September Solve Locally puzzle 

The print version of the puzzle features standard-difficulty clues; expert solvers and masochists can find the hard clues here: Hard Clues PDF or Hard Clues Across Lite puzzle.

We welcome questions, feedback and (especially!) puzzle submissions. Write to series editor Marc Maximov at

click to enlarge Michael J. Byrne
  • Michael J. Byrne

This month's puzzle is by Michael J. Byrne, a Raleigh attorney who's waited 30 years to re-indulge his penchant for crossword constructing. As a teenager in Wayne, N.J. (namesake of the indie band Fountains of Wayne), he made a few puzzles on graph paper, then gave them to his father's law partner for solving. "I remember being upset that he actually figured them out," he says. That was the end of his constructing career, until now. A Triangle resident and avid INDY reader for the past 20 years, he decided to send us a couple of grids for his first shot at publication. We're glad he did. This solid addition to our series has a well-executed local theme.

1. What is your city of residence? Where did you grow up?

I've lived in Raleigh since 1997. I grew up in Wayne, N.J. (namesake of the pop band Fountains of Wayne).

2. What is your primary occupation? What are your other hobbies/interests?

I'm an attorney with a practice focused on business litigation. I love running, golf, college football (go Irish!), gardening, cooking, yoga, reading and cycling.

3. How long have you been constructing crosswords? Where have they been published?

I made my first three crosswords when I was 14. I sketched the grids and clues out on graph paper and photocopied them at my father's office. I gave them only to my dad's law partner for solving. I remember being upset that he actually figured them out. After a 30-year hiatus, I decided to try constructing again when I saw that the INDY was seeking local submissions. This is my first publication, and I'm very excited for it to be in the INDY, which I've been reading since I arrived here in the Triangle 20 years ago.

4. How did you first get into crossword solving? And (presumably later) constructing?

When I was 13, I picked up a Games magazine at a newsstand. Will Shortz was the editor. I eventually purchased about five years' worth of issues, including back issues, and solved all of the puzzles except the crosswords, which didn't appeal to me. With nothing else left to solve, I took the plunge and starting doing the crosswords, eventually getting through all of them. I was hooked.

5. What puzzles/puzzle venues/constructors do you most admire?

The best crossword in America, hands down, is the cryptic in Harper's Magazine by Richard Maltby Jr. It's always challenging, inventive and just a blast to work through—with some clues that are unusually edgy. A few nights a week I compete against fellow solvers of the New York Times crossword. Each weekday at 10 p.m., the Times publishes the next day's puzzle through its app. Solving is timed, and if you submit the fully solved crossword you find out how your time compares with the times of your fellow geeks. My childhood hero constructors are Henry Hook and Merl Reagle. These days, Patrick Berry is da man.

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