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Puzzles for August, 2022
with Jim Horne comments

Mon 8/1/2022
BOOEDELSARAFA
MATEYVOOMAMEX
WHOLEBEANCOFFEE
SUEVENMOHTML
WALKFAYE
CARETOELABORATE
LEADWEESUSSEX
IIILILANI
NOSTRACOPIDOL
GUERILLAWARFARE
OSLOPIES
TRUELWORDUSE
THEPRICEISRIGHT
SANEDARNURGES
KITSSTETMESSY

17-year-old Garrett Chalfin is the latest addition to our Teenage Constructors page. He slots in at #28.

POW Tue 8/2/2022
MUSKDWARFEVIL
UBERVENUEAIRY
FOROLDTIMESSAKE
ALINEPLIE
STEAMEDDUMPLING
ASSNORSETOE
STYLELIESL
REPEATAFTERME
SEDANMEATS
APEUVEASASA
CONSUMERREPORTS
AEONOGRES
JIMMYKIMMELLIVE
ARGOACIDSEVEN
BAMAYEASTDENT

This RegEx finds words with double letters after ME. This one limits results to 15 letters only. Or, better, use the "Answer length" option.

Wed 8/3/2022
ORALADZMOMS
TACOSCUEREVEL
INASCRABBLEGAME
SKITRIPRIVALED
PIMPABIT
SEEPELFEROS
WHATTILEISWORTH
OARSSLASHNORI
ONTBAAHUPMAN
STARRYTAKEIT
HYGIENEVISIONS
TWOPOINTS
STRAPODDEMBER
UHURUDIELEAKY
RANDBECOSTREE
Thu 8/4/2022
HAMPOBOYGSPOT
UFOSHOVERAIMI
BRITISPENOTTER
SORENPRDWAYNE
SASHASCOTT
LIPEUPHORIA
IDTAGHERESPING
AAHHOYESPFOE
GRASSPPERUBEND
ONTIPTOEPRO
LIESLSTORK
ACCORDROEKEYS
TORIIPOPUPSHOP
ICANTGLADEATE
TONGSALLOTBOW
Fri 8/5/2022
SMUSHSCIBOLTS
HENNATANAVAIL
ALTOSRNALETGO
WEIGHTEDBLANKET
LEETHEYSAYERS
PAYTHETAB
CRAIGFENGASPS
HARESOATELTON
ACESDORISKIWI
PENREDTAPELET
SADDENORDERS
HEAVYSECURITY
HELMIOTASATOM
BALENOTRENOGO
ODESGNATSASAP

Jim here, sitting in for Jeff Chen, who is getting his weekly balayage treatment.

This puzzle is too hard for a Friday and needs to run on a Saturday instead. It's incredible how often Shortz screws that up!

Wait a sec, let's think about this...

There are two ways a crossword becomes difficult. The first is trickery or wordplay that sends you off in the wrong direction. "Eats" in "Eats outside" is a noun. "Making a lead balloon" requires you to pronounce it as LEED balloon. "Office binder" isn't a paper holder. "Church address" isn't a sermon, it's how you might address the person behind the pulpit. Cryptic crosswords are nothing but these kinds of twists, and they're fun. The more crosswords you do, the more you teach your brain to flex, the less likely you'll be fooled by clues like "Alaska has the highest one."

The second way to increase difficulty is more controversial: obscurities. Knowing that leporids are rabbits or HARES, and that a female swan is a PEN, feel like basic facts. But maybe you don't have kids, so there's no way to know Frozen's realm, or you hate basketball, so you don't know NBA analysts, or you never do fast-paced posing or have your hair hand painted. Maybe you've never even heard of A Black Lady Sketch Show. Maybe you read Emma so long ago there's no way you can dredge up the vicar's name. (More on "dredging up" in a future post.)

These are all obscurities if you don't know them, and when two obscurities cross, it feels like a failure. Let's say it feels like the puzzle is a failure, not you, of course.

The problem is that obscurities are in the brain of the be-solver. Different life experiences vastly affect what defines common knowledge or facts worth knowing. What is obscure to you will delight others and (I like to think) encourage them to join the fold.

Erik Agard and Brooke Husic are brilliant constructors, they both want to make more diverse crosswords themselves, and they both want to push the NYT and other venues toward more diversity by crashing through the long-standing canon of acceptable knowledge. That's a challenge tougher than a weekend themeless because the status quo has so much inertia. There's even a perceived financial risk for the Times if they delight a smaller new audience but annoy their larger traditional solvers.

This tension happens with all art forms. We shouldn't be surprised that crosswords are no different.

Sat 8/6/2022
GARBJUMPFORJOY
ULEEOPERAHOUSE
SPCABIDENOMICS
TAUNTSITCHCAD
ACTIVEDUTYPERE
VASECTOMYBUBBA
HAWSREPAIR
CLUEINDOTARD
THENFLBELT
RAFTSFALLISSUE
OTTOPUTSONHOLD
OLEYALTAGENTS
PINBALLERSBORE
ENDOWMENTSORAL
DESKPERSONPASS
Sun 8/7/2022 Letterplay
MANORSJAKOBJOISTS
ANIMALSOCIALSAGLARE
CINEMAALLTHATCRIMEA
ATANANGLEUNIQUEUSER
WASGRANTSCRUZMASS
IDAIDEATESIZE
SAMADAMSFORMTINHAT
IROBOTTWOAMZEROG
ANNSTARSIDRABYLINE
MOESAPERTERNAMIDST
TRIPLEADOUBLEU
RELYONISNTWAILMAPS
EXALTSETNASLOONLEI
FIVEOFOURHTEABAG
TETRISNAPAHUSHHUSH
SPASLIMPIDIAM
ELLEHUMPTERRORCAB
VOODOODOLLOINOINONE
IBADANLAYDOWNTRIVIA
TONITETIMELAGHONEST
ASSESSNEWERSNORES

Tina Labadie is a pseudonym for David C. Duncan Dekker.

Here's a list of words with exactly five Os, none starting or ending with O, using the logic explained in this 3-Rs blog post.

Mon 8/8/2022
SAFESPRATISNT
AFROORALBNAAN
BLUSHWINESLIST
ROTASECPAL
EATITSHADOWBOX
STIRSTEREOOPT
AVESTALEAIR
LISTENSICEDTEA
AMNESIACODD
PHOPOLLENIAMB
POWDERKEGREBAR
SIRARGOAKA
POUTLINERNOTES
TWITOFUSEDEUS
ALTOTIPSYESPY
Tue 8/9/2022
SEWTINCTADS
USAENDURESDIP
MARGOLIATHZOO
OUTVOTETRABERT
AMERICANO
JOLLAISHTOILS
ONELSCSIYKNOW
RIDESHOTTORTE
GOTYAOFUSE
ENVOGUELOWSNAP
FESSANNA
JONESESYESMAAM
URALDAVIDUCLA
METATYINGEMIT
POSHOSAGELETS

New Flash: Crossword puzzles are not science, history, or theology textbooks. Prepare for outrage in the blogosphere anyway.

Crossword puzzles have their own rules. Or rather, they have no rules, only conventions, which they happily break whenever they want, all for your amusement. The grid art today looks vaguely like a slingshot. That's good enough. It doesn't matter that the slingshot David (if he existed) used against Goliath (if that event occurred) would look nothing like it.

In pre-modern times, the slingshot was a destructive and deadly weapon, similar in impact to a rifle today. A soft pouch held a rock or pebble. It was attached to a couple of long strands of leather. You'd swing it around your head a few times to build momentum and then precisely aim at your target. Unlike other weapons of the time, it was effective against armor or shields. See the photo in Jeff's note.

The David v. Goliath story is an odd one anyway. All poor Goliath had was a spear. You or I could have conquered the big guy as easily as David did with a bit of practice and the world's most deadly weapon. Hardly the "underdog prevailing" story we're used to.

POW Wed 8/10/2022
STEALSAGSCUB
MELLOWHURTORE
SALUKIERIEAGE
MINERALWATER
AMENGAPLSU
MEDIUMRARETUBS
BAGFALSEMONET
USEONOGTASEE
SLURSBRAWNATE
HYPEFEELINGILL
AHASIRADES
WELLACTUALLY
OXYREELEUDORA
RANPUNTDRAWER
DMXOPTSERECT

Delightful!

Thu 8/11/2022
BLOCASAPATARI
MATTBRIDEMELON
WITHOUTSINBAILS
SCOURGEENLISTEE
LABGUESTHOST
MATHLETEDIO
OAHUARTOOOPAL
THEBREADPANDIE
SOLISTOICBERT
EGOWETNOSES
FIREBRANDFAX
ADORABLEOATCAKE
CABINTRANSLATED
THINKEVICTROTI
SONGSREDDSPOT
Fri 8/12/2022
SPACECAMP
THEDOGATEIT
MORNINGRITUAL
FAKETANFLUBUB
AXEDBATPHONE
VININDEXYOGA
AMSCRAYSPHASER
LIVETWEET
ATEASEIWONTASK
CRAMTEENSCIN
MARSALISBETE
ECTDENPARADOX
THEDOCTORISIN
YOUNAILEDIT
SPINCLASS
Sat 8/13/2022
MEGAFANAGAINST
ILOVELAWIIMOTE
ACTEDONHMMISEE
HARSHJIMTEEN
SELAADORESSPY
PAIGEIOLANI
APGERMANSOMA
OHGEEZPECANS
TUBADECAFTEA
YUTZESTRICK
PBSSHAFTSAURA
ARABEXTTHINE
TAXICABARIDITY
THEBODYHANSOLO
YESBOSSAPTONYM
Sun 8/14/2022 In the Money
TRUDDTDIVASSLAVS
RESTORERUNPAIDPANIC
ABSOLUTECASHREGISTER
MARKOMEARASEWONEWE
EOSRATONNADADEE
PLOPOMESDOASLOWBURN
DANALINBOONTWERPS
QUITCOLDTURKEYNBA
ROILISEEWASWAR
DENTISTANNALOYALFAN
ANDCHAIROFTHEFEDTWO
STICKONSSLOETRIDENT
SPATIMNATEEIRE
RCATIMBERINDUSTRY
COLONSDEUSREASAVE
MAKINGALISTGIRLSXES
ETCNOVOATEINMIA
STUORINGDOGHANDLER
CAPITALGAINSOUTTHERE
ALICEEEYOREFRIEDEGG
LODESRENALTARKOS

How I Met My Collaborator

XWord Info started in 2007, and when the NYT hired me to write Wordplay the following year, I was contractually obligated to keep my website going.

Maintaining and evolving a complex site is a lot of work, so in 2013, I announced that I was shutting it down. Several people reached out to ask if they could take it over. I sent them the lengthy list of technologies involved in XWord Info. That was enough to scare them off.

Finally, this Jeff Chen guy sent me mail with the same offer. When I asked him if he was familiar with the listed tech, he replied, "No, but it's just another puzzle, right?"

Perfect answer.

I'd never met Jeff before. I didn't learn until later that he lived just across Seattle's I-90 bridge from me. We've been collaborators and friends ever since.

Mon 8/15/2022
MCRIBBOMBATMS
ARENAOWIEDRAT
NEWBALANCEDUNE
CAREUSERMEDIA
ASIDESDONEDEAL
VETAHSSEWACT
EDENSLILYPUSH
STRIKEONE
SELAEPEEEPICS
AGEANNPOMNAP
YOGAPOSEDOODLE
STOUTLETOSOON
IRANMINORCHORD
DIRTEDITEERIE
OPTSTEESLASER

Jim here, sitting in for Jeff Chen who is playing on his Slip 'N Slide.

If you're going to create a themed crossword, you typically have to cram four or five connected answers into Across slots and then find some way to fill around them. Mondays are particularly tough because that fill must be easy for new solvers.

But before you get to that point, you have to dream up a theme, and like trying to find an available URL for your new project, uniqueness gets harder over time. Jeff remembered an earlier puzzle this year with a similar take. Well, it was in a different venue, and the "strikes" were at the beginnings of the words not the ends, but same idea. My philosophy on such repetitions is different than some: I don't care.

Another admired theme aspect is "tightness". If your theme is names of mountains and the world has more than a couple of dozen mountains (I haven't checked) then a random set of five seems inelegant. If they're the five tallest or the five most active volcanoes, then it's a tight set. I have a bit more sympathy for this notion.

Mr. Marotte's theme set today might not feel tight, but it is. There aren't a lot of "strike a" phrases, and Simon picks up most of the good ones. But, if I need to do a web search to confirm that, does it really matter?

I didn't know what MICROSLEEP was, so I looked it up. It's "uncontrollable, brief episodes of sleep" lasting from a fraction of a second up to several seconds. This can happen while doing repetitive tasks like, say, driving. Yikes.

Tue 8/16/2022
GABINGECLASP
IROCREADAEGIS
STIRCRAZYSTUNS
TYLERTASTETEST
WAKEBYE
ARAWENDYSRAIL
MUSCLYRIPMINE
INCASDENJADED
GOOFBUSDINERO
ANTELOSINGSTN
TOOCASH
SUPERGLUEAORTA
SPAREELBOWROOM
TONICSNOBAMMO
SNEAKTAXIPER
Wed 8/17/2022
TOWSILICAGYMS
UGHADIDASREAP
FROOTLOOPSETNA
TEARETSREIGN
BOSTONREDSOX
EELPTAEOS
TREATSATTIGHT
AMERICANPHAROAH
LASTCALLRASTA
IRESEEHEW
MORTALKOMBAT
ONIONFIBALDO
TAFTDEFLEPPARD
TILEOCTETSPEI
ORESWOODSYSIC
Thu 8/18/2022
ALBSETCHERBEE
BAITCHROMECAST
CUKEHEAVENARTH
TRIESOUTTVTRAY
VANLASEPIAESL
DISCSACDC
BENSANDSAPIAN
ARESLAESTANTE
ONSETICEITBOW
COMECAROM
ROBPARSEMAXIM
AVATARPANPIZZA
JACUZZARTYSEEN
ALONEAGAINERRS
SSNSNOTTYDOSE
POW Fri 8/19/2022
FIJIBEARDFUSS
ANEWOLDERONCE
SMOOTHMOVEEXLAX
TIPJARSSWAHILI
DAISTOKES
BARMENUCOOLEST
AIDAINGENUE
TRYMEFIRSTLIP
GALILEETEVA
ATHEISTSTPETER
SWORNRASH
POTUSERTHOREAU
IWONTMINCEWORDS
RANDTABBYOVID
EYESSLAYSMETA
Sat 8/20/2022
UMSMALALAFIGS
PROMOCODESOPEC
SHRINKWRAPORNO
HYDRABEDFLEUR
ODIECAPTOSSIN
TEDMATSHOGUN
DONTLIETOME
FORCEDSMILE
IUNDERSTAND
STARRYEGGBAR
SAUTESSRIMOVE
HIREDMACSAWED
IDIDNOVISITORS
PSSTONETIMEUSE
SOTOGODYESTEA

Jim here, sitting in for Jeff Chen, who is making a deal. Or not.

Maybe you saw this right away, but I did a triple-somersault at 18-Across — Words before and after "deal."

My brain went right away to deal OR NO deal, but that's clearly wrong. That would be DEAL is a word before and after "or no." Right? Well, yes, but look at that bolded phrase again, and you'll see OR NO is before the second deal and after the first one. Nobody said the order mattered. That's just plain unfair. Except on Saturday it's not only fair, it's expected, and it's what makes Saturdays fun.

Tricky puzzles benefit from footholds, and several clues seemed obvious to me. The RED SEA has a significant part in the Bible, a FUTURIST always thinks ahead, Arthur's demise was plotted by his illegitimate son (via Arthur's half-sister Morgan), MORDRED. Your gimmes will be different. I struggled with SISTER CITY, but Jeff got it right away because, "What else could it be?" Yeah, whatever.

A great Saturday needs at least a few great clues. "Moving film" for SHRINK WRAP is in clue-of-the-year territory.

Sun 8/21/2022 Stacking Up
BLEATAFROLATINA
PIERREPREPARATIVE
HATTREETIMEWILLTELL
RESTOATHAIRBALLMEA
EASEINHUNTAODAMP
FDADEVELOPSOLOORES
USCBOHRATOMKATNINE
SPAREUSDOWELTILTAT
ARGOTSFACETATTOOS
LILOCONCRETEISLAND
SNITCONCURRENCESEES
GAYPRIDEPARADESOTO
THEMARINERSTAMPED
BIOLABSEGARMODERNA
KETOMRSDEDICATEOTC
LAITSAUDREVIVALNIA
ETSYPODRATLAGOON
INSCATEREDLYRENUNS
NIAGARARIVERMEDIANS
KILLINGTIMEADULTS
DOMEASOLIDPOPES
Mon 8/22/2022
OWLSTRIPTOSS
THAIGUIANAACTI
SUBWAYSANDWICHES
PSALMSINDOORS
SONSWEETANY
METROAREADAD
YURISOLIDGOTTA
TRIGTOETAPGARY
HOOHASCOURGLEE
TUBTUBESOCKS
ASAGUESTLEN
MANDELAEUREKA
UNDERGROUNDFILMS
STEWETRADETUMS
EASYSHOESMOE
Tue 8/23/2022
SLATGOTUPEDNA
TECHINANEARAB
AIDEVAPORTRAIL
RACHAELSINGLE
UNIONDUES
LANDINGGEARDAB
EXISTOLDLOLA
MINOANSLETINON
MOONEYEHOOHA
EMSCONTINENTAL
VOLCANOES
BOLEROGLUGGED
FLYINGTIMEALSO
FINNIOTASTEST
SONSCOORSENOS

I'm a Ramblin' Wreck from Georgia TECH, and a hell of an engineer ...

Jim here, sitting in for Jeff Chen, who is practicing his modern dance moves.

Interstate flying is back, baby! No masks required, but everyone is cranky, and your luggage will end up in Barcelona, so there are pros and cons.

Smooth sailing today, though, as airplane-related answers complete the flight plan from abbreviated state to state. I'm a sucker for novelty, and I've never seen a theme like this.

Original theme, and a new constructor. That's not a coincidence. Fresh blood bringing in new ideas is part of the plan. The Times made an interesting decision to open-source crossword creation. Every Wordplay post includes tips on "How to Make a Crossword Puzzle" and this encouraging note for the construction-curious: "The New York Times Crossword has an open submission system, and you can submit your puzzles online."

The NYT is literally diversifying its crosswords by bringing in new DNA. I have no special insight, but that has to make the editorial team's job harder. Not only will they be sifting through many more submissions, but crosswords from neophytes will likely need more polish to get up to NYT standards. They're betting they'll find puzzle gems and promising new voices somewhere in that haystack. It's a good bet.

That work is not just important, it's necessary to keep crosswords evolving in a changing world.

Wed 8/24/2022
APTSCADSPABLO
HERTENETAARON
STUDIOAPARTMENT
REEFCLIOIAGO
FIVEFLOORWALKUP
EDAMANYSUN
LILNODSGESSO
LSUASAPAHCHU
AHEADTACTOAT
VIAAREJOKE
MAJORFIXERUPPER
OMENTORNRENO
REALESTATEAGENT
INNERATALLCIV
ASSAMSELLSKTS
Thu 8/25/2022
ANTISIZERANDY
LOOMACEROLIVE
SANDLATECOMERS
OHIOWALABAMA
WEDUSBABU
MAINEBRASKANSAS
ORDPAILSUTRA
TICKROPESBEAU
ISAIDHITSRCS
VERMONTANALASKA
ENDGEEROW
TRISTATEAREA
TOMCOLLINSROMP
SWABSALTODOME
ONRYESEENSTYX
Fri 8/26/2022
ALPHADOGBRYANT
WEREDONEBOOGIE
OVERPLANSOURCE
REEDBLURBEAN
DENSYESINDEEDY
REPORT
NANOBOTSRECOIL
SMOKERTAHITI
APTESTSCHMALTZ
YOHOHO
HARDTOTELLFROM
OREOSLOERICE
MONKEETRAVOLTA
ESTEEMITSADEAL
YESYOUEVENODDS

Jim here, sitting in for Jeff Chen, who is herding his pet nanobots.

That's a weird-looking grid layout. It reminds me of diagramless puzzles like this one or this one. There's a specific reason diagramless grids look odd — they try to disguise how the answers interlock as long as possible. But what basis might a standard Friday themeless offering have for looking like this?

It's unclear until you get to the revealer (a revealer on a Friday?) at the bottom right. Until then, you can enjoy it like a standard themeless, and it has plenty to enjoy. Then the EVEN ODDS answer explains the constraint that forces the grid shape into contortions. It's more a curiosity than a theme. It certainly doesn't help you solve, but it's a satisfying way to uncover the layout mystery.

Davy Jones (not the one of locker fame) was indeed, along with Peter Tork, Micky Dolenz, and Michael Nesmith, a MONKEE. This constructed-for-TV group was one of the best-selling bands of the 1960s, even though everyone knew the actors didn't actually play on the recordings. Here's the great Cassandra Wilson showing how The Last Train to Clarksville can sound in the hands of master jazz musicians.

POW Sat 8/27/2022
DIYTHATSAFIRST
EMORELEASEDATE
SAGIMAXTHEATER
KWAMESTEELTAM
JAMESIELMS
ORALMASTERKEY
BETFACTORIES
HUGUENOTS
WATERRIDEBAG
JAZZDANCEGALA
BODYSHAZAM
RADSPOTSABODE
ONLINEPOKERODD
ONEMORETIMEKIA
MEDSTUDENTSANY

Since Andrew Linzer brought it up, here are words spelled using only the top row of letters on a TYPEWRITER, and ones using only the middle row. The less interesting bottom row is bereft of vowels.

Fun fact: Every integer can be represented using only keys above the QWERTY row. It's true!

Sun 8/28/2022 Animal Hybrids
TARTANAPESARIDPIN
ABUELOGASHSOMELOSE
BREAKTHEICEHODAALEX
SADAMANDAWETBLANKET
SLANTPAWNSMICA
PARKINGSPACETHEMEDIA
ONEASYADETAMIBOND
PITTWATERMELONPATCH
AMIEURNSARKASSAD
RUNSAMOKGLAMGAGS
TSABATHROOMSCALEGMO
INREOOPSOVERCOOK
ALEVETBDSPECALAS
GENERALHOSPITALMENU
EARNMOATIRAPREFER
SHOOTOUTGLOBETHEATRE
LIEUSIRENROOST
GOLDENGATEGOATEECEO
ICEETILECROSSBREEDS
RHEATRIMSINEEVADES
LOSODESIPADSERENA
Mon 8/29/2022
GALGLARESGASH
HBORADISHABLE
OHOECHOCHAMBER
SOFATOTWEEDS
TRAFFICARTERY
RECCORDRYE
SPLITTOOGOUT
PIECEOFMYHEART
ALTAHALINDIA
YESSODAIRE
INTHESAMEVEIN
ARTIECFOADDS
SAFETYVALVEDIY
HILLECLAIRION
EDYSTRACERETC
Tue 8/30/2022
ADIOSEATSLARD
BRAWLCNETIGOR
BUNNYOGEEBITE
ABSENTISRAELIS
DOWSEOGRESS
DREIDELALAI
RUSTRAIDMAZDA
AHSSPLURGEEEG
BROTHODIEUSER
REAMELANTRA
AGREEDSNITS
BOASTFULDONTBE
BUNSECONDAREI
EDGEELBADRIER
YAYSSASHSLOPE
Wed 8/31/2022
MENIMACSPAMS
UNONASACADET
TVDINNERANISE
EYESCAWREESE
OSUIVFLUID
AVCLUBNESS
LEADSIDITBD
FIVESECONDRULE
ALELAWMINUS
IMINRVPARK
JVSQUADASP
COATSRUNLOWS
RITESEVCREDIT
ELISEAEONDRY
WANTSMARSSEX