Category Archives: Variety Puzzles

Puzzle 367: Wordominoes 5. What goes around comes around.

Last Friday’s freestyle solution

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I love constructing these Wordominoes grids. The construction process is so interesting, mainly because every letter is triply checked — each letter is in an across answer, a down answer, and in a cage — and the process is entirely by hand. There’s no software for this. Like a normal crossword, of course, I have a seed entry (which is, in this case, in cage 1) that I build the grid around, but I have to also make sure it works in the grander scheme of the rows and columns. If these strike your fancy, and you missed the others, here are the previous four for your solving pleasure.


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!

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Puzzle 363: Split Decisions Two Ways 5.

Last Friday’s freestyle solution

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I’ve had a few people ask about the Split Decisions Two Ways puzzles, so I’m back with another one! If you’re not familiar with the original Split Decisions puzzle, created by the great George Bredehorn and passed down to the also great Fred Piscop (who creates them for the New York Times variety page occasionally), it’s a crossword that involves pairs of words that differ by only two consecutive letters; you’re given the letter pairs only and the puzzle is to figure out the pairs of words from the letter pairs. My version gives a bit of a twist to it, as the “split decision” boxes are to be read both across and down. Don’t worry, there are instructions if you don’t know what I’m talking about! Here’s a history of my past Split Decisions Two Ways posts if you find this one intriguing…


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 353: Before-and-Aftergrams. A twisted product of a twisted mind.

Last Friday’s freestyle solution

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How about a variety puzzle for some… well, variety? I promise, though it’s Friday the 13th, the nothing freaky will happen to you when you do this puzzle. Before you decide which version to open up — because opening the easier version could give away some things that you wouldn’t want given away if you wanted the moderate or harder version — I’ll explain the difference between the versions. (That’s why the links are below the explanation in this post today, unlike other posts.) Like quite a few of my previous variety puzzles on this site, they involve anagrams, but this one doesn’t involve straight-up anagrams. Here’s how I developed the premise for this puzzle. I discovered that there are some words whose letters both end some words and start some other words even though they aren’t really etymologically related to them (ok, not exactly a groundbreaking discovery, but work with me here). For example, the word ADO ends the unrelated word AVOCADO and starts the unrelated word ADORABLE. So I blended the two words together to make AVOC(ADO)RABLE. I took all the remaining letters outside those parentheses, AVOCRABLE, and anagrammed them into a two word phrase, VOCAL BEAR. Now, here’s the difference between the versions.

In the easiest  version, you would get the three-word set VOCAL BEAR ADO. (The “common” word could be the first, second, or third word.) You would then need to figure out that ADO is the word that ends one word and starts another, and rearrange VOCALBEAR, combined with ADO, into the words AVOCADO/ADORABLE.

In the moderate version, you would get the two words VOCAL BEAR with the notation (7,8) (indicating the first solution word to be 7 letters and the second solution word to be 8 letters) in the left column, and you would need to figure out which word in the right-hand column (whose words are arranged randomly) goes with the phrase to be able to be anagrammed in this fashion. In this case, you would find that right-hand column word to be ADO, and the first word (which is always the word that ends with the “common” word) would be AVOCADO and the second word (always the word that starts with the “common” word) ADORABLE.

The hardest version is the same as the moderate version, but there is no notation giving the lengths of the solution words.

I think, no matter which version you choose, that there are some tips and tricks that you’ll figure out as you go along to untangle this puzzle. I’m willing to give you some if you really get stuck (just email me), but I have faith in you!

Get the easier version PDF here!

Get the moderate version PDF here!

Get the hardest version PDF here!

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 315: Wordominoes 4. The word gets around…

Last Friday’s freestyle solution

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Have something you wanna say? Got a question? Want to do a guest freestyle? Want to collaborate on a freestyle? Want to just say hello? Hit me up by email!

Good to mix it up every now and again, no? And it has been very now and again these days, if that makes any sense. If you’ve missed any of my previous Wordominoes grids — and I don’t blame you if you have, the last one was quite a long time ago (like, 2½ years ago), here are the previous three for your solving pleasure. This idea was basically borne of my desire to somehow pull off a three-dimensional crossword in a two-dimensional space. The three dimensions, in this case, are across, down, and around.

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

Thanks as always to the test solvers for their input.

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

Puzzle 205: WordKen.

Last Friday’s Synograms solution

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Before I say anything else, I’d like to call your attention to something I did in last Friday’s variety puzzle. I got an email suggestion that I create a version of Synograms that contains the number of letters in each city’s name. I liked that suggestion so much that I did just that. So, if you’ve been having trouble getting started with last Friday’s puzzle (or you missed last week’s post), click the above link to check it out.

This week’s variety puzzle is a sort of hybrid. I love the daily KenKen puzzles on the New York Times puzzle section and on this website. If you’re not familiar with KenKen, click on the link — it’s a brilliant puzzle invented by a Japanese math teacher that’s sort of a combination of sudoku and math. As you might deduce from the title, WordKen is a sort of adaptation of KenKen for words. The letters of the words to be put in each of the “cages” must be placed in such a way that no letter is repeated in any row or column.

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

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

Puzzle 203: Synograms. Moving around the world, in more ways than one.

Last Friday’s freestyle solution

Get the “hard version” PDF here!

Get the “easier version” PDF here!

Have something you wanna say? Got a question? Want to do a guest freestyle? Want to collaborate on a freestyle? Want to just say hello? Hit me up by email!

If I made a Venn diagram of “people who like anagrams” and “people who like world geography”, how big would the intersecting area be? I guess we’ll find out a bit of that with this puzzle, no? The challenge is to take a pair of words, figure out which one to change to its synonym, and pair that word with the other word to anagram it into a well-known US city or world city.

The “easier version” gives the length of each city; the “harder version” does not.

If I had to do a self-assessment, I would say that this is on the tougher side, but I know that not a single one of you likes to back down from a challenge, right?

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

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

Puzzle 199: Split Decisions Two Ways 4. When you come to a fork in the words, take it.

Last Friday’s freestyle solution

Get the PDF here!

Have something you wanna say? Got a question? Want to do a guest freestyle? Want to collaborate on a freestyle? Want to just say hello? Hit me up by email!

WHAAAAT? No standard freestyle crossword today? Surprise! Well, actually, I got an email message through the website saying that they liked these puzzles and hadn’t seen one in a while. I guess that message stirred something in me, because I did something I hadn’t done in a LONG time on this site, and that’s making a variety puzzle instead of a crossword. If you’ve missed the first three (which I won’t blame you for having done, since I published the last one in the Reagan administration), here’s a link to them. I’ve been on a roll with freestyle crosswords for a … long … while, so I guess it’s good to break up the landscape every once in a while, no?

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

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