Wednesday, March 25, 2020


March FREE RG - PDF: Hardest | Harder | Easier | Easiest | Solution

March FREE RG - RGZ (for solving in the Rows Garden app for iPad/iPhoneAndroid, and Kindle Fire)

Here's the FREE RG for the month! This puzzle started with the colloquial phrase at C1. Other entries I enjoyed including were D2, E1, G1, and I2, all of which have very few, if any, previous appearances in crosswords. Hope you enjoy!

If you're looking for more variety puzzles, I highly recommend the newest suite written by the great Patrick Berry, titled "Sweet 16." Patrick released this set of mini variety puzzles in February, but I didn't have an opportunity to solve this until this past weekend. I solved all the puzzles in around four hours, which makes its $10 price more than worth it. Each of the sixteen variety types which lead to the "grand finale" delivers a strong "a-ha" moment or two within the puzzle. And once you see how everything comes together in the end, it's a truly marvelous work. There's an accessibility in this suite that I appreciate as well - not too many of the puzzles were true brain-busters, but each makes your brain work in a different, satisfying way. My favorite puzzles of the set include "Double Team," "Fitting In," "Fair Share," "Connections," and "Flower Clusters," which is a clever spin on a Rows Garden. I'll say it again: this was a terrific set of puzzles! For more info and to purchase, click here.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Aries Cryptic #24

Aries Cryptic #24 - PUZ | PDF | PDF (Grayscale) | Solution | Intro to Cryptics Guide (PDF)

Here's this month's Cryptic, which was seeded by the two 12-letter entries at 4- and 11-Down. Hope you enjoy!

Also on the American cryptic front, The Nation announced it will be discontinuing its long-running cryptic at the end of the month. The good news is that The Nation cryptic writers Joshua Kosman and Henri Picciotto will be continuing to write their fine cryptics through Patreon starting in April. Click here for more info and to subscribe to Out of Left Field cryptics!

Happy solving,


Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Aries Throwback - "Giving Back"

Aries Throwback - "Giving Back" - PUZ | PDF | PDF (Grayscale) | Solution

Back with this month's Throwback puzzle! This puzzle, titled "Giving Back," was originally published in 2017 in The Growler magazine. This is a pretty simple theme but fun at the same time. I like that 18-Across is now more personal to me than when I originally wrote the puzzle, as one of my neighbors is from there, and as a result I see lots of that cool trident flag!

Happy solving, and stay safe out there.

Thursday, March 5, 2020

March FREEstyle

March 2020 FREEstyle - PUZ | PDF | PDF (Grayscale) | Solution

Got the March FREEstyle this week, but first let's recap the Cryptic contest from last month, "Treasure Hunt." There were 84 correct entries this time around, and the randomly-selected winner is Tim Tebbe. Tim has chosen a two-month Bundle subscription as his prize - congrats Tim! Thanks for all who solved. Here's the solution including the meta explanation:

Aries Cryptic #23 "Treasure Hunt" - Solution (PDF)

Back to the FREEstyle for this month, which is a 70-word, 29-block puzzle. This one started with the entry at 20-Across. With the 40th anniversary of the Miracle on Ice recently commemorated, I had a chance to watch the full game for the first time in many years. It was instructive to watch just how much the US was outmatched in that game, and how terrible first-period Soviet goaltending in particular was the key for the Americans to have any shot of competing. The broadcast certainly is a memorable one, and Al Michaels' play-by-play throughout the game was stellar, not just the famous call at the end of the game. Underappreciated is the color work by the then recently-retired Ken Dryden, whose voice-cracking "Unbelievable!" after Michaels' famous call punctuates the moment. Good stuff!

Monday, March 2, 2020

2019 Orca Awards - Best Freestyle winner!

The ninth annual Orca Awards have been announced! This list of the year's best in puzzling is the brainchild of Sam Donaldson at the Crossword Fiend blog, and is always a treat to read. This year was especially special, as Caitlin Reid took home Best Freestyle for her guest Aries Freestyle puzzle from last October!

One of the highlights of 2019 was working with all six guest constructors for Aries Freestyle - C.C. Burnikel, Peter Wentz, Stella Zawistowski, Neville Fogarty, and Doug Peterson, in addition to Caitlin. In the case of Caitlin's puzzle, I was particularly awed by the smoothness of the grid, but I think the puzzle was elevated even higher by the cleverness of Caitlin's clues. A true masterpiece - congrats Caitlin!