Monday, March 25, 2019

Aries Cryptic #12 - "Entertainment Options"

Variety cryptic time! This is a 12x11 puzzle titled "Entertainment Options." No PUZ file this week; instead, I've prepared two PDF versions of the puzzle - an Easier version with standard cryptic enumerations, and a Harder version that only gives general notations like (2 wds.) or (Hyph.) when applicable. I'd recommend solving the Easier version if you're newer at variety cryptics. If you're a veteran to these, solve the Harder version.

Cryptic #12 - PDF (HARDER)

Cryptic #12 - PDF (EASIER)

Cryptic #12 - SOLUTION

Intro to Cryptics - PDF

Congrats to Dan Feyer on a record-setting eighth win at the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament! I'll go ahead and crown Dan as "speed solver of the decade." Eight ACPT titles in the 2010s ain't too shabby. What will the 2020s hold?

Happy solving!


Monday, March 11, 2019

Aries Cryptic #11

Appropriately, Cryptic #11 is an 11x11 puzzle. Some nice clues emerged from this one, my favorite being 17-Across. Hope you enjoy!

Cryptic #11 - PUZ

Cryptic #11 - PDF

Cryptic #11 - SOLUTION

Intro to Cryptics - PDF

This year I've started offering monthly archive bundles for both subscription services (Rows Garden and Freestyle). January and February puzzles are currently available, priced at $1 per puzzle. Monthly bundles are a good way to try the weekly puzzles before fully committing to a subscription. Check it out if you'd like!

Happy solving,


Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Aries Freestyle Orca Nominees

It was humbling to see some love for Aries Freestyle in the just-released 2018 Orca Awards! The Orcas annually recognize the year's best in crossswords, and there was not only one but two Aries Freestyle puzzles included in Sam Donaldson's write-up. Freestyle #15 was nominated for Freestyle of the Year, and Freestyle #3 included a clue (35-Across, to be precise) nominated for the Clue of the Year.

Here are both of the Orca-nominated puzzles for your solving (or re-solving) enjoyment:

Freestyle #15 - PUZ

Freestyle #15 - PDF

Freestyle #15 - Solution

Freestyle #3 - PUZ

Freestyle #3- PDF

Freestyle #3 - Solution

For a service in its first year, it was quite the honor for Aries Freestyle to be included in such high company. Congrats to all of the nominees and winners, and thanks to Sam for the nominations and for the entertaining write-up - be sure to check out the full Orcas post here (spoilers abound, so be sure to solve the above puzzles first!).

Back with Cryptic #11 next week!


Monday, February 25, 2019

Cryptic #10, and some thoughts on "D.C. Cab"

Back to the good ol' cryptic this week, a full 15x15 size in fact! The first entries in the puzzle were 1-Across and 22-Across. I found the full 15x size a fresh challenge to construct - there's room for more entries, and longer entries, and generally the longer the entry the more difficult it is to clue. Hope you enjoy!

Aries Cryptic #10 - PUZ

Aries Cryptic #10 - PDF

Aries Cryptic #10 - SOLUTION

Intro to Cryptics - PDF

Revisiting my "crosswordese movies" bit from a while back, I did get around to seeing D.C. Cab. If my goal of watching these movies was to convince myself never to use these movies again in puzzles, I've so far succeeded with D.C. Cab. What an odd film...first off, crosswords would have it that this is a Mr. T film; of the 56 hits DCCAB gets in Matt Ginsberg's Clue Database, 41 of them include some reference to Mr. T. In fact, Mr. T is a minor character in the movie - even among an ensemble comedy cast, he rarely stands out (well, aside from those pants):

There's one scene late in the film where Mr. T gets to do the "let's band together and fight and win this thing!" pep talk to the rest of our scrappy, underdog gang of misfit cab drivers. It's basically three minutes of Patton sandwiched in the middle of a MadTV episode, and it's Mr. T's time to shine in the movie, but aside from that he's barely a character. But again, those pants....

If D.C. Cab is any one actor's movie, it's probably Adam Baldwin, who plays the lovable protagonist, Albert Hockenberry, who enters the zany world of the D.C. Cab Company in hopes of hitting the big-time as a cabbie in Washington, D.C. Or maybe it's a Max Gail movie; after all, he gets top billing in the end credits. Gail's performance as the owner of the cab company might be the movie's bright spot. Perhaps the main problem with D.C. Cab is that it's nobody's movie, a multi-storylined workplace sitcom written and directed by Joel Schumacher, whose similarly-plotted Car Wash script from a decade earlier surely served as a template for this movie. I'm not the biggest Schumacher fan, and this is the part of his career where frantic comedy seemed to be his niche. His previous film, The Incredible Shrinking Woman, was perhaps the cokiest of all the coky comedies of 1981, a cinematic disaster of hectic direction and shabby writing. D.C. Cab is similarly cocainey in its aesthetic, serving more as a static sitcom than a three-act film - the third act dilemma arises from nowhere and is hastily resolved. At least the gorilla on the loose in the third act of Shrinking Woman was nowhere to be found in this third act.

In the end D.C. Cab was watchable and it got some legit laughs from me, which I can't say about many comedies from this period. But for the most part, I was laughing at the movie rather than with it, and the high quotient of '80s cheese - the hacky comedians the populate the cast (Bill Maher and Paul Rodriguez included), the Giorgio Moroder music, the pants - disqualifies it as any sort of relevant film today. It's a pop culture relic, and a rather forgettable one. But it has its moments, and it has its pants.