“Falling Temperatures”

by Jessie Bullock & Ross Trudeau

[.puz][PDF][Solution] 🥶🥶🥶🥶

This week’s puzzle is something of a cruciverbalist’s amuse-bouche. An hors d’oeuvre to prepare your intellectual palate for the main course, which will be served tonight at 6:00pm EST via the New York Times. I’m *extremely* proud to share that tomorrow’s Times puzzle is Jessie’s print puzzle debut!

Our NYT puzzle’s raison d’être is expressed in the clue at 53A: [Female scholars … or a hint to 19-, 28-, 34-, and 42-Across]. In the last several months since Jessie and I have been constructing puzzles together here at home, she’s held pretty firm in her desire to produce thematic content that touches on her career as an academic and her field of study: crime and political corruption in Latin America. (You can read more about her research on her site.)

Anyway, suffice it to say that I’m all the way over the moon to see our names in print together. After all, the two things I love most in the world are Jessie and crossword puzzles. And if you’re vibing with her gridwork, you won’t have to wait long for more… she also solo-wrote the Tuesday Universal crossword!

Okay, back to the puzzle at hand. Thoughts and spoilers for “Falling Temperatures” after the barftastically adorkable jump.

l’auteur avec son petit chat noir

Jessie and I began working on this puzzle as a potential concept for a winter-themed crossword competition we’d been asked to construct for. Ultimately the organizers preferred a different idea for their format, so we were free to mess with this one by our twosies.

It’s a pretty “indie crossword” move to clue the revealer as we have. MELTING POINT, or the point at which the I-C-E “melts” downward from the theme answers, drops “ice” into the clue itself: [Ice’s is 32 degrees, which you should bear in mind at the circled letters]. This sort of formulation works for me, insofar as the word “ice” never actually appears in the grid itself. I imagine mainstream newspaper editors might hesitate to render a revealer this way.

Some very Jessie moments at PREGGO [Baby bumpin’] and SAUTE [Sweat, as onions] and MANSCARA [Guyliner complement]. And I personally have to take credit/shame for starting you all off at 1A with PGA [Org. that puts swingers into foursomes?]. Couldn’t help myself…

Happy #weekofjessie everyone!


“Lack of Effort”

[.puz][PDF][Solution] 💪🏼💨

On some days, 38-Across.

But today will not be one of those days. Today Jessie and I will venture forth into the first snowfall of the year and return home with an impractically tall Christmas tree. Photographs to follow.

A couple of thoughts and spoilers for “Lack of Effort” after the jump.

Baby Yoda likes… Girl Scout cookies?

As a committed “Star Wars” geek, I eventually consume basically all content that franchise puts out. And I have to say that Baby Yoda (of “The Mandalorian”) is a delightful and compelling little character. He’s so hungry! And mischievous!

THERE IS NO TRY, the famous Yoda-ism from “Empire Strikes Back,” struck me as a pretty lovely revealer for a deletion puzzle. And I was pleased that I was able to find some cute-sounding whacky -TRY phrases, all of which deleted the -TRY from the very end of the phrase.

As for [What you might get out of a successful lab experiment?] (PET), when we were kids our parents let us board litters of lab puppies for the weekend. They probably should have foreseen that certain puppies were just going to be too cute to send back…

Happy solving, friends.


“Three Piece Bands”

by Evelyn Rubin & Ross Trudeau


There’s a lot happening on the homefront right now. Jessie and I cooked a Thanksgiving spread for, uh, conservatively? Ten people. So now we have two weeks worth of leftovers and an ongoing challenge of frankensteining them into various culinary retreads. Yesterday we had sweet potato pancakes. I burn, I pine, I perish.

We’re also gearing up for a no-parents podded Christmas season, which means we’ll be watching Home Alone and Home Alone 2 on a recursive loops through January 1st. And in the meaning, we’re both leaning hard on our crossword friends for some Zoom socializing.

Enter: Evelyn Rubin, M.D. Some thoughts and spoilers from the doctor on our “Three Piece Bands” after the jump.

Yeah Yeah Yeahs … 3-piece in 2 ways!

Evelyn: Happy to be making my debut here on Rossword Puzzles!  This is not the first puzzle Ross and I have collaborated on. A little more than a year ago, I was a complete novice to the world of crossword constructing until discovering the Crossword Puzzle Collaboration Directory and taking Ross up on his very generous offer to collaborate with previously unpublished constructors. 

When Ross asked me if I would be interested in collaborating on a puzzle about bands, I said a thousand (er…three) times yes!  Music is one of my favourite topics, and coming up with the bands in question was an exercise in wordplay all on its own. Not all of them could become themers (sorry, Right Said Fred), but we hope you enjoy the resulting choices. 

This grid started out with a revealer (BREAKUP) in the middle, but proved impossible to fill that way.  We debated whether or not to make it a 16×15 or 15×16 puzzle, to accommodate the higher number of black squares, but that caused some symmetry issues. We toyed with having THREE PIECE BANDS as a spanner, but decided it fit better as a title and pseudo-revealer.  It still took multiple iterations and a complete puzzle overhaul to get to the final product you see here.

Thanks Ross, as always, for being such a top-notch collaborator. I can’t sing (pun intended) your praises enough. 

Ross: And cheers to *Evelyn,* who’s becoming a consummate pro at this stuff of late. You can find a couple of our published grids in the “Publish Work” section above.

Happy solving, friends.

“Wait… Where’s the Turkey?”

by Amanda Rafkin & Ross Trudeau 🦃 💨


Happy Thanksgiving! We depart from our regularly-scheduled programming to bring you a special holiday puzzle. It’s *so* special, in fact, that it breaks our solving apps.

SO. You’re going to need to print “Wait… Where’s the Turkey” and solve on paper. Apologies to those of you out there for whom this isn’t possible; we’ll return to web and mobile-friendly grids on Sunday.

Amanda and I would also love for you to take this opportunity to show us your solving spots! Print the puzz, get comfy in your traditional solvin’ chair/nook/corner/bathtub, and take a selfie of you solving your gravy-stained holiday grid. Tag us on Facebook (Amanda/Ross), Instagram (Amanda/Ross), or Twitter (Amanda/Ross) if you’re down to share. And happy solving!

“Electric Slide”


Jessie and I recently cancelled our Thanksgiving and Christmas travel plans, which means 2020 will break my lifelong streak of 36 holiday seasons spent in New York City with my parents. This is a heavy blow, but it’s the right call.

We’re buoying our spirits by reframing this year as an opportunity to forge new traditions, which *is* helping, but my mind keeps drifting back to the old pre-war Upper West Side apartment where I spent the first twenty holiday seasons of my life.

I learned that the sun rises in the east because of how it would smolder behind the apartment buildings of the Upper East Side before emerging. We were on the 11th floor and my room had one large window that faced Central Park. The window went nearly from wall to wall, with a one-foot wide stone sill. There I sat, year over year, smelling the Thanksgiving smells wafting up from the kitchen… doing homework, or watching pinpricks of light take off from JFK, or trying and failing to blow all the smoke into the updraft above Central Park West. 

They sold the apartment when my brother left for college in 2006. A month or two after the move, my sister called me in my dorm room in Providence to tell me that our old apartment had been completely gutted by a fire during the new owner’s renovation. I asked how the fire had started. She explained that some oily rags had been sitting among sawdust and had spontaneously combusted. After some research, it turned out that this is a legitimate phenomenon. Given the right conditions, common things can just catch fire.

Nothing lasts forever, eh? But we’re learning in this household that the best traditions are the ones you begin with intention. And that you should attend to them as though you’ll carry them out anew forever, even when you know that–of course–you won’t.

Some thoughts on “Electric Slide” (spoilers ahead!) after the jump.

Speaking of change

Well, it’s probably plain where this puzzle started. I know that a TRANSFER OF POWER (15) is *likely* to take place on January 20th, but… I’m going to let the anxiety build merrily in my chest until we actually see it happen.

I spent a *long* time learning about the different ways one can transfer electricity for this puzzle. Microwaves! Who knew? In the end, it felt like the three methods represented here (CHARGING PAD, TESLA COIL, JUMPER CABLE) were distinct enough in terms of the actual physics involved…

And it ended up being another theme set that lent itself to mirror symmetry rather than rotational symmetry, which generally allows for a bunch more grid flexibility.

Oh, and I think my general exhaustion at the criminally drawn-out nature of our recent election has blunted my instinct to dial back some of my more extra clues. In 2021, I’ll probably have more energy to talk myself down from STUDENT [One who might get an academy award?], NICE [Word written atop a certain Yule log?], and PIÑATAS [They get bashed at some bashes].

Happy solving, friends.