Will These Hands Ne’er Be Clean?

[,puz][PDF][Solution] ๐Ÿฉธ๐Ÿฉธ๐Ÿฉธ๐Ÿฉธ๐Ÿ™€ Difficulty: 2.5/5

Quick post today, as I’m 0% prepared for the trick-or-treaters who descend in droves on our double t-junctioned street here in Cambridge. We’re not dressing up beyond whatever I cobble together this afternoon because we’ve been neck deep in getting Jessie ready for *job interviews*. She’s got a few fly-outs in the coming weeks, and I’m already spoOoOoky proud of her. Plus, our roommate is a literal black cat, and I get the sense that she’s deeply embarrassed for us whenever we get ready to leave the house in any kind of seasonally-appropriate garb.

A couple of thoughts/spoilers for “Will These Hands Ne’er Be Clean?” after the jump. Stay safe out there, friends. You never know what kind of political ideology folks are spiking the candy with…

the artist as a Soggy Bottom Boy, circa 2014

This grid is scaAaAary unconventional, specifically because of the placement of the DRIPPING BLOOD revealer all the way on the left side of the puzzle. I had to stash it over there because the theme set was spoOoOoOokily constrained, with BLOOMFIELD and BLOCK PERIOD being the only or near-only answers I could find that distributed the B-L-O-O-Ds in that way. Then, of course, to get the DRIPPING effect, they have to be ordered correctly left-to-right.

Kudos as always to AmuseLabs for giving us the creative flexibility to spatter our Halloween puzzles in neon gore. Happy Halloween and happy solving, friends!


Left Speechless

by Amanda Rafkin & Ross Trudeau

[.puz][PDF][Solution] ๐Ÿ™Š๐Ÿ™Š๐Ÿ™Š๐Ÿ™Š Difficulty: 2.5/5

I post this puzzle with much love in my heart for my co-author Amanda Rafkin, whose name you’ll recognize from the masthead at the Universal Crossword where she is an assistant editor. Whether or not it was happenstance we’ll leave to the gods to decide, but her recent first solo-edited puzzle happened to be one of my grids. Kudos to David Steinberg for hiring such a talented puzzle maker, and mazel tov to Amanda for her many good crossworks.

A couple of thoughts and spoilers for “Left Speechless” after the jump!

editorial glory

Today’s puzzle follows an age-old crossword formula, using a revealer answer to indicate the placement and meaning of various rough synonyms or category examples. If you’re just starting out, it’s not a bad theme type to dabble in, and generating revealers like FIRST DANCE, RIGHT WING, CENTER STAGE, etc., can be a fun little thought game.

I don’t tend to go back to this well too much anymore, but Amanda and I like a challenge, and stacking ALL QUIET ON (10) THE WESTERN FRONT (15) represented a cute little constructor’s flourish. And who knew that *that* swan is called a MUTE SWAN? Pretty honkin’ good name right there.

For more grid’s from Amanda and her various collaborators, check out her Brain Candy website. And happy solving!


“Take a Load Off!”

[.puz][PDF][Solution] ๐Ÿช‘๐Ÿ›‹๐Ÿ’บ 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] ๐Ÿ™‰ ๐Ÿ™‰ ๐Ÿ™‰ 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] ๐Ÿ‘ถ๐Ÿผ๐Ÿง“๐Ÿพ 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.ย 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!