Evan Birnholz’s April 21 Post Magazine crossword, “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle”


There had been some question at the end of this year’s American Crossword Puzzle Tournament whether it would return to Stamford, Conn., for another year. The event drew record attendance this year, and it wouldn’t be shocking if the tournament needed a new space to accommodate the large number of contestants. However, organizers recently announced that the ACPT is, in fact, returning to Stamford next year on March 20-22. So you can start making plans now, although registration won’t be open for several months.

Solution to April 21, 2019 crossword, “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” (Evan Birnholz/The Washington Post)

Tomorrow is Earth Day, so I wrote an eco-puzzle for this weekend. Nearly every non-themeless puzzle I’ve written for The Post features one overarching theme that connects the whole puzzle together. Today, we have three different mini-themes, each based on one of the three Rs of the environmental mantra “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.” The Reduce theme answers take synonyms for “waste” and squash them into rebus squares, with their clues hinting at “reduced waste”:

  • 22A: [Person selling discarded objects (reduced waste)] is (JUNK) DEALER. Crossing it at 22D: [Officials’ trips (Hint: The first syllable rhymes with 54 Down)] is (JUNK) ETS. I threw in that parenthetical hint to help you out in case either phrase wasn’t obvious.
  • 47A: [Amass with difficulty, as money (reduced waste)] is (SCRAP) E TOGETHER. Crossing it at 47D: [Pork mush dish that rhymes with a fruit] is (SCRAP) PLE. I don’t know if I’ve ever eaten it myself, although it’s sold in Philadelphia and other surrounding Mid-Atlantic cities. Once again, I tossed in that rhyming hint to help limit the possibilities.
  • 95A: [Garbage disposal unit member (reduced waste)] is (TRASH) COLLECTOR. Crossing it at 78D: [Summertime skin woe] is HEA(T RASH).

The Reuse theme features phrases in which a type of food container is “reused,” or repeated in the phrase itself:

Finally, the Recycle theme features familiar phrases that are anagrams of recyclable objects:

  • 38A: [Experience the initial thrill of a potential victory, idiomatically (recycled SODA BOTTLE)] is TASTE BLOOD.
  • 87A: [Generate discussion (recycled D BATTERIES)] is STIR DEBATE.
  • 121A: [Tiny bit (recycled COUPONS)] is SOUPCON. Okay, fine, the C of SOUPÇON has a cedilla where COUPONS does not, but just work with me on this.

I imagine that each theme has its own difficulty level for solvers. My guess is that the Reduce theme is likely to be the toughest (because rebus squares tend to be unexpected), and that the Recycle theme would be the easiest (because it’s telling you directly which letters can be found in the answer). But paradoxically, the Recycle theme was by far the hardest part for me to work out. It’s once thing to create nonsense anagrams like, say, LOBED TOAST or SLOB TO DATE from the phrase SODA BOTTLE, but it’s far harder to find legitimate, in-the-language phrases that can anagram to equally legit phrases. Just finding three suitable anagrams of recyclable objects took several hours. Some anagrams that fell just short for me include LABOR EXEC (an anagram of CEREAL BOX), RIDE-TRACKING (an anagram of INK CARTRIDGE), CAPTAIN N (a not-so-well-known video game-based cartoon from the early 1990s that I used to watch and that anagrams to PAINT CAN), and POTIONS TEST (a sort of arbitrary description of a Harry Potter exam that anagrams to POST-IT-NOTES). Still, once I found that STIR DEBATE could anagram to D BATTERIES, I just had to keep going.

I intended this puzzle to be more challenging than normal, but it turns out that I went way too far during the test-solving phase. It’s not uncommon for me to ease up on clues when warranted, but I ended up changing close to half of this puzzle’s clues to make them easier. I hope that it’s still solvable and fun in the end.

Some other answers and clues:

  • 58A: [“Nature’s sole mistake,” per the libretto to “Princess Ida”] is MAN. I mean, maybe nature’s biggest mistake, but “sole” mistake? Neither Gilbert nor Sullivan ever met my cat. Just look at this fluffy yet lovable mistake:

Evan’s cat, Leeloo Dallas Multipass (Evan Birnholz/Evan Birnholz)

See you next week!

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