Monday, May 1, 2023

Indie puzzle highlights: April 2023

I was sick for most of April and fell behind on solving/jotting down which puzzles I wanted to feature, so I've got an extra short roundup this month. (Also, a new charity crossword pack was very rudely released at the end of the month so I haven't had time to solve it yet.)

April 11: Translation for Abuelita (Nancy Serrano-Wu, Lil AVC X)

April 17: Talking in Circles (Brandon Koppy, See 17-Across)

April 27: themeless xxxiii ("soup or salad?") (Brooke Husic, xwords by a ladee)

April 29: Untitled (Juliana Pache, Black Crossword)

April 30: Schoolmates (Ross Trudeau, Rossword Puzzles)









Translation for Abuelita (Nancy Serrano-Wu)

Richard Blanco's poem "Translation for Mamรก" inspired this puzzle, a tribute to Nancy's grandmother, who used wordsearch puzzles to learn English. It's a lovely bilingual puzzle (with English entries clued in English and Spanish entries clued in Spanish), expertly crafted so that there are no pairs of intersecting Spanish entries and the puzzle can be solved by a monolingual English speaker. (But for those who do know Spanish, there are some nice clues, including [Palabra que se encuentra en "casaron," apropiadamente] for ARO.

Talking in Circles (Brandon Koppy)

A really tight theme - O's are added to either side of words and phrases with wacky results (O GOD, SPEEDO, OLIVE CAMO, OPINE SOLO, and OMEGA LITHO), justified by the revealer LOVE HANDLES. I also appreciate that both the title and revealer are perfect encapsulations of the theme - oftentimes, it's one or the other, but not both. Lots of lovely fill, too, including BIGWIG, PREREQ, QUAHOG, REBEL REBEL, TOSTADAS, and ZIPLINE.

themeless xxxiii ("soup or salad?") (Brooke Husic)

As usual, there are lots of long assets with ingenious clues - [Squeaky toys] for BALLOON ANIMALS, [Going out plan] for SLEEP SCHEDULE, [Wife guy?] for BRIDESMAN, [Come with us!] for VIBRATORS. But for the experimental puzzles, Brooke also goes the extra mile with innovative clues for common short entries - [Bonus level?] for CEO, [Name that's always part of the nice list] for ELI, [Be in the lead, say] for ACT, [Tribute opener] for DIS, [PRNG initiator] for SEED, etc.

Untitled (Juliana Pache)

A smooth grid and cluing that's approachable for any solver but especially likely to resonate with Black solvers, the main reason being the clue [Card game that you may be teased over if you don't know how to play it] for SPADES. As a non-Black person, that clue would be totally over my head if I didn't happen to have read Hanif Abdurraqib's A Little Devil in America, which has a (delightful) chapter on spades.

Schoolmates (Ross Trudeau)

A characteristically ambitious theme from Ross, complete with a two-part stacked revealer in the middle (THERE ARE PLENTY/OF FISH IN THE SEA) and some dense grid art (four C-shaped regions of black squares in the grid, each of which has two hidden fish names - TUNA, for example, is hidden in O FORTUNA). Impressive and entertaining in equal parts. (The SEA/C pun also reminds me of Brooke Husic's excellent Modern Crossword joint from the same weekend, which reinterpreted NOTHING TO SEE HERE as an instruction to replace O's with C's in the theme entries.)

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