BuzzFeed Crossword – Monday 16 November 2015

SAFE WORDS” by Finn Vigeland

Solve it! Twist it! Pull it! Bop it!

Mon 11 16

“Safe Words”

Constructor: Finn Vigeland

Theme: Theme answers conceal S&M accessories.

  • 17A: COUCH GAG – Feature of the opening credits of “The Simpsons” that changes how the family sits around the TV every episode
  • 23A: WHIP MY HAIR – Debut single by Willow Smith that gave me neck pains when I tried it
  • 34A: FRENCH CUFFS – Stylish accoutrements to some dress shirts
  • 45A: PADDLE BOAT – Popular rental for a Central Park lake
  • 52A: MUD SLING – Talk shit about
  • 61A: S AND M – 2011 Rihanna song… or a sexual practice that connects five answers in this puzzle

Ben: A very straightforward theme, and yet somehow I can’t picture it showing up in the New York Times… 🙂

Lena: Well, I think they’re missing out. This was indeed a pleasant, clean Monday puzzle.

Ben: I had a little trouble filling in MUD SLING, because SLING seems like a bit of an outlier, size-wise… all the others are accessories, whereas a SLING seems like more of a fixture, no? Perhaps an S AND M enthusiast will be along in the comments to correct me.

Lena: Sex furniture… Yeah, if that was a department in IKEA it would be separate from paddles and gags and such (those would be in the Marketplace). I liked PLUS ONES (57A: Extra party guests) because people totally say that but it’s not a “thing.” Feel me? It’s okay if you don’t–  I’m feeling particularly undercaffeinated this morning, and I guess my boyfriend was too because he filled in DIMNUS instead of D MINUS (58A: Worst  grade you can get without actually failing) and I didn’t notice. But now we can call each other “dimnus.”

Ben: Nice — I usually just get called dim. I like that there’s a relatively even split between having the S AND M connections come at the starts or ends of theme answers. A little less predictable that way.

Ben: Unusual grid today — that is a lot of cheater squares (ten if I’m not miscounting). I guess it’s a fairly dense theme, and four of them are required by FRENCH CUFFS. It does tend to make for a lot of short fill, though. It’s all come out pretty clean — I didn’t know HILLEL (16A: Birthright trip sponsor, often), but I bet I would have if I were Jewish. Speaking of which, KRAV MAGA (14A: Martial art used widely by the Israeli Defense Forces) never looks like it’s spelled right to me, but it’s a nice entry.

Lena: Totally with you on the funky grid– I swatted the cheaters aside like gnats because, as you said, the resulting 3-letter fill is either cleverly clued, fun despite being dinky, or innocuous to me. I didn’t get EXT (28A: # after a #)– still don’t really. Phone number extension? But look, there’s IRE clued to wrathful perfection (48A: Fury). Mad Max: IRE Road.

Ben: I disagree with the clue for ALOHA (36A: 2015 film that bombed because Emma Stone, a white actress, played an Asian/Hawaiian character) — that didn’t help, but the film bombed because it was TERRIBLE. Like, legitimately one of the worst movies I’ve seen in years. D MINUS would be kind.

Lena: I’ve been spared, it seems, as I’m blissfully unaware of that movie. I’d have to say the only fill that might have earned a D MINUS from me is ER DOC (37A: Professional who helps vics after an EMT). Favorite healthcare entry? ENEMA (47D: Medical buttwashing). Got a good case of the giggles from that.

Ben: Also, it’s not like I’ve been watching the election debates, but I was under the impression that the TEA Party (60A) was associated more with Ted Cruz or Ben Carson than Donald Trump (who’s just a lunatic). I’ll stand to be corrected though.

Lena: My interpretation was that all the horribleness that is the entirety of the TEA party somehow amalgamated and gave rise to the sallow lump of Trump.

Ben: Clue for FLARED UP is 34D: Came roaring back, like the herps — ew. Enjoyed the clues for PAINT (45D: Microsoft ___ (ratchet Photoshop)) and THE OC (20D: 2000s teen drama mostly about Ryan adjusting to how bougie Newport Beach is).

Lena: Is a THROE really a [painful pang]? I just know about THROEs of passion. Maybe if the herps FLARED UP— ew. EW.

Ben: 1A: Invisibility ___ (third Deathly Hallow) (days without a Harry Potter reference: 0) — I laughed. I like it when the puzzle does our work for us.

Lena: <waves excitedly> Hi Caleb! Hi Finn!

Ben: Straightforward but good early-week puzzle. FIN (56D: Appropriate word for me to end this puzzle on (even more appropriate if I were French).


  1. I recently explained to my teen children that, as relatively privileged white kids, it’s not appropriate for them to use the word “ratchet.” True story.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Lena Webb said:

      I learned this word today, because of this puzzle, and just now on Twitter Erik linked to a good article ( about what you just said. So, for those who tend to say “it’s just a crossword! Who cares!” I say BOO– crosswords are learning opportunities in so many ways. Cultural barometers, venues for what people think is acceptable in our language and other languages, etc.

      That’s good advice to your kids!

      Liked by 2 people

      • Evan said:

        As did I — never knew “ratchet” had any connotation beyond ratcheting something up. You learn something new every day.


  2. Bob Dively said:

    Enjoyed this one and was amused by S&M stuff in a crossword. (And, god, do I wish this had been a NYT puzzle because the thought of all the delicate flowers expressing their outrage over kinky sex words is just riotous to me.) I think that I know what the SLING part of MUDSLING is vis a vis S&M, but it’s sufficiently obscure to be a distant cousin to the other 4 themers.

    Had some trouble with AXE HEAD (25D Gross tasting malt liquor brewed in Wisconsin that’s also a term for a lumberjack’s tool) because I had THROB instead of THROE (30A Painful pang) and couldn’t get EXT (28A # after a #) at all. Keep seeing that last one as hashtag related. Also, given the theme subject matter I kept wanting “lumberjack’s tool” to be a pun. Alas.

    Liked PLUS ONES, KRAV MAGA. I’ve been through LIMA, Ohio many times (in typical Midwestern fashion it’s pronounced LIME-uh not LEE-muh). Totally whiffed on ALOHA and am apparently not the worse off for not knowing it.

    Confused by HEHE (31D “trolololol”) as clued because Trolololol will forever and always be the hilarious 1970s video of Russian singer Eduard Khil’s incredible bad and hammy lip-syncing of a Soviet song:

    Just now noticed the crossword author pun in FIN (57D: Appropriate word for me to end this puzzle on (even more appropriate if I were French). Bravo.


  3. adamnicolle said:

    Liked COUCH GAG, LIL KIM, GSA (got invited to one at my school), 43-44d cluing and 22a cluing. I’m SMH whenever I put DNA instead of RNA in a puzzle (32d). SST, ERDOC and URBS wasn’t the most ideal, but you’ve gotta pay SOME price when you’ve so much swag in this puzzle… Rent-a-Swag, that is (39d). *flips hair, dons shades and does that CSI eagle screech thing, you know the one*


    • Lena Webb said:

      Haha, yeah you can’t shoot the messenger RNA! You know how DNA LAB is in puzzles from time to time? I want RNA LAB clued [Central dogma center center?]

      Liked by 2 people

  4. zzedzed said:

    Read the article on ratchet. Still don’t quite get how I would use it, so I guess I don’t have to worry about checking my white privilege on this one. At least not yet. It’s also not clear to me how it works in the clue, either. Hmm.

    HILLEL under SHI-ITE. Interesting placement.

    Fun solve.


  5. Joe Pancake said:

    Pretty good puzzle, but it is a pet peeve of my mine to see “AND” spelled out in a crossword puzzle as part of a phrase that you only ever see written with a “&”. Nobody writes “S and M.” It’s “S & M.” But I think I’m in the minority on this one. It doesn’t seem to bother many other people.


  6. Jimm said:

    How do we feel about the clue for CRUDE? On one hand, it is described pretty graphically. On the other, the puzzle does make the statement that that gesture is *crude*.


    • zzedzed said:

      I went with CRass initially. It’s the “Buzzfeed vibe.” Hard to be too upset about it in a puzzle with an S&M ( or should I say S AND M) theme.


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