Monday, February 20, 2023

Puzzle #201: In Search of Lost Time (plus Themeless meta answer)

Here's a puzzle (pdf, puz, pdf solution) inspired by Proust's magnum opus. I failed to really appreciate it when I read it so many years ago but it's continually risen in my estimation the more I've thought about it (which is a sign I should probably reread, but on the other hand, life is short). Oh, and I lied last week when I said the puzzle was just a plain old themeless - the solution to the meta is below today's puz.

If you solved last week's "Themeless," you might have noticed a couple of odd clues. One, ["Nine Lives" by Aerosmith] is a weirdly specific way to clue SONG. Two, [Boxes may be carried out from here] is kind of an awkward phrasing for a RESTAURANT clue. And you might further have noticed that both SONG and RESTAURANT become legit phrases if you add THEME to the beginning. In fact there were a total of three THEME-less phrases in the grid: SONG, PARK, and RESTAURANT. Taking the first words of their clues in grid order gives you "nine central boxes," and if you look in the nine central boxes of the grid, you'll see the string TAANSWER around the central black square. TA ANSWER, of course, is a THEME-less version of THE META ANSWER, so that's the location of the meta answer. (A couple of eagle-eyed solvers noticed the TA ANSWER string without even needing the first part of the mechanism, which works too!) Congratulations to the prize winner, Casey Callaghan, chosen randomly from the correct answers.

Monday, February 13, 2023

Puzzle #200: Themeless

I was planning on doing something cool and special for puzzle #200, since it's quite a milestone. Maybe a meta puzzle where you could figure out the location of the meta answer and email it to me by the end of Sunday to be in the running for a sweet prize. But I just wasn't feeling inspired! So here's a plain old themeless puzzle (pdf, puz, pdf solution).

Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Indie puzzle highlights: January 2023

January 1: Proofreading (Ross Trudeau, Rossword Puzzles)

January 7: Mother Country (Andrew Ries, Vox)

January 15: Themeless 5 (Amanda Rafkin, The Modern Crossword)

January 27: themeless xxx ("thirty, flirty, and thriving") (Brooke Husic, xwords by a ladee)









Proofreading (Ross Trudeau)

This puzzle takes an exceptionally common, basic theme type (hidden words) and elevates it not by adding any extra wrinkles to the construction but by using a creative revealer that provides a great aha moment. The theme entries have mysterious clues like [Tradition that describes itself as "Protestant, yet Catholic" (5/15, 33.3%) and [Whiteboard go-with (3/14, 21.4%), and the mystery is solved by the revealer ALCOHOL BY VOLUME, which indicates that the theme entries (E(PISCO)PALIANISM, D(RY E)RASE MARKER, JET EN(GIN)E, STEEL D(RUM), and ST(ABS IN THE) BACK) have liquors hidden in them and the parenthetical numbers indicate the just how much of the theme entries consist of alcohol. A simple but satisfying twist.

Mother Country (Andrew Ries)

A delightful original theme, of a type that we rarely see. As the title hints, the theme entries all contain the word MA followed by the name of a country: MANNY (MACHAD)O, EX (MACHINA), THO(MAS PAIN)E, CA(MACHILE), and (MAIN DIA)GONAL. Andrew's also a cryptic setter, and I wonder if that's what inspired the theme - it's easy to imagine cryptic clues with the phrase "mother country" in them for these entries. In any case, it works great as a non-cryptic theme too, and leads to some impressively long hidden strings.

Themeless 5 (Amanda Rafkin)

A delightful themeless with some fun spanners like MAKE IT MAKE SENSE and THE REVIEWS ARE IN, but the real attraction is the irreverent clues, including [Person who sort of has your back?] for BUTT DOUBLE, [Seemingly the only synonym not in the title "Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day"] for LOUSY, [, for one] for URL, and [Bread that very nicely holds everything inside so the entire contents of your sandwich don't fall out the back] for PITA. It's great to see a mainstream-ish venue that encourages this kind of cluing voice!

themeless xxx ("thirty, flirty, and thriving") (Brooke Husic)

This one's somewhat gentle, as experimental puzzles go - it's even got a few gimme clues that provide footholds. But it's no less delightful than a typical experimental puzzle; in fact, I think it's got more top-notch clues than the average one. [Three to get ready] for PHONE WALLET KEYS, [Members-only jacket?] for CONDOM, and [Like a trail blazer?] for GORPCORE - and that's before we even get out of the NW corner. Also just a lot of stuff that I personally love to see, including ROSALIA, NLP, and clues referencing The Waste Land and The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.