Themeless #5

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LitSoft: http://icrossword.com/share/?id=8086_themeless5.puz

Solution to themeless #4

This puzzle was completed in mid-October, so I’m almost out of backlogged offerings– only two more! I’m in the process of cluing #8 right now, but need to get another grid cooking. Moving forward, as my puzzle posts get more irregular, I will be sure to post other things here– silly things, serious things, shout-outs, etc.– to pass the time and, of course, as a form of procrastination.

There are a couple categorical clusters in here (I don’t even like to call it a “mini-theme” because that would imply that an amount of real thought went into planning it). Maybe “happy accidents” would be a good descriptor.

Also, I’m almost certain I was drunk when I made this grid. Those five-square-long thingies sure made for a lot of shitty, shitty 3-letter downs! Won’t be doing that again. And what’s up with those two big black squares? I’m going to have to give motivational talks at schools so that kids don’t drink and grid. Take it from me… I’ve been down that road… Don’t throw your fill away…

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Themeless #5

It’s not a .puz, it’s not a .pdf, it’s…

THIS THING: http://icrossword.com/embed/?id=93A3_themeless2.puz

My wonderful, wonderful friend Jes (and creator of the hilarious Lower Crust) found this nifty little service for me. I haven’t come across it before, but it’s neat! It requires Java, so maybe that will be an issue for some people but you’re on your own with that one.

As you can see, it’s not embedded directly into my posts but I like that it’s not going to mess with my sleek and pared-down layout.

I posted themeless #2 here for the folks that were having trouble with the files.

Stay tuned for #4 later today!

It’s not a .puz, it’s not a .pdf, it’s…

What’s up with .puz, people?

So I know people want me to embed puzzles, but what is wrong with my .puz files? If they are completely defunct and unable to be opened, please let me know!

I use dropbox, like many others, and I am curious if there is something I’m doing wrong. Do people not like AcrossLite?

I’m not a “blog whiz” (thank sweet god that’s not my title) but, if there is a significant number of people who cannot open my .puz files as they are presented here, I will do my best to EMBED.

Feedback, please!

What’s up with .puz, people?

Guest puzzle: Last night I dreamt that somebody solved me

.puz

I’m very pleased to present, with his permission, my friend Phil Stiendel‘s first crossword! We were in the shit together back in ‘Nam– er, grad school, and we share a love of science and puzzles and… The Smiths?

I used to hate-listen to The Smiths, mocking Morrissey’s self-indulgent misery treacle by singing along in the style of Kermit the Frog and flailing my arms about. I had a couple songs on my running playlist, and would laugh every time my endurance went up against “…and you go home and you cry and you want to DIE.”

But after my husband walked out on me in July and shit got real, I found myself listening to The Smiths all the time. And not just listening, but finding solace and meaning in Morrissey’s low expectations surrounding relationships, abandonment, not having any good clothes to wear, etc. In a moment of clarity I realized that things must be pretty bad if I’m actively relating to Morrissey.

So did I grow to love The Smiths? I’m not telling, but I was delighted to solve this Smiths-themed puzzle and I hope anyone who hates/loves Moz & Co. enjoys it too. Or hates it; I don’t care, I don’t care, I don’t caaaaaaaaaare

Phil thanked me for the “nice review” in the comments, and I realized that I spent the whole post talking about my own Smithssues, if you will (and you will). I want to say more about Phil and how nice it is to have my friends starting to make puzzles of their own.

I’m pretty sure Phil was carrying a puzzle clipboard before it was cool, and he doesn’t stop at crosswords– cryptics, metas, cryptic metas and crazy stuff that makes blood leak out of my ears. He came down to Lollapuzzoola ’14 with me, is an MIT Mysteryhunter, and wrangled me into participating in a BAPHL hunt. I believe he will be making a puzzle for the next hunt, and I will gladly post it here afterwards.

What keeps me making puzzles is how much fun they are to share, so it’s absolutely wonderful to get to solve my friends’ creations. Thanks, Phil!

Guest puzzle: Last night I dreamt that somebody solved me

Themeless #3

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Solution to themeless #2

#3 brings us up to 7/6/2014 and this one is a sedate (maybe even a little boring) puzzle. Kind of a meh grid too, now that I’m looking at it again.

I’m really selling it, I know.

Nah, it’s a fine puzzle and I’m happy to share it. Hope the .puz file works; the helpful Alex Boisvert suggested embedding puzzles directly in my posts, so I’ll be fiddling around with that.

Also, on Wednesday, I will be posting a friend’s first puzzle. It’s themed, but I can’t resist sharing. Stay tuned!

Themeless #3

Downs [and Ups], but no Acrosses: Bipolar Disorder and Crosswords

For me, a love of words significantly predated the onset of bipolar type II. As a young kid I made up words (“gertine” for “plum”) and used existing words to define other things (“teenager” for “hoodie”). A single tissue was a “kleeneck,” and the “best Q word” was “cucumber.” I had a font period where I liked writing words out in different, sometimes elaborate styles. Exposition has always been fun for me; in college I was told by one of my English professors that she would encourage me to major in the department but wanted to see as many women in science as possible. Well, I leaked right out of that leaky academic pipeline, but I keep a blog at least.

I was about 23 when bipolar disorder symptoms started to reveal themselves and, over time, culminate in a five-day hospitalization when I was 26 (at McLean, no less; two-and-a-half stars on Yelp!) due to major depression. It took until this past October–about 5 years– for me to be correctly diagnosed as, and medicated for, bipolar type II.

This summer I suffered a trauma that triggered some of the most intense symptoms I’ve ever experienced. I spent some time in the truly evil “mixed state.” Here, this explains everything:

It’s just like that. Actually it’s more like your brain is feverishly treading in detritis-clogged water, and the rotting leaves it kicks up are some of the most horrible thoughts you can imagine about yourself, your future, your loved ones, beheadings, you name it. Your manic mind chews tirelessly on the depressive thoughts and it is incredibly difficult to erase the screechily-applied chalk cluttering your mental slate in order to make room for basically anything else.

Here is where crosswords come in. There is Order in the Grid, and Other Things must be ruminated on to make Progress. That is a somewhat primal way of thinking about it, but there is a kind of reptilian-brained hypnotic quality to a crossword. For me, a blank grid can act as an anxiolytic.

So in some pretty dark times I would drag myself out to the back porch and sit outdoors, compelled to focus on something else, something initially neutral, for a while. Eyes darting from clues to grid, I would look for a foothold and feel a modest surge of endorphins that helped to neutralize the bile-churning adrenaline when the first sure answer was dredged up out of all that frothy murk. While medication and therapy have ultimately set me back on a steady course, crosswords absolutely played a huge supporting role along the way.

This past week I received a “Pleasant Events List” in my weekly DBT group, which consists of a 225-item checklist of pleasant things one can do to increase the positive emotions in one’s life. As all 225-item checklists do, this one has some doozies, like “recycling old items,” “having a political discussion” and “watching boxing/wrestling.” But Pleasant Event #151 is “doing crossword puzzles” and I can attest to the fact that there is something to that.

I feel an acute sense of gratitude for the constructors, both indie and syndie, that provide these positive outlets for a brain that is best described by comedian Maria Bamford as “going off like an untethered jackhammer.” I mentioned my feelings from a bus stop in Springfield on Twitter around Thanksgiving:

140 characters isn’t really enough though, and I realized I created a place to express my thanks and share my thoughts. Thanks for listening and, of course, for all those puzzles.

And since Erik Agard gave me such a nice shout-out when I created this blog, I have to mention what a great mentor he is to me as I move forward with puzzle construction. Good mentors can be hard to find (coughgradschoolcough), so I feel like I lucked out with EA. I always look forward to his thoughtful (and funny) clue-by-clue critiques. Thanks, Erik!

Downs [and Ups], but no Acrosses: Bipolar Disorder and Crosswords