Monday, May 15, 2023

Puzzle #207: Disappearing Ink

I came up with a "TV shows without any writers" theme, but in solidarity with the Writers Guild of America strike, I didn't write any fill or clues for it. But I'd only thought of one decent theme entry anyway, and conveniently, it's already in the grid! Maybe you can spot it?

Monday, May 8, 2023

Puzzle #206: Southern Comforters

Another new themed puzzle this week (pdf, puz, pdf solution)! Also, I had yesterday's NYT puzzle - check that out if you haven't had a chance yet.

Monday, May 1, 2023

Indie puzzle highlights: April 2023

I was sick for most of April and fell behind on solving/jotting down which puzzles I wanted to feature, so I've got an extra short roundup this month. (Also, a new charity crossword pack was very rudely released at the end of the month so I haven't had time to solve it yet.)

April 11: Translation for Abuelita (Nancy Serrano-Wu, Lil AVC X)

April 17: Talking in Circles (Brandon Koppy, See 17-Across)

April 27: themeless xxxiii ("soup or salad?") (Brooke Husic, xwords by a ladee)

April 29: Untitled (Juliana Pache, Black Crossword)

April 30: Schoolmates (Ross Trudeau, Rossword Puzzles)









Translation for Abuelita (Nancy Serrano-Wu)

Richard Blanco's poem "Translation for Mamรก" inspired this puzzle, a tribute to Nancy's grandmother, who used wordsearch puzzles to learn English. It's a lovely bilingual puzzle (with English entries clued in English and Spanish entries clued in Spanish), expertly crafted so that there are no pairs of intersecting Spanish entries and the puzzle can be solved by a monolingual English speaker. (But for those who do know Spanish, there are some nice clues, including [Palabra que se encuentra en "casaron," apropiadamente] for ARO.

Talking in Circles (Brandon Koppy)

A really tight theme - O's are added to either side of words and phrases with wacky results (O GOD, SPEEDO, OLIVE CAMO, OPINE SOLO, and OMEGA LITHO), justified by the revealer LOVE HANDLES. I also appreciate that both the title and revealer are perfect encapsulations of the theme - oftentimes, it's one or the other, but not both. Lots of lovely fill, too, including BIGWIG, PREREQ, QUAHOG, REBEL REBEL, TOSTADAS, and ZIPLINE.

themeless xxxiii ("soup or salad?") (Brooke Husic)

As usual, there are lots of long assets with ingenious clues - [Squeaky toys] for BALLOON ANIMALS, [Going out plan] for SLEEP SCHEDULE, [Wife guy?] for BRIDESMAN, [Come with us!] for VIBRATORS. But for the experimental puzzles, Brooke also goes the extra mile with innovative clues for common short entries - [Bonus level?] for CEO, [Name that's always part of the nice list] for ELI, [Be in the lead, say] for ACT, [Tribute opener] for DIS, [PRNG initiator] for SEED, etc.

Untitled (Juliana Pache)

A smooth grid and cluing that's approachable for any solver but especially likely to resonate with Black solvers, the main reason being the clue [Card game that you may be teased over if you don't know how to play it] for SPADES. As a non-Black person, that clue would be totally over my head if I didn't happen to have read Hanif Abdurraqib's A Little Devil in America, which has a (delightful) chapter on spades.

Schoolmates (Ross Trudeau)

A characteristically ambitious theme from Ross, complete with a two-part stacked revealer in the middle (THERE ARE PLENTY/OF FISH IN THE SEA) and some dense grid art (four C-shaped regions of black squares in the grid, each of which has two hidden fish names - TUNA, for example, is hidden in O FORTUNA). Impressive and entertaining in equal parts. (The SEA/C pun also reminds me of Brooke Husic's excellent Modern Crossword joint from the same weekend, which reinterpreted NOTHING TO SEE HERE as an instruction to replace O's with C's in the theme entries.)

Puzzle #205: Half-Time Show

It's been a few weeks since my last puzzle, but I'm back with a new one (pdf, puz, pdf solution) - happy solving!

Monday, April 10, 2023

Puzzle #204: It's All Greek to Me

Like #202, this one's a 66-worder (pdf, puz, pdf solution), but where #202 was lightly themed, this is the most heavily-themed one I've done in a while. Enjoy!

Saturday, April 1, 2023

Indie puzzle highlights: March 2023

March 1: What Do You Say? (Ada Nicolle, Xtra)

March 4: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly (Frisco17 and Pixlate, Good Clues For People Who Love Bad Clues)

March 10: themeless no. 22 (crosstina aquafina, crosstina aquafina)

March 10: Untitled (Paolo Pasco, The Atlantic)

March 17: Puzzle with a Twist (Brandon Koppy, See 17-Across)

March 20: Jolly Good Show (meatdaddy69420, Lil AVC X)

March 20: Untitled (Rafa Musa, Boswords)

March 28: Double Back (Chandi Deitmer, These Puzzl3s Fund Abortion)









What Do You Say? (Ada Nicolle)

Ada's been writing these queer-content-heavy themelesses for Xtra magazine, and it's amazing just how much of that content she manages to squeeze in. In this grid, X GENDER MARKER runs down the middle, crossing two fully thematic stacks at the top (LESBIAN/INTERSEX/DRAG KINGS) and bottom (METAMOURS/ROMANCES/NAUGHTY), plus the symmetrically-placed NIBLINGS, TRANS RIGHTS, and ON GRINDR in the middle section. Mind-boggling!

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly (Frisco17 and Pixlate)

The title refers to the fact that there are three different clue sets: easy, super hard, and Et Tu Etui-style. I didn't dare to check out the latter two, but the easy set was great fun, and I'm guessing the other sets were too, because the grid itself is one of the most well-crafted themeless grids I've seen in a while. Lots of great long stuff (JUST JOSHING, MEMEOLOGIST, Anthony Fantano's RED FLANNEL, CHAOTIC EVIL), but what I especially appreciate is the effort to fill the mid-length slots with colorful and interesting entries (ZEDONK, QUINOA, UNTUCK, WEEABOO, NOT A TOY, BT DUBS).

themeless no. 22 (crosstina aquafina)

Crosstina is always finding new and surprising ways to write hilarious clues. My favorite in this puzzle is a standard hidden word clue that's been spiced up: [extinct bird hiding in venmo account? it's more likely than you think] for MOA. I also have to shout out the clue for TSK, which is so long that I'm not going to type it out here - but it's truly unhinged, in the best way. Fantastic grid, too, with stuff like VIRGO'S GROOVE, ANTICIPOINTMENT, MAKE IT MAKE SENSE, TIKI DRINK, PLETHORA, and READ RECEIPTS.

Untitled (Paolo Pasco)

From the weird grid pattern and the fact that it's 10x10 (when the Atlantic minis usually only go up to 9x9), I figured something was up, but I still was totally taken by surprise by the Schrodinger here - I filled in EVERYWHERE and only realized that EVERYTHING would also work when I was told that I had some letters wrong. Very clever, implying the title Everything Everywhere All at Once with a single 10-letter entry. And the Schrodinger clues are beautiful, too; my favorite is [Enjoying a good bash?] for REVELING and REVILING. But there's more! The Sunday puzzle revealed that all of the year's Best Picture Oscar nominees had been hidden in the week's minis, two per day. Quiara's got a good rundown of all of them here.

Puzzle with a Twist (Brandon Koppy)

I love a puzzle with two different theme mechanisms, especially when it's justified naturally by the revealer, as it is here. The two-part revealer is LEFTY/LOOSEY and RIGHTY/TIGHTY, and the left edge of the puzzle features three things that can be "loose" (TOOTH, ENDS, and TEA) which have been loosened so they stretch two squares across, while the right edge features things that are often tight (MIDDLE SEAT, SARDINES, and CORSET) that have been tightened so they have two letters per square. Beautifully conceived, and it's extremely impressive that Brandon fit four entries in the middle of the grid as revealers, given how much real estate is taken up by theme content on the edges of the grid.

Jolly Good Show (meatdaddy69420)

As a longtime fan of meatdaddy's blog, I'm delighted to see their official debut in the Lil AVC X. The linguist in me was hooked from the start by WUGS at 1-Across, but the entire puzzle is filled with zingy clues, including the pitch-perfect ["Wait, have I not told you this yet? Well..."] for OK SO, [House of Gucci?] for CASA, and educational clues like [Former WWE star who is now *checks clipboard* the Republican Mayor of Knox County, Tennessee] for KANE and [One of the ingredients in pilk (the other being Pepsi)] for MILK. Also, I just so happened to finish the puzzle on NICELY DONE, clued as [My congratulatory words to you, dear solver, after you've completed this puzzle].

Untitled (Rafa Musa)

Rafa is one of the very best themeless constructors out there, but I rarely if ever feature him here because he publishes so much in mainstream venues. So I'm happy to get the chance to highlight his stellar Boswords grid. In his Twitch interview, he noted that he put care into making sure the midlength entries were fun, and it shows here with 8s like DEEP CUTS, FAST BUCK, DON'T PLAY, and LINE COOK, in addition to all the good longer stuff (QUIET QUITTING, WHAT A TRIP, PRANK CALL, GETS FRISKY, ASK ME ANYTHING, DATA MINING, etc.). Truly a masterclass.

Double Back (Chandi Deitmer)

The theme here reveals itself from the very first theme entry, SAY IT AIN'T SO-SO. But I still got a genuine aha moment and laugh out of the revealer, REPRODUCTIVE RIGHTS, cleverly suggesting that the rightmost words in the theme entries get duplicated. The other themers are PEEK A BOO-BOO, YES WE CANCAN, and COUNTRY POP-POP. The revealer is the icing on the cake, but the theme entries themselves are also just really fun to say. The puzzle is filled with fun long fill, too, including GALUMPHS, THE TITS, IS IT ME OR, IMPULSE BUY, PLEASE GO ON, BEER BASHES, and AND TOTO TOO.

Monday, March 20, 2023

Puzzle #203: A Leaf Falls (After E. E. Cummings)

I have to admit, I would have preferred the falling leaves in this puzzle (pdf, puz, pdf solution) to be precisely symmetrical. But after all, the Cummings poem that inspired it isn't quite symmetrical either, and if a slight asymmetry is good enough for Cummings, it's good enough for me.