Erik Agard wrote on Facebook:
among the many reasons 2017 was an execrable year: the numbers on gender in crossword puzzling remained very bad! in the new york times, for example, though 10 women had their debut puzzle run (the highest number since 2011), the overall proportion was 13% of puzzles constructed by women (the lowest number in my lifetime). [13% is terrible! Decades ago, it was closer to 50%.—Ed.]
in the spirit of a recent nyt article (“why is fixing sexism women’s work?”, lindy west, jan. 3), i’d like to ask something i’ve never thought to ask before: men of crossworld, what can we do to combat sexism in our community, and to boost those constructor figures by a percentage point or forty? what specifically are you personally going to do in 2018 to make it happen? please think about it and let me know in the comments, and let’s be each other’s accountability buddies.
Erik has now created the Facebook group Puzzle Collaboration Directory to serve as a connection point for would-be constructors to link up with seasoned constructors (many but not all of them men). There’s a group document with email addresses for constructors who’ve signed on to be mentors (10 so far, but the number will grow).
If you’ve wondered whether you could actually construct a publishable crossword—especially if you identify as a woman, person of color, or someone from another group that’s underrepresented in crossword bylines—well, what are you waiting for? There are terrific constructors lining up to offer their coaching. Many of them have been generously helping newbies for years, so you wouldn’t be imposing on them. There’s so much to learn about getting started, developing themes, designing grids, navigating the process of filling your grid, and writing clues that work for your solvers.
(Note from Erik on the Puzzle Collaboration Directory page: “it’s often said that talent is equally distributed, but opportunities are not. this group’s foundational intent is to rectify that inequity for women, people of color, and folks from other groups underrepresented in the puzzle world. if you don’t find yourself described in the previous sentence, please know that you’re equally welcome here; please also respect that priority, and keep it in mind when you’re navigating this group.”)