Tuesday, November 1, 2022

Indie puzzle highlights: October 2022

October 3: Getting in Shape (Brian Thomas, Puzzles That Need a Home)

October 12: Untitled (Adesina O. Koiki, Vox)

October 12: themeless no. 19 (crosstina aquafina ft. erik agard, crosstina aquafina)

October 17: Untitled (Malaika Handa, Boswords)

October 27: themeless xxvii ("ghost type") (Brooke Husic, xwords by a ladee)

October 31: Untitled (Kelsey Dixon, Boswords)









Getting in Shape (Brian Thomas)

Two themes in one! This puzzle is inspired by Shel Silverstein's The Missing Piece Meets the Big O, with the revealer THE MISSING PIECE indicating that the main theme entries (MAKING A BIG SLASH, CHAR PERSON, BACH HEADS, STEP DANES, and COD TALKERS) are missing the letters P, I, E, C, and E, respectively. But then there's also the revealer THE BIG O, indicating that, if you connect all the occurrences of the letter O in the puzzle, they form a big O shape. An absolutely jaw-dropping feat of construction: seven regular theme entries, plus a structural theme that affects the entire grid - and THE BIG O intersects not only THE MISSING PIECE but also two other themers.

Untitled (Adesina O. Koiki)

There's an art to coming up with mini-themes for midi crosswords, and Ade's a pro - he's got a whole book of them. There's just something immensely satisfying about a perfectly matched pair of theme entries - in this case, DAWG POUND and KAT GRAHAM, which both sound like a type of pet plus a unit of weight. Exactly what I'm looking for in a 9x9 grid.

themeless no. 19 (crosstina aquafina ft. erik agard)

I remain extremely jealous of these constructors' ability to squeeze incredible clues out of even the most mundane of entries. ARR clued as [piracy notice?]. GRE clued as [academic test that kinda sorta rhymes with "theory"], setting up the punchline of SAT clued as [academic test that kinda sorta rhymes with "the undergraduate admissions racket exacerbates existing social inequalities"]. TAT clued as ["best font for PING PONG knuckle ___" (will shortz google search)]. CHEWED UP clued as [ground for da vores?]!!! Also the grid looks like an evil panda whose forehead is the excellent stack of MOOD BOARD ([felt collage]), LEAVE ON READ ([send a message to by not sending a message to]), and CHARACTER FLAW (["they care too much" or "he can't turn down a challenge" or "she's an anxious people pleaser who can't stop buying cursed amulets"]).

Untitled (Malaika Handa)

One of the most impressive themeless grids I've seen in a while, cascading with fun long answers everywhere you look: FINAL BOSSES, SHE RATES DOGS, GELATO BAR, TRUFFLE HOG, DEMISEXUAL, WHOOPIE PIES, LABRADOODLES, HOT TODDIES, BARBER POLE, WORLD TOUR... there's barely a wasted slot.

themeless xxvii ("ghost type") (Brooke Husic)

A stunner of a triple-stack: FRIENDSHIP GOALS, EMANCIPATION DAY, RESERVATION DOGS. Getting a triple-stack where all three entries are assets is tricky enough, but this stack also includes two stunning clues: [Platonic ideal?] for the top entry and [Series that was just OK in its first season?] for the bottom. There's lots of other great stuff, too, including the clue [They might drop bomb shells] for TAQUERIAS.

Untitled (Kelsey Dixon)

Another beautiful Boswords grid! It's anchored by the stagger-stack of KRABBY PATTY/MILLE BORNES/SCREAM QUEEN, intersecting the long downs of ALWAYS BE MY BABY and BLESS YOUR HEART, all excellent. I like all the interesting consonant combinations in this grid; it's not often that the central 3 crossing a stagger-stack is the likes of BBQ, and elsewhere we have things like MCNUGGET and SXSW crossing YORKSHIRE.

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