After a long hiatus, I'm back! My personal life intervened for a bit, and then there was the MIT Mystery Hunt (which was awesome, more about which later), but now that that is taken care of, I should be able to get back to posting puzzles. I originally wrote this one as a submission to the New York Times, and sadly it did not make the cut. But that means I get to share it with you!
I've mentioned wanting to do more crosswords, and one sort of crossword I had never done before was the diagramless. This one took me quite a while to make; although the general shape of the grid came pretty easily, it was hard to come up with fill for the center of the grid. Eventually, with a lot of dictionary lookups, I got the center to work out, and the corners came much more easily. I had wanted 1-across to be in a more symmetrical position, but I couldn't get the fill to work around it.
I wanted to write at least one straight crossword, and here I am meeting that goal on Day 6. 90% of the fill was written out in the wilderness of Beartown State Forest. The upper left corner frustrated me for a while, and I did have to look up one of the answers to make sure I got the spelling right. But overall, I'm pretty happy with it. 40-across ties the theme together nicely (and, like the mini-theme in my cryptic from Day 1, was inspired by my surroundings), and I think there is little 13-down in the fill.