The New York Times website features a Q&A with Will Shortz, NYT crossword puzzle editor and "star" of the cruciverbalist documentary Wordplay:

Quote:
Q. 3. Has any celebrity or public figure ever tried to influence you to use their name as a puzzle answer? Having your name as an answer to a New York Times puzzle clue must be up there with an Oscar, Nobel or Grammy, wouldn't you say?
Robert Thompson, New York

A. Once in a while a semi-celebrity or up-and-coming starlet (or that person's agent) has sent me info on himself or herself, with the suggestion that I use the name in a Times crossword. I always throw this away immediately. I don't want to be influenced by personal appeals. If I use a name in a Times crossword, I want it to be because the name has seeped into my brain naturally.

Having one's name in a Times crossword does seem to carry some cachet. In "Wordplay," one of the Indigo Girls says the appearance of their name in a Times puzzle (the very first puzzle I edited for the Times back in 1993, as a matter of fact) was a "total thrill" and "... let's call it the pinnacle of our career!"


With this lead-in I am amazed to report that in the New York Times crossword puzzle of May 20, 2006 (a Saturday puzzle, and hence the most difficult of the week), the clue for 38 down was Southwestern salamander (7 letters). Being a Wankher, I was instantly able to fill in the answer: AXOLOTL.

Axo is now more famous than just about anyone. How did he get his name in? What leverage did he have over Shortz?

Eric