Monday, June 4, 2018

Puzzle #85: What a Mess

Before the puzzle, an announcement: Starting this week, I'm switching from a weekly schedule to an "occasional" schedule. The main reason is that there are so many good new crosswords out there now, including the Puzzle Society daily and the New Yorker puzzles on Mondays, plus Dave Murchie's Monday Fills. Don't want to overwhelm the solvers! Of course, if you want a weekly dose of bewilderment, you can still subscribe to the Thursday puzzles (see the right sidebar).

Also before the puzzle, the answer to last week's meta, which asked you to identify the outcome of the game depicted in the grid. As some people guessed just from the title, "Hugs and Kisses," the game was tic-tac-toe, depicted using the X's and O's in the grid.


As you can see, the game (like all tic-tac-toe games by players who know their stuff) is a tie. A bunch of solvers even submitted the answer "cat's game," thus teaching me the term for a tied game in tic-tac-toe!

And finally, on to this week's puzzle (pdf, puz, pdf solution).



Monday, May 28, 2018

Puzzle #84: Hugs and Kisses (meta)

It's been a while since I've posted a meta! The answer to this week's meta (pdf, puz, pdf solution) is the outcome of the game depicted in the grid. As always, my email is open.


Monday, May 21, 2018

Puzzle #83: Manspreading

My subscription service turns a year old this week! You can sign up at any time (see the right sidebar), but even if you're not a subscriber you can also buy a selection of some of my favorite puzzles from the first year - just shoot me an email.

Onto this week's puzzle (pdf, puz, pdf solution)!


Monday, May 14, 2018

Puzzle #82: Pop Quiz (with Amanda Chung and Karl Ni)

I say "with Amanda Chung and Karl Ni," but this puzzle (pdf, puz, pdf solution) is really their brainchild; the theme and the fill is pretty much all them. If you haven't checked out their own blog, why not head on over and do some fun puzzles?


Monday, May 7, 2018

Puzzle #81: Mixups (by Alison Ohringer)

This week I'm very excited to present a guest puzzle (pdf, puz, pdf solution) by Alison Ohringer. This one's a breezy solve with some classic wordplay. It's Ali's very first published puzzle, but you'll undoubtedly be seeing her name much more in the future. After you solve the puzzle, check out the bottom of this post for a little Q&A to learn more about her (emphasis on the after, since it does include spoilers for the puzzle). Enjoy!




Will: Tell us a little about yourself - when you're not solving or constructing crosswords, what do you like to do?

Ali: I'm a grad student at UC Berkeley in Infectious Diseases and Global Health. I spend most of my time doing research on hepatitis C and various other infectious diseases and teaching some undergrad courses. I live in a co-op with 25 other grad students (similar to a kibbutz but with fewer farm animals) where a few of us solve the NYT crossword together almost every day and cook/eat communally, which is lots of fun. I really enjoy weight lifting and trying to keep my houseplants alive as well.

Will: What's your history with crosswords? How long have you been solving, and how did you get into constructing?

Ali: I started solving a few years ago and quickly found myself reading the Rex Parker blog every day. I followed "Rex" (Michael Sharp) on Twitter - highly recommend because he is hilarious - and emailed him in February after he tweeted to anyone looking to start constructing. Just a couple months prior, I'd decided to stop thoroughly reading the news every day because it was too depressing, so the thought of constructing seemed like a great way to spend this new free time. Michael pointed me towards a Facebook group called "Puzzle Collaboration Directory," which I cannot recommend highly enough for anyone that wants to get into constructing. I started by making a puzzle with one of my housemates and then sent it to a list of "test solvers" who provided me with helpful and supportive feedback; I had indeed broken almost every rule there is to break (more than one dupe in the puzzle, >78 words and themeless, corners with only one method of entry, overly obscure words... the works) and it was a great learning experience. Erik Agard in particular has answered every tiny, nitpicky question I've had and has been an incredible mentor since day one. We've even co-constructed a few puzzles and let me tell you, he really is masterful.

Will: In an encouraging development, many people have become more aware of issues of representation (gender and otherwise) in crosswords lately. Have your experiences as a woman getting into the world of crosswords informed your approach to constructing?

Ali: Being a member of a group that is underrepresented in the field makes me hyper-aware of how my actions might impact other women or other groups that are traditionally underrepresented in constructing. It ends up being a vicious cycle - I know women are underrepresented, so I want to submit only the very best work so that more women get published in the future, which means I don't submit things that are good but maybe not perfect because I don't want an editor to see it, dislike it, and then think poorly of women constructors in general. Then, I often end up seeing puzzles published in major venues that have the same imperfect word in my grid that prevented me from submitting my puzzle altogether (see ONER, HAR, etc). When there's already a touch of Imposter Syndrome - which likely exists to some degree for any brand-new constructor - seeing that only about one NYT crossword per week has a female constructor makes that feeling grow stronger. I'm very grateful for the Facebook group that has allowed me to get into this field at all and I would say my feelings echo the group's pinned post [written by Erik]: "it's often said that talent is equally distributed, but opportunities are not. this group's foundational intent is to rectify that inequity for women, people of color, and folks from other groups underrepresented in the puzzle world. if you don't find yourself described in the previous sentence, please know that you're equally welcome here; please also respect that priority, and keep it in mind when you're navigating this group." Groups that are underrepresented in constructing have so much to offer and I'm grateful for those who are willing to go out of their way to help new constructors like me in an effort to narrow the divide.

Also, slightly tangential: if I'm cluing a word that might have something to do with a woman or a person of color or any other marginalized group, I try to intentionally include their name and accomplishments in my clue.

Will: There's a lot of stuff to like in this puzzle - what part(s) are you proudest of?

Ali: Thank you! I like how BASENJI/DEJA VU cross at the J, that the clue for NUDES wasn't weird, and that I found some neat anagrams. And the clue for my namesake (ALI) was fun to come up with.

Monday, April 30, 2018

Puzzle #80: A Late Quartet

A regular old puzzle this week (pdf, puz, pdf solution), though admittedly one with a fairly oddball theme, but exciting news for next week: there'll be a guest puzzle! Stay tuned.


Monday, April 16, 2018

Puzzle #78: Double Portraits

I've definitely seen a few puzzles with similar themes to this week's (pdf, puz, pdf solution), but I don't think this exact version's been done before. Enjoy the puzzle!


Monday, April 9, 2018

Puzzle #77: At the Culinary Museum

Not much to say about this one (pdf, puz, pdf solution), except that I'm proud of how the stacked theme entries worked out. Enjoy!


Monday, April 2, 2018

Puzzle #76: Changing Their Tune

Luckily for you, April Fools Day fell on a Sunday this year, so there are no dastardly tricks in this week's puzzle (pdf, puz, pdf solution) - just a regular ol' themed puzzle. Enjoy!


Monday, March 26, 2018

Puzzle #75: Various Positions

Congrats to Erik Agard on his commanding win at the ACPT this weekend! If you were there, maybe you can decompress with another crossword (pdf, puz, pdf solution).


Monday, March 19, 2018

Puzzle #74: A Badass Ending

This week's puzzle (pdf, puz, pdf solution) is a relative rarity on this site: a straightforward early-week theme. I sent this to a couple of newspapers but they felt that 30-Across wasn't famous enough for Tuesday difficulty, so you get it here instead!


Monday, March 12, 2018

Monday, March 5, 2018

Puzzle #72: Duped

There's a rule in crosswords that you can't duplicate part of an answer in one of the clues, especially the clue for that answer. Unfortunately, just as I was about to post this puzzle (pdf, puz, pdf solution), I noticed that every single answer was duplicated in the clue for that answer! I was in a rush so I just deleted the offending dupes from the clues - hopefully it's still solvable.


Monday, February 26, 2018

Puzzle #71: The Sound of Music

With my Outside the Box puzzle on Monday and my NYT puzzle yesterday, hopefully you all didn't get tired of seeing my byline last week! If you didn't, please enjoy today's puzzle (pdf, puz, pdf solution).


Monday, February 19, 2018

Puzzle #70: Not With a Bang

If you're a subscriber to Joon Pahk's Outside the Box puzzles (which you should be!), you'll get a double dose of me today. I've got a guest puzzle there (a variety cryptic), and the usual puzzle here (pdf, puz, pdf solution). Enjoy!


Monday, February 12, 2018

Puzzle #69: Nice

Last week's meta, Flight Path, asked you to identify a flower. Lots of people sent me the right answer: following the long down entry, MAKE A BEELINE FOR, you can wend your way through the grid following the B's from the top left to (almost) the bottom right - continuing the path to the bottom right corner spells out ROSE, which is your answer.

No puz file for this week's crossword (pdf, pdf solution), because Across Lite doesn't play well with bars.


Monday, February 5, 2018

Puzzle #68: Flight Path

It's been a while since I've posted a meta on here, so how about one this week (pdf, puz, pdf solution)? The meta answer is a flower.


Monday, January 29, 2018

Puzzle #67: Black Market

Bit of an unusual grid this week (pdf, puz, pdf solution), and it's another bite-sized one (just 9 by 7). Enjoy!


Monday, January 22, 2018

Puzzle #66: Putting the 'Winter' in 'Low Interest'

Any resemblance of this puzzle's grid (pdf, puz, pdf solution) to a smiley face is purely coincidental. Grids with left-right symmetry are just weird that way. Anyway, enjoy the puzzle!


Monday, January 15, 2018

Puzzle #65: Never Before Seen

I recently challenged myself to make a solvable 4-by-4 puzzle without using any entries that have appeared in the NYT crossword*, and this (pdf, puz, pdf solution) was the result. Was I successful? I have no idea!

*In the Shortz era, at least. One of the entries was used once in 1949, clued as [Eighth day after a feast: Var.].


Monday, January 8, 2018

Puzzle #64: Pockets

Heads up: this week's puzzle (pdf, puz, pdf solution) is best solved as a PDF, though the other options are available as usual.

In other news, a recent post by Erik Agard has gotten people talking about ways that male constructors can help alleviate gender equality in crosswords and amplify women's voices. If you're a woman who wants to get into constructing, I'm very happy to collaborate! Just drop me a line by email.


Monday, January 1, 2018

Puzzle #63: Butt Out

Happy New Year! I hope it brings you many good puzzles, and other good things besides. Why not start 2018 off with this one (pdf, puz, pdf solution)?