“Common Ground”

by Ross Trudeau

[.puz][PDF][Solution] Difficulty: 4/5

n.b. Today’s puzzle is 21×21, so the clues may appear above/below the puzzle, rather than alongside it. If you’ve got a printer, I also think this one’s going to play better on paper.

This week is the 3-year anniversary of making Rossword Puzzles a weekly feature. At the time, I had a handful of grids that I didn’t think were right for print, and decided to start a little run of blog puzzles following closely on one another’s heels. It was just coincidence that statewide lockdown orders would begin a couple of weeks later, at which point I decided sharing a free weekly puzzle could be my small personal contribution to the collective national sanity.

To current events: the Boswords Spring Themeless League kicks off tomorrow night. Registration is still open. Meanwhile, ACPT is still a month away (though I gather that the group rate block has sold out).

Many thanks to Ben, Brian, and Kaye of kaybartplays for test solving this week. Thoughts and spoilers for “Common Ground” below.

I know, I know, I know. I already acknowledged a few weeks ago that my quantum puzzle kick was approaching, shall we say, quantumania. In truth, I did think the last few so-called Schrödinger grids were enough to get it out of my system. But “Common Ground” was ambitious and fun enough to draw me back in, and a quantum puzzle of this scope does feel like something of a pièce de résistance.

This grid took longer to create than any other crossword I’ve made to date. The challenge with this kind of puzzle is that any individual valid quantum answer is going to be more or less immutable in its length, and each intersecting answer will be similarly hard-and-fast in its content and length. (In other words, you’re building the grid and the theme material simultaneously.) The implication here is that the symmetrical portion of the grid is going to be totally rigid, and extremely inhospitable to supporting *its own* quantum material.

Also worth noting that the original revealer (and indeed, the inspiration for the whole puzzle) was TWO-STATE / SOLUTION. About as apt as revealers come. I even built a whole separate middle of the grid (see below) that supported it. Ultimately, however, it felt just a skosh tasteless to use such a fraught concept as fodder for cutesy-wutesy word play. After all, the “two-state solution” is almost universally reviled among the various stakeholders, and considered anathema by many. I’d be curious to hear what you all think: would TWO-STATE SOLUTION as a revealer rub you the wrong way? Leave a comment below.

In any case, I hope you’ve enjoyed Rosswords Quantumania, such as it has been. Happy solving, friends.


33 thoughts on ““Common Ground”

  1. I think TWO STATE SOLUTION would be a perfectly fine revealer as long as you distanced yourself from advocacy.
    Could you post pix of the alternative solutions? I am not sure I have identified & digested them all. But impressed with the ones that I did, bravo.

      • Right, I meant the other quantum versions of the puzzle you posted. I figured out the FRANCE-GREECE pair, the UZBEKISTAN-TAJIKISTAN pair, and the NORTH/SOUTH KOREA pair, but I can’t figure out what the quantum alternative is for the other countries on the grid (five others?)

    • This is a VERY funny error that we caught this morning, but couldn’t change because I’m locked out of my AmuseLabs account. People will just have to imagine Eminem being investigated for market manipulation a while longer… xD

      • It is pretty funny (and not at all unthinkable).
        As I finished the puzzle, I have one other clueing note:
        I would say that TAT would be the backstabbing itself and TIT would have to be the result.

  2. “Fuzz on a screen” at 22A is the best clue I’ve seen in quite a while. I was trying to think of what TV cop could possibly fit there, until I realized it was literally just asking for fuzz on a screen. Nice!

  3. As a measure of how much I enjoy doing your puzzles: After traveling for the entire month of January (India, Bhutan, Nepal), I have now caught up with the RossWords puzzles that I missed while away! I really enjoyed the Icarus one. Thanks for all of your hard – and creative – work.

  4. I have no idea what is going on. I did it via Across Lite but I guess there are two ways to do this or something? It was hard enough as it is, sigh.

    Also: This is probably a longer discussion, but what is with the preponderance these days of using non-English clues (i.e. 17D) and answers (not just you)? Next time I’m in Europe I’ll have to find a crossword and have someone tell me if they have clues like “English word for…”. Sorry, just a pet peeve of mine. I really hate those clues and I get irrationally upset at seeing them, ha ha.

    • Hi, Steve. Click on the PDF solution above for an insight into the puzzle’s mechanism.

      As for language clues, I’m not sure what to say here. Language clues/answers are just another category of knowledge. Some people get annoyed about, say, sports clues/answers. In the case of Spanish, something like 13% of Americans speak Spanish at home, so I guess I’d just invite you to consider how/why your emotional experience during the solve might be very different from other folks’. (“In America we speak American” isn’t an attitude I take seriously an any level, FWIW.)

  5. Hi Ross –

    Thanks for the explanation and pointing me to the PDF Solution, I did not see that earlier.

    I do speak a passable Spanish (although my neighbors who speak it would probably disagree but are being nice, ha ha) but enjoy crosswords that make me think instead of having to wait for the crosses to guess what a French/German/Greek letter (latter is the worst for me) word is. But I understand some don’t like sports or music or whateer. I will say that when doing a crossword and I don’t know the answer (i.e. maybe a country I’ve never heard of or a poet, etc..), I’d rather have that knowledge than a definition of a non-English word. But I guess I’m in the minority and was just curious why constructors resort to it and if other languages do the same with English words.

    Not trying to start an argument, was just curious but I think I touched a nerve. Sorry for that. Have a good week!

    • I appreciate you sharing your thoughts here! I wouldn’t say that you touched a nerve. It’s a funny thing: people tend to categorize certain elements of culture/history/language as “making me (personally) think,” and various others at “making me (personally) guess.” In this case, “I’d rather learn a poet’s name than a foreign word” is as valid/arbitrary as many other xword preferences!

  6. Congratulations on three years! And thank you for sharing these with all of us. I look forward to them every Sunday morning!

  7. OMG, this puzzle must be your “tour-de-Ross”, and I can’t imagine how you created it! (But if you’ll humor me, can you explain 86D why “Pros on a daily grind” are “skaters”? Does that mean they grind their ice-skate blades to get a sharp edge on them?)

    • Hey Derek! “Grinding” is a common move for both skaters and skateboarders–basically sliding across a hard edge, like a curb lip, in a static position, with either the board or the skate itself (rather than the wheels) as the point of contact. In skateboarding in particular, it really does make a grinding sound!

      • Ah, thx for the explanation. Also, you got a shout-out in Monday’s Xword Muggle’s. Your Dad’s full name was in the clue and your first name was the answer. And I didn’t know that your parents were Garry Trudeau and Jane Pauley. Wow!

  8. I regret chiming in so late this week regarding last Sunday’s ‘Common Ground’ puzzle. No attempt at wordplay or cleverness, I just want to extend a straightforward acknowledgement of what a remarkable construct you have created, and how rewarding it was to solve. Thank you!

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