Thursday, February 18, 2021

Aries Cryptic #31 - Hockey Game (Contest)

 Aries Cryptic #31 - "Hockey Game" - PDF | Introduction to Cryptics (PDF)

Back with a variety cryptic this month, and it's a contest! This cryptic is titled "Hockey Game," and it's inspired by the "medley"-style cryptics that I primarily associate with the great Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon. If you're interested in some of Hex's medleys, here's one from 1983 and another from 2006.  These kinds of variety cryptics tend to play pretty tough, so get ready for a real workout! Solving instructions are included on the PDF above, and you can submit the answer to the central unclued entry by Monday, March 1st for a chance to win a two-month Aries subscription (or extension of your subscription, if you're already a subscriber). Two winners will be selected at random - one current subscriber and one non-subscriber - and I'll post the solution along with announcing the winners on Thursday, March 4th. 

It was fun to conceptualize a puzzle around hockey, which I love but aside from Bobby Orr gets pretty short shrift in puzzles. I get it - it's a niche sport and so I tend not to reference hockey all that much in my work. And if you're not a hockey fan, don't worry - there's no obscure hockey knowledge required to solve this puzzle. As always, hope you enjoy! 

Thursday, January 21, 2021

Marching Bands #1

Marching Bands #1 - PDF | JPZ | Solution (PDF) 

I've got a Marching Bands for the variety puzzle this month! This format, developed by the great Mike Shenk, regularly appears in the Wall Street Journal and you can also subscribe to bi-weekly Marching Bands from Brendan Emmett Quigley. If you like the format you should give the Patrick Berry puzzle "Twister" a try - it definitely plays like a Marching Bands, but there's an extra layer or two and the payoff is really satisfying. "Twister" was probably my favorite variety puzzle from 2020, so it's highly recommended if you haven't solved it already.  

I've got a PDF for paper solvers and a JPZ option for digital solvers - just save the JPZ file and then open it Crossword Nexus to solve online. 

Now that 2020 is over I've updated the Rows Garden and Freestyle archives to include the 2020 Second Half puzzles, so be sure to check those out. If you're interested in a smaller bite, I've also updated the Monthly Bundles through December. And of course Rows Garden and Freestyle subscriptions are always open! Get yourself a subscription in order to get weekly puzzles delivered straight to your email inbox.

Happy solving! 

Thursday, December 24, 2020

Puns & Anagrams #2

Puns & Anagrams #2 - PUZ | PDF | PDF (Grayscale) | Solution

It's been a while since I've posted a Puns & Anagrams puzzle, so happy to return to this format for the December puzzle. As I've written before, P&As are a variety format derived from cryptics, but they stand apart from cryptics in several key ways. To recap the major differences:

1) Fully interlocking grid. Unlike standard block cryptics, where roughly 50% of the squares are checked by crossing entries, P&A grids qualify as standard themeless crossword grids, with a max of 72 entries in the grid. Every square is a part of an across and down entry. This affords solvers many more opportunities to solve an entry than a cryptic does, which helps explain some of the looseness of P&A clues.

2) Anagram clues (which comprise about half of the clues in a P&A) do not include anagram indicators, which are required for cryptics. In addition, homophones of letters (or groups of letters) included in the anagram are fair game. So, the word "sea" could signal a C to be included in the anagram; the word "seize" could signal multiple Cs to be included in the anagram; and "seedy" could signal the letters CD to be included in the anagram. 

3) While anagram clues will include a straight-forward hint to the entry, non-anagram clues do not require a straight-forward hint. Non-anagram clues will include cryptic tropes such as hidden words, containers, and homophones, as well as more P&A-typical conventions as visual rebuses, puns, and fill-in-the-blanks.

For this P&A, I made sure that none of the clues would work as a cryptic clue. As such this might play a little harder than a New York Times P&A, and it might be a little less wacky than a Times P&A can tend to be. I hope solvers enjoy! I realize that P&As are somewhat of a divisive format, but I find them to be a fun challenge to write and I want them to stand apart from cryptics. As always, any and all feedback is welcomed.

Happy holidays! I'm certainly ready to turn the page on 2020. I hope the puzzles were a welcome respite from this most challenging year. A reminder that you can always purchase monthly or yearly bundles of past subscription puzzles, and Rows Garden and Freestyle subscriptions are always open. Here's hoping for a better year in 2021!    

Thursday, December 10, 2020

"High Times" Solution

Aries Cryptic #30 - "High Times" - Solution (PDF)  

Thanks for everyone who submitted an answer to the "High Times" cryptic contest! There were 103 entrants to this contest, and the randomly-selected winners of two-month subscriptions were Becky Anderson and Jason Taniguchi. Congrats to Becky and Jason! See above for the solution, and look forward to more cryptic contests in the future. 

The November bundles are now posted, so hop on over to the archive and scoop up a bundle or two. Or better yet, become a subscriber! Subscriptions are always open, so if you're a fan of Rows Gardens or Freestyle puzzles - or both - consider becoming an Aries subscriber. 

I'll be back in a few weeks with this month's variety puzzle.