by Ross Trudeau

[.puz][PDF][Solution] Difficulty: 4.25/5 🎄🎅🏼🎁

We’re more or less frozen in place at my sister’s in Chicago. Parents too! Last night I made a “who called it out of style and not chic ago?” joke, so that’s about where I’m at, emotionally. It’s not the most word play-friendly crowd, but we’re cozy and well-fed, and the blessings are too numerous to count.

This week’s puzzle is a tricky one. Happy holidays and Merry Christmas, friends, from me and mine to you and yours.

Happy solving!


35 thoughts on “Crosswordese

  1. Trick-E indeed! Loved it!
    I wonder if I missed something in the 40A clue, however. To my knowledge “Hi” is not the symbol of any ELEMENT (I double checked the periodic table). Is there another meaning to the clue that I missed?
    Hope everyone is having amazing holidays.

  2. Tricky, but maybe not 4.25/5 tricky, I found—so, a lovely gift under the tree. Thanks, Ross, and Happy Christmas, or whichever celebration you prefer, to all!

    • I’m getting divergent reports here! This one seems to play both quite a bit easier and quite a bit harder than the average fare here… I have a couple theories…

      • I found the clues pretty gettable, on average, and somewhere in the middle of solving, I twigged into the gimmick—unusual for me, I’ll admit—which opened other answers I hadn’t yet got. So, for me, the basic solving was relatively easy, and I lucked into getting the theme, which was a little tricky. Curious about your theories.

  3. Great puzzle, good fun on Christmas morning. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a theme quite like this, and it makes me think there is more to be mined from letter-based grids like this.

  4. What a delight! My second favorite puzzle solving experience (my first favorite was many years ago in Games magazine, so don’t feel bad about being second). I saw the difficulty rating, and was “puzzled” (pun intended-hah!) because the clues seemed mostly easy. THEN I got it!! What a great Christmas present!

  5. A nice puzzle with which to end the Holiday weekend. Very clever theme.
    Thank you for a delightful year of puzzles. Happy Holidays to you and yours and to all of the fellow puzzle solvers out there.

    • Hi, Adam! Glad you enjoyed it. The trick with building these letter-in-black-box grids is to build out the puzzle in segments. You can start, for instance, with one interior section of the E by building a 5 by, say 10 grid, with e’s where the black boxes would be in the zoomed out version. It gets tricky when you’re trying to “turn the corner” around the E figure, but that’s essentially the methodology here.

  6. Once I caught on to how the *biggie* worked it was pretty smooth until I got to the SE. Suspected NARC but for the life of me could not come up with EDNORTON. aHME! did not help one bit. So the 4.25/5 fit me like a glove. Many thanks and wishing you and your family a happy and healthy new year.

  7. A bit behind on my puzzling because of an extended vacation and just getting to this now.

    Before I planted my first answer, I already knew the gimmick, so the entire centre fell like a Jenga tower after tequila. The SE corner? Not so easily.

    Am I the only one who found the dupe on 8-D and 22-A? They’re even crossing each other!

    Other than that, fun!

  8. Newly acquainted with your site and puzzles, thanks to a link posted on a NYT blog site. Being called a nerd by your sign-up bot was just about perfect.. This grid was easier for me since I had just finished the 2/23/2023 NYT puzzle in syndication – it had large “L”s formed by black squares (Take the “L”). I’m sampling several back puzzles from the site and enjoying your work. Thanks for the efforts.

    • Welcome to the fam, Ben. That “take the L” grid was a delight. I clocked it pretty quick because there are only a handful of letters you can readily build with black boxes in a standard 15x puzzle grid!

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