“Whose Side Are You On?”

[.puz][PDF][Solution] 🚪🚪🚪

A couple years ago, Matt Jones started the Twitter hashtag #notacrossword to tag puzzles that show up in media or on products that don’t abide “standard” crossword conventions. (There are so many examples that Rachel Fabi took up the cause and started a whole @Not_a_Crossword account.)

Generally, the offending grids have unchecked squares, two letter words, or don’t present with any kind of symmetry.

So, this week’s puzzle asks the question directly. Is it a crossword, or is it #notacrossword? WHOSE SIDE ARE YOU ON?!

“Not a crossword,” says @Not_A_Crossword


Today’s puzzle bears a strong resemblance to this lovely grid by Timothy Polin, which also fails the standard crossword test in that it is similarly bisected by black squares. (I think the raisons d’être of the two puzzles are different enough, so hopefully there’s enjoyment enough to glean from both.)

This is a unique grid for me in that the revealer itself also as a themer. THE DOORS are how you move from one side to the other, with the other two doors hidden in TAN[DOORI] and IT’S [DO OR] DIE.

So… crossword? Or #notacrossword?

“It’s a Major Award!”

[.puz][PDF][Solution] 🥇🏆🌹

As a rider to this New Year’s Day puzz, I’m attaching some 2019 statistics from my records. (Because there are still puzzles out for review, these numbers are still in part projections.) I think this might be interesting to new/aspiring constructors.

2019: 103 puzzles constructed; 48 puzzles sold; 35 puzzles published

Published puzzles: 12 Universal, 10 New York Times, 7 Wall St. Journal, 2 L.A. Times, 1 Spyscape, 1 METER Magazine, 1 beer can, 1 napkin.

I reserved 15 puzzles for this website, and wrote a couple dozen custom puzzles for private citizens (and one best friend’s wedding).

And finally, I was THIS EXCITED to be able to work with dozens of aspiring constructors, mostly women committed to chipping away at the gender disparity in mainstream puzzles. You’ll see several of their names next to mine in print in 2020.

Okay, more about today’s puzzle after the jump.

Ruby & a metaphor about the passage of time


This puzzle is dropping on 1/1 in large part because of the revealer, FIRST THINGS FIRST. It’s a 16×15 grid to accommodate that phrase, with YELLOW JERSEY BOYS balancing it out.

This idea started with the realization that there are a lot of first place indicators that are COLOR + THING: yellow jersey, red rose, blue ribbon being the “first things” that come “first” in the wacky-but-not-too-wacky theme answers.

Hope this one felt like a winner, dear solver. If not, well, there’s always next year.