A Real Puzzler

This Missouri farmer’s side hustle is making puzzles for The New York Times and other outlets. Can you solve Jason Mueller's Mizzou puzzle?

A Lincoln, Missouri, farmer by day, Jason Mueller also digs trivia. While at Mizzou, he played for the quiz bowl team as captain and lead scorer.

He’s called a constructor. Not a creator. Not a designer. Not a torturer.

Jason Mueller, BS, BS ’05, MA ’07, constructs crossword puzzles for The New York Times and other outlets. It’s no slice of birthday confection (PIECE OF CAKE).

If the crossword has a theme, Mueller sets the themed answers first to anchor the grid, followed by the blacked-out boringly conventional people (SQUARES). Then, he goes to work on the “fill.” He does as much of this by hand as possible but relies on software for tricky “interlocks,” or entry crossings.

“J, X and Z can be hard to work with,” says Mueller, adding that words with vowels are prized interlockers. “Brian Eno might be more famous in crossword puzzles than in real life because his name is quite useful.”

When he’s certain the completed grid has no duplicate words or editorial finger failures (TYPOS), he writes the clues. For a crossword published by Universal, Mueller’s clues contained the answers in the form of hidden anagrams of cats (such as CHEETAH hidden in MATH TEACHER). The theme was “Meow Mix.”

Can you solve Jason Mueller’s Mizzou puzzle? Spoiler alert! Puzzle key below clues.

1. Domed hall at Mizzou
6. Mizzou alum Jon who starred as Don Draper on Mad Men
10. Sketched
11. University Philharmonic Orchestra instrument
12. Urged (on)
13. Former Mizzou football Coach Pinkel
14. David Francis’ gets rubbed for As
15. Actor Davis
16. 70, at A.L. Gustin
18. Listener
19. Mizzou alum and former Congressman Skelton
22. One in the same party as Mizzou alums Claire McCaskill and Tim Kaine
24. Tripping illegally
26. “It’s ___!”
30. Mizzou basketball coach and baseball pitcher Stewart
31. Mizzou Professor George who pioneered phage display and won a 35-Across
32. Good, in Rasta lingo
33. Radical Hoffman
34. Mizzou alum Sheryl with nine Grammy Awards
35. Prize for Mizzou’s 31-Across

1. Former Mizzou wrestler Cox with three NCAA titles and an Olympic bronze medal
2. Thus
3. Droops
4. Ideal result for a Tigers baseball series
5. Defensive ___ (position for Mizzou’s Michael Sam and Shane Ray)
6. Another name for the Tigers’ foes in the Battle Line Rivalry
7. What MU and KU fans may do to one another
8. Mining area in The Lord of the Rings
9. Urban who was the opposing coach in Coach Pinkel’s first game at Mizzou
15. Galena or bauxite
17. Enroll for another course
19. Style of Mizzou’s famed Columns
20. Soup mix brand
21. “The river” in Mexico
23. It may be learned in a Mizzou dance class
25. Diving duck
27. Last name for each of the Bee Gees
28. Mizzou’s 1994 game against Hawaii was the last Tigers football game to result in ___
29. The Giving Tree author Silverstein
31. Former Mizzou QB Blaine Gabbert started 13 games for the ___ Francisco 49ers

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