E = MC^2

by Jessie Bullock & Ross Trudeau

[.puz][PDF][Solution] 🎤🎤🎤🎤🎤 Difficulty: 3.5/5

For anyone out there not aware the Boswords Fall Themeless League, there’s a weekly ongoing crossword tournament that takes place on Monday evenings. Founders Andrew Kingsley and John Lieb emcee the event live on their Twitch stream, and most participants solve synchronously at around 9:15p (though you have several days to solve if your Mondays are booked). It’s a delightful way to connect with fellow puzzle nerds, and while this season is well underway, Boswords also runs one-off tournaments like their Winter Wondersolve, which I strongly encourage you to check out.

And not for nothing, but Parker and I commence our Cursewords Live stream directly after Boswords concludes, around 10pm, for some live solving and constructing. Check out the puzzle we made live this past Thursday (minus clues), all in about 30 minutes or so!

A couple of thoughts and spoilers on E = MC^2 below after the diminutive and talented Phife Dawg.

“My name’s Malik, the five-foot freak…”

Tiny rappers! Little MCs! Actually, I’ve been trying to figure a way to incorporate E EQUALS MC SQUARED (16) into a themed puzzle for a long time, so I’m happy to include it in part in today’s title. Get it? MC Squared? Aha.

Rebus puzzles will always be divisive in crossword, so when I produce one, I’m really, really keen on a revealer answer that neatly and creatively justifies the cramming-multiple-letters-in-one-box conceit. And while SHRINKWRAPPERS does rely on the “or a phonetic hint…” crutch, it still makes me happy.

Jessie and I were also pleased to be able to get five different (w)rappers in there, with the I CAN’T EVEN / EVER SO of [EVE] stacked right on top of the central revealer. Stacking answers can be harrowing, but the relative smoothness of that center section speaks to Jessie’s ever-impressive fillin’ skills.

Happy solving, friends!

-Ross

13 thoughts on “E = MC^2

  1. For those of over a certain age, well beyond retirement, we need a list of Rap people. Some of them come up so often that they should become familiar, but without some sort of mental glue they don’t stick.

    1. I hear you. In recent years I’ve gone out of my way to consume media that I thought might provide mental glue for certain categories of common crossword trivia, which isn’t super efficient, but turns out to be effective!

  2. How nice to discover the incomparable and timeless Nina Simone inhabiting this puzzle alongside the more contemporary artists revealed while unwrapping yet another gift from you and Jessie. (My erroneous first guess for 9D was Screaming Jay Hawkins who in the puzzle, as in life, could never quite fit into square spaces.)

  3. Were the circles really necessary? I personally find that part of the fun in such a puzzle is the dawning realization that rebuses are involved, and that ANY entry might exceed its apparent length (which therefore adds an extra layer of difficulty to the entire grid). Accordingly, being told the location of the rebuses is kind of a downer for me. Not knowing if I’m the exception here, I can understand that you might want to go easy on the anti-rebus camp, but since Rosswords so often feature a gimmick of sorts (which is a plus as far as I am concerned), I would have thought that you have already weeded out solvers who prefer their grids on the plain side. So why not let your freak flag fly proudly?

    1. You know, I’m usually on your side of this particular issue… and you’re probably right about the audience here writ large. In this particular case, however, I like the double entendre suggested by the circles representing the actually plastic wrap that a shrink wrapper encloses the contents in!

  4. Thanks, Jessie and Ross! The reveal absolutely cracked me up! And the title is super! I was wondering about the circles, too, Charles, but they did come in handy, I must admit. Thanks again!

    1. Yeah, and actually Jessie recently made a similar point to the one Charles made above. Like, once you’ve primed your audience in certain ways, you can probably start to take certain liberties re: creativity and difficulty. Thanks for solving, Kelly!

  5. Started Sunday night but did not finish until yesterday morning and just getting to comment now. Terrific puzzle. EVE was the only unknown to me (not my age bracket but need to keep up). Had it not been for the circles I probably would never have worked out DRAKE but who knows. And, of course, the circles reflect the clever reveal. Funny how E=mc^2 and 63A have echoes in yesterday’s and today’s NYTXW. Thanks.

    1. Ooh! I hadn’t considered the echoes. Right you are. Thanks for solving and mazel tov on persevering! That old saw about sleeping on it really pays dividends with xwords, no?

      1. Indeed it does. On the tougher ones I’ll reach a point where I’m stuck, set it down for a bit, come back and wonder what the problem was. Brain just seem to lock up sometimes. Thanks again.

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