The Inkubator has three missions.
- First, we aim to deliver to paying subscribers professionally constructed puzzles that meet the solver’s high expectations for entertainment and fair challenge.
- Second, we want to help women new to the field develop their constructing skills.
- Third, we provide a venue for women to exhibit and get paid for high-quality puzzles, especially (but not exclusively) puzzles that may not have a chance at mainstream publications due to feminist, political, or provocative content.
Check out the campaign that brought us to life:OUR KICKSTARTER
Laura Braunstein (she/her)
is a librarian at Dartmouth College in Hanover, NH. She has had puzzles published by the New York Times, Puzzle Society, the Chronicle of Higher Education, and Women of Letters, and is a team member with the American Values Club Crossword. She constructed for the 2018 Indie 500 and for Boswords 2017 and 2018, and blogs for Diary of a Crossword Fiend. When not crossing words, she advocates for #openaccess to scholarship, edits Wikipedia, bikes and skis on mountains, and discusses politics with her kids.
Tracy Bennett (she/her)
Juliana Tringali Golden (she/her)
is a managing editor and mom in Oakland, California. She is thrilled to be part of the Inkubator team for many reasons, but particularly because she enjoys supporting new constructors. Her crosswords appear every Tuesday in Vox and have also been published by AVCX, the New York Times, Crosswords Club, and Marie Claire. When she’s not busy editing, making puzzles, or editing puzzles, she likes to get out and about with her daughters, watch old movies with her husband, and take long walks around Oakland.
Stella Zawistowski (she/her)
is a perennial top-ten finisher at the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament and winner of Lollapuzzoola 2018. Stella has been solving crosswords competitively for more than 20 years. Constructing was a natural offshoot of so much solving, and between 2002 and 2010, she collaborated with co-constructor Bruce Venzke to publish more than 300 puzzles as a team but quit constructing to pursue other interests. She has always longed to solve more puzzles by women, however, and in 2019 she decided to be the change she wants to see in the world. She now constructs as a solo artist so that she can make puzzles with her own, womanly, voice. Stella’s solo puzzles have appeared in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, USA Today, and others. A lover of the very hardest puzzles, Stella publishes a new themeless every other week at her website, ToughAsNails.net.
Alex Briñas (she/her)
is The Inkubator’s designer, a scrappy creative based in NYC. Although she’s dabbled in some construction, Alex considers herself very much a crossword-novice and secretly marvels over all the clever puzzles she gets to lay out each week. She has had a hodge podge of design experience so far, from product development to UI design to brand storytelling. When she’s not doing design-things, she can often be found plant-moming, cooking, or teaching STEAM workshops to young kiddos over Zoom.
Meet the Constructors!
Meconya Alford (she/her)
#71: City Women | 01.28.2021
Meconya has always had a lifelong curiosity to know the hows and whys of EVERYTHING, which would explain her newly found passion for crossword puzzle construction. She’s a scientist by profession with a great sense of humor and a love of puns, wordplay, and memes. Music trivia is her JAM (see what I mean about the puns?), and she is well VERSED (see, did it again!) in popular music of a lot of different genres from the 70s thru the 90s and early 00s, but not so much the late 00s because the kids today just don’t know anything about real music. You better believe that she is going to use a music reference whenever possible in her puzzling career. She is learning to play guitar and makes up her own song parodies and performs them for friends and family. She is an avid reader and loves to listen to podcasts. Her goal in the crosswording realm is to diversify the landscape so crossword puzzles that incorporate references to women of color are used more in mainstream publications.
Rachel Antell (she/her)
#78: Divide and Conquer | 03.21.2021
Rachel is an archival producer for documentary films, and lives in Berkeley, CA, with her husband, two kids, incredible dog, and sort-of-ok cat. She has been solving crosswords for decades but never tried her hand at constructing one until the 2020 quarantine when she realized that she’d better stop baking and find another hobby or things were going to get ugly!
#46: Themeless #8 | 6.18.2020
#77: Themeless #17 | 3.18.2021
Julie has since childhood loved words, and word games … in French. And she still plays ‘au Scrabble’ with her siblings and parents — happily, the letter Z is much easier to place in French, and worth just as much as it is in English. When graduate studies brought her to the States, she was introduced to the NYT crosswords … and found that these have a different feel from their counterparts in Montréal’s “La Presse.” As years and Sunday NYT puzzle-books went by, the temptation to try her hand at puzzle composition was irresistible. Soon, innumerable hours with grids, Google, and Crossword Compiler had gone by. It’s all for the fun of it, but it is nice to be published, too — so, she thanks Inkubator! She wishes she had more time to devote to this all important pastime … But there is work: not words, but statistics. She also plays violin: she had been practicing in preparation for a few summer weeks in Québec with music- and word-playing siblings. Her hobbies include gardening, words, plumbing and the laying of tiles (ceramic, not Scrabble), words, knitting, words, reading, words, and playing Zoom Boggle with the word-playing grown-up offspring.
Wendy L. Brandes (she/her)
#7: Mutual Funds | 3.28.2019 (with Martha Jones)
#42: Grading on a Curve | 4.23.2020 (with Martha Jones)
Wendy L. Brandes is a lawyer and professor. Her puzzles have appeared in the Inkubator, Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, and Universal Crosswords. When she is not thinking about crosswords, she can be found knitting, engaging in vicious games of Settlers of Catan, or rooting on the Yankees, Rangers, Giants, and Swarthmore Garnet. She is very grateful to the Inkubator for publishing puzzles by women and for their incredible editorial insights. Find Wendy on Twitter at @wendybrandes1, where she retweets lots of photos of cute dogs.
Layla Beckhardt (she/her)
#72: Layer Up | 2.11.2021
Layla is a recent college grad who saw quarantine as the time to transform her lifelong love of crossword solving into the realm of constructing. She credits her mom and aunt for resolutely staying in bed with coffee to solve the NYT Sunday puzzle on Christmas, even with a small child needling them to get up and open presents. She also credits her dad for providing them with the endless cappuccinos to fuel said puzzling. Born and raised in New York, Layla spends her free time knitting, crocheting, and weaving, as well as making high pitched noises at her little dog, Delancey.
Annemarie Brethauer (she/her)
#21: Un-Sound Barriers | 9.12.2019
#60: What She Herd | 10.8.2020
Despite leaving the study of linguistics for a career in government cable television, Annemarie Brethauer never lost her love of wordplay. Creating documentaries on subjects like zoning codes challenged her to make the most arcane subject matter interesting, a skill which she hopes guides her crossword puzzle construction. Her puzzles have appeared in Games World of Puzzles magazine, the Chronicle of Higher Education, the Los Angeles Times, Universal Syndicate and USA Today, among other publications.
Alex Briñas (she/her)
#44: Period Piece | 5.21.202
Alex is a designer in NYC who can often be found cooking, ukulele-ing, plant mom-ing, or working on a children’s book with her partner. Find her doodles and other musings on Instagram at @plump_dumpling.
Katja Brinck (she/her)
#13: Gooooooooooooal!!!!!!! | 6.13.2019
Katja grew up on Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire, attended college in upstate New York, ended up in San Francisco (working in IT), and has just recently moved with her husband to Healdsburg, CA (wine country!). She is a long-time solver who describes herself as a medium crossword tournament competitor just getting started in the world of crossword construction. In her non-crossword time, Katja loves to travel, play classical piano (having taken lessons since she was 6), and enjoys getting outdoors in northern California, especially skiing and hiking. Find Katja on Twitter at @katjabrinck.
Sophie Buchmueller (she/her)
#74: Themeless #16 | 2.18.2021
A longtime crossword solver, Sophie began to construct puzzles as an outlet during the pandemic. This is her first solo puzzle accepted for publication. Raised in Ann Arbor, Michigan, she’s currently a graduate student studying art history and arts administration at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. When not solving puzzles, she enjoys reading, getting outside, and traveling.
Zhouqin Burnikel (she/her)
#26: Character Study | 11.7.2019
Zhouqin grew up in Xi’an, China. She worked in Guangzhou for six years before moving to the US in 2001. She became a U.S. citizen in June 2010.
Sara Cantor (she/they)
#80: Springtime | 4.8.2021
Sara has always liked words more than most other things, but only solved their first crossword puzzle in 2019. They quickly became interested in how puzzles were made and decided their mission was to learn how to do it theirself. A soon-to-be graduate in Computational Linguistics, Sara appreciates mild weather, a sweet gherkin, and a bad (?) pun. Find Sara at @cantorlope on Twitter and Sara’s puzzle blog at https://crosshare.org/scantor.
#6: Cryptic #1 | 3.21.2019
#25: Cryptic #2 | 10.31.2019
A longtime fan of cryptic crosswords, Stephanie began constructing them a few years ago, and this is her second published puzzle (the first was the Inkubator’s first bonus, back in March 2019!). She’s a book reviewer for Kirkus Reviews and a freelance writer, editor, and tutor with a master’s degree in English literature/Victorian studies from Indiana University. Stephanie lives in Redwood City, CA, with her husband, Paul, and cat, Mr. Pancks. Find her on Twitter at @StephanieCerra.
Catherine Cetta (she/her)
#58: Garden Variety | 9.24.2020
Cathy had rewarding careers in oceanographic research and K-12 education and is now happily retired. From a family of women solvers, she credits her mother with engendering her love of words and crosswords. She began constructing during the pandemic stay-at-home period and was immediately hooked. Her other interests include outdoor sports, painting, vegetable gardening, and tennis. Cathy lives on Cape Cod with her long-time partner and two cats.
Mollie Cowger (she/her)
#79: Tossing and Turning | 3.25.2021
Mollie has been a crossword enthusiast since childhood (thanks, Mom!), and had her first puzzles published in late 2020. She contributes puzzles to USA Today and also runs her own blog, Crosswords from Outer Space, where she posts puzzles every other Monday. Her non-crossword loves include backpacking, skiing, baking, and road tripping. She currently lives in Dallas with her adorable antisocial cat, Blue. You can find her on Twitter at @molliecowger.
Chandi Deitmer (she/her)
#62: Count Down | 10.29.2020
Chandi fell in love with crosswords in college when she could go to her corner newsstand and pick up the AVCX in print — what days those were! From there, she found herself abroad, missing her beloved English language, and would soothe herself on train rides with a book of New York Times crosswords. She has been fiddling with constructing for the past year or so and is SO excited AND honored to have her first crossword be published in the Inkubator. When not gamifying all aspects of her life, she is a social worker who enjoys cooking, traveling, hiking, and endless binges of the worst reality shows. (Watch “Selling Sunset.” Really.) She lives in Somerville, MA with her toothless wundercat, Marlowe H. Bucket.
Ella Dershowitz (she/her)
#67: Breaking the Mold | 12.17.2020
Ella is an actor who first started solving crosswords between scenes because she figured they’d be easy to put down when it was time to go back onstage (little did she know how utterly — and delightfully — wrong that would prove to be!). She dove into constructing in March 2020 when theater went on pause and has become more and more obsessed each day. Her puzzles have appeared in AVCX and The Atlantic. She’s also got some super nerdy theater-themed puzzles up on her own website: elladershowitz.com/puzzles. So many thanks to the amazing folks at Inkubator for the awesome puzzles and awesome mentorship (this was the first solo puzzle she ever made and they were very, very, VERY helpful!), and to the wonderful, weird, welcoming crossword community as a whole for being one of the best parts of the last year. When not acting or puzzling, Ella likes frolicking in nature and watching “Gilmore Girls” on a never-ending loop.
Debbie Ellerin (she/her)
#24: She’s Entitled | 10.24.2019
#56: Themeless #11 | 9.3.2020
Debbie is a longtime crossword solver who began constructing in 2014. She has been published in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and Wall Street Journal, among others. A former computer programmer, she enjoys reading and traveling.
Rachel Fabi (she/her)
#16: What’s Your Sign | 7.18.2019
#43: Distance Education | 5.7.2020
#76: Puzzling AF | 3.11.2021 (with Brooke Husic)
Rachel is a longtime solver, newish constructor, and bi-weekly blogger of crossword puzzles. She is a professor of bioethics in Syracuse, New York, where she enjoys hiking, rock climbing, and taking care of her two pets Rachel Fabi is a Syracuse-based solver, constructor, and tri-weekly blogger of crossword puzzles. She is a professor of bioethics and a “Jeopardy!” champion who loves bad puns, good trivia, and arguing about health policy and ethics on the internet (@faBioethics on Twitter). Rachel is a member of the USA Today constructor roster, and has also been published in various other venues, including the American Values Club Crossword, Queer Qrosswords, the New York Times, Lollapuzzoola 2020, and the Boswords Spring Themeless League. Rachel also serves as a test-solver for the Inkubator. In her non-crossword life, Rachel enjoys hiking, biking, rock climbing, and taking care of her three pets (a cat, a dog, and a sourdough starter).
Rebecca Falcon (she/her)
#2: Notorious: A Moment Of T(Ruth) | 1.31.2019
Rebecca is a lifelong New Yorker and is stoked to be a part of the Inkubator. If you need a badass problem solver with plenty of high profile events, operations, producing, and customer service experience across different arts industries, you’ve found her! Follow her on twitter at @rebeccafalcon18.
Olivia Mitra Framke (she/her)
#49: Do the Right Thing | 7.9.2020
Olivia Mitra Framke is a crossword constructor who has been published in The New York Times, USA Today, and The Chronicle of Higher Education. She is a Student Success Advisor at The New School’s College of Performing Arts in Manhattan where she advises graduate-level music students. Olivia is passionate about increasing the representation of female-identifying constructors in the crossword sphere as well as broadening representation within the puzzles themselves. She is a gamer, flutist, and dog mom to a dachshund named Charlie. For her July 2020 puzzle, Olivia generously donated her payment to the For the Gworls Rent and Gender-Affirming Surgery Fund. Find Olivia on Twitter at @Livienna.
Niamh Girling and Mira Martin-Gray (she/her)
#19: Get With The Program | 8.15.2019
Niamh Girling and Mira Martin-Gray love crosswords and each other. They are both active in the local experimental music scene in Toronto.
Juliana Tringali Golden (she/her)
#23: Making M(ist)akes | 10.10.2019
Juliana edits the Berkeley Guide by day and parents two girls by morning, night, and weekend. She lives in Oakland, California, with her husband, Brady, who helps chase them around. Juliana started coJuliana edits the Berkeley Guide by day and parents two girls by morning, night, and weekend. She lives in Oakland, California, with her husband, Brady, who helps chase them around. Juliana started constructing two years ago, and this was her second published puzzle. She joined Inkubator in June 2020 as a managing editor. You can find her puzzles every Tuesday on Vox Crosswords, or find her on Twitter at @julianatringali.
Sara Goodchild (she/her)
#47: Cryptic #4 | 6.25.2020
Sara is a writer and editor specializing in science for grades K-12. She and her dad got hooked on cryptic crosswords when the Globe & Mail first started publishing a weekly puzzle by Fraser Simpson. Several decades later, Fraser kindly agreed to mentor her as a newbie constructor, and she is delighted to be making her cryptic debut in the Inkubator thanks in large part to his feedback and support. In addition to cryptic crosswords, Sara loves solving and constructing hunt puzzles, and has written for Puzzled Pint and DASH. She lives in Toronto with her husband and two young sons. Find Sara on Twitter at @sarathegood.
Tracy Gray (she/her)
#5: Please Be Flexible | 3.14.2019
Tracy has been constructing puzzles since 2010 and has had more than 30 puzzles published in the New York Times. She also is a regular contributor to the USA Today Crossword and has had puzzles published in the Wall Street Journal, Universal Crossword, NYT app, and Simon & Schuster Mega Books. Besides crossword constructing, Tracy has a passion for gardening and spends many hours in her own backyard perennial garden as well as doing the bookkeeping for her and her husband’s lawn/landscaping company in Baltimore County, MD.
Noël Grisanti and Masten (she/her)
#63: Themeless #13 | 11.12.2020
Masten and Noël met when they were paired as first-year roommates at Amherst College in 2013. They bonded over their mutual love of crosswords and for four years they had a crossword themed welcome mat outside the various rooms they shared. After years of solving together, they decided to try their hand at crossword creation. They are no longer roommates, but they use crossword construction to stay connected across distance: from Hartford, CT, where Noël teaches Latin at an all-girls school, to Boston, MA, where Masten does optimization research for Google. Noël is also a proud, doting aunt to Masten’s two cats, Ada and Escher.
Mary Lou Guizzo (she/her)
#8: Scale Models | 4.11.2019
#35: Themeless #6 | 2.20.2020
#59: Themeless #12 | 10.01.2020
Mary Lou worked for many years in hospital transfusion services and blood centers, processing and reference labs, and a paternity lab. She graduated from the University of Dayton and has a Specialist in Blood Banking (SBB) certification. Her hobbies have included photography, reading, bicycling, hiking, swimming, and traveling. Mary Lou enjoys spending time with her husband and family. In recent years she has cared for her grandson, who has completely captured her heart. She has published puzzles in many venues, including the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Wall Street Journal, Gannett newspapers, Universal Crosswords, and the Crosswords Club. Her first puzzle appeared in print in 2013.
Debra Hamel (she/her)
#36: Sing, Goddess… | 2.27.2020
Debra Hamel is the author of a handful of books about ancient Greece, though nowadays she’s more about editing other people’s prose than writing her own. She’s been solving crosswords for years but is new to constructing, with puzzles published so far by Universal and the LA Times. She enjoys reading, crocheting, chocolate Soylent, learning Esperanto, and, lately, staving off physical deterioration by playing Ring Fit Adventure. With her younger daughter slated to go to college in the fall, Debra fancies that she’s entering her retirement years, which she hopes will allow more time for puzzles. Find Debra on Twitter at @debra_hamel.
Kate Hawkins (she/her)
#54: Rearrangements | 8.13.2020
Kate started constructing crossword puzzles seriously at the end of 2019. Her puzzles have run in USA Today, Universal Crosswords, New York Times, and the AV Club, and she’s thrilled to be working with The Inkubator, a publication whose very existence inspired the theme of this puzzle. By day, Kate is a product manager at KQED public media, where she builds digital products to support the future of independent, local journalism. She lives in Oakland, California with her wife, cats, and chickens. You can follow her (and her puzzles) on Twitter at @kateshawkins.
Maryam Hedayati (she/her)
#9: 404: Not Found | 4.24.2019 (with Sophia Maymudes)
Maryam recently graduated from Carleton College where she double-majored in computer science and psychology. She is currently working as a tech consultant and will soon be starting a PhD program in computer science and learning sciences. She is passionate about finding cheap tickets to Broadway shows and drinking hot water.
Brooke Husic (she/her)
#66: Themeless #14 | 12.10.2020
#76: Puzzling AF | 3.11.2021 (with Rachel Fabi)
Brooke Husic is a postdoctoral research fellow at Princeton University. Since she started constructing in early 2020, she’s had nearly 100 puzzles run in various publications and on independent blogs. Brooke also has her own blog — xwords by a ladee — where, on the 27th of every month, she posts modern and challenging themeless puzzles clued at two difficulty levels. She made her tournament puzzle debut at Lollapuzzoola 2020 and was thrilled to construct for the Boswords 2021 Spring Themeless League. She also assists the Inkubator team with web content. Brooke encourages any woman or otherwise underrepresented aspiring constructor to get in touch with her if they are interested in making crossword puzzles but haven’t yet taken the plunge. You can find Brooke on Twitter at @xandraladee.
Christina Iverson (she/her)
#32: The Last Word | 1.16.2020
#57: Play by Play | 9.10.2020 (with Amy Schecter)
Christina is a stay at home mom to a 2 1/2 year old son, and a daughter born in May 2020. Besides her relatively recent obsession with crosswords, she loves reading, and biking or walking pretty much everywhere she goes in Ames, Iowa.
Martha Jones (she/her)
#7: Mutual Funds | 3.28.2019 (with Wendy L. Brandes)
#42: Grading on a Curve | 4.23.2020 (with Wendy L. Brandes)
Martha Jones, a former high-school mathematics teacher and social worker, enjoys travel, gardening, and spending as much time as possible listening to live music. Find Martha on Twitter at @msjpatricof.
Madeline Kaplan (she/her)
#20: Border States | 8.29.2019
Madeline debuted in the Inkubator after making crosswords for about a year. Born and raised in Toledo, Ohio, she’s currently a podcast producer and writer living in Brooklyn. She’s very grateful to everyone at The Inkubator for their editorial support, and to her friend Libby for giving her a crossword subscription as a Secret Santa gift one time. Find Madeline on Twitter at @MadelineSKaplan.
Martha Kimes (she/her)
#75: It’s A Puzzle | 2.25.2020
Martha is an intellectual property lawyer, author, tech geek, traveler, and adorer of all dogs. She owns one husband, two children, a golden retriever, a chocolate lab, and a sourdough starter. She lives in Northern Virginia, and her second home is in Seville, Spain. Martha’s been solving crossword puzzles since the 1990s, but just started constructing last year. Find Martha on Twitter at @marthakimes.
Allegra Kuney (she/her)
#34: Take the Plunge | 2.13.2020
Allegra was thrilled to have made her debut in the Inkubator! A media studies grad student in Queens, New York, Allegra also writes, makes music, and attempts to cook Chinese food, sometimes successfully. She would like to thank Laura and Tracy for their encouragement, her many crossword mentors, and her parents for forcing her to try solving NYT Mondays even when she thought they were hard and boring. Find her on Twitter at @allegramiriam.
Jenna LaFleur (she/her)
#70: Themeless #15 | 01.21.21
Jenna LaFleur is a 22-year-old trans woman from Washington, DC. Her puzzles have previously been published by Queer Qrosswords and the Puzzle Society, and she has placed in the top 10 at multiple crossword tournaments, including a finals appearance at Lollapuzzoola in 2020. When she’s not solving crosswords, she can be found listening to podcasts, playing the drums, or petting her two very fluffy cats. The seed entry to her January 2021 puzzle should’ve been pretty obvious to anyone who follows her on Twitter — find Jenna at @postpunklesbian.
Lynn Lempel (she/her)
#12: Miss Out | 6.6.2019
In the crossword community, she has been called “the Queen of Mondays” (one of two women in the Inkubator archives who’ve been so dubbed). Indeed, Lynn’s puzzles are famously smooth, featuring playful themes within elegant constructions that mesh well with an early-week solving sensibility. Lynn has had nearly 100 puzzles appear in the New York Times, including over 60 on Mondays. She also had two delightfully punny Sunday puzzles published in the Maleska era. Lynn began constructing crossword puzzles in the 1970s while working for a small newspaper, and continued pursuing her passion while working as a college instructor of reading and composition. She eventually made the leap to “stay-at-home puzzlemaker” and now resides in Daytona Beach, where she is actively involved in political campaigns, the League of Women Voters, and Friends of the Library. Lynn was a featured constructor at the annual American Crossword Puzzle Tournament for four years running.
#61: Get Comfortable | 10.22.2020
After many years enjoying crosswords and other word puzzles, Barb began constructing crossword puzzles in early 2019. Her puzzles have appeared in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Universal, Los Angeles Times, Fireball, and Chronicle of Higher Education. Barb lives with her husband in their empty nest in suburban Philadelphia. She works as an engineer.
Tina Lippman (she/her)
#1: Carmen Miranda’s Hat | 1.17.2019
Originally from New England and trained as a librarian, Tina became interested in constructing about a year ago. Tina now resides in southern Indiana with her husband, teenage daughter, and cat, and has worked as a college financial aid officer and a composer of grammar questions for the SAT. We’re certain you’ll be seeing more of Tina’s elegant constructions, in the Inkubator and in other venues, in the weeks, months, and years to come.
Wyna Liu (she/her)
#29: Themeless #5 | 12.19.2019
Wyna is an artist and jewelry maker from NYC. She recently began assisting the editor of the American Values Club crossword and is super pumped about it. Her puzzles and collaborations appear in AVCX, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Newsday’s Saturday Stumper, and the January 2020 installment of The Crossword Show, among other venues. When she’s not thinking about crosswords, she teaches yoga and helps out at her family’s radio business. Her hobbies include learning new fabrication methods (most recently neon) and annoying her dog, Polo. Find her work on Instagram at @wynaliu, and at wynaliu.com.
Kristina Lustig (she/her)
#27: Location, Location, Location | 11.21.2019
Kristina’s been doing crosswords since she was a kid, but only started constructing them in 2019. She lives in Pittsburgh and spends her free time making/playing video games, watching horror movies, and picking up new hobbies on a regular basis. She’s grateful to her #crossword-club colleagues at Stack Overflow for playtesting her puzzles, and to Inkubator for the extensive editorial assistance. Find Kristina on Twitter at @kristinalustig.
Jennifer Marra (she/her)
#48: Getting Cheeky | 7.2.2020 (with Caitlin Reid)
Jennifer is an electrical engineer and lapsed triathlete who lives on the water in New Jersey with her husband and two cats. She’s transitioned her verbs from solving to constructing crosswords and reading to writing fiction. Look for her puzzles in various newspapers and online, and her fiction on The Medium and shortly in obscure literary magazines and Amazon. In her own words, reflecting on her collaboration with Caitlin Reid: “I was lucky enough to have Caitlin mentor me in the art of crosswords.” Find Jennifer on Twitter at @jmarrabooks.
Sophia Maymudes (she/her)
#9: 404: Not Found | 4.24.2019 (with Maryam Hedayati)
#68: Interspecies Bonding | 12.31.2020 (with Kyra Wilson)
In the year since her first Inkubator appearance, Sophia graduated from Carleton College with a major in Computer Science and a minor in Math. She now works as a software engineer in her hometown of Seattle. She remains a lover of card games, Survivor, and food made by other people. You can find her on Twitter at @smaymudes.
#50: Letters for Gloria and Dorothy | 7.16.2020
Kristy is a freelance puzzle writer in beautiful Boulder, Colorado. When she isn’t writing puzzles, she may be found swimming, dancing, or rock climbing.
Jen McTeague (she/her)
#37: Difficult Choices | 3.5.2020
Jen McTeague is a math teacher, Pathfinder game master, and puzzlehunter. She lives in Providence, RI, with her wife, Ange Strom-Weber. The two of them enjoy powering through puzzle hunts and escape rooms and writing puzzles for other people. Jen mostly has avoided crosswords and other gridded puzzles as part of this since Ange is really good at them and will solve them quickly, but recently she (Jen) has been solving a lot of them to work on getting better. Because Jen just can’t solve a bunch of puzzles without coming up with one of her own, this means that she’s also started getting into writing crosswords, and she hopes you’ll enjoy the first-ever standard crossword she’s written. Find Jen on Twitter at @mersiamnot.
Andrea Carla Michaels (she/her)
#31: Check Your Calendar | 1.2.2020
#65: Ladies First | 12.3.2020
Andrea has constructed puzzles for more than 40 years in Games Magazine, TV Guide, The New York Times, and other syndicates. She lives in San Francisco where she names companies and products (ACME Naming) and spends her afternoons as “Pizza Lady,” feeding her neighbors on the street. A former stand-up comic and game show writer, she once won a motorhome on “Wheel of Fortune.”
Jennifer Nutt (she/her)
#52: Froot Loop | 7.30.2020
Jennifer has been making crosswords for about ten years, and she is excited that Inkubator accepted this one. She lives in Berkeley, California, and spent a lot of 2020 either at home or on socially distanced bike rides around town.
Emma Oxford (she/her)
#41: Themeless #7 | 4.9.2020
Emma is a graduate student in particle physics who has long been solving crosswords but only began writing them about a year ago. She is a frequent poster on the XWord Muggles Forum under the username damefox and eventually hopes to construct meta crosswords. Outside of crosswords and physics, Emma is a fan of baking, running, jigsaw puzzles, reading, keeping her cat away from the houseplants, and social distancing.
Amanda Rafkin (she/her)
#28: Transformations | 12.5.2019
#45: Glad You’re Here | 6.4.2020
Amanda Rafkin is a queer Los Angeles based musical theater pianist, puzzle maker, and Associate Editor of the Universal and USA Today daily crosswords. Her puzzles have appeared in all the usual outlets, as well as on Brain Candy, her puzzle site. If you’re interested in learning how to make puzzles or just want to talk shop and nerd out about crosswords and/or musicals, feel free to reach out to her on Twitter at @AmandaRafkin.
Caitlin Reid (she/her)
#11: Themeless #2 | 5.23.2019
#48: Getting Cheeky | 7.2.2020 (with Jennifer Marra)
Caitlin Reid is currently a stay-at-home mom to her four young children and has been making crossword puzzles in any spare time she can muster since 2017. Her puzzles have also appeared in The New York Times, The New Yorker, The Wall Street Journal, and USA Today. If she’s not with her family or a crossword, she’s likely playing piano. You can find Caitlin on Twitter at @catybugreid.
Claire Rimkus (they/she)
#53: Themeless #10 | 8.6.2020
Claire started constructing puzzles in 2019 and is very grateful to everyone who has helped along the way, including the Inkubator editorial team. They live in Massachusetts with their cats.
Anna-Marie Ruoff (she/her)
#17: Don’t Leave Me Stranded | 7.25.2019
#30: Cell Service | 12.26.2019
Anna-Marie Ruoff is an exotic animal veterinarian, science nerd, and puzzle enthusiast. She lives in Arizona with her partner, four lizards, and a tortoise (appropriately named Puzzle). She also enjoys tea, escape rooms, video games, and hiking. Anna-Marie and her partner began solving meta crosswords together a few years ago, and they have since progressed to writing crosswords for each other, for friends and family, and recently for publication. Anna-Marie says: “Thank you to the crossword community for your continued support and to Laura and Tracy for all of their hard work!” Find Anna-Marie on Twitter at @darwin47.
Amy Schecter (she/her)
#57: Play by Play | 9.10.2020 (with Christina Iverson)
Amy’s first puzzle for the Inkubator was her second published puzzle ever. She is a retired Broadway casting director who lives in NYC. She started solving puzzles with her mom eons ago, but only got interested in construction two years ago after making birthday puzzles for her friends. She attributes her love of words to a childhood spent watching The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show — special shout out to “Fractured Fairy Tales” and Mr. Peabody (the beagle) and Sherman (his pet boy) with their WABAC machine!
Nina Sloan (she/her)
#73: Snatch Game | 2.14.2021
Originally from New York City, Nina is a 19-year-old first-year student at Dartmouth College studying English and Art History. If you manage to catch her outside the library, you’ll probably see her binding books, arranging music for her a cappella group, or, of course, solving and constructing crosswords. Though she is a long-time solver of crosswords, she just started constructing in 2020. Since then, her puzzles have been published in The Los Angeles Times and The Wall Street Journal, and she is so excited to see her latest puzzle appear in the Inkubator! Find Nina on Twitter at @ninassloan.
Janie Smulyan (she/her)
#33: She’s Not There | 1.30.2020
Baltimore native Janie Smulyan now resides on NYC’s upper west side. Since 2011, her puzzles (collabs and solo ventures) have been published by the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times, the Chronicle of Higher Education, Fireball Crosswords, the Unemployed Philosophers Guild, and the Goucher Quarterly (her college alumnae/-i mag). Last year she created a puzz for the Indie 500; and now, the Inkubator. Life is good!
Joanne Sullivan (she/her)
#18: O Whatever! | 8.1.2019
Joanne is a lifelong resident of Queens, New York, a county that has the benefit of being one of the most diverse in the nation. She enjoys constructing and test-solving crossword puzzles and leading crossword workshops. Joanne is grateful to all who enable her habit, including countless cruciverbalists and her one and only crossword-immune husband Kevin. Joanne recently started assisting with puzzle submissions at The Wall Street Journal. Aspiring and underrepresented constructors are strongly encouraged to consider this venue, where theme queries may be submitted prior to grid work.
Allison Uttaro (she/her)
#15: Color Bands | 7.4.2019
Allison is a pediatric occupational therapist from Rochester, NY who enjoys hiking, watching sports, and doing crossword puzzles. Since her debut puzzle for the Inkubator in 2019, Allison has had puzzles in Universal and USA Today outlets. She does the email customer service for Inkubator and a few other indie outlets. The crossword world (crossworld?) is full of kind, interesting, and helpful people, and Allison is very happy to be a part of it!
Patti Varol (she/her)
#22: Themeless #4 | 9.26.2019
Patti Varol has been editing and creating puzzles for more than 20 years. She is the puzzle editor of Crosswords Club and Daily POP Crosswords; she has been the assistant editor of the L.A. Times Crossword since 2010. Her crosswords have appeared in the L.A. Times, the Washington Post, the New York Times, and the Chronicle of Higher Education, as well as the Crosswords L.A., Lollapuzzoola, and Boswords tournaments. Patti is also the co-creator and editor of Women of Letters, a 2018 puzzle pack featuring the work of women constructors, with proceeds benefiting women-centric charities, and whose rallying cry, “Publish More Women!” became an inspiration for us at the Inkubator. And Patti’s back at the helm for Women of Letters 2, which is in the works. Find Patti on Twitter at @PattiVarol.
Helen Verongos (she/her)
#10: A Rite of Spring | 5.9.2019
#55: Our Bodies, Ourselves | 8.27.2020
Helen is a journalist, an adoption advocate, a fossil fan, a NewsGuild officer, a beach lover, and mom to three high school students as well as a constant(ly disappointed) gardener who lost all this summer’s tomatoes and zucchini to those bushy-tailed suburban rodents who must not be named. She is proud of having recently participated in her first crossword competition, Lollapuzzoola 2020, playing in the teams division with her husband and younger daughter. Their ranking was … immaterial. They marveled at the solving times of the tournament stars and enjoyed the bonus games, especially Francis Heaney’s brilliant anagrams. These days the addictive Stop app has been sucking up some of her cherished crossword-solving time. Above all, Helen is grateful to the ever-instructive, infinitely patient, and eternally kind crew at Inkubator. Find Helen on Twitter at @helentverongos.
Martina Waluk (she/her)
#40: Can We Talk? | 3.26.2020
#69: Hello, Kitty | 01.14.2021
Martina is a long-time fan of word games, number conundrums, and jigsaw puzzles. She is easily distracted by forgotten songs from the 1970s and 80s, geography trivia, and anything having to do with cats. If she’s not traveling, she’s likely starting yet another crocheting project or working on a crossword. She’s incredibly grateful to everyone at the Inkubator for giving her so much support and encouragement since she started constructing. Since her debut grid with the Inkubator last year, she’s been published in Universal Crosswords, Marie Claire, and the Morning Brew. As a retired educator, she hopes to continue developing her crossword website and invites you to come over and play!
Robyn Weintraub (she/her)
#4: Themeless #1 | 2.28.2019
Robyn has been constructing crosswords since 2010. Her puzzles regularly appear in The New York Times and she’s a member of the constructing team at The New Yorker. When she’s not making crosswords she’s helping aspiring constructors, volunteering for a variety of local political causes, or playing in her garden. Contact Robyn on Twitter at @Robynw414.
Kelly Kizer Whitt (she/her)
#3: The V-Word | 2.14.2019
Kelly Kizer Whitt’s crosswords have been published in newspapers and magazines such as Country Woman, Reminisce, and Our Wisconsin. Her book Badger Brain Twisters: Wisconsin Trivia, Games, Puzzles and More! was published in 2007. She is also the author of three novels and a children’s picture book about weather on the planets titled Solar System Forecast. Kelly has been writing about astronomy for two decades and can be found on Twitter at @Astronomommy.
Lita & Tass Williams
#38: A Fish Out Of Water | 3.12.2020
#64: She’s Fresh | 11.19.2020
Sisters Lita and Tass Williams of Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, Canada inherited their love of sarcasm, humor, and words from their hilarious, crossword-lovin’ parents. So, it was no surprise that one day through brain-storming, arguing, and laughter — along with sushi and cream puffs (no lie) — they would pursue membership to the all-consuming world of crossword construction.
Kyra Wilson (she/her)
#68: Interspecies Bonding | 12.31.2020 (with Sophia Maymudes)
Kyra recently graduated from Carleton College, where she majored in Computer Science and Linguistics (and met her amazing co-constructor!). She is currently working as a research assistant in the Neuroscience of Language Lab at NYU Abu Dhabi, and she spends her free time being harassed by the Duolingo owl and dancing. Kyra feels very lucky to end 2020 on a high note and publish another puzzle with Sophia! You can find her on Twitter at @hereforthewugs.
Stella Zawistowski (she/her)
#14: Themeless #3 | 6.20.2019
#39: Cryptic #3 | 3.19.2020
#51: Themeless #9 | 7.23.2020
A competitive solver for nearly two decades, Stella Zawistowski is an eight-time top-ten solver at the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament. Constructing was a natural offshoot of so much solving, and she published her first puzzle in the Los Angeles Times in 2002. Between 2002 and 2010, she published more than 300 puzzles with co-constructor Bruce Venzke, and eventually quit constructing to pursue other interests. Over the past few years, Stella has paid intense attention to the underrepresentation of women in the crossworld, and in 2019 she decided to be the change she wanted to see in the world. She now constructs as a solo artist so that she can make puzzles with her own, female, voice. Because she loves solving the hardest puzzles, hard puzzles are also her favorite area of construction, whether it’s a themeless or cryptic. Though making and solving crosswords consumes much of Stella’s free time, she would also like you to know how much she enjoys moving heavy objects, whether it’s bench pressing a barbell or throwing a 100-pound sandbag over her shoulder. Visit toughasnails.net for a biweekly themeless puzzle from Stella, and follow her on Twitter at @stellaphone for a #crypticclueaday.