“Movie Lines for $200, Alex”

[.puz][PDF][Solution] 📺 👨🏼‍🦳

I love love love this puzz. It shouldn’t have worked, but it did. Jeopardy fans rejoice! We’ll discuss, but first a couple of heads-ups:

If you’ve been enjoying the online crossword tournaments that were on offer this summer, the Boswords team is running a weekly competitive solving event on Monday nights: the Fall Themeless League.

Meanwhile, there was another waggish #rossword puzzle in last Tuesday’s New York Times, co-constructed by Amanda. Have a solve, if you’ve not as yet solved.

Thoughts and spoilers for “Movie Lines for $200, Alex” after the jump.

I … mustache you a question

This puzzle brings me much joy. I wasn’t quite sure what I was going to do with the lovely found symmetry of CONTESTANT MUST ANSWER (20) IN THE FORM OF A QUESTION (20), but I knew it had to be *something*.

I liked the idea of mimicking the Jeopardy! syntax of burying the question in the answer (and the answer in the clue), so I started with a concept wherein all the theme answers began with WHAT IS or WHO IS, but there were surprisingly few options. It also seemed essential that all the theme answers fall under the same *category*, as they do in Jeopardy.

Eventually I found WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT?, which also happened to be 20-long, which prompted the decision to tweak the grid dimensions and stack the revealer in the middle two rows. You can imagine my delight when I was able to find three (3!) more movie titles that were themselves questions *and* 20 letters across.

This is yet another one of those ideas that probably shouldn’t have been worth the time to “see” if it was viable. But, I’m a constructing addict and masochist, and here we are.

Happy solving, friends*.


*We’re only act-shoo-al friends if you VOTE.

Royal Taster

by Jessie Bullock & Ross Trudeau

[.puz][PDF][Solution] 🤴🏼👸🏼😋

There are any number of good reasons to stay active. Heart health. Endorphins. Staying fit for the sport that brings you mental cookies.

Jessie and I? We exercise to accommodate all the rich food and drink that has come to be our regular reward for being good reclusive quarantiners. And reader, we are getting *pro* at date night.

It’s usually a Saturday. We scrub down, dress up, fire up the tea candles and the string lights, and treat ourselves to takeout from one of several excellent options here in Cambridge. There are charcuterie boards. There are elaborate summer cocktails. There are in-season vegetables and cheese and uhhnnnn… Jessie knows how to pick wine.

This week’s puzzle is an homage to eating like royalty when eating is, well, sort of all you’ve got. (What am I talking about? I have a life partner who *makes crossword puzzles* with me. I burn! I pine! I perish!)

More on “Royal Taster” after the eat-eat-squat jump.


The idea for this puzzle coalesced when I noticed a potential theme pattern that didn’t actually make it into the final draft. The 11th Earl of Sandwich, shrewd businessman that he is, apparently is licensing his name and title to–you guessed it–a sandwich chain called EARL OF SANDWICH (14). Jessie and I dropped into one somewhere on I95 in New Jersey (in the beforetimes), and I had immediate questions about copyright that… well, were answered to my delight and satisfaction by their wiki page.

Immediately BURGER KING (10) popped into my head, and DAIRY QUEEN (10) came to us after that. We’re off and running! But the theme set felt very much like it needed a revealer, and greedy theme seekers that we are, we were hoping for a 4th example of the pattern.

When JACK IN THE BOX (12) presented itself, we rejoiced and then despaired, since JACK isn’t a title of nobility in the same way that QUEEN, KING, and EARL are. A JACK is simply a member of the same court–WAIT! The same COURT? The same… FOOD COURT?

And lo! A puzzle is born.

Happy eati–er, solving.


“Wakanda Forever!”

by Soleil Saint-Cyr and Ross Trudeau


Everything I want to write here this week has to do with the subject of today’s puzzle, as well the remarkable young woman with whom I collaborated on the grid.

Read more about the construction of “Wakanda Forever!” from burgeoning grid whiz Soleil Saint-Cyr after the jump.

From Soleil:

Hi everyone! Just a quick introduction from me: I’m Soleil Saint-Cyr, and I’m a high school senior from New Jersey. I’ve been solving crosswords since eighth grade, but, thanks to Ross’ awesomeness, this is my first ever piece of fill!

Ross has been kind enough to mentor me as to how I can start making puzzles of my own, and he sent me this grid right after hearing the news of CHADWICK BOSEMAN’s tragic death. I, and all other movie-lovers, BLACK PANTHER fans, and members of the Black community were devastated by the news last Saturday, and I loved this unique way of paying tribute to his truly inspiring life. Oh, to be young, gifted, and black.

Sitting down to fill was definitely not the easiest, and I had no idea where to start, but with a couple of pointers and discovering that KAP fit perfectly, I was off to the races! I tried my hardest to feature Black people and culture in the fill and clues (at my mother’s suggestion), and I’m really proud of how my first piece of fill turned out.

Just a special shoutout to Ross for both publishing the puzz and for encouraging me to take a leap of faith and try my hand at making something myself. Happy solving!

From Ross:

I was fully supportive of Soleil’s desire to extend the spirit of the thematic elements of this puzzle to her fill and her clues. But I certainly didn’t expect the sheer amount of Black culture (JOHN COLTRANE! ESTELLE! Etc.!) she was able to infuse into what was always going to be a challenging grid to fill.

Of course, when you start including names in a puzzle or its clues, there are certain ways to make the solve accessible to a broad swath of your audience. Take the clue for PILOT: [Kind of license that Bessie Coleman was the first African American and Native American to earn].

Now, that clue *could* omit “kind of license,” leaving the solvers who aren’t familiar with Bessie Coleman (ahem, me) with no recourse but to get a few crossings. But just that phrase “kind of license” narrows it down substantially.

Ditto the clue for ARTIST: [Basquiat or Banksy], which could have been [Basquiat, e.g.] *or* [Banksy, e.g.]. By including both names, you’re increasing the likelihood that you solver could confidently plonk down ARTIST with no crossing help.

[Update: Erik Agard recently pointed up his frustration at the impulse to add an “extra hint” for an answer *because* it references a person of color. That’s certainly worth bearing in mind as constructors/editors make decisions about perceived degree of difficulty in grid building.]

And in either of these cases–boom–your solver may well have learned something.

R.I.P., king. </3


Among people named in this puzzle:

A Gratuitous Puzzle

by Victoria Fernandez Grande & Ross Trudeau

[.puz][PDF][Solution] 💸💵💰

As promised, here’s are links to Tipsy Puzzlers, Ep. 1. Part 1 is the conversation with Amanda Rafkin, and Part 2 is the actual puzzle construction, featuring chat bar input from several puzzle luminaries.

Next time we do this we’re going to record it differently to frame just the speakers’ video, and perhaps we can sort out a way to include the chat. (We got invaluable input from a variety of puzzle luminaries who called in to drink/puzz with us.) Feel free to leave a comment: what was fun/useful about Tipsy Puzzlers? What could change?

Drop your email in the field to the right if you’re interested in getting a heads-up when Episode 2 drops (as well as the weekly Sunday Rossword puzzle, of course).

Speaking of, this week’s grid is a collaboration with Victoria Fernandez Grande! Spoilers and discussion of “A Gratuitous Puzzle” after the jump…

Your crossword habit, that is

Developing this puzzle was a flippin’ JOURNEY.

TWENTY PERCENT / TIP struck me as a wonderful revealer idea, because TIP, a 3-letter phrase, is exactly 20% of a standard grid-spanning 15-letter answer. “Great!” I thought to myself. “Now all I have to do is find a few answers that are 15-letters, contain T-I-P consecutively, and have no other T’s, I’s, or P’s in them!”

Hoo baby. Easier said than done. I smashed my head against that particular wall for a long time. I even tried to crowdsource on Twitter, which yielded only answers I’d already uncovered.

We were only off to the races when my favorite Spaniard and Harvard Business student Victoria Fernandez Grande (the Notorious V.F.G., before you ask) and RESEARCH S[TIP]END presented themselves.

Victoria, by the way, recently returned to Cambridge from her native Spain to continue her studies and (HOPEFULLY) do some more socially distant crossword constructing with me.

Among people named in this puzzle:

Happy Sunday, friends!


“We’re Blowing Up!”

[.puz][PDF][Solution] 💥💥💥

Last night Amanda and I got fairly tipsy and made a crossword puzzle. And we recorded the whole thing. And it was one of the lovelier Saturday evenings I’ve had these past few months.

We ran our “Tipsy Puzzlers” event via Zoom, and as such we relied on input from folks who called in to put the grid together. And honestly? It’s a darn good puzz.

The grid features invaluable input from crossworld regulars like Ken Stern, Dan Feyer, Paolo Pasco, Ria Dhull, Jessie Bullock, Allegra Kuney, Sophia Maymudes, and up-and-coming constructors such as Annie Gosfield, Parker Higgins, and Lucy Howard. We also had the pleasure of meeting and getting input from a whole slew of new faces. And my heart grew three sizes.

If you’re interested in seeing a recording of the event, leave a note in the comments section. More on this week’s puzzle “We’re Blowing Up”–which isn’t the grid we made last night–after the jump.

“Tipsy Puzzlers” Ep. 1

I’ve gone on record a number of times expressing how much I prefer puzzles with revealer answers, so bear with my as I try to explain why “We’re Blowing Up” doesn’t have one.

The puzzle relies on the varied denotations of the phrase “blow up”: BICYCLE PUMP [It’ll blow up at the Tour de France], SMART PHONE [It’ll blow up with social alerts on your birthday], PHOTO ENLARGER [It’ll blow up in a dark room], VIRAL VIDEO [It’ll blow up on Instagram], and GLITTER BOMB [It’ll blow up in a cloud of colors].

The reasons I decided to go with “blow up” in the clues (and the title) are a) I don’t *love* short revealer answers like BLOW UP, and b) placing that lynchpin phrase in the grid would result in sort of tortured syntax. It might look like:

BLOW UP [Inflate, as an air mattress]; BICYCLE PUMP [It’ll 60-Across at the Tour de France].

For me, forcing the cross-reference feels just a wee bit inelegant. So I decided to write “blow up” into the clues and rendered them in a parallel construction. That being said, I’d love to hear some opinions on the subject. Leave a comment!

Happy solving… and stay thirsty, my friends.


Among people named in today’s puzzle: