Well, well, well, this week's puzzle is a bit late. Why, do you ask? Well, something to do with the second answer in Row D of the puzzle. But to be more up front about it, you should seriously check out Foggy Brume's latest creation. Get a team together and sign up. Foggy is a great constructor, and I have had a blast working my way through his puzzles.
Returning to the matter of this puzzle, it occurs to me that I should try my hand at more of these miniature Rows Gardens. I used the format a year ago for A Child's Garden, but there's no reason I have to have a theme or gimmick when using it. Full-sized Rows Garden puzzles are still quite a challenge for me, so I hope that working on a smaller scale will help me to build up my chops. No solution file yet, as -- well, you know where I said this week's puzzle was a bit late? It took me until *mumble* to start writing it, so I haven't had time to format the solution just yet.
Here's a crossword variant that I've enjoyed as a solver, and that I wanted to try my hand at as a constructor. Unlike most of the variety puzzles I traffic in, the novelty lies not in the layout of the grid entries, but in the presentation of the clues. Given that the grid is no different from a traditional block-style cryptic, the focus is on lively fill and interesting cluing, two areas where I feel I could use some work.
The Pareto Principle states that, in general, 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. This is most commonly applied to income distribution, but a different formulation of the principle often holds true for puzzle construction. To wit, I have found that the last 20% of a puzzle often takes up 80% of my constructing time, and this particular puzzle serves as a perfect example. I spent an hour or two putting together roughly 80% of the grid on Thursday, then spent two or three hours fruitlessly working on the remaining corner last night. Finally, over the course of another couple hours this afternoon, I yanked out a few more entries, and forced that corner into submission. Fun* game for the solver to play: which corner gave me all that trouble?
* May not actually be all that fun.
At long last, I'm back from my, um, vacation. I the past couple months, I've been involved with putting on the 2013 Dimensions Puzzle Hunt at MoMath, which was a success, and participating in the 2014 MIT Mystery Hunt, which was great fun as always. And now I'm part of a group that's planning to put on BAPHL 10 this summer, so I'm not lacking for puzzle projects.
Speaking of puzzle projects, for much of the past year I have been contributing puzzles for the magazine Will Shortz Presents WordPlay, published by Penny Press. I am thrilled to report that the first issue, with over fifty variety puzzles, is now available. Some of the biggest names in puzzle construction are featured in this issue, including Patrick Berry, Trip Payne, and Brendan Emmett Quigley, and it is an honor to be included with them in this collection. The magazine is slated to come out six times a year, and it can be purchased through their website (under "Subcriptions," or "Puzzle Books" for individual issues) or at your local newsstand/bookstore/wherever you buy your puzzle books. Tell your puzzle-loving friends! Tell your puzzle-loving enemies! Tell your friends and enemies who secretly love puzzles, but just don't know it yet!
Now, where was I? Oh, right, this week's puzzle. I tend to consider Snake Charmers to be more lightweight from both the constructor's and the solver's perspectives, but I rather like some of the wordplay I fit into this one. I managed to include several long answers with a lot of overlap between them, without resorting to a ton of short answers to fill the cracks. And after a couple years of working with a hand-me-down grid in PNG format, I finally made my own vector act for the grid. Laying out the curvy bits was a pain, but it should be worth it in the long run -- the art should remain crisp at any resolution, I should have an easier time editing new grids in the future, and I can even alter the grid to fit a different number of letters should the need arise. There are a couple of kinks I need to work out, including an apparent glitch with the PDF rendering, but I think it's an improvement. What do you think? Please let me know if you think the grid needs further tweaking.
Well, the puzzle editing project continues to eat up my constructing time, but that should only be for another couple weeks or so. This puzzle, like the Tessellation Nurikabe a few weeks ago, was directly inspired by learning how to make fancy grids in Inkscape. I was expecting to have some difficulty working with a hexagonal grid, but instead I found it quite smooth to fill. I have no idea if the solving experience is quite as smooth, however. Enjoy!
After posting on Tuesday last week, and missing the week before entirely, I am finally posting a puzzle on Saturday. I rather like today's Pathfinder, if I do say so myself. I felt like I was finding new ways of having words fit together, and I managed to get a little scrabbly with some of the fill. What do you think?
I tried posting this on Monday, but it didn't take. Apologies for the lateness of this week's puzzle, and for missing last week's puzzle. I've been involved in a puzzle editing project that has been eating up a lot of my time lately, so I haven't been able to finish my own puzzles in time. I hope to get back on track, but I make no promises.
This week's puzzle is based on a Patrick Berry creation that appeared in the Wall Street Journal a few months ago. His version used a 14x14 grid, but I was worried about biting off more than I could chew, and stuck with a 12x12 grid. He also used the "extra" letters to spell a quote, but I decided to spell out four words that would clue a final answer. Think of it as a Mystery Hunt-style puzzle, with instructions.
Yet another departure from my normal fare, yet again featuring something I wrote for last week's puzzle potluck. This one is a pair of logic puzzles, which is significantly outside my comfort zone as a constructor. Nurikabe is an established puzzle type invented by the folks at Nikoli, which uses a square grid, but I tweaked one of the rules to allow me to used other tessellations. In fact, I also wrote a pair of polyhedral Nurikabe, which take place on the surface of a rhombicosidodecahedron, using the same rules, but that required the assistance of a 3-D printer, so it would be tough to share them in this forum. Once again, I haven't put together a solution file yet, but with the long weekend ahead of me I should be able to get that (and last week's solution) done fairly soon.
If you're itching for word puzzles, I recommend checking out Kevin Wald's contribution to the puzzle potluck, "A Well-Lined Grid". Kevin writes consistently entertaining cryptics, and this one is no exception.
A bit of a departure from my usual fare. I wrote this for a puzzle potluck that I hosted today, and since I had it in hand I thought I'd share it with you. It's deliberately somewhat pop-culturey, and the significance of the final answer may be somewhat obscure if you're not involved in a particular subculture. But I had fun writing it, which surprised me since I normally don't consider myself good at writing "normal" crosswords. I forgot to make a solution file, and my primary computer is in the shop, so I'm unlikely to fix that for the next week or so. Sorry.
Edited to add (10/5): The clue for 37-down is missing a word. The figure should be "$220 million" instead of just "$220".