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. 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)
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.
Brooke Husic (she/her)
is thrilled to be the managing editor for The Inkubator. Brooke started constructing crossword puzzles in 2020 and has published puzzles in the Inkubator, American Values Club, New Yorker, USA Today, and other venues. Brooke has her own blog — xwords by a ladee — where, on the 27th of every month, a she publishes a modern, challenging themeless puzzle. You can find Brooke on Twitter at @xandraladee.
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.
Juliana Tringali Golden (she/her)
Juliana is a crossword editor/constructor and mom in Oakland, California. She is thrilled to be an Inkubator alumna 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.
Meet the Constructors!
Ayesha Agarwal (she/her)
#172: Me Time | 8.3.2023 (with Wendy L. Brandes)
Ayesha Agarwal grew up in Singapore, later moving to New York to attend college. She worked as a software engineer in a rural part of Western Kenya after graduating and eventually found herself in Los Angeles, where she currently resides, after another stint in Manhattan. She works in affordable housing and is an avid writer on the side. Ayesha discovered crosswords while deep in the throngs of existential crisis and has been hooked ever since. When not experimenting with word play and witticism, she enjoys distance running, exploring the world with her beloved Canon AE-1 in tow and falling into film trivia Wikipedia clickholes.
Zaineb Akbar (she/her)
#147: *thud from another room* | 12.8.2022 (with Barbara Lin)
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!
Jasmeet Arora (she/her)
#182: Chart Toppers | 11.9.2023
Jasmeet lives in Boston, MA and in addition to crossword puzzles she enjoys photography, writing, and snuggling with her dog. 🥺
Adrienne Atkins (she/her)
#170: About Face | 07.13.2023
Adrienne has been solving since 2019 and constructing since 2020, taking up both activities inconsistently, but in ecstatic, obsessive bursts. After finishing her PhD in 2022, she now manages two academic journals and spends a lot of time with her friends dancing, sewing, rock climbing, seeing live music, and just sitting around. She lives in Philadelphia.
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.
#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)
#146: They’re Doin’ It For Themselves | 12.01.2022 (with May Huang)
#172: Me Time | 8.3.2023 (with Ayesha Agarwal)
Wendy L. Brandes is a lawyer, professor and children’s book author. Her puzzles have appeared in the Inkubator, The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, USA Today, Boswords and Universal Crosswords. When she is not thinking about crosswords, she can be found knitting, engaging in vicious games 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.
Laura Braunstein (she/her)
#159: Winners | 3.30.2023
Laura Braunstein, the Inkubator’s co-founder, is a librarian in New Hampshire. Find her virtually at @laurabrarian.
Annemarie Brethauer (she/her)
#21: Un-Sound Barriers | 9.12.2019
#60: What She Herd | 10.8.2020
#81: Themeless #18 | 4.15.2021
#124: Love ‘n’ the Novel | 5.12.2022
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, Encyclopaedia Britannica, 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.
Steph Brown (she/her)
#183: Themeless #49 | 11.16.2023
Steph started solving crosswords with her dad in high school and first ventured into constructing to make a personalized puzzle as a gift for his birthday in 2020. That first attempt at making a puzzle lit a spark and she now tries to regularly fit constructing into the spare time she can find outside of grad school and marathon training. These days most of her puzzling endeavors occur in coffee shops around Madison, Wisconsin. She posts puzzles on her blog A Little Puzzling and you can find her on Twitter at @brownstephj!
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.
Jessie Bullock (she/her)
#112: Over/Under | 1.13.2022
Jessie’s love of constructing crosswords blossomed with the beginning of quarantine as some of her other creative hobbies (like dancing ballet) grew more difficult to do from home. She has since published in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Universal, Boswords Winter Wondersolve, and on her fiancé’s puzzle site, Rosswords. When not making puzzles, Jessie is finishing her PhD in Government at Harvard University, where she is writing a dissertation about corrupt deals between organized criminal groups and politicians in Brazil. She lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts with her fiancé Ross and their bad cat Ruby. Find her on Twitter at @jessiebullock and solve more of her puzzles here.
Zhouqin Burnikel (she/her)
#26: Character Study | 11.7.2019
#116: Themeless #28 | 2.17.2022
#153: Leading Ladies | 2.2.2023
Zhouqin grew up in Xi’an, China. She worked in Guangzhou for six years before moving to the US in 2001. She became a US citizen in June 2010.
Sara Cantor (they/them)
#80: Springtime | 4.8.2021
#123: Langauge Immersion | 5.5.2022
#151: The Right Outfit | 1.12.2023 (with Max Schlenker)
#160: Diva Cups | 4.6.2023
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 on their own. An NLP engineer, Sara appreciates mild weather, a sweet gherkin, and a bad (?) pun. Find Sara at @cantorlope_puz on Twitter and Sara’s puzzle blog at 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
#100: Themeless #24 | 10.7.2021
#165: Themeless #43 | 5.18.2023
Cathy worked 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, Julie, and their cat, Dolly.
Kate Chin Park (she/her)
#119: Themeless #29 | 3.18.2022
#168: Themeless #44 | 6.15.2023 (with Carly They Themsen)
Kate loves pasta, crosswords, the Nancy comic, and the Golden State Warriors, probably in that order. Her puzzles have appeared in newspapers, crossword outlets, tournaments, and These Puzzles Fund Abortion Too. She publishes midis weekly for Crossword Club and posts indie puzzles on her blog, crosswords schmosswords. She lives in Oakland, California, with her partner and her cat, both of whom view her with skepticism most of the time.
Elise Corbin (she/her)
#96: A Little Something | 9.2.2021
Elise is a student in upstate New York who has previously constructed crosswords for Fireball and FiveThirtyEight, as well as independently with her self-published puzzle “Election Tampering.” She is passionate about using crosswords to illustrate concepts and ideas, especially in the STEM world. When not constructing, she can be found cycling on her local roads and trails, fighting for better bike access on said roads and trails, and pestering her friends with obscure Dune trivia. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kenneth Cortes (they/them)
#173: Double Down | 8.10.2023
Kenneth is a high school physics teacher on Long Island. They became interested in crosswords after watching Twitch streamer Northernlion solve them on his livestreams, and began constructing in 2022. They have publications with Universal and the USA Today, and love meeting people in the fabulous crossword community! Feel free to reach out to them on Twitter @imsacapuntas for terrible memes and collaborations. When not crosswording, they spend time practicing guitar and playing fighting games on PC.
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.
Anne Marie Crinnion (she/her)
#106: Themeless #25 | 11.18.2021
Anne Marie Crinnion is a PhD student in Psychological Sciences at the University of Connecticut, studying how people understand speech. Outside of her research, she is a group fitness instructor and enjoys finding new ways to incorporate movement into her day. She loves finding interesting vegan recipes and proving to people how delicious those meals can be!
Ana Deros (she/her)
#114: Change of Pace | 2.3.2022
Ana began doing crosswords in middle school, starting with the celebrity puzzles in People magazine. She’s since graduated to solving the New York Times daily, but did not start constructing until 2020. She does human rights advocacy work for a nonprofit and is currently pursuing her Master’s in Public Policy in Washington, D.C. During her free time, Ana enjoys cooking, traveling, and reading mystery novels. Find Ana on Twitter at @deros_ana.
Chandi Deitmer (she/her)
#62: Count Down | 10.29.2020
#115: That’s How We Role | 2.10.2022
#150: Viva Forever (Spice Up Your Life!) | 1.5.2023
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. 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 Cambridge, MA with her toothless wundercat, Marlowe H. Bucket.
Laura Dershewitz (she/her)
#143: Top Billing | 11.3.2022
Laura started solving crosswords during a summer internship in college, when her primary task was to read multiple daily newspapers and clip stories relevant to the organization’s interests. Was she supposed to just ignore all the puzzles in all the papers?! She’s since become a more responsible employee, but she still loves crosswords. A former high school English teacher, Laura works in educational publishing and lives in the Chicago area with her husband, son, and two perfect cats.
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.
Marya Doery (she/her)
#89: Go For It! | 7.1.2021 (with Carla Frechette)
Marya has worked as a stablehand, biology lab technician, physicist, and software developer. Currently, she splits her time between editing crossword puzzles and developing mobile apps. She also enjoys rock climbing, skiing, and snorkeling.
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.
Bonnie Eisenman (she/her)
#161: Press Play | 4.13.2023
Bonnie is a knitter, birder, programmer, sewist, and general-purpose serial hobbyist living in the Hudson Valley, NY. She has a deep love for puns, storytelling, and stories about puns. She started constructing puzzles in 2022.
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)
#136: Up, Up, Up and Away! | 9.1.2022 (with Emet Ozar)
#152: Themeless #39 | 1.19.2023 (with Darby Ratliff)
Rachel Fabi is a Syracuse-based solver, constructor, and writer-abouter of crossword puzzles. Rachel is a “Wordplay” columnist for the New York Times, writing about the daily puzzle and helping new solvers learn the tips and tricks of solving. She has published crosswords in a variety of mainstream and indie venues, including her own puzzle blog Just Gridding!, which she shares with fellow constructor Claire Rimkus. Rachel is also the creator of These Puzzles Fund Abortion, a series of puzzle packs that have raised over $135,000 for abortion funds. In her non-crossword life, 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).
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.
Emily Flynn (she/her)
#166: Scoring on Skates | 6.1.2023 (with Kate Hawkins)
Emily is a metadata librarian for the OhioLINK academic library consortium in Columbus, OH. While a life-long reader, she rekindled her love of puzzles in 2020 and began solving crosswords regularly and dabbling in constructing. The USA Today and the variety of indie puzzles really hooked her. She also blogs for Diary of a Crossword Fiend. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with family and friends, traveling and going to festivals, and playing board and role playing games.
Olivia Mitra Framke (she/her)
#49: Do the Right Thing | 7.9.2020
#103: October Surprise | 10.31.2021 (with Jess Goldstein)
Olivia Mitra Framke started constructing crosswords in 2016 under the guidance of the great Nancy Salomon. She has since been published in The New York Times, Universal, and USA Today, among others. In May 2021 she was profiled in the Jersey City Times’ “In Our Midst” series — you can read about her thoughts on the Crossworld here. For her day job, Olivia works as an academic advisor at a performing arts college in Manhattan where she advises graduate-level musicians. She is a gamer, flutist, and podcast enthusiast, and currently resides in Jersey City with her adorable dachshund Charlie. Find Olivia on twitter at @Livienna.
Carla Frechette (she/her)
#89: Go For It! | 7.1.2021 (with Marya Doery)
Carla works for a boarding school in the Litchfield Hills of Connecticut and enjoys all sorts of word games, including solving NPR’s Sunday Puzzle with her colleagues. She has also spent many years working in the show horse field. When not puzzling, Carla reads, hikes, and runs, which keeps her sane.
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 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.
Jess Goldstein (she/her)
#103: October Surprise | 10.31.2021 (with Olivia Mitra Framke)
Jess Goldstein is a middle school math specialist in San Francisco. She was raised in Minneapolis, and has called Honolulu and Portland home as well. She started constructing crosswords in March 2020. She spends most of her non-crossword time riding bikes, camping, and going to the library. Find Jess on Twitter at @___jgo.
Rebecca Goldstein (she/her)
#93: That’s a Rap! | 8.5.2021
#156: Opening the Door | 3.2.2023
#179: Ladies Night | 10.12.2023
Rebecca is a scientist developing immunotherapies for cancer. A New Yorker at heart, she lives in the Bay Area with her wife, who encouraged her to start making crosswords during the pandemic. Her puzzles have appeared in the New York Times, the New Yorker, and other mainstream and indie venues. Find Rebecca on Twitter at @Rebecculous.
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.
Becca Gorman (she/her)
#84: Tree For All | 5.13.2021
#113: Themeless #27 | 1.20.2022 (with Caitlin Reid)
Becca Gorman is a graduate of Middlebury College. She currently works at McLean hospital as a Clinical Educator Specialist and is passionate about mental health care. Outside of her day job, Becca spends the majority of her time completing and constructing crossword puzzles, biking, and hiking with her dog. Becca began constructing in August 2020 (pandemic hobby that lasted!) and has since had puzzles accepted for publication in venues such as The Inkubator, AVCX, The Atlantic, and Universal. She is always looking to connect with other cruciverbalists and loves to collaborate; send her an email at email@example.com if you are interested!
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.
Lisa Grossman (she/her)
#87: There Hugo Again! | 6.10.2021 (with Ada Lerner)
Lisa writes about astronomy for a science magazine from a duplex outside of Boston, where she lives upstairs from Ada Lerner. She shares her half of the house with her husband, a toddler, and a dark matter cat. This is her first crossword. Find Lisa on Twitter at @astrolisa.
Rasa Guarnaccia (she/her)
#117: Pup Squad | 3.3.2022
Rasa is a high school math teacher based in NYC. She was a longtime NYT crossword puzzle solver before realizing there was a thriving indie crossword community online with many other puzzles to solve. Last year she was introduced to constructing by superstar constructor and editor Brooke Husic with whom she has co-constructed puzzles for USA Today. She is beyond excited for her first published solo crossword at the Inkubator. When not teaching or crossword-ing, she enjoys dabbling in other puzzles, going to trivia, and enjoying the great outdoors. Find Rasa on Twitter at @rasanottabula.
Mary Lou Guizzo (she/her)
#8: Scale Models | 4.11.2019
#35: Themeless #6 | 2.20.2020
#59: Themeless #12 | 10.01.2020
#130: Devil in Disguise | 7.7.2022
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.
Ann Hagerty (they/she)
#177: Themeless #47 | 9.21.2023 (with Jess Rucks)
Ann Hagerty is a Colorado-based poet, therapist, literary translator, and crossword devotée. They’ve been solving crosswords for most of their life, but only started constructing within the past two years, in collaboration with Jess Rucks. This is their first published puzzle; on the poetry front, they’ve hand-published three chapbooks, and their writing has appeared in The Divine Feminist, Entropy, The Stillwater Review, Digging through the Fat, and other publications. When they’re not word-nerding in some form or another, Ann is usually hanging out with their kids, working on their 107-year-old house, or watching goofy movies and shows (or college basketball).
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.
Em Handy (she/her)
#167: Botanimal Garden | 6.8.2023
Em Handy got heavy into crosswords during a long hospital stay and started constructing with a desire to see more puzzles with nerd humor. In addition to being cute and replaying old Nancy Drew computer games, she works a variety of freelance jobs from landscape design to children’s illustration to board games and loves them all equally. You won’t find her on social media, but she has a sporadic crossword mailer you can sign up for at emhandy.com.
Kate Hawkins (she/her)
#54: Rearrangements | 8.13.2020
#95: Themeless #19 | 8.19.2021
#166: Scoring on Skates | 6.1.2023 (with Emily Flynn)
Kate has been writing crossword puzzles since 2019. By day, Kate is a product manager at a startup working to make public procurement more equitable and efficient. She recently moved from Oakland, CA to Hanover, NH with her wife and toddler daughter. Her house for the next few years is on the Appalachian Trail – she encourages any through-hiking crossword friends to knock on her door any time. 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.
Sally Hoelscher (she/her)
#157: Turtles All the Way Down | 3.9.2023
Sally first began constructing crosswords in 2018. She is delighted to be able to spend her time constructing puzzles, writing a daily blog about the USA Today crossword, and editing puzzles at Lil AVC X. When she isn’t thinking about crosswords, she enjoys reading, cooking, biking, and spoiling her cat. She and her husband enjoy traveling, especially to National Parks. Find Sally on Twitter at @SallyHoelscher.
May Huang (she/her)
#107: Off the Hook | 12.2.2021
#146: They’re Doin’ It For Themselves | 12.01.2022 (with Wendy L. Brandes)
May’s love of wordplay inspired her to start constructing crosswords in 2020. As a literary translator, she finds that writing crosswords and translating from Chinese to English both involve a similar process of creativity, perseverance, and collaboration. She and her husband Kevin run crossworthy.net, where they publish original puzzles and host free construction software. By day, May works at a public relations firm and enjoys cooking, swing dancing, and jamming out to Taylor Swift. Her puzzles have appeared in Inkubator, Universal, Spyscape, the USA Today, and Lil AVC X. Follow her on Twitter at @mayhuangwrites or @crossworthy.
Brooke Husic (she/her)
#66: Themeless #14 | 12.10.2020
#76: Puzzling AF | 3.11.2021 (with Rachel Fabi)
#163: Bottom Energy | 5.4.2023
Brooke started constructing puzzles in 2020. She writes puzzles for most mainstream outlets and 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 edits for AVCX and Lollapuzzoola; she also assists the Inkubator team. 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.
Sarah Imhoff (she/her)
#104: Kitchen Spoons | 11.4.2021
Sarah Imhoff is a professor of religious studies at Indiana University. When she’s not writing words — either in puzzles or academic books — she loves SCUBA diving, running, and gardening. Find Sarah on Twitter at @prof_girlfriend.
Christina Iverson (she/her)
#32: The Last Word | 1.16.2020
#57: Play by Play | 9.10.2020 (with Amy Schecter)
#148: Themeless #38 | 12.15.2022
Christina is a crossword constructor and a puzzle editor at the New York Times. When she’s not working on puzzles, she can often be found reading, knitting, biking or hiking. She lives with her husband and two young children in Ames, IA. Find Christina on Twitter at @xtinaiverson.
Elizabeth Jewlal (she/them)
#94: Shark Attack | 8.12.2021
Elizabeth is a longtime crossword lover and very new to the world of construction. She is a graduate student in the field of Anatomy and Cell Biology and her research focuses on skull morphology and development. Elizabeth is a self-described chronic hobbyist with interests in sports (tennis/golf/fencing), music, baking, thread-based crafts, mixology, and gardening. Elizabeth’s current occupation is as a Trivia Night host and she loves using crossword clues in her questions.
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.
Chez Knox (she/her)
#101: Vocabulary Polarity | 10.14.2021
Chez spends her days as a Grades Teacher at Alabama Waldorf School. At night, she talks to her dogs and solves crossword puzzles. Another of her hobbies is needlecraft work — cross-stitch, embroidery, crochet, quilting, sewing, etc. Chez was part of a nationwide quilting project that you can read about by finding #RitasQuilt on social media.
Allegra Kuney (she/her)
#34: Take the Plunge | 2.13.2020
#120: Inner Goddess | 3.24.2022
A media research analyst from Queens, New York, Allegra also sings, writes about web culture and language, and attempts to cook Chinese food, sometimes successfully. Find her on Twitter at @allegramiriam.
Jenna LaFleur (she/her)
#70: Themeless #15 | 1.21.21
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.
Emma Lawson (she/her)
#158: Themeless #41 | 3.16.23 (with Erica Hsiung Wojcik)
#175: I Know It When I See It | 9.7.23
Emma Lawson is an academic librarian in Vancouver, BC who always forgets to use American spellings in her crosswords. She enjoys knitting, admiring her rabbit Charlotte (you would too, she’s perfect), and cheesy sci-fi movies. Her puzzles have appeared in the LA Times and Universal Crossword. Find Emma on twitter at @emmalawson and more of her puzzles on her blog Crossword Dilemmas!
Spencer Leach (they/them)
#171: Themeless #45 | 7.20.23
Spencer Leach, 19, is studying mechanical engineering at Virginia Tech and is working as a traffic management intern for the North Carolina DOT. Spencer has constructed multiple puzzles for the New York Times and Los Angeles Times, and frequently dreams of eating Oreos with Brian Eno on Lake Erie. When not constructing, Spencer is probably listening (and screaming the lyrics) to Taylor Swift songs and wishing they had managed to get Eras Tour tickets. Find Spencer on Twitter at @ThoronIsHere and solve more of Spencer’s puzzles at their blog Powergrids.net.
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.
Ada Lerner (they/them)
#87: There Hugo Again! | 6.10.2021 (with Lisa Grossman)
Ada teaches and researches computer science from a duplex outside of Boston, where they live downstairs from Lisa Grossman. They share their half of the house with their wife and with their dog, Matrix. This is their first crossword.
Barbara Lin (she/her)
#61: Get Comfortable | 10.22.2020
#92: Keep The Change | 06.22.2021
#147: *thud from another room* | 12.08.2022 (with Zaineb Akbar)
After many years enjoying crosswords and other word puzzles, Barb began constructing crossword puzzles in 2019. Her puzzles have appeared in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Universal, Los Angeles Times, Fireball, and Boswords Themeless League. 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
#155: Themeless #40 | 2.16.2023
Wyna Liu is an associate puzzle editor at The New York Times and assistant editor at American Values Club Crossword. Her puzzles have appeared in The New Yorker, NYT, and AVCX, among other venues. When she’s not thinking about puzzles, she makes jewelry, tensegrity objects, and enjoys learning fabrication techniques like machining and neon. Her work can be found at wynaliu.com and on Twitter and Instagram @wynaliu.
Karen Lurie (she/her)
#126: Truth Be Told | 6.3.2022
#154: Remixes | 2.9.2023
Karen is a Brooklyn, New York-based comedy and game show writer who dove into crossword construction during the dark pandemic days of 2020, like so many others. Her crosswords have appeared in The New York Times, AVCX, Universal, and the LA Times. She’s very excited to add The Inkubator to that list!
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.
Alex Mason (she/her)
#129: Bend Towards Justice | 6.23.2022
Alex is an OB/GYN resident with a passion for contraception access, abortion care, and reproductive health and rights. In her very scarce free time, she also loves to get through as many crossword puzzles and other brain/word games as she possibly can. She had always been interested in trying her hand at constructing a crossword puzzle, but when she came across the Inkubator she realized it was time to give it a try… a feminist crossword puzzle outlet devoted to advocating for women and nonbinary folks?? It seemed too good to be true. She had a lot of fun putting this puzzle together with the team and she learned a lot about the cruciverbalist world too. She definitely plans to dedicate more time to puzzle construction in the future when she has a little more time to spare but in the meantime, she hopes you enjoy her debut!
Sophia Maymudes (she/her)
#9: 404: Not Found | 4.24.2019 (with Maryam Hedayati)
#68: Interspecies Bonding | 12.31.2020 (with Kyra Wilson)
#85: Themeless #19 | 5.20.2021 (with Kyra Wilson)
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
#110: Skipped Period | 12.23.2021
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.
Courtney Essary Messenbaugh (she/her)
#178: Oh na-na, what’s my name? | 10.5.2023
This is Courtney’s first-ever published crossword! She’s over the moon about it and incredibly grateful to the Inkubator team (shout out, Brooke!) for patiently working with her. She’s eager to keep learning and hopes to develop more puzzles in the near future. When not thinking about crosswords Courtney runs a small communications consultancy, dabbles in writing short humor & other things, and tries to keep up with her three teenagers, two dogs, and one husband. She likes yoga, hiking, animals, reading, toast, and rambling aimlessly through urban and rural environments. Find Courtney on Twitter at @courtney_essary.
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.”
Manaal Mohammed (she/her)
#184: Regional Cuisine | 11.23.2023
Manaal is a junior studying computer science in Boston, who has been making crosswords since 2021. She enjoys solving with friends and family and also loves cycling, cooking, and making collages.
Ada Nicolle (she/they)
#122: Themeless #30 | 4.21.2022
Ada Nicolle is a trans crossword constructor and comedian based in Toronto, Canada. She runs the crossword subscription Luckystreak Xwords+, where she regularly publishes themeless puzzles and the occasional themed puzzle. Her puzzles can also be found in the New York Times, USA Today, Universal, and the Inkubator. When Ada’s not constructing crossword puzzles, she is regularly performing stand-up comedy around Toronto. You can find her on Twitter at @adanicklmao and solve more of her puzzles on her aforementioned Patreon subscription and her blog.
Sara Nies (she/her)
#137: It’s All in the Delivery | 9.8.2022
Sara Nies is a Puzzles & Games Producer for the New Yorker. Her puzzles have appeared in USA Today and Universal, and she was formerly fact checker and test solver for the Inkubator. When not catching up with friends at crossword competitions, she knits, runs, and generally enjoys New York, where she lives with her cat and boyfriend.
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.
Emet Ozar (she/they)
#136: Up, Up, Up and Away! | 9.1.2022 (with Rachel Fabi)
Emet is a queer, genderqueer crossword enthusiast and program manager. She has had puzzles published by the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, Crosswords Club and others, but still feels very much like a newb. Outside of crosswords, she spends time with her three kids (all under six) and wife. See more of Emet’s work at her website.
Jana Persky (she/her)
#99: It’s A Curse | 9.23.2021
Jana grew up as the eldest of four crazy kids in Connecticut and then moved west to attend Stanford University. She now lives in Denver, Colorado, where she is the Chief of Staff at a youth apprenticeship organization. Her mom introduced her to the New York Times crossword puzzle, and she picked up crossword-making as a pandemic hobby. In her spare time, Jana enjoys playing soccer, hiking, skiing and exploring all that Colorado and the Mountain West has to offer.
Nova Qi (she/her)
#135: Themeless #34 | 8.23.2022
Born and raised in New Jersey, Nova recently graduated from Case Western Reserve University where she studied systems biology and biochemistry. She is currently a PhD candidate doing research in a neuroscience lab at Columbia University in New York City. After getting into the New York Times crossword in high school, when she would bring the paper to school to solve with her friends in class, she started constructing in late 2020. In addition to science and crosswords, her other passions include science fiction, local breweries, going to metal concerts, and watching movies.
Amanda Rafkin (she/her)
#28: Transformations | 12.5.2019
#45: Glad You’re Here | 6.4.2020
#82: Twitter Alert | 4.22.2021
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.
Darby Ratliff (she/her)
#152: Themeless #39 (with Rachel Fabi)
Darby Ratliff is a doctoral candidate in American Studies at Saint Louis University. Originally from Cleveland, Ohio, she is a passionate Cleveland Guardians and Buffalo Bills fan whose ideal day is spent at a baseball game keeping score with one hand and drinking a beer with the other. In her spare time, she loves exploring new coffee shops, reading, doing puzzles, and hanging out with her dog Midge. She also blogs for Diary of a Crossword Fiend, is a member of the 2023 Lil AVC X roster, and can be found on Twitter at @darby_ratliff.
Caitlin Reid (she/her)
#11: Themeless #2 | 5.23.2019
#48: Getting Cheeky | 7.2.2020 (with Jennifer Marra)
#113: Themeless #27 | 1.20.2022 (with Becca Gorman)
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
#86: Pride and Joy | 6.4.2021
#109: Themeless #26 | 12.16.2021
Claire Rimkus posts regular puzzles (alongside fellow Inkubator constructor Rachel Fabi) on their site Just Gridding!
Anne Rousseve (she/her)
#90: She Bop | 7.8.2021
Anne Rousseve is a public defender in Boston. She enjoys getting people out of jail and arguing about where to find the best doughnuts. She lives with her husband and her adorably feral twin toddlers. This is her first puzzle. Find Anne on Twitter at @AnneRousseve.
Beth Rubin (she/her)
#141: Keep It Down! | 10.13.2022 (with Robyn Weintraub)
Originally from New York, Beth is a librarian, crossword constructor, writer, and artist. Her puzzles have appeared in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Universal Crossword, Crosswords Club, Spyscape, and Daily POP. She lives in Los Angeles with her wife.
Jess Rucks (she/her)
#177: Themeless #47 | 9.21.2022 (with Ann Hagerty)
Jess began solving crosswords between classes and barista shifts in college. Now, her non-crossword endeavors include being a: school-based therapist, wife, mom, and unapologetic lover of ALL the glitter. When not crosswording, therapizing, or family-ing, she tries to make time to enjoy live music (but is probably home watching “Drag Race” or college basketball). Jess is a resident of Colorado and a Minnesotan at heart. She solves crosswords on a glitter-covered clipboard. Find Jess on Twitter at @JessBevRucks.
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!
Carly Schuna (she/they)
#125: Themeless #31 | 5.19.2022
#134: Flipping the Bird | 8.11.2022 (with Jess Shulman)
#180: Themeless #48 | 10.19.2023
Carly Schuna is a circus performer/coach and word lover based in Madison, WI. She began regularly solving crosswords more than 10 years ago and occasionally moonlights as a test solver for various puzzle and game books. In addition to the Inkubator, she has had puzzles accepted with Crosswords Club, L.A. Times, Universal, and the NYT. When not working with words, Carly is probably German wheeling, doing some kind of trapeze, juggling, or snuggling with her three dogs. You can follow her on Instagram at @headoverwheelscircus.
Margaret Seikel (she/her)
#102: Leader of the PAC | 10.21.2021
Margaret is an analyst at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and a proud Midwesterner. She recently graduated with a Masters in Applied Economics from the Ohio State University and started constructing two years ago to procrastinate studying for the LSAT. She no longer plans to attend law school but instead spends her free time creating puzzles for venues like The New York Times, The Atlantic, and The Wall Street Journal. Outside of crosswords, she enjoys baking, swimming, and learning to rock climb. Find Margaret on Twitter at @MargaretSeikel.
Priyanka Sethy (she/her)
#83: Curb Appeal | 5.6.2021
#181: It’s Extremely Popular in Some Circles | 11.2.2023
Originally from a small town in the Indian Himalayas, Priyanka Sethy is a PhD student at Harvard University, studying government and political science. She loves anything wordplay and picked up crossword construction as a pandemic hobby. In her spare time, she likes painting, keeping her plants alive, and learning new languages. Find Priyanka on Twitter at @PriyankaSethy_.
Max Schlenker (all pronouns)
#151: The Right Outfit | 1.12.2023 (with Sara Cantor)
#169: Signature Dishes | 7.6.2023
Originally from rural North Carolina, Max is a paralegal and crossword constructor now based in Washington, D.C. When not constructing, Max plays in LGBTQ+ kickball and volleyball leagues and drinks lattes. Their work has also appeared in the Universal Crossword, the Los Angeles Times, and Max’s puzzle blog.
Jess Shulman (she/her)
#134: Flipping the Bird | 8.11.2022 (with Carly Schuna)
Jess is a freelance writer and editor based in Toronto, Ontario. Like many others her interest in constructing was sparked during the pandemic and, with encouragement from an editor friend (cryptic maven Sara Goodchild), she dove in. She’s had puzzles accepted by the New York Times, Universal Crosswords, Crosswords Club, and — yay! — the Inkubator. Jess also sings in a (very casual) band, plays guitar and mandolin, and loves reading and hiking. She has two busy teenage kids, an even busier dog, and a sleepy cat. Find Jess on Twitter at @JessShulman.
Ashleigh Silveira (she/her)
#108: Think Twice | 12.9.2021
Ashleigh is from Texas and currently living in Dubai with her family. She was an English teacher before her husband’s job sent the family abroad 4 years ago. Since then, Ashleigh has been getting used to moving around as they’ve lived in Qatar, the Canary Islands, and now the U.A.E. She started solving crosswords in 2019 and in 2020 made a personalized crossword as a Valentine’s gift for her husband. This prompted her to look into the actual conventions of crossword construction. She’s been trying her hand at it ever since, and this is her first published crossword! When she’s not crosswording, Ashleigh is usually chasing after her toddler and caring for her newborn. She also enjoys Crossfit, tennis, bike riding, reading, and board games.
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.
Rachel Simon (she/her)
#164: We All Scream For … | 5.11.2023
Rachel Simon is the founder of YourCrossword, a personalized crossword business on Etsy. Her puzzles have appeared in the New York Times, Vulture, Walter Magazine, and more. She’s a writer with the NYT, Glamour, NBC News, Vice, and many other outlets, and her book “Pickleball for All” was published in 2022. Originally from New York, she now lives in Raleigh, North Carolina, with her husband, dog, and cat. Find Rachel on Twitter at @Rachel_Simon.
Rose Sloan (she/her)
#128: Themeless #32 | 6.16.2022
Rose is a computer scientist living in New York. She began solving crosswords in 2019, started constructing in May 2021, and has fallen in love with all things crossword-related since then. When she’s not doing puzzles or swamped with schoolwork, she loves knitting, cooking, and playing Dungeons and Dragons. Find Rose on Twitter at @acommonrose and solve more of her puzzles here.
Hannah Slovut (she/her)
#98: Themeless #23 | 9.16.2021
Hannah lives in Minneapolis with her cat, Penelope. She works in Democratic politics doing data management and analysis. She started constructing crosswords in 2017, and also enjoys walking around lakes, doing jigsaw puzzles, listening to podcasts, and learning new facts about giraffes. Find Hannah on Twitter at @hslovut.
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
#149: Holding Pattern | 12.22.2022
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. Since 2010, she has worn many hats in the crossword field, including constructor, test solver, and workshop leader. She has been assisting puzzle editor Mike Shenk with crossword submissions at The Wall Street Journal since 2019. She’s grateful to all who enable her vocation, including countless cruciverbalists and her one and only crossword-immune husband Kevin, and she gives special thanks to the Inkubator’s editors, staff, and subscribers.
Lee Taylor (she/her)
#111: It’s Their Thing | 1.6.2022
Lee Taylor started constructing puzzles in 2015 when she ran out of things to read on a long plane ride. Since then, she has sold more than 60 puzzles to a variety of publications including the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. The love of languages and wordplay runs deep; when she was growing up, her father would make copies of the Sunday New York Times puzzle so every family member could have their own to work on. Lee’s passion for the outdoors is reflected in her profession: she serves as the superintendent of Olympic National Park in Washington. Lee has one daughter, Hayley, who works in the field of climate change — and a pandemic puppy, Finn, who is still at home.
Carly They Themsen (she/her)
#168: Themeless #44 | 6.15.2023
Carly is a gay nerd from Chicago. She wants to thank Crossweird for helping her figure this puzzle stuff out [:
Allison Uttaro Young (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!
Liz Vargo (she/her)
#97: Aether Way | 9.9.2021
Liz Vargo works in e-commerce strategy at Lowe’s (the place that sells hammers, not the defunct movie theater chain) and resides in Cambridge, MA. Despite being a lifelong Sudoku fiend, Liz did not struggle through her first Monday crossword puzzle from The New York Times until 2018, when her new-at-the-time beau Kevin (also a constructor) convinced her to give crosswords a try. Liz eventually got to solving the later days of the week, and with little to do in the quarantine times, she tried her hand at constructing. This is Liz’s first published crossword. When she’s not hammering away at Lowe’s or at crosswords, Liz loves boutique fitness classes, Boston area restaurants, and Real Housewives. Find Liz on Twitter at @_LeezV.
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 Executive Editor at PuzzleNation, overseeing Crosswords Club and Daily POP Crosswords. 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. Patti’s back at the helm for Women of Letters 2, which will be released in 2021. 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.
Amie Walker (she/her)
#174: Themeless #46 | 8.17.2023
Amie Walker is an attorney/current stay-at-home parent to three little girls in Chandler, Arizona. When she’s not thinking about puzzles, she loves spending time with her family and singing in her women’s choir. She is very grateful to everyone at Inkubator for their encouragement and support! Find Amie on Twitter at @Amie_Walker1.
Martina Waluk (she/her)
#40: Can We Talk? | 3.26.2020
#69: Hello, Kitty | 01.14.2021
#143: Top Billing | 11.3.2022 (with Laura Dershewitz)
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 all cats. If she’s not traveling or trying out a new court sport (like pádel) with her husband, she’s likely starting yet another craft project. 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, she’s been published in Universal Crosswords, Marie Claire, and the Redstone Games app. As a retired educator, she continues to develop her crossword website and invites you to come over and play! New puzzles are added every Sunday and Thursday.
Robyn Weintraub (she/her)
#4: Themeless #1 | 2.28.2019
#141: Keep It Down! | 10.13.2022 (with Beth Rubin)
#162: Themeless #42 | 4.20.2023
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.
Grace Whitney (she/her)
#121: Doctoring the Recipe | 4.14.2022
Grace graduated from Harvard in 2020 with a degree in Linguistics, and now works as a software engineer in Boston. She solves the NYT puzzle daily in collaboration with her mom, and got hooked on constructing in mid-2020 after her godmother suggested a really good theme. Aside from crosswords, Grace has a diverse set of interests including the NYT Spelling Bee, Wordle, Bananagrams, Scrabble, and Boggle; occasionally she fits in time for her friends or a batch of scones.
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
#88: Themeless #20 | 6.17.2021
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.
Quiara Vasquez (she/her)
#138: Themeless #35 | 9.15.2022
Quiara Vasquez is an editor at AVCX and a regular contributor to various crossword outlets, as well as a speed solver who came in eighth at Lollapuzzoola 15. You can find more Quiara puzzles weekly both on her blog QVXwordz and the website Crossword Club.
Kyra Wilson (she/her)
#68: Interspecies Bonding | 12.31.2020 (with Sophia Maymudes)
#85: Themeless #19 | 5.20.2021 (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.
Erica Hsiung Wojcik (she/her)
#91: Themeless #21 | 7.15.2021
#158: Themeless #41 | 3.16.2023 (with Emma Lawson)
Erica is a psychology professor in upstate New York. She loves meeting new crossword folks and collaborating on puzzles, so please reach out to her on Twitter at @ewojcik to say hi!
Stella Zawistowski (she/her)
#14: Themeless #3 | 6.20.2019
#39: Cryptic #3 | 3.19.2020
#51: Themeless #9 | 7.23.2020
#176: Into The Groove | 9.14.2023
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.
Analise Zocher (she/her)
#105: Role Play | 11.11.2021
Analise is a marketing copywriter and lifelong word nerd. After decades of solving puzzles, she tried her hand at constructing them as a pandemic hobby. Outside of crossword puzzles, she loves animals, sci-fi and fantasy, and minor league baseball branding. She and her husband Mark live in and work from a 40-foot Winnebago currently parked in the mountains of northern New Mexico.