UPDATE, 9/1/15: When I first published the puzzle, I refrained from providing more explicit meta instructions, but I am changing that now. The answer to this meta is a quotation.
Over the past week I’ve seen some very lovely and heartfelt obituaries and tributes to the late, great Merl Reagle. Several of my own puzzle colleagues have dropped references to Merl in recent clues, and some have even created entire tribute puzzles of their own. It’s clear that he was a remarkable man who touched many, many people’s lives in a profound way that words can’t begin to describe. I know he’s had a big influence on my own work, even though I did not know him very well personally.
If you’ve seen the movie Wordplay or ever met him at the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament, you knew he had a real penchant for anagramming people’s names on the spot. He didn’t need any software or any references for that; he just did it in his head, because that’s how creative and ingenious he was with words. I never forgot how easy he made it look creating a crossword by hand in Wordplay — I remember thinking, “Wouldn’t it be cool if I could do THAT?” Fast-forward nine years later and I spoke to him in person only for the first time at the ACPT last March, and he said he recognized my name as an independent puzzle constructor. It was a small gesture, but to hear such a giant in the crossword business say that he knew who I was upon meeting him still felt pretty amazing. Anyway, he didn’t offer up any anagram of my name at the time. I like to think that EVAN BIRNHOLZ may have truly stumped him on the anagram front. But I also feel pretty confident that if I directly challenged him on it and gave him a minute or two, he’d have come up with one.
Since his untimely passing, it dawned on me that my greatest regret as a crossword constructor is that I did not get to know Merl as well as I could have on a personal level while I still had the chance. So now, there’s only one way I know how to get to know him better: continue to make crosswords. This Sunday-sized puzzle is my way of paying tribute to the man. It’s a tough puzzle and has a meta to boot, but don’t worry: the Super-Spicy rating is just for the crossword itself. The meta is (hopefully) easier.
The answer to this meta is a quotation. Please send your answer to me (firstname.lastname@example.org) by 8 pm ET on Friday, September 11. It’s a big puzzle, so I’m giving you extra time to work on it. Only one answer per entrant, please — so make sure you’ve got it right before hitting “Send.” One random winner will get a Merl Reagle puzzle book of your choice. And as I said in the note at the top of this post, I highly recommend checking out the PDF and printing it out.
Thanks again for your patience while I worked overtime on this. This was by far the biggest constructing challenge I’ve ever taken on for a single puzzle — building the grid, editing the clues, typesetting it, re-editing the clues, and re-re-re-re-editing the clues all took a long time, and I wanted to get it right. I’m hoping that the wait and the payoff will have been worth it.
Finally, a programming note: there will be no Devil Cross puzzle next week on September 5. I will be going on a camping trip for most of next week, and after what I put myself through to create this puzzle, I’m relieved to give myself a break.
Enjoy the puzzle — this one’s for you, Merl.