Sunday, September 24, 2017

PUZZLE #12: Themeless 4

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PUZ
SOLUTION to last week's puzzle

Welcome back, solvers!

72-word grid today, pitched a bit easier than your average themeless. Eagle-eyed solvers will notice that 50D has a different clue in the pdf and puz files. Apparently puz files have limits on clue length, so I had to do a quick rewrite there. Also, no points for guessing which entry I started with-- you know it was 52A. By this time, you should know that pop culture deep cuts are extremely my bag. (And, if you haven't seen the work referenced, I recommend you check it out.)

Also, new crossword site alert: I Dreamed A Theme. The title alone gets it points in my book, and the puzzles aren't too shabby either. Check it out!

Hope you enjoy!

-Paolo


Sunday, September 17, 2017

PUZZLE #11: Flat Tops

PUZ
PDF
SOLUTION to last week's puzzle

Hello, solvers!

Really quick post, because school's getting way more time consuming. Easier puzzle this week; the relatively simple nature of the theme made me want to jack up the theme density, so here you go. Hope you enjoy!

-Paolo

Sunday, September 10, 2017

PUZZLE #10: Themeless 3 (GUEST PUZZLE BY NATE CARDIN)

PDF
SOLUTION to last week's puzzle

Welcome, solvers!

We're onto double digits, folks. To celebrate, we're bringing in a first for Grids These Days: a guest constructor! This week we have up-and-coming constructor Nate Cardin taking the helm; you might know him from his recent MGWCC guest puzzle, which we talk about more below. Anyway, he's here with a sparkling 72-word themeless. There's a lottt of good stuff in the grid; I'm honored to be running it, and excited for you to solve it. But first, an exclusive interview with the constructor himself. Take it away, Nate!

PP: Tell me a little about your background; what do you do outside of crosswords?
NC: I'm a chemistry teacher and coordinator of diversity, equity, and inclusion at a private high school in Los Angeles.  That dual role allows me to tackle many of my passions simultaneously - promoting science education, working with young people, and advocating for more diverse, equitable, and inclusive communities.  Outside of work and crosswords, I enjoy exploring museums with my husband, watching every episode of Survivor (yes, every), and pining over Lego sets that are way too expensive for me.

PP: How'd you get into crosswords in the first place?
NC: I've gravitated towards puzzles from as early as I can remember!  I loved solving anything I could get my hands on, but I'll admit that I grew increasingly bored/unsatisfied with crosswords as I got to college and then grad school.  It seemed like skill with crosswordese was prized over wordplay, creativity, and joyful wrestling with language - and that turned me off.  I wanted something new or different, and I wasn't finding it.  I'd always had the dream of writing/publishing my own crosswords, but I didn't see myself as belonging in that crossword climate and I assumed that publishing was something other people (but not me) got to do.  This was up until a year or two ago.  

Now, I see a different cross-world.  I'm excited about crosswords again and feel like I can belong.  Why?  Meta puzzles!  Discovering Gaffney's meta contest was a revelation for me - crosswords could be creative and imaginative, and you could ask solvers to stretch and grow to conquer new puzzles by relying on imagination or attention to detail rather than unrecognizable fill.  I quickly started writing my own metas with my colleague Mike (in fact, the first crossword I ever constructed was a birthday present for him).  We kept up with it and were each fortunate enough to have a meta published during Gaffney's Guest Constructor Month this year.  I've written a bunch of metas since then and have even ventured into writing non-meta puzzles, thanks to Andy Kravis's lovely and supportive Grid Wars.  This puzzle is actually a grid I constructed for one of his challenges.

PP: Your MGWCC puzzle was one of my favorite metas in recent memory, and it was your debut! If I can get all "Inside the Constructor's Studio" on you, what's the story behind the puzzle?
NC: My husband and I were watching RuPaul's Drag Race one evening and either the title phrase (Side Eye) or meta answer (Throw Shade) was tossed around, and I had one of those !!! moments where I realized that simply putting the letters from Throw Shade (an evenly-divisible phrase!) sequentially on each side of five I's in the grid could be a simple, tight way of connecting two related, current phrases.  From there, the challenge was constructing a grid with only those five I's in it that was as clean as I could get it.  One thing I really appreciated was the post-solve discussion among those who were/weren't familiar with the slang about what those terms mean, how they were or weren't related, and where they derive from (the black and then queer communities).  That piece of cultural relevancy and literacy is huge to me, and to have an indie community where we can discuss topics like that is so important.  I'm hopeful that the indie crossword community continues to develop in that direction, especially by giving platforms to constructors from all backgrounds, especially those who don't often get to be featured.

PP: What's your crossword constructing philosophy?
NC: I'm a fan of fresh, modern puzzles that show off the constructor's personality and I strive for that myself.  If I had to choose, I'd rather an experimental grid that feels alive than a stoic, by-the-rules construction.  Naturally, this makes me a huge fan of Erik AgardPaolo Pasco (yes, I'm going to name drop Paolo on his own site), and others who keep their grid/clue vernacular fun and current.  As I grow as a constructor, I'd also like to make my grids increasingly clean and fun to solve.  (Shout out to BEQ for great and motivational consistency in his puzzles.)  When I'm gridding, if the question ever pops into my mind of "How can I get away with this fill?", I ditch the fill and try again.  I'm motivated by the creativity and joy that feature in so many indie crosswords these days!  A computer can fill a grid, but it takes a thoughtful constructor to make a grid that sparkles.  I always want to strive for that sparkle.

Excellent responses, excellent puzzle, excellent constructor. Enjoy!


-Paolo 

Sunday, September 3, 2017

PUZZLE #9: Dab On 'Em

SOLUTION to last week's puzzle

Welcome back, solvers!

Back to themed puzzle territory with this one. You might be asking yourself, was this puzzle just made as an excuse to post the gif below? The answer is yes, it absolutely was. Inspiration can come from the weirdest places. 

Also, in Crossword Sightings in Media: linguistic podcast The Allusionist just released an episode about the crossword world, framed around live reporting from last month's Lollapuzzoola. It's intensely well-done, featuring interviews with some incredible people (the segment with Neville and C. Fogarty is a must-listen). Above all, though, I enjoy how well it captured that fun/nerdy/semi-chaotic Lollapuzzoola feeling. Plus, I'm mentioned at around the 10:30 mark, and you know how much we millennials love hearing our own names. Definitely worth a listen, for whenever you have a 30-minute-or-so block of free time.

Hope you enjoy, and until next week!

-Paolo 

Sunday, August 27, 2017

PUZZLE #8: Themeless 2

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PUZ
SOLUTION to last week's puzzle

Quick post: themeless puz, different grid design. The seed entry is a pretty niche reference, but I have slowly incorporated it into both my vocabulary and life philosophy, so into the grid it goes. Gotta love the complete freedom offered by running your own site.

Also, check out Jenna Sais Quoi crosswords, run by new-to-the-scene constructor Jenna Lafleur! Her glutton for pun collab was choice; definitely a constructor to watch.

Enjoy, and until next week!

-Paolo

Friday, August 25, 2017

FlashGrid #1

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Surprise! Rolling out a new feature of the site, tentatively called "FlashGrids." They're puzzles that are smaller in size, but inspired by ultra-current stuff. We're talking hot off the presses, ripped from the headlines, crosswords-based-on-things-that-just-happened-like-yesterday current. You'll probably be seeing these infrequently, since their creation is at the mercy of whatever happens in pop culture. That's especially true with this grid, with a theme based on something that happened no more than 24 hours ago. Hopefully, it'll be a quick solve.

New puzzle on Sunday, as usual. Enjoy!

-Paolo

Sunday, August 20, 2017

PUZZLE #7: Motion Capture

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PUZ
SOLUTION to last week's puzzle

Welcome back, solvers!

School's officially back in session, so get ready for my post lengths to shrink from five paragraphs to like two sentences. Things are gonna get hectic real fast, which means less time for crosswords, but I think I have enough of a backlog to keep the weekly-puzzle thing going. Fingers crossed!

I'd be remiss to not mention that yesterday was the date of Lollapuzzoola 10! Couldn't be there in person, sadly, but I heard fun things. Congrats to master constructor Andy Kravis on his first place finish, and to tournament-runners Patrick Blindauer and Brian Cimmet for cat-herding another successful event. (If you missed the tournament, I believe you can still order the puzzles here; trust me, they're all baller)

Finally, in a long-awaited-by-me development, Chris Adams has launched an indie site of his own: arctanxwords. There's some excellent stuff there already, and I highly recommend that you check it out. (I'd like to single out his "Everything Louder than Everything Else" puzzle; a real tour de force)

Themed puzzle this time. Enjoy, and until next week!

-Paolo