Monday, April 10, 2023

Puzzle #204: It's All Greek to Me

Like #202, this one's a 66-worder (pdf, puz, pdf solution), but where #202 was lightly themed, this is the most heavily-themed one I've done in a while. Enjoy!

Saturday, April 1, 2023

Indie puzzle highlights: March 2023

March 1: What Do You Say? (Ada Nicolle, Xtra)

March 4: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly (Frisco17 and Pixlate, Good Clues For People Who Love Bad Clues)

March 10: themeless no. 22 (crosstina aquafina, crosstina aquafina)

March 10: Untitled (Paolo Pasco, The Atlantic)

March 17: Puzzle with a Twist (Brandon Koppy, See 17-Across)

March 20: Jolly Good Show (meatdaddy69420, Lil AVC X)

March 20: Untitled (Rafa Musa, Boswords)

March 28: Double Back (Chandi Deitmer, These Puzzl3s Fund Abortion)









What Do You Say? (Ada Nicolle)

Ada's been writing these queer-content-heavy themelesses for Xtra magazine, and it's amazing just how much of that content she manages to squeeze in. In this grid, X GENDER MARKER runs down the middle, crossing two fully thematic stacks at the top (LESBIAN/INTERSEX/DRAG KINGS) and bottom (METAMOURS/ROMANCES/NAUGHTY), plus the symmetrically-placed NIBLINGS, TRANS RIGHTS, and ON GRINDR in the middle section. Mind-boggling!

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly (Frisco17 and Pixlate)

The title refers to the fact that there are three different clue sets: easy, super hard, and Et Tu Etui-style. I didn't dare to check out the latter two, but the easy set was great fun, and I'm guessing the other sets were too, because the grid itself is one of the most well-crafted themeless grids I've seen in a while. Lots of great long stuff (JUST JOSHING, MEMEOLOGIST, Anthony Fantano's RED FLANNEL, CHAOTIC EVIL), but what I especially appreciate is the effort to fill the mid-length slots with colorful and interesting entries (ZEDONK, QUINOA, UNTUCK, WEEABOO, NOT A TOY, BT DUBS).

themeless no. 22 (crosstina aquafina)

Crosstina is always finding new and surprising ways to write hilarious clues. My favorite in this puzzle is a standard hidden word clue that's been spiced up: [extinct bird hiding in venmo account? it's more likely than you think] for MOA. I also have to shout out the clue for TSK, which is so long that I'm not going to type it out here - but it's truly unhinged, in the best way. Fantastic grid, too, with stuff like VIRGO'S GROOVE, ANTICIPOINTMENT, MAKE IT MAKE SENSE, TIKI DRINK, PLETHORA, and READ RECEIPTS.

Untitled (Paolo Pasco)

From the weird grid pattern and the fact that it's 10x10 (when the Atlantic minis usually only go up to 9x9), I figured something was up, but I still was totally taken by surprise by the Schrodinger here - I filled in EVERYWHERE and only realized that EVERYTHING would also work when I was told that I had some letters wrong. Very clever, implying the title Everything Everywhere All at Once with a single 10-letter entry. And the Schrodinger clues are beautiful, too; my favorite is [Enjoying a good bash?] for REVELING and REVILING. But there's more! The Sunday puzzle revealed that all of the year's Best Picture Oscar nominees had been hidden in the week's minis, two per day. Quiara's got a good rundown of all of them here.

Puzzle with a Twist (Brandon Koppy)

I love a puzzle with two different theme mechanisms, especially when it's justified naturally by the revealer, as it is here. The two-part revealer is LEFTY/LOOSEY and RIGHTY/TIGHTY, and the left edge of the puzzle features three things that can be "loose" (TOOTH, ENDS, and TEA) which have been loosened so they stretch two squares across, while the right edge features things that are often tight (MIDDLE SEAT, SARDINES, and CORSET) that have been tightened so they have two letters per square. Beautifully conceived, and it's extremely impressive that Brandon fit four entries in the middle of the grid as revealers, given how much real estate is taken up by theme content on the edges of the grid.

Jolly Good Show (meatdaddy69420)

As a longtime fan of meatdaddy's blog, I'm delighted to see their official debut in the Lil AVC X. The linguist in me was hooked from the start by WUGS at 1-Across, but the entire puzzle is filled with zingy clues, including the pitch-perfect ["Wait, have I not told you this yet? Well..."] for OK SO, [House of Gucci?] for CASA, and educational clues like [Former WWE star who is now *checks clipboard* the Republican Mayor of Knox County, Tennessee] for KANE and [One of the ingredients in pilk (the other being Pepsi)] for MILK. Also, I just so happened to finish the puzzle on NICELY DONE, clued as [My congratulatory words to you, dear solver, after you've completed this puzzle].

Untitled (Rafa Musa)

Rafa is one of the very best themeless constructors out there, but I rarely if ever feature him here because he publishes so much in mainstream venues. So I'm happy to get the chance to highlight his stellar Boswords grid. In his Twitch interview, he noted that he put care into making sure the midlength entries were fun, and it shows here with 8s like DEEP CUTS, FAST BUCK, DON'T PLAY, and LINE COOK, in addition to all the good longer stuff (QUIET QUITTING, WHAT A TRIP, PRANK CALL, GETS FRISKY, ASK ME ANYTHING, DATA MINING, etc.). Truly a masterclass.

Double Back (Chandi Deitmer)

The theme here reveals itself from the very first theme entry, SAY IT AIN'T SO-SO. But I still got a genuine aha moment and laugh out of the revealer, REPRODUCTIVE RIGHTS, cleverly suggesting that the rightmost words in the theme entries get duplicated. The other themers are PEEK A BOO-BOO, YES WE CANCAN, and COUNTRY POP-POP. The revealer is the icing on the cake, but the theme entries themselves are also just really fun to say. The puzzle is filled with fun long fill, too, including GALUMPHS, THE TITS, IS IT ME OR, IMPULSE BUY, PLEASE GO ON, BEER BASHES, and AND TOTO TOO.