Tuesday 28 February 2012

Not Even a Bit

My good friends' recent DIY kitchen renos inspired me to came in here earlier and spruce the place up a bit. Gave it a real no-nonsense feel, I think. Now it's late, though, so this post is also gonna be no-nonsense. None.

The 2011 Orca Awards (for outstanding achievement in crossword construction) are the talk of puzzledom at the moment. "Nerds!", I hear you scoff. Well, I challenge the skeptics to peruse some of the grids and themes and not be at least mildly impressed (especially by the big winner, Matt Gaffney's "Moving Day"; Holy Toledo!)

Todays offering: a couple of puzzles I made for the Campus Crosswords syndicate. The 6th installment in my Mini Themeless series ran last week, and the themed puzzle ran yesterday. Next week, a blog-exclusive 15x themed, to make up for the recycled puzzles today.

More words, crossed and otherwise, next Tuesday.

Puzzles: Mini Themeless #6 and Mini Themed "One Tequila, Two Tequila, ..."
Rating: XWPG-13 for both
Download the PDF and PUZ files here, or solve or download the Across Lite puzzle and/or software from the Java app below.

Tuesday 21 February 2012

Know Your Meme

I'm currently kicking it on day 3 of a 4-day weekend thanks entirely to the provincial government. In Saskatchewan we don't have Presidents' Day, obviously, but the gov't has declared the 3rd Monday of Feb to be "Family Day", because why not? Then, for Tues, my "Earned Day Off" which I earned by doing nothing more than having scheduled "days on". Spent the weekend making puzzles, seeing a neat flick called "Pina" (see it! Not only will you enjoy it, but it's in my constructorial interest to have PINA and director WIM Wenders become cross-worthy names), checking out the Pile of Bones Brass Band, and paying my respects to John Carr, a fine local muso who died tragically.

Pretty bushed, but glad to have this puzzle ready to go. Was cluing a wide-open style 11x13 themeless for this week, but I became increasingly dissatisfied with the fill the more I looked at it. I had come up with and built a grid around the theme entries in this puzzle earlier, but shelved it because I wasn't sure the entries were strong enough. I still don't, but I think the idea is fun, I'm pleased with the grid, and, most importantly, I've wanted to do a social media meme puzzle like this since BEQ's brilliant "25 Random Things About Me" puzzle from a few years back. Next week, maybe a "Shit Crossword Constructors Say" puzzle?

More words, crossed and otherwise, next Tuesday.

Puzzle: What do you think you're doing?
Rating: XW-PG
Download the PDF and PUZ files here, or solve or download the Across Lite puzzle and/or software from the Java app below.

Tuesday 14 February 2012

Quizmaster Flash

Busy evening tonight. Had a Clarinet Choir rehearsal earlier (we're playing an arrangement of "Danse Macabre," which is fun, along with some Smetana, Verdi, Dvorak, and even Sidney Bechet), and then spent the rest of the night brainstorming some new themes and writing trivia questions. Two of my coworkers challenged each other to a trivia throwdown this week (with a United States theme), and I volunteered to write the questions. They didn't do too well on today's battery of Geography and Places questions - I was disappointed that they didn't know that Basin St is in New Orleans, The Tenderloin is in San Fran, and that Route 66 goes from Cali to Illinois (I didn't even ask for the cities), but they both correctly worked out how many landlocked states are completely surrounded by other states. Tomorrow: Law and Order, Crime and Punishment. It will be comprised of, among other things, a "name that mass murderer" stop round and a question about the Twinkie Defense. Also, TWINKIE DEFENSE is a great entry for a puzzle.

In "great words that are unfortunately too obscure for puzzles" news, my roommate is taking a home piano tuning and maintenance course, and he showed me one bit of piano innards called "The Grand Whippens". Actually, that whole course is solid gold. It came with a pipe wrench looking tool, presumably for the actual turning of the tuning pegs, and a companion book called "Smooth Moves," which details no less than 20 essential manoeuvrues you can and should learn how to perform with the tool. They all have colourful names like "The 5 O'Clock Shadow" and "The Lefthand Lift".

Lastly, I guess now that I'm into puzzle-making I should stay on top of important holidays and dates. The commemorative holiday puzzle is a mainstay of the industry, after all. Long story short, no Valentine's Day puzzle today. What I do have for you is a themed puzzle that I made for this Friday's Campus Crosswords 15x15 feature. The theme isn't quite as strong as it could be, due to an oversight on my part involving letter placement, but the entries and clues make me laugh, so I think you might still enjoy it. Note that this is my original, unedited puzzle, and not necessarily the one you'll find in print.

More words, crossed and otherwise, next Tuesday.

Puzzle: 4G Coverage
Rating: XW-18A
Download the PDF and PUZ files here, or solve or download the Across Lite puzzle and/or software from the Java app below.

Tuesday 7 February 2012

If only my moustache filled in so well

I never thought the day would come when I made a quote theme puzzle. I don't like leaving things up to chance, and constructing one is all about chance. First you have to find a short quote that, when combined with its author's name, splits up symmetrically into not too many 3-15 letter chunks. Then, you've got to pray that you can fill around those chunks, because you can't really rearrange them in the grid. If you manage to get past those hurdles and actually construct the puzzle, chances are good that solvers will find it unremarkable anyway. The constraints on the grid tend to force fugly fill, and you don't get quite the same "aha" experience, since you know exactly what the theme is going in. So what compels a constructor to attempt a quote puzzle? Well, there was some discussion about quote themes last week at Crossword Fiend, incited by Stu Ockman's Thursday NYT, and I posed that very question. To my delight, the inimitable Henry Hook responded with this pearl: "In my case, a deadline and lack of a better idea [compels me to construct one]." Realizing that I was in the exact same position, I started toying with the notion myself. In an amazing stroke of luck, the very first quote that came to mind happened to be one that splits into 2 15-letter chunks, and its speaker into 2 5-letter chunks. Not only that, but both quote and speaker are among my all time faves in their respective domains. However, with only 40 theme squares, I was worried that the puzzle wouldn't be strong enough. So, I threw in a fun visual element, gave it a sly title, and voila! I had myself a half-decent puzzle (admittedly, the visual element will be a give-away for fans. I wonder if any die-hard fans will be able to guess the quote as well, from just the grid design, title, and length of theme entries?). The fill turned out surprisingly clean, to boot. Not thrilled about the abundance of 3-letter entries and abbrevs., but I am thrilled about the 38-Across/38-Down/39-Down crossing. If you're not up on your slang, I apologize in advance. To make the puzzle fun and gettable (especially with those corners - only one way in!), I tried to make it super easy.

In other news, I've been hemming and hawing for months but I finally booked off a few days in March to go to the ACPT. It's a hell of a long way to travel for just a weekend, but I'm stoked. I'll compete, but I expect to get destroyed. Really, I'm just after the schmoozing. The big names in puzzling are like rock stars to me, and an opportunity to meet some of them is unmissable. Also, if you're a cross nerd fan, come find me there and we'll have a drink. I'm really nice, I swear.

Enjoy the puzzle, tell your friends, and don't forget to register to vote (fans of 4/62-Across will know what I mean)

Puzzles: Play That Funky Music
Rating: XW-14A
Download the PDF and PUZ files here, or solve or download the Across Lite puzzle and/or software from the Java app below.