Goofy Themeless

Goofy Themeless 2

Words:  68

Average Length:  5.74

Difficulty: You bet!

Delivery van for a beer brewed by the monks of the Monastery of St. Norbert in Prague. This has nothing to do with the puzzle, other than being goofy in its own right. I was, alas, unable to sample their handiwork.

Back by popular, um, indifference?  dismay? … a themeless where, to paraphrase Whose Line Is It Anyway, almost everything is made up and your time doesn’t matter.  The rules are simple:

–           All 3- and 4- letter words are defined straightforwardly

–           Longer words may be:

(1) Normal words clued with little or no regard to their usual meaning.  For example, in my first Goofy Themeless (posted 6/21/21), the answer to the clue “’It’s a boy; I can ___,’ said the geneticist with the supersensitive nose,” was SMELLY; or

(2) Made-up words or phrases.  For example, in my first Goofy Themeless, the answer to the clue “self-referential, laxative cereal” was METAMUESLI.

puz | pdf | solution

If you like this puzzle and didn’t solve the first one, now you’ve got a head start!

Please enjoy and share.  Next up (10/24) will be a “normal” themeless.


Recording Artists

Words:  76

Average Length:  4.92

Difficulty:  2.5 out of 5 (easy fill and challenging theme answers)

Impressionist (see 20A) photo through the window of a Strasbourg bistro

This puzzle dares to answer the question, “What happens when great painters hear great songs?”  Please enjoy and share.  Next up (10/17) will be a Goofy Themeless.

puz | pdf | solution


Themeless 19

Word Count:  70

Average Length:  5.40

Difficulty:  4 out of 5

After a sojourn in Scandinavia last week, today’s straightforward themeless makes a few stops in Asia.  I’ll use it as an excuse to showcase a couple of photos taken in the Indian state of Kerala, where 21 Across is an official language. 

Impressionist take on a woman washing clothes, Alapphuza
Street scene, Cochin

puz | pdf | solution

Just one other comment:  Our first dog was a [24 Down]-an Terrier named Harry, who was adorable, athletic, stubborn, soulful, and frustratingly aloof.  RIP Harry.  Here’s a picture. 


Til next week, enjoy, share, and be well.  Coming up next will be a themed puzzle where artists of the canvas and the recording studio collide.


IKEAn’t Believe It!

Sibelius Monument, Helsinki (See 20A)

Words:  77 (16×15 grid)

Average Length:  5.14

Difficulty:  3 out of 5

Here’s a puzzle with some punny Scandinavian humor for y’all.  Want some more?  Why do Norwegians put bar codes on their military ships?  So they can Scan-de-navy-in! 

Please solve, enjoy, and share.  Next up will be a challenging themeless.  Stay tuned!

puz | pdf | solution

20A:  The country in this answer is sort of Scandinavian, at least according to Wikipedia.

66A:  Ok, the language isn’t Scandinavian, but the composer is, and I wanted 5 theme answers, so there.

13D:  Sorry for the obscure answer.  As an avid reader of Scottish crime fiction (especially Ian Rankin) and an equally avid consumer of Scotch whisky (especially Balvenie), the quote has been rattling around in my brain for a while.

53D:  This is the end of Donne’s famous “No man is an island” poem.


Themeless 18

Ready for a decently difficult themeless?  Head to the Tabard inn (see 19A), hoist a pint, solve, enjoy, share. 

Entrance to a certain Cathedral of relevance to 19 Across

Words:  68

Average Length:  5.71

Difficulty:  5 out of 5

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19A:  When I decided to clue it this way, I was surprised to find out the percentage is so low.

59A:  Pliny’s remedy may still be preferable to those used by two people I knew in college.  One guy would get up early, go out and run 11 miles as hard as he could, throw up, and then (so he said), feel fine.  The other guy believed in applying ice directly to a very sensitive body part, throwing up and then (so he said) he’d feel fine.

63A:  Here’s a link to the clip:

34D:  Such a funny scene; here’s the link:


Alas, Modest Mouse Didn’t Make the Cut

“Some wooden dwellings” (66A) – Rurbos (summer homes), Nusfjord, Norway

G’day!  I’ve been wanting to put 1/7 Across – a fantastic, not nearly well-known enough Australian band — in a grid for a long time and came up with a theme where they’re a natural.  Enjoy the solve, share the grid.  Next up will be a tough themeless.

Words:  75

Average Length:  4.77

Difficulty:  3 out of 5

puz | pdf | solution

(The title reflects the fact that Modest Mouse was a fourth theme answer in an earlier draft of the puzzle.  I didn’t like a lot of my fill so I started over and found the puzzle worked better with only three theme answers (plus the revealer).  My apologies to this very fine band.)

1/7A:  Australia and Canada must lead the world in per-capita production of terrific music.  Whenever I listen to this band I’m smiling and ready to dance. They are amazing musicians, adept in any genre, who write irrepressible songs about loving life and not taking yourself too seriously. Here is a link to their YouTube page.  One day when the world is “normal” again, I will visit Australia and time my stay to catch one of their shows. 

22/24/25A:  Despite having surprisingly few #1s, this band has as strong and deep a catalog as any of their contemporaries. 

56D: I like The Royal Scam even better.


Themeless 17 (a/k/a Texas Two-Stepped In It Big Time)

Words:  68

Average Length:  5.71

Difficulty:  3.5 out of 5

See 10 Down

Kudos and, more importantly, thank-you’s to so many in the independent crossword constructor community for raising money to combat the Texas Legislature’s viciously regressive actions.  In particular, check out “These Puzzles Fund Abortion” on Rachel Fabi’s and C. Rimkus’s Just Gridding blog,

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It’s ironic that Republicans routinely accuse Democrats of promoting a Nanny State that destroys individual freedom.  After all, it’s Republicans who just deprived women of the fundamental freedom to control their own bodies. It’s Republicans who, across the South, have effectively deprived millions of non-Whites of their fundamental freedom to vote.   It’s Republicans who want to deprive our children of the freedom to learn about our great nation’s tragic history and instead feed them pablum that ignores the ongoing legacy of slavery.  And it’s Republicans who, despite their rhetoric about protecting unborn children, deprive all of our children and grandchildren of the freedom to live in a world whose climate is not in a death spiral. 

I don’t like abortion.  No one does.  No one wants to need an abortion.  But instead of looking for ways to minimize the need for abortions, Republicans in the Texas Legislature and Texas Governor Abbott essentially have outlawed abortion, knowingly – perhaps actionably? — endangering the lives of countless women.

What should be done?  As a man, I’m not going to say I know what’s best for women’s health.  I do think, though, that if politicians joined the 21st century and required (1) universal, mandatory sex education and (2) universal, free, no-questions-asked access to birth control, the number of abortions would plummet.  Yes, some (certainly not most) religious people’s noses might be put out of joint.  But we’d all be better off.

I almost forgot:  please enjoy the puzzle and please share it if you do.  And please feel free to disagree with me, as long as you do so in a reasoned, respectful manner. 

Holiday Themed

Limning Labor Day

Word Count:  76

Average Length:  5.03

Difficulty:  2/5

Here’s a gentle puzzle celebrating labor organizers and the power of unions, as told in songs, a movie, a book, and a Broadway show.  (Fear not, next up will be a challenging themeless, followed by a music-related puzzle featuring a great Australian band that too few people in the US know.) Enjoy and share!

puz | pdf | solution

The 47D, as seen from the ruins of the home of Cleopatra and Deskoridis on the island of Delos

15A:  I had to give Bruce first mention in the theme fill. He’s written several other songs that more directly address workers and unions, but those either are not as well known as the answer or not grid-construction friendly.

39A This is the latest of so many wonderful books from Jess Walter.

51A:  The most famous version of this song was recorded by Paul Robeson.  Here’s a link to a version sung by Springsteen in concert:

6D:  Backman is another of my favorite authors.  He’s gentle, humane, humorous, and quietly inspirational.

Entire SE corner:  Oy.   I’d had a hard time filling the SE but finally achieved something I was reasonably happy with, only to realize – after sending it to my son to test-solve – that I’d placed the theme answer (currently 68A) asymmetrically (at 64A).  Fortunately, when I ripped out the whole corner and started over, it proved easier to fill as properly configured, although 56D and 61A aren’t ideal.  I re-clued the corner and was about to send it back to my son when something told me to make sure my clue for 56D was correct.  It wasn’t.  I’d clued it by reference to the homonymous coffee company (I really like their Major Dickason’s Blend).  The coffee company, however, is spelled differently.  Hence the plural name, which I try to avoid


The Case of the Missing Canines

puz | pdf | solution

Word Count:  74

Average Length:  5.00

Difficulty:  2.5/5

This is a freshly updated version of a puzzle I constructed almost 10 years ago. It’s pinch-hitting for the puzzle I had planned to post today, which I decided was not ready for prime time.  Enjoy, share, etc.; you know the drill.

14 Across

41A:  This factoid never ceases to amaze me.  Democritus lived 2500 years ago!

43D:  I realize this is a little obscure, but he’s a wonderful, widely respected player who transcends several genres of jazz.

54A/55D:  In the original version of this puzzle, the intersection of these clues was a “T” and the down clue was “Mitt’s son”.  Way back in 2012, Romney’s son’s name was widely known; after all, his father was running for President.  Today I’m sure no one remembers him (the son, not the father).  Felicitously, the company referenced in the revised entry/clue is now a big deal; in 2012 it was just 3 years old and much smaller.


Themeless 16

The Gateway to India Arch (see 18 Down)

puz | pdf | solution

Words:  72

Average Length:  5.25

Difficulty:  4 out of 5

The main seed for this puzzle was 58A, which occurred to me while I was out for a stifling morning walk.  I think there were several subconscious seeds as well:  I’ve been daydreaming about once again traveling – we just had to cancel a trip to Portugal in October – and it turns out a handful of entries are places I’ve been and loved.  Not surprisingly, the solving notes below (with bonus photos) are something of a travelogue.   I hope you enjoy the puzzle.  Please share it if you do.

The Little Cathedral, Glendalough, Ireland

21A:  Here’s another hint – the Book of Kells is in Dublin.  As far as I know I don’t have a drop of Irish blood in me, but I’ve never felt so at home while away from home.  What a wonderful island, and what wonderful people!

18D:  As Nigel Tufnel might have said about the sights and sounds of this city, “they go to 11.”  (This Is Spinal Tap).   It’s as vibrant and fascinating a place as I’ve ever been.

The Cliffs of Moher, which should look familiar to Harry Potter fans

25D:  The Cliffs of Moher were the exterior for the cave scene in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince