Puzzle #19: Reptilian Overlords

[.puz][PDF][Solution] 🦎 🐍 🐊 πŸ›

This puzzle was inspired by comedian Claire Parker’s Twitter bio (spoiler alert), which led me down a deep, dark Wiki-conspiracy rabbit hole.

I had only tangentially been aware of the Reptilian Overlord conspiracy theory. Which, if you’re not familiar with, deserves extensive poorly-sourced research on your part.

Sssssssspoiler alert


One of the pros of running an indy crossword puzzle site is that I can frame an otherwise straightforward theme (people descriptors with a reptile in them) as something outlandish like… an alien lizard conspiracy puzzle.

It’s a pretty tight theme set: FLORIDA GATOR, SOCIAL CHAMELEON, DJ SNAKE, LOUNGE LIZARD. And there isn’t a ready-made revealer answer (REPTILIAN PEOPLE, 15, to match SOCIAL CHAMELEON, felt a little forced), I had to go to mirror symmetry with the theme set. And since mirror symmetry allows you to isolate them answers in pretty tidy ways, I was able to get a bunch of bonus fill I like in there: FÜR ELISE, ETSY SHOP, SO TO SAY, DAD JOKE, MEGADETH, etc.

Anyway, try to watch Mitch McConnell and believe he’s not a bullfrog in sheep’s clothing. JUST TRY.


Puzzle #18: Mystery Ingredient

[.puz][PDF][Solution] πŸ‘¨β€πŸ³πŸ‘©πŸ»β€πŸ³πŸ‘©πŸΎβ€πŸ³πŸ‘¨β€πŸ³

Tomorrow, Wednesday February 5th, my 24th puzzle appears in the New York Times. In an odd bit of happenstance, it was the *third* puzzle I ever had accepted by Will Shortz et al. I’m looking back at the grid, and… I don’t hate it. Which is sort of an anomaly for me in reviewing my earlier work.

SO. Let’s whet our #rosswordpuzzle appetite with a mid-week amuse-bouche. Can you taste that? There’s just… *something* on your palate that you can’t… *quite* identify. Can you?

Go for a dip?

*SPOILER ALERT* This is one of those puzzles that required adding words to my word list to build out the theme set. I wanted to limit myself to SAUCEs that were very identifiably SAUCE. As opposed to, like, dips and drizzles and dressings. So the number of concealable words was actually pretty short. RAGU didn’t offer too many options, but DRAG UNDER came mind, and in it went.

MOLE is delicious. RAGU is a brand name, but it’s also apparently a distinct type of sauce. Useful! And PESTO was an obvious choice, given the letter distribution. And… P[R]ESTO! Theme set.

Is it good? Need more salt? You can be honest.


Puzzle #17: Whose Side Are You On?

[.puz][PDF][Solution] πŸšͺπŸšͺπŸšͺ

A couple years ago, Matt Jones started the Twitter hashtag #notacrossword to tag puzzles that show up in media or on products that don’t abide “standard” crossword conventions. (There are so many examples that Rachel Fabi took up the cause and started a whole @Not_a_Crossword account.)

Generally, the offending grids have unchecked squares, two letter words, or don’t present with any kind of symmetry.

So, this week’s puzzle asks the question directly. Is it a crossword, or is it #notacrossword? WHOSE SIDE ARE YOU ON?!

“Not a crossword,” says @Not_A_Crossword


Today’s puzzle bears a strong resemblance to this lovely grid by Timothy Polin, which also fails the standard crossword test in that it is similarly bisected by black squares. (I think the raisons d’Γͺtre of the two puzzles are different enough, so hopefully there’s enjoyment enough to glean from both.)

This is a unique grid for me in that the revealer itself also as a themer. THE DOORS are how you move from one side to the other, with the other two doors hidden in TAN[DOORI] and IT’S [DO OR] DIE.

So… crossword? Or #notacrossword?

Puzzle #16: It’s a Major Award!

[.puz][PDF][Solution] πŸ₯‡πŸ†πŸŒΉ

As a rider to this New Year’s Day puzz, I’m attaching some 2019 statistics from my records. (Because there are still puzzles out for review, these numbers are still in part projections.) I think this might be interesting to new/aspiring constructors.

2019: 103 puzzles constructed; 48 puzzles sold; 35 puzzles published

Published puzzles: 12 Universal, 10 New York Times, 7 Wall St. Journal, 2 L.A. Times, 1 Spyscape, 1 METER Magazine, 1 beer can, 1 napkin.

I reserved 15 puzzles for this website, and wrote a couple dozen custom puzzles for private citizens (and one best friend’s wedding).

And finally, I was THIS EXCITED to be able to work with dozens of aspiring constructors, mostly women committed to chipping away at the gender disparity in mainstream puzzles. You’ll see several of their names next to mine in print in 2020.

Okay, more about today’s puzzle after the jump.

Ruby & a metaphor about the passage of time


This puzzle is dropping on 1/1 in large part because of the revealer, FIRST THINGS FIRST. It’s a 16×15 grid to accommodate that phrase, with YELLOW JERSEY BOYS balancing it out.

This idea started with the realization that there are a lot of first place indicators that are COLOR + THING: yellow jersey, red rose, blue ribbon being the “first things” that come “first” in the wacky-but-not-too-wacky theme answers.

Hope this one felt like a winner, dear solver. If not, well, there’s always next year.


Puzzle #15: Cutting Edge Tech

[AcrossLite][PDF][Solution] πŸ‘½πŸš€βš”οΈ

Rey isn’t even a Skywalker and she’s the best Skywalker. Duel me.

Maybe making a Star Wars-themed crossword puzzle is a bit corporate of me. But, I’m an addict. They hooked me young, and they *will* be getting my dollars *whenever* new Star Wars content comes out.

So, if you’re as excited for “The Rise of Skywalker” (out on Friday) as I am, then I recommend trying this week’s puzzle to bring balance to the grid. (Ahem. Did you notice the miiinorly unbalanced grid? Of course you did.)

Solve or solve not. There is no try.

So forceful.

*Spoiler Alert* No, not that kind of spoiler. I don’t know if Poe and Finn make out (finger’s crossed).

This is the type of puzzle where it *means* something when answers intersect. In this case, I think it works pretty well seeing certain “Star Wars” characters that were killed or wounded by lightsabers in the films getting run through by LIGHTSABERS in the grid. Ah, if only the singular LIGHTSABER would have fit. Alas, I’m a slave to the 15×15 sometimes…

Happy solving, rebel scum.