Scale Down

[.puz][PDF][Solution] 🌱🐍 🌱

I was chatting crossword constructor and Harvard student Ria Dhull this week, when she dropped a thoughtful compliment about my Tuesday NYT puzzle.

Me: Any praise from a gen z solver is music to my ears!

Ria: Gen z solvers are pretty easy to please tbh! toss in an EGIRL and we’re happy.

Me: Furiously scribbling down notes here. Ria EGIRL wasn’t even in my word list 😞

Ria: What no!!!!! it’s ranked ridiculously high in mine. It literally shows up every time I click on a five letter word.

I don’t know if you’ve been noticing this, but the kids really do seem to be taking over. Did you catch Paolo Pasco and Adam Aaronson‘s NYT sparkler yesterday? I think they’re younger than me *combined*.

I’m trying to stay optimistic about my ability to make puzzles that appeal to the full gamut of solvers, but keeping the kids happy and feeling “seen” is only a viable project as long as they continue to deign to chat with me on crossword Twitter.

Couple of quick hits: there are still tickets available for next Sunday’s How to Make a Crossword seminar. I’m hoping to see many of you there! And mark your calendars for Lollapuzzoola Online. This is one of my favorite IRL crossword tournaments, and I have no doubt they’re going to put on a good show via Twitch/Zoom/Tiktok… assuming that last one isn’t, like, strictly verboten by then…

Thoughts on this week’s puzzle after the jump!

I don’t remember when I found the delightful spanner SNAKE IN THE GRASS. It’s an evocative phrase, it’s fun to say, and bam: 15 letters. For a while it sat in the “ideas” folder, until I settled on using it as a hidden word revealer. It seemed double appropriate (given the meaning of the phrase) to orient the themers vertically, rendering the snakes at the bottom of the answers, down there IN THE GRASS.

DIS[CO BRA] was a late find, actually, and I rearranged the whole grid to accommodate it there in the center. The theme set makes me pretty happy, with ROCKY BAL[BOA], ATTIC L[ADDER], and BEYOND ONE’S GR[ASP] as the 15-letter spanner to mirror the revealer.

The construction wasn’t totally straightforward, and with all those themers clogging up the bottom third of the grid, I had to go to some corner black squares (which I don’t love) to keep the fill smooth. And stacking theme answers side-by-side, while occasionally a necessity, presents its own challenges (which I relish).

Among the real & fictional people in this puzzle:

Happy dog days, friends. See you on the Zoom?


11 thoughts on “Scale Down

  1. Nice endings for 3, 25, 29, and 38 Down 🙂
    Always enjoy your puzzles and look forward to the wordplay and learning something new each time.
    Take care,

    • Thanks, Bill. I’m with you. I just love when a puzzle teaches me a new word, or a new bit of fun trivia. Of course, the crossings have to be getable enough…

  2. A delightful puzzle, thank you! The theme is terrific and the fill is really enjoyable. (I especially enjoyed 35 Down…although you know that a “grave” or “mortal” one is also forgivable — and Thank God for That!) 🙂

    All my best,


      • LOL, Ross…no…er…of course…I mean…yes, yes, I um…just can’t get enough of it. [Sheesh]

        My son, you are forgiven (and don’t ask me what your penance is!!!) 😉


    • Hey, Lars. Are you looking at the .puz/PDF/embed? I’m trying to find where that’s happening but I can’t. Perhaps you were redirected to an old version?

      • Hi Ross, I’m flummoxed. Looking at the puzzle on your site right now and looking at the print previews, I see that the clue is clearly plural in all views. I had printed it as crossword-pdf and the clue printed as singular. I would scan my copy of the puzzle and attach it to show you except that I don’t know how. I’m not sure why it printed that way (i.e. without the last “s”). At any rate, I guess that cancels my question.

  3. Don’t cancel your own question, Lars, I had a similar reaction when I received the .puz file by email as part of my subscription (Ross, I’ll send you a screen capture anon). I see that the problem has since been fixed in the .puz file that appears on the website… but that “gratuitious” in the clue to 31-Across is still there in each version, though! Not trying to be snooty or anything: this is of course meant as a helpful comment.

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