Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Indie puzzle highlights: November 2021

November 1: Untitled (Nam Jin Yoon, Boswords)

November 2: Freestyle 629 (Tim Croce, club72)

November 13: a little ooh-la-la (themeless) (C. L. Rimkus, Just Gridding)

November 17: Fourteen (Norah Sharpe, Norah's Puzzles)

November 22: Themeless 17 (Mollie Cowger, Crosswords from Outer Space)

November 23: Sink or Swim (Enrique Henestroza Anguiano, Crosswords Club)

November 23: Untitled (Christopher Adams, 7xwords)

November 30: Shrek Is Love (Themeless #14) (Adam Aaronson, aaronson.org)

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Untitled (Nam Jin Yoon)

I don't get to feature Nam Jin much on here because he doesn't have an indie site, but he's one of the best themeless constructors around. To see why, all you have to do is take a look at this grid: it's a mere 64 words, but extremely smooth, and the eight long entries which all interlock in an intricate pattern are all colorful: MECHANICAL BULL (excellently clued as [It's designed to throw you off]), SERIAL MONOGAMY, SINGLE FILE, HOUSE PARTY, TINDER DATE, PAPER ROUTE, VERSION CONTROL, and YOU'RE TELLING ME. There are very few constructor who could pull a grid like this off with such aplomb.

Freestyle 659 (Tim Croce)

It's amazing that, after more than 600 themelesses, Tim still manages to pack each of his grids with multiple never-before-seen entries. This one's anchored by the delightful center stack of TWITTER DRAMA, YOU'RE CRUSHING IT, and SHREDDED PORK, with highlights including IS THAT HOW I SOUND elsewhere in the grid. Even the short fill includes some strikingly unusual stuff, including SO YES, MIC'D, and PISS UP.

a little ooh-la-la (themeless) (C. L. Rimkus)

A beautiful triple-stack of IS THIS SEAT TAKEN, NO WALK IN THE PARK, and SPOILED THE PARTY. Remarkably, every entry that intersects the stack is at least 5 letters long - including such entries as MAKE A MENTAL NOTE, ALMOST THERE, and MASKED BALLS. Not a single wasted long space, and very few sacrifices in the short fill to make it work; one of the most impressive constructions I've seen in a long time.

Fourteen (Norah Sharpe)

Norah's been participating in NaCroWriMo, writing a crossword every day for the month of November. A really wide variety of stuff, including anagrammies and cryptics, but my favorite is this midi with a delightful mini-theme of SIZE QUEEN and SHORT KING. Lots of fun stuff in the surrounding fill, too, including the edible trifecta of BOMB POP, CUPCAKE, and TEMPURA.

Themeless 17 (Mollie Cowger)

It's been a while since Mollie posted a new themeless, and I'm glad she's back, because this one's got all the clever clues I expect from her: [Expansive period piece?] for MAXI PAD, [Social distancing measure?] for TEN FOOT POLE, [Equal substitute] for SPLENDA, [Sign of how far you've come] for ODOMETER, [It is what "It" is] for HORROR MOVIE, and so on. Also lovely is the symmetrical pair of INFINITY POOL and I PITY THE FOOL, which is fun to try to say five times fast.

Sink or Swim (Enrique Henestroza Anguiano)

A lovely and architecturally complex theme: the revealer is A DROP IN THE OCEAN, with the names of all five of the world's oceans hidden in the grid, starting out horizontally but then taking a vertical drop. For example, PACIFIC starts in the across entry PACE LAP, and dives into the down entry NONSPECIFIC. Intersecting theme entries are always a challenge, and the revealer of this one even intersects with one of the other theme entries (ARCHIVAL INK, which contains the first part of ARCTIC). It's a nice touch that all of the oceans are represented, and the fill doesn't suffer despite the constraints of the theme.

This seems like a good opportunity for a reminder that the Crosswords Club is now online! You can subscribe here, and it's well worth the money.

Untitled (Christopher Adams)

Surely the only cross"word" I've highlighted that doesn't have any actual letters. This one's bound to be polarizing, since the squares are all filled with numbers and there's lots of math involved. Sample clue: [Prime whose first three digits are p^q and whose last three digits are q^p (for primes p, q whose value is left as an exercise for the reader)]. But remarkably, Christopher makes it so that everything is gettable with the assistance of a calculator and some persistence. What's really impressive is the variety of different skills it tests: from math skills like converting from base 10 to hexadecimal and figuring out what numbers are divisible by 11 to trivia skills like knowing THX 1138. (Ironically, a solver might get through all the math stuff and then be undone by a crossing of two trivia clues, though the trivia stuff clued is all pretty famous.)

Shrek Is Love (Themeless #14) (Adam Aaronson)

Another triple stack where every crosser is at least 5 letters! We've got LEAVE IT TO CHANCE, INSOMNIA COOKIES, and COLLEGE REUNIONS, and there are absolutely no weak points in the intersecting downs. Plenty of good stuff elsewhere, too, including ASSCLOWNS and IT'S A ME, but the real highlight is the genius clue [Cool beans] for ICED LATTE.

1 comment:

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