“Let It Burn”

by Yacob Yonas & Ross Trudeau

[.puz][PDF][Solution] πŸ‘¨πŸΎβ€πŸš’πŸ‘¨πŸΌβ€πŸš’

This is going to be fun.

On Monday night, Yacob Yonas (yes, the Yacob Yonas) is joining us live on the Cursewords stream. The plan is for Parker to solve today’s puzzle while Yacob and I heckle. Thereafter, we’ll *dialogue* and ask pointed questions of Yacob, like, “How did you construct Friday’s NYT puzzle so good?”

Join us! 9pm Eastern. Be there and fill squares.

Meantime, a word on today’s puzzle: it *may* end up being a more satisfying solve if you can print and solve with pencil and paper. Related spoilers and thoughts from myself and Yacob on “Let It Burn” after the jump… H/t to Mike, Arianna, and Matt for test solving!

Ross: Today’s puzzle presents a solving challenge in the applet, in that we needed to set either FIRE or SMOKE as the “correct” answer. We went with SMOKE, which corresponds to the first half of each theme clue, and seems to mimic the meaning of the clue more closely. And naturally, each answer was a rebus. (For the uninitiated, “rebus: just means “more than one letter in a box,” and there’s a “REBUS” button in the app that’ll let you enter them… you’re not alone if your first reaction was, “WHAT? YOU CAN DO THAT?!”)

As such, it might be frustrating to correctly enter “SMOKE” or “FIRESMOKE” or “SMOKEFIRE” or whatever, and not get a “puzzle solved” response. For this, I hope you’ll forgive us. We think it’s worth an improbable theme set, and stunt-worthy stacked revealer.

Yacob: I love collaborating to construct crosswords, especially when I feel like my co-constructor and I are on the same wavelength. In my collabs with Ross, I feel like we are always speaking the same language and it’s so much fun!

This puzzle came to be after we were discussing another (similar-ish?) idea and then Ross had a stroke of genius and proposed this idea. I thought there would be no way we could pull this off because the theme is so constraining and finding a grid layout that worked for the few themers we had seemed impossible at first. However, we were able to pull it off and I’m very proud of the puzzle we made! 

If you ever get a chance to collaborate with Ross, you jump on it!

“Stock Exchange”

[.puz][PDF][Solution] πŸ‚ πŸ“¦ 🏦 πŸ₯£ πŸ‘¨β€πŸ‘¨β€πŸ‘¦β€πŸ‘¦

Short post this morning. I’m taking it low and slow today, as last night Jessie and I reinitiated on-the-town (albeit outdoor) Date Night! (Did you miss us? She’d like to know.)

In case today’s puzzle doesn’t deliver your full weekend grid fix, there’s also a Sunday-sized #rossword out in the wild today! The Universal Sunday puzzle, “Study Breaks,” is a collaborative effort with noted cat lady Amanda Rafkin.

A couple of thoughts and spoilers for “Stock Exchange” after the jump.

in 5/9/21 papers e’rywhere!

Sincerely, dear solver, I love making these kinds of puzzles.

The word “stock” is perfect for one of these, uh, Hidden Varied Meaning puzzles? Clunky name, better one TK. It has various distinct meanings, meanings around investment, broth, supply, animal husbandry, tree trunks, ancestry…

And the key to satisfying the little pattern-seeking ferret in my head is not only to generate five different “stock” phrases, but *also* to make sure that those five phrases treat the meaning of “stock” differently.

But wait! A further constraint exists to ensure a warm bath of anal-retentive crossword consistency. Each of the resulting answer phrases–CATTLE HORNS, FAMILY PHOTO, etc.–must *also* each be a distinct example of the meaning of the word “stock.” Here’s a little visual to describe what I mean:

And voila! A crossword is born.

Happy solving, friends!

-Ross

“Well, I’m Stumped”

[.puz][PDF][Solution] πŸŒ²πŸŒ΄πŸŽ‹πŸŒ³

It occurs to me that maybe, from time to time, I should point out the “Rosswords by Mail” feature. Drop your email address in the field to the right and you’ll get each Sunday’s #Rossword whooshed straight to your inbox. It’s a good way to ensure you won’t miss a trick!

A couple of #Rosswords out the in the wild to apprise you of:

– Tomorrow’s New York Times Monday (5/3) puzzle, which I’m told by a colleague “isn’t a GIANT waste of time *wink wink*”. I submitted that one sometime in mid-2019, so it’s not exactly cutting edge Ross material, but I think it holds up okay.

-Yesterday’s 5/1 Universal puzzle, “Look Within Yourself,” a collaboration with my dear friend and noted weasel aficionado Amanda Rafkin.

Oh! And don’t forget to tune in tomorrow (Monday) evening at 9pm eastern for some live Twitch solving over at Cursewords Live. Parker and I are temporarily taking over the Boswords primetime slot, at least until Boswords returns and we can resume our more natural role as afterparty hosts.

Thoughts and spoilers for “Well, I’m Stumped” after the jump!

Maybe solve this week’s puzz via the PDF? Cap’n America helped me make it!!!

There is nothing, and I mean nothing inherently interesting about “wood” as a crossword puzzle theme. And truth be told, I’m not sure how this is going to play out from a solving standpoint. I think when I fixed on the idea of a) hiding various types of trees in the grid, b) stacking them one on top of the others, and c) trying to pull off a triple stack three different times in the same grid … well, I think I just liked the challenge. But that’s a pretty navel-gazy approach to crossword construction. Ah, well. Perhaps the, ahem, craftsmanship will be enough to make this a worthwhile solve.

If you’ve got the wherewithal, I suggest clicking into the PDF and downloading/printing/solving with pen and paper. The colored cels in PuzzleMe are nice, but I was able to do more with the PDF.

Happy solving, friends!

-Ross

“Guys Who Are Down Bad”

[.puz][PDF][Solution] πŸ‘¨πŸ½β€πŸ¦³πŸ‘¨πŸΎβ€πŸ¦±β˜”οΈπŸ‘±πŸ»β€β™‚οΈπŸ§–πŸ»β€β™‚οΈ

I’m a little groggy as I rise to post today’s puzzle. Like many of you, I imagine, I’ve been pretty plugged into the proceedings at the 2021 ACPT Online. Joining various “tables” to check in with dozens of denizens of crossworld–many of whom I haven’t seen in 13+ months now–has been flooding my system with various potent and agreeable brain chemicals.

The slow drip of gratitude and affection crescendoed last night when Parker and I ran a “How to Make a Crossword” seminar for ACPT attendees. The “room” kept ejecting us (the production this weekend has otherwise been wonderful!), so we made the snap decision to switch to my Zoom account. And with apologies to the folks who couldn’t join because we quickly maxed out the 100 person limit… what a night!

A little later on today I’m going to try to make time to compile and distribute the puzzle we made live with input from the group. But for now suffice it to say that my general attitude that Crossword People Are The Best People remains intact.

Some thoughts and spoilers for “Guys Who Are Down Bad” after the jump.

Parker, myself, and our 98 new besties

This grid took … massaging. I started with a horizontal layout for the IT’S RAINING MEN revealer, which indicates that M-E-N strings from each of the four theme answers RAIN downward into the intersecting down answers. However, that didn’t leave enough north-south real estate to accommodate the M-E-N, which kept wanting to intersect the revealer.

The solution, of course, was to lean into the interlock, but in ways that I could control better. By organizing IT’S RAINING MEN vertically, I could attempt to intersect it with base thematic phrases of my choosing. I started with WO[MEN]’S EQUALITY DAY, which intersects at the A in RAINING. Each of the remaining 3 themers also pass through the revealer. Things got *really* tricky when I realized that the M-E-N accommodating down answers in TREAT[MEN]TS and LA[MEN]TABLE were *also* going to need to intersect the 2nd and 3rd themers … all in all, a sextuple interlock. Yeesh.

Fortunately, the grid didn’t seem to suffer too terribly much. There was even flexibility enough for some nicer bonus fill in BETA TEST and PLOT HOLE … for which clue [That the “Karate Kid” ref says no head kicks are allowed, then lets Daniel win by kicking Johnny right in the face, e.g.] I make no apologies. <3

Happy solving, friends!

-Ross

“Leave Room for Dessert!”

[.puz][PDF][Solution] πŸͺπŸͺπŸͺπŸͺ

Jessie just made her vaccination appointment. Gratitude abounds in this household. One step closer to all of us commingling in our kitschy crossword novelty clothing! Ah, I can *taste* it. Speaking of, don’t forget to register for A.C.P.T. next week!

I’m also thrilled to be able to exhort you to check out the new Juggernaut crossword feature! It’s a monthly puzzle featuring South Asian themes and subject matter from Sid Sivakumar.

Thoughts and spoilers for “Leave Room for Dessert” after the jump!

En garde, hunger!

For anyone who is first encountering a “rebus” puzzle, in which you cram more than one letter into a single box, know that your confusion and consternation is a near universal response. Yes, you “can” do that. Yes, it’s pretty common. No, it will never not be infuriating to first time rebus solvers.

This puzzle concept started when I noticed that CHAZZ PALMINTERI was a grid-spanning 15 letters. It’s rare that I try to reverse engineer a puzzle idea from the name of a public person whom I admire. The last time I can recall was seeing YAMICHE ALCINDOR (15) and thinking, okay, she’s a journalist who wears a lapel MIC! Or, or, the word HEAL is also hidden across her name… uh… dammit, how do I get YAMICHE ALCINDOR into a puzzle!? (Answer: make more themeless puzzles?)

At any rate, the MINT in Chazz’s name turned out to be crucial. My weird little brain *needs* there to be at least 4 rebus boxes in a rebus puzzle. And M-I-N-T is a *very* uncommon letter string, I now know! It was especially difficult to get rebus boxes in the north and west, since few of the options followed the string of ??MINT___, forcing the rebus box towards the middle of the grid in the first few formulations I tried.

Another weird thing about my brain and rebuses is that I’m basically never satisfied unless each rebus box shares a its longest row/column with a sister rebus box’s longest row/column. There are no rules about this stuff, but the constraints make finishing a grid like this all the more satisfying.

Happy solving, friends!

-Ross