Category Archives: Variety Puzzles

Puzzle 663: Anagram Crossword 9. There’s no fooling you.


Last Friday’s freestyle solution

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It’s my first post since April Fools’ Day. I didn’t do anything too wacky, wild, or crazy, but I felt like I had to do something to mix things up at least. And mix things up I literally did. I admit that it doesn’t take me as long to write the clues for these grids, because the point of the puzzle is more the anagramming than the clue-to-answer thing that’s the case with standard crosswords. I thought briefly about creating a variant of these crosswords in which you have to anagram one word in each clue to make sense of it, then anagram the answer to put in the grid. That would be really nasty of me, and I’m not so sure it wouldn’t be a little unfair in some spots. Maybe I’ll have that as an option the next time I do one of these — you can solve the regular one, or you can solve the one with an anagram in the clues as well. Don’t mind me, I’m just thinking out loud.


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Thanks as always to the test solvers for their input.


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Puzzle 649: Wordominoes 10. I’m in a pretty cagey mood.


Last Friday’s freestyle solution

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If I could make a whole book of these Wordominoes, and I had the time to do this, I definitely would. As I say, I think, on every one of these posts (check out the past posts if you’re unfamiliar with these), I have so much fun constructing these. I don’t really like to toot my own horn, but I am rather proud of coming up with this puzzle form. If you’re a crossword constructor, or an aspiring one, I am gently urging you to construct one of these. I’m very curious about a few things here — curious what you would all come up with, curious what you think of the construction process, curious what your process would even be. Heck, I’m curious what the solving process would be myself, without knowing the solution beforehand. I have to dial my clue difficulty down a bit here — I’d estimate somewhere around hard Wednesday/easy Thursday New York Times level — because part of the puzzle is orienting the words and finding out which row and which column belongs where. I can’t make it unfair, you know.


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Thanks as always to the test solvers for their input.


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Puzzle 595: Move Over One, Will Ya? Pulling a double shift.


Last Friday’s freestyle solution

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Oh ho ho, another variety puzzle curveball! In this one, I started with common two-word phrases. I took two letters in each word and shifted them either both back one position or both forward one position in the alphabet, then anagrammed the results into two new words. For example, given LEAKY EARNED, you’d shift two letters forward one position in LEAKY to get LEBLY, anagramming it to get BELLY, and you’d shift two letters backward one position in EARNED to get DARNEC, anagramming that to get DANCER. Thus, the common phrase is BELLY DANCER. I contemplated creating an “easier” version, in which I’d tell you whether the pair of letters go backward or forward, but I figured that might give away too much. The one thing I did to keep it from getting too challenging is that, in each word, both letters either go back one or go forward one. Never does one letter shift backward and one letter shift forward in a single word.


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Thanks as always to the test solvers for their input.


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Puzzle 585: Double Shifts. Shift into another gear.


Last Friday’s freestyle solution

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Happy Fourth to all my American solvers, and Happy Friday to everyone else! You can do lots of interesting stuff with anagrams, as you know, and as you know that I know. The reason this is called “Double Shifts” is because the principle of this puzzle is manipulating words twice. In this case, I’m taking common two-word phrases, anagramming each one of them, and replacing the anagrams with synonyms. The example I gave inside is DIVINITY SPUD: I took “dog treat”, anagrammed the words to “god” and “tater”, and changed them to their respective synonyms “divinity” and “spud”. It was harder than you think to find two-word phrases in which (a) both of the words have anagrams, and (b) the anagrams themselves each have rock-solid synonyms. The difference between the Easier and Harder versions is simple: the Easier version contains the lengths of each word in the object phrases, and the Harder version does not.

I never underestimate my solvers, and I don’t usually arrange by difficulty, but be forewarned: the last few of these are tough as nails. I will be very duly impressed with anyone who gets all of these, but I know you all are up for the challenge.


Thanks so much to all who’ve left a tip! It’s much appreciated, believe me.


Thanks as always to the test solvers for their input.


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Puzzle 579: Wordominoes 9. Give it a whirl!


Last Friday’s freestyle solution

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I’ve said it more than once before, and I’ll say it again. These are really fun to construct. They organically develop from a seed entry (cage #2 in this case) more naturally than a regular crossword because there’s nowhere for answers to hide — there are no black squares and each letter, in each square, is a part of three answers. It’s a veritable tapestry made of letters.

If you’re relatively new here, and you like what you solve, you can follow this link here to get all my previous Wordominoes grids.


Thanks so much to all who’ve left a tip! It’s much appreciated, believe me.


Thanks as always to the test solvers for their input.


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

Puzzle 573: Split Decisions Two Ways 6. Just try and cross me.


Last week’s Two Minus Three solution

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I’ve been asked about when I was going to put up another one of these Split Decisions Two Ways grids. So, lucky for those who asked, I like constructing these… so here’s another one! (If you’re not familiar with these, or, by some chance, the original Split Decisions format, go through my post history of these at this link.) It’s just a pencil, paper, and a lot of erasures and write-overs to construct these things. The main impetus for how these grids get expanded, pair by pair, from the central answer is twofold: one, to make certain that it’s a unique overall solution, and two, to add more letters to certain word pairs to give the solvers a little nudge. (I bet you’re not used to my giving you a nudge in any puzzle I write!)


Thanks so much to all who’ve left a tip! It’s much appreciated, believe me.


Thanks as always to the test solvers for their input.


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

Puzzle 571: Two Minus Three. Just drop it, okay?


Last week’s freestyle solution

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I realized that quite a few common two-word phrases in English share some letters in common. I know, not exactly a groundbreaking discovery in the world of wordplay. But it was the starting point to this variety puzzle. The premise of this puzzle is that you take a common two-word phrase whose two words have at least three letters in common. Then, remove those three common letters from each word in the phrase… and that’s it. Your goal is to restore the phrases. The difference between the Easier and Harder versions is that the easier version still maintains the space between the word and the harder version doesn’t. For example, the two words in CARAMEL LATTE each have an A, E, and L. In the easier version, you would see CARM TT, and in the harder version, you’d see CARMTT.


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Thanks as always to the test solvers for their input.


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

Puzzle 501: Vowelization. Old MacDonald had a farm…


Last Friday’s freestyle solution

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Anagram fans, which I know many of you are, you’ve come to the right place. Well, sort of… these aren’t really anagrams. They’re more like… addagrams? I don’t know.

You’re given clusters of consonants, and your goal is to find all of the words that have those consonants and only those consonants, without repetition. That is, if four consonants are given, the words you find can only contain exactly four consonants and only those four consonants given. For example, given BCMN, you would find CABMAN, COMBINE, AMBIANCE, etc. The only difference between the easier and harder versions is that the easier version gives the range of lengths of words that can be found for each combination and the harder version does not.


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Thanks as always to the test solvers for their input.


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Puzzle 481: Anagram Crossword 8. Make arrangements to solve this.


Last Friday’s Star Shifts solution

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With the amount of time I’ve spent curating a word list for this kind of grid, I don’t think you can blame me if I come back to this format from time to time. Not that you would anyway. Not that I make the clues too hard, but I have a rule that I try to follow. The more anagrams an answer entry has, the easier I make the clue. Take that as you will.


Thanks so much to all who’ve left a tip! It’s much appreciated, believe me.


Thanks as always to the test solvers for their input.


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

Puzzle 479: Star Shifts. I’ve got your number.


Last Friday’s Wordominoes solution

Before deciding which version to solve, read below.

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Get the Harder PDF here!

Get the Expert PDF here!


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So today’s offering is not crossword-esque, and it’s not anagram-ific, so what is it? Basically, I found movies whose titles have the same number of letters as one of their stars, like BRUCE WILLIS/PULP FICTION. I matched up the first letter of the title with the first letter of the star’s name, then the second letters, third, etc. and calculated the difference of their positions in the alphabet (i.e. B vs. P, R vs. U, U vs. L, C vs. P, etc.). What is given is that numeric difference of each corresponding letter, and your object is to provide the movie title and star.

So what’s the difference between the versions?

All versions give the year each movie was released. C’mon, I’m not that sadistic.

The Easier version delineates the divisions between words/names and the distance between the letter pairs, and it indicates whether one letter is before or after the other in each letter pair; that is, the numbers are shown as positive or negative.

The Harder version delineates the divisions between words/names, but it only shows the distance between the letter pairs, not whether one is before or after the other. There are only positive numbers shown.

The Expert version is the same as the Harder version, with one key difference: it does not delineate any divisions between words/names.


Thanks so much to all who’ve left a tip! It’s much appreciated, believe me.


Thanks as always to the test solvers for their input.


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