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Ross Trudeau author page

52 puzzles by Ross Trudeau
with constructor comments

TotalDebutLatestCollabs
522/9/20177/24/202219
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Ross Trudeau

Ross Trudeau is a writer and puzzlemaker in Cambridge, Mass. His crosswords appear regularly in The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, The Wall Street Journal, and other venues, including his own website, Rossword Puzzles, where he posts an original (and free) puzzle every week.

In 2018 Ross collaborated on a Times crossword with another imaginative person — his father, Garry Trudeau, the creator of "Doonesbury."

POW Sun 7/24/2022 Going Somewhere?
ACRESAMIDTSAESS
PROMOBASEAHIVEEPS
HEROWORSHIPPEREGRETS
IDSSPASESAFRETNOT
DOCKIMPUGNFRAGRANCE
HOESIMONSOIRSKA
TRACERKARYNDREAYSL
BICHROMEGLOBEEVAL
ASHICESEADOONERVE
RECECLATNERDTRIALS
AERODROMEARSEANKH
FORKSULUTIERDISH
YODELSBEFITVERONA
IFSETHANFROMEAYEAYE
BEAUALEACEVIV
IMPOSTERSYNDROMEZEKE
TEACHSUMOGUYTONER
STLEODAWDLESPROUST
ALLROADSLEADTOROME
TILERSHEADELOPE
DISCSDRYREFER

JESSIE: Talk about sharing a byline. Today's puzzle is the first time anyone will see the name Jessie Trudeau in print — Ross and I will be saying our vows about 30 minutes after this puzzle goes live! We're so deeply, deeply grateful for the opportunity to briefly elevate the word "née" out of the realm of crosswordese.

ROSS: I love Jessie more than cake. There wasn't room in her Times Magazine bio to note her many recent accomplishments, so I'll take the opportunity here. Last week Jessie successfully defended her Harvard Ph.D. dissertation, "Machine Gun Politics," which explains how and why politicians partner with organized crime. She's starting a postdoc at Brown when we return from our honeymoon, and next fall, she'll begin her appointment as Assistant Professor of Political Science at Syracuse University.

If you're interested in learning how to make your own crosswords, you can reach out to me via Twitter or my personal site, Rossword Puzzles, where I post a free, original crossword every Sunday morning.

POW Thu 6/16/2022
SUCKSAMPABETS
ORNOTPARILLBE
NNNNICSCIENTIST
ALLEYCATS
WITTOSSERSABS
ATOASTPOPDUO
IAMBHICKSADDS
FLOURCUEKIDDO
IOTAATEINDY
MAOJUNIPERDMS
ANOSTEWSDOO
RIOICEPACKDVR
ICONSVATEYDIE
SEOULETCYODEL
ASONENTHSUDSY

PARKER: It's always fun to breathe some life into a joke that is literally centuries old. This puzzle got started when I told my friend and frequent collaborator Ross about the eighteenth century racehorse Potoooooooo (pronounced: "potatoes") whose biography goes viral on social media from time to time. It's an old joke, but it works!

As is our custom, I sat down to write software to try to find examples that met the pattern, while Ross just thought about it really hard and came up with the same stuff. We tried versions with a revealer, we tried standard rotational symmetry, but working with the editing team at the Times we arrived at this version which really shines.

I'm tickled to have such a bold 1A answer (and clue!) in my debut. My only regret is we couldn't find a way to squeeze CHICKENDDDDDDDDDD into the grid.

Ross and I published a print zine of 12 crossword puzzles with a Spelling Bee twist earlier this year, and we stream solving and constructing crosswords on a Twitch channel called Cursewords Live. If you're reading this before 8pm Eastern on Thursday, come join us then for some cruciverbal fun!

ROSS: If you're interested in learning how to make crossword puzzles, feel free to reach out to me via Twitter or via my personal puzzle site, Rossword Puzzles.

Thu 5/12/2022
UTAHNATHAWAII
NINAOPSADAPTS
PENNUBERMENSCH
CREDITSLIPDOH
CVSINSTA
LAYBODHIAWE
SPORSETITSCOL
NAIVETEBRONTES
ONEEAROYEAIDE
WESSABREMRI
ATWODREF
EMUHAAGENDAZS
FLIRTATIONOREO
UMLAUTNYEWISP
ROASTSSAWNETS

I submitted this puzzle in June of 2019 after adapting it from an early metal umlaut version that featured the theme answers The Accüsed, Spin╠łal Tap, Motörhead, and Mötley Crüe.

If you're interested in learning how to make crossword puzzles, stop by Cursewords Live tonight (Thursday) at 9pm eastern, where Parker Higgins and I will be building a crossword live from scratch. You should also feel free to reach out to me via Twitter or Rossword Puzzles, where I publish a free indie grid every Sunday morning.

POW Thu 4/7/2022
NEWBTKODMCJOB
YOHOMINIOHARE
UNIONISTSNEMEA
STUHOCKEYMOM
OKEYDOKEEPEES
RAJGPASTAND
ENURESFLOWN
SEGOHAYEDGE
BTEAMABSORB
DOUBTMIANAB
METROTURNKEYS
JOCKEYFOREEK
AVOIDEMMASTONE
DICTADEUSENOS
ANTSYSIRSLGBT

LUCY: When Ross first approached me with TURNKEYS as a theme idea, I loved the concept of the KEYs visually "turning" in the grid (he's so clever!). But between the limited options for theme entries and the tricky interlockings, I wasn't sure if we were going to be able to pull this one off at first. After expanding our word lists to include as many KEY words as possible (HOCKEY… BAG?), and many hours of grid tweaking, we finally landed on a grid we were happy with.

This puzzle was initially submitted with MONKEY POD as a theme entry, but the Times editing team thought something more accessible would be better. One more round of tweaking resulted in the puzzle you have today — yay!

ROSS: I love Lucy. Also, I just made a puzzle zine! It's a work of light historical fiction and 12 crosswords with a twist that NYT Spelling Bee fans will love. Order your copy of the Honeypot Puzzle Fragments here!

And, as ever, if you're interested in learning how to make crosswords, feel free to reach out to me via Twitter or my personal puzzle site, Rossword Puzzles.

Sun 1/30/2022 WATCH YOUR STEP!
SCREAMOFOLDUPFROS
INEXPERTAVERSELEIA
BESTALBUMCEASESYANK
STUOSMOSINGTRICKS
ROANOILSUPANTS
FORINSTANCEEARWIG
ONENDESLORCHESTITS
SECTTPISTSKOBETIE
SITSONTWOBITSHEHER
ELSROOKIRONEDAZERA
BADDESTUNNERVE
ACORNSPICERTACOPMS
DORAGSTAHINIACCRUE
DNAEXECONECUPHERA
STLESSGOWNALEMADAM
MOWGLIVONTPFAMILY
TOADDISOWNRIPS
SIMIANMISSOULAPOP
NOELONTILTTRAPDOORS
INGELEANTOESPOUSES
TSARATRISKSEXIEST

If you're reading this before Sunday evening, you're invited to join me and my Cursewords Live co-host Parker Higgins this evening for a deep dive into how puzzles like this one get made. We'll be going live at 8pm eastern; come say hello in the chat!

We'll also talk about some of the learning and mentorship options for folks who are interested in making crosswords of their own. You can reach out to me directly via Twitter or my personal site, Rossword Puzzles.

Tue 1/11/2022
PROTONSSTAVING
GENERICOUTCROP
AMERICAFERRERA
NOELISIS
PBJLIEADACAM
ERODEDALGORE
TORIEDIFYRUES
ENDSANNUSANYA
ZAHNADDINTO
MENONSIGHTRUM
UMPDATASETYAO
FEERERAISESLR
ADELAARCARTOO
SALEMNILMEANS
ALEXADEESPREE

If you're reading this on Monday evening, feel free to drop by my CursewordsLive Twitch stream after you solve. We'll be talking grid and solving indie puzzles!

I submitted this puzzle in the fall of 2019. Version one of this puzzle had a conventional theme set that comprised JORDAN PEELE, AMERICA FERRERA, INDIA.ARIE, JAMAICA KINCAID, and the revealer COUNTRY STAR. I liked the consistency of the first-name-as-country pattern, but Jamaica Kincaid ultimately felt more like an "icon" than a "star." I only regret that Cuba Gooding Jr. never won a Tony to complete the theme entry EGOT.

I encourage anyone interested in learning how to make crossword puzzles to reach out to me, either via Twitter or my personal puzzle site, Rossword Puzzles.

Wed 12/15/2021
ALLSHASATEUP
ROOTHELPLEDGE
ACREAREABEIGE
BADINVESTMENTS
LINEAARC
APTONEWAYTRIPS
CROWALITAUDEN
TIVOSILTSSIRI
ADELASLITHOST
SERVICEACESTIS
ERAVESPA
SORRYNORETURNS
JULIAUDONLOCI
OMANILEASFOAM
TOYEDLSDAFTS

JESSIE: This is our 3rd puzzle for the Times and Ross's 102nd crossword of 2021: 49 in various print and online publications and 53 on his personal puzzle site. And on the day this puzzle goes live, Ross will be coming out of his 8th surgery related to Schwannomatosis. These figures are related.

I regularly hear people ask Ross about his crossword productivity; he generally just says he's wired for wordplay. Only I know that it is also a coping mechanism, and one can draw a pretty straight line between chronic pain and his remarkable daily output.

A couple of months ago, I suggested he write about how making puzzles became such an essential part of his life. The result was an essay that represents a touching insight into the mind and process of the puzzler I love. I encourage you to read it here.

ROSS: *gurgle*

Tue 10/19/2021
JAMBMAASHAG
ALOECOUCHNORA
BESTENNUIOPAL
CHARLOTTESWEB
ALLTIEDUP
KEEPSHEARATSO
LAMPPEACHCHEZ
ERISSINCEKENO
ILLASNERBIN
NYYATTENDSROE
RSVPSSTODOR
PILEUPTURNIP
ASISITGUYOTTO
PESTCHAMPVEIL
ARTSSAYSOESSO

I submitted this puzzle in June of 2019, and kind of a lot has happened in the intervening 28 months. Not the least of which is that I no longer use answers like SST in my crossword puzzles. ("Bygone boomer?" More like "bygone crossword answer," amirite?)

Despite some clunky fill, I do love the tightness of the theme. CHARLOTTE'S WEB, AUNTIE ANNE'S, and EMILY'S LIST are on a very small list of common possessive phrases that use THE BRONTË sisters' names. (EMILY'S WONDER LAB didn't, you know, exist yet when I made this puzzle.) Even then, the set can't be laid out in standard rotational symmetry and only works in its present mirror symmetry layout since two of the answers just happen to interlock. Sometimes you get lucky.

For my *freshest* grids, visit my personal site, Rossword Puzzles, where I put out a new indie grid every Sunday. And drop me a line on Twitter if you're interested in learning about making crossword puzzles!

POW Wed 9/15/2021
TATEPANENTITY
AREAINATOUCHE
GLASSEYEANGERS
SEPTICNIPBOA
UNODENTALCROWN
PETSWOAHEXED
CLIMBASPER
FALSELASHES
DOLCEONION
SOREFIEFTARP
POWDEREDWIGFIR
ERAVOWCOARSE
WORDEDHEADFAKE
ENDUREBARRIEN
DESOTOOREODDS

SOPHIE: I'm excited to be making my NYT debut, especially with a collaboration between me and my very first and only Internet friend, Ross Trudeau.

I connected with Ross through the Crossword Puzzle Collaboration Directory on Facebook during the stay-at-home part of the pandemic. Learning from his expertise and working together on puzzles (plus meeting his cute cat, Ruby) over Zoom has been a highlight of the past year and a half. For this puzzle, Ross suggested the idea/revealer and then we came up with the theme answers together — at this point I can't remember who thought up what. We were expecting the editors to nix our theme clues, but I'm glad they survived!

ROSS: After this puzzle was accepted, Sophie and I shared a virtual happy hour with a crossword-inspired black and white dress code, but for which we had trouble deciding what the most apt "crossword cocktail" might be. We remain open to suggestions, which you can share via my personal crossword site, Rossword Puzzles, or by @-ing me and Sophie on Twitter.

Tue 8/24/2021
TALCSMAGICGPA
AGLOWCLARAOOF
POCKETATLASOPT
IDOTOOEDGES
PEERREDELM
ESLASTERNEO
ICANSHOWAMOEBA
RANONYOUAVAIL
ERENOWTHEWORLD
ETAILOSTTEA
DAMAGEHUSH
PYRESTHRESH
ICIPALEBLUEDOT
TAUCHILIREEDS
ATMAHEMSPRADA

JESSIE: I'm a political science PhD concluding a dissertation on organized crime and vote buying in Latin America, and for some time most of my crossword output centered on themes related to my research. (We'll see if my imminent arrival on the job market impacts how much I care to mix work and puzzles.) Today's theme is considerably more lighthearted in tone, which tone belies what a colossal pain in the butt it was to build out.

The neatness of how I CAN SHOW / YOU / THE WORLD resolves into a three-part, symmetrical revealer answer is what attracted me to this concept. But with a revealer occupying the central 3 rows and abutting both left and right edges, options for laying out four separate themers in a conventional way become limited. The pinwheel arrangement you see here, with PLANETARIUM and GOOGLE EARTH both intersecting the revealer, represented an elegant solution that allowed me enough flexibility to sneak a couple of fun bonus answers in SCAREDY CAT and POPE MOBILE (original clue: "Mass produced vehicle?").

ROSS: When this puzzle goes live on Monday night, Jessie and I will be sharing a romantic beachside dinner and asking one another a very important and special question... one that, incidentally, might help me correct an embarrassing oversight I made a couple of days ago over on my personal crossword site, Rossword Puzzles.

POW Wed 7/14/2021
OFFSRAVESSIP
CARTEETAILESL
CRYINGWOLFEAAA
AGENDALIFEBOAT
MORKWILDEPITCH
ELKSLSAT
WHEREELSESEGA
HEXEREADERRED
ONTOYOGAPOSES
RIPSERMA
TOOLECHESTKARA
USVSTHEMHOLDIT
THEPEACHYKEENE
OERIMPEISALSA
RATGASESFEET

ROSS: Neither of us is an EXTROVERT, but if you're digging our vibe, you can find more Amanda/Ross crossword content on my indie crossword site, Rossword Puzzles, as well as my biweekly Twitch stream, Cursewords Live. And if you're interested in learning how to make crosswords, feel free to slide into my Twitter DMs.

POW Sun 6/27/2021 GRAVITY'S RAINBOW
SCAMSEVERGTREEAKITA
HANOIPAPERHATSWAGED
ANNULESOTERICAAZURE
STANLEECREEDUPROARS
TOLDYAHONESIDONOT
ASSMRTRTEARE
MELLOWYOLBEYES
ABBACRIEDWOLFRAFA
BLOODOSILENTUIGIRLS
EARARLOLAAERNOCUP
THEPLAYCONGOODDJOBS
HANDSAWENQUIRE
PRODIGIESBUGGYWHIP
FINSEARTHJAIHOSAME
FCCELOOILSAT
THERPLANETULTRAVRAYS
DELIMESLREELIER
GRADATESTONRAWONION
OUICONTROVERSIALGPA
ATLIUDANEYERYEHES
THYDTSMESSYSSTTNT

ROSS: I'd been kicking the tires on different GRAVITY'S RAINBOW grids for a couple years when I mentioned this concept to Lindsey. I wasn't sure it was a workable idea, but the smoothness of the final product here is a testament to Lindey's top-notch gridwork.

I've written a bit more about today's grid on my personal puzzle site, Rossword Puzzles, and we'll talking about the construction on Monday evening on my Twitch stream, Cursewords Live. Join us!

LINDSEY: I was psyched when Ross suggested the idea for the puzzle. As a huge admirer of the work of both Thomas Pynchon and Ross, I was enthusiastically on board. The grid layout and fill were not the easiest, but the result is likely the most aesthetically pleasing of any puzzle I've had the pleasure of working on.

While I was delighted when Will Shortz let us know he was planning to run it during Pride month, Pride wasn't actually the inspiration for the puzzle (hence the inclusion of indigo, which I only just recently learned is not on the gay pride flag!). In any case, I'm happy to have our puzzle included here and hope to see more from LGBTQ constructors during all the rest of the months too.

POW Mon 5/3/2021
AMIDCRAPOIOWA
LAVARERUNBRAG
ICEDCOFFEEAGRA
DOWBETRAYS
EMMYSPALAUNOS
SOYAIRPORTWIFI
PATHNORTIC
THEINSIDEINFO
BRROEDGARB
EAUDEPARFUMRCA
CDSNOTITIMMAD
HOTBATHSFO
ONEAFEEFIFOFUM
EARNUNLITDANA
DISKLAMBSYMCA

Hidden-word-at-the-end-of-the-answer puzzles don't always rock my socks, but when I noted that FEE, FI, FO and FUM could all comprise exactly half of the last word in the theme answers, the symmetry was sock-rocking enough to pursue.

If you're interested in learning to make crosswords, tune in on Mondays and Thursday evenings to my solving-and-constructing Twitch stream. Or, as always, feel free to contact me via Twitter or Rosswords, my indie crossword site.

POW Wed 3/24/2021
NABSAABSGARP
ALLAISLESARIA
SAILORSUITLEVI
ANNELATINGEAR
DENIMOVERALLS
PASSONEGAD
ASPLEARNOSLO
WHOWOREITBETTER
SETHSOSADRIC
IFSOLAMESA
FOOTIEPAJAMAS
IMNEXTDANRSVP
ENDSTRENCHCOAT
LIVEOILIERUPS
DADADEEDSTED

AMANDA: Always a thrill to be back in The Times, especially with my forever-collaborator Ross! Our puzzle today is interesting for me because it turns something I hate (the "who wore it better?" question) into something I love. To me, the existence of this question in its typical context represents so many of the problematic viewpoints society seems to have towards women.

What I love about the question's transformation in this puzzle is that, through the lens of comparing these quasi-silly outfits on male animals and characters, it sort of illuminates how ridiculous the question is to begin with. (For what it's worth, I'm very here for comparing how we all look in FOOTIE PAJAMAS because the answer is "Totally awesome!")

If I were making this puzzle today, there's no universe in which I'd allow NRA to be in here, even with a clue like this one that I can get behind. It's easy to look back on past work with a critical eye, but even the stuff I wish was different serves as an opportunity to reflect and grow, or reflect upon growth.

I hope this goofy puzzle brings you as much joy to solve as it brought us to make! If you're interested in learning how to make puzzles, particularly if you're from an underrepresented group, feel free to reach out on Twitter and say hi. (@AmandaRafkin).

ROSS: What she said! If you're interested in learning how to make crossword puzzles, feel free to get in touch via Twitter or Rossword Puzzles.

Tue 3/2/2021
PBSUNMADESYD
AUTOSTONERTAR
DRAFTCHOICEOHO
SPYFIEMOBLOW
SPLITDECISION
SOSUEMETMI
ERATAHEMOXEYE
TANICEPICKXER
SLEETESMESPAR
AIMILLPASS
SHOTSELECTION
TABSNOMMUSKS
ENGSTOCKOPTION
ANYAENEIDSOLO
MANMEYERSNAB

For me: lager, hot fudge, neat, Fireball, beef bouillon. Et tu?

If you're interested in learning how to make crossword puzzles, feel free to contact me via Twitter or my personal puzzle site, Rosswords.

Sun 1/24/2021 SUGAR, SUGAR
TOSHIBARACYBMWORG
ARCANUMISHECRAMBAM
NERDSRINGPOPFADDIETS
KLEEUBERSOILNYT
USESBABYRUTHSNICKERS
PENTONISUEBUMRAP
WHISKASRESTRASPY
CRUNCHNOWANDLATER
ERINSPINYETIKFC
LATKESUSGAEELYAOK
AYEWHOPPERSSPREENYU
NOREASEDISCRAFTER
NSALAPSLEAFOAST
MILKYWAYSTARBURST
SALADASECSCAREDY
ALOTOFATSARAYSAC
LIFESAVERSPAYDAYWELL
BTUJAYSEPEEARLO
HAIRLINEMARSSMARTIES
ABEUTESAKINPROTEGE
MARGASOSLOGETSSET

LUCY: I am beyond thrilled to be making my New York Times debut alongside the wonderful Ross Trudeau!

I started constructing about a year and a half ago when I made a puzzle for my wedding. I reached out to Ross this summer for feedback on some of my puzzles, and we quickly became good friends and collaborators.

Ross and I were working on another sweets-related puzzle when I started thinking about different ways of putting candy names together. MARS SMARTIES came to me first, but JOLLY RANCHER WHOPPERS made me think we might be in Sunday theme territory. I pitched the idea to Ross and here we are!

We spent many hours on Zoom reminiscing about childhood candy favorites, brainstorming punny clues, and hammering out a grid that we were happy with, before arriving at the puzzle you see today. We were sad to lose our clues for CRAYON ("How a young writer might wax poetic?") and I DOS ("Words that might ring a belle?"), but were glad to see most of our theme clues left intact.

Ross came up with SUGAR, SUGAR as a title, and we've both had the Archies song stuck in our heads ever since (thanks a lot, Ross). Much love and thanks to my husband for his support and patience throughout this process!

Tue 1/12/2021
MILDEWYMDSECCE
ISSARAEOOPPARD
KIDNEYSTONEARID
EATANTCOLONY
SHAMSARFWALK
BIPARTISANBILL
CALMSTDNEE
THISTOOSHALLPASS
OATHUERIME
PROQUARTERBACK
PLUSTRYOKNOW
PEDESTALSERA
EDYSBRIEFMOMENT
SOOTAYNITSALOT
ONUSRAGTVHOSTS

I wrote this puzzle in 2018, but I think the revealer answer is more timely now. THIS TOO SHALL PASS, friends.

If you're interested in learning how to make crossword puzzles, you can contact me via my personal puzzle site or via Twitter. That goes double for non-male/BIPOC/queer aspiring constructors; there aren't enough of you in crossworld.

Mon 12/14/2020
ABBAABLYGAP
CARLFRIEDNABS
CLUELAMAROTAY
ELLEMACPHERSON
SEEACEWEIRDS
STEEDSANDRAOH
RATICEDNA
SAMANTHABEE
REPNEOROO
KAYHAGANASSAM
ORNATEABSHUE
WOMENOFLETTERS
DIVATROVEOHOH
AGESSERIFMERE
YSLSANSBRAD

JESSIE Today's puzzle is an ode to female scholars, and I'm very excited that it's my debut grid in the Times. I'm a Ph.D. candidate at Harvard's Department of Government, and I generally strive to have my puzzles' content reflect academia and my areas of research: crime and corruption in Latin America. (Check out my puzzle in tomorrow's Universal Crossword for one such example.)

We originally clued this puzzle as a mid-week offering, so a few of our clues got nixed in favor of more straightforward fare. Some favorites:

  • ["I just took a ___ test" (Lizzo lyric)] for DNA
  • [Rocks with a punch?] for ICE
  • [Book on invasive plants?] for SPY NOVEL

Many thanks to the Times editors for their feedback and support, as well as to Ross for sharing the joy of crossword construction with me. We've been hunkered down together all year with our bad cat Ruby, and wacky theme brainstorming — even beyond the thematic realm of political corruption — has become one of my favorite quarantine pastimes.

ROSS: I love Jessie more than cake. Today is a happy day. For more Jessie-Ross crosswords, visit my personal puzzle site.

Wed 11/18/2020
ROTCREVEISAAC
OHOOILERMELBA
STRIPOKERHATER
THENETSOVATE
RANDRWRAPARTY
ATTITUDELYCEES
GONEARGEL
TWOPEASINAPOD
DOHLEGATO
EROTICLASTNAME
VIPASSESACTOR
EXLAXMACHONE
AERIEFLIPHONES
NYJETBELLEATT
NERDSIDLEDLSU

When we linked up last year via social media to start making puzzles together, it was love at first Zoom. Within a few weeks, Ross had flown across the country to visit Amanda in L.A., and we spent a blissful three days making grids: on the sofa, in coffee shops, in the lobby of the historic Hollywood Roosevelt hotel. Towards the end of the weekend, the idea for a TWO PEAS IN A POD grid lodged itself in Amanda's brain as a way to commemorate our improbable puzz-based friendship. Ross needed little convincing. As if the story needed any more saccharine details, we even have a photo of us collaboratively placing the puzzle envelope into a blue mailbox.

Will and co. accepted the grid as you see it, but decided in final edits that CREVE / VEE was preferable to CREPE / PEE, given the rebus PP's. We offered to rework a few squares to accommodate CRETE / TEE (there's a TEED that would have needed to change), but it was too late to make changes. All this to say, well, CREVE isn't in our personal word lists, with apologies to the ~18,000 residents of Creve Coeur, MO. We also would have preferred to have TORI clued as a woman, but the editors felt the puzzle was a bit name-heavy and preferred to clue the entry as a word rather than a proper noun. Though Amanda loves women and has a brain that crumbles at the thought or sight of numbers, she conceded.

For more Rafkin-Trudeau grids, visit either of our puzzle sites: Brain Candy and Rossword Puzzles.

POW Wed 10/7/2020
TWASPIGGYPITA
GALAOSHEAEROS
ITLLPLOTSREUP
FETALASSRINGS
RODENTHBLEH
NCOSADSONGACC
ALTGEHRYDRE
NORMERITEDLOO
ACURASPYENEWS
KEELSTBIRD
TEALBARN
LOOKMANOHANDS
MUIRBUENOIRON
MINTAGREEEASE
ASKSSHOTSSTOW

I hoped to include one more theme answer that had NO HANDS, but I just couldn't make EX-GAMBLER or BANKRUPT CASINO fit in the grid. Alas.

If you're looking to get into crossword constructing, and especially if you identify as non-male, LGBTQ+, or as a person of color, I'd be thrilled to offer whatever help I can to help you get your puzzles published. Contact me via Twitter (@trudeauross) or my personal puzzle site.

Tue 9/15/2020
PITPOSHSCOTTS
ADOROKULOUVRE
PORKYPIGOUTLIE
ALIAMAULICK
SCROOGEMCDUCK
THRUCHINESE
ICYMEREINHD
KEEPYOURPANTSON
ELLARUBEETA
ALLISONSLAT
WINNIETHEPOOH
CANALDOMRED
ALGOREYOGIBEAR
SLAYERERINAVE
ASTERSDANKDEW

If you're interested in learning how to make crosswords, feel free to reach out to Amanda and Ross via their Twitter accounts (@amandarafkin, @trudeauross) or their personal puzzle sites (Brain Candy, Rossword Puzzles).

This goes double for aspiring constructors who identify as a member of one the groups historically underrepresented in mainstream puzzles: POC, LGBTQ+, non-male. Hit us up!

Tue 8/11/2020
RAZEDSPECSBCC
IHEARARROWAHA
DERRINGERPISTOL
EMOLEAPSNIHIL
ELSRIFT
REWRITESHISTORY
ETHANLEECHWOE
CHETEIEIOHELM
AERANTISWALLE
PRESIDENTWILSON
FIRSINS
UBOATBEAKSTSA
VERMICELLIBOWLS
EVEMURSEIDIOT
AYSEDGESGETGO

AMANDA: I periodically find myself experiencing a dry spell when it comes to theme ideas, so whenever I have one that really excites me, it's always cause for a bit of celebration. This specific theme is one that I was particularly excited about because it makes an otherwise pretty "whatever" crossword entry (EIEIO) into something that feels interesting to me. My first thought was "Are there even going to be any phrases that include only the vowels EIEIO, and in that order?!" Luckily for us, there were! To be honest, I don't remember much else about the making of this puzzle other than the excitement of stumbling upon the idea, but I hope that when you, too, stumble across the theme it brings you even a fraction of the joy/interest that it brought me!

Additionally, in an effort to be a bigger part of the movement to make crossword puzzles a more inclusive space for everyone, I would love to hear from anyone about the elements of your experience that you feel are largely missing from the puzzles you solve. Whether it's your heroes, your cuisine, your terminology, or any other element of your experience, I would love to know so I can try to be mindful of their inclusion in future grids, whether for a mainstream outlet or for the puzzles on my site. Feel free to reach out to me on Twitter (@amandarafkin) if you have any thoughts about how I can help to make your puzzles a more inclusive space.

ROSS: I'm donating payment for this puzzle to the Lebanese Red Cross.

If you're looking to get into crossword constructing, and especially if you identify as non-male, LGBTQ+, or as a person of color, I'd be thrilled to offer whatever help I can to help you get your puzzles published. Contact me via Twitter (@trudeauross) or my personal puzzle site.

Tue 7/28/2020
PACTLOAFLOKI
FLYATENCINOMAN
FABLESEACOASTS
TRELLISITEM
MRTNEWINSPOT
FALSEHOODRIO
CARLOTOWNWELL
ARIELDPSREVEL
RYESUMPSOBERS
PANINVENTION
INDEBTREOFTS
GARSEWELAMB
OVERRULEDLIBEL
DIMESTOREFELLA
SMUTHEADSETH

I'm donating payment for this utterly deceitful puzzle to FactCheck.org.

I was glad to see the editorial team go with a straight-ahead, non-euphemistic clue for ODS [Some drug cases, for short]. I have a genetic disorder that has made pain management a significant part of my adult life, and my personal relationship with opioids can best be described as an uneasy detente. While I appreciate that some folks might have painful associations with an answer like ODS, maintaining awareness about a national crisis that hasn't receded dramatically is personally important to me.

If you're looking to get into crossword constructing, and especially if you identify as non-male, LGBTQ+, or as a person of color, I'd be thrilled to offer whatever assistance I can to help you get your puzzles published. Contact me via Twitter (@trudeauross) or my personal puzzle site, rosswordpuzzles.com.

Wed 7/1/2020
PDFSTAPONASTO
LOOTIRONYCHEX
ONLYTESTYMANE
POLESNTHLEROY
SROTEASERSERE
WIPERBLADES
CYSTLOOIESTIR
LETONCNNOCHOA
AAHOAKDESKETS
PRECUTWAHWAH
MARTAEAPOE
SOCIALCAPITAL
JUNKCLASPFLAG
EVELKANYEOTTO
TAYESNEADRHEA

AMANDA: Always a thrill to be back in the NYT! I hope everyone is doing alright, staying sane and healthy, and continuing to fight for much-needed social justice. Speaking of which, there are a handful of wonderful folks in the puzzle community who are doing puzzles-for-donations. If you're looking for a way to do some good while also getting your hands on some amazing puzzles, look no further than the list below:

  1. Erik Agard is raising money for 1StruggleKC. If you go to their website and send Erik a screenshot of your donation receipt to agarderik@gmail.com, he'll send you some old, unreleased crosswords.
  2. Paolo Pasco is raising money for the Black Lives Matter cause of your choice in exchange for a handful of puzzles by various constructors. If you go to this link you can find the details on how to donate, as well as what puzzles you'll be receiving.
  3. Eric Berlin is raising money for Feeding America with his "Social Distancing Puzzle" pack:" eleven challenging puzzles to solve with a partner, over Zoom, or in the same room." Click on this link for instructions on how to donate and receive the puzzles. Your donation will get you two packs of puzzles (one for each solver) and a third file with hints and solutions.
  4. Lone Shark Games has put together a puzzle pack of "Marching Bands For The Marchers." When you donate Campaign Zero to end police brutality, you'll receive your puzzle pack.

And if you're looking for some additional puzzles to solve while staying at home, I post new puzzles to my site every day.

ROSS: I'm donating my payment for today's puzzle to Violence in Boston, Inc.

If you're looking to get into crossword constructing — and especially if you identify as POC, womxn, or LGBTQ+ — I'd be thrilled to offer whatever assistance I can to help you get your puzzles published. Contact me via Twitter, Instagram, or rosswordpuzzles.com.

Wed 6/10/2020
AGILEDRABGROW
TUNERSEIRENANA
ASSISTANTMANAGER
STUEMMATOTEM
TARSMALIBUQED
EVENTHORIZONUTE
AHIKNOXDIEM
ELIROTHDEMETRI
LODETAFTRAN
LOLTHROWASPIRAL
EMOREPROSMAMA
OVOIDELIEBBS
AVENGERSASSEMBLE
PETECOENCOOLER
PROSKNEENEEDS

AMANDA: Wow, what a blast from the past! This was the first puzzle that I ever conceived of and worked on constructing. I knew I wanted to make an Avengers-themed puzzle, and I'd just tricked Ross into, I mean, asked Ross to take me under his wing and show me the ropes of the crossworld. My original idea for a revealer was, to put it generously, embarrassing (what a newb), but in his usual fashion, Ross was able to offer up the brilliant idea for a revealer that you see here.

Fictional superheroes are cool, but to all the real-life superheroes who are out fighting for justice right now... this one's for you. And if you're looking for more puzzles to solve, I post puzzles daily on my website and on Twitter (@amandarafkin). Happy solving, take good care of yourself and each other, and keep fighting the good fight.

ROSS: I'm donating my payment for this puzzle to Violence in Boston, Inc.

If you're looking to get into crossword constructing, and especially if you identify as non-male, LGBTQ+, or as a person of color, I'd be thrilled to offer whatever assistance I can to help you get your puzzles published. Contact me via Instagram (@rosstrudeau), Twitter (@trudeauross), or rosswordpuzzles.com.

Mon 5/11/2020
APSEBLABTUT
BOOTYTAILBUNS
SERTAWIDEERIK
CHEEKSREAREND
OLASEZDRAFTED
NERFXESITSWAR
DRMOMSHOESOLE
BOTTOMROW
PSSRAYONNEIGH
OKTHENTIEASIA
MIRANDAABSANN
CABOOSEBEHIND
ALIIOKRAREDID
BUTTRUMPFANNY
CBSIPASLOGE

This puzzle was inspired by my young nephews and their excellent senses of humor. Remy and Rhys can read well enough at this point to appreciate the theme, so I cannot wait to see video of my siblings sharing it with them.

If you're looking to get into crossword constructing, and especially if you identify as non-male, LGBTQ+, or as a person of color, I'd be thrilled to offer whatever assistance I can to help you get your puzzles published. Contact me via Instagram (@rosstrudeau) or Twitter (@trudeauross).

Tue 3/31/2020
ABBABASMAKEDO
DRABRIOEXITED
DISCGOLFNETTED
SEESAWAHSTAPS
UNOACHE
ROLLINGTHUNDER
BODEELLERHINO
ASIASOAMIENDS
LISPSORANEGOS
LETSTAKEITSLOW
EASELIL
GUACIRAMAITAI
ACTORSCLAPBACK
BLANCADOTICEE
SADDAYCUESODA

CHRISTINA: I reached out to Ross early last year when I saw his offer to mentor newbies. He provided great mentorship and really helped me up my construction game. I'd highly recommend finding a mentor if you are interested in construction! This was the third puzzle we made together, and my second acceptance in the NYT.

ROSS: ROSS is by far the worst friend.

If you're looking to get into crossword constructing, and especially if you identify as non-male, LGBTQ+, or as a person of color, I'd be thrilled to offer whatever assistance I can to help you get your puzzles published. Contact me via Instagram (@rosstrudeau) or Twitter (@trudeauross).

Tue 3/17/2020
AWAYPABSTJOJO
PESOALITOUBER
BEAUREGALDENS
PRIDEANDJOY
EMOYET
FEARANDLOATHING
ETHICOEDERNIE
ECIGARNIEOTTO
SHOCKANDAWE
TITTLEDESREE
ECOEDITWARRYE
NERONAHKEEL
MIXEDFEELINGS
CECELIALETINON
PLAYSONPASTURE
ATLEASTSPASMED

The original iteration of this puzzle interlocked PRIDE AND JOY and SHOCK AND AWE through the R and H in FEAR AND LOATHING respectively, making them MIXED in two ways. Will thought the resulting grid was a bit choppy, so he asked for the layout you see today.

As you read these words, I'll be socially isolating at home *and* on a pre-planned vacation from work (that is no longer taking place in St. Lucia.) If you're interested in learning how to make crossword puzzles — and especially if you're from a group historically underrepresented in puzzle bylines (womxn, POC's, LGBTQ+ folk) — feel free to reach out to me via my personal puzzle site or via Twitter (@TrudeauRoss) or Instagram (@RossTrudeau). I'd be happy to do what I can to help you get a puzzle published!

Wed 2/5/2020
RAMADAATMWHAM
EXITEDCATCHAIR
POMONACOWLINGS
ONENIGHTSTAND
EEOFREED
PIPERTMCORDER
WORKSOFARTORE
ALOEROMEOAVID
VACDOBEDOBEDO
ENEWSTAPPARES
IDAHOEAT
USEDFURNITURE
TARHEELSICEBOX
SLAMPOETTALESE
KALENWAALLRED

Back in March of 2017, I clued ALL RED as "visibly embarrassed," deciding that while Gloria ALLRED was crossword-worthy, a non-trivia clue would be better for a Tuesday-ish puzzle. (She was even in the news at the time, representing multiple women who had accused then-candidate Trump of sexual assault.)

Since this puzzle was accepted, in August of 2017, #MeToo began, grew, and flourished into the robust and essential movement we know it as today. If ALLRED had found its way into one of my 2018, or 2019, or 2020 grids, I would have clued it as Gloria in a heartbeat.

Also, if you're looking to get into crossword constructing, and especially if you identify as non-male, LGBTQ+, or as a person of color, I'd be thrilled to offer whatever assistance I can to help you get your puzzles published. Contact me via Instagram (@rosstrudeau) or Twitter (@trudeauross).

POW Tue 1/7/2020
BBOYINITTRAP
REVUPNORAHUGE
ADELEMROCTOBER
THREEPOINTER
SOSPINBICIAM
GHOSTOFACHANCE
AWAYERSCTRL
BURNTCDSSHEET
ERIESOUECON
LANDSCAPEPHOTO
ALGPORLEIIPO
OUTSIDESHOTS
STEPNIECEMANIA
PAVEALESSLACK
AXEDNYETELSA

This puzzle is a good example of how cluing decisions affect the solving experience. The theme clues as I submitted them were:

  • THREE POINTER: Distance jumper?
  • GHOST OF A CHANCE: Vanishingly low probability of success?
  • LANDSCAPE PHOTO: Very wide snap?
  • OUTSIDE SHOTS: What point guards, dark horses, and exterior shutterbugs take, and a hint to 20-, 28-, and 42-Across

Will Shortz decided to clue the theme answers more straightforwardly (today is a Tuesday, after all), and to clue the ostensible "revealer" with simply "What 20-, 28-, and 42-Across are." This has the effect of turning the theme answers into a group revealer for OUTSIDE SHOTS, which creates a different sort of "aha" moment for the solver.

Also, if you're looking to get into crossword constructing, and especially if you identify as non-male, LGBTQ+, or as a person of color, I'd be thrilled to offer whatever assistance I can to help you get your puzzles published. Contact me via Instagram (@rosstrudeau) or Twitter (@trudeauross).

Tue 11/19/2019
AWESWEARATCDS
GELAIRTUBEAOL
AAABLEEDERRNA
IVSRLSELMDTS
NETPAYISAIAH
RIAWASONDAS
SCROOGEMCDUCK
SUNTANOIL
BRINKLLANO
FRANCANATANT
RANGETEMPO
OVASADFACEEAP
SUMOPROXYSOPH
TROTPARESONEA
YAKSSMELTPERT

This puzzle is scheduled to run on the day of my 7th surgery stemming from a rare genetic disorder called Neurofibromatosis. The main hallmarks of NF are benign tumors that grow in the nervous system. (It's also a coincidence that the word CYST, near and dear, can be found at 54-Down.) Today's procedure will hopefully be a piece of cake, but like many that suffer from NF, I've had spinal cord surgery and managed chronic pain my entire adult life. If you appreciated today's puzzle, please consider donating to my NF fundraising page. Proceeds benefit the Children's Tumor Foundation.

Also, if you're looking to get into crossword constructing, and especially if you identify as non-male and/or LGBTQ+ and/or POC, I'd be thrilled to offer whatever assistance I can to help you get your puzzles published. Contact me via Instagram (@rosstrudeau) or Twitter (@trudeauross).

Wed 11/6/2019
NTHCRUDECAVES
EAURAZEDARENT
XXXRATINGPANDA
TITANSIRONMAN
ANIZEETOTS
BUBBASPARXXX
ONLYISPOATHS
ODETRIPLEXHOT
TOSCAEONPEAY
SUPERBOWLXXX
CHUMELSRAP
HAVARTIPETROL
ABUJAXXXLSHIRT
PILOTICEITZED
STARERIDESESS

My original clue for XXXL shirt was "Really, really, really big top." R.I.P.

If you're looking to get into crossword constructing, and especially if you identify as non-male and/or LGBTQ+ and/or POC, I'd be thrilled to offer whatever assistance I can to help you get your puzzles published. Contact me via Instagram (@rosstrudeau) or Twitter (@trudeauross).

Tue 10/8/2019
UMPSEPAELVES
PARERAWOMEARA
STENCILSPEERED
ETAHEMHENRI
TEMPOAWARDALD
SAPORSIZEHBAR
IAMNETALOE
CURLINGSTONES
OHNOSOLANN
RAPTLEESSAYST
DIATENTHIHOPE
IMBADAFTYOU
PERIODCREEPOUT
GLENNSAIMAMSO
AIDEDBAACAEN

I submitted this puzzle on February 24th, 2018, the day Team USA curling won men's gold at the Winter Olympics. Do not miss this event in 2022. 10/10 highly recommend.

Also, if you're looking to get into crossword constructing, and especially if you identify as non-male and/or LGBTQ+ and/or POC, I'd be thrilled to offer whatever assistance I can to help you get your puzzles published. Contact me via Instagram (@rosstrudeau) or Twitter (@trudeauross).

Mon 9/16/2019
SPECSRELICPBS
ALCOAELENAIRON
GUINNESSOFFICIAL
EGGSLIESLGODS
IMININONE
STUDIOSINGERMAG
HUBERTNOHOCOLA
OPERABUTTMANLY
OARSERRSBERTIE
TCMSTENOGRAPHER
ERECTAIDA
ANILHEAVECITE
JUSTFORTHERECORD
ORCAMETALLINED
BAHSNUBSMOSEY

AMANDA: What an absolute thrill to be making my NYT crossword debut! I'll let the entries of PRIDE MONTH, GAYER, AIDA, and MORENO serve as a formal introduction. That pretty much tells you most of what you need to know about me. (Ok, ok: I'm a concert pianist turned therapist turned musical theater pianist/composer. As one is.)

It's been such a fun experience to discover and break into the crossworld where my puns are embraced rather than identified as the formal cause of me swiftly seeing myself out of a room. Getting to make these puzzles, especially with Ross, has been such a huge source of joy for me and I hope you find some joy yourself in the solve! If you want to say hi and nerd out, you can find me on all the usual platforms where my handle is just my name because I've used up all of my creativity in other outlets.

ROSS: Amanda writes all the best clues in this and every puzzle we make together. Bow down.

Also, if you identify as non-male and/or LGBTQ+ and/or POC and you want to get into crossword constructing, I'd be thrilled to offer whatever assistance I can to help you get your puzzles published. Contact me via Instagram (@rosstrudeau) or Twitter (@trudeauross).

Tue 7/16/2019
ABRAAABLE
LAOSAVAMAID
TTOPACELAATOI
ATFAMERICATNT
REGALEDADSALES
DANESACAMEL
JARTSALAPADME
ANDIARENATRES
NEEANTENNAEST
DYNASTYENMASSE
JESSIEEENSIE
FACEPLANT
AFRAMEBUILDINGS
BROSDANCECOOK
SOOTENTERSWAY

What do you call a constructor who drops to the floor to beg forgiveness for sub-par fill?

ANNEALER.

Also, if you're looking to get into crossword constructing, and especially if you identify as non-male and/or LGBT and/or POC, I'd be thrilled to offer whatever assistance I can to help you get your puzzles published. Contact me via Instagram (@rosstrudeau) or Twitter (@trudeauross).

Mon 6/24/2019
RASPSSCREWWIT
ELTONELUDEHMO
BEATLEMANIAAPU
EXITMIDTVSTAR
LADYDIWEANS
MARCHMADNESS
MINORLAIRTRIO
ISOUTERSSAVOR
FLITJADEILENE
FASHIONCRAZE
MEETSGETSAT
BALDIEMOOTARA
ABASPRINGFEVER
JAWSHINEDRESS
ADSOSAKAASDOI

Today I launched an indie puzzle website, rosswordpuzzles.com. Come by for fresh #rosswords every other week!

The original version of this puzzle included the revealer INSANITY DEFENSE, so BEATLEMANIA, e.g., was clued "35-Across for someone who stole an "Abbey Road" album?" In fact, I generated all the themers first, and the revealer came to me afterward on my way home from work, whereupon I reflexively yelled "Insanity defense!" in the middle of a packed subway car. And mom wonders why I'm still single.

Also, if you're looking to get into crossword constructing, and especially if you identify as non-male and/or LGBT and/or POC, I'd be thrilled to offer whatever assistance I can to help you get your puzzles published. Contact me via Instagram (@rosstrudeau) or Twitter (@trudeauross).

Tue 5/7/2019
JADECFOSCREPE
ALESRAMPLOWER
MONTANNOTATORS
BUYAPIGINAPOKE
DASGUST
EXOTICPETINCH
ITTONTOGLORY
THISISSPINALTAP
ZINCSODORONE
ACAISUNSTROKE
ELANAER
FINISHINGTOUCH
BROCASAREAMORE
TOWERNORIEMIR
UMASSDCONOOPS

If you identify as non-male and/or LGBT and/or POC, and you're looking to get into crossword constructing, I'd be thrilled to offer whatever assistance I can to help you get your puzzles published. Contact me via Instagram (@rosstrudeau) or Twitter (@trudeauross).

This is a 72-word puzzle, but if I could borrow the time stone and advise 2017 Ross, I'd have him drop a black square at the T in ANNOTATORS. The puzzle would still have room to breathe, and naive me could have avoided UOMO and CTS and IROC / DCON, etc.

Wed 4/3/2019
ERRCABOSEDAN
GOESALLINTUXEDO
GIFTGUIDEICESIN
RABIESVACCINE
IMOUTEIRE
NORTHWESTPASSAGE
TOWASAPSAMOA
ASHEURANUSGALS
CHAROONITZEE
TUTANKHAMENSTOMB
SOULEENSY
SEARCHRESULTS
PARCELREMASTERS
AVIANSTENNESSEE
TEASESMOGPOX

This puzzle is trivia-based, but its main flaw isn't trivial.

Last year I started offering crossword construction help to non-male, LGBT, and POC puzzle enthusiasts. I was prompted to do so by some of my colleagues, who pointed out that in puzzle after puzzle I was disproportionately featuring men, particularly white men, in my theme material. Today's puzzle, which I constructed before having gotten that important feedback, is a particularly egregious example.

So, if you identify as non-male and/or LGBT and/or POC, contact me via Instagram (@rosstrudeau) or Twitter (@trudeauross) so we can move the needle on representation in puzz world.

Wed 2/13/2019
SPANONITDOLLS
ALAIGESUNDHEIT
NARCROOTYTOOTY
NOOVENUSENEE
MENLOTITTLES
ITBANDSSUE
MAUSRAGEMESAS
ERRHEARTHSELI
SYRIABETABAIT
ALTATLARGE
CONTACTIRONS
BASMARSUPIUM
INANUPROARSTEP
TAKESATURNTENS
SLATSETASASTI

This is the kind of puzzle idea I generally recommend not pursuing. There are just way too many dependencies that need to fall into place for it to be worth the effort. In this case, the idea required a) finding 5 themers that hid the sun, Venus, Earth, Mars, and Saturn, b) placing them in way that the hidden celestial bodies "aligned" in middle six columns of the grid, and c) interlocking PLANETARY / ALIGNMENT through two of the themers. Needless to say, I was very surprised that this puzz came together at all.

Also, if you identify as non-male and/or LGBT and/or POC, and you're looking to get into crossword constructing, I'd be thrilled to offer whatever assistance I can to help you get your puzzles published. Contact me via Instagram (@rosstrudeau) or Twitter (@trudeauross).

POW Thu 1/17/2019
JESTEDTWENPAR
ALPACAHAEYLLEH
MELLONECNUOENO
PAILSOLOSLAEM
ANTIHEROYACSIB
COREASOSSAEDI
KRUSTYKUEHT
SSNREVIVERFED
LENINRABOSI
TIDEDMGMMARCS
UNEASEGATSSEOG
SLEDSELESASRU
COMOESTAALLETS
AVENGERSRETEET
NEDOXESSESNES

If you identify as LGBT and/or POC and/or non-male, and you're looking to get into crossword constructing, I'd be thrilled to offer whatever assistance I can to help you get your puzzles published. Contact me via Instagram: @rosstrudeau

This puzzle takes an old idea (backward answers) and solves a problem that some such puzzles face: elegantly demarcating which answers follow the gimmick. The only nit I could pick with this ingenious Kevin G. Der puzzle was that the puzzle didn't try to rationalize which rows/columns moved backward.

For me, THE LOOKING GLASS was both a neat revealer and a good solution to the above problem. Once Alice (that's you, solver--you're Alice) passes through THE LOOKING GLASS, she's in backwards territory. And any answers passing through the boundary are palindromes that get "reflected" by the mirror.

Tue 12/18/2018
CTRLACTINLATS
OREOTOADYALEE
DUSTJACKETGOIN
ETTUKEAFUNGO
USATRAILBLAZER
PERSATAARONS
SLEDROEDID
FASHIONPOLICE
TUTDAMARMS
TRAUMAYESEEO
HOLDINGTANKART
EDGEDRUBEATS
NEONFOLLOWSUIT
BURTBUSEYIRON
APESIPASSSENT

If you identify as LGBT and/or POC and/or non-male, and you're looking to get into crossword constructing, I'd be thrilled to offer whatever mentorship and wisdom I can to help you get your puzzles published. Contact me on Instagram: @rosstrudeau

Jeff is the master of giving quick lessons to aspiring constructors, so I'll use this note to try to do the same. Here's a breakdown of what I think makes this theme set "tight" and "snappy."

Revealer: FASHION POLICE

Is it a lively phrase? I think so. Thanks, mom!

Can it be reinterpreted or re-parsed to make new meaning? Yes. And I love revealers that reverse this convention, i.e., they take a non-literal colloquialism and turn it more literal.

Is this new meaning unexpected and/or humorous? I think so. I'm imagining the chief chastising her sergeants for not wearing the right clothes on their beat. (My original clue suggested FASHION POLICE were people who determine the theme answers, rather than the wearers.)

Theme Answers: DUST JACKET, TRAILBLAZER, HOLDING TANK, FOLLOW SUIT

Are they lively phrases? I think so. FOLLOW SUIT is kind of meh. But there are uncommon letters (J, Z), which is a bonus.

Are they ALL two-word phrases? Check.

Can the second word in ALL phrases denote a piece of clothing? Check.

Do ALL phrases regularly denote something that is not a piece of clothing? Check.

Do ALL of the first words describe common POLICE activities? Police FOLLOW suspects, they HOLD perps, they DUST for prints, and they look for TRAILs of clues. (You'll notice that some of these activities are nouns and some are verbs. An even tighter theme set would use only one or the other.)

Sun 12/9/2018 WHAT A ZOO!
NAPDRCLAWAVOIDAHAB
ALEWOEISITERRESOME
SANABOMINABLESNOWMAN
AMITYPANNEDTWEEZE
LOCHNESSMONSTERELMO
IRENEWETCOOLANA
FILEDAWNTHEKRAKEN
ISLESURALRATRESECT
ELISHAARETOOAASRHO
FANTASTICBEASTSODSON
ALLOTANDUTILE
SACREWHERETOFINDTHEM
UNHOZSGOTANFNEROLI
STACIEMONREELRIVAL
HIMALAYASSTUDMEND
ICERLETEMONEVER
ALLATHENORWEGIANSEA
ONEOFFTROWELSTORM
SCOTTISHHIGHLANDSVIP
LENTSTOICASTANAEKE
ORSOHUTCHTHEWARRAD

The original version of this idea used the theme pairs GREAT EAGLES / MIDDLE EARTH, BASILISK / HOGWARTS, MOCK TURTLE / WONDERLAND, DIRE WOLF / WESTEROS, and EWOKS / ENDOR. The editorial team felt cryptids would be better-known than fantasy genre BEASTS.

Duplicating fill answers is one of those puzz convention no-no's that doesn't bother me at all. ECHO became ECHT in this grid to accommodate AMAZON ECHO, but for me, two ECHO's in a 21x21 grid would be way happier than including ECHT. Particularly if it's a meta-dupe like ECHO (echo!).

Sun 10/14/2018 GAME HUNTING
BETTIESPICERUBTGIF
UNHURTMONOMANIAREBA
THERISKISTOOHIGHUNIX
TAFTSATESEABEDS
ELALETHANETOGACE
ONEBCSORRYNOTSORRY
DIGUPBEAKSSELFIE
ARMORLESABRECOROLLA
IHAVENTACLUEHASRUES
MEREMORTALSHAJISI
SAGEMAILSMAROONDAG
IFSMEDSADDLEJOINT
EDNAFARPLEASEDONTGO
TESTBANTOASTERKEYES
ALOHASCOOPTTYPES
LIFESTOOSHORTOSCAR
ERSUMSNORMALOLES
ARTISTAIANBLIGE
YURIASKINGFORTROUBLE
ATOMNEEDARIDEOSMIUM
PORETRIBUNESTENSES

My original title for this puzzle was "I'm Not Playing Around!," and the final theme answer was GUESS WHO IT IS. Much credit is due to the editorial team, who massaged the idea into its present form.

6 theme answers is low for Sunday, so I tried to keep the word count low as well. IS I, GTOS, INT, TSO'S were the compromises that yielded a glut of longer bonus material. I personally dig: GENDER FLUIDITY, TRUE COLORS, MERE MORTALS, NEED A RIDE, FATHER TIME, MARGINS OF ERROR, SPICE RUB, MONOMANIA, SADDLE JOINT, ULTRA MAN, CAJOLERY, TURTLE DOVE.

Tue 9/25/2018
USEDOMANIACTS
NUDERATONBARE
CBGBEATATSLAW
AWEMCMAHONVIA
SAIDOKWAKING
TYNANAMSSENSE
MAMMALIAN
MOVEBYNESOVER
APEAPSESAVA
NERVEOPPHOMER
UNTILERAADORE
BEEBHEPZOOM
MAXWELLANDERSON
AREROEDEERERE
ASSTARSALSDEW

Maybe this "protest puzz" is a little late to the game. I take the T to work here in Boston, and these days it seems the boorish commuter MAN SPREADS less than he KEEPS HIS BACKPACK ON in a crowded car. (Though it bears noting that there's a pretty healthy "would you like to sit down?" culture on the Red Line. Go, team!)

Also, the bizarre triple stack juxtaposition of AMY POEHLER / MAN SPREADS/ SLEEP APNEA felt like an acceptable trade-off for some 3-letter glue in the center.

Sun 8/12/2018 IF I WERE YOU ...
STARTJEMIMADUSTAHS
INFERULTRASJPMORGAN
BUTTERRIVALSALITALIA
STERNLYEARNITTIKI
REDSWORKINGTHESOUL
AMWAYSIDELAODOE
LOADONEALPHENOMS
CURSESFOULEDAGAINLIE
ORDCHASMGOBUSTBILE
ANSARIPALESTBOOKS
JUNGLEALLTHEWAY
CODASLAYUPSHYDRAS
UNIXTERESADEFOEOLE
RUMHUNDREDDOLLARBULL
EPILOGSSEZMEANIL
NONHASMEOWHIDES
TRUCKQUESTIONSPATH
RITAABASERBARSOAP
AGITATEDPASSWORDHUNT
LOVEDARTUTOPIACOSTS
AREORSOPEDANTSPEED

This idea is fairly straight-ahead, but I'm a sucker for revealers as tidy as IF I WERE YOU.

My original cluing idea for CURSES FOULED AGAIN was "Shaq's lament during the hack-a-Shaq era?"

AGLIO E OLIO is a delicious sauce and looks absolutely bonkers in a crossword grid.

Few solvers will know what a LOVE DART is, but that fact is redeemed in my eyes by the joy that reading its Wikipedia entry brings.

Mon 6/18/2018
ASAPTARTCURB
MACADAMIATANIA
PHONEJACKEMITS
SARGETEEMSCUE
URNDIALSOAP
PASTIMEPAELLA
ELITESROSY
CALLTOORDER
SWABASSOON
CANAANONWATCH
RINGPOPSERA
IKEISAACACHES
BIDONBUZZWORDS
EKINGSNAILMAIL
SITETARPANTE

The original clues for this puzzle tried to be clever, e.g.: Get London on the line? (PHONE JACK), Raise the set of a parody sitcom? (DIAL SOAP). But looking at it with fresh eyes, I think I like it even more as a straight-ahead Monday. The word count is low for an early week puzzle, but EOS is the only answer that would have given me pause as a novice.

Tue 5/15/2018
ATARIJPOPADD
TIMEDBUONOFRO
IGIVEARGOTLIE
LEGAPBIOAGAVE
TROLLEYSSTACEY
IMDBDOORDIE
ALALAITFUND
STANDUPCOMICS
WEEBJERKEEK
ORANGESTFAL
REWELDGRANDAMS
SNAREORANGSUE
HAYASPICIRATE
IDAMOUSYRUNTS
PETSYSTLEAST
Sun 4/22/2018 PLUSES AND MINUSES
PESTTAPEPAREEBPLUS
TACHEVENOCALAABASE
STARESANDSTRIPSPACER
DEPORTNAIFSAYSTUSA
NEWMOMSTASISHICCUP
CIGSFATHERINONESCAPE
ANOSTARDMXELMER
PTAMICAHREALDADS
NOTEAMOMENTTOSPARCIO
ALESEAOOZECATHER
CHURLDRTGRAZE
HYPNOSPRESUMEWEI
OPSJETEPROPELLEDPLAN
WEARXINGDELTAEMO
NUDIEAIDNASTGEM
HADLESSHORSEMANEKITE
ELDESTURBANAOAFISH
AGOASAMIPETSSALLYS
VOWELLEASTBUTNOTLAST
ERNSTORNOTRYANETTA
NESTSPIANOEXESREST

Successful addition/subtraction puzzles rely on legitimately fun themers, so it bears noting that HAD LESS HORSE MANE was David Steinberg's lol-worthy contribution to this puzz.

My original clue for STARES AND STRIPS was something like, "Studies the bed before doing a chore." I'm interested to see if solvers in the #MeToo era find the print clue fun or problematic.

Thu 3/22/2018
RIFTSHAPEMIRA
ERIEAIMEEAMES
VALLEYGIRLGMCS
SILENTHMOOLA
USEROCKINROBIN
PETRISEMISING
ACCPAMGLEE
MAJORITYOWNER
JAMAEDMYEA
ODEDALAIATBAT
FENCEMENDEREPA
FLAREAREAMAN
ROMEMOTHERDUCK
EVESADHOCASHE
YENSIDESTBEER

I was admonished not to give a real-life villain the satisfaction of being in the puzzle, unless I was prepared to remind him of how appropriately IMMOBILE he is there in his Ecuadorian RECLINER.

AMEN AMEN.

Tue 2/27/2018
TAPEDSTARASP
SPACELAKEDUEL
APRONARISTOTLE
LANGSTONHUGHES
JEDVETARSONS
OPIATEAPTRAY
SIGMUNDFREUD
HEMENIDIROTFL
SALVADORDALI
EMURAEBOOMED
MOSCOWAHIAWS
EVERLYBROTHERS
REDALERTSAXIOM
GRUBRISEMENLO
ESPSOYSMSDOS

This puzzle originally had DREAMWORKS as a revealer, which the editorial team vetoed because it made cluing tricky. I would have preferred a version that unified the "dream"-ers in a tighter way, but at least there's APPLE PIE. And a TUNA ROLL. And some TAMARIND.

Sun 10/29/2017 GOING OFF SCRIPT
PODIAGIFSVPSGUMS
CHARADEOMARALAKAZAM
HAKUNAMATATALANELINE
ASTIPSYCHMOIREGAL
NERDDEKEECARDSAGT
GRESCOREPROVEECOLE
ESESHOWMETHEMONEY
SPARORIONREDSTAR
BOOPLUMSWISEALE
DOLTARISEBANCAXON
CRUISELINELEDGERLINE
HANDALMAMEMESEPEE
ACCETNAVAPIDFED
ROYALWETOKENHALS
CHEWIEWEREHOMEFAA
BASILSEEMSAMEXCARD
GOVLTSULUGRINACTV
ONEASYUPCREPELEHI
FORDLINEWHYSOSERIOUS
OBSERVERWOESTHECURE
ROESERSIFSOSCOTS

A couple thoughts:

1. "Going off script" includes lines from four white actors.

Moreover, the SHOW ME THE MONEY line was also spoken by Cuba Gooding Jr., a black actor who goes uncredited in this puzzle (despite upstaging Tom Cruise).

2. "Going off script" also includes lines from four male actors.

The original version did include WOODLINE / I FEEL PRETTY OH SO PRETTY, which got axed because it yielded asymmetric themers. But then again, Natalie Wood, an American with Russian parents, was cast to play Maria, a Puerto Rican. Dios.

Aside from Mrs. Wood, I only found revealers that referenced white males (PENNLINE, CRYSTALLINE, SHORTLINE, etc.), let alone ones that matched with legitimately iconic movie quotes.

So, open question: If Hollywood's gender/race representation problem means that, after an honest effort, you only get white male actors for your ___LINE puzzle, do you scrap it? Is doing otherwise cynical and opportunistic? Are your sins mitigated if you subsequently construct an UZI GAL GODOT puzz? (Very interested in collaborating on that puzzle. Let's chat.)

Thu 2/9/2017
OHMQUAAFLERS
MIAULNABREXIT
ARTEASTEIGHTY
NEHRUALITERATE
ISSUERAHSOU
DIVINEDPSAT
BIKINITARETCH
OWNGOVIRALEMU
BOARLACKIDDED
ONCESLOVENE
KFCICIICARE
DEERHIDESNOBEL
ETRAINATUGANO
ATEMPONANUSTP
RUDESTSOPESE

This puzzle owes its existence to my best mate, an Englishman from Nottingham. I get a big kick out of unnecessarily translating/annotating what he says in front of other people. ("Oh, guys, 'knackered' means 'super tired.' Isn't that weird? He's from England.")

I wrote this puzzle, along with the first 20 or so that I sent out for consideration my puzzle editors, by hand. It was during the editorial process that I learned that constructors tend to use software to help with fill. The exchange went something like:

Me: They want edits. I can't look at this puzzle anymore.

Puzzle mentor: Will's right - you need to iron out the fill.

Me: *gurgle*

Puzzle mentor: What word list are you using? Are you running CrossFire?

Me: Uh... yeah. Crossed fire. *googles CrossFire*

Puzzle mentor: Ross? Ross?

Me: *gurgle*

After a semi-concussive facepalm, I chose to look back on my countless pencil-and-paper hours as a rite of passage. And I especially dig that BREXIT found a home in the fill. It is my great privilege to be able to honor my best mate — an immigrant and a good man — in these fraught days.