Sunday, July 5, 2015

Indie Puzzle Round-Up

I'd like to start a semi-regular feature for the site: a recap of some of the stellar work going on in the world of indie puzzle-making. I'm not sure how often I'll do this (I realize I'm too frequently late with posting RG solutions), but I'm thinking every couple weeks. And I won't be able to touch on all of the impressive indie puzzle sites every week - it's a burgeoning venture, and at times I lag behind. But I want to give some benediction to some puzzle authors that may not get the pub that they deserve. Expect these recaps to be more stream-of-consciousness than anything, and I want to avoid puzzle spoilers (I want you to try these puzzles yourself!), so I'll try to be vague enough in my summaries while still being intriguing.

Here goes:

--Big news for themeless fans: Peter Gordon is attempting to get the band back together for the Post Puzzler. The themeless challenges that appeared every Sunday in the Washington Post for 5 years were often the solving highlight of the week for me. Now Peter's going independent, launching a Kickstarter campaign. It's got a lofty funding goal, and time is ticking, so I urge themeless fans to back this project. Only 50 cents a puzzle!

--Brendan Emmett Quigley's got a boss site that he updates twice a week, but in addition to that he's started a Marching Bands subscription service that features a new puzzle every two weeks. So far, the series has been great - though I would say the difficulty has been a little on the easy side. This isn't a negative criticism, just an observation. I do love the Band entries that turn multiple corners, as they do in his latest puzzle (#5). For only $10 a year, it's a steal of a deal.

-Todd McClary continues to kick ass and take names at his site, Life As a Puzzle. His latest offering in his Unthemely series featured some spectacular clues and entries, especially at 26-D and 54-A (which I fell into a humorous yet off-color trap that I'm not sure was intentional). Another reason to back the Postmodern Puzzler is that Todd is a member of Peter's constructing cadre. Extremely high quality stuff, and for word list buffs, he regularly posts blog entries that recap his latest additions to his lists. Check it out.

-Erik Agard continues to have RIES in his word list, clearly. It showed up again in his Themeless #35; I think I've been an entry in his puzzles three times. Matt Gaffney has done it a few times too; I've told Matt that I actually think it's pretty crappy as fill goes. Erik's themelesses are always a treat, and he really is a cluing master. Congrats on his making the American Values Club constructor roster; his meta "Have a Blast" a few weeks ago was terrific on multiple levels. I especially liked it because I actually solved the meta - I seriously don't think I've ever gotten a meta when he posts them on his site. But that's not necessarily a bad thing.

-I think it's safe to say that the hardest themelesses in indie puzzle land are found at Tim Croce's site, Club 72. He jam-packs a ton of fresh entries in each offering. It's a rarity for me to solve one in less than ten minutes. Much of the difficulty is because of the vibe that Tim is channeling, and it's just not in my wheelhouse. Internet memes are frequent fodder for entries in his puzzles - a bit risky, in my opinion, because they are a bit on the ephemeral side. But that's a benefit of indie puzzling - they don't need to sit around for a year or more waiting in an editor's queue. It's not uncommon for Tim to put entries in his puzzles that are based on news less than 24 hours old - like his Freestyle #38, for instance. If Caleb Madison (the new puzzle editor at Buzzfeed) wants themelesses, I think Tim would be all over that. But so far Tim's going strong, and he's prolific - he's doing two puzzles a week, with variety formats taking a major part in the fun too.

That's it for this round-up; I did five nuggets, so maybe that's what I'll do from now on. Join the discussion! Feel free to drop a comment below.

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