Nightly Twitch Stream (Themeless)

[.puz][PDF][Solution] 👱🏻‍♂️👾👱🏻‍♂️

Of the hundreds of puzzles I’ve made in the last few years, only about 50 of them have been themeless. And before today I’d only ever posted three of them on this site. Today’s grid is lucky number four, with a bullet.

The truth is that, generally speaking, I somewhat prefer *solving* themeless puzzles. But when it comes to *making* them, I tend to find my attention wandering after the first few words go in. In recent months I’ve found more focus in developing lower word count architecture (“ooh, let’s see if *this* is possible!”) or even grabbing grid arrangements wholesale from other constructors I admire (“ooh, let’s imagine how *Sid* started out on this set-up!”).

The puzzle’s title comes from the clue for 36-Across, which is a not-so-subtle h/t to my very good streaming buddy Parker. Last night we constructed a grid on the stream and invited the audience to a Google doc for the cluing phase, which was predictably bonkers (and ultimately productive). You can check out that whole process here; I’ll post the puzzle sometime this week. And Parker and I will be back at it tomorrow night at 10pm eastern after the Boswords stream.

No spoilers this week. What does one say about a themeless puzzle? C’est de la poésie, non?

Happy solving, friends.


“Bracket Busters”

[.puz][PDF][Solution] ⛹🏽‍♀️💥⛹🏻

Love March Madness or hate it, it’s pretty unavoidable. I’m not personally super invested in any college sport, but I know that quite a few of the regular solvers on this site are. But fret not: you don’t *have* to know much of anything about sports ball to appreciate/solve this week’s puzzle. I don’t think.

Please note that for the second week in a row I’m running a 21×21 grid whose dimensions will cause the clues to populate above and below the grid rather than to the side. For that reason you might find it easier to download the .puz and solve in AcrossLite, or to print the PDF and solve by hand.

Spoilers and thoughts on “Bracket Busters” after the jump!

the little guys, big moves

I first started working on a 15×15 puzzle that used BRACKET BUSTERS as a revealer, with a variety of answers breaking through the BRACKETs represented in the grid with black squares. And I thought it was cute! But when I stood back from the resulting grid, it felt like it was missing a layer. Namely, that the answers that busted brackets didn’t have *meanings* that were suggestive of the concept of bracket busting.

Moving in that direction–and limiting myself to words that connoted beating the odds–it quickly became apparent that I was going to have to work in a 21×21 grid. For the gridwork wonks out there, I’d love to see other configurations where six non-contiguous standalone brackets of 6 black boxes can be arranged in a fillable grid. I swear I worked with 15 different configurations, using rotational and mirror symmetry, before finally being able to pull it all off in the diagonal symmetry grid you see here.

Happy solving, friends!


Ship Off: a Canal Battle

Well, it started innocently enough. This, from two days ago:

Rejoice, dear solver! For while your Amazon sundries languish in shipping containers somewhere in the Red Sea, you’ve got a puzzle double feature. And a responsibility! For while Parker and I don’t need a “winner” to be crowned, we’re inveterate crossword wonks who sincerely want to hear about your solving experiences on our dueling canal grids.

So: solve! And then hit us up in the comments with your impressions. And in lieu of the “constructor notes” that I traditionally publish below the grid, join us on Monday at 10p eastern on Twitch to yammer with us live about a pair of puzzles that we’re both pretty ding dang proud of!

Important N.B.’s.: 1. You’ll get best results for Parker’s puzzle, “Evergreen Content,” by printing the PDF and solving by hand (if you can). 2. My puzzle, “Canal Zone,” is a wide 21×21, so the selected clue is going to populate *above and below* the grid rather than *beside* it. (So, maybe solve both by hand! … or by downloading the .puz and solving in AcrossLite).

Puzzle #1: Canal Zone

by Ross Trudeau


Puzzle #2: Evergreen Content

by Parker Higgins

[.puz][Solution][PDF] <—- print and solve the PDF for best results!

“Jab This Puzzle”

by Lucy Howard & Ross Trudeau


As I sit down to post today’s puzzle, my co-constructor Lucy and I are texting about all the rock climbing we’re going to do together in the After Times. I’ve also got a double strong cup of home brew, an uncommonly docile purr machine unconscious in my lap, and a 60/sunny local forecast displayed on the ol’ weather app, so everything’s looking up so far. A couple quick hits:

-Don’t miss this Wednesday’s New York Times puzzle, which is a Rafkin-Trudeau joint.

-Parker and I are continuing our “Heavenly Bodies” puzzle build on tomorrow night’s Cursewords Live stream. Tune in at 10 pm eastern after the Boswords stream.

-Here’s a live tracker that Parker and Malaika cooked up that applies a more appropriate color scheme to the NYT constructor gender data over at xwordinfo.)

Some thoughts and spoilers from Lucy on “Jab This Puzzle” after the jump.

Lucy, crushing; Ross, contemplating crushing

Lucy: I am thrilled to be making a Rossword appearance two months in a row! When Ross approached me with this clever revealer, I was delighted to discover that he even knew what a FRENCH TWIST was (“I have a sister, Lucy…”), and even more delighted about his corresponding BOWLING LANE theme entry. Ross’s tricky clue for ATM MACHINE [Deli fixture that dispenses bread] is certainly a highlight of this puzzle for me! Ross and I had an especially fun happy hour clueing session with this puzzle – how could we not with words like PIXAR MOVIE, I STINK, IMMATURE, and IN LOVE? My mom used to call me on Valentine’s Day every year to wish me a happy conception day, so thanks mom for the TMI clue inspiration (I guess). Oh and for the record, I do not have a Texas ACCENT (ahem) and Ross is just being modest about his LEG day workouts…

Ross: There are a couple of other pieces of theme material that we left on the cutting room floor. HAND GRENADE, for one, since the pin felt a bit too akin to the FRENCH TWIST’s pin. It’s a delightful bit of continuity that the PIN in the revealer is for sticking stuff to a wall, and each of the pins in the theme answers has a very distinct use/meaning.

Lucy, darlin’, you definitely have a Texas accent. (Soon as we get her on the stream y’all’ll agree with me.)

Happy solving, friends.


“Spin or Solve”

by Jessie Bullock & Ross Trudeau

[.puz][PDF][Solution] 💃🏻🕺

The clue for 33-Across in today’s puzzle is [DJ’s spinner, represented by the circled letters in today’s puzz], which is a cry for help from Jessie and me. “HELP,” it says. “THROW US A PARTY! PUT US ON A DANCE FLOOR! For the love of god, FILL US A FOAM PIT!”

The real shame of quarantine is that no one but me gets to admire Jessie’s dance moves. So we’re bringing the club to the puzz this week! It’s hard not to see a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel, and we’ve evidently progressed from hibernatory denial to active daydreaming about being able to hit the town again. I’ll spare you some of our more baroque mind’s eye wanderings into post-pandemic night life, and leave you with a triptych of “going out” elevator photos from a 2019 trip to (sigh) Paris. (You have to say “Paris” like this.)

Thoughts and spoilers for “Spin or Solve” after the jump!

Les Bing Bongs in Paris

Actually, this grid took us forever. Here’s a fun constructing challenge: try to arrange four words that contain T-A-B-L-E in a pinwheel (TURN TABLE) pattern like this in a 15×15 grid.

We experimented with a dozen grid layouts, but the constraint of relatively few hidden TABLE words, paired with the even more constrained set of words with hidden E-L-B-A-T strings, paired with the necessity of getting TURNTABLE as a revealer into the grid itself … made for a real head-scratcher of a construction process.

The trick, it turned out, was saving space by having two of the theme answers intersect with the TURN TABLE revealer. (Note that VEGETABLES and GEL BATTERY pass through it.) This allowed for an arrangement where we could get MELBA TOAST, as opposed to, like, HOTEL BATHROBE, which felt forced, into the grid opposite CONSTABLES.

Seriously though, put Jessie and me on your dance card. STAT!

Happy solving, friends!