Wednesday, April 1, 2020

puzzle 159: "connect four"

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as with years past, a normal puzzle for a normal day.

in other news, livestreaming continues to be fun. i think i'll stream again either friday or saturday night with some indie puzzles and such from the last week; details will go up on my twitter. i'm also setting up a puzzle power hour (date tba) where i will solve as many puzzles in one hour as fast as i can. currently working on getting usa today puzzles in puz format to facilitate this; if you can help, that'd be appreciated. also appreciated: betting on my performance and/or donating to charity based on how many i solve and how many typos i make.

also, there's a petition going around asking the new york times to diversify their puzzle editing and test-solving staff and to give constructors more input over the clues in the final product; i highly encourage you to read and sign it.

Saturday, March 28, 2020

puzzle 158: "deleted scenes (w/ richard d. allen)"

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here's a collaboration with richard d. allen, a rookie constructor from north carolina who's been making puzzles for about a year now. i've had the pleasure of testing some of those puzzles, and i enjoyed working with him on this puzzle as well.

as is often the case with puzzles based on timely events, the theme may seem a bit familiar; brendan emmett quigley and sam trabucco have already posted their takes on this reveal. still, ours is a bit different, so even if you already know the reveal, this is still a fun puzzle to solve. and if you haven't solved either of the two above-linked puzzles already, well, then you have another puzzle or two to solve and see a different take on this theme.

in other news, did a twitch stream that involved solving crosswords while drinking and talking about things; i had fun, and i think i'm going to keep doing this weekly while we're all mostly at home here. recommendations for puzzles to solve and requests to join for audio commentary are always welcome. (and yes, the white claw puzzle power hour is coming at some point soon; working on getting the puzzles for that, and possibly practicing just a little bit.)

also, here's a fun mini from adam aaronson on his twitter, based on a nice pair of seed entries.

in addition to signing up for emails from me, you can also sign up for matt gritzmacher's daily crossword links, which is a roundup of all that day's puzzles, and includes a lot of fun puzzles you should be solving if you aren't already.

and finally, if you would like me to do anything crossword related—collaboration, test solving, asking questions about themes, etc.—hit me up via email, and i'll be happy to help.

Saturday, March 21, 2020

puzzle 157: "touchword 2"

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writing this post between puzzles in the crossword tournament from your couch, which (if you're not solving already) you should be; i believe puz files will be posted at some point. will have more to say about the tournament later, but so far it's good, even if i had a typo on the first puzzle because i wasn't quite acquainted with the interface yet. it's my fault for not checking, but i blame the two warmup puzzles; because they were so easy, i didn't get any practice with erasing wrong answers while speed solving, and that's pretty much what bit me. (not that i was gonna make the finals anyway, but it's always nice to have a clean yet fast solve.)

anyway, this puzzle isn't a crossword, but a variety puzzle known as a touchword. it's a format i learned about from joon pahk's outside the box puzzles. instead of having words cross at the same letter, in a touchword, every letter is vertically adjacent to the same letter in at least one direction. the top row is considered adjacent to the bottom row, so the entire puzzle forms a nice cylinder.

it tends to be a theme with touchwords to have the first entry related to touching; here, i started with the first and last rows, and only noticed that i could tie in the first entry when i got around to cluing this. lots of fun across entries here, as well as a pair that i'm not as fond of, but needed to get some of the nicer across entries in while still keeping it a touchword. both should be fairly crossed touched though.

as always, enjoy! and i'd love to hear your thoughts and feedback on this, and what you liked or didn't like.

Saturday, March 14, 2020

puzzle 156: "march madness"

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pi day puzzle not related to pi day; this puzzle is also not related to basketball or anything in the news. but it is timely (for some people, at least) and hopefully a pleasant break from everything that's going on.

speaking of which: i will have a lot of time on my hands in the next few weeks, and i imagine some of you will as well. if you would like to do anything crossword related—collaboration, test solving, asking questions about themes, etc.—hit me up via email, and i'll be happy to help.

on that note, i'd like to recommend this weekend's wall street journal puzzle, which has a nice bipartite reveal, and which has an idea i wish i'd thought of. still, when kevin came to me with the idea, i was glad to offer advice and help make it a little stronger, as well as offering suggestions on how to get the theme to work in print. that said, pretty much everything good about the puzzle (the theme, some of the fill, etc.) comes from kevin, but again, i was happy to help, and i'm glad it's getting published.

another fun puzzle that popped up in my email while typing this post: call me by my name by sid sivakumar and matthew stock. funny theme, and there's some great fill here both long and short, so it's definitely worth a solve.

Saturday, March 7, 2020

puzzle 155: "skylight"

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fun fact: i wanted this grid to be two squares wider, so that i wouldn't have the utah blocks in the middle or the bars of three squares in the northeast and southwest corners. this also would have meant way fewer three letter words, which, if you know me, you know that i'm not particularly a fan of them if it can be avoided. still, certain constraints from the middle meant that it was a lot easier (and a lot cleaner) to fill this grid, and i'd rather have a clean, lively grid than worry about the number of three letter words.

Saturday, February 29, 2020

puzzle 154: "field testing"

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happy birthday to me, and a reminder that today is the last day to get this month's bonus puzzles. any donation of $10 or more to the tip jar gets you both a themed 15x25 and a freestyle 17x17, which a positive integral number of people have said good things about (and many thanks to them, as well as all those who've already donated).

anyway, today's puzzle has nothing to do with today, but if you want a puzzle that does, here's a pdf to a puzzle i made for the crossword mug back in 2016. fun fact: this was the first puzzle i ever had published, and although i probably should have started with something easier, i learned a lot during the (rather long) process of making it.

as for this puzzle, it's inspired (like so many others on this site) by recent events; i apologize for starting the puzzle on a down note, but i kinda backed myself into a corner by making the lower right corner as open as it is, which meant the upper left (which i probably should have started with when i was filling the grid) was harder to fill than it should have been. still, i like how this one came out, and there's a lot of good fill, and i hope you enjoy it.

Saturday, February 22, 2020

puzzle 153: "schoolhouse rock (freestyle 137)"

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this is probably the second to last reminder for the month that any donation of $10 or more to the tip jar gets you a pair of bonus puzzles (a themed 15x25 and a freestyle 17x17). many, many thanks to those who've already donated.

otherwise, here's a freestyle that started with the lower right corner; i wasn't planning on having a fifteen cut through the diagonal of black squares, but i couldn't pass up the opportunity, and so here we are. as always, enjoy!