Monday, September 9, 2019

Puzzle #106: Back in Black

I promise one of these days I'll post another full-size puzzle, but in the meantime here's a mini (pdf, puz, pdf solution) to tide you over.

In other news, two new puzzle sites popped up this week: Sid Sivakumar created Sid's Grids and has already posted 5(!) puzzles in 5 days, and Brian Thomas created Puzzles That Need a Home, where he's posted a really fun themeless. Check them out!

Sunday, September 1, 2019

Indie puzzle highlights: August 2019

There are a couple of puzzles from Lollapuzzoola that I'd like to highlight this month, but the solve-at-home deadline hasn't passed yet so I don't want to spoil them. Stay tuned next month for those ones!

August 4: Freestyle 115 (Christopher Adams, arctan(x)words)

Lots of colorful 10-letter entries in this one, including KEYTAR BEAR (who I'd never heard of, but which is perfectly inferrable), MUNCHAUSEN, TILT-A-WHIRL, and TRASH PANDA. (Improbably, this isn't the only themeless from August to include TRASH PANDA - Tim Croce's most recent themeless does too.)

August 7: Year 2 Puzzle 32 (Andrew Ries, Aries Freestyle)

I'm biased in favor of this one because ERIE is clued as [Lake near London], referencing my hometown of London, Ontario. But there's lots to like aside from that, including SEX TAPE clued as [Action movie], SWATCHES clued as [They may be felt, in two senses], and the great poem DOVER BEACH.

August 18: Them's Fightin' Words (Ross Trudeau, Rossword Puzzles)

A very clever theme: We've got phrases that include foreign-language words for "war" (C'EST LA GUERRE, BLITZKRIEG BOP, and ANTEBELLUM ERA), with the revealer THIS MEANS WAR. Good fill, too, with the highlights being the 10s VOODOO DOLL and NEXT PLEASE.

August 19: A Hire Purpose (Peter Rubin, Wired)

Part of the reason I'm including this one is just to highlight Peter Rubin's excellent article about representation in crosswords, whih discusses the work of people like Rebecca Falcon, Ben Tausig, and the Inkubator crew. But Peter actually wrote his own crossword for the article about THE PIPELINE MYTH - clued, with cross-references to the other themers - as [Ridiculous excuse for why so many CEOS (including MUSK and COOK) kinda look ALL THE SAME]. There are a few infelicities, including a quite segmented grid, but this is astounding work for a beginner. In keeping with the article's themes, he includes ENBY (short for "non-binary") and UMAR (a hugely important figure in Muslim history, but an entry that's never been used in the NYT).

August 25: Road Blocks (Matt Gaffney, New York Magazine)

A NYC-centric theme, as we often see in the New York Magazine puzzles: all the theme entries (TACOMA WASHINGTON, BRADLEY COOPER, MODERN TIMES, MIAMI HERALD, LAND OF LINCOLN, THE EUROPEAN UNION) end in the names of SQUARES in Manhattan. What makes this puzzle stand out is the stairstep grid pattern, which tends to lend itself to sparkling midlength fill. This puzzle's got it in spades, including MILIEU, FERVENT, SQUID, SPURTED, SCREW UP, and CHIMERA. Not much to dislike either, though Matt tends to be more willing to use partials than most, so we've got the somewhat awkward ICE ON here.

August 26: Cryptic (Erik Agard, Outside the Box)

Erik presents a cryptic where every clue is related to hip-hop - reminds me of a lot of the old Cox & Rathvon cryptics where the clues are all themed. I've never tried to construct this kind of cryptic, but I imagine it's a real challenge. It features one of the smoothest clues I've ever seen ([House of Pain debuts "Jump Around" for HOP), and other great stuff like [Vines of Salt-N-Pepa dancing] for PEA PLANTS, [Try to beat around French Montana, say] for BETA-TEST, and ["Started from the Bottom" took 100 takes] for DETRACTS.