Category Archives: Crosswords

Puzzle 36: Freestyle 21. There are no words. (Well, actually, there are a lot of them.)

Last week’s freestyle solution

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Get the PUZ here!

Word count: 72
Mean word length: 5.33

I hope everyone had fun and achieved their goals at the ACPT!

The primary seeds for this puzzle were the two 13-letter entries. 13s and 14s are the neglected lengths mainly because they force your hand with block placement just by virtue of their lengths. They usually force some long downs that have to be stacked together — this puzzle was no exception.

I managed to fit a lot of my originally-intended entries; that’s great for me, because what usually happens is that I get the pipe dream and litter the grid with seed entries, then begrudgingly hold a brief mental funeral for an entry each time I have to take it out. I don’t mind taking out seeds if it just won’t work within the grid, but I’m never happy about having to do it, of course.

My favorite thing that I learned from this puzzle is, by far, the whole situation around 38-Down. I learned far, far more about the courtship and mating process of slugs and snails than I ever thought I wanted to know. (It’s actually pretty interesting, I must say.)

As always, I’d like to know, folks… comment is welcome! Come say hello! What did you like? What could I do better?

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As always, share this link! Pass it around! New puzzle on Friday!

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Puzzle 34: Freestyle 20. Do you know how to Dougie?

Last week’s freestyle solution

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Get the PUZ here!

Word count: 70
Mean word length: 5.60

Before I get into the puzzle, I’d like to wish everyone luck at the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament in Stamford. It is an awesome event by all accounts that I’ve heard. When it was in Stamford before it was in Brooklyn, I actually lived in Stamford — within walking distance of the hotel, actually — for a couple of years. I still live less than three hours’ driving distance away now that it’s back in Stamford. And I’ve told a few people that I might be going. But I have to admit something. I’ll be honest: big social events are not my thing. I can go to a ballgame with someone else, and that’ll be fine for me, because I’m not expected to interact with everyone in the crowd. I can interact one-one or with a small group of people just fine (that’s what I prefer). But a big social event like this one, where everybody’s interacting with everyone else on a big scale, I’m not at all good in those situations. Trust me, it would be one big awkward situation for me. I very much enjoy interacting virtually with all of you through this website, and I have no problem with phone and email conversations and small groups face-to-face; I am, however, very shy by nature and just don’t do well with face-to-face situations with a large number of people. So I know it’ll be a good time (and, let’s be honest, I know who’s gonna win!), but I’m just not cut out for these kinds of events.

OK, on to the puzzle. The primary seed for this puzzle was 17-Across. More often than not, I actually try NOT to put the primary seed entry at 1-Across because, when you’re building a stack or a building, it’s easier to start from the bottom. I say “primary seed”, because I had a few other seeds that I was able to work into this puzzle: 1-Down, 60-Across and 40-Down. 31-Across and 36-Across were not, actually, primary seeds; I got the first three letters in 31-Across, and the last five letters of 36-Across, and decided on those answers only at that point. Construction went from upper left, then through the middle, then to the lower right, and, finally, the upper right and lower left corners I could finish at any time because they were semi-closed off.

A little episode inspired me to include what may seem to you like an innocuous entry at 38-Down: it originated in a text sent by my parents. “Just heard this on the 70’s station. You have to check it out. ‘Crazy Horses’ by the [38-Down].” Well, I did, and, after you solve this puzzle, you should check it out too. SPOILER ALERT: It’s not at all what you’d expect! END SPOILER ALERT

My favorite thing that I learned from this puzzle is the multitude of ways they use to extinguish 37-Downs. I never knew there was such a science to it!

As always, I’d like to know, folks… comment is welcome! Come say hello! What did you like? What could I do better? What did you think I would do at this moment? Don’t you think radio DJs should be a little more careful that they don’t blend the terminal ‘t’ and the beginning ‘h’ when they say “the biggest hits”? When seasick passengers upchuck over the side of the boat, do you think the fish are all like, “Hey, free food!”?

As always, share this link! Pass it around! New puzzle on Friday!

Puzzle 33: Anagram Crossword 2. All mixed up with somewhere to go.

Last Friday’s Word Worms solution

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Get the PUZ here!

Since there was some good positive feedback about my first Anagram Crossword (try it if you’ve missed it!), I decided to bring back the concept for another go-around. Since that last one, I’ve added quite a bit of words to the anagram wordlist, so I worked with a more expanded vocabulary that certainly made it easier for me to construct. I constructed this puzzle to have a little better flow than the last one (the 5×3 corners in the upper right and lower left are a little closed off, but that’s it) to make it less likely that solvers would get stuck.

You’ll see that I included a couple of longer — 11-letter, to be exact — entries here. Honestly, it was an excuse to throw in a longer anagram that amused me more than mildly (not because it’s apt — at least I don’t think it’s apt — just that it was funny that the anagrams worked out). I also threw in a few more “tricky” clues than in the last one, but I still think I’ve kept it fair and eminently solvable.

I’ll be back with another freestyle crossword puzzle, of course, on Tuesday. The answer to  Freestyle Puzzle 19 will appear there too. But I hope this will tide you over until then.

As always, I’d like to know, folks… comment is welcome! Come say hello! Let me know how you did! What did you like? What could I do better? Have you seen your mother, baby, standing in the shadow? Would a parrot start to stutter if you kept it in an echo chamber? Wouldn’t it be fun to see downhill slalom skating at the Olympics?

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Puzzle 32: Freestyle 19. Things are piling up.

Last week’s freestyle solution

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Get the PUZ here!

Word count: 70
Mean word length: 5.57

A triple stack puzzle, finally! Many of my published late-week New York Times puzzles have been triple stacks, so I figured it was about time for one on the website. I started on the bottom, because that’s the easiest way, I find, to construct a triple stack with manual fill. Once I had a stack that worked, I jumped to the top to take care of the top stack. The middle was a bit tricky to fill — you can tell partly because I threw in a pair of “cheater” squares (I hate that term, but that’s the term we use, so…) — in fact, I actually had a harder time with the middle than the triple stacks.

I’m particularly happy with the clues I came up with for 16-Across, 34-Across, 1-Down, 29-Down, and 32-Down. I had a fun time cluing this grid… well, I always have fun cluing, but this was particularly so. The issue has come up before with words in answers duplicating words in clues, and I don’t think it’s such a big deal to do it. Some may consider it inelegant, and that’s fine, but it’s my philosophy that if I like a clue, and it’s original, I’m using it no matter what. As long as the answer and the clue are not right next to each other, I don’t see it as a problem.

My favorite thing that I learned from this puzzle is the fact in 24-Down; I’m not a big fan of history, but I even had to admit just how neat it is that a manuscript can survive for that long and still be at all legible, never mind be able to be interpreted.

As always, I’d like to know, folks… comment is welcome! Come say hello! What did you like? What could I do better? Do you remember the face… the face of such graceful invention? When you’re testing Scotchgard on a “hidden place”, does your armpit qualify as a “hidden place”? Wouldn’t it be cool to open a restaurant where the waiters and waitresses serve you your food hopping on Pogo sticks? (And what would you call this restaurant?)

As always, share this link! Pass it around! New puzzle on Friday!

Puzzle 30: Freestyle 18. Hopefully not a tall order.


(That spelling mistake in the title really grinds my gears, but I guess I’ll just deal.)

Last week’s freestyle solution

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Get the PUZ here!

Word count: 72
Mean word length: 5.44

Fairly standard 9×3 formation. Even though 1-Across has appeared in a major publication before, I was drawn so much to that word that I had to make it a seed of this puzzle. The compartmental nature of this grid allowed me to get a few other seed entries in there that I really wanted: no less than six. This time, 1-Across is all I’ll tell you: bonus points to figure out what the other ones are (OK, so they won’t be that hard to spot). Some are debuts, some are not.

In the “so glad I found a new cluing angle for that” department: 47-Across. One of my general goals with any crossword is to include as few entries as possible that can only be clued one way or very few ways (i.e. more unusual names, words that are only found as a part of certain phrases), so I wasn’t overly thrilled in having to include it. But I was fairly surprised not to have seen this angle in cluing this name before. Also in that same department is 18-Across. I really, really didn’t want to include that entry at first, but I did some research and happened upon this fairly commonly used usage. Once I discovered that, it went from “no way I’ll use it” to “I’m definitely using it”. Funny how that happens.

My favorite thing that I learned from this puzzle is the history involved in the answer to 5-Down: more than I ever would care to know, but interesting enough to make a clue out of it.

As always, I’d like to know, folks… comment is welcome! Come say hello! What did you like? What could I do better? Did Mother Nature tell you, “Boy, you come and go as you please”? When the watchmaker finished his dinner, did he ask for seconds? Isn’t it ironic when people at antiwar protests get arrested for disturbing the peace?

As always, share this link! Pass it around! New puzzle on Friday!

Puzzle 28: Freestyle 17. Always the master of my domain.

Last week’s freestyle solution

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Get the PUZ here!

Word count: 71
Mean word length: 5.80

High mean word length for this puzzle, as you might notice. Of course, as with all of my 16×15 freestyles, the expanded size is due to the entry running across the middle. (It proved a little more unwieldy to clue than I had originally anticipated when jotting down the answer for my seed list.) The semi-compartmental nature of this grid, though, made for a slightly less painful construction for a 16×15 grid. It also allowed me to fit in two more entries from the seed list, which were 1-Across and 56-Across.

If you haven’t quite believed me now about my willingness to add cheaters, NOW do you believe me? I needed the two cheaters on the top and bottom row, but I added the third pair just because I like the “triangle” look as opposed to the “L”-shaped look.

My favorite thing that I learned from this puzzle is the tidbit at 41-Across… and it originally cost the company $35. (The student was later very generously compensated.)

As always, I’d like to know, folks… comment is welcome! Come say hello! What did you like? What could I do better? Who’s that casting devious stares in my direction? Don’t you think we should have a “Law and Order: Jaywalking Unit”? Did Jesus Christ stay fit by going to Pontius Pilates classes?

As always, share this link! Pass it around! New puzzle on Friday!

Puzzle 26: Freestyle 16. Don’t hurt yourself!

Last week’s freestyle solution

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Get the PUZ here!

Word count: 72
Mean word length: 5.36

The inspiration for this one, oddly enough, came from an episode of an Anthony Bourdain show (I watch any show he does on TV, by the by). The episode took place in the city referred to in the clue for 8-Down, and the slogan was mentioned somewhere in the episode. I immediately started to construct this puzzle while still watching the show. That, 17-Across, and 68-Across were the seeds for this one. 37-Across came from a scroll through the database for a fifteen with that particular middle letter, so I can’t really call it a seed. A mini-seed, perhaps. You could call 11-Down and 24-Down mini-seeds as well.

Because I didn’t want to just let it go without discussion, you might notice a small dupe in the puzzle. After I put the fifteens and the other seeds in place to start, I started from the top left (feeling like that would be the place with the most potential constraints) and worked basically counterclockwise around the whole puzzle. When I got to the answer in question, I found that the best entry that fit the pattern had a short dupe with one of the answers already in the puzzle. However, I felt that the entry was too valuable not to put in the puzzle and it wasn’t worth tearing out the other entry. So I left both in there. (Hey, I don’t want to just not talk about it and pretend I didn’t see it.)

My favorite thing I learned from this puzzle is the factoid in 23-Across, mostly because I FOUND ANOTHER UNIQUE CLUING ANGLE FOR THIS WORD! You have no idea how excited that made me feel.

As always, I’d like to know, folks… comment is welcome! Come say hello! What did you like? What could I do better? Honey, please, can’t you see you saved me? Wouldn’t you love to see a mosh pit form at a symphony concert? Do you ever look strangely at faces with beards and try to erase the facial hair in your mind to see what they’d look like without them?

As always, share this link! Pass it around! New puzzle on Friday!

Puzzle 25: Anagram Crossword. Order… I need order in this grid!

Last Friday’s Split Decisions Two Ways solution

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Get the PUZ here!

This is the rare puzzle that gets both the “crosswords” and “variety puzzles” category! Now, I’m not one to tell you how to do your puzzle, but the colleague to whom I gave this puzzle said, “Wow, this is definitely gonna be a pencil puzzle.” The object of this puzzle is to solve it like a regular crossword, except the corresponding entry in the grid will be the anagram of the answer to the clue. (No, I didn’t keep this one under 72 words.)

Don’t be surprised or frustrated if you find some clues more difficult than others… there is a definite reason to the degree of difficulty of particular clues as opposed to others. I’m not going to give away quite what it is, but see if you can discern what I was thinking during the cluing process.

I’ll be back with another crossword puzzle, of course, on Tuesday. The answer to  Freestyle Puzzle 15 will appear there too. But I hope this will tide you over until then.

As always, I’d like to know, folks… comment is welcome! Come say hello! Let me know how you did! What did you like? What could I do better? Are you waiting for something… tell me, would you wait all night? Don’t you find the word “gumption” fun to say? Would a one-way intersection indicate a wormhole in space-time?

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Puzzle 24: Freestyle 15. It’s all the rage.

Last week’s freestyle solution

Get the PDF here!

Get the PUZ here!

Word count: 70
Mean word length: 5.54

As I showed you a few posts ago, I have a standard shape that I start with when I want to construct a regular stacks-in-the-corners formation. I usually end up deviating greatly from that formation because, well, that’s how the vagaries of construction go. But the formation I started with actually remained intact this time: I wanted to go with a 70-word structure for this one, and all I ended up doing was adding the two pairs of cheaters.

Obviously, the genesis for this one, the only seed I started with, is at 1-Across. I did have a couple of mini-seeds: 48-Across and 56-Down. 38-Across, I guess you could say, was also a mini-seed.

I constructed this one about a month and a half ago… so this one is antediluvian as far as independent crosswords go. The way I go with this site is that I just pick the one I feel like running to match whatever mood strikes me. (I always have several to select from.) I don’t know why this one lasted that long in the pile before making its way to the top, because I really like this one, but that’s the way it worked out.

After solving, the intrepid solver in you may have noticed that I could have easily taken out the cheater squares above 56-Down and below 10-Down and easily still had a valid fill. I noticed that too (obviously), but 56-Down was one of my mini-seeds, so I decided I’d rather have that entry with the cheaters than not have that entry and not have the cheaters.

My favorite thing I learned from this puzzle is that 57-Across came up with the idea of the “zipper” first, but his “zipping” method didn’t really work out as well as the zipper we’re familiar with today. He did OK for himself with another one of his inventions, anyway.

As always, I’d like to know, folks… comment is welcome! Come say hello! What did you like? What could I do better? ¿Yo me frío o lo soplo? If there were a Quantum Physicists’ Club, would it only theoretically exist? What is the reason for there being a reason for everything?

As always, share this link! Pass it around! New puzzle on Friday!

 

Puzzle 22: Freestyle 14. En garde!

Last Tuesday’s Freestyle 12 solution

Last Wednesday’s Freestyle 13 solution

Get the PDF here!

Get the PUZ here!

Word count: 72
Mean word length: 5.31

Before I get to anything else, you might have noticed (and if you didn’t, feel free to notice now) that there’s a new independent crossworder among the ranks. Go now and check out Lena Webb, and I know you will not be disappointed! You’ll find some very interesting reads there to go along with the cruciverbal exploits.

Well, back to the “normal” schedule, I suppose. Not a normal shape to this puzzle, though. But I can explain: this was intended to be a triple-10-stack without longer vertical answers in the corners, but my seeds dictated otherwise. I was fortunate enough to have two 10-letter seeds (13-Across and 17-Across) that I discovered that I could stack, so, instead of forcing anything, I split up the stacks in the upper left and lower right and took out a pair of blocks in the other corners to be able to fit another couple of good entries there. I had to count it several times just to make sure it was at 72 words; it doesn’t really look like it is upon first glance.

Besides 13- and 17-Across, I actually had three other seeds: 44-Across and 60-Across and 10-Down. The mini-seeds at 27-Down, 55-Across, 46-Down, and 24-Across came about during construction. Also, I hope you like the clues for 25-Across and 16-Across, because I particularly liked them myself (if I can toot my own horn for a bit).

Not that I’m particularly concerned with aesthetics, but I think here’s an example of how adding a pair of “cheater” squares can actually enhance the visual look of the grid: it actually looks like a couple of swords pointing into the corners. (There’s a “cross swords”/”crosswords” pun in there somewhere.) I had to add that pair for construction reasons, of course, but that is an extra little thing that pops out to me.

My favorite thing that I learned from this puzzle is that 10-Down won a Grammy for that album: I’ve liked this musician’s work for a while now, and I didn’t know that that album, or any in this musician’s discography, won a Grammy.

As always, I’d like to know, folks… comment is welcome! Come say hello! What did you like? What could I do better? One never knows, does one, when love comes along? Do S&M clubs appreciate the song “You Always Hurt the One You Love”? Did you hear the one about the cannibal who passed his brother in the woods?

As always, share this link! Pass it around! New puzzle on Friday!