this one. It’s best solved old school – on paper. Spoilers below.
Why is this such a hard puzzle to solve? First you need to crack the theme. Then you need to figure out the theme answers (which are unclued). In addition, the fill is chiefly comprised of quad stacks of 5-7 letter words which can be hard to break into.
It was also really difficult to create.
In order to hide that it is a 17×17, rather than 15×15, it meant the entire exterior needed to have no three letter words. [Few themed NYT puzzles (https://www.xwordinfo.com/Threeless ) have had no three letter words.] It would have been easier to avoid threes altogether, however, I still needed to find a way to squeeze in a center three and a center seven for the reveal. Further constraining the puzzle were the very limited number of potential theme answers (compound pairs where the total letters, and each word in the pair, needed the identical to have the same number of letters). Rachel came to the rescue there. Working with theme answers around the edge of the puzzle was much tougher than working with theme answers a few rows in—there’s much less flexibility. Finding corners that worked was tough because of the intersection of the fill that had to work with one theme entry vertically and another horizontally. Because of these unique challenges, it was one of the hardest puzzles for me to construct.
I actually have three of the theme answers at my house (no septic system). I piled 17 solar panels onto the roof so we would create as much electricity as we used. When repairing the foundation, the workers hit a spring that flooded the subarea. I built a French drain and captured the water in a cistern. I use that to water my veggie garden and backyard.