Monday, January 27, 2014

Puzzle #2 Solution

2014.2 Harder -- Solution

2014.2 Easier -- Solution

Hope you liked last week's offering. Not surprisingly, B1 was the seed entry. And there was a bit of a rock-and-roll mini-theme to boot. I just saw Inside Llewyn Davis last week and enjoyed it, as I do most of the Coens' oeuvre. Fellow Minnesotans represent!

Important topic: I'm thinking of offering each week's puzzle with two additional degrees of difficulty. Currently the difference between the "Easier" and "Harder" versions is merely the ordering of the blooms clues. I'm considering offering the puzzle in four levels of difficulty. Level 1 (Easiest) would list enumerations with the clues, instead of mere (2 words) and such notations. For example, if WHITE HOUSE were the entry, it would be enumerated [5, 5], as each word in the entry is five letters long. BEN-HUR, for example, would be enumerated [3-3].

Levels 2 and 3 would be the same format as the current Easier and Harder formats, respectively.

Level 4 would do away with all post-clue notations. No (2 words) or (Hyph.) or (Abbr.) notations to help you along.

So to recap: Level 1 (enumerations, ordered blooms), Level 2 (notations, ordered blooms); Level 3 (notations, alphabetically-listed blooms); Level 4 (no notations, alphabetically-listed blooms).

Please let me know if this would be a welcome change. Of course, you'd always have the choice of which level to choose, but I do have a worry that too many options may lead to solver confusion.

Finally, I would be remiss not to plug Patrick Blindauer's upcoming puzzle suite, a college-themed puzzlefest. Such puzzle suites offer various crosswords that can each connect in some thematic way to come up with an overall meta answer. I offered such a project last year. I've done each of Patrick's first four inter-related meta projects and they are supremely top-notch, so you won't be disappointed.  Get it here.

Next puzzle drops next Tuesday. I bumped the next puzzle up from the rotation because I think it's that strong. As always, any feedback is welcomed!

Monday, January 13, 2014

Puzzle #1 Solution

2014.1 Harder -- Solution

2014.1 Easier -- Solution

I received some delightful emails regarding the first puzzle this year. The consensus was that solvers enjoyed it, which I'm glad to hear. I was pleased with the final product. Generally I stick my seed entries in either Row A or B, and this was one instance where the idea for the entry (Row A) was actually prompted by first hearing the clue words, then re-purposing those words into a punny clue.

This guy found that the last 2 letters of G2 are interchangeable; both -ER and -RE work, based on G2's British and American spellings, and its crossing bloom works either way as well. I'd love to say that this was intentional, but I hadn't noticed it until Erik emailed me about it! Hey, sometimes you get lucky.

Sean M. asked a question that's been commonly raised, so I thought I'd address it here: Do I use any software program to write a Rows Garden? I don't, as there isn't any Rows Garden software out there and I'm the last guy that could write such a program. For the most part it's trial and error, and I work out the grid the old-fashioned way, with pencil and paper. As mentioned I have one seed entry to work with, and then I make progress down the grid from there. I certainly avail myself of electronic resources -- word lists and databases, Onelook.com, etc. -- as the task would be much tougher without them.

A common pitfall that occurs is that I find a duplicate entry somewhere -- usually in the blooms. Since their layout in the grid is non-linear, it's hard to keep track of the entries that you've used there. One grid that I had recently completed had two instances of CREATE in the blooms, so that's an obvious no-go. Re-writes are painful and in a few instances has led to me re-writing an entire puzzle. So I've made it a habit to list my blooms on the margin as I'm writing the puzzle; that way I can save some serious headaches for myself in the future.

I also wanted to mention Peter Gordon's latest Kickstarter for his Fireball Newsweekly Crosswords project. Peter is simply one of the best puzzle people out there and anything that he produces is guaranteed to be quality stuff. His Newsweekly puzzles have a serious current-events bent, and are a good way to keep up on the times. These puzzles aren't too difficult, in the medium range, so it's accessible to all solvers. Time is running out, so if interested, back the project here.

If a real mental workout is more up your alley, I highly recommend Peter's standard Fireball Crosswords. Pound for pound it's the best standard crossword around (in my opinion), and these babies can be tough. Well worth the investment. Get Fireball here.

Puzzle #2 will drop next Tuesday! Feel free to leave your comments regarding the first puzzle here; don't be afraid to get the discussion rolling.