“The Final Countdown”

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

The deed is done! If you backed us on Kickstarter, you’ve probably received your copy of the Honeypot Puzzle Fragments and a handful of puzzle stickers designed by artist and activist Parker Higgins. We salute you! The zine is also now available for purchase at the Cursewords Live website. We’ll be streaming tomorrow (Monday) evening at 10pm eastern after the Boswords fellas wrap. Stop by and live solve some fun puzzles with us, or just say hello in the chat!

And! There’s another IRL crossword tournament to put on your calendar: Brian Cimmet of the Fill Me In podcast has announced a date for Lollapuzzoola 2022. Jessie and I plan to make the I-95 pilgrimage to NYC; we hope to see you there on Saturday, August 27th!

Thoughts and spoilers for “The Final Countdown” after the jump!


This puzzle is another great expression of certain of how my puzzle tastes have begun to coalesce around certain priorities in recent years. More and more I find myself prioritizing a snappy revealer answer, theme density, and 100% theme symmetry.

In this case, TICKING TIME BOMB (15) needed to span the middle row such that that [BOOM] MICS/OIL [BOOM]S could occur in the bottom (i.e. “the end”) of the puzzle. With that formulation, there would need to be the S[TICK]LER/POLI[TICK] in the northwest corner, and *hopefully* enough distinct T-I-C-K words to fill out the NE and SW. But, because *density* matters so much to my weird puzzle brain, it became necessary to interlock the revealer answer with the 4th and 5th TICK answers in [TICK]ETED and DIPS[TICK].

All in all, grid architecture and filling took a lot longer this week than your average 15x Rossword puzzle, but I really like the end result. And I hope you did too!

Happy solving, friends.


21 thoughts on ““The Final Countdown”

  1. Hi Ross, very cute puzzle. I got a little stuck in the SE corner and the bomb took me out. I am a relative newbie in XW land but even I recognize the inside joke that is 10D. One little glitch, I think you need to change the clue for 52D to reference “una torre” rather than “un torre” – the noun in Spanish is feminine and corresponds to ALTA (v. ALTO). Thanks again for a fun Sunday morning.

  2. This was a lot of fun. I figured out I needed to enter “tick” a lot, but when I selected “Rebus” the square just got highlighted, not filled in. Any idea if this is a setting I can change on my laptop?

    • Hi, Jean! After you click “rebus” it will highlight the square, at which point you can start typing, and what you type should populate the square until you press enter/return.

  3. Hey Ross – What a perfectly realized theme and construct. 63A was not a mere ‘aha moment’, but had more of an explosive effect within my solving mindset. Thanks for yet another fun puzzle!

  4. Great idea! I got overconfident thinking I had figured out what all the circles would be, and filled them out ahead of time.. then that was a fun twist when I had to figure out why I was wrong on that last one. Touché! 🙂

    • Ha! Were you solving in the applet? The color scheme may have been a hint, though I couldn’t replicate the explosive finally in color the same way in the .puz file. Glad you liked it, Sean!

    • Honestly I’m very gratified you stopped by to say so, Andrew–I had to read that wiki page VERY CLOSELY to be confident that I’d phrased the clue accurately. Thanks for stopping by!

  5. I’m trying to understand the significance of the NYTXW hiding eggs in its rebus today while Ross used his rebus to blow stuff up. I feel like there is a subversive meta hidden there.

  6. Fiendishly clever construct. As often happens to me when solving, I get an answer but don’t understand why it’s correct: 15D, “PCS” as “Surfaces, e.g.”

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