Rex Parker Free Crossword #1 - "Don't Blink"

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Tuesday, 10/7/08

"Don't Blink"

Written by: Michael D. Sharp and Angela Olson Halsted
Edited by: Amy Reynaldo

A couple of weeks ago, a satirical article at caused a comical firestorm of non-controversy concerning whether the NYT Crossword Puzzle was sneakily supporting OBAMA by putting his name in the puzzle far more often than John McCain's. OBAMA was given many things by God, and one of those things was a name custom-made for crosswords. To be fair, God gave this same gift to ORRIN Hatch, but no one seemed to notice. However, in the spirit of evening things out politically in this current election season, we have constructed a puzzle in honor of a current Republican candidate for office. It is not meant to be pro- or anti- any party or anyone. We kept it as non-partisan as possible, and we honestly hope that people of all different political persuasions will enjoy it. So put your political rancor away for a few minutes and solve this. It's not the greatest crossword in the world, but it should be easy enough for most people to solve, and it should be at least mildly amusing. Have fun, and tell a friend.

Rex Parker

The puzzle exists in two formats: an AcrossLite version available at and a .pdf file hosted by Scribd, which should be visible below ... you can print it out simply by rolling your cursor over "More," which will show you a drop menu on which "Print" is an option.


Jeffrey 11:47 AM  

SPOILER - I'm talking about the puzzle.

You had me at TWINKLETOES.

Best clue: Mars follower

Is there a "Greatest" mini-theme intended here with all the ALIs?



Cute puzzle.(Wink)


Anonymous 11:59 AM  

Great idea--well done! Betcha lots of folks will like it. It was doggone easy. Missed not seeing Joe Sixpack, though. Cheers, Sally

imsdave1 12:05 PM  

Great fun. Liked the way you slipped the Rex clue in. Minimini-theme with the two apes. I thought the Sadie clue might have had 'day' in it, but looked it up and was wrong (alert the media). Exceptional answer for 17A - that's one you don't see everyday. Shocked to see a Broadwayphobe like Rex using it in a puzzle.

Great job Rex, PG and Orange.

George NYC 12:11 PM  

A lot of fun. Loved the "command to Fido" answer. After last week's winkfest, I'm afraid tonight will be a showbiz letdown...

dk 12:14 PM  

As a member of the tomato family I object to ROMA appearing in the same puzzle with winkin, blinkin and nod. I wish that DORK would just say BYEBYE.

I am RARE Beefsteak and I approve of dat dis.

On a more pleasant note: @wade, way to go you made it in at 16a. And, at least the evil @crosscan did not rant about RYKRISP as being sooooooo USA :)

yabba dabba do: great fun.

janie 12:18 PM  

woo-hoo -- what an elegant bonus. thank you rex and puzzlegirl and orange. quel trifecta!

besides the pleasures of the theme and theme fill, took delight in the SNEAKOUT/PROWLCAR crossing (also the cluing for the latter).

went off-course briefly, entering GEEK for DORK.




Jeffrey 12:26 PM  


That's Bizarro-Crosscan to you.

I try not to mention food in my comments because we all know where that leads...

fikink 12:32 PM  

What a wonderful surprise confronts my rainy-Tuesday-debate-morning dread!
Thank you all so much!
I never knew that RYKRISPS do not contain the E!
And noted many references, buried and blatant, to the blog. Nicely done.

fikink 12:35 PM  

guess it should be RYKRISPS "does" not contain...

imsdave1 1:06 PM  

@fikink - I'm thinking imsdave and fikink might be a little tough to clue... Immortality in puzzles eludes us

Anonymous 1:37 PM  

NICE one, Rex, PG and Orange!

BIDEN's another good xword entry.

Let me repeat that: BIDEN's another good xword entry.

Great job!

Doug 1:52 PM  

Super-dee-duper! My 2-year-old only wants Barney...

Fav clue was "Duck down" - So short and obvious, yet so very clever and misleading!

RP/Orange: During the NZ absence we learned a lot about the development of a puzzle from various bloggers. Would you care to comment on this one? What came first etc?

Anonymous 2:04 PM  

@rp/pg/o That was a delight. Thanks. It got me feeling all mavericky.

ArtLvr 2:27 PM  

I had to make my own grid for this and get the clues from the tiny print on Rex's blog -- could not figure out how to download or print it out either -- but it was worth it! Very amusing, and very well done!


Rex Parker 2:34 PM  

Aw geez, it's easy. Did anyone else have trouble printing it out? I did it myself, from the site, just to make sure it worked: like clockwork.


Anonymous 2:36 PM  

Fun, fun, fun, fun.
Also loved the clue for AVRIL and the command to Fido.

Thanks! This was a real treat, after yesterday's short one.

chefbea 2:41 PM  

thanks rex, puzzle girl and orange. A great fun puzzle.
Liked that Tina faye made an appearance.

RodeoToad 3:42 PM  

That's a bad-ass puzzle, mates.

Here are a couple of anagrams for Sarah Palin: ANAL PARISH or A SHARP NAIL. Maybe you could work up a Jumble?

archaeoprof 4:20 PM  

Tina Fey in a puzzle about Sarah Palin. Very nice!

Orange 4:29 PM  

Doug: Obviously, the clues came first, and then the fill. ;-)

This puzzle is Rex and PuzzleGirl's baby. I heard about their theme idea and liked it, and next thing I knew, they had a final grid. They split the clue-writing job in half, and all three of us polished the clues. The poor dears had to catch some things I missed, like an answer word that also appeared in two clues—Rex and PG are no mere dilettantes.

Topical puzzles demand to be published quickly, and the newspaper crossword schedule can't always accommodate that. Plus, any puzzle that can be viewed as having any sort of political bias (which I don't think this one does) is not likely to sell to a newspaper. That's no impediment to crossword creation, though—make it, post it online, have fun with it.

Joon 4:39 PM  

nice puzzle. wink wink, nudge nudge, say no more, know what i mean?

Bill from NJ 4:45 PM  

@PG, Rex, and Orange-

Very nice work although I am sure the WINKS would be politically consrtrued if you tried to get it published in a newspaper

dk 4:47 PM  

I think it was the Sunday NYT that had a comment from the original Maverick family who objected to the use of the term maverick by certain cam-pain-ers.


fergus 4:49 PM  

A nicely constructed puzzle, with quality Clues. Up to the good standards one might expect.

Anonymous 4:51 PM  

Fantastic puzzle! You guys are good.

I'm with Doug and loved "Duck Down" ... great clue.

This was indeed a RARE treat.

More, more, more!

PS: Extra plus: I'm in it at 5D.

Anonymous 4:54 PM  


Thanks for the bonus(link too). Not getting Avril though. Lavigne?

- - Robert

Jeffrey 5:00 PM  


The months of the year in french are:


green mantis 5:15 PM  

Really great job. My only pause was at Prowl Car, which I've never heard. Prowler, yes. Is this just a gap in my awareness?

Otherwise, this puzzle seems to have a suppleness not common in our usual grids. Crap answer rate is low; bright and interesting fill high.

RodeoToad 5:16 PM  

As someone with the unique perspective of supporting the war but hating our troops, I think I have the right to submit a ranking of the words I don't want to hear again for at least the next three elections, in the order I don't want to hear them:

1. Heartland. (Is there any definition of this term? Isn't it generally best defined as a place you'd leave if you had sense enough to do so?)

2. Change. (Because I hate it when people ask me for change.)

3. Soccer or hockey mom. Soccer and hockey are for Europeans and Canadians, respectively. They are sports with no place in our national dialogue.

4. Main Street/Wall Street. Have you been to Main Street lately? As in, since 1983? Main Street is, starting downtown and heading north, (i) an "antique" shop, (ii) the State Farm agent's office, (iii) a used-paperback bookstore selling Harlequin romances, five thousand copies of "The Thornbirds" and V.C. Andrews's entire oeuvre, (iv) another "antique" shop selling crap they bought from the other one, (v) some guy who works on vacuum cleaners but you've never seen it open, (vi) vacant, (vii) vacant, (viii) vacant with "Go Steers!" and "Class of 96 Rules!" shoe-polished on the window, which has a long, wide, crooked piece of duct tape running down a crack,(ix) Golden Fried Chicken, (x) six-car used car lot, (xi) Pizza-Hut/KFC combo building, and you think you're going into one but it turns out to be the other one, (xii) real estate agent, (xiii) that vitamin store that's been there since you were a kid and you've never been in there and neither has anybody you know and you're not sure it's still open or if it ever was, (xiv) a florist, (xv) weed-choked lot, (xvi) convenience store ("American Owned"), (xvii) motel ("American Owned"), (xviii) eight-car used car lot, (xix) donut shop, (xx) Dairy Queen, (xxi) municipal air strip used only for Confederate Air Force shenanigans, (xxii) video store, (xxiii) glass-tinting place, (xxiv) some sad card store that represents some old lady's dream of having a card store, (xxv) another goddamn donut shop!, (xxvi) Tractor Supply, (xxvii) gas station, and (xxviii) Wal-Mart.

Anonymous 5:18 PM  

Very cool puzzle! Also, I noticed 2 bonus answers: tina FEY, who played Palin in the now-famous SNL skits, and TRIG, a shout out to Sarah Palin's youngest.

Jeffrey 5:21 PM  

I love Main Street, wade. Especially at the end when you get to Cinderella's castle.

Orange 5:24 PM  

Yay! cmad wins kudos for picking up on TRIG.

Anonymous 5:34 PM  

My name is JIM IN CHICAGO and I APPROVE of this puzzle!!!

PuzzleGirl 5:50 PM  

@cmad: Thank you! I've been waiting all day for someone to notice TRIG!

And thanks to everyone for the kind words. Putting this thing together was a blast and I hope it's not the last one we do.

foodie 5:53 PM  

I loved this puzzle! Totally, unconditionally and joyfully.

Thank you guys!

Jeffrey 6:05 PM  

ORANG-Eider down the middle is a hidden shoutout to the editor, I presume?

foodie 6:55 PM  

@ wade, your comment about change reminded me of this, one of my favorite SNL skits

Oh, and I meant to add that it was fun enough for Bill from NJ to post a comment!

Anonymous 7:04 PM  

I'd have mentioned TRIG if I'd seen the free puzzle earlier--very hectic day at work today! Surprised TRIG and TINA weren't clued to the theme. I thought it was an entertaining--but very easy--puzzle. The clues (exc. mars-AVRIL and maybe Duck down--which didn't throw me, since I had about 3 cross letters.)

I guess this is what you get when you let critics become performers. All in all, a really good job, guys. Times-worthy, if you ask me.

Rex Parker 7:17 PM  

I stole [Duck down] - but at least I had the sense to steal a good clue. PROWLCAR was one of the few answers that was truly a cruciverb database gift. Wouldn't have occurred to me, and I like PROWLER better too, but if it was good enough for the pros, and it sounds as awesome as PROWLCAR does ... well, I went with it.

Angela did most of the top, and the SW. She also had BODYSLAM where PLAY DEAD now lives. I tried, but failed to fill the West (well) w/ BODYSLAM in place. And again with CHRYSLER.

I tried briefly to take out FLINT when we realized we needed the "FLINTstones" clue, but the results were bad, so we kept it as is.

TRIG is all Angela
The title is all Amy
TINA is me, but that was just dumb luck. I *did* give the ultracommon "SSE" (20A) its Alaskan flavor, though. That's ... something.

I am absurdly proud of practically backing KOKO into OKOK.

I don't like ORANG, in general, but Am Reynald does.

Had LAILA in place, and the possibility of picking up ALI in the NW is what made us go with OCALA as opposed to some other options up there (including OBAMA, HA ha).

Last-minute detail work included taking "star" out of a couple of clues (STAR is in the grid), adding hyphens to "Barrow to Anchorage," and deciding exactly how to clue FREIGHTS (oddly contentious).

Theme idea was mine, but my original theme answers were all over the map - the two best ones here, TWINKLETOES and TIDDLYWINKS - are Angela's ideas. Oddly, I got the idea for the puzzle while overhearing my daughter watching Rock and BULLWINKLE cartoons downstairs. But PERIWINKLE won out. We already god FLINTSTONES. Don't want to toon it up too much.

I conceived the puzzle Saturday night. We filled the grid on Sunday afternoon. We wrote clues and edited it with Amy on Monday. And here it is. It needed to come out now - I have no idea what kind of historical legs that debate is going to have, and everyone's still talking about the winking, so ... I'm happy to be able to use this site to distribute this thing. My main goal was that it not completely suck. I believe we cleared that admittedly low bar.

Thanks all,

Anonymous 7:56 PM  

Why did you all choose to put your real names rather than your noms de blog on the puzzle?

Doc John 7:58 PM  

Great puzzle, guys!
I, too, noticed the TRIG but then thought everyone would! Glad you caught the FLINT/Flintstones thing, Rex.
Isn't HOODWINKED one of the theme answers, too?
Or am I being a Maverick™?

Anonymous 8:05 PM  

@ steve: I'm guessing because they want credit where credit is due. Why hide behind a moniker when you, yourself, are brilliant.

Thanks Rex for your inside look at why and how this puzzle happened. Seriously, you have to do this more often.

RodeoToad 8:21 PM  

DK, I saw the Times story about the Mavericks. They are a well-known, old-blood family in San Antonio. When Maury Maverick died a few years ago, it was pretty devastating to the other sixteen Texas liberals.

Good place for me to put in a plug for The Texas Observer (, which is sort of Texas's version of The Nation. It's been around over 50 years, started by Ronnie Dugger and the hangout of all Texas liberals, all the way back to Ralph Yarborough. Willie Morris edited it back in the early sixties, and Molly Ivins was its patron saint. Yours truly has even had a couple of pieces there. Too bad they don't have a crossword--maybe I can get them to run this one.

fergus 8:21 PM  

Primarily etymological:

While this could be redundant or already alluded to, there's only one original Maverick, and it's not the Ford model from the early 1970s. (The quality of that vehicle, may speak volumes currently, however.) Both the Nation and NY Times have pointed out how silly or even oxymoronic it is to use an eponymous term in such a situation.

foodie 8:56 PM  

Rex, thanks for the very interesting description! Did you all do this long distance? On the phone, on line? Sequentially.

And the title is brilliant.

fergus 9:38 PM  

Sometimes our posts cross, even if we're not at cross purposes.

Wade, that was a great characterization of the Heartland. Your wry humor can be pretty bold, too.

Lacking WINKs in many posts I still think that Seth G is chipper young chap and that Loki is not his son. I finally realized who PuzzleGirl actually was, and that she doesn't have a dog. She does have a cranky, funny husband though. And DK is a prankster slicing into us all.

Maybe Wade isn't billing enough, or he's tripled the effectiveness of Christopher Hitchens in his reformed ways.

fergus 11:04 PM  

Who are these folks so constantly referred to as My Friends?

Is there a new social website?

fikink 11:18 PM  

I think it was a "That One"

ArtLvr 11:32 PM  

I see that Palin recently announced "the heels are on and the gloves are off", so claws can be deployed.

Pls note that the lipstick is gone too, pure pitbull..

Thanks to our gifted friends for the great puzzle: well done!


mac 12:11 AM  

Thanks Rex, Angela and Amy for a delicious after-debate dessert! Keep them coming. What a niche, political crosswords!

Anonymous 3:38 AM  

"name custom-made for crosswords" LoL, thank god for that.
Awesome puzzle, thanx.

PuzzleGirl 10:14 AM  

Hey, everyone. Just thought I'd jump in with a few more details about the process of putting this thing together. First of all, as I said, it was a total blast. Rex floated the idea Saturday evening. I loved it but thought no one would publish it. Orange responded with basically that same message and suggested "self-publishing" (fancy!). Rex thought that sounded perfect so we were off to the races.

On Sunday I was working on that Northern California area with BODY SLAM where PLAY DEAD ended up for, like, an hour and a half. When my brain felt like it was going to explode, I sent it back to Rex and told him to do that part while I did something easy. That's when I started on the NE corner and TRIG appeared out of nowhere. I thought I should definitely get extra credit for that. Also for fitting our buddy WADE up there (Hi, Wade!).

Speaking of WADE, I originally clued it in reference to Roe v., but that was nixed because we really didn't want this thing to get people's political hackles up. I thought that since Rex put his Name in a clue, he should let me have "Iowa wrestling legend DAN Gable," but he didn't go for it. His suggestions were Aykroyd and Quayle and I just want to say for the record that Gable could whoop both their asses.

We were still fixing nits around 10:45am yesterday and for some reason Orange thought it was okay to take a shower right around then, leaving Rex and me hanging for, like, 15 minutes wondering where the heck she'd gone. (Oh, and to answer the question I think posed by Foodie: We did everything by email.)

Anyway. That's my recollection of the events of the past few days although, admittedly, most of it is a blur. Thanks again to everyone for all the nice things you've said about the puzzle. I think Rex is right: It doesn't completely suck!

Orange 12:11 PM  

I must add this to what PuzzleGirl said: Good hygiene is important.

Campesite 12:42 PM  

Not sure if you're still reading these comments, but I thought the puzzle was very tight and quite clever. I liked the timeliness of it as well.
Nice job,

Rex Parker 1:27 PM  

All comments are sent to me as email - no matter how old the post.


Anonymous 2:30 PM  

I love the way you got Trig in there (the baby's name. Can I assume a double meaning from all the winks...that you are not actually a fan of Caribou Barbie?

fikink 3:15 PM  

I am sorry DAN Gable was vetoed. That would have been my looper and I would have assumed you were WINKing at me!

Anonymous 4:09 PM  

Great puzzle! Thanks for looking out for those of us five weeks behind.

Anonymous 3:19 AM  

Fabulous puzzle!!!!!!!!!
Totally worthy of the Times, despite my initial wariness about repeated word...
tho this is way better, you retain all the rights and can tap into the merchandising bonanza!

I see this puzzle (re)printed on nighties (40 winks), tshirts for pitbulls, Bikinis with holsters...
The marketing possibilities are endless!

Seth and I don't feel so left out, thanks to the Minnesota references (Tonka, Arness)...

Even a shout out to Ulrich with Frau!
Did I mention the 8 K's?!

(insert name-dropping story here involving ICE-T, OLIN, ROEG, IONE, ALI/LAILA, AROD, or REESE,
your choice!)

Bravo, Brava, Bravi!

Teresa 8:38 PM  

Let me add my applause. Great puzzle.

Might I add, it was made all that much better by the center horizontal clue. Michael Moore is perfectly placed in the center of a puzzle with a political theme!

wendy 9:43 AM  

Just got back from a trip so only now seeing this. More political puzzles; I love them (Henry Hook has done some neat ones, I think) and this was fabulous!

How did the hated A-ROD get such an honor? Would have expected a more acerbic clue. Was thrilled to see the words "Fin Tutuola" in a clue - I am such a fan of Ice-T in that role.

Anonymous 8:46 PM  

Nice puzzle. That wink of Palin's - sexy!

I have a couple of gripes, despite how much I liked it:

1. I've never heard PROWL CAR used in any crime fiction or cop show, and I'm embarrassed to say I consume that genre by the shovelful. When you Google it, the first four entries lead to online dictionaries, a characteristic Rex has cited as a bad sign. (I had the W and filled in CROWN VIC.)

2. I couldn't solve this puzzle due to the ELKO/OLIN cross. Fun fact: Elko has half the population of Natick. :)

Rex Parker 9:51 AM  

@Free Lunch-

If you consume crime fiction the way you say you do, then presumably you have read the following, from near the beginning of Raymond Chandler's "The Long Goodbye," re: a publicly plastered Terry Lennox:

"His skin was so pale that the long thin scars hardly showed. And his eyes were like holes poked in a snowbank. It was pretty obvious that the buttons in the PROWL CAR were about to drop the hook on him, so I went over there fast and took hold of his arm."

And if you haven't read "The Long Goodbye," then you are no fan of crime fiction.


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