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.


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.

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.


A Cruciverbalist’s Travails

puz | pdf | solution

Words:  76

Average Length:  4.87

Difficulty:  3.5 out of 5

Typical Tuscan landscape – olive trees in the foreground, a vineyard tucked behind them, and cypress trees in the mid-background (see 65A)

Here’s a little crossword humor for y’all.  How little?  You decide – and if you find the puzzle amusing, please spread the word about both the puzzle and this web site! 

I have a few caps left, so please email me at if you’d like one sent your way (for free).

Just a couple of notes on today’s grid: 

10A:  We have a running joke/lament in our family that whenever we become enamored with a product, it gets discontinued.  Most sorely missed:  Kellogg’s Product 19, which despite the clinical name was really, really good. 

50A:  If you’re not familiar with the [ANSWER] variety puzzle, they’re tremendous fun.  Unfortunately, I can’t explain them here without giving away the answer.  All I can say is I solve the ones from Andrew Ries every week (they come out every Tuesday, followed by a tough themeless every Wednesday) and they provide a great mental workout.  His site – – is by subscription but well worth it if you’re up for a challenge.


“Every One of Them Words Rang True”

puz | pdf | solution

Word Count:  72

Average Length:  5.00

Difficulty:  4 out of 5

This has nothing to do with the puzzle, but permit me to introduce my dog, Max. The squirrel got away.

The title phrase, if you don’t recognize it, is a line in this puzzle’s revealer.  I hope you enjoy the puzzle and share it far and wide. (I had intended to include a PuzzleMe option but I couldn’t get it to work. So, a question for other constructors: do I need an upgraded WordPress account for iframes to work? I just have the basic level.)

14A:  Friends tell me my house has walls and furniture galore in this color.  Being colorblind, I take their word for it.  And my wife, to her delight, has free rein on all color decisions.

20A:  Also the title of an irrepressibly catchy tune from Reel Big Fish.

40A: The great Mario Vargas Llosa called this publication “…the most serious, authoritative, witty, diverse and stimulating cultural publication in all the five languages I speak.”


If Only Their Names Were Camellia Cabello and Quince-y Jones

puz | pdf | solution

Word Count:  78

Average Length:  4.74

Difficulty:  2.5/5

Rhododendron, Glendalough, Ireland

I’ve done puzzles about music and food, music and travel, and music and art, so the logical next step was music and horticulture, right?  In the sage words of the Knights Who Say Ni, “Bring me a shrubbery … One that looks nice … And not too expensive!” (For any culturally bereft solvers, it’s a line from Monty Python and the Holy Grail.)

This one should be on the easy side, as long as you are somewhat musically omnivorous.

46A:  I went with the baseball examples here, but other famous alums include astronaut Ellen Ochoa; actors Julie Davner, Gregory Peck, Marion Ross, Cleavon Little, Raquel Welch, and Carl Weathers; radio personality Art Linkletter; football’s Marshall Faulk and Joe Gibbs; and basketball superstar Kawhi Leonard.  Impressive!

62A:  A great band in the 60s and early 70s; other hits include Carrie Anne (written about Marianne Faithful), He Ain’t Heavy (He’s My Brother), The Air That I Breathe, On the Carousel, etc. etc.

23D:  This one might be a bit obscure, but for a while in the 70s they had some very catchy hits, complete with great hooks and soaring harmonies.



puz | pdf | solution

Word Count:  76

Average Length:  4.97

Difficulty:  2.5 out of 5

I’ve got a different kind of themed puzzle for you this week.  No tortured puns and no classic rock references – the worldwide relief is palpable – just a straightforward trivia quiz about US Presidents.  For background, read the spoiler-free discussion below the photo.  If you enjoy the puzzle, please share it far and wide.  Finally, thanks to my brother Eric for helping me out of a bit of a mess in the middle of a grid.

Presidential bio collection

Over the last several years, I’ve read biographies of every US President.  One thing I learned:  our country has been blessed with a few superstar leaders (Lincoln, FDR, Washington, Truman), cursed with a handful of awful leaders (Buchanan, Pierce, A. Johnson, Trump), and otherwise mostly muddled along with Presidents ranging from pretty bad to good-but-not-great. 

We’ve had some fascinating mixed bags:  LBJ was one of our greatest Presidents in terms of domestic policy but embroiled us in Vietnam; Teddy Roosevelt was a Progressive firebrand but an unreconstructed imperialist.  We’ve had at least two Presidents whose place near the top of most rankings is difficult to square with their actual achievements, JFK and Thomas Jefferson.  And on the other side, there are at least a couple – Truman and Carter – who I think are underappreciated.

Which brings us to this puzzle. None of the names above is a theme answer.  Of the ten Presidents included in the grid, some were very good, some were mixed bags, and some were forgettable.  All, however, fit symmetrically, which is an admirable attribute.

Specific comments:

1A:  This President was instrumental in negotiating the Louisiana Purchase while serving as Ambassador to France, entered several treaties with Great Britain following the War of 1812 that benefited both nations economically, resolved boundary disputes with Great Britain, obtained Florida from Spain, issued a Doctrine warning European nations about interfering in the Americas, and promoted infrastructure improvements.  Of course, like every US President before 1850 except the two Adamses, he was a slaveholder, and he only reluctantly signed the Missouri Compromise because he didn’t believe slavery should be restricted anywhere.

63A:  This President was a talented and internationally respected mining engineer, and during and after World War I he ran food relief efforts both domestically and in Europe that saved millions of lives.  Later, as a dynamic Secretary of Commerce under Coolidge, he sought to improve virtually every sector of the economy and was instrumental in promoting the development and regulation of radio.  Alas, upon becoming President he inherited an unsustainable economy from Coolidge and seemingly did everything in his power to make things worse, resulting in the Great Depression.

37D:  This President served as governor of the Philippines under McKinley and Teddy Roosevelt and strove to secure land for Filipino farmers, treat Filipinos equally with Americans, and give Filipinos a role in governing their own country with an eye to eliminating the perceived need for American presence.  Following his largely unremarkable Presidency, he served as a well-regarded Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, where he markedly improved administration of the federal courts.

Themed Uncategorized

American Songbook

puz | pdf | solution

Word Count:  69 (14×15 grid)

Average Length:  5.04

Difficulty:  2 out of 5

38A, flowing under the Ponte Vecchio, the oldest bridge in Florence

Here’s an easy holiday puzzle for y’all. To mark the 4th, I thought I’d focus on “American” music (gee, that’s a surprise, says anyone who’s solved one of my puzzles).  I put “American” in quotes because the music we play, listen to, and create is a hodgepodge, an olio if you will (yes, you can use the word outside of crosswords) of indigenous, European, African, Latin American, and Asian influences.  We harmonize our disparate heritages in our music. 

In brainstorming – never ideating, which is a horrible word and should be banned from crosswords despite its friendly orthography – possible theme answers, I found the three here. Not only are they symmetrical; they illustrate my “olio point” in an appropriately tinted manner. 

Finally, one specific comment on the puzzle:  Given the theme, I had to give a shout out to Ms. Russell in 50D, as the co-star (with husband Matthew Rhys) of one of the greatest shows in television history.


What Did Edvard Munch?

(Not Ice Scream)

puz | pdf | solution

Word Count:  74

Average Length:  4.95

Difficulty: 3/5

Palette or palate, what’s the diff?  Artists have painted still life arrangement for centuries.  You might ask, though, what happens when artists become one with their food?  Solve and see!  And please, share bountifully.

34 Down: My Selmer Mark VI

The seed for this puzzle was an earlier incarnation of 23A:  my wife, who is a punster extraordinaire, came to me last week and suggested using “bialy” as the second word, which I like because it is inherently funnier than the actual second word in the answer.  Alas, the exigencies of symmetry stamped their feet after I came up with the other two theme answers and bialy was toast, so to speak. 

Special thanks to my test-solver (son Adam) on this one – he always has good input, and here he suggested some edits that I think greatly improved the final product.