Last week was the annual Boswords puzzle tournament. Friends-of-the-show Andy Kravis, Chris Adams, and Ken Stern finished 1st, 2nd and 3rd, respectively. I came in 6th out of 78 competitors in the advanced (“Red Sox”) division, and just two minutes behind the two solvers who tied for 3rd. Not a bad showing if I say so myself! Of course, part of my high ranking is that a couple of top-flight solvers who are faster than I am made errors where I did not, but hey, that’s part of the game. I’d have been happy wherever I placed, though, since the real joy is just getting to see the puzzle family again.

You can order this year’s set of Boswords puzzles at the link above for $5 — a real steal, that. I enjoyed them, and I think you will too. A big thanks to John Lieb and Andrew Kingsley for organizing it all.

Speaking of big . ..

Whoa! That’s a lot of crossword to fill in. 196 answers in total, which beats my previous high for a single puzzle (last year’s “Mini Madness” puzzle had 180 answers). Just as you might settle in for a while to read a good book, I hope you set aside some extra time for this extra-large puzzle.

Ten books have circled words in their titles, spelling out a quotation by an author who also happens to be in the puzzle:

  • 33A: [Pearl S. Buck work that won a Pulitzer] is “THE GOOD EARTH.”
  • 36A: [Clive Barker horror fiction collection] is “BOOKS OF BLOOD.”
  • 44A: [Harlan Coben thriller published in 2017] is “DON’T LET GO.” This was both a title I didn’t know and an author I didn’t know until writing this puzzle.
  • 48A: [Angie Thomas novel inspired by Black Lives Matter] is “THE HATE U GIVE.” The shortened form of “you” might have been a bit unexpected if you haven’t heard of this book.
  • 51A: [Shel Silverstein poetry collection] is “FALLING UP.”
  • 75A: [Cormac McCarthy novel adapted into a 2000 film] is “ALL THE PRETTY HORSES.”
  • 98A: [Zora Neale Hurston classic] is “THEIR EYES WERE WATCHING GOD.”
  • 119A: [Rebecca Wells novel adapted into a 2002 film] is “DIVINE SECRETS OF THE YA-YA SISTERHOOD.” A 32-letter, grid-spanning answer which is by far my longest single answer in any puzzle.
  • 146A: [John Updike novel with an animal in its title] is “RABBIT AT REST.” This clue would also fit for the book “RABBIT IS RICH,” but unfortunately I couldn’t find a concise way of differentiating the two.
  • 160A: [T.H. White classic whose title’s last word is the last name of the author who wrote this puzzle’s text message] is “THE ONCE AND FUTURE KING.”

The quotation reads “Good books don’t give up all their secrets at once,” which is from the Stephen King book “Stephen King Goes to the Movies.” Crosswords don’t give up all their secrets at once, either . . . unless you solve them online and just hit Reveal All Answers before you started, but that’d be a little like reading the last couple of chapters of a book first.

The giant size of the puzzle was, obviously, an artifact of the way I chose to hide the quotation. No doubt there were shorter quotations out there (or shorter book titles) that could have served this theme in a smaller grid. But the King quote seemed apt as a description of the similarity between reading a book and solving a crossword, and then it felt like a major stroke of luck that there was a famous book out there whose title hid both the final word of the quote and its author.

Since I’ve never constructed a puzzle this large, I decided to go pretty easy on the cluing. I don’t imagine every clue was an instant gimme, but I leaned more toward that. Who wants to get hit with a supersized puzzle only to find out the clues are absurdly hard? If you solved this in the Magazine, you’ll notice that we had to move the solution to the previous week’s puzzle elsewhere; but even with that extra space, the majority of clues still needed to be fairly concise to fit all 196 of them on the page. Here’s a small sample of this puzzle’s hefty volume of clues:

  • 27A: [Ministry of Magic official also called a “dark wizard catcher” in Harry Potter novels] is AUROR. Despite its friendly letter combo and the lasting fame of the Harry Potter books, I haven’t seen this word in too many puzzles. I tried to cross it fairly for those who have never read the series.
  • 133A: [Allowing People over at one’s house again, say?] is RENEWING. I’m a sucker for pun-style clues that refer to magazines.
  • 174A: [He who created Whos] is Dr. SEUSS. I tried to give this clue at least a fraction of Seuss’s whimsy.
  • 22D: [Remains in outer space, e.g.?] is DEBRIS. One of my favorite clues today.
  • 41D: [Copier brand that’s an anagram of CHOIR] is RICOH. This answer crosses CERA (58A: [Michael of “Juno”]) at the C, and it was easy to imagine this letter tripping up a fair number of solvers. Just trying to help, folks.
  • 44D: [Battery type that’s a little larger than a C battery] is D CELL. I tried to be somewhat specific about its size because if you didn’t know “DON’T LOOK BACK” or ORLEAN at 45D: [“The Orchid Thief” author Susan], it’d be easy to think the book title were “CAN’T LOOK BACK.”
  • 101D: [Like “Us”] is EERIE. This is Jordan Peele’s second film as a director. I saw it a couple of months ago. Of Peele’s two movies, I still prefer “Get Out,” though.
  • 122D: [Auto racer Teo] is Teo FABI. Arguably one of the lesser known names in the puzzle. The I of his name is what caused me to specify that the John Updike book had an animal in its title, just to head off any ambiguity with the crossing.
  • 151D: [Very not nice] is EVIL and 152D: [Very nice] is KIND. The former clue is a bit stilted, but I went for it anyway since it was right next to its opposite.

We’ll return next week with a normal-sized puzzle. I promise. It’ll be tougher than this one, though I couldn’t say which one will take longer to complete.