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The Ticking Clocks

 I'm not usually a fan of tribute puzzles, but a movie I really love has gotten popular on Tumblr recently, and I thought I'd make a crossword puzzle about it. If you're not familiar with the main subject of this puzzle, you might find the puzzle confusing (though you can learn more about the movie here). Outside of the theme content, I tried to clue this one pretty easy, so if you're a fan of the movie but not a seasoned solver, you should still be able to enjoy this!

For anyone who found this post through Tumblr and isn't a regular A Crossword Rose visitor, welcome to my blog! I have a bunch of puzzles that, honestly, aren't very much like this one at all but have a lot of Internet humor and other fun references in them. If you're interested in doing more indie puzzles, check out the Daily Crossword Links website, where you'll find links to all sorts of really cool crossword puzzles. I'd also like to specifically shout out AVCX, an indie crossword subscription. I'll be editing for their midi branch next year, and we hope to put out really fun and fresh midi crosswords (that, once again, are not very much like this silly tribute puzzle).

Puz file | Crosshare

A.I. (with Alex Boisvert)

 Welcome back to A Crossword Rose, where this week's puzzle's cluing style is... a little different. Yes, that's right, Alex and I used some code he wrote for Tabula Rasa and some code I wrote in college top of the line AI to clue a crossword. I'm sure all the resulting clues are totally normal clues with no factual or grammatical errors.

In all seriousness, the answer to "can an AI given a clue database clue a crossword?" is, at this point, yes. While there's still plenty of debate to be had about how good current language models are, crossword clues are short enough (and the number of reasonable ways to clue most entries is small enough) that it's absolutely possible to train an AI to write clues. In fact, the very simple model I started with here (a bigram model with some extra code to prevent it from simply copying long clues from the database) mostly produced fairly coherent reasonable clues. Of course, an AI can't really find new angles or word things in particularly creative ways, so many of the clues were short and/or uninspired, but they were perfectly serviceable clues.

The model that produced the clues you'll see today is not that "perfectly serviceable" bigram model--or at least not exactly, since I've added some extra code to encourage longer clues and inject some extra randomness. I think the resulting clues are fun, though some are certainly more coherent than others! With the exception of the theme answers, 100% of the clues were written by our AI, and we used the AI's first output for almost all of them (though we had to regenerate two clues to avoid tricky crossings). Let me know what your favorite AI clues are--I think 31A is great, though I also love the world that 32D imagines.

Thanks to Norah for test solving!

iPuz | direct link

soft piano music (themeless)

 Today's puzzle is a themeless. It is also, in full disclosure, another puzzle that's coming off the rejection pile, which I hope doesn't discourage you from solving it, because I really, really love this grid. It's always a little bittersweet posting this sort of puzzle, because rejections are rough, and, in all honesty, it can be kind of discouraging to still be mostly making blog puzzles when it feels like more and more great constructors are (very deservedly!) shifting to publish more at non-blog outlets. At the same time, I'm very glad to have this space to post puzzles that reflect my voice and interests, and I'm grateful to anyone who solves these puzzles, whether we're friends, acquaintances, or strangers.

As for the puzzle itself, 19A and 54A were the seeds (and inspired the title), but I think I managed to pack it with a ton of fun fill beyond those. As for the clues, I've swapped out three or four of them to add more indie flavor to this, but most of them were the clues I originally submitted. Fun fact: one of the most standard crossword clues in here actually has a reference to my Dungeons and Dragons character. (All I'll say is that I loved Greek mythology as a kid and love playing a ridiculous bard as an adult.)

Crosshare | Puz

It's a Wild World (with Dan Schwartz)

 Today I have a collaboration with friend of the blog/excellent cryptic solver/amazing cat owner Dan Schwartz! We collaborated months ago on another puzzle that is very good and fun (in my totally unbiased opinion), and I hope you find this one very good and fun too! (And while you're at it, check out Dan's blog for more excellent puzzles.)

Dan came to me last spring and asked if we could use one this puzzle's themers somewhere. I spotted a theme it could belong to, and the rest of the puzzle came together from there. We initially tried to target this one for mainstream publication, so the clues may be a little less unhinged than usual (though still full of our personalities and interests). After a few rejections, we've decided it fits better as a blog puzzle, particularly since the themer that inspired the whole puzzle might be better known to blog audiences than newspaper audiences.

From Dan: "I had never seen 20-Across in a crossword before, and asked Rose if we could make a puzzle around it. She came up with this theme for it because, again, Rose is an incredible genius. I hope you enjoy this puzzle, we certainly enjoyed making it!"

Puz | Crosshare

Good News

 Hi, everyone. Still busy, but I had an idea for a fairly topical puzzle, and I decided to get it out there. This puzzle is for those of us who are too online and also love it when bad things happen to bad people. If you don't fall into both of those categories, this is probably not the theme for you (but overall, the cluing is mostly standard A Crossword Rose fare).

This is not test solved and was proofread exactly once, because I wanted to get this out quickly. If you spot a typo, please let me know. If you spot a clue with no typos that makes no sense, feel free to keep that to yourself.

Crosshare | Puz

Pleasant Company (with Shannon Rapp)

 Today I'm very excited to be posting a collab with my friend and frequent collaborator Shannon Rapp, who you might also know as Norah Sharpe, her alter ego on her blog Norah's Puzzles (a very good blog with very good puzzles). You may also know her from her work on Daily Crossword Links (which you should definitely be subscribed to), from her puzzles at Lil AVCX, or from one of our many previous collabs. The theme of this puzzle is very nostalgic for both of us, and I was super excited when we realized we could make a theme out of it! We made this puzzle a few months ago (so, no, I wasn't lying in my last post when I said I'm super busy in the near future), and I'm very happy to be sharing it now.

From Shannon:

"Hi friends! For me, this puzzle brings back memories (circa 1991) of sprawling out on the floor surrounded by catalogs and books, trying to imagine life in simpler, or at least different, times. I hope you enjoy it!

I think it's important to talk about rejections, and hopefully it's instructive for the construction-curious to hear a little of the backstory. We started making this puzzle in April. It got two rejections before we decided to post it today. It's a fun puzzle! And we think it's pretty good, but good and fun puzzles get rejected all the time for all sorts of reasons. And for this one, it was simply about the type of theme. I'll let you see what that means for yourself, no spoilers! 

In happier news, Rose and I have a joint scheduled to run in late September, so watch your inboxes and your Daily Crossword Links!"

Puz | Crosshare

Trading Places

Today's puzzle is a lightly themed 13x, which somehow makes it at least the third 13x puzzle I've made. Honestly, I don't know why I keep making 13x puzzles (beyond the obvious of having seed entries that work best with a 13x grid), since they're in the sort of awkward position of being too big to be a midi but too small to be a full-sized puzzle, but they've worked out okay for me so far. Anyways, this one came about because I noticed a similarity between two entries in here, and I had to do something with it.

While you're here, please check out the collab I did recently with Lila Goldenberg--it's a midi filled with fun clues and Taylor Swift references. Otherwise, I'm mostly taking a break from constructing this summer due to some life stuff keeping me busy, so this will probably be the last puzzle here for another month or two (unless I'm struck by another idea, which is always a possibility).

Thanks to my sister for a test solve.

Puz | Crosshare