Tough as Nails Themeless #26

Year 1 of this blog is coming to a close soon! I’m calling myself out: the final puzzle of the year really should be a big-ass 21x themeless, shouldn’t it?

In the meantime, enjoy this standard-issue 70-word 15x, whose seeds were 21A (no, I haven’t seen the new show) and 38A (no, I have never spent the cash to have it done).

Tough as Nails Themeless #26 – Across Lite

Tough as Nails Themeless #25

I made this puzzle back in May and was experimenting with the popular format of stair-stacked 11s through the middle of the puzzle (although can I really call it stair-stacked if I turned the puzzle 90 degrees?).

Hope you enjoy it and that you had fun with my Boswords puzzle on Monday, if you are participating in the themeless tournament.

Tough as Nails Themeless #25 – Across Lite

Tough as Nails Themeless #24

I hope you’ll indulge me in that this week’s themeless has 74 words, more than pretty much any publication would allow. The seeds were 20-Across (YUM YUM YUM!) and 55-Across, which is a Stella Esoteric Vocabulary Special, #sorrynotsorry. (I’ve already forgotten what publication I saw it in. #old)

Tough as Nails Themeless #24 – Across Lite

A cryptic for you!

Once Nate became the first person to put a cryptic puzzle on my site I thought, okay, okay, it’s finally time to do one on the site also! As a few of you have requested, it’s a 13×13 puzzle, so a little smaller and easier to deal with than most published puzzles.

Cryptics won’t be a regular feature on the blog; given that I’m already putting out free themelesses and a ton of cryptic clues on the regular, I’d like to get paid for making full puzzles!

Although it may seem that a cryptic must be easy to construct given the small number of words in the grid and that only about half of the letters have to be checked, to me they’re quite a bit harder. You know the stereotypical question about “What do you do first, write the clues or come up with the answers?” that people ask about standard American crosswords, and that it indicates a complete lack of understanding of the construction process? It’s not a silly question at all about cryptics. You’ve got to be thinking at every step of the word-choice process whether that word lends itself to good wordplay in a clue. (I learned this one the hard way, when I filled my first few cryptics with words I found very interesting, as I would for a themeless, but then realized I couldn’t break them up into bits for cluing, which led to some very tortured anagrams.)

End aside; here’s the puzzle! I’m on vacation, so I won’t be checking the comments to this page much, but please do @me on Twitter if you have something to say.

Oh yeah…I realized I didn’t write any explanations for this one (the solution grid is just the solution grid). Will try to get to that when I return from my vacation, which is very much needed.

Not-Tough as Nails Cryptic #1 – Across Lite

Tough as Nails Themeless #23

Many of you know that I am deeply obsessed with RuPaul’s Drag Race, including watching most of the foreign editions. This puzzle was inspired by a wonderful offhanded comment made by one of the judges on Holland’s Drag Race on a recent episode: The queen Sederginne walked out in a getup that included a bejeweled baby carriage with a bejeweled baby boy doll, and as she strutted the stage, Sederginne mimed getting hit in the face by a stream of pee from the baby doll. To which a clever guest judge immediately responded with 20-Across. The subtitles didn’t catch it, but I did and I HOWLED.

I am HERE for that stuff. You all know I like to mix highbrow and lowbrow. It’s a reality-show pee joke. And it is also a reference to a famous piece of art. HERE FOR IT. (Just as I will never forget when Sue Perkins called out a time stamp on Great British Bake-Off by saying, “As Anne of Cleves said to Henry VIII, you’re about two-thirds of the way through!”)

The other seed was 13D; I credit a clue in Dee Williams’s recent AVCX themeless for introducing me to that word!

Tough as Nails Themeless #23 – Across Lite

Mostly themeless WIDM bonus puzzle!

Is zij de Mol?

Earlier this week on Twitter I alluded to the fact that my obsession with the Dutch reality show Wie Is De Mol is so deep that it has inspired a puzzle. Yeah, even though I know that the number of people who’d do this puzzle is probably countable on both hands. Maybe even one hand.

I mean…90% of this puzzle is solvable without watching the show. But you should watch the show. We used to have this concept in the US but it was way too cerebral for us ‘Muricans. The Dutch, on the other hand, are on their 21st season. God bless the Dutch.

Tough as Nails WIDM Bonus – Across Lite

Guest qryptic from Nate Cardin!

Meet guest qryptic constructor Nate Cardin and his absurdly cute pupper, Eero!

A few of you have asked me for an easy cryptic to help you practice the solving skills you’ve gotten through my Decrypting the Cryptic series or #crypticclueaday. And I keep saying “no time for that, sorry…”

Simultaneously, the utterly delightful Nate Cardin has become addicted to cryptic construction and is ready for his puzzles to come out in the world. Well, if that isn’t a happy confluence of interests, I don’t know what is.

So I’m thrilled to bring you one of Nate’s first completed puzzles! Here’s a little about him: Nate is a high school chemistry teacher in Los Angeles, where he lives with his husband and his puppy, Eero.  He is very much into word games, Survivor, Cinnamon Toast Crunch, and caring.  Black lives (and experiences, thoughts, contributions, and so much more) very much matter to him. [Those are Nate’s words, but let’s not forget that he’s also the founder and co-editor of Queer Qrosswords, a kickass puzzle diversity initiative that publishes LGBTQ+ constructors. I binge-solved the entirety of Queer Qrosswords 2 on a flight from NYC to Los Angeles last year, and I highly recommend it!]

And here’s a note from Nate (that’s basically a cryptic clue waiting to be written, amirite?): I’m so proud to debut my very first cryptic crossword on Stella’s site, since her #crypticclueaday tweets inspired me to delve into cryptics so earnestly. For this and other cryptics I’ve been working on over the past few months, I’m indebted to the time, advice, wisdom, and feedback of folks like Stella, Andrew Ries, Neville Fogarty, Steve Mossberg, and Joshua Kosman. I am made better by the crossword community and I hope I can give back even a fraction of what they (and you all) have given to me. I hope you enjoy the solve – let me know if you particularly enjoyed (or hated!) any of the clues. You can find me on Twitter @naytnaytnayt.

I think you’re gonna love it: Those of you who’ve already seen Nate’s clues on Twitter know that his take on cryptics is FRESH AF. ENJOY!!!!

Nate Cardin for Tough as Nails Qryptic – Across Lite