Monday, August 5, 2019

Thursday, August 1, 2019

Indie puzzle highlights: July 2019

July 1: Puns & Anagrams (Andy Kravis ft. Erik Agard, Outside the Box)

I have to admit, Puns & Anagrams puzzles aren't really my thing. They're often basically a less rigorous form of cryptic, and I'd rather just solve a normal cryptic. But at their best, they take advantage of the looser format to entertain in ways that typical crosswords can't. This one's a case in point; it's got a huge variety of different types of wordplay in the clues (MIC is [Seis addition], OUT COLD is [Opposite of in heat], PRELAW is [Place for Coles], SLACKER is [Aimle peron], etc.). The clue for BOLSHOI, [Wherein a dancer gambols, hoists their partner], is an especial delight.

July 2: Match Fixing (Ross Trudeau, Rossword Puzzles)

Ross Trudeau's got a brand-new puzzle site, inevitably named Rossword Puzzles. I've enjoyed all the puzzles he's posted so far; this one was one of the large crop of Women's World Cup-inspired puzzles we got around this time. There might even have been too many such puzzles, but I liked this one, since I'm always a sucker for a Schrodinger grid. The grid oscillates between AMERICA and ENGLAND as the two possible winners of the final match. (Though of course, we all now know what the correct answer turns out to be.) My favorite Schrodinger clue: [An instagrammer might show this off on her arm #newaccessory! ;-)], which can clue BAE or BAG. Minor ding for the duplication of NEW and NEWS, but otherwise a great puzzle.

July 7: Out-of-Body Experiences (Paolo Pasco, Grids These Days)

This Paolo puzzle is inspired by the chest-bursting scene from Alien. In each theme entry, the string of letters CHEST is interrupting by the name of an alien bursting upwards. So CHEF'S TABLE crosses ALF at the F, RORSCHACH TESTS crosses GROOT at the T, and SNATCHES AT crosses YODA at the A. An extraordinarily weird set of mental images, if you insert those aliens into the Alien scene! The non-theme fill sparkles, too: ZEBRA SHARK, HOCKEY MASK, SURF THE WEB, HIGGS BOSON, SCENIC ROUTE, and TOP-TEN LISTS are among the lively long fill entries.

July 11: Puzzle No. 3504 (Joshua Kosman and Henri Picciotto, The Nation)

This one's a cryptic with a gimmick. The revealer SINGLE-MINDEDLY describes how the across entries are clued: as if all their double letters were single letters. So for example, [Spy on (stare at) wasteful endeavor] clues BOONDOGGLE, though the wordplay half of the clue suggests BOND OGLE. Similarly, [Dog returning what I threw?] cleverly clues BALL, which is the dog LAB backwards if you ignore the double L. Outside of the gimmick, there's also a great &lit clue ([Colossal volley contents!] for SALVO).

July 15: Marching Bands (Andrew Esten, Outside the Box)

Andrew fits some impressively long entries into this Marching Bands, including MORMON TABERNACLE taking up an entire band and A CLOCKWORK ORANGE overlapping the last six letters of RAGNAROK going backwards. It was cool to see half of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (WAR and PESTILENCE) make an appearance. A really nice construction.

July 26: Bigger Than Before (Paolo Pasco)

Paolo Pasco has his own puzzle site, which you read about a few paragraphs above and about a million other teams in these roundups, but he didn't publish this puzzle there, he just posted a pic on Twitter. A wise choice, because the theme is based on a viral video which, in these fast-paced times, everyone has probably already forgotten about by now. In the puzzle, the word EGG appears three times in the grid, getting bigger each time it appears. If you have no idea of the significance of that, then you're probably just not online enough, but I kind of like the idea of solving this puzzle without the original reference point. It'd basically be the nonsense absurdist humor that millennials like Paolo love so much. Plus, the word EGG is inherently funny, if you ask me.

July 27: Made or Marred (David Alfred Bywaters, New Crosswords / Old Novels)

As the name of his site suggests, David posts a new crossword and a recommendation of a forgotten Victorian novel every week. This week, he combines the two by recommending Jessie Fothergill's Made or Marred and posting a crossword inspired by the sound change in the novel's title: the themers are LAMP SHARD, PLUMBER'S SNARK, A SLAP IN THE FARCE, I'VE COME TO STAR, and HELL TO PAR. A colorful, entertaining set. David's puzzles tend to lack flash; he opts for straightforward, easy cluing and eschews most modern references. So they're rarely my favorites, but on the plus side his fill is usually very smooth, and he often highlights interesting words - in this case, entries like PERORATE and SUPPLE.

July 28: Fall Colors (Matt Gaffney, New York Magazine)

This puzzle's technically not new - the New York Mag crosswords published online alternate between new puzzles and archival puzzles. So this one's from 2018 - but it's new to me, so good enough. As the title suggests, color names at the end of theme entries take a 90-degree turn and fall towards the bottom of the grid. This gives Matt an opportunity to work in some really long entries (KALAMATA OLIVE, THE WOMAN IN RED, CLEVELAND BROWN, ALL THAT GLITTERS IS NOT GOLD, A CLOCKWORK ORANGE, and STAY IN THE BLACK). That's a real architectural challenge, but the fill doesn't suffer, and there are some nice bonuses, including WAFER-THIN, Lupita NYONG'O, RICE-A-RONI, and SYNTACTIC (maybe a boring entry for some, but as a former syntactician, I'm a fan).

July 28: Boswords puzzles (various constructors)

Check out this constructor lineup: John Lieb, Joon Pahk, Andrew Kingsley, Claire L. Rimkus, Finn Vigeland, Ross Trudeau, Paolo Pasco, Laura Braunstein, David Quarfoot... you know the puzzles are gonna be good. And rather than pick just one, I'm going to rep the whole set of puzzles. I'll be honest, half the reason is that my favorite puzzle was Paolo's, and I've already repped Paolo twice in this post alone. Just don't want it to get to his head, is all. But all the puzzles are good, so if you haven't checked them out, go give them a shot!