From Crosswords

Puzzle Solution #24: Back Roads

Americana for new era?

Cowboy ___ Bill.Well, let’s hope this era does not usher in a dystopian, much-reduced future. Not before climate change does that, at least. The passing of this pandammit may well mark the beginning of a new era, but there’s no reason to assume it will be a hellish one. Just maybe we can put Ayn Rand’s baleful fiction and her The Virtue of Selfishness philosophy behind us and embrace the fact that we are in this together–humanity, all life across the globe, and the planet itself.

We can hope for that result. Better yet, we can try to do our part to make it happen.

Okay, Pollyanna, let’s move on

Before revealing the solution to this puzzle, allow me to offer a melancholy musical interlude as spoiler space. If you haven’t yet solved my crossword, then before scrolling past it, please take a tour of Roadside Attractions? Be sure to grab some one-of-a-kind souvenirs as you do.

I used another track from John Prine’s 2018 album The Tree of Forgiveness to adorn my tiny-puzzle blog post. About a month-and-a-half later, on April 7, this COVID-19 took him from us. I was a long time fan, though I really only knew his debut and final albums (1971 and 2018), along with a smattering of “hits” in between (you may remember his “Your Flag Decal Won’t Get You Into Heaven Anymore”). But I feel his loss keenly. Now I will spend what time I have left catching up with so much of what I’ve missed.

The solution

The solution pictured below was completed by my friend Carl in under ten minutes. This despite the fact that the beta copy he worked had several less-than-ideal clues, the worst of which was a holdover from an earlier iteration of the grid. I had replaced FICHE and FACE with LECHE and LACE late in the editing process, but I hadn’t changed the clue for 14-down from “A type of card.” Carl sent me the image of his completed grid (below, cropped), and along with other helpful advice he wrote, “I’ve never heard of lace cards, but maybe that’s just me.” He was being generous with that dependent clause, I think. He made several other suggestions about clues and I acted on each one. The puzzle is much improved as a result.
Crossword #24 solution.

The worst answers on the grid–DNAS, AIDAS, and MERLS foremost among them in my opinion–have all been used in Will Shortz-edited New York Times crosswords. There are what Jeff Chen calls the “gluey bits” constructors are often compelled to use (i.e. the tired three-letter initialisms), but not an unacceptable number I hope. However, in addition to the four themed answers, AUTOCAD, BACTINE, DALEK, FLAUTAS, and NO END TO have never been used. Some of those are surprising to me as I see them all as perfectly acceptable. It does seem that AUTOCAD is not as well known as I thought. For those interested in seeing’s analysis of my puzzle, click on the thumbnails below.

Thanks also to Joe (the biggest Prine fan I know) and Scrabbler/birder Megan (self-described Dr Who “dork”) for helping vet this puzzle. Those of you feeling inadequate after seeing Carl’s solve time should understand that he is the reigning Minnesota Crossword Puzzle Tournament champ.[1] answers by occurance

Recent Crosswords:
04/24/2020 #k1: Meadow’s First!
04/20/2020 #24: Roadside Attractions?
02/20/2020 #23: World’s Smallest!
06/20/2018 #22: Northern Dialect
01/30/2018 #21: Special Editions
10/10/2017 #20: Saints We’d Like to See

   Complete Crosswords


  1. He won in 2015, and his 2017 win makes him the reigning champ, since after a seven-year run the annual tournament hasn’t returned. I haven’t managed to find links to results on the The Friends of the St Paul Public Library website, so I’ve linked to a crossword blog’s very brief account of the 2015 tournament. [^]