Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Midi Puzzle

 

If you've never heard of the Nevis Swing (as featured in 11-Across and in the above GIF), give it a Google. Ideally with video, to really capture the nightmare that it is. I can barely complete this post because that image alone is making me woozy. (I very much do not care for heights). Similarly to how I feel about skydiving, I am 100% certain that I would die of a heart attack if I tried this. But god bless anyone who is capable of indulging in such adventures. I am the exact opposite of an adrenaline freak, which I guess would make me a...GABA freak? (the neurotransmitter that reduces neuronal excitability). Anyhow...this puzzle started off with 12-Across. A different and equally valid phrase starting with the same word showed up as a fill option when I was working on a puzzle for a mainstream outlet, and I found myself discouraged by the fact that I felt I couldn't include this phrase in the puzzle. While I didn't include that exact phrase here because I couldn't figure out exactly how I'd want to clue it (perhaps some other time), I was happy to include something related since it is, after all, a perfectly normal and real element of life. Happy solving! 🧩

Amanda

.puz file

Sunday, September 20, 2020

Puzzle #19: "Try This Coat!" by Thomas J. Heins, Will Eisenberg, and Olivia Mitra Framke

 

I'm super excited to be posting Brain Candy's first ever three-way collaboration -- a puzzle by Thomas J. Heins, Will Eisenberg, and Olivia Mitra Framke! When they pitched the idea to me, it brought a big smile to my face and I think all of you fellow crossword lovers will find yourselves equally amused! Big thanks to these three lovely people for giving me the pleasure of running this puzzle. Now I'll turn things over to your constructors:

Will: This theme emerged out of a discussion (okay, out of me strong-arming Thomas and Liv into making a puzzle with me) on the Crossword Discord server, aka Crosscord, which can be joined here: http://discord.gg/zHnQtGG. I can be found on Twitter at @TLMBERWOLVES, and on Discord as Lebronswanson.
 
T.J.: Thanks to Will and Liv for having me on; I'm thankful to have had the opportunity for my first collab.
 
Olivia: The second I saw the idea for this theme being discussed in Crosscord I absolutely loved it. I hope you will too!  
 
 

Saturday, September 19, 2020

Variety Crossword: Get The Picture?

 


Today's puzzle was born out of a crazy idea I had when I learned that the Amuse Labs platform allowed you to include photos with your clues. Because I'm a little bit of a nut, I asked myself whether or not I thought it was possible to clue an entire puzzle using only photos and no words. Because I imagine the novelty would wear off pretty quickly (plus there's no room for fun word play), I decided to give it a go in the format of a mini puzzle. So...here we are! Some of the photos are very direct and are pictures of what the word is, other photos have something in them that's described by the word in the grid. So keep your eyes peeled and, hopefully, have fun! Back tomorrow with an awesome 3-way-collab guest grid that should give a good laugh to all you folks in the puzzle community.

Amanda

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Theatre Thursday #19


Today's puzzle focuses on a show that I'm currently having some deep-seated FOMO around -- The Band's Visit. I had been dying to see this show since it opened on Broadway, and it was supposed to finally be in LA in May. I think at this point we all know what the outcome of that was. The Band's Visit is a very unusual musical by many standards: where many of the shows that come through Broadway are large and extravagant, The Band's Visit is quiet and subdued; the style of music is wildly unique and unlike most anything else you'll hear from a Broadway cast album; and the level of intimacy is extraordinarily high. Despite it's departure from the norm, The Band's Visit is one of only four musicals in history to win the unofficial "Big Six" Tony awards (Best Musical, Best Book, Best Score, Best Actor in a Musical, Best Actress in a Musical, and Best Direction of a Musical). It also won the 2019 Grammy award for Best Musical Theater Album.

The story itself takes place in an Israeli town where every day feels the same. Local cafe owner Dina has long given up her dreams of finding romance and spends her days daydreaming. But when a band of Egyptian musicians show up lost, she and her fellow locals must take them in. This results in a magical night in which all are able to overcome their cultural differences and find companionship through an undercurrent of shared melancholy, leading to a permanent change in the town and its people. Watch the cast of The Band's Visit perform a Tiny Desk Concert here. The music is truly beautiful, with a beloved classic being Omar Sharif. Give the album (or these videos) a listen if you're not already familiar. I think you'll find yourself enchanted 🎭🧩

PS: There is a picture in one of the clues, so take a peek here in-browser first if you're planning to solve the .puz file.

.puz file

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Midi Puzzle


Happy to be back here after a couple days off! Though I didn't have any puzzles here over the last couple of days, I did have the USA Today puzzle on Monday and the NYT puzzle yesterday, so you weren't quite rid of me despite your best efforts ;) Today's puzzle is mostly solvable in the .puz file, but I tried something new here that's a really cool feature of the PuzzleMe platform: attaching images to certain clues. There are 3 in this puzzle, and these images will not be accessible in the .puz file so if you can, I'd suggest solving here in the browser today. Hope you enjoy! 🧩

Amanda

.puz file

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Puzzle #18: "Toys Are Us"


Ahh toys. For those of you with kids, these are certainly not a thing of the past. But for folks like me, there's a sense of nostalgia to places like Toys "R" Us and FAO Schwartz. An upsetting and irrelevant fact about me is that I still have the FAO Schwartz Friendship Tree's little poem memorized from when I was a child. You know...the one that he says with his rubbery little mouth when you push the button on his side. Woof. ANYWAY, this puzzle is actually quite old -- one of the first I ever made on my own! The theme is silly, but the revealer is deeply on brand for this site. I ended up re-doing quite a bit of the fill around the edges and wrote a bunch of new clues as well, which I had a lot of fun with. Hope you enjoy! πŸ˜„πŸ§©

Amanda

.puz file

Saturday, September 12, 2020

Guest Midi by Paolo Pasco


I couldn't be happier to be hosting a midi puzzle today from the incomparable Paolo Pasco, whose constructing and solving chops are both to be envied. He's also just a genuinely nice human, which is always a supremely exceptional bonus to talent. I won't ruin the puzzle by saying more here, but I will say that if you aren't familiar with 26-Across, definitely click this link after solving! Enjoy!

Here's Paolo: As a longtime Brain Candy fan, I’m very grateful to Amanda for the opportunity to have a puzzle on the site! I think this is the first anniversary puzzle I’ve made—they’re not normally my bag, but the event in this puzzle is too close to my heart to not commemorate. Many of the clues were attempts to hit the high high cluing bar Amanda’s set in terms of fun/quality (and, for 6A and 10A, hit the Broadway tone I love on this site). Hope you enjoy!

.puz file

Thursday, September 10, 2020

Theatre Thursday #18


Hello everyone -- please step aside, for your queen has arrived! (See above). The show that is the subject of today's puzzle is in the puzzle itself, so I won't be referring to it by name below.

As mentioned in the puzzle, this show was the final collaboration between Rodgers & Hammerstein (Hammerstein sadly died of stomach cancer nine months after its Broadway opening). While the stage version of this show was certainly successful in its own right, the award-winning film version truly put this show on the map as the beloved classic it is. In fact, I will go on record as saying that this might be the one and only show I can think of that I think actually worked better as a film (full disclosure: I am completely blinded by my love for Julie Andrews and everything she does). There were two songs written specifically for the film ("I Have Confidence" and "Something Good"), and since Oscar Hammerstein had died a number of years before the film went into production, Richard Rodgers was tasked with writing these two songs in full -- both music and lyrics. The film soundtrack is one of the most successful soundtrack albums in history (again...Julie Andrews), and the original Broadway cast album (starring Mary Martin) spent 16 weeks as the Billboard #1 album. The Carrie Underwood television version never happened, and you cannot convince me otherwise. I'd better stop talking or I will find ways to keep circling back to how much I love Julie Andrews. I hope you enjoy the puzzle! 🧩

PS: I really missed the annual sing-a-long at the Hollywood Bowl this year. Picture 18,500 fellow fans singing along to this film under the stars (often in costume)...😍

Amanda

.puz file

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Midi Puzzle


Back today with a midi puzzle, and I had a lot of fun making this one. I don't always experiment with grid design as much as I could, so I really enjoyed creating this funky-looking one and trying to squeeze as much good stuff into it as possible. The clue for 20-Across is one I've been waiting to use for quite a while now :) I hope you had a nice relaxing long weekend! 🧩

Amanda

.puz file

Sunday, September 6, 2020

Puzzle #17: "That's A Stretch" by Ricky Cruz


Happy Sunday, everyone! I'm very excited to get to run this guest puzzle by Ricky Cruz today -- the concept is really fun and the revealer is certainly right at home here on this site! He's got his own puzzle site Cruzzles as well, so head on over there and check out some of his other stuff after you're done solving here! And if your Sunday is anywhere near as relaxing as my Saturday was, then I couldn't be happier for you. Enjoy!! πŸ˜„πŸ§©

Here's Ricky: Very happy to be running a guest puzzle here! I always like to tailor guest puzzles for the blogs they’ll be on, so hopefully it fits right in. Thanks Amanda! Also, I’d like to plug the Crossword Discord Server here; if you’re into solving or constructing, come and join us to talk puzzles! discord.gg/zHnQtGG

.puz file 

Saturday, September 5, 2020

Saturday Midi


Happy to be back with another midi, with some clues that I hope you'll find entertaining! The clue for 37-Across comes courtesy of a realization I had about a year ago while watching Scooby Doo with my 3-year-old niece...there's always one random person in addition to the gang in each episode, and that's always the culprit! So glad to have made heads and tails of that enigma in my 30's. Tomorrow will bring another guest puzzle that I'm very excited to feature. Have a great Saturday! 🧩

Amanda

.puz file

Thursday, September 3, 2020

Theatre Thursday #17


It's that time again, and this week's show choice is Kitt & Yorkey's 2014 musical "If/Then", starring my second favorite human after Julie Andrews. If you didn't get a chance to see it, there's a pretty good recording of it on Youtube starring the one-and-only Jackie Burns. The show opens in a park, where the protagonist is faced with a choice: go hang out with her friend Kate (who wants her to open herself up to new experiences and new people) or go with her friend Lucas (who thinks she should focus on her career). The remainder of the show then depicts the two paths that the protagonist's life could take if she made either decision. The ultimate message: while the choices we make do affect our future, if something is truly meant to be then it will come to pass. The show was met with mixed reviews -- many people found it confusing and hard to follow (this writer disagrees) -- but the score is truly incredible and was actually the highest-charting Broadway cast recording since "The Book of Mormon". I recommend giving it a listen! It's good, and also...you know...10-Across. Enjoy! 🎭🧩

Amanda

.puz file

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Midi Puzzle


Back again with a midi puzzle, and today's marquee entries are both drink mascots. Why? I honestly couldn't tell you. I saw 9-Across on Twitter (I have no idea how/why) and then just ran with it. Decided to have a little fun with the black squares today too. Hope you enjoy! 😊🧩

Amanda

.puz file

Sunday, August 30, 2020

Puzzle #16: "Dangerous Ground" by Amanda Rafkin and Ross Trudeau


I'm still out of town, so I'm going to keep this short and sweet! Today's puzzle is by me and Ross Trudeau and we made it quite a while back -- probably almost a year ago now! (The fact that we're right around the corner from September is just next-level mind boggling). Hope everyone's having a great Sunday! 🧩

Amanda

.puz file

Saturday, August 29, 2020

Midi Puzzle: The Piano Men


This weekend I'm out of town (well, like two hours outside of LA) playing in what will probably be the only music gig I'll have for quite some time, given the way things are going. It's a drive-in concert (which is completely new to me) that features the music of 11- and 22-Across. We did this same concert last year, though indoors in a theater, and I'm grateful to get a chance to reprise it outside it this summer. I really miss the performing arts both as a spectator and performer and I hope that we can continue to come up with creative solutions like drive-in concerts until it's safe to go back to doing things as usual. I have a puzzle set to post tomorrow as well, so I hope you enjoy both! 🧩

Amanda

.puz file

Thursday, August 27, 2020

Theatre Thursday #16


It's Theatre Thursday once again, and today we're talking about none other than the 1949 Tony winner for Best Musical: "Kiss Me, Kate". This show was the composer's response to Rodgers & Hammerstein's "Oklahoma!", which had taken the musical theater world by storm by introducing a new type of musical in which the songs were fully integrated with the book and played an active role in character and story development. (The composer's name is in the grid, so I will not be saying it up here). Incidentally, it was also the only show of this composer's that ran for over 1,000 performances on Broadway. The story of "Kiss Me, Kate" comes courtesy not only of Shakespeare, but of some real-life stage drama as well. Husband-and-wife actors Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne (after whom the Lunt-Fontanne Broadway theater is named) had co-starred in a 1935 production of "The Taming of the Shrew" and shared both some on-stage and off-stage drama. This drama was witnessed by future Broadway producer Arnold Saint-Subber and in 1947 he approached Bella and Samuel Spewack (who were undergoing some marital drama of their own) to write the script. Bella, in turn, enlisted the composer, and the rest is history! I hope you enjoy the solve! 🎭🧩

.puz file

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Variety Puzzle: Left and Right

Today's puzzle is another type of variety puzzle that I really enjoy making called Left and Right. I have a handful of different types of variety puzzles that I like to make, and I'm hoping to post them once a week in a rotation, such that each type will show up approximately once a month. Back tomorrow with a crossword: none other than Theatre Thursday 😊🧩

PDF file

Amanda

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Midi Puzzle


Back in action on this fine Tuesday with a midi puzzle whose two marquee entries are both really stinkin' cute. I used this picture of The Beatles (as referenced in the clue for 3-Down) so as not to give anything else away. I hope everyone had a lovely weekend! 🧩

Amanda

.puz file

Sunday, August 23, 2020

Puzzle #15: Guest Puzzle by Rachel Fabi



I couldn't be more thrilled to be featuring Rachel Fabi on Brain Candy today! Just a couple of weeks ago she dazzled us with her grid at Lollapuzzoola (and her midi on the sidsgrids.com takeover!), so I'm totally honored to get to feature her here today. I'm also just a big fan of her work overall! This is a really fun puzzle and, in my eyes, also a really big mood. Enjoy! :)

Today is also a very special day for me because this post is my 100th post here on Brain Candy! There have been 113 puzzles in just over 100 days and I truly cannot believe it. It feels like both yesterday and also a very long time ago that I took this on, and now this site -- like everything else -- has become suspended in the time warp that is 2020. Moving forward from here, I will likely pull back a hair from my daily posts in order to open up my time to work on a puzzle project I'm very excited about (and hope you will be too). You can expect a full-sized grid on Sunday, Theatre Thursday (of course), and a few midis throughout the week. Probably weekly variety puzzles as well. I'd love to hear any feedback anyone has regarding things you've enjoyed and/or anything you'd like to see more of or less of here. Looking forward to the next 100 days 😊🧩

Here's Rachel: I pitched this theme to a few more mainstream outlets and received a resounding "no you cannot run a [four-letter word]-themed puzzle in our esteemed publication," so I knew it was going to be indie or bust! This is my first indie-blog puzzle, and I'm super grateful to Amanda for being so excited about my pitch for the opportunity to publish a puzzle on her site. Out of respect and admiration for Amanda's brand, I tried to lean in on musical theater in the clues whenever I could. Hope you enjoy solving it as much I enjoyed making it!

.puz file

Saturday, August 22, 2020

Saturday Midi


This little guy pictured above is a kinkajou, as represented in the clue for 28-Across. I've been sitting on the clues for 11- and 23-Across for a little bit now, so I was happy to find that they were symmetrical and could both find a home in this puzzle.

See you back here tomorrow for a guest puzzle by a fabulous constructor whose name I just know you'll be stoked to see. Tomorrow is a special day for another reason as well, but more on that later!😊🧩

Amanda

.puz file

Friday, August 21, 2020

Friday Variety Minis: Double Trouble


Ever since the days of the Lindsay Lohan "Parent Trap" (ok let's be honest, really the Hayley Mills "Parent Trap"), we've all been fans of a little Double Trouble. With that in our minds and hearts, I bring you a variety version of the Friday mini puzzles. Here you'll find two minis as usual, except the clues for these two puzzles are mixed together, and it's up to you to determine which grids they belong in. The first letters have been provided for you. I hope this proves to be a fun and fresh way to close out your week!

Amanda

PDF file





Thursday, August 20, 2020

Theatre Thursday #15


On the heels of last's week's Theatre Thursday puzzle centering around the longest running musical "The Phantom of the Opera" comes this week's puzzle, which features the 7th longest-running musical. This show has 6,137 performances under its belt along with 9 Tony awards, 5 Drama Desk Awards, A Special Tony Award in 1984 for becoming the longest running musical (at the time), and a Pulitzer Prize for Drama. Solve the puzzle and then maybe even throw on the soundtrack if you're feeling a little crazy. 🎭🧩

Amanda

.puz file

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Wednesday Midi: A Golden Girls Special


Hi, I'm Amanda and I'm a bona fide Golden Girls fanatic. Late last year I decided to watch the Golden Girls in its entirety from start to finish since I'd only seen episodes sporadically up to that point. Suffice it to say that I am now a mega fan. I'm down to the last handful of episodes and I'm already so sad that it will be over, even though I will almost assuredly continue to watch it on repeat. The show is truly perfect beyond measure, and it has been a beacon of light through these past six months of quarantine. In fact, the first time my girlfriend and I slept together (like Zzz, thank you very much), it was because we accidentally fell asleep in our dresses watching The Golden Girls after coming back to my house from The Book of Mormon. Yes, I know -- very cute. I hope today's puzzle brings you even a fraction of the joy that the show has brought to all of us over the years. Multi-speaker quotes are not something you usually see in crossword puzzles, but I hope you find these slightly unconventional additions fun reminders of some of the zany moments that make the show the epic classic that it is. Happy solving, and thank you for being a friend (of this site)! 🧩

Amanda

.puz file

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Tuesday Mini


There are many, many Scrooges in the world, but this one played by Alistair Sims in the 1951 version of "A Christmas Carol" is my Scrooge. Even though my father is Jewish, he loves this film and it's one that we would all watch every year as a family. Today's puzzle really has nothing to do with this topic, but Scrooge was in one of the clues and thus here we are discussing A Christmas Carol in August. But since time is essentially meaningless this year anyway, I suppose it's truly apt. Happy solving! 🧩

Amanda

Monday, August 17, 2020

Monday Midi


Ahhh, at last an opportunity to use one of my favorite memes. [To be fair, really any day from the past six months would have sufficed]. I read about 13-Across in the news today and just sort of nodded my head in a "yes that seems about right" sort of way. We were also warned of potential 31-Across here in L.A. yesterday, which also seemed impossible. All of this to say: both of the seeds in today's puzzle have been present in California within the past 48 hours, so 2020 seems to be moving forward right on schedule. 🧩

Amanda

.puz file

Sunday, August 16, 2020

Puzzle #14: "Bottoms Up!" by Amanda Rafkin & Ross Trudeau


Well, we started this week of with an Amanda & Ross puzzle in the Times, so I thought it would only be appropriate to come full circle and end the same way! Grab a drink (or some coffee/tea!) and cozy up to this tricky grid.

In other news, yesterday's Lollapuzzoolla was a spectacular time! Congrats to all the winners and finalists, and of course to all of the wonderful puzzlemakers and hosts! Liz and I did a lot better than we thought we would in the pairs division, so we were the winners of our own hearts. If you were a part of the festivities, or if you bought the puzzles to solve after the fact, you'll be receiving a midi puzzle by me today that was made in case there was the need for a tiebreaker. I hope you enjoy both that puzzle and this one, and happy Sunday everyone! 🧩

Amanda

.puz file

Friday, August 14, 2020

Friday Midi



I felt like going for a midi puzzle instead of two mini puzzles today, so here we are! I had some fun in a few spots cluing this one up (I particularly enjoy 6-Down), and I hope it makes for a nice week-end solve. See you all tomorrow at Lollapuzzoola! 🧩

Amanda

.puz file

Thursday, August 13, 2020

Theatre Thursday #14


Like it or not, there's a lot to be said about The Phantom of the Opera. For starters, it's Broadway's longest running show -- and by a fairly significant margin with 13,370 performances to its name and 32 years on the stage. For comparison's sake, the show in second place is the 1996 revival of Chicago, which opened 8 years later and currently comes in at 9,692 performances. The Phantom of the Opera opened on Broadway exactly one week before I was born, and it was the very first musical I ever remember loving (besides the Mary Martin "Peter Pan", which I demanded to watch on repeat as a child). We had the cassette tape, and trust me when I say that it was played. And played. And played. (But only in the car with my mom, because my dad hates musicals. Funny how that works). To be completely honest, I could probably perform the show for you in its entirety -- yes, like, just me. And my piano. All the characters. My relationship with Andrew Lloyd Webber basically begins and ends with this show, and from a dramaturgical standpoint there are...er...some things, but I love it nevertheless. And for what it's worth, I despise and am humiliated both by the notion and execution of "Love Never Dies," which frankly should never have been made. Why you would make an unnecessary sequel to a wildly popular show that is STILL running on Broadway after 32 years will forever be beyond me. (I do understand they must have thought they'd make money, but they were wrong). And while we're at it, let's just go ahead and acknowledge that the film adaptation was absolutely terrible, despite Emmy Rossum being completely lovely and Patrick Wilson capturing the exact essence of Raoul that is necessary for the entire plot to function. ANYWAY...it only seems appropriate that I eventually pay tribute to what, in some ways, could be called my first love in the theater. And if there is anyone out there who is actually Team Raoul, please make yourself known. Because I have a hard time believing that you exist. 🎭🧩

.puz file

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Wednesday Midi


I got some messages asking for a solution/explanation to the meta puzzle from Sunday, so I'm going to include that here. If you haven't yet solved and plan to, feel free to skip this part and get right to solving today's midi, which I hope you enjoy! 🧩

The answer to Sunday's meta puzzle was the acronym ASMR. If you're not familiar with ASMR, drop those letters into the YouTube search bar and you'll be met with an overabundance of videos that should paint quite a picture for you. In order to solve this meta puzzle, you had to, aptly, listen to the first syllables of each of the theme answers: [A]CORN SQUASH, [ES]CAPE ROOM, [EM]ILY BLUNT, and [AR]CADE GAMES, to give you ASMR. Let me  and Olivia know if you were able to crack it!

Amanda

.puz file

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Tuesday Mini


The clue for 6-Down in this puzzle represents about 90% of the reason why having your own puzzle site is incredibly fun and liberating. How many outlets do you think would have let that one fly?

In other puzzle news, my forever collaborator Ross Trudeau and I have today's New York Times puzzle, and it's one I like quite a bit. If you're here because of that, welcome! I hope you enjoy the puzzles -- there are new ones every day, ranging from minis, to midis, to full-sized grids. If you're a frequent solver here already, I'm happy you're here too! The more the merrier :) Have a lovely Tuesday, and happy solving! 🧩

Amanda

Monday, August 10, 2020

Monday Midi


A few weeks ago, I learned that The Berkshire Theater Group would be putting up a socially-distanced musical -- the first to be performed since theater shut down along with most everything else back in March. This production is staged such that the actors are almost always six feet apart, and when they're not they pull their masks (kept around their necks) into place. When a chorus sings, they do so from behind glass panels, which are a built-in part of the set. When the script calls for any sort of contact, the action and reaction are done from separate spaces. The audience sits in chairs that have been assembled in such a way that they are spaced out. There is even a contactless crucifixion. As a diehard theater person, the news of this brings me some hope, both for the countless performers who are currently out of work, and for those of us who deeply miss the experience of live theater. I look forward to seeing how other companies get creative in the coming months to start bringing performances back into our lives. At the end of this month, I too will be experiencing the performing arts under these new conditions when I play in my first ever "drive-in concert" down near San Diego. (And let me tell you...there are A LOT of rules)! I hope we can all continue to strive for an effective balance between safety for all, and the fulfillment of that which fuels our lives 🧩

Amanda


Sunday, August 9, 2020

Puzzle #13: "Loud and Clear" by Olivia Mitra Framke


I'm so beyond excited to be featuring Olivia Mitra Framke today! I've been enjoying her puzzles in other outlets for a while now, and am incredibly thrilled to be able to showcase her work here. This is a really fun one! And to top it all off, this is Brain Candy's first ever meta puzzle! Olivia explains what a meta puzzle is in her note below for anyone who may be new to them, and for those who will be solving on this page instead of in Across Lite where there's a note, I'll go ahead and say that the answer to this meta puzzle is an acronym. Special thanks to meta puzzle legend Matt Gaffney for lending an additional editorial eye. I hope you enjoy the solve -- and best of luck in your quest for the solution! 🧩

Here's OliviaEarlier this year I discovered the world of crossword blogs and indie publications. I can’t tell you how freeing it is to publish a puzzle on a blog like Brain Candy after only catering to major publications for years!!  A big thank you to Amanda for featuring me, and for providing such thoughtful feedback during this process. This is also my first time constructing a meta puzzle, and I’m really pleased with how it turned out! For those who don’t know, a meta crossword is a puzzle that involves an extra step to extract a final answer after the crossword is completed. See the puzzle note and title for hints (and try not to spoil the answer for anyone!).

If you're interested, you can find more puzzles by me at The InkubatorUSA Today, and The New York Times. I also co-constructed a "Video Game Midis" puzzle pack for the NYT App!

Let me finish by saying that if you’re a new female-identifying constructor looking for some guidance, please feel free to DM me on Twitter @Livienna. I love mentoring, and I want to give back to the wonderful crossword community by fostering new female talent, as my mentors did for me. Hope you enjoy!

Saturday, August 8, 2020

Saturday Midi


If ever there was an appropriate GIF for the times we are living in, by god I think I've found it!

Today's puzzle has a decent handful of names, which is something that you'll rarely see from me as a constructor. For one, I'm not so hot at knowing these things myself as a solver and for two, I tend to think that too may trivia-based entries make for a not-as-fun solve. I hope I you find the balance in today's puzzle to be enjoyable! I was pretty pumped to get the full names of three women into this 11x11 grid. Happy Saturday! 🧩

Amanda

.puz file

Friday, August 7, 2020

Friday Minis


After my enormous novel yesterday, all I have to say today is...we have got to stop trending this woman on Twitter! She's 98 years old and it's giving me a heart attack! Anyone else's heart drop when they see that? Sheesh! I hope you enjoy today's minis -- have a great Friday! πŸ˜„πŸ§©

Amanda


Thursday, August 6, 2020

Theatre Thursday #13


 Spoilers included! Read after solving if you so desire.

This Theatre Thursday, I'm taking an opportunity to recognize the man who could arguably be considered the most important person in the history of the American musical theater: Oscar Hammerstein. This is quite a bold statement I know, but not one that comes without sufficient evidence, I assure you! In his roughly 40 year career, Hammerstein co-wrote 850 songs. With Richard Rodgers alone, he wrote 11 musicals (Oklahoma!, Carousel, South Pacific, Cinderella, The King and I, and The Sound of Music, to name a few). This doesn't include collaborations with the five other composers with whom he also wrote musicals, including "Show Boat" with Jerome Kern. None of this, though, is actually evidence for my claim. It's merely wildly impressive. In truth, Oscar Hammerstein changed the entire landscape of the American musical theater as we know it by popularizing a musical form that focused on character building and storytelling, rather than the songs or stars. At the time of their production, both "Oklahoma!" and "Show Boat" were about as revolutionary as "Hamilton" felt to our generation, though it was in fact was quite a bit more so. No one came close to moving the needle on innovating the style of the American musical until Sondheim's 1970 musical comedy "Company", which was essentially the first concept musical (a show told in vignettes rather than following a linear timeline). Oh, and speaking of which, Oscar Hammerstein is single-handedly responsible for giving us the genius of Stephen Sondheim.

After Sondheim's parents divorced when he was ten, he befriended Hammerstein's son and began spending a lot of time at their home, where Hammerstein became a surrogate father of sorts. Sondheim has been quoted saying that whatever it is Hammerstein had done as a profession would have been with he [Sondheim] also wanted to do. After writing a musical that was popular among his schoolmates, he asked Hammerstein to evaluate it, at which time he was told that "It was the worst thing I have ever seen, but if you want to know why it's terrible, I'll tell you." Hammerstein then proceeded to spend the rest of the day going over the musical with Sondheim, teaching him "more about songwriting and the musical theater in that afternoon than most people learn in a lifetime". Hammerstein then designed a course for Sondheim on constructing a musical, and had Sondheim write four musicals each with different conditions: a play he admired, a play he liked but thought was flawed, an existing novel or short story not previously dramatized, and an original. You don't need me to tell you the outcome of this origin story.

The now-famous song "If I Loved You", which is featured at 13-Across, is a part of what's known as "the bench scene", a 12-minute long segment of "Carousel". According to Thomas Hischak, one of the foremost authorities on the American musical theater, this scene "is considered the most completely integrated piece of music-drama in the American musical theatre". Sondheim described the same scene as "probably the single most important moment in the revolution of contemporary musicals".

So why, out of all of the influential people in the history of musical theater, does Oscar Hammerstein not have a fucking Broadway theater named after him?! This is the question I leave you with on this fine Theatre Thursday. I hope you enjoy the solve, if I haven't scared you off with all of this text. 🧩

Amanda

.puz file

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Wednesday Midi


I found this painting of the world's most joyless magician at the very last second, and I couldn't be more thrilled with it. My comment about this painting is the bulk of what I have to say today. If you haven't already, be sure to sign up for Lollapuzzoola, which is happening online on August 15th. These virtual crossword tournaments have been a great way to interact with the crossword community despite not being able to do it in person, so get yourself registered either as an individual or in pairs with someone in your household or with whom you could communicate via Zoom. Happy puzzling! 🧩

Amanda

.puz file

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Tuesday MIni


I'm just going to come right out and say it: I'm very sad that I won't be able to go to Disneyland this year. I've gone to the Magic Kingdom in December just about every year that I can remember and I suspect that this year will be a sad exception. The parks may be open, but let's be honest...Disney is filthy on a good day, much less in the middle of a global pandemic that a sizable portion of our fine citizens see no interest in helping to slow down. Alas. I guess until we turn a corner, I'll just do things like 1-Across! 🧩

Amanda

Monday, August 3, 2020

Monday Midi


It's news to exactly no one that BeyoncΓ© is Queen. So it only makes sense that somewhere along the line I'd build at least one midi puzzle around her. And with her new video album out on Disney Plus, now seems as good a time as ever.

In other news, I just learned what 23-Down was yesterday. I'd heard the word tossed around, but truly had no idea what was going on. Yesterday, I finally had the opportunity to ask, and Ria Dhull very kindly not only provided me with an explanation, but also provided me with the clue for that entry in today's puzzle. Thanks, Ria! You can find some of her own puzzling over at The Atlantic, on Paolo Pasco's site, and also on Matthew Stock's site, to name a few! Hope you all enjoy today's puzzle! 🧩

Amanda

.puz file

Sunday, August 2, 2020

Puzzle #12: "Cutting Edge" by David Harris and Amanda Rafkin


I'll just go ahead and tell you right now: this puzzle has nothing to do with Game of Thrones. I'll also throw in the added confession that I've never actually seen Game of Thrones, but given my general timeline of catching popular shows between 10-20 years after their final air date, we can expect that I'll finally dig in around 2035 or so. I asked David yesterday if he remembered when we made this puzzle (time is dead to me), and his memory was that it was around the beginning of quarantine. In other words, the good old days when we were all baking bread and waiting for a stimulus check. The process of making this puzzle was so delightfully collaborative: we brainstormed theme material together,  largely built the grid together over Zoom, and wrote the clues together in a shared document. Basically, working with David was an incredibly nice process! He recently got his own puzzle site Grid Pro Quo up and running where he posts puzzles with themes that promise to be "a little too nerdy, or a bit niche, or way too complicated for your friendly neighborhood newspaper." Go check them out!

If you solve this puzzle in Across Lite, the answers that are starred in the .puz file look a little different (in a helpful way) in the grid below. So take a look here if you get stuck -- oh, and put on your NYT Thursday thinking cap. We hope you enjoy the puzzle! 🧩

Here's David: I think this puzzle is a great endorsement for the power of Crossworld and Crossword Twitter. Amanda and Ross (Trudeau) connected online and now she's downright prolific. I started workshopping my first puzzle through Erik Agard's Crossword Collaboration Directory on Facebook a year or so ago, and am currently having a blast cutting my teeth constructing. So when Amanda asked on Twitter if anyone was interested in collaborating, it seemed like a great opportunity to see what we could come up with together. A few DMs and Zoom calls later, and we had something cooking.

Once we had a theme that clicked with both of us, we were happy to find themers that popped, and that even had the same kind of personality as what we were going for in the rest of the fill and grid. As a newer constructor, it's sometimes still hard for me to tell where the line is between being overly ambitious and overly cautious in designing the grid, but Amanda encouraged opening up the grid a bit to allow for longer non-theme entries, which made room for some very fun entries and hopefully makes for a more fun overall solve. There's a lot in the grid and the clues that I'm sure I wouldn't have gotten to on my own, but which quickly became my favorites, so it's got a great blend of our voices and senses of humor -- hope folks enjoy!

.puz file    Solution

Saturday, August 1, 2020

Saturday Midi


Today's puzzle is a little larger than my normal midi puzzles (it's a 13x11), so I hope you find it packed full of extra goodness. This puzzle felt particularly fun to make, and I hope that translates to the solving experience as well. Have a great Saturday and welcome, somehow, to August! 🧩

Amanda

.puz file

Friday, July 31, 2020

Friday Minis


Each of today's mini puzzles has a tasty treat inside of it -- and I do mean that literally. The now-famous/infamous Sid Sivakumar has officially inspired me to start adding more foods from my culture into puzzles. So here we are. This certainly isn't the last you'll see of such entries πŸ˜‰πŸ§©

Amanda


Thursday, July 30, 2020

Theatre Thursday #12


Puzzle spoilers and hot theater takes ensue. Read after solving if you care about either. 

Have you ever loved something so much that you don't even know how to talk about it? That's how I feel right now, writing about "Come From Away". In actually, I have an ungodly amount to say so I'm hoping I'm able to be articulate and reasonably concise in the sentences that follow. I saw "Come From Away" about a year and a half ago and it's truly difficult to capture the power and heart that this show has managed to embody with little to no fanfare. The set, as you can see from the photo above, is nearly non-existent, as is the presence of any major props, costumes, or production value to speak of. Instead, you find yourself confronted by perhaps the strongest ensemble work of any show you've ever seen -- with each actor double-cast and not a single one emerging as the lead or the star. Rather, the ensemble as a whole elevates itself and rises to a new level of excellence that I've never seen before in the theater. If you've yet to experience the magic of this show, there's some good news: 1) It's slated to go on tour again next year (fingers crossed that the arts will be in a position to return by then); and 2) the musical is almost entirely sung through, so by listening to the cast album you are able to catch all but about 20 minutes of the story. STORY. That is really what this musical does so well. Tells a story. Tells a true story. And not only tells a story but tells the story that we so desperately need to hear and be reminded of right now: that there is good among us and within us.

This is a beautiful and unusual show. The songs, barring a few, do not feel like show tunes. The function of the music is so narrative that it's possible to even forget that the storytelling is being done through song. The handful of characters present in the show were condensed from hours of interviews with tons of real life people and yet the narrative comes out feeling seamless and natural. So much could have gone wrong at so many points in the development of a true story centering around 9/11 that would then be produced in New York. But it's perfect. (And in my opinion should have won Best Book at the Tony's that year). Perhaps right now as much as ever its message serves as a hopeful reminder that there can be acts of kindness that bridge our differences in response to a terrible event. I hope you feel inspired to either visit or revisit the cast album, and/or keep an eye out for tickets whenever the world resumes as normal. For now, I'm including a link to the cast of "Come From Away" performing an NPR Tiny Desk Concert that I just cried through all 18 minutes of. I hope you enjoy -- and be sure to grab a box of tissues! 🎭🧩

Amanda

.puz file