“Take a Load Off!”

[.puz][PDF][Solution] 🪑🛋💺 Difficulty: 4/5

Jessie and I are in Nashville, TN for a wedding this weekend, so this’ll be a short post. One thing I’d like to mention about the South: their sensibilities around sitting (sorry, setting) is way more subtle and developed than those of us Yankees. Even the sororities and fraternities at Vandy–Jessie’s alma mater, which is just beautiful, it turns out–were strongly committed to rockers out on the porch. Rockers! Amazing.

Keep your eye out for some Rosswords in the wild this week: the Tuesday 10/19 Universal puzzle and the Tuesday 10/19 New York Times puzzle. That latter grid I constructed in the summer of 2019, so if it strikes you as earlier-oeuvre-ish, you’re probably not alone.

A few thoughts/spoilers on “Take a Load Off!” after the jump!

care to set a spell?

I continue to be pigheadedly 100% committed to symmetrical rebus boxes. I can’t trace this preference, not really, but it’s gotten to the point where basically all non-symmetrical rebus puzzles just strike me as unfinished and haphazard.

With this particular theme set, comprising SOFA, PEW, CHAIR, and STOOL rebuses, such a sensibility presented pretty limited options. CHAIR more or less had to be the end of *CH AIR and *C HAIR, which meant that its symmetrical box had to *begin* both answers it was a part of. And meanwhile, CORDLESS TOOL was one of very few options to pair with WAITS TOO LONG. Beyond those four examples, however, I really struggled to conceive of other seating types to be able to hide in longer base phrases. (I omitted ROCKER since it felt like an elision of the CHAIR that already existed in the grid.) What’d I miss? Drop a comment!

Happy solving!


“I Can’t Hear You!”

by Jessie Bullock & Ross Trudeau

[.puz][PDF][Solution] 🙉 🙉 🙉 Difficulty: 4/5

N.B. This is a 21×22 grid, so the clues are going to present above and below the grid, and not also on the side as they do when I post narrower 15×15 grids. As such, you may get better mileage downloading and printing the puzzle, or solving the .puz in AcrossLite.

Back in May of this year I tweeted out a proto-version of this grid, prompting Jessie to text me the message below. Sometimes I get a little geeked out about the bones of an idea, and I can’t help but *send it out there*. In this case, I was also unsure about how plausible it would be to find enough theme material. (More on that below.) But with a little elbow grease, and a whole lot of Jessie iterating on fill, it turned out to work pretty ding dang decently.

Big shoutouts to Will, Kevin, and David for test solving this grid! A couple of thoughts and spoilers after the jump!


The grid you see here is a 21×22, with the 22 vertical boxes *just barely* accommodating the two pairs of symmetrical ear shapes. Those ear shapes are also each constructed such that one two answers can be construed as “going into” or “coming out of” each one. Further, their size dictated that multiple pairs of theme answer, like NEVER LET THE SUN GO and FAKE IT TIL, end up pretty close to one another, and not plausibly separated by black squares in a meaningful way.

For crossword constructors making high-theme content puzzles, black squares are essentially the means by which you separate your theme box, limiting the overall number of down answers that pass through multiple theme answers and end up being rigidly constrained. Getting decent fill when you’ve got column after adjacent column constricted by multiple themers tends to be a real pain in the butt, so all credit due to Jessie’s doggedness on sorting out some pretty sparkly fill.

Can you think of other examples of common pieces of didactic advice that break down 50/50 like this? Honestly, there were only a couple of other possible options left on the cutting room floor…

Happy solving!

-Ross & Jessie

“The Space Between Us”

by Sally Hoelscher, Quiara Vasquez, & Ross Trudeau

[.puz][PDF][Solution] 👶🏼🧓🏾 Difficulty: 4/5

Today’s puzzle was co-authored by two people whose websites I regularly visit. And you should too!

Sally, crossworld’s most congenial Iowan (in a strong field), writes a daily review of the USA Today crossword on her Sally’s Take blog. And Quiara, crossworld’s most reliably scrabbly constructor, maintains an indie crossword site of her own, QVXwords.

I’d like to get right to this week’s puzzle, which was a blast to put together. Thoughts and spoilers after the jump. Thanks to Wouter for test solving!

a good suit never goes out of style

Just a quick N.B. from me (Ross):. We subdivided the fill and cluing of this puzzle to correspond to the GENERATION we most closely identify with: Sally in the NW, Quiara in the NE, and yours truly in the center south.

Sally: I got involved with this puzzle by responding to a tweet looking for a constructor of a certain generation. In a characteristically-Generation X move, the first thing I did was look up the generational guidelines to make sure I really fit the definition. Born in 1965, I’m on the cusp of Generation X (1965-1980 according to some sources) and the Baby Boomer Generation. Because of the grid constraints, this puzzle was a fun challenge, requiring many iterations to discover the best fill. It was interesting try to fill my corner of the grid from a Generation X-perspective. What does that even mean? I finally realized it was my default perspective! Thanks to Ross and Quiara for the opportunity to collaborate! If you’re ever in need of a Generation X perspective, let me know!

Happy solving, friends!

“The Old Normal”

by Aaron Paulsen & Ross Trudeau

[.puz][PDF][Solution] 🌬 💦 🌿 Difficulty: 3/5

One of the happiest results of having gotten into live crossword streaming on Twitch has doubtlessly been the occasion and opportunity to become friends with this puzzle’s co-author. Known on the internet at ScootsBaboo, Aaron recently served as right honorable arbiter of a Clue-Off competition between Parker and me, and he quickly stole the whole show with his wit and with his bits. (When he’s not puzzling on the www, Aaron is plying his trade as a talented improv actor, so this was all to be expected.) I know I have a nasty habit on inserting lengthy burbles of praise for my collaborators on this site, but Aaron really is a dreamboat.

Oh! And for Boston-area solvers: Parker and I are running a How to Make a Crossword workshop at Lamplighter Brewery on Monday, October 4th at 6:00p. Visit this page to buy your ticket, which also gets you a beer or cold brew!

Spoilers and thoughts on “The Old Normal” after the jump.

deep breath now

Aaron: Hi cuties! It’s me, Aaron/Scoots. If this is our first time meeting, hello! I’m from Vermont, and I live in Chicago where I do comedy! You?

I started giving constructing a shot during quarantine, and as a relatively new constructor I feel so lucky to have been able to collaborate with Ross! Every little xword thing he says is illuminating, would recommend. 

Hope you enjoy the puzzle! If you liked it, or wanna talk about Survivor, Drag Race, or Great British Bake-off, tweet me @ScootsBaboo. It’s my first blog puzzle so please be nice to me, and PLEASE be mean to Ross. Solve away!

Ross: Just a quick N.B. on THE FRESH AIR CURE: there are a whole bunch of Trudeaus in Canada and upstate New York, where my family is from. North America’s first Tuberculosis sanitarium was founded by my great-great grandfather, E.L. Trudeau, who treated mostly blue collar sufferers, but famously counted Robert Louis Stevenson among his patients. After he (RLS) was cured, he sent Dr. Trudeau his collected works, with an inscription inside the front cover of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde that read, “All winter with Trudeau by my side, I never saw the nose of Hyde.”

Happy solving, friends!

“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!