“CROSSWORDS AGAINST HUMANITY” by Evan Birnholz
Don’t be a Horrible Person and read the post before solving!
Crosswords Against Humanity
Constructor: Evan Birnholz
Theme: Meta puzzle involving a game of Cards Against Humanity. Okay, deep breath:
A note accompanying this puzzle reads “The answers to the five starred clues, read in order, will give you a hint about where to find the question posed by this puzzle. Four “Cards” are in the puzzle grid, but there is a fifth one not in the grid. Can you find it?”
The four obvious Cards are:
- 17A: DENTAL DAMS – Masks that people might wear during root canals or sexytime [Card #1]
- 58A: SARAH PALIN – Politician who said “waterboarding is how we’d baptize terrorists” if she were president [Card #2]
- 10D: CRYSTAL METH – Walter White’s creation on “Breaking Bad” [Card #3]
- 26D: SCIENTOLOGY – It espouses the belief that Lord Xenu killed billions of humans with hydrogen bombs 75 million years ago and [THE REST OF THIS CLUE DELETED BY TOM CRUISE] [Card #4]
The answers to the starred clues are:
- 1A: FIRST – Historic accomplishment*
- 27A: LETTER – Alpha-Bits bit*
- 40A: ALL – “You Shook Me ___ Night Long” (AC/DC jam)*
- 49A: ACROSS – Over*
- 69A: CLUES – Sherlock Holmes examined them*
The first letters of the Across clues spell the questions for the Cards game: HOW AM I MAINTAINING MY RELATIONSHIP STATUS?
The fifth Card is, of course, hidden in the first letters of the Down clues: A MICROPIG WEARING A TINY RAINCOAT AND BOOTIES.
Lena: This was super fun. It’s pretty well-known at this point that BuzzFeeders get frustrated by basic themes, and this puzzle had solvers looking at the entire puzzle for answers. I’m not going to be reading the comments on this one because I’ll probably start yelling like a Horrible Person.
Ben: “Never read the comments” is excellent life advice (except for our site, of course).
Lena: I love our commenters! <hugs>
Ben: I’m happy for Evan getting the job at the Washington Post, and his first three Sunday puzzles there have been great — but man, this sort of puzzle makes me really sad that he no longer has the cluing/thematic freedom of his indie days. This is really good. It’s a dense, layered meta with clean fill and great clues.
Lena: I’m almost exclusively an on-paper solver but didn’t have access to a printer this morning, so I solved in AcrossLite. I think it would have been fun to read the message in the Acrosses and Downs on paper, but I had no trouble doing it on the computer.
Ben: It took me a minute or two to figure out that I should probably check the Downs for the fifth card — otherwise, this was a pretty easy meta. Maybe a “week 2” on the MGWCC scale?
Lena: I will say that it’s kind of a “meh” spread of cards! I would probably have to go with DENTAL DAMS or CRYSTAL METH. If the relationship status in question is “single,” I’d go with the meth.
Ben: I think I’m with you on DENTAL DAMS being the best answer here. These do read like the same variety of answers you get in a real “Cards Against Humanity” game, so fair play.
Lena: I think overall the clues were really fair and not too tricky, perhaps nicely taking into consideration the more difficult nature of the puzzle, BUT I stared at 43A: Changes from E to F for… many minutes. REGRADES? No, “effort” to “fail?” no. Something about music, of course! Nope. GASES UP. Damn son. 6D: One who’s with the lord? (LADY) was also tricky for me.
Ben: Loved both of those. I liked the SCIENTOLOGY clue, but in what was already a fairly complex puzzle I found it a little distracting. I also had a lot of trouble with 27A: Alpha-Bits bit (LETTER) for some reason. And I didn’t know TAZO or WASILLA — had to get them entirely from crosses, though admittedly tea and Sarah Palin are not among my interests.
Ben: I don’t know if this is my favourite BZF to date, but it’d certainly be in the top 5. Great puzzle.
Lena: I obviously have never done anything like this, so I wonder how difficult cluing becomes when the first letter of every clue needs to remain fixed. As you said, all the layers make this a fun and impressive construction! Happy to see Evan frolicking around in the ol’ gridspace.