Cryptic Puzzle

Begin Again

Begin Again

By Tom Toce

BEGIN AGAIN is what I find I have to do when I fill out a grid 90% of the way and then uncover a fatal flaw. It’s pretty frustrating, but that’s puzzle construction. BEGIN AGAIN is also related to the theme of this puzzle, which you will determine at 23 Across. In fact, in some early versions, BEGIN AGAIN was an entry, until things blew up and I had to . . . BEGIN AGAIN.

All the across entries are related to the theme. None of the down ones are, at least not intentionally.

The clues lead to eight proper nouns. There is one abbreviation. All the other clued entries are playable in Scrabble, including 3 Down, which is uncommon. Ignore punctuation, which is intended to deceive.

Thanks to Bob Fink and Jerry Miccolis for test-solving and editorial suggestions.

Across clues

1.           Twelve o’clock’s out of mind and out of sight

5.           Banish extravagant infantile outbursts

9.           Spectravision’s offering a country star you might call “randy”

10.         Al, we’ll loot at random, without a doubt (3, 3, 4)

12.         After a slip, oak floor becomes legend

13.         Michael Corleone, for example, is another I mixed up

16.         A long time in the recording studio for you and me

18.         Get better from hits of fake liquid (5, 2, 3)

23.         See instructions (6, 6, 5)

24.         Dotted line for banks assuming low rate (5, 5)

25.         Jazz combo acts crazy

27.         Always hiding inside clever mores

30.         Enduring “Parsley, sage, rosemary. . .” on the radio?

35.         Good name established as fail becomes pass during defense

37.         Offkey anthem from outstanding performer (3, 3)

38.         Fashion steps given in a podcast

39.         Exposed after initially taking in twenty-one hundred plus another thousand, this country star still has faith (3, 6)

Down clues

1.           If Tom is out of order, that’s a recurring theme

2.           Speak slowly and elicit a bit of lugubriousness

3.           Relating to the hipbone, Ali is all you need

4.           Some would say go easy on marketing

5.           Vanity in ancient game played on line?

6.           Anger born by the goddess of peace

7.           The Waste Land’s author, describing Pound as a “well-known moose”

8.           Big fan of many Arab countries’ eastern part

11.         Very French attempt at transgression

14.         One supremely ingenious in hearing aptitude assessment (2, 4)

15.         Three wise guys meet California mystic

16.         Unwilling to start late, *expletive*

17.         Pronounced upset due to uncommon kind of flush

19.         Arcane coteries getting organized

20.         Diego’s partner occupies most of Friday

21.         Emoji structured around new alternative when you can’t prevail (4, 2)

22.         He gave us a lift to the first performances of Of Thee I Sing

26.         Earth’s spinning, my dears

28.         Forsaken by the sound of two letters

29.         Tear apart value

31.         Counter quote involving high principle

32.         Hunter of bugs in extremely remarkable upset

33.         Vitality exhibited by complex wines

34.         Not hard reusing the ingredients to make toss offs

36.         Afternoon gathering said to be a turning point

TOM TOCE is an FCAS and a senior manager at EY. He is a member of the Jeopardy Hall of Fame. Solutions may be emailed to In order to make the solver list, you should send him your solutions by June 1, 2024.

Solution to Previous Issue’s Puzzle—Love Triangles

  1. POSTULANT—Scramble “outplans” + T
  2. APOSTATES—APO (“center of crapola”) + STATES (“situations”)
  3. STALEMATE—Letter bank of “Metals”
  4. FLASHIEST—Anagram of “faithless”
  5. ESTABLISH—EILISH—I around STAB (“Foolhardy attempt”)
  6. AMBIENCES—AM (“The first person to be”) + BIEN (“pleasant in Paris”) + CES (reversal of SEC, which is “dry in French”)
  7. FLAMEOUTS—Anagram of “at fulsome”
  8. LOCKSMITH—Anagram of “shock, Milt”
  9. ROCKABIES—RABIES (“Hydrophobia”) around OCK (“marvelous doctor”)
  10. GREENBACK—GREEK (Euclid or Pythagoras) around NBAC (first letters of “nonagon bisectors and congruence”
  11. SQUEAMISH—SQUE (“grotesque faction”) + AMISH (“some Anabaptists”)
  12. LOATHSOME—Anagram of “hate looms”
  13. DOOHICKEY—DICKEY (“tuxedo accessory”) around OOH (“expression of amazement”
  14. KEYBOARDS—Anagram of “Boy, Drake’s”
  15. UNDERGOES—UNDOES (“Releases”) around ERG (“work unit”)

And the six-letter characteristic is: UNIQUE


Steve Alpert, Laura Cremerius, Jared Dashoff, Christopher Dickens, Mick Diede, Dave Dougherty, Deb Edwards, David Handelman, Catharine Hornby and Bruce Harvey, Max Jackson, Ruth Johnson, Paul Kolell, Ken Kudrak, George Logan, Ben Lynch, Mathew Marchione and Marika Brown, Dave McGarry, Jim Muza, David and Corinne Promislow, Ram Raman, Bill Scott, Sally Smith, Zig Swistunowicz, T. O. C. E. (Josh DenHartog and Sean Donohoe), Bonnie Veenschoten

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