Monday, May 16, 2022

Puzzle #176: Freestyle 17

It's been a little while since I've posted a classic themeless, so here's one (pdf, puz, pdf solution) - happy solving!

Monday, May 9, 2022

Puzzle #175: Early March

With this week's puzzle, I've gone to the dark side and constructed an asymmetrical themed puzzle (pdf, puz, pdf solution). Which is weird, because it's a totally basic theme with hundreds of possible theme entries, which doesn't seem like a good reason to break symmetry at all...

In other news, this Wednesday I'll be hosting a variety cryptic Twitch stream with Letters to Margaret author Hayley Gold and some special guests - tune into at 9:00 PM Eastern! If you want to print the cryptic out to solve yourself, there's a pdf here.

Monday, May 2, 2022

Puzzle #174: I Get Knocked Down, But I Get Up Again

No .puz or applet for this week's puzzle (pdf, jpz, pdf solution), but there's a PDF as usual, plus a .jpz, which you can solve online using the Crossword Nexus solver. Happy solving!

There are two themelesses published last week that I'm really proud of: the Wednesday New Yorker and the AVCX+. If you haven't solved them, I'd love if you checked them out.

Sunday, May 1, 2022

Indie puzzle highlights: April 2022

April 1: "April Fools!" (Et Tu, Etui?, AVCX+)

April 14: Wet Ass Puzzle (Malaika Handa, AVCX+)

April 14: themeless no. 13 (crosstina aquafina, crosstina aquafina)

April 15: Rosanna (Alex Boisvert and Quiara Vasquez, Crossword Nexus)

April 28: to whom tf it may concern (kate chin park, crosswords schmosswords)









"April Fools!" (Et Tu, Etui?)

I didn't realize how much I missed Et Tu's work until I solved this April Fools' Day puzzle that's like a vowelless crossword on steroids. Every answer is stripped of all of its letters except E, T, U, and I, which allows for a ludicrously wide-open grid. More importantly, like a vowelless crossword but even more so, it allows for a crossword where practically all the fill is fun long stuff, with nary a bit of crosswordese in sight: IS MAYONNAISE AN INSTRUMENT, IT'S MORE LIKELY THAN YOU THINK, CURSE YOU PERRY THE PLATYPUS, NEED SOME ICE FOR THAT BURN, NO ONE OUTPIZZAS THE HUT, WE LIVE IN A SOCIETY, UNLIMITED TALK AND TEXT, and so much more. A delightful from start to finish, especially because of Et Tu's inimitable cluing style. Plus, the whole thing doubles as a loss meme.

Wet Ass Puzzle (Malaika Handa)

It's not easy to make a triple-stack where all three 15s are seed-worthy, but Malaika does just that with REAL HOT GIRL SHIT/MALE ENHANCEMENT/AND MAKE IT SNAPPY. But even if you do, the pressures of the central stack can radiate outward through the grid, leaving little room for other goodness. Admirably, Malaika manages to create a grid pattern that's both aesthetically pleasing and not focused merely on the triple-stack - it also features a pair of stacks of 10s, including fun entries like WHALE RIDER and I DON'T WANNA.

themeless no. 13 (crosstina aquafina)

The key to humor is specificity, and this puzzle demonstrates that in spades. I mean, there are a million ways to clue ESSAY, but who else would come up with [at 8ft 2in tall, with traits of an apex predator (eyes on the front of his head, e.g.) and "the mind of a 6 year-old" we frankly do not know what big bird is capable of. in this ___ i will]? Or [drawn out cries of grief, or anger, or both if you're the ghost that came with my c. 1886 apartment] for WAILS? Or [lit. fiction conceits that boldly ask "what if batman and catwoman had actually met at a starbucks?" or "suppose [redacted memphis grizzlies center] and crosstina were secret agents who accidentally fell in love"] for AUS? This puzzle is just a rollicking good time.

Rosanna (Alex Boisvert and Quiara Vasquez)

This is the final entry in Alex's Yacht Rock series, featuring one puzzle inspired by each of the 12 episodes in the Yacht Rock series on YouTube. The series as a whole is an excellent illustration of the benefits of working under constraints; Alex shows that pretty much any phrase can be the inspiration for an entertaining theme. This one, a collaboration with Quiara Vasquez, has the revealer GHOST NOTES, clued as [Feature of Jeff Porcaro's "Rosanna Shuffle", and also of this puzzle]. Each of the theme entries contains the names of two solfege notes that, when removed, produce another word or phrase: FREELANCER becomes FENCER, TENDONITIS becomes TENNIS, SKI RESORTS becomes SKIRTS, and - my personal favorite find - DOLORES DEL RIO becomes LOS DEL RIO. I appreciate that Alex and Quiara went the extra mile by using pairs of notes, when a more basic version of the theme would have worked just as well.

to whom tf it may concern (Kate Chin Park)

Kate's blog post describes this puzzle as having been written in a fugue state, which makes sense; it has a totally chaotic energy, with several things that would probably annoy me in a vacuum but which work in the context of many more delightfully zany things. A pun clue with 13 question marks, a bunch of wildly specific and long clues, some crassword clues ([Cumming on stage and screen] for ALAN), plus, of course, some straight-up genius wordplay clues ([Touch the heart] for PRESS LIKE and [Periodic backups?] for LINERS). As always, I appreciate Kate's angry political consciousness, exemplified in clues like [Legal theft by landlords] for RENT MONEY.

Monday, April 18, 2022

Puzzle #173: Let's Get Physical (variety cryptic)

In a change of pace, this week's puzzle is a variety cryptic (pdf, ipuz, pdf solution)! Instead of a .puz, there's an .ipuz, which can be opened on sites like the Crossword Nexus solver and

Don't be intimated by the complicated-looking instructions - I've tried to make this an accessible solve for people who are new to variety cryptics. Most clues use only one wordplay mechanism, and for theme-related reasons almost all of the entries are fully-checked. Plus, unlike in most variety cryptics, all the answers are entered in the grid normally, with no manipulation necessary until after you're done solving.

Thanks to Will Heisenberg - I mean Eisenberg - for giving this a test-solve.


Tired of the proliferation of "Schrödinger puzzles" when "Heisenberg puzzles" are nowhere to be found, a mad scientist who subscribes to the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics has cursed this puzzle so that its clues and answers exist in a state of superposition until it is observed. When you opened this file, you collapsed that superposition into one of two possible states. Eleven squares are affected, but luckily, the clues to the eleven affected entries have also changed correspondingly, so the answers to all the clues can still be entered normally.

There's no way to directly observe the other possible state of the grid, but armed with the knowledge that every entry is a regular, uncapitalized English word or phrase, you should be able to figure it out. If you do so, you'll reveal the name of the culprit.

Monday, April 4, 2022

Puzzle #171: Liquidation (with meatdaddy)

This week's puzzle is a collab with fellow linguistics person meatdaddy (pdf, puz, pdf solution)! Predictably, it's got a linguistics-inspired theme. I had a blast writing some meatdaddy-style clues for this one.