Tuesday 31 December 2013

Battle of the sexes

Today I have for your solving pleasure a 20x14 vowelless grid to celebrate the coming year. It features a quintuple stack in the center, as well, which is the product of weeks of tinkering with perl scripts to stack entries in various ways. My goal has been a sextuple stack, actually, and while I still believe it's possible, it wasn't happening in time for today's post. I guess a quintuple will have to do, since even this was an eleventh-hour construction.

The white space should make things pretty tough as is, so I went super easy on the cluing on this one.

Happy new year everybody!

More words, crossed and otherwise, next Tuesday

NOTE: Once again, Y is not a part of any answer, full or vowelless.

Puzzle: Vowelless #4
Rating: XW-PG
Difficulty: The easiest one yet (but still hard)
PDF (with enumerations)
PUZ (with enumerations)

Monday 23 December 2013

100 years young

Today's small 100-square puzzle was inspired by thisthis, and this. Oh, but especially lack of time. Busy with work, shopping, mead bottling (turned out damn fine and just in time for the festive season), and a gig with my band Buffalo Narrows this last week. The latter was a lot of fun, and not only because it was the first gig I had played in over a month. It was great because a lot of friends showed up and the place was packed, but mostl because Edmonton-based harmonica phenom and beloved member of the Buffalo Narrows extended family James Anderson dropped by totally unannounced and unexpected to sit in. And by sit in I mean steal the show, because that's just what he does. Case in point, check him out in the clip below.

Rock on James. Anyway, thanks for stopping in, and merry whatever-you-feel-like-celebrating-this-week.

More words, crossed and otherwise, next Tuesday

**Update, 12/27 - there was an error in 19-down. It has since been corrected, and those responsible have been sacked

Puzzle: Freestyle #25
Rating: XW-PG
Difficulty: Not too bad
PDF (no PUZ this week, because apparently Across Lite only supports black squares, and not bars)

Monday 16 December 2013

Script Readings

First up, peep this. Andrew Ries is relaunching his fantastic Rows Gardens series, and a lot of solvers are pretty jazzed about that. It's subscription-only this time around, but it's pay-what-you-like. I still have to decide how much I'm going to donate. No matter what I pay I know they'll be worth more.

Anyway, response to the last vowelless was good, so there's another this week.

Plus, I enjoy making them.

Cluing is fairly straightforward, for one. The challenge is to be concise and workmanlike rather than diabolical and nutty. I do enjoy writing tricky clues, but doing a whole puzzle's worth can be exhausting. Cluing a vowelless is a nice break from feeling pressured to come up with an original sneaky clue for 70+ words. Ordinarily, writing clues by paraphrasing the first sentence of their Wikipedia articles would be a cop out, but when you need easy clues for long phrases then eschewing things like [Warm summer?] in favor of [One with uncanny mental arithmetic skills] is probably a good idea.

Also, the grids are neat to make, because you're working with sprawling wide-open white spaces yet you can cram fun entries in like they're going out of style. If not fun, at least long. I wanted the challenge in this one to arise from deceptive entries rather than tough clues. The last one turned out pretty tough, I think, so I softened the clues a fair bit here and tightened the grid a bit to eliminate the need for sub-par entries to hold the thing together. I still wanted there to be a bit of a mental workout required, though, so I deliberately selected entries, where possible, that either have been considerably shortened by the removal of the vowels or begin with vowels.

***If you don't care about numbers or crossword construction, skip ahead to the puzzle. Otherwise, read on.

I've been going script-crazy lately and have been enjoying working with perl to generate stats on wordlists and puzzles and to weave words in weird ways (the results of these experiments forthcoming, hopefully). So, to begin construction on this one I wrote a little number in perl to find all 15-letter vowelless entries and sort them by both the quotient and the difference of the full length and the vowelless length. 20- and 46-Across were way up there on the list and seemed like good seeds. Stacked the other 15s around them, threw in the long crosses, and filled corner by corner. Did a little post analysis as well, and was pleased to see that while the average entry length in the grid is 6.67 (that's unremarkable for a vowelless, but freestyles are usually around 5.5 to 6.5), the average length of the full answers (not counting spaces or punctuation) is just over 11. Great success! The two most shortened answers are 0.4 and 0.47 times their full length, by the way. Guess which ones.

More words, crossed and otherwise, next Tuesday

NOTE: Once again, Y is not a part of any answer, full or vowelless.

Puzzle: Vowelless #3
Rating: XW-14A
Difficulty: Easier, but still hard
PDF (with enumerations)
PUZ (with enumerations)

Monday 9 December 2013

Grind, back to the

So I'm pretty excited about this Kickstarter project. Friday noon is the high point of the week, week after week, for me, and if this doesn't deliver some marvelous mind-melting multi-meta merriment I'll be very surprised. Can't wait.

Not much else to say this evening, so I'll keep it short. Feeling pretty tapped out from my first day back at the office after a much-needed staycation last week.

Today's puzzle is a plain-old 70/32 (vowelful) freestyle. Maybe something a little different next week; we'll see.

More words, crossed and otherwise, next Tuesday

Puzzle: Freestyle #24
Rating: XW-14A
Difficulty: Hard, probably?

Monday 2 December 2013

What did I miss?

Cross Nerd phase II begins today. Sorry about the little hiatus there; I'd like to say it won't happen again, but it certainly will. I'll try and shoot for another year of weekly puzzles at least, though, and we'll see what happens. Despite the fact that I've had a year to plan this out, I really have no plan (just like last time!). I made a snap decision (just like last time!) the other night to start constructing again and today's post and puzzle are what came of it. Just like last time (!), the puzzles will be up every Tuesday morning barring extenuating circumstances. Slight format change, though: I'll be running few, if any, standard themed puzzles this time. I might run the odd one if I come up with something really out-there or otherwise unpublishable that I feel is worth making, but I'm more interested in honing my freestyle skills and experimenting with other variety puzzle formats (I would like to run another small series of metas as well). I won't get into all of my reasons right now, but I'm sure I'll touch on many of them in future posts.

I'll be continuing to use this old site for a little while, but I have some ideas for an updated version for the near future. As I said, resurrecting this baby was a spur-of-the-moment decision a few days ago, and I haven't had time to properly revamp the look here yet. All in good time.

Oh, and I'll have another big announcement in the next few weeks re puzzles and Internet. Stay tuned.

Anyway, I'm excited to be a part of the indie puzzler scene again, and I hope you'll drop by again for a solve and a chat.

Today's puzzle is my second-ever attempt at a vowelless. Quite a bit different from my first, which used a much tighter grid and a few more snappy entries. Although there are a few more pedestrian words holding this one together, I was pleased with the relative smoothness of the grid. A few tricky entries, yes, but nothing in the roll-your-own or hunh? categories, I don't think. Hopefully the cluing is fair. The only thing I'm not crazy about, believe it or not, is the long central down entry. It's a reasonably popular book by a well-known author that I really enjoy, but I just don't know that it has the marquee quality that a grid-spanner should. I actually had a completely filled grid with (what I thought was) a much better entry in its place, and a really swish 1-across. Only after cluing 90% of it did I realize that the long down was very close to, but not actually, a legit phrase. Out it went. Running short on time, I tried my darndest to leave the across spanner and the NE and SW corners intact, but for the longest time couldn't find anything that worked as a crossing. Staring vacantly across the room at my bookshelf in resignation and hopeless despair, the answer smacked me right in the face and I had to run with it. Redid the big top and bottom sections (which luckily still admitted the mid-length vertical hooks) and there you have it.

tl;dr - if you don't like the long down entry, just be glad that you're not solving a half-written puzzle.

More words, crossed and otherwise, next Tuesday

NOTE: To avoid uncertainty, I didn't use any answers containing the letter Y.

Puzzle: Vwllss #2
Rating: XW-PG13
Difficulty: Tough, like any good vowelless (the puzzle is provided both with and without enumerations, though. Enumerations make it much easier)
PUZ (with enumerations)
PDF (with enumerations)
PUZ (no enumerations)
PDF (no enumerations)
Answers (full word list): Answers