Friday, April 1, 2022

Indie puzzle highlights: March 2022

March 3: Making Headlines (Patrick Berry, A-Frame Games)

March 4: Real Firecracker (Ryan McCarty and Brooke Husic, AVCX+)

March 7: Mother Tongues (meatdaddy69420 and crosstina aquafina, The Deli Counter)

March 14: guess who's back! (themeless) (Ada Nicolle, luckystreak xwords)

March 16: explosion (Kate Chin Park and John Lieb, crosswords schmosswords)

March 30: Tabula Rasa (meatdaddy69420 and friends, The Deli Counter)

March 30: In Memoriam (Ann Shan and Brooke Husic, Washington Post)









Making Headlines (Patrick Berry)

It's a Patrick Berry meta suite, so there are a number of beautifully constructed puzzles I could have chosen, but I'm sticking with one. Each theme answer in this puzzle is a phrase whose initials spell out a word: WHO AM I TO SAY (WAITS), HAVE A NICE DAY (HAND), BREAKS INTO A SMILE (BIAS), CAME OUT ON TOP (COOT), and PIE IN THE SKY (PITS). As it happens, all those words also appear in the grid, and taking the initials of their clues, in order, gives you the meta answer, CLASS PHOTOS. A really simple but elegant concept, and Patrick fits five long theme entries plus five extra words in the grid without breaking a sweat. (Not only that, the suite contains a meta-meta that involves material from all the previous puzzles, so in fact there's even more thematic material in the grid, but you wouldn't know it from how clean the fill is.)

Real Firecracker (Ryan McCarty and Brooke Husic)

A stunner of a grid with a layout that you rarely see, featuring intersecting triple-stacks of 11s enabled by diagonal symmetry: SWISS FRANCS/CRACKLEWARE/AIN'T I WOMAN crosses NAMING NAMES/CRAZY IN LOVE/SENATE AIDES. As you'd expect from the byline, the grid is packet with excellent fill (ZITKALA-SA, ALT TEXT, EXTRA LIFE) and clues ([Shifts out of neutral?] for TAKES SIDES, [Come again?] for RECUR), and covers a lot of different cultural ground.

Mother Tongues (meatdaddy69420 and crosstina aquafina)

As an indie constructor, I'm always happy when I can come up with a fun, irreverent angle for a common fill entry. Then I solve a puzzle like this one that has a fun, irreverent angle for pretty much every entry: [oh, you spent $600 on a camera? should we call everyone? should we have a party? should we invite bella hadid?] for SLR, [___ flings, tide pod competitors for a more discerning palate...soapy forward, but i detect a 'moonlight breeze' undertone] for GAIN, ["no cops at our ___" *sponsored by wells fargo*] for PRIDE PARADE... I could go on, but I won't, because I'm too lazy to quote literally every clue in the puzzle. Oh and some of the answers are in Furbish, I guess that's an important detail, though I solved it without understanding them at all and still had a great time.

guess who's back! (themeless) (Ada Nicolle)

An oversized and slightly asymmetrical grid, all to enable a fantastic triple-stack in the center. ["Guess who's back, baby!"] for PEEKABOO I SEE YOU is one of the best clue-answer pairings I've seen in ages, and the stack is rounded out by ONCE-LER ASK BLOGS (I'll have to take Ada's word for it that those are a thing, but I'm delighted by the entry anyway) and TAKE IT OR LEAVE IT. As usual with Ada's puzzles, there's lots of ultra-fresh internet stuff in the shorter fill, including IAMAGIF SET and SMP (clued as Dream SMP, the Minecraft server), plus plenty of fun long stuff, including KEEBLER ELVES, REWARDS CARD, and MIITOPIA.

explosion (Kate Chin Park and John Lieb)

It's a testament to the quality of the grid that I genuinely have no idea what the seeds were or even how many there were: the long answers are JUDGY PANTS, SUNDAY SCARIES, I HAVE RECEIPTS, AND I MEAN IT, FAN THEORIES, BIORE STRIP, NAOMI OSAKA, and BLANK STARES, pretty much all of which are potential candidates (and the mid-length entries EA SPORTS and LOVE TAPS are fun, too). The grid pattern is chosen to maximize the impact of those long entries; there are nine separate sections consisting largely of 4s and 5s, allowing for flexibility in the short fill that lets the long fill shine.

Tabula Rasa (meatdaddy69420 and friends)

A project the likes of which I've never seen before: meatdaddy made a grid and send it to a bunch of their friends to write clues for as a way of showcasing the variety of cluing voices out there. Many of the aforementioned friends are among the best cluers now working, and the grid lends itself to fun cluing with entries like TINDER DATE, LOVE LETTER, FACE REVEAL, CROSSPOSTS, MICRODOSES, CRISS ANGEL, and UPDOG. I'm not going to run down the best clues here because, well, it's a treasure trove which you should just explore yourself.

In Memoriam (Ann Shan and Brooke Husic)

For Women's History Month, Patti Varol curated a set of puzzles for the Washington Post, one per Wednesday for the month of March. I particularly enjoyed this tribute to some women who we've recently lost: Lani Guinier (author of THE MINER'S CANARY), bell hooks (author of TALKING BACK), and Yolanda Lopez (artist of the GUADALUPE SERIES). There are only three theme entries (plus the bonus SARAH Weddington, allowing for the fill to really shine (LOVE THAT, BIG ASK, YES YOU, KUKUI NUT, and LABNEH were highlights). There are lots of other women featured in the fill and clues, too, including Margie JOSEPH, the ALOHA 'OE writer Lili'uokalani, and SNCC field secretary Fannie Lou Hamer.

No comments:

Post a Comment