Saturday, October 1, 2022

Indie puzzle highlights: September 2022

September 8: dunk on the wackula (themeless) (Ada Nicolle, luckystreak+)

September 15: themeless 20: difficult women (Malaika Handa and Brooke Husic, girlbosswords)

September 18: Power Grid (Ross Trudeau, Rossword Puzzles)

September 18: Remedial Chaos Theory (Paolo Pasco, Grids These Days)

September 18: State of Limbo Vibes (Lyle Broughton, Jack of All Squares)

September 18: Five by Five #9 (Quiara Vasquez, QVXwordz)









dunk on the wackula (themeless) (Ada Nicolle)

Triple-stacks can often feel phoned in or show clear signs of desperation, but this puzzle has two of 'em and all six entries are assets: THAT WAS YOUR PLAN/HATERS GONNA HATE/I'M A LITTLE TEAPOT and UNICORN OF THE SEA/POKEMON TRAINERS/SMALL BUSINESSES. A really rare feat, and the best triple-stack themeless I can recall solving in a long time. I also like the bonus tie-in of FIFTEENS, clued as [There are six in this puzzle].

themeless 20: difficult woman (Malaika Handa and Brooke Husic)

A very aesthetically pleasing grid shape of the sort that Malaika's used before. The nice thing about this pattern is that it flows well and yet is segmented enough that the stacks of 8s in the corners aren't too constrained by the rest of the grid, allowing for fun stuff like DEEP CUTS/AMBROSIA/BIBIMBAP and POLKA DOT/SHEEPISH/PHONE SEX. I also love the quasi-linked clues [Standing question] for IS THIS SEAT TAKEN and [Clarifying statement?] for COMPUTER ENHANCE. And it's nice to see Malaika and Brooke's combined cluing voice, including details like [How both of us bought Avril Lavigne's "Let Go" (2003)] for ON CD.

Power Grid (Ross Trudeau)

Ross often uses intersecting theme answers, but they usually aren't this intersecting. Of course, the theme concept (in which terms for superpowers are arranged in a grid) requires it, but the actual implementation here is quite a feat, with an extremely intricate interlock. And of course, though the title is perfect by itself so the puzzle doesn't really need a revealer, there's also a perfect revealer in NETWORKING ABILITIES.

Remedial Chaos Theory (Paolo Pasco)

Paolo hinted that he was going to do something special for puzzle #100 on his blog, and boy, did he deliver. The premise is that he wrote six puzzles and rolled a die to decide which one to post, but in fact what he's given us is a suite of six metapuzzles that lead the solver to a further set of puzzles that tie together with the six meta answers to generate the final answer. Inspired by the classic Community episode "Remedial Chaos Theory," the puzzles weave together various topics related to multiverses, combinatorics, etc. This is not to be missed; it's one of the most enjoyable and rewarding puzzle-solving experiences I've had in ages.

State of Limbo Vibes (Lyle Broughton)

A tried-and-true stagger-stack themeless, anchored by the very fun trio of ROCKET SURGERY/LIMINAL SPACES/DAMAGE CONTROL. But what I really love about this puzzle is a trio of great clues in the corners [They'll keep you up at night?] for TOP BUNKS, [Guide that's about a few pages?] for SITE MAP, and the very subtle [One following an urgent demand, maybe] for TYPO (think "!!!!!1!"). What I love about the TYPO clue in particular is that Lyle avoided the low-hanging fruit of cluing it as something like [Toys for Tots, maybe] - nothing wrong with that approach, but I appreciate the creativity of doing something completely different.

Five by Five #9 (Quiara Vasquez)

September 18 was a good day for crosswords, it seems! My last pick from the day is rather unassuming, at only 5x5, but Quiara manages to make even her 5x5 grids sparkle with personality. This one achieves the rare feat of making me happy to see a five-letter Roman numeral in the grid, because it has a mini-theme with the clue [411] for DEETS followed immediately by [412] for CDXII. Bonus points for cluing ALEXA as a real person instead of a virtual assistant.

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