Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Puzzle #26 Solution

RG2014.26 Hardest/Harder - Solution

RG2014.26 Easier/Easiest - Solution

I hope this year's Rows Gardens was as pleasurable to solve as it was for me to create them for you. I went into this puzzle using B2 as the seed, not clued as the cartoon pair but in reference to the eggnog-esque cocktail commonly drunk during the Yule season. As it turns out, however, the drink is a regional one special to the upper Midwest (where I hail from), so I went a different direction in the cluing. Otherwise, I liked debuting Row A and F2.

Early bird subscriptions for 2015 end when the ball drops...sign up now!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Puzzle #25 Solution

RG2014.25 Hardest/Harder - Solution

RG2014.25 Easier/Easiest - Solution

That's me on the right, and my buddy Troy on the left.  This photo was taken in Omaha, Nebraska, where this weekend we took in our favorite college hockey team, the St. Cloud State University Huskies, playing the Mavericks of the University of Nebraska-Omaha.

This is the third year Troy and I have taken a road trip, and while our first two trips were nearly blemish-free (Huskies went an impressive 3-0-1 in those games), the results weren't as favorable this weekend, as St. Cloud lost two tough close games. Still, the games were entertaining, we met (and imbibed with) some more hardcore Husky road-trippers, and the weather was a welcome reprieve - it threatened to hit sixty, tropical temperatures compared to the cold snap we've had in Minnesota over the last month or so.

As for RG #25, B2 was the timely seed answer, and I've been seeing many of those togs as of late. I was happy to get a number of nice entries in the grid, but decided to go a little easy on the cluing; consider it an early Christmas gift.

Have you renewed your Rows Garden subscription for 2015 yet?

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

2015 Subscriptions are Open!

I'll be doing another year of bi-weekly Rows Gardens in 2015; click on the "2015 Subscriptions" tab above for more info and to subscribe!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Puzzle #24 Solution

RG2014.24 Harder - Solution

RG2014.24 Easier - Solution

Hopefully you didn't suffer too bad a B1 over the Thanksgiving festivities! I was happy to get some fun entries into this one - C2, D1, E2, and G1 are especially tickling.

New one on Tuesday, and 2015 subscription info will be posted soon as well.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Puzzle #23 Solution

RG2014.23 Hardest/Harder - Solution

RG2014.23 Easier/Easiest - Solution

Apologies for the late post -- totally spaced about it!

Row A was the seed here. I liked being able to fit in B1 and especially C2 (one of my favorite comedies), with the additional nugget of C2 crossing the third dark bloom. As for the clues, I especially liked the misdirect at H1.

New puzzle will be mailed out to subscribers on Tuesday.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Puzzle #22 - Solution

RG2014.22 Hardest/Harder - Solution

RG2014.22 Easier/Easiest - Solution

C1 was the seed answer for this puzzle. This is notable because it's the first time in 140+ Rows Gardens that I've used anything other than the A or B Row for the seed entry. Oh, believe me - I tried using it in Row B. But 12-letter answers (or any answer divisible by 3) are tough to work with, because moving them to the first answer or second answer in the Row doesn't change the blooms trigrams. So if it ain't working with the blooms in one orientation, it's likely not to work to move it to the second position in the Row. Here, it worked fine once I moved it down to Row C, and thankfully the A and B rows cooperated without much difficulty.

My favorite clue in this one? Probably K1.

New puzzle next Tuesday!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Puzzle #21 - Solution

RG2014.21 Hardest/Harder - Solution

RG2014.21 Easier/Easiest - Solution

B2 was the seed entry for this puzzle. The last three months of the year have plenty of options for seasonal-based entries, so expect a few of those as we close out the year. I tried a couple of iterations of B2 (plural, -ING, etc.), and the blooms weren't cooperating very well, but I am happy with what turned out. Always nice to get a 5 word entry in a puzzle (J2), though I'm pretty sure I've used that entry before (too lazy to scour the archive, but I think I used this entry as a seed like three years ago). Anywho, hoped you liked this one, and #22 drops next Tuesday.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Puzzle #20 - Solution

RG2014.20 Hardest/Harder - Solution

RG2014.20 Easier/Easiest - Solution

We've hit #20 for this year - how time flies! Seems like yesterday that this whole year was getting off the ground. While I enjoy the autumn season, it's also a reminder of the oncoming winter, which based on last year's Winter From Hell, isn't something to anticipate with fondness. More inside time means more puzzling, however, so at least I got that going for me.

Hopefully you found this puzzle amusing. B1 was the seed, which presented some oddly difficult trigrams to deal with in the blooms. I had opportunities to use the entries YOU'RE MINE and YOU'RE GOOD at Row A, but I decided against both. YOU'RE MINE could be clued as a Valentine's phrase, but it sounds kinda creepy too, if you ask me, so I decided against it. And while YOU'RE GOOD is lively, it would have necessitated using BOOGER in a bloom, which I decided against due to poor taste. Call me prudish, perhaps, but using that entry - that's just snot me. :)

Monday, September 22, 2014

Puzzle #19 Solution

RG2014.19 Hardest/Harder - Solution

RG2014.19 Easier/Easiest - Solution

I had some fun with some longer entries in this grid. Aside from the seed entry at B1 (mostly inspired by its corresponding clue), the stack of E1 and F2 was cool to fit in, and they're both entries that I don't believe I've seen in puzzles before. B2 might be an unknown for those who haven't seen the commercials on NBC lately, and especially might look bad a year from now if, for instance, the show is canceled after a season. But I thought it'd be fair enough with the clue, and I made sure the crossing blooms weren't too challenging.

How'd this one treat you?

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Meta Rows Garden Solution, and Winners Announced

Meta Rows Garden Harder - Solution

Meta Rows Garden Easier - Solution

In this meta, we were looking for a "1970s song." The instructions stated that four blooms had something wrong, and another hint at getting the song was contained in one of the rows.

The four troublesome blooms needed only one letter in them, to be shared by the parallel rows. So for instance, D1's answer was BUMMER(D)UDE and LA STRA(D)A, both sharing the D in parentheses.

Those blooms, read from top to bottom and left to right, spell out DEAD. And if you take B1 and the S of B2, you see the ROLLINGSTONES hanging out in Row B.

Seeing that this is a garden after all (with AMARYLLIS confirming that in Row A), what could possibly be the answer? Fittingly, it's DEAD FLOWERS, a country-inspired song off the Rolling Stones' seminal 1971 album Sticky Fingers. It's been oft-covered since then, with probably my favorite version being Townes Van Zandt's, which was featured at the end of The Big Lebowski.

Norm Hurlbut uses a gardening pun to convey his satisfaction with the puzzle:

I think you have broken new ground with this one. 

I dig it, Norm!

Fellow Minnesotan John Wilson found the meta to be a tad ill-timed:

Say it ain't so - can't we get just a couple more frost-free weeks here in Minnesota before the growing season is going, going, gone?

Eric LaVasseur explains his leg-up for getting the meta:

I play keyboards in a band, and this is one of the cover songs that's in our rotation. 

Pete Muller (who creates his own music-related meta crosswords) channels his inner Mick Jagger in submitting his answer:

I won't forget to put roses on your grave.

Those are the closing lyrics to "Dead Flowers."

A fair amount of solvers mentioned they weren't familiar with the song, but were able to come across the correct answer. While it's no doubt disappointing when solving a meta puzzle that you need external resources to come up with the answer (it's much more satisfying if you reach the "a-ha" yourself), I was pleased that "Dead Flowers" had enough of a "click" factor once googling "Rolling Stones dead". No doubt the floral aspect of the answer was enough for these solvers to be confident in their answer. So I do feel bad that "Dead Flowers" is a bit too much of a deep cut (especially when considering the Stones' vast oeuvre) for universal recognition, but as I mentioned I was satisfied that the meta was solvable even for those who aren't familiar with the song.

87 solvers submitted the correct answers, along with 9 incorrect answers. Using a random number generator, the winners of a 2015 subscription and a copy of my upcoming Creepy Crosswords are: Daniel Streit and Matthew Mitchell. Congratulations to both, and thanks again for everyone for playing!

Friday, September 12, 2014

Meta Rows Garden - And it's a contest!

I’m excited to release this BONUS Rows Garden, and even more, it’s a meta contest! 

Instructions for solving the meta are included underneath the title of the Rows Garden. You may find the need to consult external materials to arrive at the meta answer; this is more than okay and indeed encouraged.

Once you’ve found the answer, email me at aries.puzzles@gmail.com before next Wednesday, September 17th at 11:00 AM CDT with your answer in the subject line of the email. You only can send one answer, so make sure it’s right before submitting.

Two solvers who send in correct answers, chosen at random, will each receive a 2015 Aries Puzzles Rows Garden subscription, as well as an autographed copy of my upcoming book of standard crosswords, Creepy Crosswords

Feel free to share this link with family, friends, or any other interested puzzle people.


Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Puzzle #18 - Solution

RG2014.18 Hardest/Harder - Solution

RG2014.18 Easier/Easiest - Solution

Brief write-up today...check back on the site on Friday for a fun announcement - or, if you're a subscriber, check your in-box tomorrow for a nice surprise.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Puzzle #17 Solution

RG2014.17 Hardest/Harder - Solution

RG2014.17 Easier/Easiest - Solution

Had fun meeting up with legendary constructor Brendan Emmett Quigley this past weekend. We sweated through a hot-as-blazes Twins-Tigers game at Target Field, and had some good discussions regarding puzzles and whatnot. Good times. I assume you're doing Brendan's twice-weekly puzzles on his blog; if you're not, well, shame on you.

Hope you enjoyed this one. One of my favorite clues here on display, at Row 1. What'd you think?

Monday, August 11, 2014

Puzzle #16 Solution

RG2014.16 Hardest/Harder - Solution

RG2014.16 Easier/Easiest - Solution

I did something that I've never done before while constructing a puzzle (standard crossword or otherwise): I went for a pangram. This wasn't the plan as I started, of course (B1 was the seed), but after I put in G2, I realized I was a Q short of a pangram. So I strove to include one, and it became apparent that it was possible to use the entry at I1. Normally I think pangrams are a sort of worthless stunt (outside of a thematic purpose for it), especially in a standard crossword where it's not that tough of an achievement. But I rarely have written pangrammatic Rows Gardens, for the mere fact that it's a lot tougher to pull off cleanly, and I took a chance and went for it. Hope you enjoyed it.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Puzzle #15 Solution

RG2014.15 Hardest/Harder - Solution

RG2014.15 Easier/Easiest - Solution

B2 was the seed entry of this puzzle, if not for the entry itself but more so the clue that I came up with. I liked how the rest of it turned out, especially considering the constraints that B2 turned out to have. Both of the crossing White blooms in that entry were difficult to work with, but to have such entries as D2 come up later, the struggle was worth it.

How'd you like this one?

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Puzzle #14 Solution

RG2014.14 Hardest/Harder - Solution

RG2014.14 Easier/Easiest - Solution

Back from a beautiful and relaxing vacation out west! It was too good for words.

Hope you liked this one. And, Wordplay Issue #3 has been released, and it features a Rows Garden by yours truly. Get it now at your favorite newsstand.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Puzzle #13 Solution

RG2014.13 Hardest/Harder - Solution

RG2014.13 Easier/Easiest - Solution

Sorry for the delay in posting the solution. It's been a hectic few days, and I'm posting this from Bozeman, Montana, where my friends and I are bivouacking for the night en route to my friend's wedding in the Grand Tetons on Monday. Already we've seen some beautiful country, and the best is yet to come. Tomorrow we'll head through Yellowstone and venture out a bit there, possibly seeing Old Faithful, before heading to the Jackson Hole area for the wedding.

Puzzle-wise, we are halfway through this inaugural year of Rows Garden subscriptions! The constructing schedule has been ideal for me. Frankly I look back on the two-plus years of writing a weekly puzzle and wonder how I did it. Every two weeks is keeping me busy enough. But my other projects - a book and my weekly AriesXword - are also in need of attention as well. It's nice to be busy puzzling!

Since we're at the halfway mark, feel free to leave any feedback regarding the first 13 puzzles on the whole. I promise to keep the quality of these puzzles high and strive to always improve.

P.S. Because I'll be in some pretty remote areas the next few days, I'll be sending Puzzle #14 out later tonight. I like to keep my sending schedule consistent, but more importantly I don't want to be late in sending out a puzzle, either. Better early than late, so keep your eyes on your inbox. Puzzle #15 will be back on the regular schedule, sent out on July 22nd.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Puzzle #12 - Solution

RG2014.12 Hardest/Harder - Solution

RG2014.12 Easier/Easiest - Solution

Another brief post today. Very busy work and puzzle schedule of late - that's how I like it! B2 was clearly the seed, and I loved the clue that I came up for it. That's what I strive for in a seed answer - a fresh, lively answer coupled with a clever clue. Speaking of which, Wordplay magazine's third issue will be released soon, and I'm fairly certain it contains an original Rows Garden of mine, and if it's the one I think it is, it features perhaps my favorite clue ever. I've got some more puzzles coming up in future issues as well, and based on what I've seen and solved in the first two issues, it's a stellar magazine. Definitely worth a subscription if you haven't already.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Puzzle #11 - Solution

RG2014.11 - Hardest/Harder

RG2014.11 - Easier/Easiest

Short write-up this week. B1 was the seed here, and I liked the entries surrounding it as well. Three instances of THE included in a Row answer, which I don't mind as long as the crossing blooms don't also use THE. I did have to resort to duping TO at K1 and its first crossing White Bloom, but I can live with that. How'd this one treat you?

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Puzzle #10 Solution

RG2014.10 Hardest/Harder - Solution

RG2014.10 Easier/Easiest - Solution

This grid was originally done a few months ago, but when I began cluing it, I noticed a fatal flaw: CREATE was the answer to two separate blooms. That's a definite no-go, and I tried doing small surgery on one part of the grid to excise one of the CREATE blooms, but the more I looked at the south part of the grid, I didn't really like what I saw. So I set it aside and eventually ripped out the bottom half of the grid. As you see, one of the CREATE blooms remains, but everything from Row F was completely gutted and re-written. This was one of the impetuses I had for making myself list the blooms as I write the puzzle; I am much more diligent about bloom dupes as I once was. But I'm sure it's not the last time I do it!

For the finished product, I definitely liked this better than the first incarnation. B1 was the obvious seed, and I especially like the clues for E2 and I2. I tried to ease off the difficulty throttle a bit with this one, seeing as last week's may have been this year's hardest challenge to date.

Hope you enjoyed it, and Puzzle #11 drops next Tuesday. Have a fun and safe Memorial Day weekend!

Monday, May 5, 2014

Puzzle #9 Solution

RG2014.9 Harder - Solution

RG2014.9 Easier - Solution

I had fun cluing this puzzle, but based on some solver feedback it sounded like it was on the challenging side. Though I like varying the difficulty levels of these puzzles, and don't mind a super-hard puzzle now and then, I do want to make sure that the challenge is still fair. I hope that was the case here. Row A was the seed, and I especially liked the clues to D2, I2, and Row L, though I realize some of those are devilishly hard. How did this puzzle treat you?

Monday, April 21, 2014

Puzzle #8 Solution

RG2014.8 Hardest/Harder - Solution

RG2014.8 Easier/Easiest - Solution

I've mentioned before the struggle of discovering errors in the grids of these puzzles whilst cluing them. It's especially a time-killer if these errors are found in the middle of the puzzle, as it's much tougher to correct even one bloom in the middle of the grid. There have been puzzles that I've had to scrap almost entirely due to these errors. That wasn't the case this week, but I did discover a fatal error during cluing this one. I had a bloom that I had parsed as I GET IT, but could only work as I GIT ET - one bloom was improperly parsed. I had two good Row entries crossing it with solid clues that had to go. Good thing is, I could use those blooms in a future puzzle. But the bad thing is, it took me over five hours to find two new Row entries that worked as clean blooms. Very frustrating!

I'm having fun building a stockpile of standard crosswords to use for my newly-launched project, AriesXword. Easy puzzles can be harder to construct than hard puzzles, at times, but I'm really proud of what I've been coming up with. If you have a couple bucks to spare, consider subscribing.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Puzzle #7 Solution

RG2014.7 Hardest/Harder - Solution

RG2014.7 Easier/Easiest - Solution

Apologies for the late post. Busy schedule of late.

I got down on myself for this one, because not only did I have to resort to using such a stinker of an entry such as [the answer to the "Ones accumulating heaps" clue], but I made a typo that didn't signify the entry should be pluralized. I'm strongly of the opinion that if you're going to put a crappy entry in a puzzle, don't draw too much attention to it. It's like removing a band-aid -- it's gonna hurt, but at least make it quick. In the past I've resorted a few times to using parenthetical hints such as "anagram of X" or "hidden in Y," but I might as well fill the grid in with that entry anyway, so I try to just clue it as straight-forward as possible, and move on.

This was nightmarish in that I had to email out the corrected version of puzzle with solvers specifically directed towards the worst entry in the puzzle! Probably it's the worst entry in any puzzle this year, so I had to put my tail between my legs a little bit. Anyway, I hope the pain was minimal, and I'll try my best from a) putting those kind of bad entries in the puzzle to begin with and b) sending out the puzzle with typos in them.

I did like the puzzle overall. There were more single-word entries in the Rows than I usually like to include, but many of them were fresh and (to my knowledge) have not been used in previous puzzles. These include A, B1, D2, E1, F2, and I2. My favorite clue was D2 -- devilishly tricky in retrospect, and with some tough bloom crossings in that region, I suspect it was the final piece to drop for many solvers.

How'd this one treat you? Any and all comments are always welcomed and encouraged.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Puzzle #6 Solution

RG2014.6 Hardest/Harder - Solution

RG2014.6 Easier/Easiest - Solution

Hope folks enjoyed this puzzle. I liked the inclusion of "Rose" in the Row A clue, though with that entry and F1, I thought it may be a bit sports-heavy, so I went easier than usual on the cluing this week. It's rare that I use a floral or quasi-floral entry in Row A; I've largely exhausted such entries that I've intended to use, and it's more of a Patrick Berry trademark to begin the puzzle that way. I'm more than okay to use the top row to showcase a fresh or cool entry or a great clue/entry combination. I have one such seed entry on tap for next week.

In other news, I am excited to announce the launch of a new weekly crossword subscription service. This time around it's standard themed crosswords, emailed out on Saturdays, varying in difficulty. I'm aiming more at accessible puzzles here; there are Easier, Medium, and Harder levels of difficulty, but nothing is super tough here, though I don't shy away from the occasional rebus or similar trickery on the Harder puzzles. To subscribe, visit www.ariesxword.com.

The subscription cost is a mere $5, which will lock you in for the next 52 weeks. And if you subscribe early, you will be treated to an additional 12 puzzles backdated to the beginning of 2014 at no charge. On top of that there are three free bonus puzzles (one from each level of difficulty) posted at the site. So five bucks will get you 67 puzzles; pretty good deal if you ask me!

Big tip of the hat to the great folks at Rumination Software for making this project a reality. Do you use their wonderful iPad/iPhone solving app CRUX? You should.

The Rows Garden schedule will be unaffected by the new site, of course. Puzzle #7 will be mailed out next Tuesday!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Puzzle #5 Solution

2014 Hardest/Harder -- Solution

2014 Easier/Easiest -- Solution

Apologies for the delayed post...just returned from a short vacation in Colorado Springs. It was a great reprieve from the hellish winter we've had in Minnesota (70 degrees above zero on Sunday!), plus it was a treat to see my alma mater, the St. Cloud State Huskies, win the inaugural NCHC regular season conference championship with a road sweep of the hometown Colorado College Tigers. I don't think I did one crossword while I was there; -- I did do plenty of old Patrick Berry Rows Gardens on the flight there and back -- though sometimes it's nice to get a break from puzzling, too. So yes, I loved Colorado and I just may move there some day. Just no pot jokes, please.

I really liked this puzzle, and especially the clues that I was able to muster. My test-solver, Doug Peterson, said that the clue for H2 was a "Hall-of-Famer," and a couple other solvers remarked that they especially liked the clue for I2. I do like when I'm able to turn ordinary entries (such as H2) into something special through cluing. Row A was the seed here, though, and I think this puzzle was overall one of the better offerings so far this year.

Next puzzle drops next Tuesday!

Monday, February 24, 2014

Puzzle #4 Solution

2014.4 Hardest/Harder -- Solution

2014.4 Easier/Easiest -- Solution

Short writeup this week. Row A was clearly the seed entry for this week's puzzle, though I particularly liked a number of entries this week - B1, E2, F1, and J1, for example. I toyed with cluing H2 as "White House occupant for parts of three decades," but thought the misdirect was a tad unfair; let me know if you think that kind of cleverness would have flown for you. Also, I had originally clued D1 as "Many Inception sequences," a clue/entry combo I've been saving for over three years, but with so much movie-ness going on in D2, F1, J2, and K1, I changed the clue to a non-movie connotation. Hope you liked this offering; next puzzle will be sent out next Tuesday.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Puzzle #3 Solution

2014.3 Hardest/Harder -- Solution

2014.3 Easiest/Easier -- Solution

Hope this past offering was to your liking. Because of the timeliness of the entry at B2, I bumped this puzzle up from the rotation. It's actually the most recent Rows Garden I've made (there's about three and a half completed grids in the pipeline), but wanted to capitalize on the freshness of the seed entry.

Using uber-fresh entries are usually thought as a good thing, but I'm straying away from using certain entries, because of potential ephemeral qualities. Looking back on some past puzzles of mine, entries such as I'LL HAVE ANOTHER (Derby + Preakness winner from a few years back) was certainly in-the-language at the time, but now has a certain dated-ness to it. If the horse had won the Triple Crown, that's something different, but time has very nearly reduced the entry to a type that I'd classify as uninteresting trivia. It's a reason I initially balked at B1 in this puzzle, though in the end I thought an easy-enough clue would suffice for solvers that missed that whole Charlie Sheen interview/spectacle. Long story short, I think B2 definitely has legs as an entry, and while I certainly don't want my puzzles have a musty smell to them, so to speak, I do want these puzzles and their entries to have a decent shelf life, too. A delicate balance, to be sure.

Two projects I want to plug this week: first, Evan Birnholz's new indie website, Devil Crosswords. Evan is an up-and-coming constructor, and judging by his premiere themeless he posted last week, he's certainly got constructing chops. Check out his site; looks like he's going for a bi-weekly posting schedule on Saturdays, and Evan told me he's got themeless and themed puzzles planned for the future.

Next, one of the more anticipated projects in recent memory - Will Shortz's WordPlay. Published by Penny Press and edited by the venerated Eric Berlin and Ian Livengood, this bi-monthly magazine offers only variety crosswords -- Rows Gardens, Some Assembly Required, Marching Bands, cryptics, logic puzzles, and more. Yours truly has a couple of original Rows Gardens featured in upcoming issues (I believe they will be in issues #3 and #4 this year), one of which might feature my favorite clue in any puzzle I've constructed. You can subscribe here for the low price of $18.97 for a year's worth of six issues. It was honestly one of the easiest economic decisions I've ever made -- if you're like me, do yourself a favor and subscribe too.

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.