Tuesday, March 1, 2022

Indie puzzle highlights: February 2022

February 2: "It's-a Meal!" (Steve Mossberg and Mike Lieberman, Square Pursuit)

February 6: Graduation Exercises (Adesina O. Koiki, Boswords)

February 10: themeless 17: swoops (Mollie Cowger and Malaika Handa, girlbosswords)

February 13: happy valentine's day from crosstina aquafina (crosstina aquafina, crosstina aquafina)

February 15: hey, how about a nice hawaiian punch? (Christopher Adams, arctan(x)words)

February 27: themeless xix ("holes in the house") (Brooke Husic, xwords by a ladee)

February 27: Too Soon (Brooke Husic, Just Gridding)









"It's-a Meal!" (Steve Mossberg and Mike Lieberman)

A delightfully specific, and perfectly titled, theme: phrases beginning "X of" have their first two words replaced with a soundalike food item ending in "-a" (DOSA REALITYTAPA THE NINTHPIZZA MY HEART, and CHALLAH FAME). Super fun theme and super fun fill to go along with it, including BOYZ II MENPLANKTONCLIP SHOW, and HAYSTACK.

Graduation Exercises (Adesina O. Koiki)

The trickiest themed puzzle from this year's Boswords Winter Wondersolve was this one, inspired the phrase "sliding scales." The theme entries contain types of scales which literally slide down the grid diagonally. For example, BATHROOM HUMOR has to be entered as B HUMOR, with with word BATHROOM sliding seven rows down from the B. Amazingly, there are five of those in a 19x15 grid, which is a remarkable feat of construction - all the letters in the scale words are used in three words, instead of just two.

themeless 17: swoops (Mollie Cowger and Malaika Handa)

As delightful as you'd expect from the byline. The title refers to the very aesthetically pleasing layout, with swooping trails of black squares that divide the grid into three chunks. The cluing really shines: [Place of honor for a sitting president] is a subtly clever clue for LINCOLN MEMORIAL, as is [Purchase made in anticipation of getting A's] for TRAINING BRA. I also adore the cute ["Hey you! Look over here, but be a little sneaky about it"] for PSST.

happy valentine's day from crosstina aquafina (crosstina aquafina)

Kelsey Dixon, aka crosstina aquafina, gives us a beautiful heart-shaped grid filled with Valentine's-adjacent entries. Crosstina is the funniest cluer in the game right now, bar none, managing to add verve to pretty much any clue. Just look at 1-Across: DRAG, clued as ["we're all born naked and the rest is ___" - ru paul, known fracker]. Other great clues include [email suffix that will get you a free premium membership to seekingarrangement.com, in case you were wondering] for EDU, [like a salt or battery?] for ALKALINE, [engaged in detail-oriented yardwork, there is no other possible definition for this, don't look at me like that] for EDGED, and many more. The fill also includes my favorite 100 gecs song, STUPID HORSE, which means automatic inclusion in my roundup.

hey, how about a nice hawaiian punch? (Christopher Adams)

I love a two-part theme, and this is a great one: inspired by the Elton John/Dua Lipa song COLD HEART/PNAU REMIX, it's got theme entries that (a) have C in the exact center and (b) have an anagram of PNAU hidden in them. We've got UNPACKING, PAUNCHIER, JUAN PONCE DE LEON, UP AND COMING, and SINGLE-OCCUPANCY. The 19x15 grid is very dense with theme, but Christopher manages to fit in plenty of good stuff, including MINT JULEP next to TOP SURGERY, and HEADCANON, for which Ricky Cruz provided the excellent clue [Take for oneself?].

themeless xix ("holes in the house") (Brooke Husic)

My favorite Brooke themeless in a while, mainly because of the sheer density of genius clues: we start out with a bang at 1-Across with [Bloody good time] for PERIOD SEX, and we also have [Third party, say] for BASE RUNNER, [Vaporware?] for E-CIGARETTE, [Conversation you can't stand to have] for PILLOW TALK, [Helpful inits. when you want to focus on a particular subject] for SLR, and [Guess not?] for ASK. The fill is also a delightful, starting with the NW stack of the aforementioned PERIOD SEX, LEMON JUICE, and DOMINATRIX, and also including FLOW STATE and TRIP SITTER.

Too Soon (Brooke Husic)

Is this the first roundup to feature two puzzles from the same constructor and the same date? Quite possibly, but there's no way I could cut either of these puzzles. This one makes it for the brilliant simplicity of its concept: Brooke clued a puzzle, then made a version where only 15% of each clue is available (since a six-week abortion ban works out to about 15% of the way through pregnancy); of course, it's completely unsolvable. Then she made a version where 67.5% of each clue is available, corresponding to the start of the third trimester. It's not trivial to solve, but it's doable. A very striking way of making a point!