“Movin’ On Up”

[.puz][PDF][Solution] ➡️↗️⬆️ Difficulty 4/5

I started work on this puzzle about two years ago at the height of my obsession with being a 60-Across. Posting it now is somewhat bittersweet, since I have actually been a 60-Across in practice since before the pandemic. A couple of quick hits before we dig into “Movin’ On Up”:

Parker and I are running a live, in-person How to Make a Crossword workshop here in Cambridge on October 4th at the Lamplighter Brewery, roughly coinciding with the release of their latest batch of Wordplay beer. The can is adorned with a crossword by yours truly! If you’re a Boston local, sign up here!

Speaking of October 4th, don’t forget to sign up for the Boswords Fall Themeless League! They’re kicking off on Monday evening, 10/4 as well — you’ll have time to get home from Lamplighter!

A couple of thoughts and feelings (SPOILER ALERT) about “Movin’ on Up” after the jump!

rest solving on the ol’ crash pad

This puzzle was *hell* to put together. I was dead set on keeping each of the theme answers in symmetrical horizontal rows, but the nature of the hard left turn made placement super inconvenient. It would have been easier to wrangle if I’d had more thematic material to choose from, but I was also set on each theme answer not just being an answer slot that CLIMBS THE WALLS, but also itself be a person/character/thing that itself climbs walls. Finding subsequent down answers that moved through the O-K-C and Y-V-I strings was limiting. Ultimately I needed to go to 16 wide, with CLIMBS THE WALLS rather than CLIMB THE WALLS in order to intersect the T of ENTRY VISA with the T of CLIMBS THE WALLS. *YEESH*

Anyway, the intersections and variably-oriented theme answers required more glue than I tend to like–ADV, ONE-O, CHOC, in particular–but ultimately I felt like it was smooth enough to share with you here.

Happy solving, friends!


“Stay Strong, Y’all”

[.puz][PDF][Solution] 🧗🏼‍♀️ 🖼 🍸 Difficulty: 3/5

There’s no way around the fact that it’s a subdued week here on Rosswords. Yesterday was the 20th anniversary of 9/11, which date tends to have unpredictable effects on the emotional landscape of New Yorkers like me. I happened to be a high school senior in class on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. More on that in a moment.

It’s also the case that Texas’s SB8 recently went into effect, which bill I find unjust and insidious in its potential to erode constitutional rights well beyond the extent to which it does so on its face. Here in crossworld, there’s a fundraiser on to support the rights of Texas women who are immediately affected by the law. I donated this week’s Rossword as an incentive grid for that effort, organized by Wordplay columnist Rachel Fabi, so if you enjoy the puzzle I encourage you to make a donation.

These days its pretty common for me to make-a-crossword-about-it when I’m frustrated at the state of affairs, but 20 years ago, in the aftermath of 9/11, I didn’t have this particular outlet. (Hell, I don’t think I solved a whole crossword until 2010.) Back then, I was more likely to write my feelings. I’ll leave you with what I wrote a couple of summers after the fact, with thoughts and spoilers for “Stay Strong, Y’all” after the jump.


After the second plane hit, they cancelled classes but kept us in school. Kids milling around. Someone would run by every few minutes. Adults had no answers, so they put CNN on in the auditorium. They got the big screen down just in time for us to watch the first tower collapse. There were people in that room with family who worked in the Twin Towers; I’ve never asked anyone how many. One person I talked to remembers tower one falling impossibly slowly, a heavy stone traveling down their throat to their stomach. But I recall it like a gunshot wound. Some gasped, some screamed. Some grabbed the arm next to them and said, No. 

The next day (and the next, and the next) we watched mom on the television, because what else could we do. The first day we had waited in line to give blood. It turned out later that very few people down there actually needed a transfusion. You either made it out or you didn’t. Standing there on a corner, one of my friends thought there was video but no sound in the chapel. Another said we watched the second tower fall, not the first. Nobody remembers 9/11. The only thing we could agree on was that there was no way we’d get to give blood before the station closed for the night. But we didn’t go anywhere. We just waited on Amsterdam, standing in a line that went around the block, and down the street, and out of sight. 

This is a pretty classic Rossword Puzzle formulation. I’m generally drawn to words that have various distinct meanings, and when they get buried in evocative colloquialisms–like the “hang” in HANG IN THERE, GUYS–they tend to light up my theme radar.

I toyed with the idea of the hanging you’d do in, say, a SPACE STATION or INDOOR PARACHUTING. It felt distinct enough from the hanging [from your fingernails] you do in a ROCK CLIMBING GYM. But ultimately, the three examples felt like enough theme material, especially with a 15-letter revealer.

And, this week, that’s all I have to say about that.

Happy solving, friends.


“Captured on Film”

by Lucy Howard & Ross Trudeau

[.puz][PDF][Solution] 🐛🐜🦋 Difficulty: 2.5/5

Today’s puzzle is a collaboration with Lucy Howard, a cherished friend whom I’ve never met in person. Towards the beginning of the pandemic we connected online via puzzles, and in the intervening months we’ve communed over rock climbing, we did an in-home Zoom wine tasting double date, we published a Sunday puzzle in the New York Times. And just recently sent me an ultrasound image of the new baby she is currently 3D printing!

I have to say, the first major crossword puzzle tournament to reopen its doors to in-person attendance is going to be the setting for an impressive density of joyous and tearful reunions and meetings. Perhaps the lobby of the Stamford Marriott in March on the opening evening of the ACPT? A forward-thinking hotel manager will stock every corner and crevice with Kleenex and disposal cameras, one of which I hope captures Lucy and I sobbing violently into one another’s necks while our sig-o’s enjoy a more dignified greeting.

Anyway! Registration is now open for the Boswords Fall Themeless League. I’ll be participating, and hopefully keeping pace with my Cursewords compatriot Parker, who is apparently in the middle of moving up a speed-solving plateau after finishing 35th (!!!) at Lollapuzzoola last month. “See” you “there”?

Thoughts and spoilers on “Captured on Film” after the jump!

Sometimes it’s all about the revealer answer. After all, nothing about the titles of the thematic movies in today’s grid is super-dee-duper *interesting*: BUMBLEBEE, BLACK WIDOW, DRAGONFLY. And you either know the trivia or you don’t. But what appealed to Lucy and me about this concept was the doubly unexpected nature of the revealer answer, A FEATURE NOT A BUG (15).

First of all, it’s just an interesting phrase (that happens to be a 15-letter spanner). And second of all, the way we set about using it asks the solver to interpret both “feature” and “bug” in new ways, as “movie” and “insect” respectively. Sometimes, in my experience, that sort of 2x wordplay can carry the day on an otherwise pretty straight-ahead thematic concept.

Special kudos to Lucy for [God complex?] as a delightful clue for ABBEY. And keep your eyes peeled! There are Trudeau-Howard collaborations in the pipeline at multiple crossword outlets of note!

Happy solving, friends!


“Updates Available”

[.puz][PDF][Solution] 👩🏾‍💻👨🏼‍💻 Difficulty: 2.5/5

First things first: Jessie and I want to extend a sincere Thank You to all the well-wishers of crossworld. We got engaged last Monday evening, an ecstatically happy occasion that coincided with our second New York Times crossword collaboration. The conceit of that puzzle was (spoiler alert) barftastically romantic, even by our standards.

We’ve since returned to Cambridge full of vigor and steely determination! Jessie’s just begun the harrowing post-PhD job search and continues to Put In Work on her dissertation book project, and I am going Back To School shopping! As of this week I’m officially a student again, working towards an MFA in creative writing locally at Emerson. I’ve also got a number of significant puzzle projects on the front burner, all of which represents a veritable feast of creative pursuits on which I plan to gorge unashamedly in the coming months. *burp*

Anyway! One of the first chores that presents itself upon returning from a weeklong holiday is firing up one’s computer and starting up the ol’ “install later” two-step with the software updates alert… right? Which brings us to this week’s puzzle, “Updates Available.” Thoughts and spoilers after the jump!

software: “I’ve changed!” me: lol right

This theme set is an outgrowth of my recent rereading of “Gravity’s Rainbow” on the heels of my puzzle of the same name in the Times a few weeks ago. The V-2 ROCKET, I *quipped* to Jessie, probably had a V4 ENGINE and ran on V8 JUICE … and walla! A theme set version one-point-oh is born.

I went *back and forth* on how to represent this VERSION NUMBER concept. Initially I went with a more conventional representation, with VONE FLYING BOMB, VEIGHT JUICE, and VFOUR ENGINE as theme answers… but I just couldn’t get past the weird parsing of VFOUR when V4 just *looks* so much closer to the version number V-dot-digit naming convention.

The resulting V2 ROCKET, V8 JUICE, V6 ENGINE set looks for visually appealing to me, though of course it’ll present some issues on the solving end, since I have to define wether the applet/AcrossLite file is looking for V2 ROCKET or V[TWO] ROCKET, which might be annoying for solvers who get the error alert when they just guessed wrong as to which answer I specified on the back end. In any case, you *got it right* either way, since the across answers in MY [TWO] DADS, THE [EIGHT]IES, and DEEP-[SIX]ED all preserve the numerical meaning of those letter strings.

Happy solving, friends!