TUESDAY PUZZLE — For a handful of years, there’s been a running joke among my friends that I hate Halloween. Reader, it isn’t true. I harbor no ill will toward the spooky season; I even make a habit of watching a few extra horror movies in October. I may not get a thrill from wearing a costume — which I realize seems odd, given my reputation as a punster — but that doesn’t translate to any hate. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with Halloween; we’re just better off staying friends. Or: It’s not the “Boo!” — it’s me.
I share this as a preamble for today’s crossword, which was constructed by Daniel Grinberg, a Halloween enthusiast. But look alive: The ghastly creatures in Mr. Grinberg’s grid may catch you unawares in more ways than one.
I’m willing to bet that no part of your Halloween plans involves being dumped by its most famous characters. And yet, that’s precisely what seems to be happening in Mr. Grinberg’s grid.
Each themed entry features a groan-inducing “breakup line” from some spooky figure. The “Breakup line from a vampire?” at 20-Across, for example, is YOU’RE NOT MY TYPE, a joke about the creature’s taste for blood. The “Breakup line from a werewolf” (24A) warns of a full moon with its double-entendre entry: TIME FOR A CHANGE.
Even though I’ve heard these jokes dozens of times, I couldn’t help but smile as I filled in the grid. What possessed me to enjoy them? A wordplay demon, probably. We have those here seasonally, right next to the emus.
17A. To “Keep it polite!” is to “STAY CLASSY,” as a certain anchorman in a movie used to put it.
59A. You may say this word often without giving a second thought to spelling it, so here it is: TCHOTCHKES is the Yiddish loanword for “Trinkets.”
64A. A “Turning point?” is a KNOB, though I was briefly convinced that the entry was “knot” (because, if you squint hard enough, tying a shoelace involves some turning). This wrong answer, however, resulted in a crossing Down entry that labeled “One whose taste buds may not crave Buds” a “beer snot.”
66A. I had never heard of Mount OSSA, the “‘Odyssey’ peak” referred to here. In Homer’s myth, it’s one of the mountains that giants are said to have piled on top of one another to try to reach and destroy the gods.
4D. A “Specification on a park pass” might read DAY USE. What a crisp, unexpected pairing of a clue with its entry. I hope it gets many a future day’s use!
9D. George COSTANZA is the famous kvetch of “Seinfeld” who yells “I’m disturbed! I’m depressed! I’m inadequate! I got it all!”
30D. Another word for “Doohickey” is GIZMO, just one of many ways of saying the same, uh, “thing.”
Halloween is my favorite holiday; I semi-facetiously start planning my costume for the following year on Nov. 1. So having a monster-themed crossword appear during spooky season is a special kind of thrill. The genesis of this puzzle occurred while I was watching an episode of the excellent show “What We Do in the Shadows.” Amid the hilariously byzantine romantic entanglements of the vampires, an apt phrase for dumping a bad match popped into my head: YOU’RE NOT MY TYPE. From there, it was figuring out how other monsters would deliver fitting kiss-offs. Frankenstein and the werewolf came instantly, but a fourth theme answer eluded me. Fortunately, my partner, Derek, came through with the winning suggestion for the mummy, and that ultimately became my favorite answer.
While it’s not spooky, I also enjoyed the kismet of four words related to Hawaii (SPAM, OAHU, TARO and UKES) and both Batman’s CAPE and COWL ending up in this puzzle. Those weren’t planned but were happy surprises I discovered while cluing.
I hope you enjoy solving this puzzle as much as I enjoyed making it, or at least I hope it doesn’t suck (one more vampire pun for you)!
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