“Teenage Dream”

[.puz][PDF][Solution] ✨🪐🌙

Jessie and I have come to start saying “56-Across!” to one another, at once ruefully and earnestly. Because while our quaranroutines are becoming, uh, well-established, we also find that the framing is everything.

Here’s a page out of our recent dinner date playbook: order international cuisine from a local restaurant (tip generously if you can!), get swanked-out (cologne! fancy underpants!), serve on the Good China (we don’t own china), and after you’ve finished the appetizers, throw on an Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown episode filmed in the country of your meal’s origin. Seeing some of the foods/flavors you’re enjoying discussed on-screen *does* transport you, if only momentarily. We recommend.

Anyway, if you’re reading this before 10am on Sunday, there’s still a wee bit of time to sign up for this afternoon’s Boswords Winter Wondersolve, to which Jessie and I contributed a puzzle.

Thoughts and spoilers for “Teenage Dream” after the jump.

Ah, mirror symmetry with three vertical themers and a 15-letter spanner revealer across the bottom… my old friend, how *are* you?

THE NIGHT IS YOUNG (15) is where this idea took root. And in fact, the first couple of potential theme answers that came to mind were MOONCHILD and TEENAGE DREAM. Ultimately it felt more consistent to go entirely with answers that contained a word for a young person + a (generally) night-visible celestial body (CHILD STAR, BABYMOONS, etc.). The result is a tighter theme set, but did necessitate pluralizing BABYMOONS.

Also notice that one of the themers in MINOR PLANET is an *actual* celestial body. Ideally all of the answers would have used a non-literal example, but in this case using *one* also felt legit. (Two out of three would have struck me as imbalanced and inelegant.)

Hope you’re finding ways to pursue some semblance of night life out there, all y’all good, good quarantining soldiers.

Happy solving, friends.


“Body Language”

[.puz][PDF][Solution] 👅👌🏼😉

Welcome to the first #rossword puzzle of the Biden administration! Perhaps fitting that it’s a mirror symmetry grid? Next week we won’t be quite so centrist.

Speaking of the mainstream, don’t miss today’s New York Times Sunday crossword, which I co-wrote with my good friend Lucy Howard. I say “good friend” despite the fact that Lucy and I have never met in person. We started emailing last summer about crosswords, and before long our Zoom calls–ostensibly “grid making sessions”–were turning into boozy happy hour catch-ups, and then double dates with our partners! My hope for all y’all good quarantining soldiers out there is that perhaps you’ve found similar ways to establish Love in the Time of Covid. Leave a comment–I’d love to hear more such stories. Especially if they’re xword-centric.

Oh, and don’t forget! Jessie and I have co-constructed a crossword for next weekend’s Boswords Winter Wondersolve event! I really mean this: come one, come all. There will be blindingly fast solvers to gawk at, but most competitors are competitors in name only and are just there for the good puzz vibes. And you’ll get to see Jessie and me being interviewed in all our bing bong glory!

Spoilers and thoughts on “Body Language” after the jump.

An excellent way to spend $20 of your stimulus check

Another possible theme answer I considered for this puzzle was FLICK OF THE WRIST, which at 15 letters long, would have generated a much more conventionally symmetrical 15/15/13/15/15 theme set.

However, FLICK OF THE WRIST can’t really be clued as an idiomatic expression; you’d have to clue it literally, in relation to, like, orchestrating or spell casting. So that left me with the 15/13/15/15 them set you see, with the viable but less-than-ideal *THE* BLINK OF AN EYE. These are the little things that stick in my craw.

Oh, and cheers to test solver Russell Carey for suggesting the Amanda Gorman reference at 51-Down. May we see that remarkable poet’s name in a print puzzle sometime very soon!

Happy solving, friends!


“Shaken, Not Stirred”

by Ella Dershowitz & Ross Trudeau


This week’s puzzle is a collaboration with Ella Dershowitz, whose name you’ll recognize from last Thursday’s New York Times crossword!

Ella and I started talking grid last May when she reached out via Twitter for some puzzle advice. In the months since then, she’s had puzzles published with AVCX, the Inkubator, the Times, and elsewhere. And she’s got her own puzzle blog! She’s an actor, so naturally her indie grids skew heavily in the musical theatre vector.

If you need to bury your head in the sand on Inauguration Day, skip over to the WSJ and solve a #rossword in that paper of record on Wednesday. And I’m very excited about next weekend’s Sunday NYT puzzle… stay tuned.

Ella’s thoughts on “Shaken, Not Stirred” after the jump.

Down the hatch!

Ella: This puzzle is what happened when I, a very very (very) novice constructor stumbled upon a link to Ross’s website, did an embarrassing quantity of his awesome puzzles in one sitting, saw that he was open to (nay, passionate about) mentoring newbies, and sent the second twitter DM of my life.  

Not only did we collaborate on this puzzle, but he showed me some basic principles of how to wrangle squares and themers (and feel like they were friends instead of sources of endless frustration) that gave me a ton more confidence and that I think about all the time (thanks, Ross!).  Through talking, we realized we had both been toying around with one of the same themes – this one – and had a few of the same answers in mind.  The answer that had initially excited both of us – Peter Dinklage (SUCH A GOOD ACTOR) – didn’t end up making it into the grid, but I love the answers that did.  17-Across, especially, is something that I have done and that was one of the cooler experiences of my life.

As an actor, I like putting something theatery into puzzles wherever possible and the show referenced in 20-Across is one of my favorites when I need a pick-me-up.  Making this puzzle with Ross across the email and zoomwaves was an awesome experience in and of itself, but I am also very excited to be sharing it here with all of you!  For others who are just starting out or wanting to learn to construct, take Ross up on his offer and reach out!  I promise you’ll be glad you did!  And, in the spirit of this puzzle, cheers to the New Year.  

Ross: Happy solving, friends!

“Follow the Money”

[.puz][PDF][Solution] 📜✉️ 📰🕵🏽‍♀️

This week’s grid is a Sunday-sized offering, which means that if you’re solving on a desktop browser, the clues aren’t going to present on the side of the puzzle like they normally do. (Note that the clue of the selected answer will always appear at the very top of the puzzle.) As such, you might want to consider downloading the .puz and solve offline using AcrossLite. Or you can be romantic and download and print the PDF.

The winter doldrums are upon us! Jessie and I just booked a tiny house weekend getaway in the woods for early February, but until then we plan to remain hermetically sealed in the apartment with Ruby. For a window into this world, do consider signing up for the Boswords Winter Wondersolve event on 1/31. Jessie and I are constructing one of the tournament puzzles, and there will be a video interview during which you can diagnose how deranged we three really have become since quarantine began nineteen years ago.

Thoughts on “Follow the Money” after the jump!

A BEQ sighting!

So, this one took a while. The main problem was in connecting the PAPER TRAIL in the center of the grid. In a normal 21×21 puzzle, this would have to happen by connecting a PAPER answer passing either vertically or horizontally through the center square *on both ends* to the PAPERs leading in opposite directions. That wasn’t happening.

The solution was to have the R at the end of PLAIN DEALER sit next to the T in THE REGISTER (also a slight cheat in that it uses the article), and have them fused, in a way, by the central revealer answer PAPER TRAIL passing directing through the adjacent R-T. To accommodate this, the grid needed to be 22×21 (no centered middle column).

But at the end of the day, I think it works pretty well. Our intrepid FINANCIAL REPORTER follows the paper trail to the WHITE COLLAR CRIMES, and all is right in the world! (Until no one goes to jail, and the criminal’s company pays a nominal fine and conducts business as usual.)

Happy solving, friends!


“Cover Up”


Last week I was texting with my buddy Parker about some coding wizardry he’d put together to scrape and open crosswords from the web in his own solving interface. He’s been tweeting about it, so if there are any code monkeys out there in solving land, definitely give him a follow.

Anyway, at some point during the conversation, he mentioned that the script he’d written was actually pretty slick, if you “[61-Across].” And lo! A puzzle idea is born.

The moral of the story is that if you want to make crossword puzzles, step number one is surrounding yourself with people who know how to turn a phrase… then just keep your ears open! Couple more thoughts on “Cover Up” after the jump.

3-character Twitter handle means you’re RAD

LOOK UNDER THE HOOD is a 16-letter revealer, requiring a) a 16×15 grid, and b) a 16-letter sister answer. You *could* stick it in the center row, but that would mean flanking it with 2 themers above and 2 below, and there weren’t enough distinct kinds of HOODs to accommodate that. So!

With four theme answers in an extra-wide grid, I knew I’d have some extra real estate to get some long down bonus fill. The long slots for WARREN MOON, PET CARRIERS, ORIGINAL SIN, and CONTESTING actually had quite a few options in the grid architecture you see here. I chose these four in large part because [Adam’s apple condition?] and [Voyage of the beagle conveyances?] came to mind as I was hammering out the center of the grid. Yee-haw!

Happy solving, friends!