Monday, September 19, 2022

Puzzle #186: Throwing Spanners in the Works

Solution to last week's meta below, but first, today's puzzle (pdf, puz, pdf solution), for which it might help you to know that a spanner, in crossword lingo, is an entry that's long enough to span the whole grid.


The instructions for last week's meta told you that the Voyager was stranded in the Delta Quadrant and needed to find its way home via a series of wormholes, with the exit points of the wormholes spelling out the location of some worm holes. Here's the grid:


Starting with VOYAGER, you can make a right turn to travel down the word REAR. But then you're blocked by a black square. Fortunately, the clue for REAR, [Butt], applies just as well to the phrase REAR END, so instead of stopping at the R you can take a wormhole across the grid to continue with END. Then you can make another turn to travel through DISASTER, and take another wormhole across the grid to spell out DISASTER AREA, which also fits the clue, [Scene of chaos]. The pattern continues with ACID RAIN ([Low-pH substance]), NATURE TRAIL ([Place for an outdoorsy type]), and finally LETTER HOME ([Dispatch from camp, say]). The exit points of the five wormholes spell out EARTH, which is the location of some worm holes and, appropriately, is the home to which Voyager has returned.

Monday, September 12, 2022

Puzzle #185: The Long Voyage Home (meta)

The Voyager is stranded in the Delta Quadrant! But with the help of a series of conveniently placed wormholes, it will be able to make its way home. The exit points of the wormholes will spell out the location of some worm holes.

Answer will be up next week. As always, feel free to email me with your solution or if you want a nudge. Thanks to Frisco for the test-solve!

(pdf, puz, pdf solution)

Monday, September 5, 2022

Puzzle #184: The Real Revealer Was the Friends We Made Along the Way

Today's puzzle (pdf, puz, pdf solution) doesn't have a revealer, but after all, isn't the real revealer the friends we made along the way? And remember, you can't spell "friends" without "ends."
 

Thursday, September 1, 2022

Indie puzzle highlights: August 2022

August 10: Bridge Over Troubled Water (Dob Olino, Crossweird Independent Puzzles)

August 10: Candid Camera (Max Carpenter, 99 Movie Crosswords)

August 16: an ode to blahaj (themeless) (Ada Nicolle, luckystreak xwords+)

August 23: fight! win! (carter, Crosshare)

August 25: Time for Dessert (Victor Barocas, Crucinova)

August 27: Happy New Year! (Ella Dershowitz, Lollapuzzoola)

August 27: The Five Boroughs (Kate Chin Park, Kelsey Dixon, Shannon Rapp, Carly Schuna, and Sid Sivakumar, Lollapuzzoola)

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Bridge Over Troubled Water (Dob Olino)

A delightfully original theme: the theme entries are all bridges (ROYAL GORGE, GOLDEN GATE, BROOKLYN, and MACKINAC) that are placed directly over words for bodies of water that have to be anagrammed before being placed in the grid (OCEAN becomes CANOE, LAKE becomes LEAK, MOAT becomes ATOM, and STRAIT becomes ARTIST). It's quite elegant that all the bodies of water anagram to everyday words, too. Despite the originality of the theme, it's still a breezy solve, which is helped by the fact that the title hints at the theme very straightforwardly. A good example of how relatively complex and architecturally tricky themes don't have to be tricky solves!

Candid Camera (Max Carpenter)

This puzzle from A24's new crossword book is inspired by CINEMA/VERITE and the idea of the documentary filmmaker as a FLY ON THE/WALL. The grid literally has a fly on the wall, with JEFF/GOLDBLUM spanning the leftmost column. I'm amused by the imagery it conjures up of The Fly as a cinema verite documentary, and I love the simple elegance of the theme; it's a lovely coincidence that JEFF GOLDBLUM and FLY ON THE WALL can be split up symmetrically. Max is a hardcore cinephile and professional film person, so the clues are also packed with references to filmmakers like Alexander Dovzhenko, Raul Ruiz, and Les Blank, much to my delight.

an ode to blahaj (themeless) (Ada Nicolle)

A lovely grid packed with criss-crossing long entries, all of which are assets: YOU WOULDN'T GET IT, CONSCIOUS RAP, CRYSTAL PEPSI, HELL NO WE WON'T GO, NOSEBLEED SEATS, K-POP STANS, BUTTDIALS, SILK SONIC, etc. Of course, there's still some creative short fill, including Y'ALL'S and AND I clued as [Words famously belted by Whitney Houston]. With respect to the latter, I appreciate the self-reflexive clue for ERRS: [___ on the side of "green paint" (follows my seed entry philosophy)].

fight! win! (carter)

A fantastic 11x11 anchored by a pair of stacks that are about as good as it gets with a grid of this size: BOSS BATTLES/E.T. PHONE HOME/STRUGGLEBUS and ADA LOVELACE/VINE-RIPENED/ADDRESS BARS, linked by the vertical ANGELA DAVIS running down the center. And all the crossing words are pristinely clean!

Time for Dessert (Victor Barocas)

A simple yet conceptually elegant puzzle which must have been extremely challenging to construct. It's a crossword whose completed grid doubles as a word search: once you finish the grid, you're taken to a word search that hides sixteen desserts, as hinted at by the entry SWEET SIXTEEN in the crossword. In other words, there are an astonishing sixteen entire words' worth of letters that are triple-checked in a 17x17 grid. A very impressive puzzle that takes great advantage of the freedom that Crucinova and the PuzzleMe platform allow.

Happy New Year! (Ella Dershowitz)

Ella's puzzle for Lolla was based on the Times Square BALL DROP, with four Across entries in the grid containing the string "ball" that drops vertically to become part of a Down entry. ABSENTEE BALLOT becomes ABSENTEE BOT with the "ball" in RUM BALL, and similarly with THE BALLAD OF SWEENEY TODD and CRYSTAL BALL, BALLET FLATS and DRYER BALL, and HANNIBAL LECTER and POKE BALL. This sort of theme is tough to pull of because of the intersecting theme entries, but Ella does it with aplomb and still manages to squeeze in lots of fun long fill, including SOFT-BLOCKED, STAYCATION, TRUST NO ONE, and HANDS-FREE.

The Five Boroughs (Kate Chin Park, Kelsey Dixon, Shannon Rapp, Carly Schuna, and Sid Sivakumar)

An absolutely stunning demonstration of the grid-art capabilities of the PuzzleMe platform, courtesy of Sid, who has created a grid divided into five sections representing NYC's boroughs, separated by rivers and connected by bridges. The five constructors each filled one of the boroughs to create a meta suite; when you've solved the puzzle, you'll find that the 11 bridges are each flanked by a pair of identical letters, and those letters spell out the meta answer, CONNECTIONS. A simple but elegant meta, and a beautiful aesthetic experience.

Monday, August 15, 2022

Puzzle #183: Ghost Forest (with Brooke Husic)

This week I've got a collab with my frequent partner-in-crime, Brooke Husic (pdf, puz, pdf solution). Keep an eye out later this week for an even bigger puzzle with our byline! And if you want to solve more puzzles by me and Brooke but not ones that we made together, you should come to Lollapuzzoola on the 27th.

Monday, August 1, 2022

Indie puzzle highlights: July 2022

July 8: We Back (Themeless) (Ricky Cruz, Cruzzles)

July 17: focus on the details (themeless) (Ada Nicolle, luckystreak xwords)

July 19: Come Together (Emet Ozar, Crosswords Club)

July 19: invisible string (Lila Goldenberg and Rose Sloan, Crafty Crosswords)

July 25: Color Code (Alina Abidi, Lil AVC X)

July 26: You Complete Me (Jack Murtagh, Lil AVC X)

July 27: Turtle Island (Dob Olino and Kate Chin Park, crosswords schmosswords)

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We Back (Themeless) (Ricky Cruz)

Since he posts so infrequently these days, every Ricky Cruz puzzle is a special treat, packed with both creative fill (CHRONONAUT, FALL DAMAGE, WHAAM) and ingenious clues ([Harmonic motion] for CHECKMATE, [Made a top ten hit???] for HIGH-FIVED, [Comes down with something during a cold season?] for SLEDS, [Poetic units making up this clue] for IAMBI, [Maestro's area] for ESCUELA). In this puzzle, I particularly like the evocative conversational clues for common words, including ["We are buying this"] for NEED and [Correction to a statement that no longer holds true] for WAS.

focus on the details (themeless) (Ada Nicolle)

In the notes for this puzzle, Ada says that she's practicing her hard-puzzle skills, and indeed this is a style of wide-open grid with chunky corners that I'm not used to seeing from Ada. With the assistance of some asymmetry, though, she pulls it off with aplomb. The NW corner is the wild stack of BROWNIES/TOY POODLE/UNDERTALE/BEER MILER/STRAINERS. Elsewhere, there's the creative fill that I expect from Ada, including PHOTO SET, San FRANSOKYO, and LMK.  

Come Together (Emet Ozar)

I was idly thinking the other day that MAKE ENDS MEET would be a good revealer, but I couldn't think of a good way of implementing it. Then came along this puzzle, which cleverly uses diagonal symmetry to create four pairs of entries where the words ENDS meet at the end: THE BENDS/BARTENDS, PAY DIVIDENDS/FALSE FRIENDS, URBAN LEGENDS/MARKET TRENDS, and MAKE ENDS MEET/LONG WEEKENDS. In the last pair, they don't actually meet at the end, because otherwise the revealer would work, but this only makes the construction more impressive, since it requires two pairs of long overlapping entries in the SE corner. Both clever and architecturally intricate.

invisible string (Lila Goldenberg and Rose Sloan)

A lovely little 11x11 puzzle with a very entertaining cluing voice. Indie puzzles with long clues can sometimes drag over the span of a 15x15 solve, but this one's just the right size to be perfectly enjoyable. Clue highlights: [Create a cool hacking device that disables passcodes and laser grids, e.g.] for ABET, [Accessory that might be placed on an ear to denote a female teddy bear and a neck to denote a male teddy bear, because apparently even teddy bears are subject to the gender binary] for BOW, [It goes up to 11, in what is widely considered to be the worst "Star Trek" episode] for WARP SPEED, [What, according to the NYT, keeps a watch on you, proving them to be pocket watch haters] for STRAP, and many more. I also really enjoyed seeing RAVELRY and VEVO in the fill.

Color Code (Alina Abidi)

This is about the Platonic ideal of a themed midi, for me. It's got an original, tightly executed theme, plus great fill and cluing throughout. As the title hints at, the theme answers are phrases that are a programming language plus a color, with the clues being the syntax for how you'd print that color in the language. For example, RUBY RED is clued as [print "Sweet grapefruit variety";]. Aesthetically, I love the fact that all the theme entries (the others are GO GREEN and BASIC BLACK) are alliterative. The use of an asymmetrical grid allows Alina to maximize the amount of colorful fill, which includes BOUNCY BALL, CARBOLOADED, STYLE ICONS, and BAD KNEE.

You Complete Me (Jack Murtagh)

Lil AVC X is on a roll! This puzzle is only available as a PDF, which tends to annoy me as someone who doesn't currently have a printer hooked up. But on the other hand, PDF-only puzzles often have gimmicks that make it worthwhile, and this one is a prime example. The crossword resembles a JIGSAW/PUZZLE; various chunks have been removed from the rectangular grid and are clued separately as miniature puzzles. For example, the NW corner starts with ENDASH and NOODLE stacked on each other, but the END and second O have been removed, forming a mini-puzzle consisting of the words END and NO crossed. Finally, a big chunk has been removed from the middle of the grid, but is not clued separately - that chunk, aptly, consists of the words MISSING/PIECE. A beautifully creative use of the medium.

Turtle Island (Dob Olino and Kate Chin Park)

A lovely puzzle that includes the names of a couple dozen indigenous groups from North America in geographically appropriate locations within a grid shaped like North America. Both an architectural feat and a very thoughtful puzzle, particularly when it comes to the theme clues, which are varied, respectful, and interesting. This puzzle also includes the best-ever clue for UTERI: [Get ova here!].

Puzzle #182: Biased Opinion

Back to diagonal symmetry with this week's puzzle (pdf, puz, pdf solution). Happy solving!