Monday, August 1, 2022

Indie puzzle highlights: July 2022

July 8: We Back (Themeless) (Ricky Cruz, Cruzzles)

July 17: focus on the details (themeless) (Ada Nicolle, luckystreak xwords)

July 19: Come Together (Emet Ozar, Crosswords Club)

July 19: invisible string (Lila Goldenberg and Rose Sloan, Crafty Crosswords)

July 25: Color Code (Alina Abidi, Lil AVC X)

July 26: You Complete Me (Jack Murtagh, Lil AVC X)

July 27: Turtle Island (Dob Olino and Kate Chin Park, crosswords schmosswords)

S

P

O

I

L

E

R

S

We Back (Themeless) (Ricky Cruz)

Since he posts so infrequently these days, every Ricky Cruz puzzle is a special treat, packed with both creative fill (CHRONONAUT, FALL DAMAGE, WHAAM) and ingenious clues ([Harmonic motion] for CHECKMATE, [Made a top ten hit???] for HIGH-FIVED, [Comes down with something during a cold season?] for SLEDS, [Poetic units making up this clue] for IAMBI, [Maestro's area] for ESCUELA). In this puzzle, I particularly like the evocative conversational clues for common words, including ["We are buying this"] for NEED and [Correction to a statement that no longer holds true] for WAS.

focus on the details (themeless) (Ada Nicolle)

In the notes for this puzzle, Ada says that she's practicing her hard-puzzle skills, and indeed this is a style of wide-open grid with chunky corners that I'm not used to seeing from Ada. With the assistance of some asymmetry, though, she pulls it off with aplomb. The NW corner is the wild stack of BROWNIES/TOY POODLE/UNDERTALE/BEER MILER/STRAINERS. Elsewhere, there's the creative fill that I expect from Ada, including PHOTO SET, San FRANSOKYO, and LMK.  

Come Together (Emet Ozar)

I was idly thinking the other day that MAKE ENDS MEET would be a good revealer, but I couldn't think of a good way of implementing it. Then came along this puzzle, which cleverly uses diagonal symmetry to create four pairs of entries where the words ENDS meet at the end: THE BENDS/BARTENDS, PAY DIVIDENDS/FALSE FRIENDS, URBAN LEGENDS/MARKET TRENDS, and MAKE ENDS MEET/LONG WEEKENDS. In the last pair, they don't actually meet at the end, because otherwise the revealer would work, but this only makes the construction more impressive, since it requires two pairs of long overlapping entries in the SE corner. Both clever and architecturally intricate.

invisible string (Lila Goldenberg and Rose Sloan)

A lovely little 11x11 puzzle with a very entertaining cluing voice. Indie puzzles with long clues can sometimes drag over the span of a 15x15 solve, but this one's just the right size to be perfectly enjoyable. Clue highlights: [Create a cool hacking device that disables passcodes and laser grids, e.g.] for ABET, [Accessory that might be placed on an ear to denote a female teddy bear and a neck to denote a male teddy bear, because apparently even teddy bears are subject to the gender binary] for BOW, [It goes up to 11, in what is widely considered to be the worst "Star Trek" episode] for WARP SPEED, [What, according to the NYT, keeps a watch on you, proving them to be pocket watch haters] for STRAP, and many more. I also really enjoyed seeing RAVELRY and VEVO in the fill.

Color Code (Alina Abidi)

This is about the Platonic ideal of a themed midi, for me. It's got an original, tightly executed theme, plus great fill and cluing throughout. As the title hints at, the theme answers are phrases that are a programming language plus a color, with the clues being the syntax for how you'd print that color in the language. For example, RUBY RED is clued as [print "Sweet grapefruit variety";]. Aesthetically, I love the fact that all the theme entries (the others are GO GREEN and BASIC BLACK) are alliterative. The use of an asymmetrical grid allows Alina to maximize the amount of colorful fill, which includes BOUNCY BALL, CARBOLOADED, STYLE ICONS, and BAD KNEE.

You Complete Me (Jack Murtagh)

Lil AVC X is on a roll! This puzzle is only available as a PDF, which tends to annoy me as someone who doesn't currently have a printer hooked up. But on the other hand, PDF-only puzzles often have gimmicks that make it worthwhile, and this one is a prime example. The crossword resembles a JIGSAW/PUZZLE; various chunks have been removed from the rectangular grid and are clued separately as miniature puzzles. For example, the NW corner starts with ENDASH and NOODLE stacked on each other, but the END and second O have been removed, forming a mini-puzzle consisting of the words END and NO crossed. Finally, a big chunk has been removed from the middle of the grid, but is not clued separately - that chunk, aptly, consists of the words MISSING/PIECE. A beautifully creative use of the medium.

Turtle Island (Dob Olino and Kate Chin Park)

A lovely puzzle that includes the names of a couple dozen indigenous groups from North America in geographically appropriate locations within a grid shaped like North America. Both an architectural feat and a very thoughtful puzzle, particularly when it comes to the theme clues, which are varied, respectful, and interesting. This puzzle also includes the best-ever clue for UTERI: [Get ova here!].

Puzzle #182: Biased Opinion

Back to diagonal symmetry with this week's puzzle (pdf, puz, pdf solution). Happy solving!