“Well, I’m Stumped”

[.puz][PDF][Solution] 🌲🌴🎋🌳

It occurs to me that maybe, from time to time, I should point out the “Rosswords by Mail” feature. Drop your email address in the field to the right and you’ll get each Sunday’s #Rossword whooshed straight to your inbox. It’s a good way to ensure you won’t miss a trick!

A couple of #Rosswords out the in the wild to apprise you of:

– Tomorrow’s New York Times Monday (5/3) puzzle, which I’m told by a colleague “isn’t a GIANT waste of time *wink wink*”. I submitted that one sometime in mid-2019, so it’s not exactly cutting edge Ross material, but I think it holds up okay.

-Yesterday’s 5/1 Universal puzzle, “Look Within Yourself,” a collaboration with my dear friend and noted weasel aficionado Amanda Rafkin.

Oh! And don’t forget to tune in tomorrow (Monday) evening at 9pm eastern for some live Twitch solving over at Cursewords Live. Parker and I are temporarily taking over the Boswords primetime slot, at least until Boswords returns and we can resume our more natural role as afterparty hosts.

Thoughts and spoilers for “Well, I’m Stumped” after the jump!

Maybe solve this week’s puzz via the PDF? Cap’n America helped me make it!!!

There is nothing, and I mean nothing inherently interesting about “wood” as a crossword puzzle theme. And truth be told, I’m not sure how this is going to play out from a solving standpoint. I think when I fixed on the idea of a) hiding various types of trees in the grid, b) stacking them one on top of the others, and c) trying to pull off a triple stack three different times in the same grid … well, I think I just liked the challenge. But that’s a pretty navel-gazy approach to crossword construction. Ah, well. Perhaps the, ahem, craftsmanship will be enough to make this a worthwhile solve.

If you’ve got the wherewithal, I suggest clicking into the PDF and downloading/printing/solving with pen and paper. The colored cels in PuzzleMe are nice, but I was able to do more with the PDF.

Happy solving, friends!


“Guys Who Are Down Bad”

[.puz][PDF][Solution] 👨🏽‍🦳👨🏾‍🦱☔️👱🏻‍♂️🧖🏻‍♂️

I’m a little groggy as I rise to post today’s puzzle. Like many of you, I imagine, I’ve been pretty plugged into the proceedings at the 2021 ACPT Online. Joining various “tables” to check in with dozens of denizens of crossworld–many of whom I haven’t seen in 13+ months now–has been flooding my system with various potent and agreeable brain chemicals.

The slow drip of gratitude and affection crescendoed last night when Parker and I ran a “How to Make a Crossword” seminar for ACPT attendees. The “room” kept ejecting us (the production this weekend has otherwise been wonderful!), so we made the snap decision to switch to my Zoom account. And with apologies to the folks who couldn’t join because we quickly maxed out the 100 person limit… what a night!

A little later on today I’m going to try to make time to compile and distribute the puzzle we made live with input from the group. But for now suffice it to say that my general attitude that Crossword People Are The Best People remains intact.

Some thoughts and spoilers for “Guys Who Are Down Bad” after the jump.

Parker, myself, and our 98 new besties

This grid took … massaging. I started with a horizontal layout for the IT’S RAINING MEN revealer, which indicates that M-E-N strings from each of the four theme answers RAIN downward into the intersecting down answers. However, that didn’t leave enough north-south real estate to accommodate the M-E-N, which kept wanting to intersect the revealer.

The solution, of course, was to lean into the interlock, but in ways that I could control better. By organizing IT’S RAINING MEN vertically, I could attempt to intersect it with base thematic phrases of my choosing. I started with WO[MEN]’S EQUALITY DAY, which intersects at the A in RAINING. Each of the remaining 3 themers also pass through the revealer. Things got *really* tricky when I realized that the M-E-N accommodating down answers in TREAT[MEN]TS and LA[MEN]TABLE were *also* going to need to intersect the 2nd and 3rd themers … all in all, a sextuple interlock. Yeesh.

Fortunately, the grid didn’t seem to suffer too terribly much. There was even flexibility enough for some nicer bonus fill in BETA TEST and PLOT HOLE … for which clue [That the “Karate Kid” ref says no head kicks are allowed, then lets Daniel win by kicking Johnny right in the face, e.g.] I make no apologies. <3

Happy solving, friends!


“Leave Room for Dessert!”

[.puz][PDF][Solution] 🍪🍪🍪🍪

Jessie just made her vaccination appointment. Gratitude abounds in this household. One step closer to all of us commingling in our kitschy crossword novelty clothing! Ah, I can *taste* it. Speaking of, don’t forget to register for A.C.P.T. next week!

I’m also thrilled to be able to exhort you to check out the new Juggernaut crossword feature! It’s a monthly puzzle featuring South Asian themes and subject matter from Sid Sivakumar.

Thoughts and spoilers for “Leave Room for Dessert” after the jump!

En garde, hunger!

For anyone who is first encountering a “rebus” puzzle, in which you cram more than one letter into a single box, know that your confusion and consternation is a near universal response. Yes, you “can” do that. Yes, it’s pretty common. No, it will never not be infuriating to first time rebus solvers.

This puzzle concept started when I noticed that CHAZZ PALMINTERI was a grid-spanning 15 letters. It’s rare that I try to reverse engineer a puzzle idea from the name of a public person whom I admire. The last time I can recall was seeing YAMICHE ALCINDOR (15) and thinking, okay, she’s a journalist who wears a lapel MIC! Or, or, the word HEAL is also hidden across her name… uh… dammit, how do I get YAMICHE ALCINDOR into a puzzle!? (Answer: make more themeless puzzles?)

At any rate, the MINT in Chazz’s name turned out to be crucial. My weird little brain *needs* there to be at least 4 rebus boxes in a rebus puzzle. And M-I-N-T is a *very* uncommon letter string, I now know! It was especially difficult to get rebus boxes in the north and west, since few of the options followed the string of ??MINT___, forcing the rebus box towards the middle of the grid in the first few formulations I tried.

Another weird thing about my brain and rebuses is that I’m basically never satisfied unless each rebus box shares a its longest row/column with a sister rebus box’s longest row/column. There are no rules about this stuff, but the constraints make finishing a grid like this all the more satisfying.

Happy solving, friends!


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!