Monday, April 22, 2019

Puzzle #100: The Withering Away of the State

We've finally hit Puzzle #100 here on the blog, which means of course that it's time for a puzzle inspired by Marxist theory (pdf, puz, pdf solution)! And coincidentally, the 100th subscriber puzzle will also be going out this week - if you're not signed up, what are you waiting for?

Monday, April 1, 2019

Indie puzzle highlights: March 2019

Welcome to the latest installment of my indie puzzle highlights! Without any ado, here are my favorite puzzles from this month that aren't covered on Crossword Fiend:

March 2: Themeless 87 (Erik Agard, Glutton for Pun)

Another stellar themeless from Erik, as if we expected anything less. The number of great clues in this one is astounding. Highlights include [Standard operating procedure] as a clue for ANESTHESIA (it was also cleverly used as a clue for FLAG CODE in one of Erik's puzzles last year), [Artery uncloggers] for CARPOOLS, [Refuse to tap out] for ASHES, and [Take in a movie] for HEIST. But my favorite was [Square footage] for a four-letter entry - not AREA, as you'd naturally assume, but SYNC, which deviously reinterprets "square" as a verb.

March 4: You Snooze... (Matt Gaffney, New York Magazine)

My favorite piece of crossword news in the last month was that Matt Gaffney's crossword for New York Magazine are finally available for free online. My favorite of the month was his March 4 offering, whose theme entries are phrases that lose the letter Z, with the revealer LOSE A LITTLE SLEEP. Tons of colorful themers, including BOO THE CLOWN, IT'S FREEING IN HERE, and IGGY STARDUST. Good fill, too, including ADJUSTABLE, PASS THE BAR, and ROAD WINS.

March 9: In Control (Bryant White, Spyscape)

This puzzle was inspired by Get Smart; the phrase CONE OF SILENCE zigzagged through the grid to form the shape of the Cone of Silence under which Maxwell Smart and the Chief sit on the show, with SMART and CHIEF in the appropriate positions. SHOE PHONE and WOULD YOU BELIEVE rounded out the theme. A very nice visual theme, complemented by some nice fill like WET SNOW and solid cluing, including [Oxford mark] for SCUFF.

March 11: Aries Cryptic #11 (Andrew Ries, Aries Cryptic)

Andrew's work is consistently good, but this one was my favorite of his puzzles this month. There were two real standouts for me in the clues: [Stream content at no charge, capturing what's right and wrong] for FRESHWATER, and [Rays catcher bungled A's bunt hit, leading to error and run] for SUNBATHER.

March 11: Turn Around (Chris Adams, arctan(x)words)

Chris takes a bit of crosswordese and turns it into a delightful theme, where the revealer UIE indicates that U and E are added to phrases to make the theme entries. There's a good dose of wackiness in the theme entries: STATUE POINTS, GUY MONTAGUE, ROMAN J. ISRAELESQUE, VALUE KILMER, and GIGUE ECONOMY. Some very fresh fill too, including QUESTLOVE, BOARD EXAM, and FANDOMS.

March 21: Untitled (Caleb Madison, The Atlantic)

Impressively, this 8x8 themeless had no fewer than six 8-letter entries I really liked, which is a lot to stuff into such a small grid: SCALAWAG, SET PIECE, BUCK WILD, AI WEIWEI, CLAPBACK, and STEINWAY.

March 21: Puzzle No. 3493 (Joshua Kosman and Henri Picciotto, The Nation)

This week's cryptic from The Nation had a mini-theme: the last down entry was LAST, clued as [Like this clue, what can precede each of 11 diagram entries to make a phrase]. And indeed, Joshua and Henri managed to squeeze BREATH, WORD, RITES, DITCH, CALL, RESORT, SUPPER, NAME, GASP, LEGS, and HURRAH into the grid. Plenty of great clues as usual, but my favorite was the genius &lit clue [Observer at core, following star and moon motions!] for ASTRONOMER.

March 25: Band Weaving (Patrick Berry, A-Frame Games)

At the ACPT, Patrick presented a tribute to crossword legend Mike Shenk by combining two puzzle types that Mike invented: Marching Bands and Spell Weaving. This is surely one of Patrick's most jaw-dropping constructions, which is saying a lot. A couple of dozen squares in this one appear in no fewer than four different words, rather than the usual two, making the grid astronomically more difficult to fill than a normal crossword, but Patrick does it seemingly without breaking a sweat.

March 26: [Cue FRIENDS Theme Song] (Nate Cardin)

Nate doesn't have an indie site, but the ACPT inspired him to dash off this puzzle with an amicable theme, in which words are reparsed as groups of friends: CORK'S CREW, BUMP KIN, OX FAM, CAR PALS, and TASTE BUDS. It's only a 13x13 grid, but Nate manages to fit in lots of good stuff in the fill, including PREMARITAL SEX, JACKALOPE, and KTHX. [Gettsyburg address?] as a clue for EDU is also very nice. This puzzle made me wish we saw Nate's byline more often!