Friday, April 16, 2010

Hot cross words

I recently started constructing crossword puzzles (ladies).

After completing my first grid, I sent it off to a few expert friends whose puzzles are regularly published in America's leading newspapers.

I was gratified by the warm reception it got -- apparently it's pretty respectable for a rookie effort -- and yet the consensus was that, for various technical reasons, it's not newspaper-worthy.

Still, it is blogworthy, assuming I can get the approval of the editor of this blog. (Done.) So I thought I'd share it with you, my literally tens of readers. It's not an easy puzzle, but you might get a kick out of it. Feel free to email me for help (

I've made the black squares gray to save you some toner. Or if you prefer not to kill a tree, I can send you a .puz file so you can solve it on your computer with the elegant crossword software Across Lite, available free online.

Without further ado here's my first crossword entitled, appropriately enough, Primary Colors:

And speaking of crosswords, the second annual Chicago crossword tournament takes place tomorrow afternoon at Marbles the Brain Store on Grand Avenue. More information here.

Edit: Don't open (or scroll down to) the comments below if you want to solve the puzzle, as certain answers are mentioned there.


Bob Kerfuffle said...

Good puzzle, Ben. Thanks for posting it.

I won't try to go the whole Rex Parker route; I'll just be the voice of the average solver: Took me about 20 minutes (you know I'm not a speedster). Started thinking there were several proper names I didn't know, but everything was gettable from crosses. My last fill was at the intersection of 69 A and 49 D, two names I didn't know, but it seemed "P" was the only possibility; Googling after completion seems to confirm that.

Some very clever clues, I thought, starting with 1 A.

sandra said...

Where can we find the solution to your puzzle? Thanks.

Ben said...

Email me at and I'll send you a copy.

@Bob, thanks for the feedback.

mac said...

Thanks for the extra puzzle, Ben!

It took me a little longer than Bob Kerfuffle, but I'm not up on the cartoon characters. Oddly enough I remembered Schaap, maybe because it's the Dutch word for sheep.

Liked seeing Newhart and thought a lot of the clueing was very good.

Marion Strauss

Keep them coming!

Unknown said...

Tough crossword - 20 mins, and I'm still not sure I have everything right. I got off to a very bad start; I just *knew* that Cole Porter had been born in Lima, Indiana.

36A, 55A, and even 20A stumped me due to my utter ignorance of American cartoons.

Still, nice going. Too many crossowrds I do are written by the old folks (50+), and I learned something here. I wouldn't quit my day job as a lawyer to become a crossword compiler (nothing personal; nobody should) but I hope you get a break with the NYT or other outlets soon.

Stan said...

Enjoyed this, and didn't find it all that easy. Nice, light touch on the clues. If anything, I'd say you could go farther next time in the direction of arcane or off-beat words in the grid. But this one's fine as it is.

BTW, I have no idea what the title "Primary Colors" means.

Ben said...

@Stan, I named it Primary Colors for the cartoon characters (Abe Simpson's skin tone, Reed "Mr. Fantastic" Richards' costume, etc.) and because I liked the word "primary" in the title of my first puzzle.

Elaine said...

Just did your puzzle...well, MOST of it. Personal Natick at Alaska's first gov and Topps rival. Now, FLENSE was my first word into the grid, and I'm betting more people felt that word is more obscure.

I googled the gov, so now ALL I have left is the Rubik guy and the culprit who makes girls cry. Uh oh. ERNO gave me ONIONS (oh, you are so, so tough that onions can't get to you?)... Had to rework a bit... and Ta Da.

Well, Fail for me, since I googled. I would say you are gonna be One Tough Constructor. Just don't go the way of Tim Croce, eh?

Ben said...

@Jamie, I'm not looking for a career change, just an expansion of my ongoing crossword hobby.

Thanks for the good wishes as to getting published. On the advice of a NYT constructor friend I just submitted my third puzzle to the LA Times and now it's up to fate. By "fate" I mean LA Times crossword editor Rich Norris.

Ben said...


At least your two Natick words do not cross. I'd rather have two tough words gettable from crosses than a Natick crossing. Of course, these words both cross FLENSE, not the most common word, but EGAN becomes pretty obvious when you have _GAN. Maybe not _LEER.

I'm not above crying over the occasional onion, though my cheeks did stay dry as I diced one last week.

More broadly, the price of enjoying wordplay and trivia clues, my favorite type, is occasionally giving a little slack. (In this case, you don't necessarily have to give any; I didn't say that only girls cry from onions.)

To me, "They sometimes make girls cry" is a far more entertaining clue for ONIONS than, e.g., "Pungent bulbs."

As for Tim Croce, I ground through his puzzle in 22 relatively un-fun minutes. I found it mildly irritating but it had its strong points and I didn't have a visceral negative reaction like Rex did. Still, I found myself generally agreeing with his writeup as I read it.

He was in rare form and it was a great read. Predictably, a lot of people jumped on the bandwagon and it turned into a free-for-all. Rex even lowered himself to take a shot at a commenter I'd never even noticed before. It was that kind of day.

Elaine said...

Well, since I did not get 'LOGO-ED' until I googled EGAN (E_AN suggested EVAN to more more than anything,) and FLEER looked totally wrong, and I was ready to take FLENSE out of the puzzle (plus, I can't read it, but I had something else for 47 Down)....I'd call that a Natickosity.
Up top, I had HARD, with HEMP from the H and ARKS (of the covenant) from the A... it took ERNO to untangle me there.

I thought your ONIONS clue was great, just felt like yanking your chain, you know. Gittin' even!

I did read the Rex comments later yesterday and kind of winced, as things seemed to get a little over the top. It's not life-threatening, after all, to get crushed by a puzzle. Edith B was able to solve it; as always, my hat is off to her and to you, that you could get that one. I just was not on Croce's wavelength, missing even things i think I should have tumbled to (e.g., my red-head skin means I burn, freckle, and peel, never tan. FAIRER should have been a gimme.)

I enjoyed your puzzle, even though I knew NONE of the cartoons. I'm back there trying to think of Mr. Magoo and Mighty Mouse, you know, and you've got Mister Fantastic and Space Ghost? Okay, name five perils endured by Little Nell in _The Old Curiosity Shop_! Also, my mother's maiden name, my eye color, and the first elementary school I attended! Ha! [Yes, I cribbed that idea from Two Ponies ;0) ]

Ben said...

Oops, I forgot LOGOED was in that corner. That might be the iffiest word in the fill and I'm surprised that with all the feedback I've gotten in the last month, you're the first person to mention it. I like the clue and answer combo but can't strongly defend it as being in existence much less "in the language." LOGOED might be inferrable from 3-4 letters but would be better off surrounded by fewer obscurities.

I didn't intend for Tough to be read as an adjective but of course everyone does. It was unintentionally Tough.

You got me on Little Nell. I know Dickens wrote The Old C. S. but that's as much as I got.

Elaine said...

Poor Little Nell; in two volumes, Dickens has every possible societal ill befall her(and in that age, there were many awaiting vulnerable children) and then, when he's exhausted the printable possibilities, he kills her off.

I didn't mind getting bested by your puzzle; it was interesting to solve, and I like clues such as [Tough] that have several possible answers; these add to the fun of solving.

Have a good week!

Ben said...

For much of his career, Dickens was paid by the word. This may explain both Little Nell's travails and the fact that, in A Tale of Two Cities, Dickens exhaustively foreshadowed the French Revolution for hundreds of pages (and gallons of red wine metaphors) before finally getting to the guillotines.

He was drawing an annuity from the periodical(s) that serialized his work, and since he apparently put his purse ahead of his pride, he had little incentive to stop repeating himself and get to the point.

And now you know, as a fellow Chicagoan of mine would say, the rest of the story.

Elaine said...

Paul Harvey??!! (shriek!)

I knew Dickens' works were often published serially, but hadn't thought about the possibility of padding as an income-enhancer. Interesting.

Since illustrations were so few, most writers went on at length with descriptions. (That's why Hemingway's spare prose was such a departure and got so much attention. He dared to think that readers could live without all of the decorative frills...)