Tuesday 28 January 2014

Spread 'em

So it would seem that word has been spreading about these puzzles; if you're new here, welcome! I'll bring you up to speed on what you missed:
weekly puzzles, vowellesses alternating with conventional (and challenging...and sometimes NSFW) freestyle crosswords.

One recent visitor even felt it necessary to shout out last week's puzzle by shortlisting it for his puzzle of the week. Too cool! It rightfully lost out to an exquisite Doug Peterson Stumper, but I was honoured all the same. Plus, nice to have a few more solvers drop by because of it. Now, you might have been thinking that I haven't really been trying very hard to attract more solvers, since I make somewhat unapproachable puzzles what with the inscrutable toughness and the odd unquestionably tasteless entry or clue. Well, you'd be right; my goal is not to appeal to a wide range of solvers but to rather to offer demanding and particular solvers the kinds of puzzles that I like to solve and that I wish there were more of. I like writing puzzles like that and I like running the blog because I can have that selfish prerogative. That said, without at least a few solvers running these makes no sense at all, so it's always nice to be able to share my work in the hopes that a few of you will find what's been missing in your weekly solving regimen.

Speaking of your solving regimen, it should include Erik, Andy, and Neville. Andy's most recent puzzle is particularly clever, and impressively executed. Lots of fun stuff (i.e. stuff to steal for my wordlist mwa ha ha) in there.

As for this week's puzzle, it's another vowelless. Puzzle is provided both with and without the answer lengths given as hints. Much much harder without.

NOTE: The letter Y does not appear in any answer

More words, crossed and otherwise, next Tuesday

Puzzle: Vowelless #6
Rating: XW-14A
PUZ (with lengths)
PDF (with lengths)
PUZ (no hints)
PDF (no hints)

Full Answers

Monday 20 January 2014


Crazy busy week already, so I'm going to keep this short. 

Right on the heels of probably my easiest vowelless to date, today's puzzle might be the toughest freestyle in a while. Despite it being a full 72-word grid this one kicked my ass harder than any freestyle grid in recent memory, so I guess I felt I couldn't let you guys off too easy. Then again, maybe you won't find it too bad. I did go back and throw in a few gimmes in the shorter fill after a quick test solve (yes, I test solve my own puzzles). 

Oh, and mind the R-rating on this one. The last few have been in the neighbourhood of PG/14A, but longtime solvers will know that that's fairly atypical for me. Not a ton of saltiness in this one, but definitely one entry that wouldn't pass the breakfast test (and maybe not even the BEQfast test).

More words, crossed and otherwise, next Tuesday.

Puzzle: Themeless #27
Rating: XW-R

Tuesday 14 January 2014

Berry Picking

Today's grid might look a little familiar to NYT solvers. I was so enamored with Patrick Berry's wonderful Friday puzzle that I decided to try my hand at filling his grid, albeit with a few small changes. Well, at least one big change: mine is vowelless. No way was I going to be able to even approach Berry-smoothness in the center of this one using regular old entries, but I figured I might have a chance with a vowelless. While the variant certainly presents a few of its own unique challenges to the constructor, filling wide-open spaces is considerably easier sans vowels. Fewer letters = more possible crossings, for one thing. Plus, you get a lot more words ending in less-common letters, since words with -BE, -KE, -PE, -QUE, and -VE endings lose their E. Oh, and of course you no longer have to worry about Q needing a U. All of these factors and more add up to give you a lot more freedom when filling, which is one reason I like the format. Anyway, I was able to get a pretty smooth middle in place, so I figured I'd up the challenge a little bit and remove the single blocks breaking up the vertical stacks on the left and right edges. All in all I like the way this one turned out. Less stunt-y than the last vowelless, but much cleaner. I'm pretty confident that most solvers will know all but maybe one (lookin' at you, 46-d) answer in this one, which is important in this format.

Anyway, you know the drill: no Y in any of the full answers or the grid entries, puzzle provided both with and without letter enumerations, etc. Get to it!

More words, crossed and otherwise, next week.

Puzzle: Vowelless #5
Rating: XW-14A
PDF (with enumerations)
PUZ (with enumerations)

Monday 6 January 2014

Shh, no tears. Only dreams now

Welcome to 2014. Hope your NYE celebrations were life-altering, or at least fun. Mine were good, but somewhat bittersweet. Played with one of my bands, Ink Road, for our final show after four or so years together (well, sort of. I'm one of only two original members). The gig went really well and there was a healthy crowd, but I am going to miss playing those tunes. Plus, those fellas were some of the finest musicians I've ever had the pleasure of jamming with. Oh well, at least it ended amicably and for a nonridiculous reason. Our singer/songwriter is off to seek his fortune in medicine, so I guess I can accept that.

Also, just tonight I received my signed copy of Ben Tausig's new book, The Curious History of the Crossword (I won it randomly when I renewed my AV subscription). I've only read a few chapters but I like it already. Ben's writing is insightful and lucid, the book itself looks gorgeous, and it's packed with fine puzzles by a host of top-shelf constructors. Check it out!

Today's puzzle is a regular freestyle once again, and is kind of shaped like an onion. I don't know how that happened, but the stacks in the center and the blocked out corners were intentional. I came up with the symmetrical stacks and played around with them in various conventional freestyle arrangements, bottom stack on the top and top on the bottom. Got curious about what would happen if I moved them on top of another in the center of the grid, and then filled out from there. The blocked-out corners came about because I didn't want more than 100 entries to clue.

More words, crossed and otherwise, next Tuesday.

Puzzle: Freestyle #26
Rating: XW-PG
Difficulty: Do you really need to keep asking? (i.e. hard)