Mini-crosswords have historically been viewed as the Ugly Duckling of the puzzle world. If a New York Times Sunday puzzle is the equivalent of a three-hour Hollywood epic, huge and majestic, then a mini-crossword is something akin to a TV commercial. Scorsese doesn’t direct 30-second ads, and super-skilled (and super-modest) crossword writers like myself have too often turned our noses up at minis, leaving them to somewhat less experienced puzzle writers – or, worst of all, to computers (gross!).
But times have changed – more people solving on phones and tablets means that the 15x15 standard crossword grid is no longer always the ideal size. Smaller is better now, and it’s time to turn our attention to the little grids – in this case, 10x10s. So instead of a 20- or 30-minute solve, I’m looking to give solvers a 5- or 7-minute experience.
Question, though: how do you make a little grid fun?
Answer: the two-ingredient crossword.
A standard-size crossword theme is the unifying motif among four or five theme entries, but a mini-theme has only two entries. Just two? That can’t be very interesting, can it?
That’s what I used to think, until I read an article in Saveur magazine about “two-ingredient sandwiches”. Radishes and butter was one, for instance, and honey and ricotta cheese was another. The pair of ingredients (bread doesn’t count) interact so subtly, speak to each other so nicely, that nothing else is necessary. Sometimes it takes a minute to see what these two ingredients have in common, but then you get the a-ha moment and all is right in the world.
That’s what the theme entries in these crosswords do. Sometimes the two entries will just sound similar, like YUGOSLAVIA and YOGA STUDIO. Other times it’s some intriguing connection, like the clue “Chicago actress” doing double duty for Z-stars ZELLWEGER and ZETA-JONES. Or something more subtle, like CARDAMOM and TRINIDAD. Mom & Dad, right? Love ‘em both the same!
If you can’t figure out the two-ingredient connection in one of these, e-mail me and I’ll tell you. For a dollar! Just kidding. For free. The first time! After that it costs a dollar.
Two-ingredient crosswords; you heard it here first. Hope you dig the sample puzzle – if so, sign up for five more free ones, or just go ahead and subscribe. We’ll both be glad you did!
Solve well and prosper,