“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!
-Ross

20 thoughts on ““Do As I Say!”

  1. I can imagine it took a while, not only on the size but working in the theme as well. Though I still don’t get 60A. And I did like the nice shout-out to mom.

    1. The odds of mom actually seeing it remain… lowish. Fingers crossed 🙂 as for 60A, it’s a totally awful pun. The imagined RIP in the seat of your pants (a “hole”) might be a “source of terror.” I can name the 4-5 people who will like this clue.

  2. Whew! My thumb is weary from so much scrolling. Note to self: Don’t solve such a big grid on an iPad mini. (I know, I know. I was warned.) I’d single out 36D/74A, where the blue word requires two pronunciations. Very nice, and one of the last areas I solved. About highlights or circles, I’m okay either way. My only issue was that the blue shading resembled the bluing that indicates vertical and horizontal. Minor stuff.

    HNY, Ross and Jessie, and thanks for the welcome Sunday diversions, with many more to come, I trust. And I gather that 2022 will be bringing you not far from this neck of the woods. Just across the border and down the road. Congratulations, J., on the job! Well done, you.

    1. Happy new year, Blaine! We’re looking forward to some house hunting not so far from you, it looks like! And that’s great feedback on the box colors… storing that wisdom away for next time. Thank you!

  3. I’m amused by your statement that this puzzle took forever — in Rossword land, what constitutes forever, like twenty minutes? I continue to be awed by your ability to generate a spectacular puzzle every week (just referring to the ones on this site, and not even counting the ones that get published). I have begun to assume that you do not actually sleep, which I previously always imagined to be one of the habits of highly effective people. (Or, in the words of Jay McInerny in “Bright Lights, Big City” — one of the best books every written, btw — “All sorts of beneficial effects are rumored to accrue from a good night’s sleep.”)

    Anyway, this was awesome, even though there were a couple words that were new to me (GOT [GOT]? STATIC URLS?) and I am not one of the 4-5 people who like the 60A clue. By contrast, I *loved* the clues to 1A, 29D, 35D and 105A. I don’t know what the Crossword Constructor’s Bible says, but I am glad those squares were shaded (even if I agree with Blaine on the suboptimality of the color choice). I imagine you will wait for us all to forget this puzzle before you theme another one with HAIR RAISING.

    Where are you moving to?

    1. It’s been years since I picked up BLBC, the one and only book I’ve ever read that pulled off a second person perspective. That’s a delightful line. And in point of fact, a lot of my puzzle making does come after sundown! Though I do manage to get my 7-8 hours pretty much every night.

      I’m glad you enjoyed the grid, and as for your theme suggestion, might I recommend a little jaunt over to Kate’s site? https://kateschmatecrosswords.weebly.com/blog/dont-forget-to-lock-up

      And as for the move, Jessie just got (and accepted!) a tenure track job offer at the Maxwell school of political science at Syracuse! Particularly thrilling for this native New Yorker.

      1. It’s been years since I read it, but recall there are a couple sections of Jennifer Egan’s “A Visit from the Goon Squad” that very-credibly implemented second person narrative. That book is another of my favorites, fwiw.

        Happy New Year all, and congrats on Jessie’s new job.

  4. Not a lot of folks answering your query about the circles, I see. I am not entirely sure I would have made sense of the puzzle without the (slight) help. For reference, see the Charles M. Deber puzzles in the NYT from some time ago. They were always amazing and clever, and if I recall correctly, his puzzles often included that sort of help–either as he constructed the puzzle or as edited by Will & Co. to ease our pain. This was a lot of fun, and it’s truly an impressive instruction.

    P.S. I love upstate New York! The state taxes are hell (people who retire often flee for that reason) but it’s beautiful. (We considered Fredonia as a destination, but both offspring migrated (westward and south) from NE Ohio where we raised them. Oh well.

    1. Thanks for the input, Elaine! I’m inclined to agree, largely on the basis of having seen it done successfully in previous puzzles like the one you cite.

      I have tons of upstate New York relatives, so I’m excited to try it on for size. My dad grew up in the Lake Placid area, and it’s just lousy with Trudeaus up there and across the border.

  5. Finally completed this puzzle! I’m a bit embarrassed because of your rating of 3.5/5–I can usually whip through these but it took me over an hour (paused and came back to it on Monday). I purposely didn’t read the spoilers on Sunday, but needed to on Monday. The shading definitely was slowing me down because of the bluing for the across/down clue highlights.

    1. Roger that, Pat! Loud and clear on the color conflict. And, you know, I almost convince myself to do away with the difficulty rating, because I generally base it on the opinions of the ~3 people that test solve for me, and that’s a tiny sample size. TBD!

  6. Loved this puzzle. I thought the 60A clue was RIP as in Rest in Peace and pictured a reanimated corpse causing terror by rising from a hole in the ground! My mind is weird.

  7. Late to the party as was dealing with snow storm yesterday. Loved this puzzle. I solve on paper and had to fiddle with the ink saver to get the blue squares right but no worries.

    I also took a “grave” view of 60A

  8. Howdy!

    The circles definitely helped in the .puz version — thank you! It also helped that I dove down to the reveal early on. LUCY LOCKET is adorable, by the way. And count me as one who laughed at the RIP clue…it hit home. Like the time I was wearing skinny jeans at Church and made the profound bow to the altar…and heard that sound…yikes! (Learned my lesson, but good to be reminded.) Hey, congrats to Jessie on the job and thank you both so much for this amazing puzzle.

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