“I Speak for the Trees”

by Lucy Howard & Ross Trudeau

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

I started making crosswords with Lucy in spring of 2020. Since then we’ve published multiple puzzles together (including a particularly saccharine Times Sunday), shared countless geeked-out afternoons talking grid, gone on wine tasting Zoom double dates, and, well. We’re friends. And just a month ago, Lucy and her husband Ryan welcomed a brand new prospective puzzle head into the world, one Henry Jordan Howard, 7 lbs. to the oz.

Today’s puzzle is for Henry. You’ll appreciate why after you solve. Thoughts and spoilers below.

step AWAY from the truffula tree

Well, it’s a quip puzzle. These ones divide opinion probably more than even rebuses. Perhaps you recall this recent one from the Times. The thing about a quip puzzle: either you know the quip or you don’t. And the conventional wisdom about single trivia answers in crosswords is that you can render them fair and perhaps satisfyingly educational with a good clue and fair crossings. But quip puzzles? Well, there are seven (7!) associated theme answers here, which will necessarily slow down even seasoned solvers who aren’t familiar with the subject matter.

That said, the satisfying element of a quip puzzle, for me, is the symmetry of the layout and the sentiment of the message. And in the case of Dr. Seuss, the symmetry becomes less incidental than with other quip puzzles in that he was writing in verse, and perhaps even with page layout in the back of his mind.

Anyway! We do hope you enjoy this one. And do drop Lucy, Ryan, and little Hank some love in the comments.

Happy solving, friends!


“A Well Built Crossword”

by Katherine Baicker & Ross Trudeau

[.puz][PDF][Solution] Difficulty: 2.5/5

My collaborator on this weekend’s puzzle is the first Rosswords contributor with her own dang Wikipedia page. How cool is that? Kate and I previously worked together on a Universal grid that ran back in November, and she’s become a cherished co-author over the last few months. Please welcome her in the comments section!

If you’re in the mood for Big Crosswords, I wrote today’s Universal Sunday, and I co-wrote this weekend’s WSJ puzzle (“Carbon Neutral“) with my roommate Jessie Bullock and my associate Parker Higgins. Yeah. Been writing a lot of clues recently.

Some thoughts and spoilers for A Well Built Crossword after the jump! Thanks to Mike, Matt, and Debbie for test solving!

Sun[day]s out, guns out

Kate: I’m so excited to have this collaboration appear!  Like, apparently, everyone else under the sun, I finally took the plunge into constructing last year, filled out a mentor form, and had the unbelievable fortune to get an email from Ross offering to show me the ropes!  We’ve now constructed several puzzles “together” (read: Ross patiently redirecting me out of the corners I’d run myself into).  I’d like to say that I’m keeping my new avocation from interfering with my day job (I’m a health economist and policy school dean), but . . .

Ross: Every now and then I have the intrusive thought of trying to think of more themers for this conceit. DELTA SQUAD? TRIPLE STRAP? BIOLOGY LAB? Quiet, brain, or I’ll stab you with a Q-tip!

Happy solving, friends!


“Chap Shtick”

by Parker Higgins, Ross Trudeau, & the Cursewords Live Crew

[.puz][PDF][Solution] Difficulty: 3/5

First of all, Parker wrote the amazing title for today’s puzzle, which has “every puzzlescreenwriter in the world whispering a reverent ‘F***’ under their breath” energy.

Speaking of Parker! We chose to run one of the puzzles we made live on our Twitch stream–with the help of chat regulars–for two reasons. One, enough time has passed on this one, which we think is fun! And two, we’re going to do a special-ish stream tomorrow night which we want to promote! The next #rossword you’ll see in the wild is this Tuesday’s New York Times puzzle, which will go live at 10p about an hour into our regular Monday stream tomorrow evening. We’ll plan to take a ~20 minute break for folks to solve the Times grid, at which point we’ll reconvene to watch Parker have at it while I (and you) heckle.

In other crossword news, registration for the (online) Boswords Winter Wondersolve goes live this week. And, of course, registration for the 2022 (in person) ACPT is already open. Fingers crossed. Parker is skeptical it’ll come off, so I cheerfully pointed out that betting against the ACPT coming off is, ironically, taking a Shortz position.

Thanks to Bruce and Delmar for testing solving “Chap Shtick”! Thoughts and spoilers after the jump.

The inspiration for this puzzle was our fellow streamer Aaron “Scoots” Paulsen, who to my knowledge is the only person on Twitch with a broader array of arrows in the ol’ voice work quiver than Parker.

You’d be well within your rights to pick a nit at the final theme answer, STAGE FRIGHT, which we clued as [6th set on the lot, innit?], asking you to reparse it in the manner STAGE F, RIGHT? All the other answers, once you’ve separated the RIGHT, create valid crossword answers: STAND-UP, AL, BUYS OUT, and SUPERB. But STAGE F? Well, suffice it to say that such details tend to get short shrift in the generally besotted Cursewords Construction Zone.

You might also notice a pile-up of -? answers. And in fact, we used this grid’s answers as fodder for a cluing competition (I beat Parker 6-4, but who’s counting?). Hence [Stock-home shopping centers?] for IKEA STORES, [Heats up before eating?] for GETS HANGRY, and, ahem, [Barbie’s meat shaft] for SPIT.

Do drop by tomorrow night for the Cursewords stream! And happy solving, friends!


“Do As I Say!”

by Jessie Bullock & Ross Trudeau

[.puz][PDF][Solution] 💇🏼‍♀️ 💇🏾‍♂️ Difficulty: 3.5/5

N.B. Today’s grid is 21×21, so the clues won’t appear to the right of the puzzle as with a 15×15 grid. They will appear both above and below the grid, though I find that solving the .puz with AcrossLite or downloading and printing the PDF a more satisfying solving experience.

Happy New Year! If your household operates anything like ours does, you and yours remain post-holiday slugs until about January 4th. So we decided to drop a Sunday-sized grid to act as slug enablers. Sorry/you’re welcome. Here’s a question for you veteran solvers out there: would you have preferred that the shaded/circled squares be unmarked? I went back and forth, from a difficulty perspective.

Many thanks to Erin, Kate (of Kate Schmate Crosswords!), Ben (who just launched Nautilus Puzzles!), and my new twitter friend @CelebrityGus for test solving this puzzle. Thoughts and spoilers after the jump!

let your hair down > let down your hair … but only slightly

This. Puzzle. Took. For. EVER. Shame on me for my obsessive clinging to symmetry in all its forms.

As an exercise–and a Pai Mei level cruelty one at that–open up a blank grid and try to rearrange the theme material such that all of the across answers and all of the down answers through which the various HAIR pieces descend are placed symmetrically. (You won’t of course get a piece of HAIR descending downward from the LET YOUR HAIR DOWN revealer.) I’ll wait. Are you back? Frustrated. THAT MAKES THREE OF US (Jessie says whatup.)

Ultimately, the constraints had to do with the limited ways you can hide each of LOCK (easy-ish), BRAID (very hard), SHOCK (very hard), DREAD (medium), TRESS (medium), and CURL (very hard) in *two* separate ways apiece, such that the resulting answers were placeable symmetrically. The really confounding bit was that due to the nature of the grid, the descending answers form the second (INTERLOCKED) and last (INCUR LOSSES) theme answers were necessarily going to intersect the first (LARA CROFT TOMBRAIDER) and revealer (LET YOUR HAIR DOWN) answers.

Anyway, as a a result, some of the answers are a bit more contrived (looking at you, THAT IS DREADFUL) or obscure (LUCY LOCKET) than I’d prefer. But apart from that, it’s a grid we’re proud of.

Happy solving, friends!