Thursday, September 1, 2022

Indie puzzle highlights: August 2022

August 10: Bridge Over Troubled Water (Dob Olino, Crossweird Independent Puzzles)

August 10: Candid Camera (Max Carpenter, 99 Movie Crosswords)

August 16: an ode to blahaj (themeless) (Ada Nicolle, luckystreak xwords+)

August 23: fight! win! (carter, Crosshare)

August 25: Time for Dessert (Victor Barocas, Crucinova)

August 27: Happy New Year! (Ella Dershowitz, Lollapuzzoola)

August 27: The Five Boroughs (Kate Chin Park, Kelsey Dixon, Shannon Rapp, Carly Schuna, and Sid Sivakumar, Lollapuzzoola)









Bridge Over Troubled Water (Dob Olino)

A delightfully original theme: the theme entries are all bridges (ROYAL GORGE, GOLDEN GATE, BROOKLYN, and MACKINAC) that are placed directly over words for bodies of water that have to be anagrammed before being placed in the grid (OCEAN becomes CANOE, LAKE becomes LEAK, MOAT becomes ATOM, and STRAIT becomes ARTIST). It's quite elegant that all the bodies of water anagram to everyday words, too. Despite the originality of the theme, it's still a breezy solve, which is helped by the fact that the title hints at the theme very straightforwardly. A good example of how relatively complex and architecturally tricky themes don't have to be tricky solves!

Candid Camera (Max Carpenter)

This puzzle from A24's new crossword book is inspired by CINEMA/VERITE and the idea of the documentary filmmaker as a FLY ON THE/WALL. The grid literally has a fly on the wall, with JEFF/GOLDBLUM spanning the leftmost column. I'm amused by the imagery it conjures up of The Fly as a cinema verite documentary, and I love the simple elegance of the theme; it's a lovely coincidence that JEFF GOLDBLUM and FLY ON THE WALL can be split up symmetrically. Max is a hardcore cinephile and professional film person, so the clues are also packed with references to filmmakers like Alexander Dovzhenko, Raul Ruiz, and Les Blank, much to my delight.

an ode to blahaj (themeless) (Ada Nicolle)

A lovely grid packed with criss-crossing long entries, all of which are assets: YOU WOULDN'T GET IT, CONSCIOUS RAP, CRYSTAL PEPSI, HELL NO WE WON'T GO, NOSEBLEED SEATS, K-POP STANS, BUTTDIALS, SILK SONIC, etc. Of course, there's still some creative short fill, including Y'ALL'S and AND I clued as [Words famously belted by Whitney Houston]. With respect to the latter, I appreciate the self-reflexive clue for ERRS: [___ on the side of "green paint" (follows my seed entry philosophy)].

fight! win! (carter)

A fantastic 11x11 anchored by a pair of stacks that are about as good as it gets with a grid of this size: BOSS BATTLES/E.T. PHONE HOME/STRUGGLEBUS and ADA LOVELACE/VINE-RIPENED/ADDRESS BARS, linked by the vertical ANGELA DAVIS running down the center. And all the crossing words are pristinely clean!

Time for Dessert (Victor Barocas)

A simple yet conceptually elegant puzzle which must have been extremely challenging to construct. It's a crossword whose completed grid doubles as a word search: once you finish the grid, you're taken to a word search that hides sixteen desserts, as hinted at by the entry SWEET SIXTEEN in the crossword. In other words, there are an astonishing sixteen entire words' worth of letters that are triple-checked in a 17x17 grid. A very impressive puzzle that takes great advantage of the freedom that Crucinova and the PuzzleMe platform allow.

Happy New Year! (Ella Dershowitz)

Ella's puzzle for Lolla was based on the Times Square BALL DROP, with four Across entries in the grid containing the string "ball" that drops vertically to become part of a Down entry. ABSENTEE BALLOT becomes ABSENTEE BOT with the "ball" in RUM BALL, and similarly with THE BALLAD OF SWEENEY TODD and CRYSTAL BALL, BALLET FLATS and DRYER BALL, and HANNIBAL LECTER and POKE BALL. This sort of theme is tough to pull of because of the intersecting theme entries, but Ella does it with aplomb and still manages to squeeze in lots of fun long fill, including SOFT-BLOCKED, STAYCATION, TRUST NO ONE, and HANDS-FREE.

The Five Boroughs (Kate Chin Park, Kelsey Dixon, Shannon Rapp, Carly Schuna, and Sid Sivakumar)

An absolutely stunning demonstration of the grid-art capabilities of the PuzzleMe platform, courtesy of Sid, who has created a grid divided into five sections representing NYC's boroughs, separated by rivers and connected by bridges. The five constructors each filled one of the boroughs to create a meta suite; when you've solved the puzzle, you'll find that the 11 bridges are each flanked by a pair of identical letters, and those letters spell out the meta answer, CONNECTIONS. A simple but elegant meta, and a beautiful aesthetic experience.

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