mini-themeless #4

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Well folks, I don’t know about this one but here it is: 5×5. My rock climbing co-worker tried it and made the very good point that there isn’t a lot of space for footholds. When you’ve got a 15×15 you can look around the whole grid and find that first answer you are absolutely sure is right.

I’ve noticed that people assume the Sunday NYTimes is the hardest puzzle because it’s the biggest, and I sound like a really jackhole when I’m like ACTUALLY IT’S MORE OF A WEDNESDAY. Size doesn’t (always) matter, and I’m not so sure I’d have an easy time with this little puzzle. Let me know what your solving experience is like; fraught or not.

And, yeah, I guess I probably have to do a 3×3 because everyone likes the tiniest Russian Nesting Doll best, amirite?

P.S. AcrossLite doesn’t seem to know what to do with this tiny grid and it prints out awkwardly for me, so the PDF might be best– if anyone even solves on paper, who knows!

mini-themeless #4

Mini-themeless #3

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Jeez –11×11, 9×9, and now 7×7. I’m getting real silly over here. Should I do a 5×5, diagramless style? Are these little puzzles obnoxious? More than a few people had trouble finishing #2, including my very own dear mother who was forced to read me The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin basically every night for years.

Shout out to my girl Beatrix P. in “Orange is the New Black”

And speaking of short stories, I like making these minis because they don’t take up as much time as 15x15s. When I was basically out of my mind and unemployed I could make a puzzle at least once per month, but now when I get home I just want to drink a 50/50 martini and enjoy someone else’s construction work. I do have a neat normal-sized puzzle that I am working on (it involves a tattoo!) and I am excited to get it done and ready to share.

Here are the solutions to #1 and #2

Mini-themeless #3

Mini-themeless #2

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9×9, 26 words, 6 tiny blocks. This is the equivalent of, like, a 52 word 15×15. I think. Badass. I think.

I learned about the “runt puz” concept through Rex’s blog comments section and found the little niblets to be wonderful and quite difficult. Check them out here and try your luck. I wouldn’t call this or the previous mini-themeless a runt puz, but more like a puzzle going through its awkward phase.

Even though the real estate is limited and precious, there is still some unsavory fill– including the second time a word list word turns out not to be a word but we think it’s a word until we find out it’s not a word– cough7Dcough.

Anyway, Brayden and I hope you enjoy this little guy!

Mini-themeless #2

Mini-themeless #1

Having been on a bit of a construction hiatus, I used the Indie 500 as a reason to get my head back in the game. Apparently the tournament itself was not enough, so I roped Brayden into collaborating with me on a harmless little baby themeless. Surprisingly the process didn’t destroy our relationship, despite my nit-picky critiques of some of his clues. I try to be critical yet fair, as so many others are when giving me feedback. For all my picked nits, there is one particular clue of his that I think is the best of the bunch. Enjoy!

Sorry, only the .puz and embedded for now. I have a PDF problem.

Update: I also have a proof-reading problem! Peter spotted “triology” (the study of trilogies, obvs) instead of “trilogy” in 24-A. I told him to kiss my ass, like an expansive person who appreciates corrections would. Peter also conjured up a PDF of the puzzle, if anyone wants it. Thanks, Peter. You Are Nice.

Mini-themeless #1

The Indie 500: Puzzles that will make you feel like a pile of flaming wreckage

I’d been looking forward to the Indie 500 since last August when Erik Agard of the Indie 5 let me know it was in the works. Having just attended Lollapuzzoola 7, I knew another tournament with the kind of puzzles I’d been solving, for free, on peoples’ blogs, would be a lot of fun. It would also be extremely challenging.

I was so right!

I made a pact early on with my Lollapuzzoola pairs division partner Adam that we would be in attendance, thinking nobody else we knew would want to do something like this. In the coming months I recruited two more participants: Brayden and Peter. Brayden has spent some time in DC for work purposes and knew some wonderful places to eat and drink, including Mockingbird Hill— my Sherry Soul Station. 70+ Sherries, a lot of them by the glass, ham, bliss.

En Rama (minimally filtered) Fino Sherry
En Rama (minimally filtered) Fino Sherry

Also, ramen at Daikaya and delicious Mexican at Oyamel.

In my dreams I am eating this constantly
In my dreams I am eating this constantly

When I suggested he register for the Indie 500, Brayden said yes but thought he might get away with just loafing off in DC while sweat trickled down my brain — NYOPE!  And, in the end, he did better than I. Peter and I were about the same, and Adam was by far the speediest and most accurate solver of our bunch.

(Digression: I take note of “hospitality gaffes” (HGs) all the time, but especially when I’m in different cities. I saw that Rex Parker (who posted a great write-up here) seemed to have experienced a HG during his time in DC, and I’m quite curious about the circumstances. The only serious HG I noted was that our brunchtime bartender at Founding Farmers so obviously hated his life that morning and made no attempt to hide it. We were afraid to ask for the silverware he didn’t give us in the first place! I worked at a busy, stressful bar with incorrectly-medicated bipolar disorder and always seemed to make my guests feel happy and taken care of!)

For all his faults, our bartender managed to get a Corpse Reviver no. 2 into my system before we headed to the event. The tournament started a little late, but that was fine by me because I was excited to spend some time putting faces to the names I see above grids all the time. It was nice to see a lot of faces I’d already seen at Lollapuzzoola, and just over 100 registrants is pretty awesome for an inaugural tournament with no monetary compensation for one’s success.

Let the mayhem begin
Let the mayhem begin

But who needs money when there’s free pie? Adorable little pie-bites in a variety of flavors (I went with key lime and cherry). Pie o’ clock was a nice break from the brain-pummeling we’d received before lunch. The puzzles, they were bonkers.

Fraught faces

Although it was Peter Broda who got pied in the face for his Puzzle #2, my pie would have been aimed at that Erik Agard for his dream-shattering Puzzle #1. What a way to start! I liked Peter’s puzzle and thought it was really fun once you figured it out– I think I did the best on this one, ALMOST actually finishing it. I like Finn Vigeland’s candy bar puzzle (#3), but I was definitely ready for lunch.

Over sangria that swiftly transitioned into G&Ts, I reflected on why I’m not good at speed-solving. I am completely okay with not being good at it, but when I’m in a competitive environment I still feel the primal urge to kick ass. The source of my sluggishness is probably a combination of general apathy and having been home-schooled until 8th grade. I’m a smartypants, but I didn’t get the battery of standardized testing in my early education– my SAT and GRE scores are good examples of my badness. I have a lot of negative feelings about standardized tests that I won’t go into here because it’s not like grad school admission is riding on placing in the top ten of a crossword tournament (also, I will never go back to grad school of any kind).

The Cute Puzzle #4 was cute but not really my type. The 5th puzzle, Neville Fogarty’s, was so tricky BUT extremely satisfying to figure out, even if it took me half the solving time. Neville agreed that I should be proud for just cracking the theme; I was.

Overall this was a entertainingly-grueling event, and I’ll be back if the tournament is (and I hope it is). I also hope no first-time solvers entered a state of shock from exposure to the puzzles– I don’t think there were any such casualties since most people figured out that FUN was the meta.

See you all at Lollapuzzoola 8!

The Indie 500: Puzzles that will make you feel like a pile of flaming wreckage

Themeless #7

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Solution to that quote-themed puzzle

This is it; the last backlogged puzzle. Retreating to a gentler 72 words, themeless #7 was fun to make and many found it fun to solve. A bouncy little puzz.

I’m still cluing themeless #8 (66 words) and have started on another 66 word themeless #9. The latter is giving me all kinds of headaches, but now the heat is on.

It was great to pop in on the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament to watch the division finals. I got to chat with Quigley, and hang out with Evan Birnholtz and Peter Broda! Totes star-struck.

The tournament puzzles were fun and challenging, and now I’m not only psyched for the Indie 500 but also for the tournament that happens on a Saturday in August. Let’s all go!

Themeless #7

One-year constructiversary

I realized, through the opiate haze following a gum graft procedure, that I attempted to construct my first crossword puzzle precisely one year ago on the 25th of March. I’m so glad I did!

Heading straight to Cruciverb and Xword Info, I was inundated with standard rules, tips, and extremely helpful people. I remember falling in love with the crossword construction community almost instantly.

In the beginning, Rex Parker was my main source of inspiration– terrifying, I know! I had been reading his blog for a while before I started constructing and agreed with much of his well-directed vitriol. As I stumbled through my first couple grids I often thought WWRSAT (What Would Rex Say About This) and tried my best to avoid the kind of fill that would have him spitting blog venom. Easier said than done for a beginner, but he had me beholden to a high standard from day one.

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s self-published puzzles were my gateway to the Indie Constructiverse and all bets were off. I stopped caring about the blasted Breakfast Rule and decided that the NYTimes can keep its $300 and have no women Fri/Sat constructors for all I care. I’ve said in the past that I’m not so much a “lean in” woman as a “lean back and watch it burn to the ground and fuck you all and told you so, etc” woman. Maybe it doesn’t do much for the greater good, but life is too short and I just want to have a good time, man.

But I digress.

I must have found Erik Agard through BEQ’s site, and after we actually met (albeit briefly) at Lollapuzzoola he became my mentor and I couldn’t have asked for a better one.

Now my clipboard is packed with BEQ, EA, AVCX, Birnholtz, Broda, Croce (split decisions, baby!) and there are so many others I’ve yet to solve.

I’m heading down to Stamford to watch the division finals on Sunday and I hope to put some faces to the names I see in the upper left-hand corners of the funnest pieces of paper I’ve ever carried around. And it’s my birthday to boot!

Just for fun, I am posting a little theme-y guy I made in June of 2014. I woke up with a quote in my head and split it up into what I thought were two perfect grid-spanners, but it’s one of those stupid quotes where we’ve all left out some critical-yet-boring words over time. You’ll see what I mean:

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And here is the solution to themeless #6

One-year constructiversary

Themeless #6

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Solution to themeless #5

Yep, things have been busy. For the past couple weeks I’ve been at the mercy of the MBTA Commuter Rail and fruit flies. Having one’s life controlled by trains and lower eukaryotes can be a bit soul-sucking, so I’ve been mostly hiding out somewhere near the Sea of Gin.

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One could make fun-sized gross bars of ground up insect matter in order to survive on Snowpiercer, er, the Commuter Rail
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SNOWPIERCER!!!!!!

But a stretch of warmish weather has now melted more than half of the snow and the sidewalks are navigable and the birds are out! Spring is a thing. Also I adopted a cat! Meet Max:

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My 18.5  year old kitty Bean died in early December and it was time to find a new companion. Max was the first one to show up on Petfinder and it was pretty shocking because of the resemblance he has to Bean: 5629410618_28cd79100b_zWell, they’re certainly both orange at least. Max is great and caught a mouse within two hours of coming to my apartment! Although this is the Internet, enough about cats for now and get on to themeless #6. As I recall, my friend Adam was Not Pleased with this puzzle and I can see why. At 68 words, this was my most ambitious grid yet; when I actually found fill for a corner I was more likely to keep it out of desperation, even if it was sub-optimal. Nonetheless, I think there is also a lot of good stuff in there– including a couple marquee entries! Enjoy!

Themeless #6

Louder than Bulleted Lists: The Smiths .pptx

I meant to put up a puzzle for today, but I’m TOO BUSY.

In the meantime I wanted to share these important PowerPoint slideshows. My dear friend Brayden C. Burroughs, Esq. and I share a love/hate relationship with PowerPoints. As you know, I harbor similar feelings about The Smiths, and so was born The Smiths.pptx:

Ask/How Soon is Now?  (BCB)

Accept Yourself (LW)

Girlfriend in a Coma (LW)

Panic (BCB)

(Hank the DJ forgot Dublin, Dundee and Humberside– I hope no one was inconvenienced)

Louder than Bulleted Lists: The Smiths .pptx

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…

Themeless #5